Friday, December 31, 2010

281. Time-Share

(a flashback)

So The Husband and I are on vacation in Hawaii. We’re celebrating our second anniversary and no small children have been born yet, so we are ignorant and happy. I scored us a screaming good deal with a combination of my good looks and witty repartee free United flight passes and some Marriott Hotel points.

After our five hour flight, we arrive exhausted and exhilarated, ready to hit the beach. We have, by some Divine Intervention on the part of the Vacation Gods, been upgraded to an ocean-view suite, complete with mini-kitchen. As the hotel front desk clerk swipes my Amex card to prepay for the week ($300 for the entire seven days, did I say screaming good deal???), he shoves some paper in my face for me to sign and mumbles something about “attending the potential time-share buyer seminar”.

Whoa, there, what? As I glance down at the fine print (font size .6), I vaguely remember something about being required to go to the 3-hour seminar in order to get the cut-throat discount. Yikes. Not sure how The Husband’s going to take that. I glance over at The Husband and notice that he’s doing what he always does in times of stress or uncertainty: he’s checking the football scores in the local newspaper. He’s completely oblivious to what the desk clerk and I are whispering about.

I decide to tell him later, maybe after a few Mai-tai’s.

There’s really no need for me to put this off, as the phone is ringing by the time we enter our room with our suitcases. Yep, it’s the front desk, calling to verify which seminar time slot we would like to sign up for. I am somehow bullied into accepting the 10 AM appointment for the next morning (Clerk: “Madam, would the 10 AM appointment accommodate your schedule? Free drinks will be served.” Me: “Yes, please, that would be fine, I'm looking forward to it.”)

10 AM comes far too quickly, and by this point I have briefed The Husband on our obligation to attend (Him: “Why do we have to do this?”, Me: “Because otherwise the room is $875 per night instead of $300 for the whole week.” Him: “Can I wear my swimsuit?”). We decide ahead of time that since our Powers of Mental Telepathy are weak at best, we should devise a simple code so the other one knows exactly how we feel about stupid idiotic time shares (essentially that they’re stupid and idiotic).

The code phrase we agree on is: “that’s interesting”. The direct translation is: “I would never in a million years buy one”.

Things start out well. Our Personal Agent of Doom Sales Rep is named Corey and he's probably in his mid-50’s with salt-and-pepper gray hair and a well-cut suit (suit, in Hawaii? for some reason, yes that's what he has on).  He lays out all the numbers of why time shares actually pay for themselves (???) in only 6 or 7 years, and how you can trade for other resorts, blah-blah-blah. I am hoping The Husband is paying attention because my mind keeps wandering back to this cute seashell jewelry box I saw in the hotel gift shop ($42, and velvet-lined).

Now it’s time for a tour. Corey takes us to the Owner’s Level, and the Husband wisely asks if this would be where we would stay (“Yes, depending on which Tier of Ownership Investment you select,”). The view is mesmerizing—we can see dolphins and surfers and future sunsets. My brain has woken up enough to transfer from its happy place ($42 seashell box) to stare at the Cold Hard Truth (timeshare cost per month: $719 plus activity fee). That is more than our rent. Now, I am not very good at math, but after scrunching up my face and thinking hard, I realize that this equates to roughly $200,000 per year, which is money we just don’t have.

The Husband is being sucked in by the spiel. He is nodding-nodding-nodding as Corey goes on and on about dolphins and fresh ocean air and pineapple burgers. In an act of sheer desperation, I pull out the code phrase: “That’s interesting! That’s very interesting!” and The Husband goes pale. He looks at Corey and then back at me, and then he asks Corey if he can talk to me alone for a minute.

Corey graciously steps out of the room. I panic and say, “Are you insane?!? We can’t sign up for this garbage!” and The Husband replies, “Me? You are the one who’s ready to get her checkbook out!”

Huh? After further discussion, I am beginning to realize that my darling husband of two years has swiftly forgotten the Secret Code Phrase. It is so top secret, it's even a secret to him.

“Hon, ‘That’s interesting’ does not mean ‘That’s interesting’. That was the special code, remember?” I say patiently, as if trying to train a deaf dog.

“Code? Code for what?” Not only has he forgotten the code, he has apparently forgotten the discussion leading up to the necessity of said code. One day of unfiltered sunshine has fried his brain.

“The. Code. The code means ‘no’.” I look at him.

He starts laughing. He gives me a big hug. “Thank God! I thought you were really interested and I was getting ready to tell you that we do not have that kind of money!”

I smile back at him. “I know, I know........... Uh, do we maybe have $42 for a seashell box, though?”

("Maui, On Vacation")

279. What Is Facebook?

I’ll admit it: I’m Amish. Well, not Amish Amish, more like Amish-Lite. For ten years, I did not own a television (by choice!). Cell phones make me nervous, and I only broke down and bought one last year. Email is a relatively new phenomenon for me. So why should it surprise you that I don’t do Facebook?

For the longest time, I didn’t know what Facebook was. I thought it was some sort of special computer notebook for college students to keep track of their coursework (sort of a cross between a laptop and an I-Pad).

Obviously, my friends mock me for my lack of awareness. They say things like, “MOV, you need to get on Facebook so you can find out what everyone is up to!” I don’t particularly want to know what everyone is up to. I’m still trying to keep track of what I am up to.

Then, as if they are Facebook Ambassadors or Facebook Sales Reps (working on commission, natch), they say, “MOV, you can re-connect with friends from high school and college!” to which I think, if I haven’t stayed in touch with someone, there is probably a good reason, like maybe they turned out to be a serial killer (did I forget to mention that I went to high school with Andrew Cunanan, murderer of Versace, and that Andrew and I ran on the cross-country team together?).

Facebook. My cynical friends say, “You know, you’re probably better off without FB,” (they abbreviate it to ‘FB’ to sound more hip), “because I literally can spend two hours a day on it! It’s crazy!”

Two hours. Where do they get that two hours? Did the Universe bestow them with 26-hour days, because I’m still trying to cram everything into my meager allotment of 24 hours and failing miserably. Maybe they skip lunch? Maybe they don’t bother to shower and dry their hair? Maybe they just get six hours of sleep instead of eight? Where do those extra two hours come from?

The other thing I don’t get is the whole Facebook Friending Thing. Yes, “friend” as a verb. Apparently, you can friend someone and then you can leave messages on their “wall” and they can look at your Facebook Portfolio as well. I have heard of great drama stemming from someone rejecting or ignoring a “friend” request. Parents tell me their kids won’t respond to their “friend” inquiries. (Heck, my kids won’t be friends with me in the real world, you think I want to risk that kind of rejection in cyberspace too?) 

It hurts people's feelings to delete their friend requests--it's like not inviting someone to a party, but even more blatant:  you do not qualify as my friend;  I can do better than you, I can be friends with some random person I just met on the airplane and never ever have to talk to them or hear their voice or see them.  Sounds distancing to me.    

Excuse me, I have to run:  I'm meeting a girlfriend for lunch in person.  We're going to gossip and eat chocolate cake (last I checked, their is no "eat chocolate cake" option on Facebook; ah, well, something to strive for). 


(P.S. Yes, I saw the movie "Social Network".  Loved it.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

269. December 25th

Acceptable Phrases:

Christmas time
Christmas Eve
Santa Claus
Christmas tree
Christmas gifts
“Have you finished your Christmas shopping?”
Christmas decorations
Christmas vacation
Christmas special
“We’ll be closed on Christmas day,”
Ugly Christmas sweater
“I can’t believe you’re flying on Christmas!”
Christmas spirit
Christmas carol
“What did you get for Christmas?”
Christmas theme
Christmas cookies
"My birthday falls on Christmas,"
After-Christmas sale
“I love Christmas.”


“Merry Christmas!” (substitute “Happy Holidays” instead, as they might not celebrate Christmas and they would be very offended).

(“Merry Ostensible Villain”)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

268. Believe

So my 7-year-old son announces at the breakfast table, "There's no such thing as Santa."  As you can imagine, this catches the 4-year-old's attention pretty quickly.  "WHAT?" says the 4-year-old.

I grab Tall by his sleeve and yank him out of the room.  (Okay, maybe not my proudest Parenting Moment.)  "Tall, who told you that?" I demand. 

"Older kids on the bus," he confesses timidly.  Those damn Older Kids.  Always ruining everything for everyone else. 

"Well, then I guess Santa doesn't come to their house," I say, channeling my mother or Bing Crosby or Carol Brady or someone-who-knows-how-to-handle-dissension. 

In the next few seconds, all the childhood myths cloud my brain:  Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, Tooth Fairy.  We tell our children to believe in Santa Claus and they do.  They trust us.  Until one day, the fable explodes, and then they say: 

"Mommy?  Does God exist?"

("Mashing Our Values")      

267. Christmas Present

So The Husband and I have spent all our money on renovating our house, Christmas presents for the boys, and my plane ticket to California to see my mom. That leaves no money for the two of us to exchange gifts.

At first, I thought this would be fantastic: we’re not materialist! we’re above all this blatant commercialism!  But the more I work at the high-end kitchen store and the more I see people buying things for their sweethearts (“I think she might like a whole new set of copper pans. Three thousand dollars? That’s it? Okay, let’s add some cookbooks and kitchen tools too,”), the more bitter and jealous I become.

I decide to take matters into my own hands. The Husband and I will exchange gifts after all, material expensive gifts, and lots of ‘em.

How do I plan to pull this off without incurring debt? (No, not stealing.) I tell The Husband to go around the house and choose 10 things that I already own and wrap* them up and put them under the tree (*my sister Oakley sewed fabric reusable gift bags for us last year, so we are not wasting wrapping paper). I told him he could choose things like my grey cashmere sweater or my gold bracelet I got for college graduation or a silver frame with a photo of the boys….. whatever he wants.  The surprise will be in seeing what he picks. 

As is typical, he was not on board at first. But having dealt with me known me for over a decade, he knows that I am relentless in getting my way. He finally saw the silliness logic in my proposal and is resigned eager to participate.

What he doesn’t know yet is he’ll be receiving not only his favorite leather jacket, but also his alarm clock. And possibly a butter knife.

("Mirthful Offbeat Vicissitudes")

266. Proactive

So Tall is sick and stays home from school.  It’s my one day off from the high-end kitchen store, so we're going to make the most of things and have a relaxing day watching cartoons and making brownies.

The Husband gets home from work at 6:30 PM and immediately comments about Tall’s attire and my worthiness as a mother: “Wow! You already had Tall get undressed, take a bath, and put on clean pajamas! And you’re even in your pajamas too! Way to be proactive, MOV!”

The Husband’s tone is upbeat and cheery. Whatever previous Work Stress he had brought home with him has dissipated. He smiles at me, looks over at Tall and smiles at him.

Then it hits him. “Uh, those are his Rocket jammies….. he wore those same ones last night..…. Did you do laundry today too, MOV?” (hopeful now), “or is he just wearing the same thing…...” (starting to dawn on him), “He never even got dressed today, did he?” (surprised and a little bit mad) “And actually, neither did you,” (puzzle finally solved).

“Nope!” I chirp, “Today was a ‘sick day’ and we just lounged!”

I mean, come on, really.  The Husband has known me for almost 14 years, how can he not know me?


Monday, December 20, 2010

262. DNA Scramble

So today I receive my cousin Francesca’s Christmas card, complete with a photo of her darling five (count them, five) children. The kids range in age from a two-year-old toddler to a nine-year-old third-grader. It’s easy to look at them and say, yep, that one looks like their dad Doug, or wow—Maisy has Francesca’s red hair! What’s not so easy to decipher from the photo is their personalities. Does Bryce talk back? Is Elliot aggressive? And is Lucinda gregarious like big brother Michael?

My own two sons are an interesting composite of me and The Husband. Purely by looks, Tall is me (blond, slim) and Short is The Husband (darker hair, broad shoulders). Then things get murky. Tall is a natural athlete (thank you to The Husband’s good genes) and an avid reader (that would be me). He’s also a great artist (me) and has lots of friends (The Husband). So who do we blame his quick temper on?

Short is determined (The Husband) and has a fabulous sense of humor (uh, me?). He is kind and genuine (not sure where he gets that) but hates to lose in games (his Aunt Oakley?). We stick these labels on our children, trying to compartmentalize their personalities, so we know what to expect and how to deal with them.

But they change. Every day.

I look at Francesca’s card again. Oh, wow. I thought that was Maisy in front of Michael…. it’s not. Lucinda just looks exactly like her.

(“Mirror Or Variant”)

Friday, December 17, 2010

259. Why I Can Never Twitter

Oh, so many reasons. Where do I begin? First of all, I don’t have a special device for twitting like a blueberry or iPanda or anything like that. Second, and most importantly, I am not a movie star/ nor Hollywood wannabe who actually has a life others would want to monitor every 15 minutes. My life might be, uh, a bit of a snoozer for the uninitiated.

Just for kicks, let’s compare and contrast Tori Spelling’s Typical Day a la twitter with MOV’s Typical Day. (Go ahead and guess which one sounds like more fun.)

Tori: 6:45 AM ___________________ (still sleeping)
MOV: running around like a crazy person trying to get breakfast/ laundry/ kids up/ kids dressed/ homework done/ everyone out the door in time for school bus.

Tori: 9 AM Hi Guys! Just roled out of bed, decided not to sleep in today after all. Meeting persnel traner/ yoga instructer in a few couple minutes. First, a big cup of herbal tea (from Paris!).
MOV: just polished off 3rd double espresso after doing 8th load of laundry—already behind. None of the socks are in the right pairs. = (   

Tori: 11 AM Now I’m at Fred Segal trying on skinny jeens—they’re all too big! LOL. My hubby tells me I should get some custim-made, looks like he’s right.
MOV: Crying tears of desperation as I remove fat jeans from dryer and realize they have shrunk from extra-hot setting. I do not have time to go to Target to buy more.

Tori: 2 PM Geting ready to meet up with my agent, she will let me know if we’re on target for my newest book’s sales! (last 2 were on NY Timz Best Seller List!)
MOV: Scrambling to finish buying groceries and running errands before kids get home. Dawns on me that Tall left his homework about New York on the dining room table. Again.

Tori: 4 PM Tragidy struck. Evening part-time nany. Called in sick. Not realy sure I believe her her. This sucks becuz wer’e supposed to go to Gala Red Carpet event tonite in a few hours.
MOV: Kids just got off the bus. I have a little time with them to play and do a snack (hey! who spilled something red on the carpet?) before I have to zip out the door to my part-time job at the high-end kitchen store.

Tori: 6 PM Hubby’s mom saves the day. Coming over to babysitter. Thank God. I'll show her what we have in the kitchen to make for the kids’ dinner later.
MOV: Late for work again.

Tori: 9:30 PM The evening is just getting started and we have been doing vodka shots! So much fun!
MOV: We are open late for holiday hours; I’m not having fun—feel like I’ve been shot.

Tori: 11 PM Yikes! Just realised forgot to reschecule my manicure apptmt with Misty for tomorow!
MOV: Yikes! Just realized I have to get up and do all this over again tomorrow!

Okay, other than the fact that Tori has atrocious spelling and grammar (really, Tori? Your book is on the New York Times Best Seller List and you can’t be bothered to spell “Times” correctly?), I’d say she’s leading the more glamorous life today. So she can twit all she want, and I will just keep my thoughts where they belong: to myself.

P.S. Of note: I looked up “twit” in the dictionary and it's defined as “a reproach or taunt”. Sounds about right.

(“My Only Victory”)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

239. A Slice Of History

So I’m standing in the living room of our first President, and the whole time I’m thinking, huh, I would arrange the furniture differently.

The Husband and I made the trek with our two sons to tour George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon. At Christmas time, they put on a special evening candlelight tour complete with actors in period garb, which we thought would be spectacular.

It was. If only I wasn’t daydreaming the whole time about where to buy that dental molding they used in the study. And, is the secretary desk original (and if not, where can I buy one just like it)? or, who chose that obnoxious shade of turquoise for the dining room? better yet: I love those high ceilings, I want those.

All the time, I’m vaguely aware of someone talking (a guide?), saying Important Historical Things, things like “1797” and “Potomac River” and “Valley Forge” and “blah blah blah history something-or-other” while I am mentally blocking him out thinking “yes, I would like to live on a river……I would use a different kind of patio chair though…..”.

Is it rude to simply nod along and pretend you’re listening? I ask this because so much of my day-to-day life depends on that: Nod-nod-nod:  

“I said that is a Carmel Macchiato and you ordered an extra-hot latte: it’s not yours,”
“Your husband already picked up the dry cleaning, I don’t have that ticket number,”
“M’am, I said you owe $43 in late fees to Crazy Town Library and we do accept credit cards. Hellooooo?”

I walk around Mt. Vernon in awe. I am in awe of the architecture, but mostly I am in awe that the kitchen is set apart from the main house. No. Kitchen. In. The. House. In case you don’t know what that means, I will spell it out for you: no Haagen Daz at midnight (I mean, really, is life even worth living at that point?).

We walk out of the grand house. I turn to my two sons and see their smiling faces. I can practically witness The History creeping into their impressionable brains. We are just outside the mansion now and I turn to Tall to verify that he has absorbed the full scope of exactly where we are and what it means (the home of our first President, the founder of Democracy and the Free World). He turns to me, and in my Greatest Moment, a moment when I truly truly know that he is indeed my son, he says,

“Mom? Where's the gift shop?”

(“Mt. Otherworldly Vernon”)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

237. Dressed To The Eights

Raise your hand if you’re tired of seeing people wear jeans to weddings, shorts to funerals, sweats to job interviews, and pajama pants to Starbucks. I mean, come on. Really. Why can’t they at least throw on a pair of khakis for a wedding? Is it that hard? I understand that These Comfy People feel better if they are wearing something, well, “slouchy” for lack of a better word, but……………you don’t see ME grocery shopping in my underwear.

When did society spiral this far out of control? When did the memo go out: “Oh, hey, everyone, guess what? Suits are too restrictive. Ironing is passé. Who has time to go to the dry cleaners? Tell ya what,” (apparently, Memo Writer is sort of casual with her grammar, too), “from now on, EVERY day is Casual Friday, including Christmas. Enjoy!”

I did not get that memo. Neither did anyone I work with at the high-end kitchen store. No. We actually take pride in our appearance and dress neatly for (wait for it…..) work. Yep. Wanna look good for work, what a concept!

Now, I know you think I’m making it up about the “jeans at wedding” thing, but I assure you I am not. Jeans. At. Weddings. And (unfortunately), I’m not talking about a Sunday barbecue wedding or an impromptu elopement on the beach. No. I mean full-blown, Catholic church wedding, 250 guests. Jeans! (And of course, if they are dressed this way for what should be a formal affair, that begs the question: what kind of gift did they bring for the lucky couple? a 6-pack of beer? a velvet Elvis painting? a left-over gum wrapper?)

Do they not realize how disrespectful their choice of attire is? They are sending a subliminal message that they just don’t care about the event or the person being honored.

I’m not saying they have to dust off the tiara and fluff out the taffeta skirt, but how about a simple black dress? And give the tennis shoes the day off? Maybe even brush the hair?

I have had enough of These Comfy People. Call it jealousy (hey, if I can’t wear gray sweats to a party, then neither can you), call it self-righteousness, call it me wanting to dictate my standards to the world (that sounds about right). I've decided to write a special letter to These Comfy People, to wake them from their happy slouchy trance. Here goes:

“Dear These Comfy People,

It has come to my attention that you think it is okay to ‘dress down’ for all occasions. It’s not.

If you are not wearing a pretty dress to a sit-down wedding or a meet & greet at the White House, then when ARE you wearing a pretty dress? Get the pretty dress out! (I know it’s in your closet.) Please wear it.  You’ll look better, and, as a happy little side effect, you'll feel better about yourself, and (surprise!) people will treat you better.

It’s the damn truth. Now, go online and buy some black pants, and don’t let me catch you at great-aunt Harriet’s funeral in pajamas (I don’t care if they were your ‘dressy’ pajamas).

From now on, dress to the nines. Dressing to the eights just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Your Fashion Maven,

(“Messenger Of Valentino”)

236. Paradigm Of Lateness

So I’m just stepping into the shower, getting ready for a freighbor’s party, and the husband is calling out to me, “We have to go! We have to go!” like some deranged night-time rooster. I peek out of the shower to view my watch on the sink counter: 6:15 PM. The party starts at 7.

I do what I usually do when he panics: ignore him. I take my relaxing shower (well, as relaxing as it can be with a loop soundtrack of “hurry-up-hurry-up-come-on-you’re-making-us-late” playing in the background). When I get out, I throw on a towel and I confront The Husband, who is already dressed and back from dropping the kids at the sitter’s house. The Husband sits in a chair near the front door, loudly tapping his foot.

“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?” I say in a non-accusatory tone (but what others might possibly consider to be mildly accusatory). “The party doesn’t even start until 7.”

“Exactly. And now, because of you, it’s 6:30. We should be leaving right now and, instead, you’re dripping wet.” He is not sporting a Festive Holiday Smile. He is sporting a Holiday Lateness Scowl.

“What are you talking about? We’re walking to the party! They only live five houses down! It’s not going to take us thirty minutes to get there,” I say, barely masking my exasperation.

Then he says it. The phrase that makes me question whatever it was that made me marry this man: “We need to be early to the party.”

I ask you: what kind of bad manners are these? Who is early to a party? I personally hate it when guests arrive early, as I’m always running around like a crazy person, trying to vacuum, or put on lipstick, or possibly re-plan the entire menu.

“You know what, Sweetie? Etiquette dictates that you get to a party approximately 20 to 30 minutes after the start time on the invitation,” I explain patiently, like I’m talking to my 4-year-old.

“20-30 minute after it starts?! Do you want to offend our friends?” he says, incredulous. This from a man who does not know what a hostess gift is and always seems surprised when I take a bottle of wine with us or a box of chocolates (“why are you bringing that? they invited us, remember?”).

The more I think about it, the more I realize that The Husband is Clock Challenged. It’s not that he's always early or always late; no. It’s that his idea of what time to get to things is diametrically opposed to mine.

Here is a handy-dandy reference chart of what I deem acceptable arrival times for various events:

Baby shower: 10 minutes late
Wedding: 30 minutes early
Party: 20 minutes late
Airplane take-off: 2 ½ hours early
School appointment with teacher or principal: 5 minutes early
Job interview: 15 minutes early
Ballet or theater: 20 minutes early
Pick up friend at airport: 10 minutes early
Dentist appointment: 5 minutes early
Hair cut appointment: 10 minutes early
Coffee with a girlfriend: on time
Work: on time

Now that I stop to consider it, The Husband obviously has his own cheat-sheet as well:

For any and all events listed above: 20 minutes early. (Standard.)

Whenever we're driving to the airport, I'm sweating bullets. Whenever we're going to a party, I'm trying to stall by yelling at him to stop somewhere and get gas. He just takes the specific time listed, and, in his usual Cost Analyst logical approach, subtracts 20. One size fits all.

I blow dry my hair. I put on my black tights and sparkly beige dress. I apply mascara. When I look at the clock, it’s now 7:10.

Come on come on come on come on!” like a Mantra. “We’re late!”

We walk quickly to NeighborMom’s house. We ring the bell. She answers the door, one hot roller still stuck in the side of her hair. I hand her a bouquet of red and purple flowers.

“Thanks! Welcome! Wow—uh, you guys are the first ones here.”


Thursday, December 2, 2010

235. Cupcakes Cookies Brownies

So I wake up in a cold sweat this morning realizing that today is the day I said I would bring Tall’s birthday treats to school. Still in my pajamas, I dart into the kitchen like a crazy person. Let’s see, do I have all the ingredients I need: Butter? No. Flour? Nope. Three hours to make something fabulous? Negative.

I flashback to the (stupid, pointless) well-intentioned email I had sent to Tall’s teacher only days before: 

“Dear Miss Teacher,
I plan to bring homemade cupcakes to class on Thursday to celebrate Tall’s 7th birthday!

What the heck was I thinking? Homemade cupcakes? Way to establish expectations, MOV.

*Persuasive Disclaimer: I’ve been working insane holiday hours at the high-end kitchen store lately. I am not just a complete lazy loser (well, sometimes I am, but in this instance, I’m just time-deprived).

Anyway, I’m realizing that brownies would be infinitely easier than my original plan of the Martha Stewart cupcake extravaganza. No, wait. Brownies are still too hard. They involve melting chocolate and probably stirring. WhatshouldIdowhatshouldIdo? I am clashing around the kitchen, looking for essential ingredients or at the very least a small jar of inspiration.

The Husband walks into the kitchen (it is 6 AM after all, his normal time to get up and go to work and not have to stress about a child’s birthday treats and the child’s subsequent rise or fall in the elementary school pecking order depending on the success and popularity of said treats).

“Whatcha doing, Sweetie?” he leans in for the hug and I feel like smacking him with a rolling pin.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M DOING?!? I’M HAVING A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.” I say in my typical affectionate morning greeting. Then, I quickly give him the particulars of my sad and dire situation.

“No problem,” he says in a voice that is way too perky for 6 AM, “Remember we have cookie dough in the extra fridge in the garage.”

This new information has earned him a hug. Yeah! Cookie dough in the other refrigerator! Who knew?

I had completely forgotten that my very nice neighbor, A, had asked me to store about 15 tubs of cookie dough for her daughter’s school fundraiser. (Looks like I will be buying one of those tubs myself: I mean, this is what anyone would consider an emergency situation.)

I pre-heat the oven. I retrieve the dough. Oatmeal cookies. Huh. Not my favorite, but 6 AM beggars cannot be choosers. I decide to liven up the boring dough by adding some chocolate chips. Not bad.

I dutifully make four batches in rapid succession. Amazingly, they taste great: they could almost pass for homemade.

Right about this time, Tall is drawn into the kitchen by the scent of the warm cookies baking. “Mmmmm. What are you making, Mommy?” He is smiling the kind of smile you smile when you are seven years old and wake up to fresh-baked cookies.

“Cookies. For your class. For your birthday.” I offer.

“My birthday? Oh, wait,” pause, “I thought you were going to do cupcakes? I thought you said cupcakes?” he queries.

I can’t read him. Is he mad? Is he happy? Does he like cookies better? Is he going to jump up and down cheering, or will he start crying and throwing things?

He does none of these things. He shrugs. He picks up a banana off the counter and walks out.

I put all the cookies in a large Tupperware container (well, when I say “all”, we know that I am just using the term in its loosest sense. “All” here really means “all minus three”). I congratulate myself on finishing in time at the 879th event in the Mommy Olympics.

Tall goes to school. I am sitting at the computer, wondering what to write for my blog today. I get an email.

“Dear MOV,
Thank you so much for sending in the special treat with Tall for his birthday! Those cookies were absolutely delicious, and I was wondering if I could get the recipe?
Best Regards,
Miss Teacher”

How do I respond to that? Should I be upfront and tell her it was a frozen mix? Honesty is the best policy, so I dash off a quick email back to her:

“Dear Miss Teacher,
Thank you. I am so glad everyone liked the treats! I’m happy to give you the recipe, except that it is my great-grandmother’s special secret recipe and she made me swear when she was dying not to ever give it to anyone. The ghost of great-grandma coming after me for dishonoring her wishes is not a good image. I’m sure you understand.

Good thing Short’s birthday is not until July. I have a little more time to prepare.

(“Mom’s Oatmeal Variation”)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

234. The Card

So I’m going through some random papers that are stacked precariously high in my study, and near the bottom of the sedimentary layers I unearth a black folder full of Tall’s artwork. From four years ago. Not that I let things go around here, it’s just……..

Yeah, four years ago. Not four weeks, or, like a halfway decent mom, four months. No.

Anyway, I must have saved this crap memorabilia for a reason, so I decide to look through it. Sure enough, one of the “projects” his overly-helpful preschool teacher had him do was an endearing little Mother’s Day questionnaire. Let’s take a peek, shall we?

Happy Mother’s Day to My Mommy
My mom is      50      years old
The color of my mom’s hair is   black
Her favorite thing is to take me to the park or watch House Hunters      
Mommy's job is selling pasta pans at the kitchen place
Her all-time favorite food is    pizza  
My mom’s favorite drink is    vino  

(Of course, this was accompanied by a full-color over-sized drawing of black-haired Mommy looking surprisingly like a praying mantis.) Ah, yes, all those fun memories are flooding back to Mommy’s 42-year-old blonde head. And by the way, when he answered these “get to know you” questions, I was only 38!

The thing I am most mortified about is, of course, the “vino” comment. I very very much was hoping the teacher would just pass right by that, that it could go unnoticed, like a preschooler hiding his half-eaten sandwich behind the couch. But, like the half-eaten sandwich (most likely egg-salad), this “vino” thing would have to be addressed sooner or later.  In my case, sooner. 

I remember the precise moment Ms. Giraldi was handing me the backpack with the offending Mother’s Day card inside. “MOV, just so you know, there are, uh, a couple, uh…. ‘interesting’ comments that Tall made about you in your special Mother's Day card.”

Having not yet read The Card at this point, I could only imagine what she was referring to (my eBay addiction?  me getting up early to go to the gym but then actually going to Starbucks?  me stealing borrowing five dollars out of Tall’s piggy bank to go for an emergency-run to Baskin-Robbins by myself?).

“Ms. Giraldi, preschoolers say such cute things, don’t they?” I offered as a preemptive strike, my Inner Coward doing what she did best:  panic and overreact.

“Ha ha ha ha, yeah they do,” she gave a fake laugh. “Let me just start by saying that at least he got your job right. There's this other boy in his class, Benji, who, when asked what kind of work his mom did said, ‘She doesn’t do a damn thing.’ I. Was. Dying. Hilarious! Of course, that's the typical response when we get to the dad’s line of work…..”

Would it be rude of me to open Tall's little backpack right now and just get it over with? I wondered.  I acted as nonchalant as the situation would allow. “What, uh, I mean, could you be more specific on the ‘interesting’ part?”

She leaned in and whispered, “He said your favorite drink was ‘vino’.”

Long uncomfortable silence.     

She continued, choosing her words carefully. “I've noticed your son has a slight lisp sometimes, so I thought I’d better ask him again, just to make sure I heard him right.  Then he explained to me: ‘vino—you know, Ms. Giraldi, it comes in a bottle and you drink it? There are different kinds like Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio?’”

(Ms. Giraldi was just out of college and seemed like a fun girl.  If one were to cast her in a Hollywood production, Scarlett Johansson would be the top choice for the role of Anna Giraldi.  I tried to keep this "fun-loving, college-girl" persona in the back of my mind as I was thinking please-don't-call-Child-Protective-Services-and-report-I'm-a-lush.)          

I’m not sure if it was the pure raw embarrassment or the residual vodka left over in my system from the previous night, but I could feel my cheeks turning a blotchy Valentine of red and pink. “Kids! Those kooky kids! Ha ha ha, ‘vino’! What a kidder!” I threw out in desperation.  This was no mere save. This was a flop.

Then I flashbacked to what I had given Ms. Giraldi for a Christmas present only 5 months earlier: a bottle of Merlot. I had asked The Husband what I should get her, and he (wisely, for once) answered, “MOV, she might like a gift certificate to Pyramid of Books. Then she can choose a book she likes; teachers always love books. Maybe buy, like, a $25 gift card?”

What had my lovely response been to The Husband?  I had laughed uncontrollably and said (and I am paraphrasing here), “Sweetie, she's hanging around screaming 3-year-olds all day. What she really needs is a good bottle of wine.” Which is just what we gave her.

So, getting back to today and the one-of-a-kind Mother’s Day card. Do I throw it away, or do I possibly frame it? I ultimately decide to tuck it into the pages of Tall’s Baby Book: one day, his children can appreciate that their dad drove his HGTV-watching, pan-selling, Domino's-loving mommy to drink.  Cheers!    

(“Merlot Or Vodka?”)

233. My 4-Year-Old Helps With The Blog

“Mommy,” says Short, his squeaky voice full of innocence, “what are you doing?”

“I’m just typing my blog, well, I should say, struggling to type my blog because I'm not sure how I should edit this; I need to re-work it a bit ... ”

“Can I help?” he offers sweetly, setting down his Lego truck.

I laugh. “Oh, honey-bun, maybe another time.” I give him a quick conciliatory hug.

“Really, Mommy, I’d be good at it.” How can I resist those sincere blue eyes and those chubby cheeks with dried-on blackberry jam from breakfast? To placate him, I print out my blog and hand him a red marker. “Short, you can make any corrections you want.”

This ought to keep him busy for ten minutes, I think to myself.

He’s in the next room for all of two minutes. It is very very quiet in there. He walks back out. “Mom, did you forget to use spell-check? Because ‘meticulous’ does not have an ‘e’ at the end. Also, where you said ‘frequently,’ I think ‘often’ might have been a better choice.”

He hands the papers back to me and also the red pen (he forgot to put the lid back on). I glance down to see what other corrections he’s made—there are smears of red all over the pages. I see that where I have typed “disparage”, he has crossed my word out and written in “disparate.” I notice he has capitalized the word Francophile. He deleted my entire second paragraph, and has written in the margin in all caps: WORDY.  He has also crossed out a phrase I wrote (“fit like a glove”) and scribbled next to it: cliché.

I’m on the second page now. I misused “there” and he circled it. I was attempting to do a stream-of-consciousness thing for part of it and he has made a large “X” through it and has written simply “run-on.” Two sentences later, I make a quick and entertaining analogy about a zoo, and he’s written “good—expand.

I don’t know how much more I can take. “Short,” I begin, “Come on! You corrected all this? I ... I ... well, this is preposterous!”

Short shakes his head and looks me right in the eye. “Mommy,” long pause for it to all sink in, “the only thing that’s preposterous is that you didn’t ask for my help sooner.”