Monday, September 27, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do you sell clocks?"

"So you sell bath towels?"

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

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

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

"Can I return this pepper grinder I stole?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Have you seen my child?"

"Have you seen my purse?"

"Have you seen my cell phone?"

"Have you seen my keys?"

"Have you seen my shopping bags?"

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

"Have you seen my husband?"

"Have you seen my Starbucks cup?"

"Are you open on Thanksgiving?  why not?"

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

("Marvelling Over Variety")

Thursday, September 23, 2010

144. Costume Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Buzz Lightyear!” he beamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(“Mother Of Vampires?”)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

143. Homework For Mom

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

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

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

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

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

Economics,” I correct.

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


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

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

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

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

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

“Dear Parents/ Care-Givers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh,” he murmured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(“My Ossified Visage”)

142. What They Wear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(“Ministry Of Violations”)

Monday, September 20, 2010

141. School Bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

("Mantra Of Vitality")

Sunday, September 19, 2010

139. The Lunch Date

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, I like Natalia’s.”

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

“Hey! The light’s green! Wake up!”

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

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

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

I drive forward and start to change lanes.

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

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

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

“What was that?”

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

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

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

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

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

We drive a few more blocks in silence.

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

“Do you want to drive?” I sneer.

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

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

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

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

“Fine.” He looks out the window.

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

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

("Missing Other Vehicles")

Friday, September 17, 2010

138. Valedictorian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(“Mindless Otherwise Vacant”)

Monday, September 13, 2010

132. Puppet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(“Monologue Of Virtue”)

131. Conversation

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

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

("Might Overhear Variations")

Saturday, September 11, 2010

130. Amusement Parking

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

Here we go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our car wash days are over.

(“Magical Otherworldly Vehicle”)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

126. Vocabulary

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

MOV ("Missing Our Vanity")