MOVarazzi

Thursday, February 28, 2013

909. Fakebook

Everyone tells me I should join Facebook.  How will you know what is going on with all your friends if you’re not on Facebook? they ask.  You will be out of the loop. 

My whole life is one long series of being out of the loop or not even near the loop to begin with. 
I don’t know what is going on with my friends from high school, which is good considering I can barely remember if I washed my older son’s basketball uniform for his game on Saturday.  If I was worried about Heidi from Algebra class and where she and her husband went on vacation (Napa!) or if I was concerned about Simon from the track team (runs marathons now!) and the fact that he is now divorced because he realized he was gay or if I cared that Kirsten from student council was promoted at her law firm (twice in three months!), then I would most certainly never get the red polyester shirt out of the wash and into the dryer in time. 

Facebook is a foreign language to me, a language of “likes” and “posting on people’s walls” and “de-friending” ex-bosses.  Just thinking about it exhausts me. 
Besides, I have real friends that form the fabric of my everyday life.  Sure, I may not have their phone numbers, but I can certainly check out what they wore to the Oscars in the latest issue of People Magazine.

Isn’t that right, Angelina? 
MOV 
(And thank you to
PointCounterPointPointPoint for the idea for this post)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

908. Ethics Is A Team Sport

I am that mom.  The mean one.  The one all the kids hate.  No one ever says, “Hey, let’s go over to Tall and Short’s house because their mother is so nice.  She lets you play computer games all day and eat junk food for dinner.  We love her!”  No.  Instead, my children beg to go to someone else’s house for a break from homework and eating raw broccoli and grapes for a snack.  

I don’t mind if my kids eat a cookie or five.  And I can live with a few hours of wii at the neighbor’s.  It is the future I worry about, the future where we are no longer talking about elementary temptations like watching cartoons for an afternoon, but instead graduate to the big leagues:  drugs, smoking, sex, skipping school, lying, cheating, shoplifting, eating disorders, steroids, fighting, bullying, drinking, driving under the influence.  I need the other moms to let me know if my kid is doing any of that, and I vow to do the same. 

If I see Johnny behind Target smoking a joint with his buddies, you’d better believe I will be on the phone with Johnny’s mom.  If I run into Johnny stealing beer at the supermarket, I will address Johnny and tell the mom.  But what if she doesn’t believe me?  And will I believe her if she is the one making the call?

I promise I will believe her.  Even if it is easier to believe my own son.  I must trust that it is difficult for her to confront me and betray my child, just so I can have all the information, the information that says my child might not be the angel that I think he is. 
The waters of teenage life look murky from where I stand.  How will I navigate them?  The only map I have is the current one:  How To Parent First and Third Graders.  I have that map mostly memorized.  Limits and boundaries, rewards and punishments.  We take away TV privileges, or birthday parties, or other fun things.  We reward with activities and also new toys or books.  Mostly we reward with verbal praise:  “We are so proud of you!  Good job.”  Life is not always about things.  Sometimes just doing the right thing, the expected thing, should be enough.       

My friends with older kids give me advice:  “MOV, if you are strict now, you don’t have to be so strict later.”  I like this advice.  I cling to it like a lifeboat.  Strict now.  Yes, that is what I already do. 
I look at the Lego airplane in the trash can, the victim of this morning’s punishment for Tall hitting his brother. 

Am I too strict?  Will Legos in the trash prevent drug use when he is 17? 
MOV

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

907. Routine Maintenance Is Ruining My Life

I am pretty much shocked when a light bulb burns out.  I take it as a personal affront.  Don’t get me started on when the smoke detector goes off because the battery is dying.  Put gas in the car, you say?  I just filled it up 300 miles ago! 

Routine maintenance sneaks up and punches me in the face several times a week. 
Dishes need to be washed, laundry needs to be done—sure, I expect that.  But when I suddenly see a thick layer of dust on top of a picture frame?  A frame that I know I just dusted a mere few days ago, or was it months now? 

I want my life to be more fun.  More going to Broadway musicals and Paris for the weekend and less having my shoes re-soled.  Since when do shoes wear out?!  I have only been wearing these lovely new shoes nearly every day for, can it be, a year?  They were really expensive, so shouldn’t that guarantee that they will last forever? 
Roofs apparently need to be replaced every 10 years.  Dryer vents are supposed to be cleaned out after every load of laundry.  Toilets require scrubbing, at least on a semi-annual basis.  Who knew? 

I have this almost child-like sense of wonder when a sock gets a hole in the toe.  How did this happen?  I should buy a pair of socks, wear them as frequently as I like, and then throw them out in 20 years if I get bored with them.  Not the other way around.  The socks shouldn’t get to dictate the duration of our sock/ person relationship!      
But somehow the things in my life are ganging up on me and calling it quits.  Just this week, two light bulbs in two separate rooms flickered and went out forever.  It was almost like they were saying, “Ha!  We know you spent $2.37 on each of us, and it’s over now, baby!”  You know, mocking me.  Last week, the doorknob to the laundry room came off in my hand (luckily I was on the outside of the laundry room, or I might still be stuck there and writing this blog via Morse code or smoke signals).  I was so taken aback—since when do doorknobs need to be replaced or reattached? 

“Have you changed the oil in your car lately, Hon?” calls out The Husband.  I don’t even know what that means.  Change the oil?  I put gas in recently, maybe it is the same thing. 
“MOV, what are you, like, Amish now?  Change the oil.  You have to do it every couple thousand miles or so.  If the oil isn't changed often enough, you can end up with accelerated wear and all the engine problems that come with it (loss of performance and fuel economy, and increased emissions and oil consumption),” he concludes, sounding suspiciously like Wikipedia or Yahoo Autos. 

“Will you do it for me?” I beg, trying to appeal to his macho husbandy side that wants to protect me from dragons and avalanches and talking to gas station people who want to overcharge me for car-ish things that I don’t understand (“Ma’am, you’re going to need a new carburetor.  And I hate to tell you this, but if you keep driving your car the way you do, you’ll have a cracked engine block in no time.  And it also looks like you let your windshield fluid drop to dangerously low levels.”). 
“No, MOV, you are perfectly capable of driving your car a half mile to the gas station and having them change the oil.  It’s not a big deal.” 

Just then, my younger son storms into the room. 
“I am not doing my homework,” he announces with a mix of anger and despair.  “Homework is dumb!  Every day, we have to do homework, and just when you think it is over and you don’t have to do any more, then guess what—even more homework.  It never ends.” 

I know exactly how he feels. 
MOV

Monday, February 18, 2013

906. Tall, Taller, Tallest

I have always been tall.  I was the girl in the back row of every photograph in elementary school.  I was always last in line when we had to line up shortest to tallest in junior high.  I was chosen first for basketball and volleyball teams (well, until it was proven that there was zero sports talent to complement my height). 

Eventually, I stopped growing at 5’8”.  The perfect height. 
Unless you are shopping for clothes. 

For some reason, women’s clothes are made for short people.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that 99% of the clothes we buy come from China and the Chinese are not known for their tall stature.  Maybe designers are just playing a cruel joke on tall women by forcing them to buy t-shirts that will shrink to expose their edge of their stomachs, and sweaters that will show their wrists.  Who knows.  What matters is that I have no choice but to buy the majority of my clothing in the teen boys’ department of Target.  Because Target understands that teen boys are eight feet tall with long arms. 
I am getting tired of wearing these Target t-shirts.  I would like to buy a lovely floral print t-shirt that fits in length as well as width, and does not show the world my belly button.     

I ask The Husband if he has this issue. 
“You do know I’m 6’4”, right?” he asks.  “My whole life has been one long series of discrimination.” 

I wait for him to tell me the horrors of never finding the right size plaid shirt at L.L.Bean, but then he goes and surprises me: 
“Well, for one thing, doors can be too short, especially in older buildings or attics.  I bump my head a lot.  I am forced to crouch, and I don’t want to crouch.” 

I had not thought of the door thing.    
“Also, people are always asking me to do things for them.” 

Do things?  What kind of things? 
“Reach stuff, hand them stuff, put stuff back.  They just assume, ‘Hey, he’s tall!  He won’t mind handing me something from the top shelf.’  This happens a lot.  At the grocery store, Costco, work, you name it.” 

I had not been a victim of the Perpetual Handing Demands myself.  This was a new form of tall-ism that I had yet to be exposed to. 
Now The Husband is on a rant.  “I’m like, buy a step-stool, people!  Geesh.  And the worst is when someone wants to merely look at something on a top shelf and then two seconds later they want me to put it back—like I’m their own personal valet or something.  And I can’t say no, because then how rude would that make me look?”    

I nod sympathetically but he continues.   
“The worst was that lady at that musical we saw in New York that time.  Remember her?  The lady sitting behind us?  She wanted me to slouch down in my seat so she could see better!  The nerve.  I wanted to say, ‘Lady, should I just remove my head?  Would that work for you?’ I mean, I can’t help it that I’m tall!  And heaven forbid if I want to wear a hat to a baseball game.”

I ask if he wants to be shorter, if that would help ease his perpetual pain of bumping his head or having to help others on a daily basis. 
“No.  No, I don’t want to be shorter.  I want them to be taller.  Or at least say thank you when I do hand them something.  I guess it boils down to that:  people expect me to hand them stuff, like it is their God-given right or something, that of course I must not mind because I have nothing better to do than reach stuff for them.  Honestly, I am sick of it.” 

Right then, our two sons walk in the kitchen from the backyard.  “Pop, our football is caught in the tree.  Can you get it out?”
He doesn’t hesitate.  “Of course!”  

Then he turns and smiles at me.  I guess it must depend on who does the asking.   
MOV

Saturday, February 16, 2013

905. Cynthia

We knew it was him because he came to the front door.  No one uses that door, it is really far from the driveway and the garage.  Who can blame him, though—it had been over 20 years since he’d been to the house. 

“Cynthia?” he called out.  Geesh, you’d think he’d know she goes by Cindy.  “Cynthia, darling, time to go.” 
Mom was late for everything her whole life, she wasn’t about to be on time now. 

“I’m not ready,” she squeaked. “Can you at least wait ‘til my kids get here?  They’re flying in.  I would like to say good-bye to them.” 
He adjusted his shadowy black hood and gave a sigh.  It was a lingering sigh, the kind that steals the energy from a room. 

“Cynthia, I’ve been waiting for over two years now.” 
“Then what’s five more days?” 

She had a point.  He walked out without turning around.  I heard him say, “I am coming back, though, you do know that, Cynthia.”  It sounded like a threat.  And then he was gone.    
My sister flew in, as did my uncle, my step-dad, and assorted random cousins who I only saw once a year or less.  What is the saying?  Families always come together for weddings and—

“Funerals.  I hate funerals,” said my brother-in-law, as he got an apple out of the refrigerator.  “They’re so … so … final.”  He sort of whispered the word final, the way we had all been whispering cancer. 
The nurse told me someone was at the back door, and I was relieved to see that it was my brother.  Mom moved her pillow and struggled to sit up in bed a little when the nurse escorted him into her bedroom.    

“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, and then she began to cry.  I couldn’t tell if they were tears of joy or sadness or just relief.     
“Me, too.  Me, too.”  He hugged her tight, and she groaned in pain.  Cancer is not for the weak. 

As promised, Death showed up exactly five days later.  We were hoping he’d forget.     
“I’m sorry, Cynthia, I know this is hard,” he extended his hand to her.  “But look at the bright side:  you already know some people up there!  Your mom, your dad, your aunts!”

It was strange hearing him talk about a "bright side."  I always believed he was all doom and gloom, but it turns out he was more sympathetic than I thought. 
Mom reached for her purse, out of habit, and Death stifled a small laugh.  “Cynthia, you won’t need that.  I promise.” 

And like that, they were gone. 
MOV

Monday, February 11, 2013

904. MOV Writes a Book

I am one of those people who does not like to jinx things by talking about them before they happen.  My dad did not know I got a job with the airlines until I had accepted the offer and moved to another city (“Well, Daddy, I knew you would want to dissect every question they asked me in the interview”), my sister did not know I was getting married until I asked her to be my maid of honor (“Are you free next week, Oakley?  And I bought you this dress, here-- try it on”), and my mom didn’t know I was having my first baby until I was seven months pregnant and could no longer hide behind oversized denim shirts (“I didn’t say anything because what if I had a miscarriage?”). 

So it should come as no surprise that I didn’t tell you that I wrote a book.  Another one. 
You remember my first book last year, right?  Mom’s Had A Rough Day:  A Collection of Humorous Essays.  Well, that was such a great experience (5 star-rating on Amazon!), I decided to do it all over again. 

But I learned a lot that first go-around.  Mostly I learned that writing a book is hard.  And takes a long time.  And requires a lot of editing. 
I lay in bed awake at 3 AM trying to think of a way to make it easier.  I knew I could not skimp on the actual writing part, and probably not the editing part either.  How was I going to pull this off?  Who could I get to help me? 

“No, MOV, I will not help you with your next book, and my God, what time is it?  3:30 in the morning?  I was sound asleep.”  The Husband was not exactly volunteering his writing services. 
Finally, I had a brilliant idea of how to cut my workload by 50%—write only half the book.  I would approach another blogger to write the other half. 

Thinking big, I contacted my writing idol, Marianne Walsh, at my favorite blog,  We Band of Mothers.  “Marianne, would you like to write a book with me?” said my email. 
I got a one-word response a few minutes later:  “OK.” 

At first, I thought she meant she had moved to Oklahoma, but then I realized that she meant OK as in “okay.”  (Note to self:  I might have to do more editing than I thought.)    
Our book was set for a Christmas release, but as you know, my mom died in late October.  Death has a way of ruining everything, things like surprising your mom with your as-yet undiscussed second book as her Christmas present.  I was out of my orbit for a while, and some days, I am still reaching for the phone to call Mom to say hi when I realize I can’t.  Yeah, death is not great with traditional communications like phone and internet.        

Anyway, to get back to my story, I wrote a book with Marianne.  It is called Epic Mom:  Failing Every Day a Little Bit More Than You.  It is exactly like our blogs, only funnier, better organized, and 3-dimensional.
Ever felt like that?
Seriously, you should buy it.  If you are not familiar with Marianne’s writing, you will love it.  She is hilarious.  Our book is over 250 pages, and is full of little stories and anecdotes that do not have to be read in order, you can just read a story here or there depending on time. 
I must tell you about our awesome cover design.  Marianne emailed me and said, “Do you think Stephanie at Clay Baboons would want to do our cover?”  Now, I knew this was a stretch because Stephanie is like the Rembrandt of the clay world.  There is no way she would have time to deal with us and our silly ideas, and if she did, she would most certainly charge us thousands of dollars. 

“I’ll do it for free!” she said in her email.  We did end up paying her (somewhere in the middle of free and thousands), but we were honestly so thrilled that she agreed at all that we most likely would’ve gone in to debt just to make it happen. 

So there you have it. 
Surprise! 

MOV
P.S. If you do buy a book, please take a few minutes to post a positive review on Amazon after you have read it.  (If you don’t like the book, then let’s pretend it was someone else’s book—like Shakespeare's.)
 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

903. Big Surprise on Monday

Guess what?  I have some big exciting news coming tomorrow.  It is something that has been in the works for a year (or maybe it just seems like a year). 
 
I will give you a little hint: 



See you tomorrow! 
 
MOV

Saturday, February 9, 2013

902. Public School Is Turning My Kid into a Hoarder

We live in one of the top school districts in the country, which is why we moved here in the first place.  I figure what I save in not paying for a private school education I can spend on race cars* and fancy chocolates.  (*This has not happened yet, but I remain hopeful.)   

But savings has a price.  And that price, my friends, is hoarding. 
The school receives money from the efforts of our hard-working PTA, the financially secure parents contribute and volunteer frequently, plus the teachers and admin workers generously use their own money to buy extra items not covered in the budget.  Much of this money is spent on Smart Boards (computer chalkboards), books, and other supplies. 

But some of the money, apparently, is spent on treats.   
My six-year-old has never met a little plastic doodad he didn’t like.  Tiny globes, pencil erasers, rubber robots; if it is colorful and fits in the palm of your hand, he wants to keep it forever. 

The problem is:  our particular school tends to reward our children with stuff.  Think party favors on steroids.  My son fills out his reading log for a week after reading 20 minutes nightly?  He gets a prize.  He has good behavior in class for a week?  Another prize.  Sits still in Spanish class while the teacher introduces the names for Spanish fruits?  That is a prize-worthy moment. 
We are drowning in these miniature tokens of my child’s myriad first grade achievements.  Is this education or consumerism?   

If I “accidentally” throw away one of these carefully guarded treasures, the sky fills with angry clouds and vibrations of impending thunder and black doom. 
“Noooooooooooooooooo!  Mommy, I can’t find my parachuting ninja!  You know, the special one the librarian gave everyone?  Mine was red.”  Tears, tears, and more tears, which quickly morph into full-blown sobbing. 

I sheepishly go to the trash can when he is not looking and retrieve it.  It was buried underneath a gum wrapper—that’s how small these rewards are. 
I give him back his prize (an item that he had not played with in three months), and I am suddenly the hero—if only for a moment. 

Please don’t think I am a mean person.  If you came over to our house, you would see that we already have plenty of things like these from birthday parties, dentist visits, fast-food outings, and a year of kindergarten at the same school.  We have reached a saturation level of cheap plastic junk.  It is everywhere.  I step on it in the middle of the night.  It lodges in the vacuum (who am I kidding—I am too lazy to vacuum).  The cat bats the stuff around like it is her God-given right. 
I find mini-alligators under pillows, bouncy balls in the tub, and neon green erasers in coat pockets. 

When will it end? 
Oh, yeah, when they are 18 and go off to college.   

And then I will be sad. 
Note to school:  Please send more symbols of childhood home with my son.  We will make room for them.    

MOV

Friday, February 8, 2013

901. Guard It with Your Life

Museums are my own personal therapy.  As soon as I look at a painting up close, any tension I had disappears.  My mind swims with the colors and the brushstrokes, I get lost in the art. 

How can you not love this painting? 
 
Or this one? 



The talent of the artists shines.  You can see the years of training and hard work and study and perseverance.     
However, there is some art I just don’t understand.  It is what I call "Lazy Art."  Art that really serves no purpose, art that can be done by a preschooler. 
Now, I know there are critics who pan the work of Jackson Pollack, because they see it as merely drips of paint on canvas. 
 
I beg to differ. 

I feel the movement of the piece, the energy.  I respect the idea and the abstract nature of the piece.   

Here is what I don’t get: 
 
It is a set of three doorknobs. 

That you could buy at Home Depot and then paint and glue onto this board. 

For about $12. 

Not only that, but someone has to guard it. 
 
 
Seriously?  They pay a guard to watch over that? 

Guess what else was in the same room: 
 
To me, it looks like a big clump of leftover plaster that would be found in the trash.  Yet it is worth 50 million gazillion dollars.  Better retrieve that crumpled up aluminum foil I threw away last night-- might be worth something!   

I wonder if this guard is very happy. 
 
 


A whole museum of things like this …




… and yet he gets to stand by the stripes of colors that remind me of paint sample swatches.  Poor guy.  Makes you wonder what he did to piss of the museum admin people. 
“Harold was late to work three times last month, give him Room 9-B to guard today.” 

“Are you sure?  Ellen was a no-show yesterday, I think she deserves it more.” 
“Good point.  And Mike got a great compliment from a customer the other day, so he can guard the Van Goghs.” 

“Done.” 
 
MOV
** Disclaimer:  Signs in the museum said photography is allowed as long as the pictures are not for commercial use.  My blog is pure content with zero advertising and does not produce revenue, so I believe this meets their criteria. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

900. How Trespassing, Going to Parties, and Accosting Strangers Finally Paid Off

I am really good at trespassing.  If trespassing were a language, I would be a native speaker.  If trespassing were a sport, I would turn pro.  If trespassing were a “Help Wanted” sign, I would totally get the job.  And be promoted.  And get a raise.

Yeah, I am that good. 
It’s not like I trespass accidentally.  Oh, no.  It is very intentional.  I trespass when I see new houses being built.  I lift up the yellow “No Trespassing” tape like it’s a dare.  I brazenly walk in where no woman without construction boots and a tattoo has walked before.  And then I ask the workers if I can have a “quick look around” and they always say yes.  It helps to smile a lot, like you won the jackpot of their niceness.  And it helps to pretend you don’t understand Spanish when they say they are calling the police. 

I walk around the new house and study the floorplan.  I get a little drunk on sawdust fumes.  I marvel that they put the fireplace over there, blocking the view.  Sometimes I take notes. 
Today was different.  I semi-knocked on the door (because, come on, I was actually already opening it … it was only a fake courtesy knock) and lo and behold: 

The owner. 
“Can I help you?” he said sweetly. 

“Yes!” I said, pretending not to be surprised (why the hell was the owner at home in his own house when there were important things missing—things like windows and electricity and floors?).  “My name is MOV, and I live close by.  I would love a tour of your beautiful house!” 
I have to admit that it was a reach to call it a “beautiful house.”  It was more like a “beautiful stack of 2 by 4's.” 

“Sure!” he gushed.  “I am the owner AND the architect and I would love to give you a tour!”
Twenty minutes later, he was giving me his business card.  “MOV, my wife and I will be done with this project in April, so if you are planning any work on your house, give me a call!” 

As I drove home, I flashed back to that neighborhood party we went to at Christmas time.  A charming man I had never met started telling me and The Husband all about his latest project:  a gorgeous house on our very street.  He was an architect.  We got his card. 
Several months before that when I was coordinating our PTA’s local home tour, I hopped out of my car and knocked on a stranger’s door because her house (from the outside) seemed a perfect candidate for our tour.  Guess what?  Not only was she the owner, but she was the architect and her husband was the builder. 

Bingo. 
Just now I walk in my house, up to the study, and I sit down at my desk.  I fan out three business cards of architects whose work I love. 

And (coincidentally?) The Husband and I are currently discussing adding on a family room and new master bedroom to the back of our house. 
Most people might use Google to find a good local architect.  Trespassing, going to parties, and accosting strangers in their own home seems to work for me. 

MOV

Sunday, February 3, 2013

899. The Curse of Inconvenient Things

I am not a mean person.  If people cross me, I am not the type to wish that their car would be stolen or that their house would burn down or that they would lose their job. 

But I am still human. 
I merely wish that the Curse of Inconvenient Things would fall upon their heads.  Nothing horrible, just inconvenient.  Miss the green light and be forced to wait at the intersection a whole three extra minutes.  Be in the shower when that important phone call comes in and then forget to check voicemail.  Run out of creamer and not realize it until after brewing fresh coffee.  That sort of thing.

Remember in Sleeping Beauty when the evil witch places a curse on Sleeping Beauty that on her 16th birthday she would prick her finger on a needle and die?  And then the good witch “softens” the curse by making it be so that she would not die but instead just fall asleep for 100 years? 
Okay, maybe that is a bad analogy because falling asleep for 100 years is not really that great either. 

I digress. 
The point is, our kids can learn from us.  Instead of having a fight with someone and screaming out, “I wish you were dead!”, why not say, “I hope you get a ‘C’ on your test and your Mom is late to pick you up!” 

Oops, I gotta run.  I am waiting for an important call and I think I forgot to charge my phone battery. 
MOV