Friday, July 30, 2010

74. Anyone Need A Napkin?

Paint the scene: We're out for a week-end lunch at our favorite local Mom & Pop burger joint. Finding a table to accommodate the four of us proves difficult. We stalk another family who appears to be Almost Finished. They leave, and we swoop in.

In a rare instance of serendipity, our meal order is ready at the exact moment we finally get seated. The husband walks toward the counter to retrieve the food, our de facto Table Savers (Tall and Short) sit squirming impatiently in their seats, and I set out for straws and napkins.

I know an important rule: however many napkins you think you might need, double it. I stand conspicuously next to the napkin dispenser: napkin-napkin-napkin-napkin-napkin-napkin-napkin-napkin. Hoarding.

Before I became a parent, I would always get exactly how many napkins I needed: one. Who AM I now? When did I turn into a Walking Napkin Distributor?

The Husband has all the food on the tray and is sauntering back to the table. He glances my way, spots the napkin-obsession-in-full-force, then averts his gaze. He is embarrassed. Sigh. He misses the Single And Child-Free One Napkin girl I used to be.

We all sit down and start handing the proper drinks and food items to the proper owners. The Husband inadvertently spills his (un-lidded, just broke Rule #471) Coke all over everything. He gasps.

I wordlessly hand him 32 napkins, and he uses every last one.

("Messy Or Victorious"?)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

72. Car

My car is a pit, which is difficult for a Virgo to reconcile.

Water bottles and more water bottles (some empty, some full, some with lipstick marks-- why not have options?) share Valuable Real Estate with empty Altoids containers; an ancient pine cone resides in a cup holder as a sort of talisman for my younger son; beach towels mingle with forgotten sweaters; relics from the school year such as random worksheets and papers that used to beg for attention now merely take up their spot in the sedimentary layers that make up my car; all competing with other dinosaurs-- literally-- plastic toy dinosaurs that were so urgently needed in the car at one time, but now have been relegated to that no-man's-land of The Crowded Floor.

An abandoned bath toy (?) cozies up to a rubber snake. A forlorn stuffed pig lounges next to a jumble of small trucks and buses of questionable lineage (do they belong to us? or have they been surreptitiously "borrowed" indefinitely from a neighbor friend?), thus completing the tableau.

Sunscreen and bug-spray inhabit their Special Corner of the vehicle, ready for sunny buggy days. A blanket permanently rests in The Way Back, mocking me now while we enjoy yet another 100 degree day, "Ha ha, that's right, you will DEFINITELY need me in all my woolly splendor any day now!" The Husband has also donated an item to my formerly pristine car: a collapsible chair/stool for watching sporting events-- except that he would rather stand because this seemingly clever item is, in all actuality, quite uncomfortable.

Plus, strangely, my car has a proliferation of extra carseats, including one more than Toyota says my particular vehicle can legally accommodate-- which begs the question: where was I planning on putting the extra child in the extra seat? on the roof?

Don't even get me started on the misnamed Glove Compartment: maps of places we will never go, an old speeding ticket (gosh, I hope we paid that), dried-up pens, an underemployed hairbrush, a small flashlight (a nod to Virgo's Practical Side), extra lollipop bribes from the drive-thru window of the bank, sunglasses for me and a few guests (Virgos are nothing if not polite), and a plastic monster or two, with nary a glove lurking anywhere.

Don't forget the actual trash: old milkshake cups and wrinkled paper towels, a catalog from 2006 (most likely expired) to be used as Desperation Reading Material while I wait in the carpool line, an orange rind, discarded library slips reminding us of impending due dates, some Trader Joe's stickers, and a plastic ruler (not sure why that is in the trash-- looks perfectly good to me. Ohh, yuck, there's sticky gum all over it and all over my hand too, yes, now I remember why we opted to throw it away).

When did this happen? My car used to be a Sanctuary Of Cleanliness and my lucky lucky passengers would even comment on how clean it was-- even going so far as to say my precious car looked brand new. They never once said something like, "Should I put a towel down first?" or "Actually, you know what? I think I will drive after all and just meet you over there." That is code for I don't want to sit in that mud on your front seat if indeed it is mud and not something much worse.

When I hire that elusive maid (most likely a fellow Virgo), maybe I can have her devote a full day's attention to my neglected car.

("Must Overcome Virgo-ness")

Monday, July 26, 2010

70. Lawn Cushions

So I receive the latest "Restoration Hardware: The Summer Edition" catalog. Obviously, the Universe has deemed today a "good day".

I eagerly start devouring the pages as if they were chocolate bon-bons (which they might as well be). Then the record scratches: ekrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Lawn cushions? Outside? Princess is confused.

I do not currently own any lawn cushions. I like the "idea" of them, but I just don't understand the reality of them. Practical Princess wonders: Do they stay outside ALL THE TIME? And if that is true, don't they get wet when it rains? and don't they get mildewy? and don't birds poop on them? And how, exactly, is that supposed to be enticing: bird poop cushions?

Restoration Hardware laughs at my concerns. No, I mean literally. I call their 1-800 number, and ask the salesperson how these cushions work. The Customer Service Representative who is lucky enough to pick up the phone for my call is named Marshawna. She good-naturedly says that no one has ever asked her how the cushions "work", and then she follows up with the aforementioned "laugh" (in retrospect, it may be merely a nervous giggle; I mention this information is going in my blog and she may become quite famous). She asks if I can be more specific about the purpose of my call. I tell her the truth: that I am incredibly lazy and I really do not have time to clean these so-called "outdoor" cushions before every use. She sighs a big sigh of relief, and says

Marshawna: Oh! I see what you mean now. No, no, no, you absolutely DO NOT have to clean them every time! Ha ha ha, that would certainly be a lot of work wouldn't it? These cushions are low-maintenance, and you can tell that by the two letter code highlighted in yellow that precedes the SKU number: "LM". See the code? That stands for "Low-Maintenance". You do not have to clean them all the time! These cushions are virtually work-free! Nothing could be simpler. What makes it so simple is that all you have to do is bring them inside or store them in your garage.
Me: (incredulous) You are telling me that I have to bring the OUTSIDE cushions INSIDE my house after every use?
Marshawna: (in sing-song happy voice) Not every use. Just most uses.
Me: But, see, that DOES sound like a lot of work. In fact, carrying them back and forth is probably more work than just cleaning them. I don't know if this is a wise purchase for me.
Marshawna: Hmmmm. (Sound of pages flipping in the background) Well, then one product that might suit your individual needs is located on page 17, a wonderful teak storage bench that houses up to three large cushions. You could buy that too and store them inside. That way, you wouldn't have to move them very far OR clean them.
Me: I don't have enough money to buy all those things. Can't I just leave the cushions OUTSIDE since the description says they are OUTSIDE cushions?
Marshawna: (still perky) Well, it is just the manufacturer's recommendation to bring them indoors between uses, to, you know, extend the life of The Product. You don't have to do it.
Me: But if I don't do it, what happens?
Marshawna: Ummm, it really depends on the type of climate situation you are residing in.
Me: I don't live in Antarctica or anything.
Marshawna: Well, that's good because shipping costs extra there. It is just that, under normal circumstances, the cushions might get wet and possibly dirty if you leave them out all night.
Me: So now you are saying that I have to bring them in every single night? I can barely remember to feed my cat and I will have this new responsibility too if I buy these cushions?
Marshawna: (a little impatient now) Honestly, I don't think it will hurt anything if you skip a day. What kind of climate did you say you live in?
Me: I live in Crazy Town, which has sort of a normal climate: rain in the spring, sun in the summer, wind in the fall, and then some snow in winter. Pretty typical, middle-of-the-road, Average Joe climate. Unless there is an earthquake. Or flood. Or tornado. Or hurricane. (getting carried away) Or avalanche or blizzard or...
Marshawna: (interrupting) The product information guide says that these cushions are not intended for "outdoor snow activities".
Me: I'm not planning on snowboarding with them.
(long uncomfortable silence)
Marshawna: (starting to sound annoyed) Did I answer your question then?
Me: I guess so. So, hey, one more thing then, Marshawna: I just want to know what the exact purpose of these cushions is?
Marshawna: The main function of these cushions is to "provide a comfortable sitting experience", especially if you happen to have wood furniture. I'd say another selling feature is that they look nice. (closing the sale) How many would you like to order?

Poor Marshawna. She is missing my point entirely.

My Inner Princess is none too happy about the extra work these lawn cushions will end up being. Gardening and watering duties have already been delegated to Princess and that pretty much is all she can handle. The cushions go unordered. Besides, I have ultimately come to the happy-and-money-saving conclusion that my patio furniture is actually fairly comfortable and looks okay without cushions.

Excuse me while I go remove this splinter from my butt.

("Multitude of Outside Variations")

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

65. If...

If someone is playing really really quietly without bothering you or interrupting you while you are on the phone, it means he is breaking all his older brother's favorite Lego's. MOV ("Mostly Obliterates Vehicles")

64. Eavesdropping

So I am driving Tall and his pal, both age 6, to summer camp. Their conversation in the car goes something like this:

Pal: Tall, have you ever gone skydiving?

Tall: (without hesitation) Yes.

Me: (??)

Pal: So have I.

Tall: When?

Pal: A long time ago. I was five.

Tall: Did you like it?

Pal: Well, the thing is, my parachute did not open and that is why I have this scar on my eye (pointing to non-existent scar). But now it's healed up. I jumped out of a helicopter.

Tall: (nonchalant) That's cool.


Friday, July 16, 2010

51. Candy For Breakfast

I am so judgemental. I admit it. This was especially true when I was The World's Greatest Mother Ever, back in 2001.  My first child was born in 2003.

That's right, I knew everything. How to discipline, how to get your child on a schedule, what kind of food to feed your baby, what you are doing wrong (hint: everything), how much TV is acceptable (none), and at what age your child should be reading independently (two years old).

Needless to say, I have had to, ummmm, amend some of these beliefs. OK, not some, more like all.

It is very very easy to be an "armchair quarterback" or in this case, an "armchair mother." You might think you know everything, but until you have actually LIVED it, you do not.

When I lived in California, I had a friend named Mary Ann who had a sweet little daughter named Dylan. Imagine my dismay when I saw Mary Ann give this little girl CANDY on more than one occasion! Sometimes before 10:30 in the morning!

Oh, the horror!

I expected all her teeth to instantaneously rot out of her head. Mary Ann would dole out candy as a reward, and sometimes withhold candy as a punishment. Other times, candy was a bribe. It was the Candy Channel, 24/7.

Did I voice my concerns to Mary Ann like a true friend would? Hell, no. Instead, I sat there smugly, watching her, and thinking exactly what every-woman-with-no-children has thought before me:

"That will never be me. I am better than that. My future child will never eat candy, and certainly NOT before breakfast."

Flash forward nine years. I now am the mother of two young sons, Tall-- age 6 1/2, and Short-- age 4. This morning, after dropping Tall off at summer camp, I drive Short to the bank drive-thru window so I can cash a check. He is whining that he wants to go to summer camp too, how it is NOT FAIR that Tall gets to go, and that four is a good age for camp and not too young. He is talking himself into a frenzy, getting more and more upset. The screechy whining is giving me a headache; I am annoyed. So I strike a deal:

"Short, if you stop whining right now, I will give you a lollipop when we leave the bank."

Ever the negotiator, he pushes, "Two?"

"Okay, fine, sure, two lollipops."

The whining ceases, and a sense of calm descends upon the car. The teller finishes the transaction and places the money in the envelope so it won't blow away. On top of the envelope are two lollipops. One is strawberry and one is peach. I thank the teller as I slide the money into my wallet. I turn around in my seat and reach out to Short. He takes the lollipops and smiles. I glance at the clock on my dashboard.

9:15 AM.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

48. No Memories Here

It is a well-known fact that children do not remember 99% of what happens to them before the age of 5. My own memories from when I was this age consist of me falling off the jungle gym and cracking my head open, and also the exact color and texture of the lunch trays at my preschool. That's it. My mom tells me we went to Hong Kong on a cruise. Nope, doesn't ring a bell. My grandmother used to take me to the toy store and buy me special dolls. No, no recollection whatsoever.

Why is it, then, that I knock myself out to provide wonderful "experiences" for my children when merely playing in the backyard would suffice?

We have dragged them to dinosaur museums, Air and Space Museums, history museums, the zoo, every park within a 20 mile radius, puppet shows, aquariums, butterfly gardens, the coast, and even the airport. If it is synonymous with "culture", we have tried it. Sometimes I quiz them later to see if they retained anything.

Our conversations go something like this:

Me: Tall, did you like the American Indian Museum we went to last week?

Tall: (thinking hard for a minute and scrunching up his little eyebrows) Do you mean the one with the fountain in front? or, um, no, was it...

Me: (cutting him off) YES, that's the one!

Tall: Uhhh, I can't exactly remember what I saw there, but the spaghetti they had in their lunch place was definitely better than yours.

Next, I quiz Short.

Me: Short, what did you think of that new playground Mommy took you to this morning? The one by the Post Office? Wasn't that fun?

Short: Shhhhhh, Mom! I am TRYING to watch "Chugginton" and you keep innerupping!

Me: (turning off TV) Short! You are being rude to me! I am asking you a question. Short: (mad) Turn my show back on right now, you mean Mommy!

Me: Not until you answer my question. I asked you what you thought of the playground we went to.

Short: (blank look on his face) We did not go to a playground.

Me: (getting frustrated) Yes we did. We just got back 2 hours ago! Short: Have you seen my Avatar toy from McIcky's?

Me: (finding my camera) Look, Short, I'll show you. Here. I took a picture of you on the swing!

Short: (looking at the picture) Huh, who is that?

Me: (triumphant) It's you!

Short: It's not me.

 As you can imagine, I can get quite deflated when my children not only do not appreciate the fact that I took them on some new adventure, but they cannot even remember it from this morning. It is like Alzheimer's, but in reverse.


 Even though THEY recall virtually NOTHING about it, I vividly remember getting the snacks together, putting the sunscreen on them, spraying everyone with bug spray, getting cold water bottles for them, checking that the camera battery is recharged, packing a change of clothes for both of them (just in case), finding the lost hat, going to the bank to get some quarters for parking meters, filling the tank with gas, printing out MapQuest directions. Tall vaguely remembers the possibility of some sort of fountain.

 The next day, I take Tall to a local bakery known for its bread. For about one year, I used to go here almost daily with Tall (he was about 2 years old at the time). In the meantime, a new cafe has opened that I prefer, so this one has dropped off my radar. We walk in together and the owner practically jumps across the counter.

"Tall!" she screeches, "Is that you? I have not seen you and your mother in, what, maybe 4 or 5 years?"

 Tall gets a big grin on his face.

"Hello, Ms. Marianna. I remember you. My mommy and I used to come here every day and she would always get a chocolate croissant."

 Ms. Marianna and Tall beam at each other, sharing a memory, like he and I used to share a croissant.

 MOV ("Memories Of Voyage")

Thursday, July 8, 2010

36. My Princess Life

I lead a princess life. At least in my head I do. When fancy crystal goes on sale at the high-end kitchen store where I work, I think, "I need 12 goblets! For when I have all those formal sit-down dinner parties for 12 friends!"

This little fantasy is spoiled only by the nagging realization that I do not even know 12 people, let alone 12 people that could stand to be in the same room with me for two or three hours and eat my cooking. 

I buy the goblets anyway. For my princess life.

I also have an ice-cream maker. For my princess life.

And an espresso machine. (Wait-- let me guess.)

In my princess life, I know lots and lots of people and have lots and lots of friends and have lots and lots of time to do lots and lots of entertaining. And apparently my princess alter ego must also have lots and lots of money to pay for all this fantasy entertaining.

Nevermind that I start sweating like a pig when I remember that my (one) friend is coming over (by herself) for coffee in 20 minutes and the house is still a disaster and I have not even brushed my teeth yet. Noooooo, I don't get stressed out before entertaining! I run around throwing random newspapers into the recycle bin and scooping up shoes of all genders and sizes and shoving them into the front hall closet.

Ugh. Princess needs a maid.

Then, I realize I am running out of time and therefore must take the easy way out-- shut the door to master bedroom and kids' room. The kitchen looks, well, like The Husband made a gourmet dinner last night and I have not attempted to clean it yet. I valiantly start scrubbing.

Oh, to heck with it. I will keep my friend out of the kitchen too.

Why do I have this bizarre princess life with all the accoutrements? Sterling silver flatware? check! Wedgwood china, service for 20? bien sur!

On the rare occasion when we do host friends, we typically eat on the back patio and use the default setting paper plates with flowers printed on them from The Party Place.  Convenient. Realistic. Not very princess.

Did I mention our dining room table can accommodate four people? on a good day? and yet ... I am inexplicably drawn to the Russian jacquard linen and silk tablecloth that mocks me from the shelf at the high-end kitchen store.

Pizza is our favorite meal. How can I align this to my princess life?

As a corollary, I also own about eight thousand sparkly barrettes for my princess life. Really? I need that many? To go with what, exactly? my sweatpants? I realized it was getting a little out of control when The Husband knocked over the basket that I keep all the princess barrettes in. They went all over the bathroom floor. I heard the clanking, and rushed in to see what was going on.  He started scooping them up and said naively,

"Who do all these hair clips belong to?"

("Magical Overstated Venus")