Saturday, March 19, 2011

364. Daylight Savings Time Has Ruined My Life

Why can I not live in Arizona or Hawaii where clocks never get changed for Daylight Savings Time? I can barely make it to things on time as it is (on a normal day), now I am expected to run around my house and change the 70 or so random clocks we have in every room of the house (Don’t forget the microwave!) to reflect one hour’s disappearance? It would take me three hours (minimum) to change them all, so I would lose eight and a half hours all together.

In a (shortsighted) moment of rebellion, I decide not to change any of the clocks right now. Okay, it’s not so much rebellion as laziness. Well, not so much laziness as perfectionism.

Let me explain. We own one fancy digital clock (a gift from father, who loves clever gadgets) that communicates via satellite with the national atomic clock in Colorado to tell us the exact time, to the millisecond, that the world observes. This clock wisely sets itself. Obviously, the intelligent thing to do is to traipse around the house holding the “control” clock and (perfectly) set each individual clock from that.

Ugh, who can be bothered? Not me. Since Daylight Savings Time happens on a Saturday night and initially only affects Sunday, I decide to postpone modifying the clocks.

On second thought, I must change my watch because I have to go to work on Sunday. The Boss might have an expectation that I would be on time, due to the fact that they are paying me.

All right, so at least the watch is correct. I can zip around the house later, maybe after work tonight, and do some of the other clocks then.

Instead, when I get home, I immediately pour myself a glass of wine (it’s been a long day) and start regaling The Husband with witty anecdotes from today’s foray into selling pans at the high-end kitchen store. There was the bride-to-be who came in to register with her sister, her best friend, her mother, her future mother-in-law, and her neighbor—but no groom in sight! There was the well-dressed elderly man who kept walking in and out of the store every 10 minutes to sample food from our cooking demonstration, to the point that—clearly—this was his big meal for the day. There was the snobby woman who bought a very large crystal bowl and expected me to gift-wrap it in two seconds (I should have used the time change excuse on her—“It will take me longer, uh, due to Daylight Savings Time. I’m sure you understand.”)

The Husband listens patiently to my stories; I’m sure he looks forward to these moments all week (ed. note: he does not). Then I happen to glance at the clock on the fireplace mantel. Uh, oh, it says eight. Is it really eight? Or is it actually nine (or, optimistically) seven?

“Is that clock right?” I ask The Husband, as I point to the offending cube of silver and glass. “Did you change it?”

“I didn’t change it,” he scoffs, “you told me not to. You said you were going to change them all because you wanted to set every clock five minutes fast.”

Did I say that? It does sound like something I might say. Huh. I do like the clocks to all be precisely five minutes fast (even the clock on my car dashboard) because then I have that five minute built-in cushion so I can be my punctual Virgo self.

“Are you going to change them all right now, then?” prods The Husband. “It might be a good idea.”

“Ugh. No. I’ll do it tomorrow, when I have a little more energy,” I say, my shoulders wilted.

Monday morning I wake with a start. I grab the only correct timepiece (my Timex wristwatch) in the entire house and look at it: 7:45. If this were yesterday, it would only be 6:45. And if it were yesterday, we would be 15 minutes early waking up. As it is, we are 45 minutes late.

I hate math.

In a whirlwind of shouting and throwing clothes on small children and hurling Cheerios and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and half-finished homework in their general direction, I miraculously manage to get the boys  and their backpacks out the door and to the school bus on time (the new time, that is).

I crawl back to the house, ready for my first cup of coffee (the one that was omitted, courtesy of Daylight Savings Time). I look at the kitchen clock: 7:32. My brain is stuck in the mode of calculating the matrix that is time: that should really say 8:32, but if it were yesterday, then 7:32 would still be right. It is a lot darker—no, lighter?—no, darker now in the morning with the time change.

All day long, I slog along in this limbo land of maybe-I-should-break-down-and-change-the-clocks-after-all. In the laundry room, I see the clock says 12:32. Lunch. Wait, am I hungry? Am I not hungry? If this were yesterday, would I be hungry now, or would I be hungry in, say, one hour?

I timidly stick my foot in the water of time, and ultimately change a few of the clocks. Ah, much better! This should confuse everyone, especially me!

The fireplace clock is correct, as is the clock on the TV cabinet (the Colorado clock), my alarm clock (but not The Husband’s one on his side of the bed), the stove clock (but not the kitchen wall clock), and the clock in the study (but not the one in the children’s toy area). I am suddenly Alice In Wonderland, drinking the tea of too early and too late and never right-on-time.

The Husband gets home from work late early and sighs. “You’re not going to believe this, MOV, but not all the clocks at our office got changed over the weekend! Do you have any idea how frustrating that is, to look at a clock and realize you can’t even trust it to do its basic clock job—tell the time? Ugh, I just hate being late, and all day long, I kept looking at these clocks and wondering which one has been changed and which one hasn’t …”

I know exactly how he feels.

(“Movado, Omega, Victorinox”)

363. Chirp

I’m in the living room when I hear it: chirp! I look around, trying to place where the noise is coming from. It is squeaky and high-pitched and apparently originating from the smoke detector. I climb up on a dining room chair to get closer to the offending sound. Nothing.

I pause to listen again. There it is: chirp! I’ve just finished making cookies, perhaps I left the timer on by mistake? This fancy digital timer (purchased at the high-end kitchen store) is actually composed of three separate timers, so it takes me a minute to click on each one individually to see if any of them are responsible for the chirp.


Maybe I am hearing things? Maybe there is no chirping?

Chirp, chirp! There it is again. Now I am beyond frustrated. Is it the washing machine? Is it my cell phone? Camera? Computer? TV? What is making that incessant chirping sound?

In an act of utter desperation and futility, I turn to Short and ask, “Do you hear that chirping?”

He nods, his face solemn. “Of course I hear it, Mommy,” he confirms.

“Do you know what it is, Short? Do you know what is making the noise then?” I ask, trying to pry the secret information from him.

He points to the open kitchen window. Sitting on the ledge is a small—

“Bird, Mommy. It’s a bird.”

Of course. His little birdy beak opens and closes and chirpy bird music comes out. It’s Spring.

(“Music, Ostensibly Verse”)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

361. Boycott

Today it finally happened. The appliances conspired against me to all break down simultaneously.

I should have anticipated this, for we were given clues. First, the ancient computer was stricken with a rare case of Computzheimers last December, and after much denial (mine) and angst (The Husband’s), had to be replaced.

Next, the refrigerator starts grumbling to the stove (“Are you happy in this house? Or do you feel taken for granted?”), and before I even have a chance to start adding a few dimes to the savings account, the frig is leaking water (out of places that don’t normally even have water). The stove whispers conspiratorially to the frig (“I think MOV is planning a Disney vacation at the hotel-the-monorail-goes-through … this would be the perfect time to break because she’d have to throw a lot of money at your repairs or replacement, and then she’d realize in retrospect how valuable you truly are!”).

Yesterday the washing machine started to smell vaguely of ... gasoline?  I am terrified to wash our clothes now, and we are going through the remaining clean ones at an alarming rate.  I anticipate the kids will be wearing swim suits to school by the end of the week, and I will be forced (once again) to don an ill-fitting taffeta ball gown and tiara to go pick up the boys at the bus-stop.

This morning, The Husband routinely turns on the TV to check news and weather, and—voila!—no sound. He walks into the bedroom where I am pretending to sleep. “The TV has no sound?” he says, half question/ half statement. “Did you do something to it?”

“Uh,” I stammer, not really thrilled to be woken with this latest development in household anarchy, “I didn’t do anything to it. Maybe it’s on mute? Did you try to press the mute button to, uh, un-mute it?”

“Press the mute button? Wow, I never thought of that!” says The Husband sarcastically. “Of course I pressed the mute button.” Now he’s mad. They probably showed footage of tornadoes and hurricanes and floods and heavy traffic and multiple accidents on the news, but he has no idea which particular freeways he needs to avoid on his way to work (possibly freeways in Greenland or Australia) because he couldn't hear what the reporters were saying.

“Well, it worked fine last night when I was watching part one of the Top Chef finale,” I offer. Even as the words are cascading out of my mouth, I am saying a prayer of thanks to the Television Gods for courteously waiting until I got to watch my show before deciding to cease working properly for other members of my family.

The Husband departs for work (probably leaving his raincoat and umbrella at home, and driving on the accident-filled “bad” freeways), and I promptly forget what he has told me about the TV. “Hey, Short,” I chirp merrily, “wanna watch Penguins of Madagascar while I get your cereal?”

He answers affirmatively and I turn on the television. There are penguins jumping around, fighting crime or whatever cartoon TV penguins do, and … silence. Oh, yeah, I think to myself, this is what The Husband was just telling me about 10 minutes ago.

Luckily for Short, this is an episode he’s seen before (let’s be honest: seen 1297 times to be exact) so he doesn’t even really need the sound. “Maybe we should unplug it and plug it back in again?” Short suggests helpfully. We give it a try, but it still doesn’t work. The animated penguins continue to move their mouths but no words come out.

I am mentally calculating the precise age of our (dying) TV. Let’s see, we had it before Tall was born, uh, wait—it’s all coming back to me now! We happened to buy it right before 9-11 because I clearly remember watching the horrors of that day unfold and wishing that I could bury my head in the sand like an ostrich and not have to witness any of it, but instead we had really really good picture quality and could see everything happen as it occurred and then be replayed by all the channels in a never-ending loop for the next several weeks. I could see the exact pattern of Tom Brokaw’s tie (orange, with tiny green paisley swirls) and the precise shade of Katie Couric’s lipstick (garnet shimmer) as they informed the world of the devastation in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.

Let’s see, 9-11 happened in 2001, so that means my TV is two years old, oops—10 years old! Yikes, how did that happen? How did a decade slip by from when we bought a new TV and the twin towers fell? A decade?

We do not have money for frivolous expenses like a refrigerator, or a washing machine, or a computer, or a television.  We have spent all our money on crucial necessities such as Italian espresso machines and embroidered linen tablecloths and crystal candle holders and French porcelain serving platters from the high-end kitchen store. (When I started working there almost four years ago, I was convinced that I would save all my earnings. Ha. The temptation of being surrounded every shift by beautiful things coupled with a deep employee discount proves too great for my non-existent willpower.)

I call The Boss to figure out a way to get more money from my job. “Uh, Boss?” I say sweetly to her answering machine, “We had a few unexpected expenses this month, so I need you to cut my hours.”


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

358. Propaganda

My son is gullible. If the side of the cereal box proclaims “Best Cereal Ever!” he’s convinced we have to buy it. If a video game is advertised on TV as “life-changing,” he immediately hammers at me to include that little morsel in my next Target run (never mind that we don’t own—nor do I want to own—a video game system in which to play said video game). Specific sporting shoes cast their allure. Certain snacks must be procured. It is hard, as a parent, to remain immune to the constant infusion of “must-have” items.

Here is a transcript of a typical conversation in our home:

Tall: Mom! Mom! Come quick!

Me: (running down stairs and almost slipping and breaking neck due to obvious urgency of situation) Here I am! What is it? Are you okay? (breathless)

Tall: (pointing excitedly at TV commercial) Look! Here is that Lego/ Pokemon/ Club Penguin/ Best New Toy Ever thing I was telling you about! You have to buy it for me!

Me: That’s why you called me down here?

Tall: (unfazed) Yes. What do you think? Isn’t it cool?

Me: Huh. Well. Do you want to spend your own birthday or Christmas money?

Tall: (flabbergasted) What? NO. Of course not. You can just write a check and then it doesn’t cost anyone anything.

Me: Wait—what? A check IS money. The money is in the bank and writing the check gives the bank permission to give the money to whoever you wrote the check to.

Tall: (dumbfounded) Are you sure?

Me: (dumbfounded at what he must not be being taught in first grade) Of course I’m sure!

Tall: Oh. (slight pause) Well, can you buy it for me anyway? I need it!

Me: Why? What does it do?

Tall: It spins/ jumps/ does my homework/ drives me to soccer! I must have it!

Me: No. I can think of better uses for our money. Like food.

Tall: You are so mean, Mom. All my friends have (insert name of unlikely product here) and I am the only one who doesn’t! (runs from room, pouting)

I have decided to take matters into my own hands and address the real instigators of this mess that has become my life, a life of perpetual battle with a seven-year-old over useless garbage that will be in the landfill in a matter of days. Here goes:

MOV’s Open Letter to Advertisers Everywhere

“Please leave my sons and their impressionable brains alone. My older son believes everything you say, even the blatant lies (‘hours’ of fun? who are you kidding? we finished that game in about five minutes). And the younger son wants to BE the older son, so it’s only a matter of time before he falls prey to your guerrilla advertising tactics.

Go pick on someone your own size (uh, on second thought, please leave my husband alone as well). At least an adult might have a fighting chance, or a modicum of willpower and resistance. On behalf of tired mothers everywhere, I beg you to just make your product and quietly sell it. If it’s truly any good, I’ll be happy to buy it—you don’t need to manipulate my child into pressuring me to spend a week’s pay on some random junky thing that he’ll forget by next week.

You could adopt a new ‘truth in advertising’ approach. This is how your new ad could look:

‘Our product is pretty good. Most of the time. If it’s something you need, by all means, please buy it. If not, well, think about it for next time.’

See? That wasn’t so hard.



I made 20 copies and sent the letter out to the worst offenders (Disney, Kellogg, Hasbro, Pillow Pet, etc). I have already heard back: they all apologized and sent me coupons. Guess who helped me open the mail that day? Yes, Tall. Now we have yet another reason to buy their products—discounts! I can’t win.

(“Mother Of Victims”)

Friday, March 11, 2011

355. Mush

My brain has officially turned to mush. This is the threat I always say to my children if they are watching too much TV (“Your brain is going to turn to mush!”), but now it has happened to me and it has nothing to do with television and everything to do with being 42.

We walk into a restaurant and the hostess seats us near the window. We get settled at our table, and seconds later, a waiter appears announcing, “Hi! My name is Bryan/ Rick/ Jason and I’ll be taking care of you tonight!” I am forgetting his name as he is saying it. I am thinking about scallops and whether they will be cooked right this time (like they were two times ago), or if they will be raw and mushy (like they were last time).

I am at home in the study, writing. I remember I need to go to the basement for something, so I walk down the two flights of stairs. The moment I get there, I have zero recollection of what I went down for. I go back upstairs. Once back up, I remember: Oh, yes, I need to transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer before they get mildewed and mushy. Sigh.

I answer the phone. It is not a number I recognize. It is not a voice I recognize. The merry person who dialed apparently remembers who she is and who she is calling because she chirps, “Hi MOV! How are you?!” I have to sit there making benign chitchat (“Good, really good—but how are you?”) while my brain is doing backflips trying to figure out who this is. Please, God, let her mention her child’s name, or some common function we attended, or where she works out: give me some crumbs here, some mushy crumbs.

I am at work at the high-end kitchen store (and truly, it’s a miracle that I remembered my schedule and that I’m actually supposed to be here right now instead of yesterday or tomorrow). The Boss hands me some new “Shift Guidelines” and one of them seems to be that I am now responsible for a certain section of the store depending on the day (today is soaps and linens) and each shift I will need to focus on maintaining my specific area to our corporate standards. I start to feel panicky as I look over the list. Do I have to memorize it? Will there be a quiz later, and if I fail will I be fired?

“Uh, Boss?” I squeak, “Do I have to, uh, memorize this?”

After four years, The Boss knows who she is dealing with. “Are you kidding, MOV? We are going to laminate that sheet and keep it right here by the register for new hires—and you—to refer to. Of course you don’t have to memorize it.” She is obviously harkening back to last week when she sent me to the back stock room to retrieve more cookbooks and I returned empty-handed but with chocolate brownie crumbs on my face (thanks for making brownies again, Stacey; but they were a tad bit mushy).

I want to be that person with the amazing memory, the person who can instantaneously recall every detail of your last conversation together (whereas I say things like, “Janelle, how is your grandmother feeling now?” and she replies, “MOV, she died two years ago—you came to the funeral.”). Why can I not remember anything?

It is because my brain is already full, full of things that don’t matter anymore like my first grade teacher’s name (hi, Mrs. Link!), or my childhood phone number (454-7388), or which tube stop for Harrods in London (Knightsbridge on the Piccadilly line), or the exact floor-plan of every house or apartment I’ve ever lived in (including closet placement) and even a few hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. Is it useful to know where the bathroom was located when I spent a semester in France? Yes, at the time, obviously, but now it might be more helpful to remember how to pronounce my next-door neighbor’s name (is it Mrs. Gillian with a hard or soft “G”?) instead of continually saying the-weak-imitation-and-getting-old “Well, hey there, neighbor!”

I vow to do Sudoku puzzles (if I could just remember where I put them), I vow to do crosswords (but the same-page comics are infinitely more appealing), I vow to really listen to people when they tell me their name (that means you, Bryan/ Rick/ Jason).

And if none of that works out, I know a very nice apartment in France I could rent (as long as they haven’t relocated the bathroom).

(“Mush Or Vicinity”)

Monday, March 7, 2011

350. Christmas Tree Story

So I never told you this story before. I’m living in San Diego with my then-boyfriend Paul (this is about a million years ago, I think I must be 25). We live in a tiny apartment by the beach. We’re both working in hotels (different hotels though) and he’s a banquet captain—so he basically works a lot of parties.

This party is different though. This is a wedding, the wedding of Andre Agassi’s brother.

(This is waaaaay before Steffi Graf; this is when Andre’s still married to Brooke Shields.)

According to Paul, Andre Agassi’s mom is a bit of a control-freak when it comes to planning the wedding. Paul: “She is very demanding, but in a nice demanding way.”

The mom is walking through the banquet room with Paul and the catering manager and going into an elaborate description of how she wants everything decorated. Since the wedding will be taking place early December, she wants about a gazillion Christmas trees everywhere. Live trees. Decorated trees. Flocked trees. (You know—that fake puffy white snow somehow glued to the branches?)

The hotel ends up getting 25 of the most gorgeous Empire-State-Building-tall trees you have ever seen in your life. Someone drives to Greenland to retrieve them all. The trees cost $3000 each. You can barely walk through and see the ocean view outside because of this dense forest of Christmastravaganza.

The wedding goes off without a hitch. Brooke Shields is exceedingly nice (I ask Paul what she drinks: strawberry daiquiris.  I make a mental note to order a strawberry daquiri in the near future.). The general manager is very proactive in asking the mom what she wants done with all those trees (I think he’s hoping she'll let the hotel just keep them for their own holiday decorating purposes and save a considerable chunk of the December budget).

But, no. The mom says (and, luckily, there are witnesses), “It is my fondest wish to let each banquet or kitchen employee have a tree.” There are 25 trees, and 50 employees.

It is decided (after the wedding) that there will be a lottery to determine which employees will get the coveted trees. Everyone is so excited, you’d think they're giving away new cars.

You know what happens next: Paul wins a tree. Our apartment can barely hold a couch and a table, let alone a tree of Nutcracker Ballet proportions (see “tiny apartment,” above).

Conveniently, my mom and her 20 foot ceilings live close by. In a gesture of generosity and common sense, Paul gives her the tree.

It is a strange kind of nostalgia, when an event happens and as it is happening, you say to yourself, This is the best it will ever be. That is how putting that tree up is. We all look at the glamorous Andre Agassi’s brother’s wedding tree and give a big collective sigh. We will never ever have a tree this beautiful again. (And I'm not even a fan of flocked white trees, as I deem them “cheap” and “tacky.” Not this tree. This tree is “perfect” and “classy.”)

We all take turns posing for too many pictures in front of the iconic tree. It is a wonderful and magical Christmas, with this extravagant souvenir of Wimbledon and Hollywood taking residence in the center of the room near the window.

We leave it up ‘til April.

(“Magical Optimum Vision”)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

345. What I Learned Today

“In Texas they don’t have beds so they sleep on horses. That’s what they do.”

Courtesy of my son, Short. When pressed, “We learned that in school.”


344. To Do

Unlike normal people’s “To Do” list, mine does not shrink nor boast heavy charcoal lines striping through mundane tasks. No. My list grows, like a weed that you thought might be a plant but have now confirmed (after a quick Google search on a “no computer” day) is, in fact, a weed after all. A weed that needs absolutely no water, no food, no sunshine, nothing—yet, this weed (my “To Do” list) grows and grows and grows and towers over the “real” plants, the ones you paid good money to have a landscaper put in.

Okay, enough with the out-of-control weed metaphor. You get the idea.

As soon as I write down an item, I think of four more “related” items that should be added to the list. The main problem with my list is: it is not really even my list. It is the list of Tall and Short and The Husband and Kitty (“make vet appointment—yearly check-up”). Back when I was young and single and unencumbered by children and Adult Responsibilities (hello, Mortgage!), I could write a quick list and (miracle!) get a couple things, maybe even most (maybe even all) accomplished in a relatively finite amount of time (for example: one day).

Now, I am lucky if I can do even one thing on the list, let alone all 500 of them. It has gotten so depressing to look at “The List” that now I find myself writing things on it that I have just done solely for the thrill of being able to cross something off (“drink coffee” found its way onto yesterday’s list).

Sometimes, right when I wake up in the morning, I will go into the study and optimistically take out the list just to see if perhaps something got accomplished in the middle of the night while I was sleeping (nope—“buy new batteries for kitchen smoke detector” still remains on the list, undone).

Lately, I have been on this kick to clean out all my closets and drawers. Again, this is not just MOV’s personal list, this list is done by me but involves doing the work of four family members and a cat. So, that means it is not only my closet. My list says
  • Front coat closet (and each member of the family owns no fewer than 62 coats)
  • Entry hall table (amazing how much you can cram into five little drawers and forget that it was ever there until you need to file your taxes)
  • Linen closet
  • My closet
  • My dresser
  • Tall and Short’s closet (luckily, a shared space)
  • Laundry room (yes, it seems like a blessing to have an entire room devoted to laundry … until that room fills up with miscellaneous junk that you don’t know what to do with)
  • Closet in study
  • Closet in kids’ playroom (full of expensive toys they never play with but you can’t bear to part with and are holding onto for no good reason)
  • Pantry shelves in kitchen
  • Guest room closet (if something didn't fit in the laundry room, then it has traveled across the hall to this location
  • Storage closet (already too full to fit excess stuff from laundry room or guest room)
  • And the grande dame of storage closets: the garage (which has not housed an actual vehicle in over a year, but instead is home to more useful items like free rowing machines and abandoned pianos)
Add to this fun list the equally fun tasks of “buy milk” and “mail Kim’s birthday present” and “email Short’s teacher” and “make dentist appointment for Tall”; you can see how the list never goes away.

Well, at least I wrote today’s blog (oops, I’ll have to go back and add it to the list so I can cross it off).


342. Anatomy Lesson

Short came home from preschool today very excited. He was brandishing a simplistic Xeroxed picture of the human body, complete with heart and basic view of the circulatory system. “Mommy! Mommy! Guess what?” he inquired breathlessly. “Today we learned all about the human bean body and our heart. And the teacher even had a Mexiscope like the doctor, and she let us listen to our heart bumping.”

Well, it doesn’t get much better than that. What child doesn’t want to hear his heart bumping? (And who knew these stethoscopes were currently made in Mexico?)

“So the teacher told us all about the red blood and the blue blood,” Short continues. “The blue blood is, uh, water, and the red blood is …”

Tall thinks this would be a fabulous time to impart his special brand of knowledge. “Hot lava!” he squeals.

Short nods in instant recognition. “Yes.”

Oh, my. Call the med schools right now this second and get these two on the waiting list. They are obviously future cardiologist material.

(“Mother Of Volcanoes”)