Sunday, April 29, 2012

759. Mad Cooking Skillz

Queen Virgo is used to precision.  When she tells the hairdresser she wants two inches cut off the overall length of her hair, she inevitably produces a ruler out of her own purse to show the hairdresser what two inches really means, so they are both speaking the same language:  the language of Virgo.  So it should come as no surprise that Queen Virgo uses a timer when she boils noodles. 

“What are you doing?!?” I ask The Husband, barely hiding the mild panic in my voice, “You just dumped that macaroni in the pot but forgot to set the timer!”  I reach past him to the window ledge above the kitchen sink so I can grab the timer (digital, natch) and rectify the situation. 
“The timer’s batteries died,” shrugs The Husband, “and besides, timers are for wimps.” 

Wimps who like their noodles cook al dente like God and Rome intended, not all swampy like mud in the backyard after a particularly fierce storm.
“No, no, no,” Queen Virgo cannot abide the situation, “if the timer is broken, I’ll just watch the clock for you.”  I stare at the clock: 5:37 PM.  I glance at the noodle package, and see the instructions indicate eight minutes.  Okay, so 5:37 plus eight is—

“Scoot,” he pushes me out of the kitchen.  “I’m not a child.  I think I know how to make noodles.”
But see?  That’s the problem—he doesn’t.  The Ghost of Negative Experiences Past appears, sitting calmly at the dining room table, and she is making a face, a face like “ick.” 

“Might as well order a pizza, or make yourself a sandwich, or you could have cereal for dinner again,” whispers GoNEP, while flipping through a décor magazine, “we both know how this is going to turn out.” 
Unfortunately, she’s right.  “Sweetie,” I say to The Husband encouragingly, “there must be some batteries in the basement somewhere?  Let’s put new batteries in the timer.”  

He scowls at me, and GoNEP rolls her eyes.  GoNEP taps a magazine page for me to look at.  “Check this out—apple green walls!  Remember when we tried that in Tall’s bedroom in California?  Huge mistake.  The color on the paint chip is never the same as the one in the picture.”     
I nod.  Of course I remember that apple green she’s talking about.  We ended up having to paint his room three times to get the color right.  GoNEP follows me almost everywhere; she and I are pals. 

The Husband calls the boys to dinner, and I tell GoNEP she must leave now, there’s no room for her at our small table. 
Tall lays the silverware and napkins out, and The Husband brings in the pot of macaroni and cheese.  It resembles not so much an Italian gourmet meal as a yellow pool of mush.  I can’t say anything, though, because as much as I love to be right, I hate to cook even more.  I know if I say, “The noodles are horrible,” then The Husband will respond with, “Then you can cook dinner tomorrow night.” 

I walk in the kitchen and get an apple. 

“What are you doing?” inquires The Husband, “Dinner is right here.” 

GoNEP hides next to the refrigerator and coaches me on what to say.  “I’m suddenly craving an apple, Sweetie, I actually had a big lunch.” 

It’s okay:  Queen Virgo could stand to lose a few pounds. 


Saturday, April 28, 2012

757. Swear Words: A Primer

If you find yourself in a situation where you are around elementary-aged children, perhaps in a school environment, you will notice that they might seek you out as an adult authority figure to inform you of various infractions made by their peers.  Typical infractions involve (but are not limited to) hitting, pushing, cutting in line, talking too loud, not doing their work, and swearing. 

Ah, yes, swearing.  But they don’t call it swearing at age eight, they call it “saying a bad word.” 
The first time a child-turned-informant approaches you with such news, you might (understandably) be taken aback.  The conversation may or may not play out like this:    

“Mrs. MOV!  Mrs. MOV!  Jacob/ Joshua/ Jack said a bad word!  He said the F-word!” 
You might feel beads of sweat collecting on your forehead.  You might wonder to yourself exactly what kind of television shows second-graders (second-graders!) are watching nowadays to have ever been exposed to the F-word.    

You might try to act calm.  You are the adult, after all.  You might try not to panic.  You might mentally give yourself a little pep talk and tell yourself to take a deep breath.  “Okay, Emily/ Emma/ Elizabeth, can you please whisper to me the word he said?” 
You might lean down to the height of the tiny girl as she cups her itty-bitty hand over her mouth close to your ear.  Then she might clearly enunciate a word, a word you were not really expecting, a word that you never thought you would be so happy to hear:

Oh, okay, of course.    

If you are around children of this age group for more than one day, your “bad word” repertoire might expand.  You might learn an entirely new language, a language you were previously unfamiliar with.  Here are some more words you might learn:  
  • The D-word:  Dummy
  • The S-word:  Stupid
  • The C-word:  Ca-ca
  • The H-word:  Homework
You might drive home and tell your husband about the new words you have learned.  And you might share a good laugh, a laugh of temporary relief, because you both know that when these kids are teenagers, the words will stand for something else. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

752. X-ray Starts With "X"

We didn’t actually start with the x-ray, we finished with it.  “Yes, it’s broken,” verified the doctor, proving that Short was, in fact, not being overly dramatic after all when he was screaming in agony.  “His collarbone is broken.” 

I had been with him.  Short was merrily running down the sidewalk with me following along just five feet behind him, like we do every day of our lives.  He tripped on something (a branch? a bump in the cement?  his own two feet?  nothing?) and then next thing you know, he was crumpled on the ground, gripping his shoulder in pain. 

I'd heard the bone break.  (It's a chilling sound, it haunts me even nowa decisive "snap.")  Time stood still while I prayed that Short's face would not be covered in blood.  There was no blood, not a drop.  I scooped up my wailing child and carried him two blocks home.  We made a frantic call to a neighbor so we could drop off Tall, then The Husband and I drove Short to the ER. 

“Well, hello, MOV, back so soon?” greeted the girl at the check-in desk. 
“Hi, Denise, nice to see you again,” I nodded at her.

A nurse brought us back to a small exam room where we waited for the doctor.  Short lay his head on my lap and whimpered.  After what seemed like four hours but was most likely 20 minutes, he came in. 
“MOV, how’ve you been?  Which kid do you have with you today?”  the doctor asked.  “Oh, and did you remember to bring your frequent patient card with you this time?  You know the 10th visit is free.”   

I handed him my keychain, where I had wedged the frequent patient card through the loop next to my car key.  “I never leave home without it,” I forced a laugh. 
Short sat up.  “Am I going to get a cast?” he inquired. 

“Let’s just take a look at what we’ve got here.”  Next, a technician took Short into the x-ray room.  A few minutes later, the doctor and I were looking at the x-rays on the light screen.
“See that?  That’s the break.  We’ll put him in a sling and he’ll be good as new in six weeks.” 

Six weeks?  The bone could repair itself in just six weeks?  There was to be no cast, no surgery … just Children’s Tylenol, rest, and a sling.  The doctor gently touched Short's shoulder as he adjusted the small sling across his chest; Short cried out unexpectedly, his loud scream piercing through the hospital chaos.   
It’s a good thing they didn’t x-ray my heart at that moment:  there’s an irreparable fracture from me being helpless while witnessing my child endure such pain. 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

750. Very Starts With "V"

Very was lurking around again.  He knew he should just get back in that sentence where I’d put him, but he was having none of it. 

“You know what I hate?” asked Very rhetorically, “I hate when you say you are very, very tired.  Well, guess what—I am tired from being used twice in a row when once is fine!” 
Just lately, Very had been known to be very dramatic.  “And another thing,” he was on a roll now, nothing would stop him, “sometimes I am just not the right word!  Don’t get lazy and just grab at me when you know the word you really want is an extreme adjective and not just an intensifier or qualifier.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I could see he was getting very upset. 
“Please, Very, come on, sit down over here,” I pointed to a very comfortable couch, which I knew he would deem just too squishy.  “Sounds like you’ve had a rough time lately, what with being overused and all.  Maybe you could just use a very cold drink?” 

“NO.  That is exactly what I am talking about.  I don’t want a very cold drink, I want a refreshing drink or an icy-cold drink.  You’re just wasting my time.” 
I stifled a very small laugh.   

Very started to cry.  I’d never seen this side of him.  “Just stop using me!  Why can’t I ever catch a break?  Make someone else do some extra work for a change!  Just leave me alone!” 
I leaned in to give him a very sympathetic hug, but just then, our good friend, Just, walked in. 

“Talk about overuse,” said Just, just picking up the last words of our conversation, “you have no idea.” 
(“Manipulating Obstinate Very”)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

747. Spontaneity Starts With "S"

I am a very spontaneous person.  This is no fluke.  Spontaneity takes advance work, and total dedication.  Like anything worth doing in life, spontaneity requires a list.

How To Be Spontaneous:  An Indispensable User's Guide 
  1. Write down when you plan to be spontaneous.  For myself, I usually do this 2-3 weeks in advance. 
  2. When your spontaneous day arrives, put on an outfit that encourages spontaneity.  For example, an orange sweater screams “impromptu.”  (Ed. note:  make sure you have picked it up from the dry cleaners the day before.)  Take an umbrella with you in case it rains.  It’s hard to be spontaneous when you’re soggy.
  3. Kids are pretty much synonymous with spontaneity.  Ask them what strategies they recommend.  Wait, kids also eat worms for fun.  Maybe don’t ask their opinion after all. 
Sometimes, I will go for a short walk to coax my spontaneity from captivity in the locked cages of my brain.  I tell myself, be spontaneous!  be spontaneous!  be spontaneous!  It’s working, I can feel it.  I’m starting to get a headache. 

I bring a notepad with me so I can track my spontaneity.  I set the timer on my watch to beep every five minutes so I can rank my level of spontaneity for that precise moment.  I was using a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the most spontaneous), but then I switched to 1-100 for improved accuracy.  And then I decided that the number 1 should be the most spontaneous, not 100.  Then I changed my mind and switched back.  Then I couldn’t remember my scale, so I gave everything a ranking of 50. 

Oh, gotta go!  My timer is beeping! 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

746. Refund Starts With "R"

Queen Virgo insisted that we file our taxes early this year.  At 8 AM on January 1st, when most people were sleeping off a hangover, Queen Virgo was calling her old boss at the high-end kitchen store asking where her W-2’s were.  

We received our refund last week.  The Husband and I knew exactly how we would spend it.  Yep, we each got a latte at Starbucks.  Grande.
No, actually, I'm joking.  We had enough money from our tax refund to have a custom bookcase built in the boys’ bedroom (they share a room).  It is anchored to the wall and cannot be moved.  If we ever sell the house, it will automatically convey, along with fresh splinters of my soul. 

I will show you the bookcase we had before.  It was nice, but did not make maximum use of the space. 

photo taken by MOV

So, we gave that bookcase to a friend of mine. 

Now, here is the new bookcase below.  
Photo taken by MOV

We love it.  As you can see, the capacity is more than double.  To put it in perspective, here is a photo of the bookcase with my younger son Short in front reaching for something.  It is a huuuuuuuuuge bookcase. 
photo taken by MOV

I designed the bookcase.  There are a few special features I would like to point out.  The shelves are deeper on the lower half of the bookcase.  The top part (sort of like a hutch) is only 12 inches deep.  The lower portion of the bookcase (base) is actually 18 inches deep (some of their books are oversized).  The counter top area (right where Short's hand is) is made of a natural birch wood. 

Let me give you a close-up of that so you know what I'm talking about.  

Photo taken by MOV
Each child gets to put his books on their half of the shelf unit.  We did a bead-board backing to go with the overall style of the room.  The counter top part lines up with the height of the ledge that tops the bead-board and wraps around the room.  The top of the bookcase by the ceiling has a thick molding, about 4 inches.  I thought this would look nice and dramatic.  The bookcase is so large (it is constructed as one piece), it would not fit down our tiny hallway (there is a turn in the hall).  The carpenter had to pop a window out and bring the whole shelf in through the window!  (He did put the window back later.)  I wish I took a picture of THAT ordeal! 

Here is one more photo of the finished product. 

photo taken by MOV
Ta-da!  The boys are really happy with it, and I am happy that there is less stuff on the floor.  I love built-in bookcases. 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

745. "Queen Virgo Hires The Grammar Police" Starts With "Q"

Queen Virgo went pale.  She had read an awkward sentence about “a man running down the street chasing a cat, when unfortunately his scarf got caught on a tree branch.”  WHOSE scarf got caught in the tree branch?  From the sentence structure, it seems like it must’ve been the cat’s scarf.  Since when do cats wear scarves?  Queen Virgo shuddered.
Queen Virgo got out her red pen, the one with fresh ink.  She crossed out the entire sentence, and wrote in its place:  “A cat was being pursued by a man; unfortunately, his scarf got tangled in a tree branch and slowed him down.”      

The red ink did not wash off the computer screen later. 


Sunday, April 15, 2012

743. Other People's Children Starts With "O"

I am not that mom.  You know the one:  She loves all children equally, sings to squirrels at the park, coos over strangers’ babies at the grocery store, and feels her uterus contract ever so slightly when she sees a pregnant woman.  She is one part Earth and ten parts Mother, and 100% Hollywood fiction. 

I thought I might become her when I had kids.  I thought that with the plastic ID bracelet, a pristine diaper bag, and an eight pound infant, I might go home from the hospital with a whole new outlook, an outlook that made me a nicer person, a person who adored all children. 

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my own children.  And I’m sure if I met you, I would adore yours, too, because your children most likely are wonderful and I might even view them as an extension of my own children.  As in, perfect. 
Sadly, after more than eight years of studying Other People’s Children (OPC), I have come to the shocking conclusion that some kids are great and some kids suck. 

Sort of like adults. 
Before you call the New York Times with this startling news (“Mom Reveals:  Not All Children Are Fantastic!”), let me explain.  I am not in love with the kid who is having a tantrum at 10 PM at Target (yes, the parents have him out too late—I am not in love with them either).  I am not in love with the child who grabs three books out of my toddler’s hands at the library and then runs away laughing while his oblivious father does nothing.  I don’t like the child who climbs up on top of the roof of the play structure at the park (while the nanny texts her pals), thus introducing the concept of invincibility to my sons.  I am not a fan of the kid who threw up on me during that five-hour cross-country flight (oh, wait—that might have been my own kid).

However, I do adore the gap-toothed little girl in Tall’s class who ran up and gave me a hug because I volunteered that day.  I’m crazy about the neighbor kid who practices his ukulele at the bus stop, for the sole reason that his fun attitude is contagious.  I’m quite fond of Short’s best pal who frequently announces to no one in particular, “I’m having a great day!”  So I do like some OPC; I am not a monster. 
The problem I have is the problem all parents (and teachers?) have:  faking it.  We have to pretend that every child is adorable and sweet, that we want to hug our best friend’s three-year-old when he has snot running down his chin, that we are enamored with that red-headed boy who trips your older son repeatedly on purpose.  Yes, so cute, I just love kids! 

But it’s a lie.  We know in our heads it’s not true. 
And if you find yourself loving every single child you have ever met, please send me the name of the drugs you’re on.  I need that prescription. 


Saturday, April 14, 2012

742. Nothing Starts With "N"

Nothing had caused me grief before.  Back when I was dating Brad in college, he would often be bothered by my moodiness and ask, “Lovebug, what’s wrong?”  to which I’d respond (unsurprisingly), “Nothing.”
Nothing’s favorite first cousin is Nobody.  Nobody makes an appearance when things turn sour.  “Short,” I query my younger son, “who colored on the couch with marker?!”  He looks at his feet and mumbles, “Nobody.”

You’ve probably talked to Nevermind before.  I’ve haven’t met her in person, but she calls a lot.  She likes to dial wrong numbers and ask for people like “Raji” or “Sven” and then when you say, “Who?  I think you have the wrong number,” she laughs and says, “Nevermind.”
Nowhere is popular, too.  When I want to get away for the weekend and fly to say, Miami, I mention this to The Husband, thinking he’ll be supportive.  Instead, he responds, “MOV, we can't afford it, and honestly there’s Nowhere I’d rather be than right here.”  I, myself, am kind of sick of Nowhere. 

Our household has gone bilingual.  We embrace Nada into our lives.  My older son types away furiously at the computer, looking up new Lego sets and man-eating sharks.  When I ask, “Tall, whatcha up to?” he clicks the mouse and replies, “Oh, Nada.” 
As you can imagine, things are getting pretty crowded around here with Nothing, Nobody, Nevermind, Nowhere, and Nada.  Seems like a party.  I call out, “Hey, if you all want to stay, did someone at least bring some Nachos?”

You know the answer:  Nope.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

739. Kids Start With "K"

Kids start with a Kiss in the backseat of a Buick, and a few months later, you find out that strange Knot in your stomach actually means you’re Knocked up.  The doctor forbids you from drinking but, oh, how you’d Kill for a beer right now, or a whole Keg:  you’re being Kicked in the Kidneys by what feels like a Kangaroo practicing Kung-fu.         

When the baby arrives, he throws your whole world off Kilter.  He brings no Keys to his behavior, no book of Knowledge for you to flip through—you must always guess.  You wonder how some other parents just Know what to do, because you don’t.  You can’t Keep up.  One thing is for sure:  there is a new King in your castle, and it’s not you. 
Those sexy abs you used to be so proud of?  Kaput.  Impromptu Kayaking trips on the weekend?  No longer.  Any hobby you were Keen on is a distant memory.      

Is this some sort of Karmic payback from terrorizing your own parents for 18 years?  Maybe you should have Kowtowed to them once in a while and treated them with Kindness.   
It seems you spend your whole life in the Kitchen now, cooking meals that will be scoffed at by people under three feet tall, people with a Knack for perpetually skinned Knees, and Ketchup on their faces.       

Finally, unbelievably, your children reach school-age.  Kudos to you for lasting this long.  You meet Kindred spirits at the Kindergarten open house, and when one of them stops to ask you about your Kooky Kids, you smile wide and reply, “Yes, we’ve decided to Keep them.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

738. Jumpseat Therapy Starts With "J"

You are a flight attendant.  On the plane, complete strangers wearing identical flight uniforms to yours confess their innermost secrets to you.  This is called:  Jumpseat Therapy. 
It is a strange phenomenon.  You go to briefing, meet five other crew members you’ve never laid eyes on before, and then, based on seniority, choose which duties you will be responsible for on the plane (which also determines where you will sit).  Next thing you know, you are buckled in next to someone who will inevitably share her entire life story with you.   

No topic is off limits.  Your new best friend tells you about her recent divorce, her five miscarriages, her mean former sister-in-law, her impending court date, and her flirty neighbor.  This is during boarding.  By take-off, she has revealed that she was abused as a child and always felt her soul mate was her second cousin. 
You want to participate in the share-fest too, but your life is pretty boring.  So you make stuff up. 

“My boyfriend just got out of jail,” you say competitively, “for tax evasion.” 
She ups the ante.  “My grown son just got his alcoholic girlfriend pregnant, and they’re moving in with me.” 

“My twin sister got fired from her last job,” you throw down the gauntlet, “for seducing her supervisor’s wife.”    
“My youngest daughter is bulimic and in the hospital.  Again.”  

“My neighbor crashed his car.  Into my living room.” 
“My former best friend set my house on fire.  While I was in it.” 

You cannot win, so you give up. 
“I think I just broke my nail?” you squeak. 

She looks at it sympathetically.  “That's a pretty serious injury.  You might have to have a paramedic meet the flight when we land.”
You nod. 


Sunday, April 8, 2012

736. Home Improvement Starts With "H"

We have a one-car garage just off the patio from our kitchen.  On the one hand, we are grateful to have a place to (supposedly) put our car; on the other hand, we have never parked a car in there.  Ever.  The garage has become a giant shed full of junk. 

The kids keep all their outdoor toys in there (which is ironic, isn’t it?  if they are really “outdoor” toys, then why must they be stored inside?), so as a result, the door from the patio to the garage sees a lot of use and abuse.  The formerly pristine white door was now a lovely shade of what Benjamin Moore might dub “Playful Dirt Sunrise.”    
I took it upon myself to change this.  While The Husband and boys went camping overnight, I made my own sojourn to the paint store.  I was shocked to meet a crazy little fairy who was flying around the paint store thrusting samples at me called “Neon Tangerine” and “Pimp Purple” and “Wicked Gold.”  She had obviously been drinking before she assumed her paint fairy duties that day of recommending classic and acceptable paint colors to conservative home-owners like myself.   

I walked out with a quart of “Mexicali Turquoise.” 
Sometimes the crazy paint fairy gets it right: 

Before photo by MOV

After photo by MOV

(“Mauve Orange Violet”)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

733. Walking On Eggshells Starts With "E"

You get in the car and drive an hour to the in-laws.  You subconsciously (or consciously) don’t really want to spend your Sunday this way, but what choice do you have?  Your mother-in-law hijacked this holiday years ago and now it is tradition. 

The boys, God bless them, are excited.  You are, at least, happy for that.  They have been jabbering all morning about what colors they plan to decorate their Easter eggs. 
“Maybe a red striped design,” offers the younger one, “or blue polka dots!” 

“Don’t be silly!” exclaims the older one as he shakes his head dismissively.  “Grandmom doesn’t have anything to make such a complicated pattern!  I plan to do a yellow and turquoise spider web with orange spiders and fluorescent bugs.” 
You arrive late because you kept stalling when it was time to get ready.  Your mother-in-law gives you a perfunctory hug but zooms over to your young sons, the real reason for the visit.  “Boys!  How are you!  Come in and let’s see your cousins!” 

Everyone is already at the table, decorating the eggs.  Your sons get settled in immediately.  There is no chair for you.  You stand.  You are used to it. 
You glance at your watch, trying not to be obvious about it:  12 noon.  Judging by how many eggs are already completed, they must’ve started an hour ago. 

The boys take rubber bands and stretch them around the eggs.  They dip the eggs in rainbow colors.  Your older son has green dye dripping down his thumb.  He looks like he murdered a frog. 
Your mother-in-law makes ham sandwiches for everyone and offers you a soda.  You wonder if it would be improper to ask for a glass of wine.  Your husband gives you a look, a look that says, “Do not ask for wine, I know you are thinking about it,” and you hear your voice say Coke, please. 

Time slows and bends and drips and stops and migrates backwards.  Time is a Salvador Dali painting.  You look at the kitchen clock, because you know it has been about three hours and you wonder if you can go yet.  It has been 10 minutes. 
In the yard, the older cousins hide plastic eggs filled with candies in artificial fruit flavors.  Some of the eggs have dollar bills in them.  You wonder if any of them have a one way ticket to Hawaii.  Or the moon. 

The boys run wild outside, shrieking as they find the eggs.  This isn’t so bad, you tell yourself, they are having fun. 
The younger one, the candy-obsessed one, opens his eggs.  Dollar after dollar after dollar tumble out.  He cries real tears, thinking he has been cheated out of candy. 

You go back in to check on the finished eggs sitting in the dye.  You count how many each son has done:  four each.  They both have 14 more to do.  At this rate, you might get to go home sometime next week. 
Miraculously, your husband finally says you need to get going.  You are internally congratulating yourself on marrying someone who is clearly a mind-reader.  You all walk outside and somehow get stuck talking to a neighbor.  The boys go back in and everyone forgets that you were supposed to be leaving. 

It is now 5 PM, time for dinner.  You must leave or you will go insane. 
You get in the car and sit in traffic.  The boys bicker all the way home.  You walk in your front door and notice the clock on the fireplace mantle reads 6:30.  You set the decorated eggs on the front table and forget about them.  You pick up the phone.  The pizza place confirms your address, and says they will be there in half an hour. 

The next day, you remember the decorated eggs sitting on the front table.  You are forced to throw them out. 
Your sons find them in the trash.  They pull them out and proclaim them to be “perfectly good.”  Without you knowing, your younger son hides them. 

You smell something very bad, but have no idea where it is coming from.  You tear the house apart and find the rotten eggs.  You are missing one egg.    
You are not a fan of Easter this year.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

732. Divine Intervention Starts With "D"

It’s no secret that I’ve been Depressed lately.  Damn it, I Dig Deeper, trying to figure out where these Dismal emotions are coming from.  Daunted, I Drag myself from bed, make a latte, and Drink up.  Then it Dawns on me.  This Detrimental Disease, this Darkness that has Descended upon me, is Due to one thing:  my supply of girl scout cookies is Depleted. 

I am Despondent. 
The thin mint Diet is but a Distant memory now, every Diabolical morsel having been Devoured within the first three days of Delivery.  Why, oh, why, Do they have to make those Delicate cookies so Diminutive?  This is beyond Disappointment; I am Defeated and Dismayed, Deprived of the Deliciousness I Definitely Deserve.   

The Husband, of course, Doesn’t understand my Dysfunctional relationship with the GS cookies.  He laughs a Derisive laugh, rolls his eyes in a Derogatory gesture, and tells me Dismissively to “get over it.”  He is, without a Doubt, Deplorable.  I shoot Daggers out the slits of my eyes at him, but he walks away Distracted and oblivious to my Displeasure. 
“Darling, eat another Danish,” he says Diplomatically, as if I cannot Discern the Difference between one Dessert and another.  I regard him and his Disgraceful substitutions with Disdain.

I really Don’t want to Discuss it with him, but I am Determined to set him straight:  “Dear, Don’t tell me what to Do …” I begin, Dizzy from the hunger.        
A knock at the Door interrupts my Diatribe. 

I answer, and there stands a neighbor Dad and his Daughter and their Dog.  The Darling Daughter is Dressed in some sort of green uniform and clutching a Document.  “We’re sorry to Disturb you, Doctor MOV,” says Daniela to me, “but it was time to Drop off your second order of girl scout cookies!” 
This is like a Delightful Dream with Doves soaring and Dolphins Diving.  I want to hug Daniela and promote her to girl scout Dignitary.  I am no longer the Disillusioned Dame I was mere minutes ago. 

“Thank you,” Declares The Husband, walking over and handing her a check, “My wife had Developed somewhat of an addiction to these cookies, ha ha.”  How Dare he compare these innocent cookies to Drugs?!      
The girl Departs.  I Dab my Damp eyes with a tissue, my Demented Demeanor shifts, and I Dance a victory jig.    

No longer Distressed, I scoop up the cookie boxes (three Dozen!) and Disappear.     

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

731. Chuck E. Cheese Starts With "C"

Before you had children, you might have thought Chuck E. Cheese was a TV game show or possibly an expensive organic cheese flown in from Vermont.      

How wrong you were.    
Chuck E. Cheese is a place where kids go to have their birthday parties.  The colors are garish, the games are loud, the pizza is greasy … the perfect place for six-year-olds.  Chuck himself is a giant smiling rat (maybe he is trying to be like Mickey Mouse?) who wanders around, shaking everyone’s hand.  There are games at Chuck E. Cheese’s, pinball games and loud simulator games, and tubes to crawl through—tubes that no one since the beginning of time has bothered to clean.  Oh, yes, it is a given that if you go to Chuck E. Cheese, you will get sick.  Within 24 hours.  You have never seen so many nasty vile visible germs congregate in one place, sort of a worship hall of disease and pestilence.  (And as a side note to the Chuck E. Cheese legal department:  you cannot possibly sue me for saying that.  Because it’s true.) 

Why do children want to go there?  Why indeed?  Who knows?  They just do.  And some hapless parental type has to take them there. 
You should avoid all things Chuck.  Just never talk about him, and instead hope and pray that your children will forget who he is.  The problem is:  other kids.  Other kids who are friends with your kids and are nice enough (mean enough?) to invite your sons to a birthday party at the Rat Palace.   

When your kids receive a Chuck E. Cheese invitation in the mail, they can practically taste the high-fructose corn syrup.  They wanna go now!  This is when the intense negotiations between parents begin: 
“I took him to that Bounce House party two months ago.  That was a 45 minute drive each way.  It’s your turn.”  “No.  I chaperoned the zoo field trip for the school and had to stand in the snow for three hours with a bunch of kindergartners and make sure none of them wandered off.  Your turn.” “No.  I did that Chuck E. Cheese party last year—remember, the one where that kid threw up on my new linen jacket?  You have to go.”  “Argh!  Rock, paper, scissors?”  “Deal.”

This devolves of course into two out of three and then seven out of ten.  If you are the losing parent, you will cry (no fake tears necessary) and then proceed to bribe the winning parent (“I will wash the dishes for two months AND change the cat’s litter box every day,”).  This type of negotiating does no good, as the winner knows exactly what he is avoiding.  The winner says a little prayer of thanks to the Gods of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and gives the loser a kiss.  “Don’t bother bringing me a slice of pizza,” says the winner, grossly overstepping the boundaries of appropriate gloating.
Walking in the door of Chuck E. Cheese is like buying a one-way ticket to Migraine-ville.  The only question being:  Will this migraine wear off later today or will you be stuck with it all the way until tomorrow? 

You sit there, as the losing parent, watching your children race around like crack addicts looking for their next fix.  You desperately try to access that happy place in your brain, the place where all this melts away.  That is the precise moment when the waitress appears and you remember the only decent thing about Chuck E. Cheese when she asks you,  
“Can I get you a beer?”


Sunday, April 1, 2012

728. Art Critic Starts With "A"

photo by MOV of Short's art

“Mommy,” he said, “I made this for you.”  He gave me a black paper tube, something precious confined in its spiral secrecy.  The curly ribbon tied tight around it brushed against my skin, like a delicate spider’s wispy legs. 

“Do you want me to open it now?” I asked, suspicious since it was only December 17th, “or do you want me to wait?” 

He squealed, “Now!  Open it now!” 
“Short, is it for Christmas?” I prompted, the textbook version of my proper mommy-self appearing when called for.  “Shouldn’t we wait?” 
His eyes filled with emotion, a mixture of sadness and betrayal, a betrayal of the Instant Gratification Gene that he had (undoubtedly) inherited from me.  Then, in a fit of drama, “If you don’t open it now, Mommy, I will die.” 

His words hung in the air, a semi-deflated yesterday balloon of sorrow floating nowhere.  
I was not expecting such theatrics rolled into a tube that was my only Christmas present (that I myself had not picked out and paid for) from my youngest son.  He will die??  What’s in that tube, a secret elixir to prevent certain death caused by lack of patience? 

His mood shifted mere seconds later.  He was, after all, a mercurial kindergartner.  “Or you can wait, Mommy!  Whatever you like!”  He skipped off in search of Pokémon cards, or the cat, or a stash of unbuilt Legos.  
I set the tube, red ribbon glistening like candy magic, under the prickly tree.

Christmas day arrived, and with it the promise of a special gift, a tube of happiness.  I opened the present, and was thrilled to see a handmade calendar.  Short attends a wonderful school where the teachers are constantly dreaming up elaborate projects (with their resulting byproducts to give to the parents).  This particular idea was absolutely brilliant:  the Virgo in me loved the practicality, while the mommy in me loved the sentimentality.           
“Did you draw this?” I asked with trepidation.  Better to confirm first than to lavish praise on art that had the remote chance of belonging to someone else.  Like what happened last week.    

“Yes!  It’s our family!  You, me, Pop, and Tall!  It’s us!”  His stretchy grin wrapped around his little round face. 
“I love it!” I hugged him and simultaneously marveled at how The Husband and I had somehow produced a second artistic progeny, akin to Picasso or Renoir.  “You and Tall are the very best artists in the whole world!” I exclaimed triumphantly.      

“Yes.  I know,” Short confirmed confidently.  He took the calendar out of my grasp for closer inspection.  “Oh, oh no,” he scrunched up his elastic face with all the seriousness of an appraiser being handed a blatant counterfeit piece that he is only now seeing for the very first time, “Pop does not look so good in this picture.” 
The Husband stifled a laugh.  Truth be told, it was quite a good likeness.  He had been accused in the past of having a large lumpy head. 

Short continued his thorough and professional assessment:  “Let’s see, his arms are good, his legs are good, his hair is good … but his head?  His head is kind of big on one side.  I didn’t draw his head very well.”  A dark, gloomy cloud descended upon Short. 
“Short,” I said, shifting into full-on cheerleader mode, “The drawing is fantastic!  I love it!  I am going to hang it up on the bulletin board in the kitchen right now!” 

And just like that, he was happy again.  As was I.  I inspected the lovely female family member he had so meticulously drawn—eyes as big and blue as swimming pools, hair scribbled with a crayon labeled “Sunshine,” lips like a robust Valentine, legs that could double for an anorexic flamingo, and to top it all off, a retro-inspired color-blocked dress—and I breathed a long, satisfied, sigh of relief:  at least one of us in the drawing was realistic-looking.    
photo by MOV of Short's art

(“Matisse Or VanGogh”)