Saturday, October 29, 2011

558. Teacher's Pet

Teachers always loved me. I was the annoying student who sat in the front row, raised my hand a lot, paid attention, and took detailed single-spaced notes, even when it was an assembly or guest speaker (“MOV, this speaker is just for fun! You don’t have to take notes on Magic Mania,” another student might say helpfully as I scribbled furiously in my green notebook. I knew that my so-called friend would be woefully underprepared for the next pop-quiz.). So it should come as no surprise that my son Tall has inherited my academic prowess and ability to impress his teachers:  Tall is teacher’s pet.

Tall is the smartest kid in his class. And the funniest. And the most creative. And the most athletic. And the nicest. And the fastest runner. And the best singer. And the most helpfulest. And the friendliest.

I am totally not biased at all, these are all things I witnessed for myself.

I sat in on his class for the first time yesterday. It was clear from the get-go that the teacher had spent a lot of time getting to know my son. She greeted me warmly and said, “Big is really excited to have you here today!” to which I responded, “His name is Tall.”

Later, I noticed that she kept looking at my son, or possibly she was looking at the wall-clock located just beyond his desk. She asked Tall to help her out with important tasks, like picking up the garbage can that he had inadvertently knocked over when he kept kicking it (“Big! Geesh! Your grandmother is here today! Show some respect and stop knocking things over. You need to pick up all that trash. Right. Now.”). I loved the way she singled him out as a positive example (some might say “role model” for the class). She called on him repeatedly, whether he raised his hand or not (“Big, stop doodling little stick people and pay attention,” and “You just got a yellow card, do you want to continue this behavior and have a red card?” and “Big, what did I say about paper airplanes? No more, I mean it.”).

When it was time for the class to form smaller groups for a math game, she made sure that Tall was on a good team (“Big, come over to my desk and work with me. Well, that’s what you get for taking the caps off of all of Sarah’s markers.”). When it was time to go to lunch, she asked him to stay behind, presumably to compliment him on his stellar performance during science (“You have lost recess again. Brian did not appreciate you dumping water on his head to simulate a tsunami.”).

I approached the teacher to let her know that I had an urgent appointment (at Starbucks, and then later at Macy’s super-sale) so I would not be able to stay the rest of the day. I thanked her for letting me sit in on the class and help, to which she replied, “I am so glad you were able to come today! Now I understand your son so much better, because of meeting you.”

I asked her when would be a good time for me to return to volunteer and that I was free the following Thursday.

She responded, “Wow, Dr. MOV, that is so nice of you, but the principal is, uh … he’s decided that having parents in the classroom is too distracting. So the volunteer program is going away.”

“What? I just talked to Tessa’s mom, and she is volunteering next week?”

“Yeah, well, she was already on the schedule.”

“Vladimir’s dad said he comes in every Friday?”

“He is a concert pianist, so he has a valuable skill set to share with them.”

“Lacey’s mom told me that she—”

She cut me off, “Can I be honest with you, Dr. MOV?”

I nodded.

“Your son, he is just so, so, so … well, you know. And I think he would benefit from a break from you. He has your, uh, influence all the other hours of the day at home.”

It was too painful for her to say what was really on her mind: Tall is teacher’s pet.


Friday, October 28, 2011

556. The Queen of Punctuality

If you hate people that are always on time, or worse, early, then you can stop reading right now. I am that person.

I didn’t used to be that way. I used to be an on-time-ish person, or a five-minutes-late-ish person, or a who-the-hell-needs-a-watch-and-time-is-a-stupid-concept-anyway person. All that changed on September 21, 1996. United Airlines hired me to be a flight attendant.

In training, they fed us tiny bags of peanuts along with subliminal messages about being punctual (“This is how you fasten a seatbelt. This is how you evacuate a plane. This how you read a clock.”), and the not-so-subliminal messages (“If you are late three times you are FIRED!!!”).

I immediately went out and bought three alarm clocks.

Once clock is for sissies. Two clocks is just about right. But Hyper Virgo Girl needed three. Then she needed extra batteries.

As I would go through security, my suitcase would inevitably trigger all the “Code Red Danger” alarms with the guards (“Ma’am, I need you to open your suitcase, it looks like you might be building a bomb”). As you can imagine, this is not such a good thing for someone dressed up like a flight attendant going to work. So as not to upset the security guards in every airport across America, I started separating my clocks like chatty little second-graders that cannot sit next to one another in math class, one in my tote, one in my suitcase, one in my purse. Even my lipstick and credit cards were concerned with being on time.

I would check into my hotel room on my layover and start spreading my clocks around, like sacrifices on the altars for the Gods of Time. One clock would be right next to my bed. Another would be across the room, maybe on a dresser, so I would be forced to physically get up out of bed to turn it off. The third might be in the bathroom or perhaps next to the door depending on my mood. I was slightly paranoid that one of my lovely clocks would malfunction or that I might sleep through the alarm due to jet lag and time changes.

And that was another thing: time changes. I was constantly changing the time on all three clocks to local time. Daylight savings added another element of fun to the situation. Picture my elation when I discovered a special type of clock with an outer spin dial that changed the time zone for you.

I bought three.

In my decade flying, I never missed a flight. I have some fabulous memories of layovers in Hawaii, Australia, New York, France, and I also have a permanent case of punctuality. 


Thursday, October 27, 2011

555. Sick

Short is sick today. When he woke up with a nasty cough, I told him he was staying home. He asked if that meant unlimited hot chocolate, so the Nice Mommy/ Bad Nutritionist said, “Sure!” Next, I informed him, “We have to call your school to let them know you’re sick.”

He looked me in the eye, a flat expression on his little round face, and said completely deadpan:

“No. Just let them guess.”

(This is why the school secretary loves me.) 

("Meet Our Virus")

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

552. The New Better-Paying Top Secret Job

Okay, I haven’t been totally honest about my New Better-Paying Top Secret Job. It is better-paying then the previous Top Secret Job and better-paying than the high-end kitchen store, as long as I actually do work. The thing is, my new job is an “on-call” position.

When the HR lady initially interviewed me, she assured me that I would get oodles of hours. That might even have been her exact word, “oodles.”

“How many hours, exactly, are you looking for, Captain MOV?” I remember her asking me eagerly.

“Oh, you know, uh, what is a normal work-week these days? Forty? Four hundred? Somewhere in that vicinity.”  She hired me for my math ability alone

Sure enough, my phone rang that very night with an automated message from work. I pressed “1” to accept the job for the next day. My first day went surprisingly well, except for the part where I accidentally broke some very expensive equipment.

I immediately went to the office of my new boss to turn myself in.

“Excuse me? President Boss? Uh, remember me, MOV?”

She stopped what she was doing and glanced up. She nodded, indicating that she did indeed remember me.

I continued. “So sorry to interrupt your, uh, yearly stats meeting with the entire board, but, umm, I accidentally broke the (insert name of super-expensive piece of crucial equipment here).”

She smiled kindly at me, as if I’d just told her that Starbucks was out of caramel and did she want vanilla instead.

She responded, “No biggie. I think it was due to be replaced soon anyway. I’ll just add it to my list. Thanks for letting me know, MOV!”

That was the thing about President Boss. She made you feel like even though you might’ve unintentionally caused some sort of major problem, she was actually somehow grateful to you. I walked out of her office feeling good and wondering what else I could break and how soon.

My phone did not ring the next night, nor the one after. I became slightly suspicious that perhaps one of my new co-workers had said something mean or true about me (“MOV broke some expensive equipment” or “MOV is not very bright and should not be left alone if at all possible”).  I began to worry that I had made a grave mistake, accepting this New Better-Paying Top Secret Job, when I could have kept working at the high-end kitchen store for the rest of my life, or at least indefinitely.  My superior math-deducing skills told me that zero hours would equal, uh, probably not a very big paycheck. 

The next day, I didn’t bother to set the alarm. What’s the point if I am just staying home? Who cares if I take a shower and wash my hair or not? The New Better-Paying Top Secret Job is obviously not calling me. At 7 AM, the phone did ring. I had an assignment!

I arrived to work exactly on time, greasy hair and all. I even had enough time left over to pour myself a cup of fresh coffee from the lunchroom when I arrived.

I ran into President Boss in the hall. “How is everything going for you, Countess MOV?” she inquired enthusiastically.

“Great! Just great!” I made a grand sweeping gesture with my arm, to echo the sentiment of “great.” I spilled my entire cup of hot black coffee on the pristine white carpet.

President Boss looked at the floor, then up at me.

“Are you okay?” she asked without even the slightest trace of sarcasm, as she produced a handful of paper towels from out of nowhere. “You didn’t burn yourself, did you?”

“No, no … I’m fine,” I managed weakly.

And then I heard her say under her breath, “This carpet is so old anyway. I’m going to add it to the list.”


Monday, October 24, 2011

551. Project Someday

So I have been known to watch a reality show or five. Project Runway currently takes the top spot in my TiVo Queue of Urgency. It got me thinking about other potential ideas for new shows.

Project Nunway: A cross (get it?) between Project Runway and a Church salvation-type show. Instead of making new outfits, they would be making over lives.

Project Funway: Like the above, but about drug-addicts (before they hit rock bottom and quit drugs).

Project Gunnway: I know you think this is going to be about firearms and guns—wrong. This would be EXACTLY like Project Runway, but would give Heidi Klum a break and Tim Gunn would host instead.

Project Segway: A documentary about the inventing of the Segway, specifically focusing on how annoying they are to everyone else not on one, and how superior you feel if you are on one.

Project Sunday: A contest to see which moms can accomplish the most on the supposed one day “off” (this would of course be accompanied by husbands lounging around doing nothing but watch football).

Project Punway: This contest would pit comedians against one another in an attempt to see who is the funniest. Winner would get his own sitcom on ABC.

Project Running Away: A documentary about runaway teens, especially if they are well-dressed.

Project Oneway: A show about a mom who refuses to listen to her (constantly interrupting) children, and instead insists that they do what she says.

Project Sunway: A show about a mom (see above) who flees her life of folding laundry and driving carpool to go to Hawaii and selfishly start over, with nothing but an out-of-style black one-piece swimsuit, some cellulite, and an uncharged cell-phone in her possession. (I know someone who might be interested in starring.)

Project Faraway: A documentary about looking for one’s former self, specifically the size 8 version that one knew so well when one was 23, but one has somehow misplaced in a former elusive decade.

Project Highway: A documentary about building roads. This would be targeted to the demographic of three- and four-year-old boys.

Project Giveaway: A show where they give prizes to deserving blog writers who have never won anything. Prizes could include (but are not limited to) a trip to Hawaii, a gift card for Barnes & Noble, or a permanent live-in nanny.

Project Throwaway: The concept here is following a mom around when her kids are at school and watching how she miraculously makes certain annoying beeping toys, favorite Sponge Bob t-shirts, and three-minute “art” projects disappear into the trash, never to be seen again.

Project No Way: A comedy that stars a defiant seven-year-old who basically disagrees with everything his mom says, even when she is right, which is 99.99% of the time.

Project Halfway: A horror show about a home (possibly mine) that never gets cleaned all the way, but instead looks either messy or really messy, causing the owners to simply close the doors to every room so that people will not know the truth. The owners spend a lot of time sitting in the hall because, you know, it’s clean there.

Feel free to write to your favorite TV producer or friend who does marketing for Bravo. You’re welcome.

("Mother Of Variety")

Saturday, October 22, 2011

550. How I Know He Is My Son

Yesterday, my sons and I played an impromptu game of baseball in our backyard. We hit the ball, we ran, we cried, we slid, we tagged people out, and we had temper-tantrums. About halfway through the 3rd quarter of the final round of the game, I was ahead by approximately four goals (I believe in baseball parlance they’re called “touchdowns”). Tall was sulking, as he tends to do when he is not the best at something (I wonder where he gets that from?), when suddenly, out of nowhere, he lunged for an impossible pop-fly.

As if magnetically led by gravity, magic, and Lotto-winning luck, the ball went right into Tall’s little paw where it remained in his Velcro-like grip.

“Mom!” he screamed. “Mom! I caught it!” His face lit up like a thousand gazillion Christmas trees when you are just testing the lights to see if they work.  His skills were a remarkable triumph of catching, and even better, not letting go.

And then I heard him say it …

“Does that mean I score an extra point, Mom? Because I thought I remembered something about a point for catching the ball. Because catching is hard.”


549. Let's Talk About The Weather

Children are little tape recorders. You make one random, off-handed remark about a neighbor, and before you know it, you overhear it being played back to you later that same day (“What does ‘Bipolar’ mean again, Mom?”). For this reason, The Husband and I have had to taper back our gossip a bit.

It's like living with midget Saints. Saint Tall and Saint Short bop around our house, going about their business of playing LEGOs or Pok√©mon or doing their spelling homework, all the time secretly noting any interesting conversational infraction that has occurred.

Some tip off words and phrases that seem to garner the most unwanted attention: liar, promiscuous, quit his job again, unreliable, flake, obese, drug-addict, repossessed, wasted, jail, irresponsible, cheap, obnoxious, cheated on, extravagant, lazy, or any word of the four-letter variety. For some reason, if one of these words makes it into a chat about a movie star, distant relative, acquaintance, or even fictitious character, the house becomes deadly quiet and a three-foot shadow appears in the doorway.

“I don’t think she's obese, Mommy, she might just be big-boned.”


Much monitoring of words goes on in my head, but it is hard to talk about sunshine and puppies and Christmas every day.

When the kids first started being able to mimic us, we took to whispering, spelling words out, or even communicating in Spanish (however, since I am the only one in our household who can speak Spanish 101, The Husband had a difficult time keeping up; we were forced to nix this method). We started writing things down, but who wants to find notes scattered around the house later that read, “bizarro telemarketer” or “mean lady at the bank.”

Instead, The Husband and I lock eyes and say a terse, “We’ll talk about it later,” which we all know is code for “We’ll talk about it never.”


Monday, October 17, 2011

544. So Which Religion Are You?

“Mom,” began the seven-year-old, innocently enough, “which religion are we again? Republican or Dominican?”


Sunday, October 16, 2011

543. My Dyslexic Washing Machine

So my washing machine is a relic of happier times, times when people drove around in gigantic cars with fins and no seatbelts, and watched boxy TV sets in black and white without remote controls. My washing machine (in all its pastel glory, sporting a color that can best be described as “understated cantaloupe”) is what the listing agent who sold us our house affectionately referred to as “original.” I am not picky about washing machines, just as long as they accept soap, produce water, and swirl the clothes around. My vintage washer does all these things.


My washer likes to surprise me. I leave the dials in the same spot approximately 99.9% of the time (cold, delicate), and yet, my washer likes to dictate its own temperature and activity levels according to its mercurial moods.

“Cold?” washer inquires in that antiquey metallic voice. “Uh, no. I prefer hot now.”

I put my hand in to verify the cold, and my skin is scalded off in unattractive, blistery chunks.

The one time I am washing all whites and think, Hmm, maybe a dash of bleach and I will set the cycle on hot today, washer decides, “Let’s try cold this time. Icy. Mmm. That’s refreshing.”

I want to pull all the dials off in a rage, a rage of Temperature Angst, but when I try, washer clenches down its bolts and screws and says, “Ha! I was made more sturdiest than you thought!” (washer has good bolts, but lousy grammar).

Come on, washer, I whine, Can’t you do what I ask for once?

Washer laughs. “Tell you what, MOV, I can do what you ask … exactly as often as your own two children do.”

Point: Washer.

("Machine Of Vexation")

Saturday, October 15, 2011

541. Modify The Right Word

So Tall and I are reading Ezra Jack Keats’ childhood classic, “The Snowy Day,” a book we have read a million gazillion times, if not more. Tall has morphed from the child who liked picture books to the one engrossed in real chapter books. Normally, he rebuffs my offers to read cute books like this one, but for some unknown reason, he is indulging me.

We get to the part where Peter has come back inside after playing in the snow:

“Peter tells his mother all about his adventures while she helps him take off his dirty socks.”

(turn the page)

“And then he thought about them and thought about them and thought about them. He could not stop thinking about them.”

This is when Tall laughs for about 20 minutes straight. His rich giggle reverberates and consumes his small room. He is well-aware that the author is referring to the adventures, but he jokingly interprets it as Peter thinking about the dirty socks.

“Why would Peter want to spend so much time thinking about his dirty socks? Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haha hahahaha!”

Tall climbs into his bed and pulls up the covers.

“Too bad the author didn’t have my teacher. She would never let him write like that,” says Tall matter-of-factly. “She would read his essay, pull him aside, and then—ZIP!—right into the trash!”


Friday, October 14, 2011

540. My Son Could Totally Get A Job With Hallmark

So I am putting Short to bed (Tall is still in the shower) and I lean down to give him a hug and a kiss goodnight. He throws his chubby little five-year-old arms around my neck and says

“I’ll always keep your kisses, Mommy. They’ll always fit in my heart.”

I swoon.

Then I remember back to what Tall used to say to me in the same situation at the same age:

“Mom? Could you not lean in so close? You have bad breath.”


Saturday, October 8, 2011

534. Squirrel Down

Even though I myself spend 23 hours per day on the computer writing my blog and buying unneeded things on etsy, I realize it is not healthy for my children to spend more than six seconds per day on the computer or their eyes will fall out of their heads and their brains will explode. (Yes, it is an awesome responsibility to be a parent.) Imagine my surprise when my kindergartner came home from school the other day tossing around computer trivia facts like they were Halloween candy.

“So, Mommy, my teacher in Computer Lab today was showing us how to boot up the computer. Then, you click the mice on the bottom left to open up your selected program option and then you can do a game about counting. You drag the mice to the individual apples in the tree until you see that is where the cursor is and then when you are done, you click on the little number icon and it lights up and chimes! It is so cool.”

Wow, maybe I had been unnecessarily stingy with the computer time in our household. Maybe I was unconsciously stifling my children’s natural curiosity and intellectual growth, and unintentionally jeopardizing their futures as the next Bill Gates. At the insistent urging of my older son, I agreed that Short could do a Club Penguin computer game for five minutes (Queen Virgo handed him a timer).

We sat down together at the computer and I was amazed to discover that my child’s computer skills gleaned from one month in kindergarten far surpassed my own. The penguins had Puffles (small pets) and outfits and adventures and vacations and igloos and discoth√®ques. The penguins seemed to live a nicer life than most college students.

Short was even kind enough to let me play Club Penguin for a minute. I didn’t understand what the heck was going on, but that’s okay because my helpful five-year-old was there to give me detailed instructions. When I got stuck and couldn’t really see some crucial element that was past the bottom of the screen, he commandeered the mouse and shouted, “Here, Mommy, squirrel down! Squirrel down!”

Thinking this was some sort of new character development/ plot twist in the land of penguins (squirrels are small, cute, and fuzzy—like Puffles), I asked for clarification.

“What squirrel? Where are the squirrels? Do I have to catch any of them? I don’t see them!”

Exasperated with Mommy’s unsettling lack of computer knowledge, Short repeated, “I said for you to squirrel down! You know, squirrel down!”

“Okay, Short, I’m trying, uh, to dance squirrel or climb somewhere, but I don’t see the squirrels?” Were squirrels black and white and float around on icebergs and go jet-skiing?

Tall, who had been watching over our shoulders this entire time, said, “Mom, what are you talking about? He’s saying scroll down.”


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

531. Emergency Outfit

As usual, you didn’t read the fine print on the bushel of papers that came home with you younger child the first day of kindergarten. There was, apparently, some Important List buried in the papers, and the Important List (which might have accidentally been recycled or worse, cavalierly thrown in the trash) detailed all the things that he needed to bring with him, things like school supplies, party money, hand sanitizer, snacks.

And an emergency outfit.

You completely missed the section about the emergency outfit.

The Angel Teacher, who herself is Minnie Mouse incarnate (in the most flattering way—all huggy and smiley and encouraging and everything you would want your child’s kindergarten teacher to be) sends you a helpful reminder note:

“Dr. MOV” (apparently your child has shared the tidbit that he believes you are, in fact, a doctor because you wear scrubs to work every day) “Your child still needs his emergency outfit. Please send it tomorrow if possible.” Three smiley faces follow, each in watermelon-red teacher ink.

Even though you had somehow blocked out the crucialness and requiredness of the emergency outfit, this was not actually your first exposure to it. Of course your older son had been through kindergarten and first grade and needed to provide the emergency outfit for those classes. And, truth be told, even preschool had requested the emergency outfit.

Here is what happens with the emergency outfit: As a newish mommy, you realize this is your golden opportunity to not only shine but put on the strobe light and sparkling disco ball and show the teacher what a style maven you are in regards to choosing clothing for your child. You might select (if you put the necessary thought into it, and why wouldn’t you?!) apparel from a trendy store like Gap Kids or Janie and Jack. Pants would be linen. Shirt would be ironed. Sweater would be embroidered with sailboats or vintage cars or both. Socks and undies (with appropriate self-esteem-building super-heroes) would be new. Shoes would be preppy.  Your selected emergency outfit could pretty much qualify as a very expensive Christmas gift for your nephew or your best friend’s son. The outfit is 2% practicality, and 153% impress-the-teacher.

This is precisely the right emergency outfit if the emergency falls on, say, picture day.


The cuter the outfit, the more likely it will never see the (primary colors and weather stickers) light of day. That child of yours who spills grape juice on everything within a five-mile-radius on the weekends? Pristine at school. The kid who gets a bloody nose in his sleep every other day at home? Not a drop of blood on him, ever, at school. The one who takes a dark green Sharpie permanent marker and writes backwards numbers like some kind of gang symbols on his jeans for fun? Sternly parrots the teacher’s words “At school, we do not allow drawing on clothes.”

The emergency outfit mocks you in June when it is handed back, still hermetically sealed in its oversized Ziplock bag. When you take the outfit out and fluff it up, you actually hear it guffaw and say, “This is three sizes too small now! Ha!” Additionally, the sweater cackles and shrieks with glee, “And even though I still have my original tags, guess what—moth holes!

You picture the emergency outfit sitting in a dark cupboard with 24 of its best emergency-outfit friends, staring longingly at the Play-Doh and wishing for a finger-painting mishap or at the very least, a glitter explosion.

And then like a police light flashing in your brain when you are driving, an idea comes to you: You decide that YOU need an emergency outfit. Your outfit would be tailored khaki pants and a freshly dry-cleaned black cashmere sweater over a new white shirt from Nordstrom. Socks would be cotton and shoes would be shined. You briefly toy with assembling an outfit like this and keeping it in your car if you ever had a strange situation arise where you were far away from home and couldn’t get to a much-needed change of clothes for whatever mysterious reason.

Yes, the idea of the emergency outfit lodges in your brain, like the parking ticket you forgot to pay six months ago, but that is still on your bookshelf by the printer in your study. The idea patiently sits there, waiting for you to notice it and remember it and do something about it.

You know, however, (sadly you know) that if you ever DID put together such an outfit in your car, the one time you would go to use it, you would hear it say,

“This is three sizes too small now! Ha!


Monday, October 3, 2011

529. Top-Secret New Job

I am getting ready for work. My scrubs are crisp from the dryer, my hair is pulled back in a slick ponytail, and I am wearing a neutral but flattering lipstick. The boys are ready for school, we are gathering up backpacks and lunchboxes and keys and umbrellas. We are walking out the door.  As if seeing me for the very first time since I started working day-shifts at my new job several weeks ago, Short notices my uniform, looks me up and down, and says,

“So … you’re a doctor now?”

I laugh out loud, not meaning to but not being able to help myself.

Still laughing, I correct him: “No, no, Short, I am not a doctor.”

He smiles and shakes his head as if to make the wrong answer fall away. “Sorry, Mommy … I know you're not really a doctor.  Uh, a dentist then?”

I guffaw. My brain quickly does somersaults and back-handsprings around the requirements of secretly obtaining my M.D. (in general practice or dentistry) in the past few years while staying home as a full-time mom and raising my two sons.  Several years of night school, several thousand dollars, several more IQ points than I currently possess, and then of course passing those pesky licensing exams. In the innocence of childhood, apparently you can be whatever profession you want just by proclaiming it to be true.

“Short, sweetheart, I am not a doctor nor a dentist.”

I briefly fill him in on what it is exactly that I do at my Top-Secret New Job. Predictably, his eyes glaze over. Wearing scrubs does not equate (to him) to the job that I do. I finish up with something easy and relate-able:

“ … and then sometimes I have to call insurance companies and resolve issues regarding payment.”

He found something he can grasp on to. “Oh! You talk on the phone!” And then, reassuringly parroting all those special mommy-moments of the past seven years when I have cooed encouraging comments to him or his brother, “Mommy, that is a perfect job for you because you’re really good at talking on the phone!”