Tuesday, August 31, 2010

118. But I Don't Want Your Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He reaches for the whisk.

"Short! Wait!"

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

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

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

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


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

(“Messy Official Volunteer”)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

114. Excuse Me, Are You Famous?

(Fun Airline flashback moment)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I supposed to guess? It looks that way:







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

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


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

I am very very curious now.

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

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

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

“I’m an actor.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff Bridges.

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

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

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

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

(“Master Of Vagueness”)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

110. Guilt Quiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(“Motherhood Or ... Vegas”)

Monday, August 16, 2010

97. Carfool

(Fun Flashback Moment)

So I am sitting in line waiting to pick up Tall from preschool. I am one of those people (Virgo) who does not like to just sit around waiting for something, thus, I have gotten very very good at the Timing Of Carpool:
  • At 12:30 PM, Tall’s school gets out
  • If I arrive at 12:30, the line will already be so long that I won't be at the front until 12:42 (that means I sit for 12 long minutes, inching my car forward while the digital dashboard clock ticks off the minutes one-by-one, mocking me and my poor Time Management Skills)
  • I need to get there at 12 noon ON THE DOT if I want to be the first person in line (uh, why? who cares about being first? isn't the whole point of preschool to maximize my tiny sliver of "at home alone time"?). Half an hour of wasted time, just sitting in the car—ludicrous!
  • If I show up after 12:45, then I'm charged a $5 late fee daily
  • If I get there at 12:15, I am "technically" early, but my car won't be at the front until 12:35 (this in-between time is the worst; believe me, I have tried every combination and computation)
  • 12:44 is optimal in terms of not wasting precious time, and still being (barely) what’s considered “on time”
When I'm in line, I see some other (crazy) mothers who try to make the Best Use of this useless time by vacuuming out their cars with a dust-buster and Windexing all their windows. These mothers are models of efficiency and perfection. Not only that, their make-up and hair always looks perfect-- no baseball caps for these Cameron Diaz Cover-Girl-clones.

I can't keep up with these Stepford Mommies! They win all the Best Mother Ever trophies, and I come in last place, as usual. I’m sure they’ve also volunteered for “Room Parent” and that they make Martha Stewart cupcakes from scratch for every special occasion (no mass-produced ready-made cupcakes from Giant for them). Never a missed opportunity!

I won’t stoop that low, I think, as I gobble up some m&ms and deposit the wrapper with the others on the floor. Bliss is being the last one in the line: this means that I have not wasted even one iota of time. It is equivalent (in my mind) to walking into my favorite restaurant at 7:30 with a 7:30 reservation and the place is packed and the maitre d’ immediately seats my group at the best table with a sweeping view of the city. It is equivalent (in my son’s mind) to being ignored and unloved by Mommy.


If I pick him up last, then I’m greeted with a sad little lump of a pouty son or, if he’s feeling feisty that day, I’m met with a string of (toddler-style) profanities:

Last again? You are a mean and bratty person, Mommy. I wanna punch you in your dumb face! I don’t like you anymore and you need to ‘pologize to me and I wanna just go home with Wyatt instead of YOU!”

So I don't have to endure idle threats of being punched in my "dumb face", I get there early the next day. As noted above, to be the leader of Carfool (yes, my new term for it), you must get there a half hour before school lets out. What a (adult-style-string-of-profanities) waste of time! But, I love my son and I want him to be happy. I am number ONE in line, and soon I will be number ONE in his heart (not Wyatt nor Wyatt’s mom). I have my bottle of Windex at the ready.

Tall’s teacher walks him out. She is shaking her head in true shock and awe: “Wow! MOV, I almost didn’t recognize you at the FRONT of the line!” Tall gets in, and I lean back to help him with his seatbelt. I'm smiling from ear-to-ear and I'm ready to see him smiling back at me—let the Lovefest begin!

“What are you doing here so early?” he snarls with all the love of someone receiving a court summons. He glares at me, sending daggers of ice through the rear-view mirror, “I was still playing! Why you innerupp what I’m doing?!”

His bewildered yet angry little face is beet red, and his arms are crossed tightly across his chest. Yes, toddlers are the masters of juggling multiple emotions simultaneously.

“Tall, that is not a nice way to talk to me! I thought you’d be happy that I was first.”

“Who told you THAT?” he scowls.

The next day, I vow (internally) to do better. I am in the middle of Carfool. No Windex this time, just a short newspaper article to get caught up on. School lets out and the assistant teacher walks Tall over to the car. She looks confused.

“Sorry, MOV, I’m used to you being at the end,” she smiles weakly (maybe she’s had enough of Tall’s bizarre mood-swings and unprovoked outbursts, too).

Tall gets in and slams the door. Oh, jeez, what have I done this time? I am starting to resent this pint-sized tyrant.

“Look, Tall," I begin, "you need to fix your attitude. I am tired of this behavior.”

Today he's giving me the silent treatment. I'm struggling to tighten his shoulder harness and he refuses to look me in the eye. I can't tell if he's mad, sad, overtired or a combination of all three.

“Tall?” I say calmly, almost in a whisper, “What is going on?”

He looks out the window, a prisoner of Carfool. Now he is exasperated with me. He's beginning to sob, large tears making their way down his hot cheeks.

“Mom, I was used to you being last,” (sob), “and I knew you were last and Mrs. Jones knew you were last,” (sob), “and everyone knew. We all liked things the way they were. Then you had to go,” (sniffle), “and change it, and now we just ... we don’t ever know how things will be with you.”

Back to my comfort zone for tomorrow. Back to my favorite spot, the one I'm good at:


(“Mom’s On-time Vehicle”)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

96. The Meaning Of Life

Today’s essay is a bit on the heavy side. I will touch on some loaded topics that have a huge impact on our society as a whole. Specifically, I will explore the idea that although we as Americans are continually "chasing the dream", we maintain a certain emptiness that pervades our very essence: we are truly Missing Something.

I will discuss the following as it relates to this emptiness and void we all feel: materialism/false illusions; are we better off alone or with our “Soul Mate”; omnipresence of personal hatred/ lack of tolerance; attempting to escape everyday responsibilities; repercussions of credit card debt/ fiscal irresponsibility; obsession with finances; illogical belief that we are self-contained; focusing on appearances; existentialism; belief in God/religion overall; politics/personal responsibility; sticky topic of renewed focus on the outdoors/environment; unconscionable waste/improper disposal of waste; education (and necessity of); aging in America; attention to "green" issues; relevance of transportation; the decline of literature/rise of illiteracy; celebrity-worship/pop culture; the importance of work.

After much soul-searching and deliberation, I’ve taken a “personal inventory” of sorts and come to the overwhelming conclusion that certain things are, indeed, missing from my life. I turn to you, my virtual community, to reveal from the deep deep recesses of my mind, exactly What Is Missing:
  • My hand-embroidered star-fish sweater made from the really soft material (possibly a cashmere/ cotton blend) that I wore in all those photos from 1993—95
  • A good 20% (if not more) of my single socks—useless without their mates
  • All my favorite pens (it should be noted that The Husband’s pens are omnipresent; it should also be noted that I personally hate this kind because they leak and I cannot tolerate having these leaky pens in the house)
  • That book on Hawaii vacations (I could use an escape!)
  • My latest American Express statement (could be in other purse?)
  • My Barnes & Noble gift card with a remaining balance of $17.22 (not enough to break me, but enough to still obsess over)
  • The Tupperware container with the blue lid (sandwich size)
  • That bracelet with the blue stones that appear to be "sapphires" but are fake; was a gift and I originally thought it was ugly but now that it’s missing I recall it fondly and do want it back after all—God, I miss that bracelet! (as an aside, The Husband tells me that bracelet never existed and that I just made it up)
  • Red and white “Vote Ross Perot: You Personally Can Make A Difference” collector’s magnet
  • Free self-stick address label stickers from Sierra Club (came with magazine renewal form)
  • Sterling silver spoon (I think it went down the garbage disposal and got mangled and The Husband might possibly have thrown it away)
  • My high school transcripts (Yeah, I'm 40, I really need those now)
  • My younger son's bright green baseball hat with the picture of an owl on it
  • My older son’s Batman motorcycle toy
  • The latest People magazine with Julia Roberts on the cover (*note to The Husband: if you took it to work, I was not finished with it yet)
Yes, every day I take time to reflect and examine all the things that are lacking in my life. I do my best to contend with these (and other) weighty issues. It’s a wonder I get anything done around here.

(“Maelstrom Occurs Virtually”)

Friday, August 13, 2010

94. Prayers

We have just finished saying our prayers and I know Tall is sleepy. I am leaning in to give him a simple good-night peck on the cheek. He pulls his head away abruptly. Huh. I am mildly hurt, as he is only 6 ½. Is this the age when you no longer want your mom give you a quick kiss? As though he is reading my mind, he turns back to face me. He smiles and blinks his tired eyes. He looks at me in what can only be described as a loving manner, and he starts to speak. I wait hopefully for whatever sweet morsel he will deliver. This is that special groggy time when he reveals that his Goal In Life is to be a professional race-car driver. He also doles out compliments at 8 PM—“Mommy, you make the best cookies in the entire Universe!” (Apparently the cookies on Jupiter tend to be dry.) One time when I was tucking him he told me I was so beautiful that I reminded him of a Princess. Moments like that are rare. I reflect on this special time and it makes me remember why I wanted to be a mother in the first place. “Mommy?” he begins and then pauses, making sure he has my attention, “You have bad breath.” Princess needs toothpaste. MOV (“Mouthing Off Verbatim”)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

91. How To Be Funny

So I am driving Tall home from his swim lesson. Short is on a playdate with one of his friends, so this is a rare sliver of one-on-one time for me and Tall. I am asking him about his day and the details are spilling forth. It is nice to see this chatty fun side of him emerge in his brother’s brief absence.

“Oh, and guess what, Mom? Pal told me some funny new jokes today! Do you want to hear them?”

“Sure!” I am basking in the moment. I think it is so cool that he has a sense of humor and can tell jokes.

“Okay, great. So I have two new jokes to tell you. How do you make an elephant float?”

“Umm, how?”

No, Mom!” he hisses, “You’re not supposed to say THAT. You’re supposed to say, ‘I don’t know’. Try again.”

“Oh, I mean, I don’t know.”

“With lots of root-beer! Get it? Ha, ha, ha, hee, hee, ha, ha!”

He is cracking himself up. I think the joke is sweet and I smile. Then Tall elaborates, in case Mommy is too stupid to get it after all and is only laughing to be polite:

“Do you REALLY understand, Mom? The elephant has to drink all that root-beer so he can be a float like in one of those big parades on TV.”


Now it is my turn to explain the joke.

“No, Tall, what they mean is a root-beer float, like a drink. You know—a dessert? Like a milkshake?” (It occurs to me that in my hyper-vigilant crusade against excessive sugar and desserts, I might never have exposed him to the simple pleasures of a root-beer float. We are an ice-cream family, for sure, but we tend to avoid sodas. Oops.) “And I guess the elephant would be the ice-cream. They don’t mean like in a parade. That’s not what float means in this instance.”


Silence. I have popped his (joke) bubble, or at least his float.

“It’s okay, Tall, I still think it was funny, though! Please tell me your other joke. Didn’t you say you had two jokes?” I try to inject the former lightness back into our interaction.

“Yeah, I know you will like this one! All right, so this cowboy has a horse but how does he get there?” He is breathless and I can tell he’s eager to deliver his punch-line.

“Get where though?”

“MOMMMM! That’s not part of the joke!” Now he is beginning to pout. I see him in the rear-view mirror as he crosses his arms over his chest.

“Tall, I just don’t understand, get where exactly?” I say quietly.

“You are SUPPOSED to say, ‘How?’ Stop messing up my jokes!”

Apparently, I am heckling my own son.

I sigh, partially upset with myself. I need to stop micro-managing everything. He is six. Let him tell a joke, MOV.

“Okay, how?”

“Because the horse’s name is Friday! Get it? Ah ha, ha, ha, ho, hee, hee, ha!”

He laughs giant peals of laughter. I laugh because he is laughing. We drive a few more streets. I am so puzzled. I know Tall’s friend Pal to be extremely funny. That kid can tell a joke. I am quite aware that some important piece of the joke puzzle has gone missing.

“Tall, can I give you a tiny little thing that would make your joke funnier?” I offer cautiously. I know: I just can’t help myself.

“What do you mean? Did you not get that joke, either, Mom? Does someone have to explain the joke to you?” he says it sincerely, like you might say to someone who speaks very poor English but is trying their best: do you want me to translate?

“Just listen, Tall. What you could say is: ‘The rodeo is only open on the week-ends—Saturday and Sunday—but the cowboy goes on Friday. How is that possible?’ And then you would wait for the person to say ‘I don’t know’ and then the punch-line for the joke is: because the horse’s name is Friday! See? He is riding a horse named Friday, so he is technically on Friday! See what I mean? That makes more sense. That is much funnier.”

I am proud of my self that I have used my (rudimentary) detective skills to figure out the set-up of the joke after hearing the botched punch-line. It is like “Jeopardy” for jokes.

Tall is not so happy. He snaps at me angrily, “Those two jokes are good, so don’t force me to change them!”

We drive home in silence. That’s funny, I thought we were going to have some quality time.

(“Micro-managing Other’s Verses”)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

89. Masterpiece Or Minorpiece

Do you have a kindergartner or preschooler? You do? What do you do with all their ART? It comes home like a tidal wave, drowning everything it comes in contact with.

My refrigerator is covered with Art. The kitchen bulletin board is covered with Art. The Special Humongous Bulletin Board Just For Art that we had custom-made for their toy room is covered with Art. And now, in the study, even Mommy’s bulletin board (that is supposed to be for Mommy’s special photos and inspirational quotes about leading a clutter-free life and magazine pages of dream kitchens) is covered with Art.

The walls are becoming very crowded as the Art struggles to share space with, oh, I don’t know, a window or two.

We are at a Saturation Level. No new Art can come in anymore. I went to the Container Store and bought special folders for the special Art, and now they are full. All 127 of them.

Some of the Art is stunning. We frame those pieces. I love them and show them off whenever I can. I mail some pieces to my sister-- she seems appreciative. The next time we talk on the phone, she makes a passing reference to the latest batch of Art and favorably compares my sons to Picasso.

I am filled with joy to see my children’s "creativity budding" and see them "developing as artists" and finding the "sense of accomplishment and pride in making something with their own two hands" blah blah blah.

It’s just, do I really have to keep ALL of the so-called Art?

And so, I don’t. (Insert sad face here.) I pretend I keep it all, but then, after the boys have gone to sleep, I cautiously remove the offending “masterpiece”:
  • Perhaps it is a chick with feathers glued on perfectly straight—obviously done by the overzealously helpful assistant teacher
  • How about a kids' menu from the local pizza place with a few loopy scribbles (am I required to keep THAT-- on what planet is that considered Art?)
  • Maybe a ceramic "turtle" that long ago had its head broken off and now has a giant crack (that has already been glued three times) running the length of his shell
  • Or better yet, a montage of dark green and brown and black paint (all swirled together with angry pieces of torn gray tissue paper) that reminds me not of Art so much, but more of…… vomit
I hold the Art in my hands one last time. I try to connect with the Art. I tell it, It's not your fault, it's not you it's me, you were a learning experience, you were a stepping stone to greater things (I am breaking up with the Art). I give it one last look of approval or at least acknowledgement. Then I make it magically and mysteriously………… disappear.

I say a little prayer to my Jesus CD that I won't be arrested by the Art Police as I crumple the paper and put it in the very bottom of the trash bag, underneath coffee grounds and last night's leftover tuna casserole. My looming fear is that the trash bag will accidentally rip open out on the street and some remnant of the Art will unintentionally loll in our driveway, an unfriendly loiterer that will broadcast my Evil Ways to my children and to the neighborhood. Better double up the trash bag.

No remorse, no turning back, nerves of steel. I need to get good at this because I have 12 more years ahead of me. 12 years of determining what stays and what goes.

I know: I am The Worst Mom Ever.

But that is okay with me, because at least I can see the moon out my window.

(“Masterpiece? Or Vomit?”)

Monday, August 9, 2010

88. Reminiscing

Tall (age 6 and 1/2) and I are looking through old photo albums. He enjoys looking at the ones from when he was a toddler.

When we put the album back, he spies another album he has not seen before.

 "Can we look at this one, Mom?"

 I get it out and we flip it open. We come across a picture of a young woman on vacation in Italy. She has a nice smile and appears beautiful and vibrant. Her make-up, although minimal, is flawless, with a punch of color in her bright red lipstick. She has a wonderful sparkle in her eyes and is flirting with the camera. Her light blonde hair is slicked back in a tight chignon and she has a cute scarf with a map design tied loosely around her neck. She is wearing a flattering black top. She holds some sort of small shopping bag, perhaps with souvenirs.

Overall, she looks like a fun girl, enjoying being at the Ponte Vecchio.

 Tall studies the photo intently for what seems like a long time.

 "Huh, I wonder what that photo is doing in here," he says finally. 

"What do you mean?" I respond.

 "Well, uh, who IS it?"

 I am truly shocked that he does not recognize the person in the photo. She is a member of our family and has been quite instrumental in our lives. In fact, Tall has met her on many occasions and she has even stayed in our house.

 "It's ME, silly!" I say, exasperated.

 He looks at the photo. He looks at me. Back to the photo again. Back to me again. Photo. Me. Photo. Me. The Real Me and the Photo Me are having a little tennis match.

 Tall smiles slyly then bursts out laughing, like he is finally in on the joke.

"Ha ha ha! that's not you! This girl is pretty! Who is she really, Mom?"

 I am crestfallen. I know I have aged, but am I really......... unrecognizable?

"It IS me," I insist. I can tell by his face he is remains unconvinced.

"I believe you, Mommy," he says at last, giving me a pitying look. It is the same look you give someone when they have an ice-cream cone and have taken one lick and the whole scoop of ice-cream falls on the ground.

Poor you.

 Oh, and when was the photo taken, by the way? On The Husband's and my two-year anniversary vacation in Florence.......... when I was newly-pregnant with Tall, seven long years ago.

 MOV ("Mom's Old! Verified")

Friday, August 6, 2010

86. Anthropologie Catalog

Let's talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. That's right, the Anthropologie catalog. I looooooooooooooooooove the Anthropologie catalog. It is like Target on steroids. Okay, it is not in the remotest way at all like Target. It is a more like watered-down version of Neiman Marcus. Everything is very pretty, very unusual, and (ahem) very expensive. Crystal necklaces share valuable print space with bird-shaped teapots; models in goth dresses frolic next to overstuffed lounge chairs (never on the actual chairs, then we couldn't see the print of the chair's fabric). There is always an overabundance of bicycles and books, or tables made of books (rarely is a model seen reading a book). Hotels seem to always play a key role in the Typical Anthropologie lay-out: we see maids walking past open suitcases (did the maid steal one of the crystal necklaces while no one was looking?), tea service languishing on silver platters, and a charm bracelet left haphazardly on the desk when Someone Was Writing Postcards. The Anthropologie World also consists of chandeliers interwoven with real live flowers (consumer must provide her own live flowers), empty Murano glass vases (all the live flowers are in the chandelier, remember?), strappy sandals even in the dead of winter, butterfly hair clips (multi-purpose--as they can apparently be used to clip one's keys together as demonstrated on page 15), and embroidered linen jackets with nautical details. The Anthropologie customer is always ready to jet off to another fun adventure in some distant and remote corner of the world. She keeps her passport in her pocket, just in case. Webster's defines "anthropology" as the study of characteristics, customs, etc. of humanity. But can we study Anthropologie's photography and staging? I. Just. Don't. Get. It. On the cover of their August 2010 issue, a very pretty girl shows off an olive-green knit skirt, paired with a hand-sewn aqua blue sequined tank top, finished with a retro-looking floral cardigan. She rocks the look. For a brief moment, I consider how I might look were I similarly clothed. The total cost of this little get-up?
  • Skirt: $98
  • Top: $128
  • Sweater: $128

If you are good at math like me, then you know the total is $841. It is not the cost of the clothes that bothers me so much (well, $841 is more than our grocery budget for the month. For a family. Of four.) What strikes me as unrealistic is that the photograph that the company chose to put on their cover was one of Pretty Model eating a gooey vanilla cupcake with lots of icing! In the $841 ensemble! There are so many things wrong with this picture:

  • If you spent $841 (plus shipping) on an outfit, are you really going to take a chance on getting it dirty and possibly staining it with a $3 cupcake? No. You might risk a $75 bottle of wine, but not a $3 cupcake.
  • Do models even eat cupcakes? I thought they were not allowed to. I thought they were only allowed to eat celery.
  • Who buys vanilla cupcakes? Everyone knows that chocolate is the only flavor worth eating.
  • And, by the way, Anthropologie, no one wants to see Pretty Model with messy frosting all over her mouth. This is supposed to be Escapist Fantasy Literature. If I want to see messy mouths covered in crumbs, I need only look at my children during meal time.

On page 2 (oh, yeah, this is going to be a LONG blog), Pretty Model is walking down a deserted vintage European cobblestone street, at dusk, by herself in a flimsy dress with ankle boots. There is a random quote on the page: "Over time, never again, because once and then to mine eternal." Huh? If you are very technologically advanced like I am and have access to Google, you will quickly find that even trusty reliable Google does not know what to do with that quote.

Google says: "No results found" (and this is accompanied by a yellow triangle sign with an exclamation point, which I take to mean: "Anthropologie makes up their own quotes."

Makes up their own quotes?!? Who would DO such a thing?

Okay, so the quote makes no sense whatsoever. And I find it somewhat alarming that she is

  • walking by herself at night in a strange city while she is wearing a revealing dress (this could be a dangerous area, Pretty Model! Did you learn nothing from my blog about Sketchy-ville? At least I had a car! You are walking!)
  • and speaking of walking-- what's with the ankle boots? on cobblestones? do you not actually value your precious modeling career because guess what-- the Modeling Scouts don't usually choose the girls wearing casts.

Next page (try to keep up here). She's on a bicycle backwards (!) as if she has never actually ridden a bicycle (she probably hasn't). She is supposedly shopping at a street market, looking at home-made spices. The cost on this outfit is

  • silk top (very practical for jaunty bike-trips): $118
  • skinny jeans (very comfortable! not too tight at all!): $138
  • velvet jacket with embroidery: $148

Yikes! $1200 this time! That is the identical outfit that I wear when I go to the local Farmer's Market here in Crazy Town.

Next page: $88 silk leopard print top with rosette. And where is Pretty Model this time? In a very cheap-looking coffee shop, more like a roadside rest-stop. I can tell you in real life Pretty Model would not be caught dead in this place. There is a sign in the background that lists greasy diner type food and prices. Coffee is 99 cents. This makes perfect sense because

  • We are obviously not in Europe anymore
  • Pretty Model does not have money left for an actual Starbucks cup of coffee or latte after dropping $88 on the blouse

Next page: similar set-up. Over-priced outfit consisting of a cowl-neck sweater ($88), flared 1940's-style tweed skirt ($98), and magenta (at least a practical color for once!) suede ankle boots from Brazil ($258). Grand total for complete outfit: $306. No money left for anything else, so she is shown munching a bag of potato chips.

Next page. Outside a church. In a bikini. Don't get me started. (Plus, since when is Fall Season the time to show swimsuits? Every other page is cashmere and tweed and wool and leather and suede............ now we have spandex?)

Next page: a different but still quite beautiful model (finally, a different model) is walking into the street and about to get hit by a car! Why is this image here? I am not thinking wow, I really love that jacket and scarf, but more like hey, Stupid Beautiful Girl! Look the other way because you are about to be hit by a car!

Next page. Stupid Beautiful Girl, who somehow eluded death, is now inside some sort of deserted and dilapidated old mansion that is mysteriously vacant. She is flipping through a small book and has a Mona Lisa smile. What is going on here?

  • Did she break in?
  • Does this prove how Stupid she is because she broke into a house that does not even have anything to steal (it is empty)
  • Why did she stop to read this little book
  • and what the hell is she grinning about?

Next page. New Girl We Have Never Seen is wearing a heavy wool black coat with an white leaf design embossed on the fabric. The coat is stunning. It is worth every penny of its $288 price tag. New Girl is standing in the snow, looking off into The Distance. That is when I notice that this coat is probably not the most practical choice in 32 degree weather-- the coat has 3/4 length sleeves. For winter. For snow. I guess it doesn't really matter if your wrists get cold, because you are trying to show off your new Anthropologie charm bracelet.

Now we are into the home furnishings section of the catalog. There are chairs and beds and curtains and pillows and art and sofas and glass pitchers and ceramic plates and lamps, all peeking out of crates............ and yet, their is no padding or protective packaging of any kind. Just, you know, eight glass plates (remarkably unbroken) in a sideways crate. Or a $1598 upholstered arm chair with spindly little legs sticking out of a crate. This furniture must not belong to New Girl................ it obviously belongs to Stupid Beautiful Girl (who else would hire these inept movers?).

We are nearing the end of the catalog (Thank God). Accessories. Lots of ankle boots. Nothing under $248. This time, the photographer (or creative director or producer or whoever dreams up these shots) has decided that it is a brilliant idea to get rid of the models all together (so sorry to girls Pretty, Stupid, and don't forget New-- I do sort of feel like we are all on a first-name-basis by now). The boots are the star of the show, so why not display them stacked on pieces of toast? (Maybe toast left-over from that grunge-y diner that Pretty was forced to go in to.) Or, better yet, let's photograph the boots randomly strewn about (intermingling with other boots) on top of white doilies with coffee spilled everywhere-- just what I want! coffee stains on my new $298 Spanish boots! Or maybe even put the boots on top of stacks of candy-- who cares if they get sticky? who cares if you can no longer eat the candy because it has been stepped on?

I can't take it anymore. I flip the catalog shut. Without really meaning to, I notice the back: $439 leather lace-up boots, sitting on frozen peas.

Ahh, it all makes sense now: the Grand Finale is Anthropologie's Andy Warhol moment.

MOV ("Mutilated Overwrought Vision")

85. Instruction Manual: How To Have A Happy Day

Contrary to popular opinion, happiness does not find us. Instead, we must find happiness. That being said, I thought I would offer my lovely words of wisdom, an instruction manual if you will, on some simple steps to Achieving A Happy Day:
  • Step One: This is actually a helpful hint for the night before. When setting the alarm clock, it is imperative that one checks that it is set for AM and not PM, unless one does not actually have to get up until 6:30 PM the following day for one's graveyard shift at, oh, I don't know, the Factory or somewhere. The alarm must be checked even though The Husband might (repeatedly) assure one that it is set properly. He is wrong.
  • Step Two: It is lovely and helpful to start the day with fresh coffee. When adding the water and getting ready to press the "START" button, it might make sense to take a quick peek to see if one remembered to actually put the grounds in this time. Unless one does prefer murky water yet again as a fun way to start the day.
  • Step Three: Hopefully, one remembered to wash one's child's swimsuit the night before so one does not have to scramble like a crazy person after waking up late when the alarm does not go off again.
  • Step Four: It is smart and helpful when one realizes that one is out of toothpaste to ACTUALLY WRITE IT ON THE GROCERY LIST IN THE KITCHEN instead of just borrowing the kids' disgusting bubble-gum flavor toothpaste for the fifth day in a row.
  • Step Five: When one realizes that The Husband has "accidentally" taken today's newspaper to work, one should just calmly call him and leave a pleasant message as a simple reminder instead of saying a few four-letter words that one's kids might repeat.
  • Step Six: When one's lovely children start saying some choice four-letter words, one needn't be so coy as to say, "Where the hell did you pick up that word?!"
  • Step Seven: One might think that one does not need to recharge the cell-phone battery every night, but here one would be wrong.
  • Step Eight: When one dashes out to swim lessons (that have been cancelled and they have been trying all morning to call one but the cell phone battery is dead) and one shows up and no one else is there, one should not start crying in the parking lot in tandem with one's children. This looks bad.
  • Step Nine: When one has regained one's composure and decides to go to the park instead, it might be smart to have a few refreshing drinks on hand.
  • Step Ten: One might try to remember that water bottles that have sat in the 100 degree car the day before do not qualify as "refreshing". Additionally, one should make every attempt to not scold one's children for being thirsty, or worse, tell them they "should have packed something" themselves.
  • Step Eleven: When one returns home and decides it is a good time to water the lawn, one should make every attempt to keep one's house keys in a convenient pocket in case one's darling Angel Children decide it is funny to lock their mommy out. Like last time.
  • Step Twelve: When one finally gets back in the house and one realizes that there is a giant spider on one's arm, it is never a good idea to scream, "Aaarghhhhh! Get it OFF of me! I hate spiders! I am scared to death of spiders! It must be poisonous and it's going to bite me and we are all going to die!" (side note: the frantic and spastic accompanying hop/ dance/ spin/ swat movements do not really help the situation either).
  • Step Thirteen: If one fails to heed the advice of Step Twelve, then one should not be the least bit surprised when one's children are deathly afraid of spiders. (But one should still say to The Husband, "Honey, honestly, I have no idea why they are so frightened of bugs. It is really unnatural.")
  • Step Fourteen: If one's younger son has broken one's older son's Lego's when one was not paying close attention for an extended period of time, one should learn that is is not very smart to say, "Uhh, it was me! Mommy broke it! I am so sorry! I just, uh, stepped on it by mistake." First of all, one's older son is not stupid. Second, the Lego's were up on a shelf.
  • Step Fifteen: When The Husband returns home from the calm happy place called "Work", it is not nice to say within earshot of one's children (as one is walking out the door to one's part-time job in the high-end kitchen store), "Ha ha, now I get to go to MY oasis and you get to deal with everything! Good luck!" This might give one's children a complex that could result in years of therapy that one might have to pay for in the future. One should keep such thoughts silent inside one's head.
  • Step Sixteen: And when one is driving back home from the high-end kitchen store, one does not need to stop at the liquor store just assuming that The Husband has in fact already drank the last bit of the vodka. Although in this particular case, one would be right.
It might be a good idea to reread this list a few times, and perhaps commit it to what is left of one's memory.

("Mom Ordered Vodka")

Thursday, August 5, 2010

81. The Flamingo Keeper

So I am having lunch at a cute local cafe with my two sons. They are wolfing down their $17 sandwiches and I am trying hard not to eavesdrop on the conversation at the next table. But I can't help it: the lady just said something about how she was reading her book in the "pen" with the flamingoes.


Surely I did not hear that right. What rhymes with flamingoes? blamingoes, shurlingoes ... I am pretty sure I did hear her right. Trying to not be too obvious, I continue to listen. When you think of the phrase "leaning in a little bit closer", yep--that's what I'm doing.

"And so their main keeper says that they can bite, and their beaks are actually serrated. And the worst part is that if they ... "

"Mommy, this sandwich is really delicious! Much better than the ones you make."

"Shhhhhhhh! I mean, uh, thank you. Don't talk anymore! uh, I mean uh, don't talk with your mouth full, just eat your sandwich, Sweetie."

"... and apparently then they twist it and it's vicious!"

Her companion says (stupidly, I think), "I never thought of flamingoes as particularly dangerous animals."

Ohjustshutup! What do you know! Let her talk already, she is much more interesting! No one cares what you think, Buddy, because you obviously do not hang out with flamingoes on a daily basis.

My back is to the next table, so I have no idea what my fellow cafe patrons look like. Now I am maneuvering around trying to catch her reflection in the window so I can see what a person who reads books to (to? with? about? near?) flamingoes looks like.

She does not look like a teen-ager. She has frizzy hair and a floral dress. She is wearing glasses (do the flamingoes try to peck her glasses off?).

How do you get this job? I am dying to turn around and ask her. Was she, like, the Temporary Fill-In Flamingo Watcher for the day? Did the normal (salaried) Flamingo Watcher call in sick? What is the official job title: Famingo Keeper? Why do flamingoes have to be watched? Is there a danger they will fly away?

Every time I have gone to the Zoo, I just see them all standing around on one foot, usually sleeping. Is that all just a big act?  Now I am realizing that the flamingoes might be like babies or small children: you must babysit them. You cannot leave them to their own devices.

And the biting? Is Fill-In Flamingo Lady worried about them biting her, or biting other flamingoes? Is there some sort of "flamingo rabies" that we should all be aware of and take precautions against?

"So I ate most of my sandwich, remember you said we could split a cupcake?"

Huh?  Stop talking! I can't hear Flamingo Lady!

"I think they hired him because, you know, he's someone's kid ... it's like he knows nothing about animals. What a waste, really. So many other people would want that job."

Yikes, I missed something! Are we still on flamingoes? have we maybe moved on to pandas?

"But is he in college?  Where did he go to school anyway?"

Come on, Companion-Of-Flamingo-Lady! You have absolutely NOTHING of any value to add to this conversation. You are useless.

Flamingo Lady and her (idiotic) friend get up to leave. My Insane Curiosity is fighting hard with my Sense Of Normal Social Boundaries, and guess which one is winning. I want to ask her a million questions about flamingoes!

It does not occur to me at this moment that perhaps I could just Google "random flamingo facts" when I get home.

I am broken out of my bizarre Flamingo-Trance by my older son tap-tap-tapping me on the arm.

"Mommy! Mommy!" he whispers conspiratorially, "Did you hear what those people at the next table were talking about?"

He is about to burst. Aha! I realize that Tall must have been paying attention too. He loves to go to the Zoo, he loves animals, he loves the Nature Shows on TV, and clearly he loves flamingoes.

I look at him and wait expecantly, a smile creeping across my face.

"They were talking about school!"  His grin is taller than a flamingo. 

("My Other Vocation")

Monday, August 2, 2010

77. Parenting The House

My House is having very naughty behavior today, basically not listening to anything I say. Clean up the kitchen, I shout at House angrily. Nothing. Straighten up all this junk in the entry way, I demand. Nada. At least for goshsakes, pick up all these hundreds of stray shoes everywhere, I plead. No dice.

House seems to revel in ignoring me. I sense a subtle smirk.

That's it, House, if you are going to behave this way then we absolutely will NOT have any people over, I threaten with all the conviction of a small mouse. House shrugs indifferently. House does not care. Clean House, messy House, whatever. People can come over or not come over, doesn't matter to House.

I am losing my mind. Whatworkswhatworkswhatworks, I try to remember everything I know about effective parenting. Follow through: that is important. I call House's bluff.

You know what, House? We are NOT having people over today! Ha!

House smiles languidly. House is not really suffering at all, turns out House can just relax. And so can I.

("Masquerading Omits Visitors")