Tuesday, November 30, 2010

232. All Those Parties

Every year, we throw lots and lots of parties (I'm being facetious here: think two). When the Husband and I are preparing for said party, words like “paper plates” and “plastic cups” and even “cooler of beer” are bandied about.

The high-end kitchen store where I work would have you think otherwise. High-end kitchen store believes in crystal for the children’s instant-powdered orange juice and $250 platters from France to lay out some stale Chips Ahoy cookies for an after-school snack. At the high-end kitchen store, no event (read: morning coffee) is considered too mundane to get out the real linen napkins.

So the Princessa in me (she’s in there, hi P!) lovingly walks around the high-end kitchen store pretending to “work”, saying hi-may-I-help-you to random shoppers, all the while stopping to pet the holiday table display with the 12 Days of Christmas plates and Nutcracker napkin rings. Princessa thinks this would work well for her next sit-down dinner party for 12. Yes, yes, there’s that formal dinner party on the calendar:  the day after never.

Princessa ignores the calendar. She goes right back to ogling the beautiful merchandise that the high-end kitchen store buyers on the West Coast have deemed Desirable this year, or better yet, Must-Have. Princessa adores those West Coast buyers, and firmly believes that this entire crystal/china/linen section is necessary to her complete well-being and happiness.

Princessa’s itty-bitty Paycheck ($132.77) begs to differ. With the brutal honesty Paycheck has been known for in the past, Paycheck spells it out for Princessa by phone (although Princessa likes the idea of online-banking, it’s so easy to just dial the automated system and punch in a few numbers). Paycheck rudely leaves off a few crucial zeroes.

On behalf of inner-Princessa, I boldly and confidently confront The Boss when she doesn't look too busy (she is only calculating the store's profit margin for the past 3 months and making a grid chart with units-per-transaction sold ratio compared to number of employees scheduled to present to the Regional Director who will be here in 10 minutes), “Excuse me, Boss? Uh, when I called about my paycheck, it turns out...... I mean, ummm...... I think the amount is, uh, wrong?

She nods at me; she understands this horrific situation. Then, she kindly looks up my hours in the computer, only hesitating to roll her eyes once or possibly twice this time.

“You are absolutely right. It’s wrong,” she confirms in her no-nonsense tone (the same tone she tells employees they will be working at 4 AM the day after Thanksgiving and until midnight on Christmas Eve).

I smile for myself and Princessa. I knew it!

“We overpaid you by about 1.5 hours. But you know, MOV, it’s not a big deal. You deserve it.” Now she is nodding at me, nod-nod-nod, the same nod she gives customers when she demonstrates the espresso machines, you-really-need-this-so-buy-it-today. I am nodding, too. I don’t need a new espresso machine, but I do very much need the extra hour-and-a-half of pay.

Princessa is pouting. “But, but, but what about the new silverware I need for all those parties?” she wonders to herself, her blue Princessa eyes filling with tears.

After work, Princessa and I stop somewhere and purchase the much-needed silverware: plastic, $4.99 for a set of 20, from the corner drugstore by my house. 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

229. Accolades

So Tall’s first-grade class is doing a Dramatic Reading and all the parents are invited. Since I’m obsessed with punctuality, I show up about 10 minutes early. The other parents and I are waiting patiently in the school lobby when I see it out of the corner of my eye: a bouquet of flowers.

A random dad I’ve never met before is clutching a huge bouquet of mixed flowers, a symphony of red and purple and orange and pink, the likes of which I’ve never seen before (not even at my own wedding). He's smiling and nodding and chatting with some other parents and I notice he's laughing a little too loudly and gesturing a little too grandly during whatever story he's telling. His very own personal Mini-Dramatic Reading.

A school employee with a photo badge appears.  Deep in my very soul, I'm praying that she is with the Floral Police and has been sent here to put an immediate ban on floral creations of any kind.  Sadly, she has paste in her hair and a piece of construction paper stuck to her elbow (I'm guessing she’s a teacher). Paste-hair Lady has us line up single-file and then ushers us into the classroom. Flower Dad barely fits through the door due to the sheer girth of his floral extravaganza.

My friend Kalla, who is standing behind me in line, taps my shoulder persistently. I turn around to look at her and she motions to Flower Dad with a look of contempt on her face.

“Not. Cool.” she says under her breath. She shakes her head in a cocktail of disgust and disbelief. She continues in a stiff whisper, “I didn’t bring flowers for my daughter. She’s gonna see those roses and say ‘Mommy, where’s my gift?’ and I’m gonna be all, ‘Honey, me showing up is your gift. Look, I brought your sister. Happy Dramatic Reading Day! Love ya!’”

I know exactly what she means. Way to raise the bar, Flower Dad. What were you thinking? Flowers in first grade for a Dramatic Reading? We’re not even sitting in the auditorium, for goshsakes: we’re on tiny doll-sized chairs in the classroom.

Where can we possibly go from here? When my kid makes it to the Olympics for soccer or Kalla’s daughter is on Broadway performing ballet or Tina’s son is playing violin at the Sydney Opera House, what then? No mere bouquet of roses will do at that point. Should we just throw new cars up on the stage?

Flower Dad’s little angel is up in front of the class, about to do her best rendition of “Hickory Dickory Dock”. I have to admit, with her blond ringlets and missing teeth, she's absolutely adorable.  Now she’s reading. Wow—she’s good. Hey, Disney Corporation, you should be sending a talent scout to Crazy Town Elementary right about now. I think your next Hannah Montana is in Classroom 6 talking about mice and clocks.

When Disney Child finishes, her dad claps wildly. The little girl in her brown and orange polka-dot dress and pink tights returns to her seat and her father gives her a quick hug then hands her the bouquet. The flowers are bigger than the tiny girl. She sneezes.

Tall is next. He’s reading a “math poem” and does a fantastic job. He never once mispronounces “prism” or “parallelogram”. When he’s finished, the audience claps politely and Tall walks over to sit with me. I pat his shoulder and say, “Sweetie, I’m proud of you.”

He looks at my empty hands. He leans in and says accusingly, “Mom, you don’t have any flowers for me?”

I smile a weak and panicked faux-smile. Is he going to cry? What should I say now: uh, Leighton’s mom didn’t bring her flowers either? or, your flowers are out in the car, let me run and get them?

Half a second later, he finishes his thought: “Thank you so much for not embarrassing me by bringing flowers.”

(“Mothers Of Violinists”)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

228. Gratitude

So we're sitting at the table, just the four of us, for our Thanksgiving dinner.  My family has this unconventional tradition that before dinner, we go around the table and everyone says what they are thankful for (I know--bizarre!).  Listen in:

Tall:  I'm thankful for my family and all the animals and the world and outer space.
The Husband:  I'm also thankful for my family and that we all have good health.
Me:  I'm thankful for my family, and also that we have good jobs that we love, and that we are all together right now enjoying this wonderful meal.
Short:  I'm thankful for the dinosaurs and the animals from New York.  Amen.  

Is it considered rude to laugh at one's 4-year-old son when he's attempting to have a Serious Moment and share what he's thankful for?  Luckily, I didn't have a gulp of wine in my mouth (because I surely would've had to spit it out).  The Husband and I did our best to suppress smiles. 

(Dinosaurs, I can maybe understand.  But animals?  from New York? We have only one animal, our cat named Kitty who hails from California.  And we've never taken the kids to New York--although we'd like to, it's not on the agenda any time soon.  But it's good to be thankful anyway.) 

("Monkeys Or Velociraptors?")

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

226. Therapy With Excuses

I called a therapist who had been recommended by my another friend, Balance. She said Dr. Cass specialized in relationship issues. I was hoping she could help me resolve the drama with a former chum, so it was worth a shot. After a lot of back-and-forth, we figured out a time that worked for the three of us:

Dr. Cass: MOV, pleasure to meet you. And it’s a pleasure to meet you as well, Excuses.
MOV: Thank you, Dr. Cass.
Excuses: Likewise.
Dr. Cass: Now, MOV, I know we talked on the phone, but why don’t you fill us in on why Excuses is here?
MOV: I want her to be more responsible. Right now, the way she act towards others……… it’s not acceptable.
Dr. Cass: Can you elaborate on that?
MOV: Well, it’s to the point where people avoid her. Teachers, especially, hate her. Back in school, any time homework was due, she conveniently “lost” it or “forgot” it……..
Excuses: I’m just really really busy. I’ve been swamped at work; I have a lot of papers I need to catch up on.
MOV: Why don’t you consider this as sort of an “intervention” to put you back on the right track in your life. How many people do you alienate on a daily basis?!
Excuses: You know, I forgot to put money in my parking meter, I should run.
MOV: This office is on a residential street! There are no meters!
Excuses: Dr. Cass, do you have any Tylenol? I don’t feel good. I think I’m coming down with something.
Dr. Cass: (gets up to find Tylenol) Here. Here you go. Have a sip of water too.
Excuses: Thank you.
Dr. Cass: Sure.
MOV: (mocking) Oh, I’m so sick, poor me, I think I’m coming down with something.
Dr. Cass: I’m sensing some hostility. Excuses, care to respond?
Excuses: You know, traffic will be bad this time of day, and I have to be somewhere at 2:30; I’d better get going.
Dr. Cass: What’s going on with you two?
MOV: Dr. Cass, Excuses seems to appear when I have my hopes up about something, or if I’m meeting someone, or if I have something important planned or if I’m relying on someone. Whenever she’s around, things fall apart.
Excuses: You’re mean. Maybe people just don’t want YOU around.
MOV: I’m “mean” because I’m telling the truth? At least I say “no” instead of leading people on with “sure, yeah, I’ll do it” and then later change my mind and leave them in a lurch.
Excuses: I just remembered I need to pick up my dry cleaning and they close early on Tuesdays. I’ve gotta get going.
MOV: That’s fine. I can’t say I’m surprised. Oh, and one more thing: you will NOT be invited to any more of my parties. You are the worst at parties, RSVP-ing yes and then at the last second not showing up. You inconvenience a lot of people, and I’m sick of it!
Dr. Cass: Well, this was a very short session. Shall we reschedule?
MOV: I can do any day next week, after 1 PM.
Excuses: Oh, I’m taking a yoga class, and it’s every day at 1 PM. Sorry, that won’t work for me.

So there you have it. Another day ruined by my old archenemy, Excuses.

("Ministry Of Vengeance")

Monday, November 22, 2010

223. Picking Up The Art

So I take Short to our local paint-your-own-pottery place to pick up his latest completed art project. My sister Oakley just flew in for a visit last week and was nice enough to take him to paint. However, she was not nice enough to help him actually write his name on whatever he made or provide a receipt. Which brings me (and the cashier girl and the manager and the owner) to our current dilemma: what did he paint?

Luckily, Short is with me. He can identify his own ceramic piece.

The manager smiles broadly at him. “Short, can you show us and your mommy what you made?”

He nods excitedly (delighted to have this audience of four) and walks right over to a gigantic dragon that was clearly painted by an adult with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts.

We all laugh. Four-year-old Short pouts, his feelings hurt.

I clarify, “Short, I’m not asking what you like or what you would like me to buy for you; I’m asking you what you painted when you came here with Auntie Oak. Can you please show me?”

“I know which one I painted, Mom,” he says, “that one,” pointing to a large platter with an ornate design of little gingerbread people all over it. If Fine Arts person did not make this, then clearly her even-more-talented twin did. Big sigh.

I ask the teen-aged cashier if she was here when Short painted with my sister. The cashier surprises me, “Why don’t you just call your sister and ask her what your little boy painted?”

Genius. Gives me hope for the next generation.

I pull out my cell phone, curse the 3-hour time difference, and dial anyway. Oakley answers on the second ring.


“Oakley! Sorry to call so early, hey, I’m at the ceramic place with Short and we have no idea what he painted, so do you…..”

“A tile,” she says, groggy, “a square tile.”

“Thank you! I’m so sorry I woke you, okay, go back to sleep.”

“Yeah. Bye.” The phone clicks.

The manager and I walk over to the tiles, triumphant. There are only 300 tiles here. One must belong to Short.

“Was it a handprint? Do you know what colors you used? Did you paint a truck?”

“This one!” Short grins as he hugs a very ugly tile, a tile that looks like green and brown and grey paint threw up on it. I gingerly take the tile out of his hands for closer examination. This looks like something an angry two-year-old might produce, not my much-much-older son.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to take home the wrong one….” I say cautiously.  I turn towards the manager. “Lynette? I think Short would paint better than this, don’t you? Do you think this could really be the right one?”

She shrugs. “Honestly, MOV, I don’t know.”

I hold out the tile at arms-length distance. We are both scrutinizing it as if it could be a counterfeit 100-dollar bill. “It’s pretty bad,” I whisper.

At the bottom of the tile, I notice some semblance of a name in smeared black paint. It does not say “S-H-O-R-T”. It looks like it says “S-A-M”.

I shake my head and address the would-be artist directly. “Short, this does not say your name. It says, ‘Sam’. It belongs to another little boy.”

I make a face to indicate that the offending tile is icky and he wouldn’t want it anyway.

Short mirrors my face: Yuck. Dog poop. Wouldn’t want it even if it were free.

The owner decides to add her opinion, “I think you should call your sister again.”

“Yes, me too,” chimes in the (formerly helpful, now merely annoying) cashier.

I hit re-dial.

“Hello?” says Oakley.

“Me again. Soooo sorry. Do you know what is on the front of Short’s tile? We can’t find the right one.”

“Geesh, MOV,” she says, starting to sound peeved, “It’s like, 7 AM here. I dunno, it was a swirl of brown and green paint, he was trying to paint some leaves or a tree or something. Oh, yeah, I remember, he tried to write his name at the bottom, but it doesn’t look so much like it says ‘Short’…. It probably looks more like ‘Sam’. Does that help?”

Oops. “Thanks, Oak, we have the right one. Love ya!” I click my phone shut and turn towards my son.

“That’s it! That’s the right one! Beautiful!” Only I exaggerate the syllables to sound more like beeeeee….YOU….teeeeee…..full.

Short still has the “ick” face on. Dog poop, remember?

No, no, masterpiece! Rembrandt now! Happy!

Short looks at the tile and back at me. “I made this?” he inquires, perplexed.

“Yes?” I offer tentatively.

Long pause.

“I LOVE IT!” he beams.

And so do I, now, too.


Friday, November 19, 2010

219. Chance Encounter With Regrets

Today started out rainy and gloomy, so I decided to take Short to the library to pick out some new books. We found a great spot right in front and parked the car. As I was wrestling with the Spiderman umbrella and helping Short put his yellow raincoat hood up, someone called out to me.

“MOV!” said someone-who-knew-my-name, “MOV! It’s me! How’ve you been!” It was more a statement than a question.

Of course I recognized the voice. Oh, God, do I have to talk to him right now? What’s he doing at the library?

“Gosh, it’s been, like, forever,” he winked. “Hi Short! You are almost as big as Tall, huh, buddy?”

“What do you want?” I cut him off, impatient. “I really don’t have any time for you right now.”

“Sure you do,” he said, falling in line with our steps toward the library entrance. “While Short looks at books, you and I can have a little ‘chat’.”

What choice did I have? The library is a public place. We all walked in, with Short insisting on pressing the automatic door-opener.

“Who is that, Mommy?” Short looked up at me, his little face expectant.

“It’s my old friend, Regrets,” I replied with a weariness in my tone.

Short made himself at home in the children’s section of the library and Regrets motioned for me to join him near the window.

“What do you want? I thought we were through,” I whispered, my voice full of venom.  

“You know what I want to talk about: why you never return my phone calls or emails……..” he shook his head, disappointed. “We used to hang out together! What’s going on? Why do you avoid me?”

“Newsflash, Regrets: no one wants you around. You make people feel bad.”

Feel bad? Are you kidding? I’ve always been there for you, through thick and thin. When you dropped out of Architecture school, who offered you a shoulder to cry on—that’s right, me, Regrets. When you decided to move to Spain for a year but then came back after only a month, who was there to pick up the pieces? Regrets! Big time! Any job you ever applied for but didn’t get because of something stupid thing you said in the interview—who did you call to rehash and dissect the entire interview for hours upon hours? Me! Regrets! I listened patiently, I stood by you like a true friend. Now you’re telling me that I make you feel bad?”

“Yes, Regrets, that is exactly what I’m saying. It’s time for you to leave,” I insisted, my voice sounding shrill.

“Excuse me, Miss? Is there a problem? Is this gentleman bothering you?” said my-new-best-friend, the librarian.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, do you think you could call security and….” I began.

“No, everything is fine,” Regrets interrupted. He caught her eye.

“Oh, it’s you! Regrets!” she swooned. “How are you? You look fantastic! Have you lost weight?”

Regrets stood up and gave the librarian a hug.

“Regrets, I really need to talk to you,” she pulled at his sleeve urgently, “I was offered a job up in Boston near my family, but I turned it down. Now I realize I made the wrong decision.” She started to tear up.

Regrets turned to face me. “MOV, I have a real friend who obviously needs me. Good day.” And with that, he took the librarian’s hand and the two of them walked towards the History section, talking like old pals.

("My Only Vendetta")

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

217. 10 Reasons Why I Am More Qualified Than Kate To Be Queen

So after channeling Princess Di to get her take on this disastrous turn of events, I thought I’d compile a list of why I am infinitely more qualified to be Queen of England than Kate Whatsername. William, take note:
  1. I don’t have a phony British accent (I think an American accent is so refreshing!)
  2. I know how to act in any situation (except maybe when meeting Important Heads of State or Nosy Reporters, but thankfully, that wouldn’t be part of the job description, would it?)
  3. I have impeccable manners (and I hardly ever swear, unless it is absolutely the right situation—think maybe once per week at most)
  4. I write a mean thank you note (wait—I don’t mean “mean” mean, I mean “really awesome and perfect” mean)
  5. I never offend anyone ever (as long as you don’t count the UPS guy yesterday when I made that joke about how they must not pay him very well because he always wears the same thing or, basically, anyone who has ever read—or been the topic of—any of my previous blog postings)
  6. I love diamonds (perhaps Kate does too, but I assure you, I love them more)
  7. I look really really good in diamonds
  8. I would be very grateful to have a personal chef (and as a devoted fan of “Top Chef”, I could talk for hours to the chef and give him my good advice and opinions and even critiques—I know he’d love that)
  9. Did I mention I am willing to move to London?
  10. Castles don’t bother me (in fact, I often refer to my 800 sq. ft. home as a “castle”)
  11. I am willing to travel to other countries as part of being a Princess/ Queen (I’m a former flight attendant, so I’m, like, totally prepared)
That's actually 11 reasons. See? Overachiever.

("My Overseas Villa")

216. I Am Supposed To Be the New Queen of England

So Princess Diana calls me from the grave and we are having one of our semi-annual chats. I am totally stressed out, and being the sensitive type, she can tell something’s wrong.

“Di,” I begin, “I just heard the news about Kate. You said William was going to pick me, for goshsakes…..”

She interrupts (death has made her more brazen), “MOV, I said no such thing. First of all, you are like, what, 20 years older than he is?”

“But 42 is the new 24,” I claim.

“No, it’s not. Also, you ARE married, and you have two kids!”

“Well, so were you when you and Charles hooked up!” I challenge.

“Umm, no, I wasn’t. I was like, 15. So, anyway, MOV, you just need to get past it and realize that my son doesn’t even know you exist.”

Ouch. I don’t like this side of Di-Di. Dare I tell her that when she was marrying Charles, I wanted to BE her, not to get married to Charles per se, but just to be a princess. In my new (improved) fantasy, it’s all about marrying William. Plus I would definitely rock that tiara.

“MOV….. what are you thinking? Whenever you get silent like that for too long, I know it can’t be good,” Diana probes.

“I was just thinking how I should have moved to England all those years ago, that maybe I could have actually met William. If he'd have had a chance to get to know me, I surely would’ve won his heart.”

“Woulda, coulda, shoulda,” she offers.

“Amen to that, sister.”


Monday, November 15, 2010

212. Cop-out

So you know what I hate?  A blog that is supposed to be good quality writing and then BOOM--dumb photos everywhere!  You know what?  If I wanted to look at pictures all day long I would just flip through my old albums, thankyouverymuch.  When I see artsy photos in a WRITING blog, I know the writer is just one thing:  lazy.  I consider photos a complete waste of time and, truly, the ultimate cop-out. 

Oh, look, I forgot to show you the pretty red leaves on the tree in my yard: 

("Mastering Optional Views")

Sunday, November 14, 2010

208. Why I Hate Ads

Okay, I admit, I don’t really hate ads. Hate is a very strong word. In fact, just the other day as I was drinking my (Starbucks) latte and reading my latest (House Beautiful) magazine while I was lounging in my comfy leather chair (from Pottery Barn), I was thinking how much I actually enjoy those very clever commercials I see on TV (Sony, purchased at Best Buy) when they air during the Super Bowl. I am not even a huge hockey fan (baseball? lacrosse? remind me which sport they play for Super Bowl) but when The Husband is watching the Super Bowl, I admit that I watch it too, but primarily for the entertaining and funny advertisements (such as the highly effective commercial with the squirrels running in Pamplona, like the running of the bulls, but instead of bulls it was squirrels! get it?  they were selling, uh, uh..... maybe they were selling squirrels?).

Ads do serve their purpose. They hopefully get you to go to the place (for a random example, perhaps a high-end kitchen store) and spend your hard-earned dollars buying something you may or may not need (like a salad spinner or a $2500 espresso machine). I totally get this.

What I don’t get is WHY when I want to be on the computer and read someone’s blog, then SHEBANG! this stupid ad pops up. Why can’t I just read the funny thing (or research what type of red-leafed tree is in my backyard or learn how to make origami paper airplanes—my 6-year-old’s latest obsession) without being visually assaulted by unwanted ads? The ad is never something helpful, like how to care for red-leafed trees that might be growing in your yard or where to buy cheap books that show origami step-by-step; no. The ad is inevitably do you want to know your Credit Score (not really; I prefer to run and hide from my Credit Score……… why? does my Credit Score want to know me? did it, you know, call and ask if I was available to get together or if I thought it was cute?). Or, the ad might be: buy this really expensive car right now! (Hey, Marketing Genius? If I had the money to buy that really expensive car, do you think I would be here looking at Craig’s List for a new coffee table?).

The bottom line is: advertisements don’t work on me. Like that time the other day when Shutterbug popped up and offered $10 off plus free shipping. Who cares? (Although, I truly did need to place an order for Christmas cards, but I, like, was totally planning to do that anyway.)

Okay, that one doesn’t count.

As I was saying, I am not just one of these nameless little sheep that just do whatever the advertisers tell him/her (it?) to do. I don’t need new business cards (Got Ink), thankyouverymuch. Uh, actually, their business cards do look super cute. And wow, 2 day shipping, that’s impressive. 33 cents per card, do they even break even on that? it would be kind of criminal not to order the cards, I mean, they are practically paying me.

So, my message to all you advertisers out there is: please leave me and my poor antique computer alone. I abhor your ads, especially the crazy ones that move around the page and follow me. Makes me a little nervous and uncomfortable. If I want someone to follow me, I’ll just tell my 4-year-old that I might share my M&M’s with him.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some really expensive cars I need to go look at.

PS--What I forgot to say, which I meant to is:  I will never sell out.  You will never see ads here in my blog, even if it happens to be a favorite product of mine.  I Absolut -ly will not do ads!  There is no Gap between my integrity/morals and the way I live my life.  I think it's safe to say we are all United on that front.  So, go enjoy some (Baskin-Robbins) ice cream and kick back and read my ad-free blog.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

205. An Open Letter To Architects Everywhere

Dear Architects Everywhere (but specifically Crazy Town architects),

Please consider the VIEW when you are planning a new house. So many new houses that I have toured (uh, trespassed) in the framework stages do not focus on the view at all. This is disheartening to say the least.

The other day I walked through a construction site and the lot was magnificent—almost half an acre with stunning mature oak trees. Guess where the best view was? From the upstairs walk-in closet! This is ridiculous. Even in Architecture 101, beginning students learn the critical importance of tailoring a home to the site.

I’ve seen houses with huge windows overlooking a parking lot, master bathrooms looking out to a busy street, teeny tiny kitchen windows facing a gorgeous yard, and unnecessary 3-car garages taking up the entire backyard.  Common sense dictates that the most important rooms take advantage of the view

Architect, this probably leaves you wondering what else people want in the new houses of today? The answers might surprise you (hint: square footage isn't everything). It’s difficult to answer for every individual, but I’ll tell you what I would want:
  • A formal entry. Chances are, you ripped down a 1940’s Cape Cod to put up a McMansion, so the least you can do is make it worthwhile and provide a foyer. No one wants to walk straight into the main living space; people need a transition space, a place to set their packages and keys and hang their coats.
  • Laundry room upstairs. And I don’t mean a closet-sized space. There is absolutely no excuse for the laundry area to be treated as an afterthought. At my house, we give a lot of thought to laundry on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and usually Sundays. No one wants to trudge down to the basement 50 million times (give or take). Make it convenient and put the laundry room where the laundry is generated where it should (ideally) return to: the bedrooms.
  • Views. The house should be all about the view. Take the main view (typically the backyard, but in some cases it might be the side or front yard) and arrange all the critical rooms (living room, kitchen, master bedroom) facing the most appealing view. What defines a “good” view? Think trees, yard, patio, flowers. The neighbor’s brick wall does not qualify.
  • Windows.  The more the better, the bigger the better.  I have never heard someone say "Wow, that window is just too big."  As a corollary, I have heard people say, "This room feels dark; I wish there were more windows in here."    
  • Let’s talk about internal views. What the heck is an internal view? I’m referring to what you see when you’re looking from one room into another. You look through a doorway and get an inviting glimpse of a lovely painting or a dresser or a window or archway. I also call these “sight-lines” and I give them the utmost importance. Here’s a classic example of what NOT to do: don’t place the toilet so you can see it straight from the bed in the master bedroom. There’s no excuse for that! If I was an Architecture Professor, I would give the plan an “F” based solely on that one mistake.
  • Hallways. Make ‘em wide: think 4 feet or even a little more. ‘Nuff said.
  • Basements. A basement is something that might be nice to have, but not at the point of sacrificing the main house. What I am talking about here is the insane tendency to dig out a basement and then this makes the house so high from the outside that it is necessary to put 12 stairs to get to the initial front entry way! That’s crazy. No one wants to walk up a flight of stairs while carrying groceries (or a small child) trying to maneuver their way into their home every day. Two stairs, seven stairs, that might be acceptable. Not 12, certainly not 20.
  • Formal dining and living room. These rooms are a relic of an era gone by; most people don’t live this way. Do yourself a favor and make a large open family-friendly kitchen/ eating area/ family room. It is silly to waste space on a formal dining room and then 5 feet away have another table that the family eats almost all their meals in (called the breakfast nook or eat-in kitchen). Why? What purpose does that serve? Honestly, it just makes it so the owner has to buy more furniture. I would much rather have one large family room then two small rooms (living and separate family room).
  • Stairs.  Do you know why we have adopted the characteristic of placing the stairs near the front door?  It dates back to the times when the grand old houses had servants' quarters on the ground floor level while the wealthy owners used the second floor primarily for the main entertaining and living quarters.  There would be a grand entry and the guests would immediately go upstairs.  The stairs were welcoming and inviting and suited this purpose well.  Nowadays, most of us do not have servants and the private bedrooms are located upstairs.  In a modern home, it is a bit jarring to have a large staircase right at the point of entry ushering you into what is essentially intended to be a private space.  I think architects should make more of an effort to place the stairs in a convenient and logical spot elsewhere in the house, and not just automatically (or by default) place them by the front door.    
  • Garage entry. Please please give this some thought. If you are planning to 99% of the time come in the house through the garage, then have the interior garage door open into the exact same space as the formal entry. The space should be warm and inviting, not full of muddy shoes and sports equipment. You can easily plan a “mud-room” small hallway that leads from the garage directly to the formal entry for that purpose. What I am saying to avoid is having the garage entry put you right into the kitchen or the back of the house or a completely separate space than where guests come in.  Shouldn't the owner get to enjoy the nice areas of the house too?   
  • Kitchen. Unless the ceilings are 20 feet high, the upper cabinets need to go to the ceiling. Islands are great. Pantries are divine. Butler’s pantries are gifts from heaven. Buy an undermount sink (this makes it so no yucky stuff accumulates around the rim of the sink). Everything below waist level should be drawers. Everything about waist should be cabinets. Plan cookbook storage (think open shelves). Install a pull-out trash so it is hidden. Splurge and get a slab countertop (not tiles)—choose granite or marble or whatever you like, but get it as a slab (no cleaning around grout lines). Stainless steel appliances are only a trend (just sayin'). 
  • Electrical outlets. Sure, code dictates how many, but a smart architect takes it to the next level and places the outlets in the appropriate spots: an extra outlet in the bathroom by the counter for a hairdryer, or maybe a double outlet where a desk will probably go.
  • Closets. Lots of 'em.
  • Eastern/ Southern exposure. Think about the sun. You can change where you position the master bedroom, but you can’t change that the sun rises in the East. Does the home-owner really want the sun coming in their bedroom window every morning at 5:30 AM? This actually goes for all the rooms; consider the pattern of light at different times of day and different times of year. This matters.
  • Built-in shelving. This should be standard. It’s great to have somewhere to display your grandmother’s china or all your books, and it’s even better when this has been planned from the get-go.
  • Trees.  If you are lucky enough to have them, please don't cut them all down.  Even if you plant replacement trees, it will take several years for them to grow very tall.     
  • Patio/ Deck/ Screened-in Porch. Outdoor spaces provide extra living space in good weather. They should not be ignored.
The main problem I see with new construction is that an architect designs a generic floorplan and applies it to a lot without giving any thought to the specific site.  Adjustments should be made for the lot.  Every house should be tailored and customized to its surroundings.

Floorplans need to make sense. As an architect, you should imagine walking through the space, rounding every corner, looking out every window. See yourself in that blueprint.

("Master Of Vision")

Friday, November 12, 2010

204. Definition Of Fun

So we have a few bags of Halloween candy left over, namely Peanut M&M's.  I open up the microscopic bag and two (2) M&M's roll out.  Are you kidding me?  Two?  That't it?

I take a closer look at the packaging and sure enough, right on the label it clearly says, "FUN SIZE".  Huh.  There is nothing fun (to me) about a them forgetting to put the other 19 M&M's in the bag.  Two M&M's is, frankly, insulting.  I decide to look up the word "fun" in the dictionary in an effort to obtain more insight into The Mars Corporation naming it thus.  There in black and white, I read, "fun: pleasure".

See?  I am right:  this candy is misnamed.  There is no pleasure in eating only two M&M's.

Then I read further:  "make fun ofto ridicule".

Oh.  I guess they named it right after all.


203. My 6-Year-Old Explains Basic English

So we’re sitting at the dinner table and Tall takes it upon himself to explain to us how to categorize the letter “Y”.

“Pop,” he begins, innocently enough, “did you know that in a lot of cases, the letter ‘Y’ is considered a valve?”

“A what?” I interrupt, trying hard not to smirk.

“It makes a sound like the ‘I-E’ combination, so therefore it is considered not to be a continent.”

“A continent?” Hand covering face now.

He ignores me. “Pop, do you know what year they declared the letter ‘Y’ to be both a continent and a valve? Was it 1997? I know it was a long time ago.”

The Husband cannot help himself and nearly snorts milk out his nose. He says the first thing he can think of. “Tall, I believe it was longer ago than that.”

“Oh, you’re right. Yeah, yeah, I think it was 1992. Does that sound right?”

I must hear him say these things again. “1992 was the year for what exactly, Tall?”

Heavy sigh. Mom is so stupid. “Moooooooommmmmmm. You KNOW what I was talking about! Why do you do that?! 1992 was the year that the letter ‘Y’ was offensively considered to be both a VALVE and a CONTINENT! I wish you would pay attention and get it right the first time so you wouldn’t have to keep asking me!”

Don’t worry, Tall. I’ll wait until tomorrow to ask you again. I’ll just keep playing it over and over in my brain until then.

("Magnitude Of Valves")

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

198. What Desperation Looks Like

So Tall’s teacher decided it was good and time for him and his fellow first-graders to learn all about the United States. Little did I know that it would soon be time for ME too to learn all about the United States.

Tall came home with what was probably his 788th Parent Communication & Information Sheet (PCIS) this month. I gingerly placed it in the teetering stack with the other 787 PCIS’s. A week, possibly four weeks, went by, and I decided it might be a good idea to read it. Here’s what it said:

“Dear Parent/ Caregiver,” (editor’s note: never ‘Reluctant and Harried Caregiver’—have they never met me?)

“Here at Crazy Town Elementary, we place great importance on teaching our children about the world in which they live, specifically the United States of America. To that end, we will be sending home worksheets every night (for 50 nights, plus 1 extra for Puerto Rico, which is technically a U.S. territory) for you to help your child with. Please have your child write down one interesting fact about the particular state chosen for that day (ex. Massachusetts became the 6th state in 1788). We will read these fun facts aloud in class!

Thank you in advance for your continued involvement and participation in your child’s future as a bright and shining Star!

Best Regards,
Miss Teacher”

Oh, brother. Here we go again: more homework for Mom.

Okay, MOV, let’s put aside the negative attitude and get involved, just like Miss Teacher already thinks we are.

First, I start going through the recycling bin, as I think the first 20 states or so might have, ahem, inadvertently been thrown in there. No luck. (Damn The Husband, taking out the recycling in a timely and reasonable manner!)

That’s okay, I tell myself, there are still 30 states to go, plus Puerto Rico.

When Tall gets home, I greet him at the door, ready to assist with difficult homework assignments.

“What’s with the goofy grin, Mom?” he sneers.

“Let’s do your state homework!” I say enthusiastically. “Which state did you get today?”

The next three days go, I think, quite well. On the 4th day, Miss Teacher sends a special PCIS not for all the parents, but specifically aimed at me (my name is even scribbled hastily into the “Dear ___________” section at the top of the page).

“Dear   MOV                    ,

I think it is great that you are choosing to actively participate in your child's learning experience. However, I would like to stress the necessity for the State ‘facts’ to, in fact, be factual. Although I appreciate your helping your child with this section of the homework, you might want to just have him Google some facts on the computer. In the meantime, I have taken the liberty of sending home an atlas from our school library for you to peruse. You might want to consider possibly investing in an inexpensive atlas like this, or if that is a financial hardship, I can look into donations from the Scholarship Fund for this purpose.

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing your child do the kind of work that I know he is capable of.

Warm Regards,
Miss Teacher”

Scholarship Fund???? Has she never seen me wear my $249 jacket from Talbot’s?! or Tall use his $43 StarWars backpack from Pottery Barn Kids? We don’t need financial assistance from the Scholarship Fund!

I re-read the letter for the 3rd time. Huh. That is really what she wrote. I go through Tall’s backpack to reacquaint myself with whatever “facts” Tall and I dreamt up for this assignment.
  1. “Texas is really really really really Big.” (included is a drawing on a piece of paper, and Texas looks the size of a small mouse)
  2. “I think Arizona is where the Grande Canyon is lokated.” (I can't remember if he asked me if "Grand" had a letter "e" at the end; surely that can't be my fault?) 
  3. “Alaska is a state that has a lot of snow and cold ice and glaciers, and also my mom wants to go their on a cruz somedaay.”
Those are all facts. I do want to go on a cruz (perhaps with Tom Cruise?) to Alaska somedaay. Maybe the Scholarship Fund can help pay for that.

(“Mom’s On Vacation”)

Monday, November 8, 2010

197. Why Target Is My BFF

After Our Computer’s near brush with death, it got me thinking: who is important in my life? who do I love and cherish and want to spend more time with? It didn’t take me long to think up an answer: Target.

Target has been my best friend for, oh, about twelve years now. I try to think back to the time before Target was a valuable member of my inner circle of friends, and, honestly, my memory goes all hazy. Was I even alive before I discovered Target? Could you even call that living?

I think not.

My best friend Target has enriched my life in so many ways (and I don’t just mean material ways, although she has always come through for me there too). Target is one of those pals who seems to somehow know just what you are missing in your life (say, a trashy celebrity gossip magazine or a new sports-watch or perhaps a jumbo bag of peanut m&ms) and then provide it.

Who was there for me at 9:55 PM to offer brand new pacifiers when my infant would not stop screaming? Target. Who found me a new soft and fuzzy red cardigan sweater when The Husband ruined my old favorite by tossing it in the dryer? That’s right: Target. Who came through in the end with last-minute school supplies for Tall when we waited until the day before school started to shop? You guessed it! Target.

Like most great friendships, this one did not develop overnight. It began as a sort of innocent crush from afar. One day I happened to pick up House Beautiful magazine, and there on page 132, was a small silver and white birdhouse with three little drawers in it (I know it sounds kooky, but you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was exquisite). The fact that I did not own a bird, nor a yard in which to attempt to capture a potential bird, did not stop me from coveting said birdhouse. In fact, there was no deterrent at all, as the price was listed as a mere $19.95 plus tax.

Having never heard of Target before that day, I immediately asked my elderly landlady if she knew where the closest Target was (she did), and I got directions and drove there.

I decided to use my new birdhouse to put mail in. Junk mail in one drawer, bills in another, and my new subscription to House Beautiful in the third. (Today I admit that the drawers were a little small for this purpose, but like any new infatuation, it seemed like a great idea at the time.)

Flash forward to now. Target and I meet up almost weekly for our special “girl time”. Like that trendy girlfriend she is, Target will helpfully point out special new jeans I might like to try on. Or maybe a new throw pillow for the living room couch. Target has her finger on the pulse of all that is new and hip and fun.

Additionally, my best friend Target is very thoughtful. She sends me things in the mail, like coupons or a $50 "Limited Edition" Buzz Lightyear two days before Christmas even though they were back-ordered. Yep, good ol’ Target comes through once again.

(Friendship, as you know, is a two-way street, and to that end, I have shared with Target too, namely a portion of each and every paycheck.)

The other great thing about Target: she doesn’t judge me. You’ll never once hear her say something like, “Don’t you already own three full sets of dishes?” or “Those purple suede boots don’t match anything in your closet.” No. Target is supportive.

Oh, sure, we’ve had our tiffs over the years, who hasn’t? Like the time I tried to return that navy blue jacket (tags attached) without a receipt. Target took one look at me and rolled her eyes (tough love). You know a receipt is required on all returns, I remember her saying with more than a bit of impatience and condescension in her tone. She ended up giving me a store credit knowing full well that I would use that store credit in about 15 seconds. But that’s the kind of thing that girlfriends go through—we laugh about it now.

The only thing (there’s always one thing, isn’t there?) that annoys me just the teeniest tiniest bit about my best friend Target is: she seems to have other friends besides me. I’m talking A LOT of other friends. She can be a Party Girl; I have to compete with everyone else to get her attention, and I’m just not 100% comfortable with that. We used to have so many good times together, just the two of us. It makes me sad. I wish Target would think back to what a loyal and devoted friend I have been over the years, and, well, maybe Target could make an effort to spend more quality time with just me. Say, open the store an hour early for me to just shop by myself—yes, that would be nice.

Maybe I’ll mention it next time I see Target, but for now, I have some coupons to go through.


196. It's That Time Again

  • wall clock in study; 
  • wall clock in kids’ toy room; 
Main floor:
  • decorative clock on fireplace mantle in living room;
  • thermometer/clock combo on top of TV;  
  • no less than four (4) clocks in kitchen, including stove, coffee maker, timer, and wall clock;
  • master bedroom contains two bedside alarm clocks (one for each of us);
  • several wristwatches on dresser (minimum two each);
  • each son has his own watch (not that they know how to tell time, but it’s good to own one, don’t you think?);
  • clock on dresser;
  • plus wall clock in laundry room (why?);
Outside (?!):
  • my car has one dashboard clock as does 
  • The Husband’s truck.  
Grand Total: 19 (or more) time pieces.

Late Sunday evening, I spent approximately 48 minutes re-setting all the clocks and watches we own, which begs the question: Daylight Savings Time? Really, Savings? Or is Daylight Losings Time a little more accurate?

(“Musing On Validity”)

195. When Grief Sneaks Up And Punches You In The Face

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but The Husband and I are having to deal with something that we’ve been avoiding. A beloved and valued member of our family has become very, very ill. Annoyingly so. I’m talking about, of course, Our Computer.

We adopted Our Computer in happier times, when we lived in California. Our life was uncomplicated back then; it was all about an empty (high-capacity) memory waiting to be filled and yes, I admit it, speed-speed-speed. With just a click of a mouse, we could be on virtually any virtual site within milliseconds.

It was not to last. Nine years flies by, and the next thing you know, evil words are being whispered (words like, “replacement” or “something new” or “gotten our money’s worth”). The Husband and I finally sat down and had the much-needed conversation about Our Computer, and it became painfully obvious that we were in different stages of the grieving process. While The Husband oscillated back and forth from the Anger Stage (“I hate Our Computer! I want to toss it out the window!”) to the Depression Stage (“I’m sad. I used to type a simple email and send it in less than seven hours,”), I was clearly stuck in a different stage: Bargaining. I found myself patting Our Computer on its cute little monitor (just like in the old days) and saying, “If you can just find it in your heart to let me finish typing this one short blog, I promise to clean the dust out of your keyboard more often!”

I often blamed myself for ignoring the warning signs of what The Husband and I eventually dubbed Our Computer’s version of Alzheimer’s: Computzheimer’s. We didn’t give much notice when Our Computer would not do simple commands (commands like “Turn On”). We became increasingly alarmed when Our Computer would forget bigger things (things like, “How To Save A Crucial Work Document”or "All Your Tax Records From 2002--Now").

In a valiant effort to save Our Computer, The Husband recommended drastic measures like erasing extraneous data that was apparently clogging the memory tubes of our precious dinosaur. We got to work. First, timidly, we deleted a couple files of blurry photos that we knew we also had on back-up discs. Next, we got rid of four thousand (give or take) emails that we had saved but knew we could most likely live without. Pretty soon, we were on a roll with our purging, and we got Our Computer back down to its binary roots, saving only basic email capacity and Google.

It was still not enough to breathe life back into Our Computer. Strangely, I reverted back to the Denial Stage (“this can’t be happening! anything but this!”), while The Husband pole-vaulted ahead to the Acceptance Stage (“Hon, should we maybe get a Mac this time? did you want a laptop?”). How could he so easily discard Out Computer without so much as a quick trip down (RDRAM 4-magabyte) memory lane? Had all those times ordering new shirts (not available in stores: size XL Tall) through L.L. Bean online meant nothing? How about my (former) eBay addiction? Playing computer solitaire when insomnia strikes at 3 AM? And who can forget the many MANY emails from CBS Fantasy Football Reports?

I feel like somewhat of a traitor as I type this, because I am (yes, still) typing this (through tears, though) on Our Computer. If you are able to read this blog, we are temporarily triumphing over Computzheimer’s for one more day, patiently awaiting The Husband’s Christmas bonus so we can give Our Computer a proper funeral.

(“Missing Our Vanguard”)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

194. Green-Bean Casserole (The Unpublished Blog)

So I get home from work last night at 10 PM after selling espresso machines and crystal goblets all day and I’m starving. I innocently ask The Husband if there’s any food left over from whatever he made for dinner. He says, "Sure. I made a green-bean casserole." That sounds (ahem) less than appealing, so I ask him what on Earth possessed him to make that and he says that they were sampling it at Trader Joe's. Oh, yeah? Well they are also giving away free puppies and kittens outside the Crazy Town Pet Store right next to Trader Joe's and I don't want those either.

Then, if that’s not bad enough (green bean casserole!!), The Husband adds insult to injury and say, "Honey, I don't think you will like it because," (get ready for this part), "I used canned green-beans." If a Judge Chef were here giving this dish a rating, maybe the concept or idea of green-bean casserole (GBC) would get a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best—equivalent rating for, perhaps, lobster thermador), and the 3 rating the Judge Chef would give is for creativity with a little pity mixed in. Since I now know that it is canned green-beans (frozen would be just as bad), the rating drops to a minus 2.

(Author's note:  if the fates have smiled upon you and you've had the extremely good fortune to never see nor know what goes into a GBC, besides canned green beans it also has canned mushroom soup.  In fact, there are probably some mystery ingredients too, as GBC enjoys the retro 1950's nickname of Casserole Finis which translates roughly to "Whatever's About To Expire In The Pantry" casserole.)

Then, The Husband has the strange idea to say, "You know what, MOV? If I had to make it over...." (oh, God, please don’t!), "I would not have put the cheese on top." Not have put the cheese on top?!? How about not have gotten the can opener out or even bothered to turn on the oven. How about, if I had to do it over again, I would have called Domino's.

The Husband kept emphasizing that he made it from scratch (when, in fact, he should have scratched the whole idea). There are certain items that one should buy from Trader Joe’s, and that list does not (ever) include canned green beans. (Hint: list should include the wide range of foods found in the friendly Chocolate Family and/ or the grape family—think Napa Valley).

(warning:  full-color photo of GBC below)


(my sincere apologies to Le Creuset company, as it is obvious that my beautiful French pan is calling out in agony at this unacceptable form of cooking abuse/ torture)

 Between you and me, I would rather starve or at least go to bed hungry than put anything even mildly resembling that GBC in my mouth.  I think you are pretty much guaranteeing you will have multiple visits to the “facilities” at inconvenient times if that creation touches your tongue and teeth.  (I did go to bed hungry, by the way.  Please feel sorry for me now.  But at least I can still go to the bathroom like a normal person in a normal fashion and not have to spend 6 hours in there.)   

I do not have the heart to tell The Husband all this (and/or take the risk that our marriage might indeed be held together by gooey cheddar cheese), so that is why I am telling you. Luckily, The Husband prefers CNN and Sports Center to my blog, so I am hopeful he will not read this. If I see that GBC photo end up on YouTube or your Facebook page, I'm comin' after ya (and oh, yes, I'll have a recipe in my hand).

(“Melting Only Velveeta”)
PS--thank you to The Husband for making GBC.  I had Writer's Block, but now I don't! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

190. The Cleaning Game

Since yesterday’s Genius Plan (GP) regarding cleaning did not go over so well with The Husband, I decide to ignore child labor laws and enlist the help of my son Tall in my never-ending quest for a spotless and pristine semi-picked up home. I even coined a term for this new system: the Child Aid Plan (CAP).

I envision making CAP like a fun game, so he’ll participate willingly.

“Tall, guess what!” I say with the same tone I might announce we had front row seats to Penguins on Ice: the Disney Adventure Live. “You and I are going to do some mandatory house cleaning right now!”

He takes the remote and pauses his show. “No, thank you, Mom,” he says politely, not yet comprehending the scope of mandatory. “I think I’ll finish watching this ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ marathon instead.”

Before I have a chance to beg, bribe, or psychologically torture him by throwing away his uneaten Halloween candy, my four-year-old son Short appears out of nowhere and declares, “I’ll help you, Mommy!” If this were a cartoon, he’d be wearing a super-hero cape with a giant letter “C” for cleaning. Since this is not a cartoon, his cape had an “S” for Superman (or sucker, depending on your perspective).

Short tugs at the Velcro holding his shiny polyester dress-up cape shut, and deftly removes it with a flourish. “I do it! I help you, Mom! I know how to clean!” He carelessly deposits the cape and a wrinkled granola bar wrapper in a small heap on the floor.

His enthusiasm echoes through the air like radio waves. I am instantly affected as well; we are both excited to get started.

“Okay, then, Short,” I say with fervor, as reach for his discarded yellow super-hero cape and granola bar wrapper.

So what if Tall wants to be a couch potato? I can grant him a brief reprieve this time, I think; I know Short and I will get a lot done working in tandem.

“What’s first, Mommy?” grins Short, like a new-hire employee who does not yet realize he’s beginning a dead-end job.

I look around, trying to assess the messiest area. This is like deciding which ocean is wetter, the Pacific or Atlantic. “Well, let’s start with the living room.”

Short walks in, taps his brother on the shoulder indicating he should move over, then picks up the pillow Tall had been leaning on. Short proceeds to expertly fluff the pillow with his little fists and put it back.

I could not be more impressed if Short had just rattled off the names of all our previous Presidents in chronological order.

All those many times (okay, five) that I cleaned the house are paying off in this Osmosis Moment. Short has obviously picked up on my superior cleaning techniques by witnessing me in action.

He stacks three books neatly together. He meticulously rearranges decorative seashells in their large wooden bowl. Next, he grabs a stray shoe and leaves the room.

Mistakenly thinking he has clocked-out for an unauthorized break, I call down the hall after him, “Where are you going?”

“To put my shoe away in my room where it belongs,” he answers confidently.

Wow. Internally I chastise myself for not thinking of this CAP idea sooner.  “Brilliant!” I say to no one in particular.

Short soon reappears and I tell him I’m going to get the vacuum. I go downstairs to the basement where I vaguely remember seeing The Husband put it once a few months ago. If you were a vacuum, where would you be? Think like a vacuum. Storage closet? No. Furnace room? No. Laundry room?

The shoulder-height pile of dirty laundry temporarily distracts me. Multi-tasker extraordinaire that I am, I seize this opportunity to start a load of towels.

In the five minutes that I am forgetting what I went down to the basement for in the first place, Short’s true Gifted Cleaning Abilities emerge: the entire living room has been picked up.

“Ohmygosh!” I blurt out upon seeing the room again, struggling to contain my disbelief. Then, with a regrettable absence of self-editing, “Tall, did you help him?”

“No, Mommy, Tall did not help me!” Short clarifies, momentarily miffed. “I did all by myself,” he nods proudly, Washington-Adams-Jefferson-Madison-Monroe.

I look around the room, my eyes searching for vestiges of the multitude of Lego’s, shoes, books, Halloween candy, stuffed animals, magazines, sweaters, papers, and other assorted junk that only moments ago littered the living room landscape. The room now resembles not so much a real family’s living room as a Designer Showcase House that has just been staged for its photo shoot.  How long was I in that laundry room?

My natural cynicism creeping in, I ask cautiously, “Sweetheart, how did you clean everything up so quickly?”

Short misinterprets my skepticism as approval and runs over to hug me. “I show you, Mom,” he says helpfully, as he pulls at my sleeve, leading me to the front entry closet. I nervously open the door.

As I feared, all the items that had previously cluttered our now-pristine living room have been hastily shoved inside this already overcrowded closet. Old tennis rackets are married to broken umbrellas and sharing space with torn magazines and borrowed sweaters and their illegitimate brightly-colored Lego children. Stuffed animals look on in disapproval. Library books and dirty baseball bats hover above us precariously, threatening to fall at any moment. With Herculean effort, I shut the creaky door.

Every Parenting book I have ever read is flashing warning lights in my brain: You can’t be mad at him: he’s only four; he was trying to “help”.

I bite my lip. Then I say calmly, “Short, I don’t understand. Why did you cram everything in here?”

He's eager to share his cleaning knowledge. His smile is now so wide I can see every baby tooth in his mouth, each gleaming white Chiclet, when he says cheerfully, “I watch exactly the way you clean the house, Mommy, and now I know the right way to do it, too.”

(“Mom Observes Vestiges”)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

189. Breakthrough

Dear Diary,

Today I hatched a Genius Plan: I’m going to tell The Husband that from now on, he can choose ONE DAY per week to have a clean house. Not one day per week for me to clean the house; no. I should clarify here. One day that the house will be semi-picked-up. But “clean” sounds better, so we’ll go with clean.

Knowing The Husband, he’ll want specifics (he is an Analyst, for goshsakes, that’s what he’s paid to do: dissect information into an unrecognizable pulp of raw data). He’ll most likely say something like, “what’s your definition of ‘clean’?” (but remember, between you and me, what I really meant was semi-picked-up). So then, just to make him happy, I’ll itemize what my new Genius Plan includes:
  • Making our bed
  • Washing all dishes in the sink and/or near the sink or kitchen vicinity
  • Doing all laundry, including putting it away (this should be worth two airline tickets to Tahiti, right there)
  • Straightening random junk that happens to be lying around (things like the kids’ drawings, newspaper articles I’ve obsessively saved, take-out menus, and those pesky bills that the mailman religiously brings us)
  • That’s it (isn’t that enough? there are only 24 hours in a day)
So, with this fabulous Genius Plan (GP), I will be off the hook from (what other people consider daily) chores a glorious six days per week. Woohoo! Why did I not think of this sooner?

(Even re-reading this makes me seriously question why my third grade teacher, Mrs. Young, opted not to place me in the Gifted Class.)

Here’s the really awesome part: The Husband, instead of being disappointed and disgruntled six days per week, can just EXPECT A MESS and set his exceedingly high standards aside (to give you an idea of his radical demands, he thinks I should rinse out my cup after I use it—I know! how did I marry such an unreasonable person?). Instead, with the new GP in place, he can be deliriously overjoyed on the one special semi-picked-up oops, I mean clean day.

Oh, I hear him walking through the front door right now. I can’t wait to tell him the GP! I’ll report back later how it goes………………


Predictably, The Husband was not as enamored of the new GP as I was. Bummer. When I explained the system and simply asked him which day he preferred for the “Clean Day” (remember—not cleaning day), he said with notable sarcasm, “Monday through Sunday.” Ha ha, obviously he doesn’t “get” the concept. Then he brought up the fact that he goes to work all day and why can’t I just straighten up the bare minimum amount (his idea of minimum was everything on my itemized list but—gasp!—daily) and then he reminded me that I have three and a half free hours per day when Short is at preschool and what was I doing during that time? (Well, duh: blog.)

The way I look at it is: Tall is almost seven. That is seven long years that I have been doing a billion trillion loads of laundry and dishes and snacks and bottles and and and. I think I deserve three and a half hours to do whatever I deem important (hint: not cleaning). When I say this to him, he says (not unkindly), “Sweetie, we just got that really nice exercise bike and put some expensive free weights in the basement. Why don’t you use some of that time to work-out?”

As you can imagine, his proposed Exercise Plan (EP) went over just about as well as my GP did with him: not very. Is he calling me fat?!? Or is he implying that I am fat?!? I have a mirror that can do that for me, thankyouverymuch, it is not The Husband’s job to reinforce what that damn fun-house mirror already tells me every day (“You’ve gotten a little chub-o there, MOV,”). Duh. I already know that. It’s actually The Husband’s job to murmur helpful and endearing things like, “Everyone knows jeans shrink 3 sizes in the dryer, Honey; you have not put on weight, our dryer is merely set too hot.”

Regrettably, we have scrapped my divine GP as well as The Husband’s less-than-stellar EP. Reluctantly I admit that Mrs. Young might have been right on her assessment of me after all.  So, effective immediately, we return to our previous system that has served us so well these past seven years: chaos.

("Move Over, Vacuum")

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

187. Queen Of No

“Will you please help us pass out fliers next Saturday?”
“We need a volunteer for Room Mom, can you do it?”
“Wow, that last party you hosted was fabulous—can you host a gathering for our local political candidate?”

No. No. Nope.

It has gotten to the point where people have stopped asking me (and thank God for that).

Why do so many moms suffer from that pesky and debilitating disease, Must-Please-Everyone-Itis? The most common symptoms are as follows:
  • The vile head nod. You go around nodding all the time, people think you are saying yes.
  • The brief pause. For the uninitiated, a brief pause shows doubt. Doubt means you’ll do it even though you don’t want to.
  • The quick hello (just to be friendly) at the drycleaners. This will be interpreted as, “she has time to pick up the dry cleaning, therefore she has time to be a Cub Scout Leader.”
  • The “let me just check my call-waiting”. That is (clearly) the kiss of death. It means that every phone call is important, every person trying to get your attention is important (hint: they’re not).
To combat the above, I force myself to be rude on a daily basis. Watch and learn:

(Running into acquaintance at Starbucks)
Acquaintance: MOV! Great to see you! Hey, I was thinking you could chair that art committee project………
Me: No.
A: But….. but….. you don’t even know what the project is?
Me: No.
A: “No,” as in, you don’t know what it is, or “no,” as in you don’t want to do it?
Me: Both. Bye!

See? So what, she has a bad opinion of me? who cares? I don’t even know her name. (Bonus: all my Tuesday afternoons that would have been gobbled up by the art committee project remain blissfully free.)

The Husband is even in on the act now. We don’t always answer the door. Could be a salesperson trying to sell us Jesus. Or, the phone rings, and sometimes we don’t answer it. This drives my sons, Tall and Short, positively batty.

“Mom! That’s the phone! You’d better get it—it could be Important!”

Guess what? No one has ever called to tell me I won a million dollars. Voicemail was invented for a reason, and that reason is so I can finish watching my precious TiVo’d episode of TopChef. On a Tuesday afternoon, natch.


186. I Am Paying You, Right?

So I’ve scheduled my biannual professional house-cleaning, and the cleaning lady will be here any minute.  I’m doing what I always do right before she arrives: clean. I’m in the kitchen, scrubbing away, when The Husband walks in.

“Did Sonya cancel?” he asks innocently.

“What? Why would you say that?” I brush a stray hair out of my face with the yellow rubber glove.

“Well, it’s just that I thought we hired her to do this deep-cleaning, but then it looks like you’re cleaning. I don’t understand.” He blinks.

“Sweetie, can we have this discussion another time?” I say, as I tap at his feet with my mop, “Really, I’m under kind of a time crunch here. Can you please move? You’re in my way.”

“We are paying Sonya good money, you know. She’s not doing this for the love of Windex fumes,” he continues.

“I don’t want her to see the house this messy,” I respond as I pick a calcified orange peel off the floor.

“The house looks fine; I'm sure she's seen worse.  She's a cleaning lady. She cleans. It’s her job, remember? Honestly, if you're going to do it all for her beforehand, why don’t we just save the money?” he interrogates.

“She does a better job than me,” I say, as I set down the Q-tip I was detailing the faucet with so I can look him in the eye.

“You’re crazy.”

“Don’t call me crazy. And here, I need you to vacuum the living room.” I motion for him to take the vacuum. He does what I used to do as a flight attendant when a passenger asked for a pillow: ignores me and walks away.

I go into the bedroom and start stripping the sheets. I take the picture frames and spare change and perfume bottles from on top of the dresser and shove them all in a drawer, my rationale being that now Sonya can dust without things in her way. I pick up a stray pair of tights and put them in the hamper.

I hear The Husband go out the front door and then come back in. Then there is a weird noise in the living room, a noise like someone stomping dirt into the carpet.

I walk in the living room and witness The Husband stomping dirt into the carpet.

“What are you doing?!?” I screech, dumbfounded.

He has ceased stomping, and now he’s doing some sort of dance, a Dirt Dance.

“You’re getting the carpet even dirtier than it already was!” I say, barely masking my exasperation.

“That’s the whole idea. This will give Sonya something to do. This way she’ll really deserve her tip,” he grins, and I detect a sinister gleam in his eyes.

“What's your problem?” I ask, my voice full of resentment.

He gives me an unexpected hug. “MOV, I love you. You and I clean the house 99% of the time. Why do you hire a person to do a job, and then you do the entire job for them? Don’t you think that’s insulting?” He walks past me to the kitchen and starts making noises in there, too.

“You’d better not be making any dishes dirty!” I yell.

“I’m not, don’t worry, I’m just getting a snack,” he answers. Why doesn’t he offer me a snack? I've been so busy cleaning that I’ve run out of time for breakfast.

I look out the window and see Sonya’s car pulling up. I glance at the clock and realize I need to leave right now to be on time for my dentist appointment.

“I gotta run; I’m late!” I call out to The Husband as I remove my rubber gloves. He meets me at the door just as I’m putting on my jacket. He gives me a quick kiss.

“Here, MOV,” he says, offering me a small bag. “I packed you a snack for your drive to the dentist.” He winks at me.

Huh, that’s weird. Since when does he pack me a snack? “Uh, okay, wow, thanks,” I say rather ungratefully, not really knowing how to respond.  Then, as an afterthought, "I'm sorry I yelled at you.  You're right.  She's a professional, and she can certainly do her job today." 

I get in the car. Come to think of it, I am a little bit hungry right now. Maybe he packed me a roll or an apple? I open the bag, and staring back at me is the giant bag of Oreos.  Does he not realize I am going to the dentist?  Wait--he actually said, "for your drive to the dentist".  

I hesitate:  I didn't bring a toothbrush with me.  But I am hungry.  The Oreos are calling to me, "We're full of empty calories!  Come on, yummy!"  I sheepishly eat two cookies in rapid succession.  Then I accidentally catch sight of my blackened and sugar-coated teeth in the rearview mirror.

I guess the dentist will be doing his job today, too.