I’VE MOVED!

I’ve got new digs!

I’ve packed up all the clothing I own and shoved it into Helena’s lunch box, grabbed Nate and the kids and headed for my new home at: The Creative Junkie

And because I’m a paranoid freak of nature who always has to have a back-up plan, here’s the actual URL in case the above link doesn’t work: http://www.thecreativejunkie.com. Just copy/paste it into a new browser. Mom, mom? Are you listening? Copy/paste. Two steps. It won’t hurt … I promise. Here’s a popsicle.

And because I’m obsessive-compulsive to boot, here’s my email address in case you have problems: glenwood296@gmail.com. Not that I’ll be able to help much but I’m always on the lookout for new things to worry about.

So, please update all your links, bookmarks, RSS feed things … actually, I have no idea what you have to update since I’m as web illiterate as they come, so please do whatever you have to do so that you find me. Otherwise, I’ll be all alone in cyberspace with no one to talk to except me and I’m tired of myself.

New house rules:

  • No smoking allowed.
  • No food allowed unless it’s covered with cheese and I don’t have to cook it.
  • Please remove your shoes unless your feet stink in which case we’d all be grateful if you kept them on. Here’s some Febreez. Use it.
  • Please use a coaster. Were you raised in a barn?
  • Keep your hands to yourselves and use your indoor voice.
  • No budging.
  • You should have gone before you left.

I can’t wait to see you there!

June 22, 2008 at 2:18 pm Leave a comment

My mom

My mom used to leave my brother and me home alone, living in squalor with nothing to eat and nothing to do except play with the knives and guns strewn about the house and in case we got bored, she’d leave us cryptic clues that would lead us on a scavenger hunt to a butt load of ammunition and a bottle of whiskey and, if we were lucky enough, a pack of low tar cigarettes.

I’m just messing with you. My mom reads this blog and I just wanted to give her a good old fashioned heart palpitation to start her day with a whiz bang. I know she’ll appreciate it once her blood pressure meds kick in because it means she now has a reason to call and chastise me and, in essence, get up this morning.

Hi Mom! (((waving furiously)))

She actually did leave us home alone while she was at work but we were teenagers and that just doesn’t have the same dramatic pull, does it? Anyway, she’d call in periodically to check on us and it didn’t matter if she had just called five minutes previously, she would always, without fail, respond the same way every time we answered the phone and it wasn’t with “Hello, it’s your mother” or “Hi, it’s Mom” or “Whatever you’re doing, stop it right now.” No, immediately upon hearing our voice, she would ask “Oh, are you home?” because the fact that we actually answered the phone in the first place was insufficient evidence. We should have just continued in a monotone voice advising her that no one was home to take her call at the moment but if she left her name and number, someone was sure to get back to her as soon as possible. That would have really freaked her out. Or, she would have left a message. It’s a toss up.

If someone threw Maude and Louise “Wheezy” Jefferson in a blender, it would spit out my mother but with better fashion sense. She has the gray hair and posture of Maude and the freakishly high arched eyebrow of Wheezy and a delightful combination of their “screw you” attitudes. She can still channel them both by raising that eyebrow and eyeballing you with an EAT YOUR TONGUE, WITHER AND DIE SOMEWHERE stare until you either pee your pants or just drop dead on the spot. And for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about because you weren’t lucky enough to experience 1970’s television – nevermind. Isn’t it time for your nap?

When I was younger, my mother and I did not get along. And I bet that’s pretty common with a lot of mothers and daughters, although I wouldn’t know first hand as a mom myself because my daughters and I get along famously. I have never been called THE WORST MOTHER ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET and I do not have the awesome ability to suck the fun out of everything. I’m also the long lost identical twin of Halle Berry. Go head, look it up. I’ll wait.

So no, my mother and I did not get along very well and this lasted for about 21 years and then something happened and we started getting along. Coincidentally, this happened right around the time I wasn’t living at home anymore and to this day, I firmly believe that in general, the farther apart we are from each other physically, the better we get along socially. If I lived here and she lived in Australia, we’d be joined at the hip, figuratively, and my hips are up for the job, literally. As it is, we live 800 miles apart and we have great long distance phone conversations and when we see each other on visits, we actually enjoy each other’s company. We still fight occasionally but nothing worth a front row seat and a $7.50 box of popcorn. Except for that verbal smackdown last year at my aunt’s house. We were so busy yelling, flailing around and exchanging caustic glares that we didn’t even notice when everyone snuck back into the room, having never been aware that they had left it to begin with. That one was totally worth a $12.50 jumbo popcorn. Just ask Nate. I think he bought two of them and a bag of nuts.

Every time Mom and I are in a car together, regardless of who is driving, we become so engrossed in our conversation that we completely forget where we are going. Years ago we were on our way to pick up my brother from SUNY Cortland and we were half way to Buffalo before we realized that we should have been half way to Albany. Good thing we realized it when we did because otherwise, we’d be waiting in Niagara Falls wondering where the hell he could be, why the hell was he late and holy shit, when did Cortland get falls like these?

My mother really shines in crisis situations. She may cause me to gnash my teeth upon occasion but when the going gets tough, you want my mom on speed dial. She does not fret, she does not stress, she does not freak out, she does not rip out her hair in chunks, break out in a rash, hyperventilate, drown in panic sweat, double over from sudden migraine onset and yell to Nate to catch her before she falls flat on her face and breaks her neck, like some other people who shall remain nameless.

She held down the fort when my dad had bypass surgery and heart valve replacement surgery, she took care of my aunt after her heart valve replacement surgery, and she did not feed into my paranoia about having something pig-related inserted into my own body sometime down the road. She stayed with me when I had both of my daughters, she got up in the middle of the night to help me with feedings, she ducked for cover when I threw a hairbrush in the midst of hormone-induced meltdown while dealing with my first and only lice encounter. She came up to be with me when my first husband (doesn’t that make me sound like some wickedly drop dead gorgeous chew-them-up-and-spit-them-out kind of woman? With no cellulite?) decided to leave for greener pastures (and doesn’t that make me sound like a cow?) which left me desolate, depressed and wasted pile of air. She allowed me a couple of days to wallow in self pity before telling me to get over myself because I simply did not have the luxury to fall apart as I had a three year old daughter counting on me. My mother is always good for a reality check and I really don’t know if I could have gotten through that time without her.

God help me, but my mother just recently got a cell phone. This is the same woman who cannot scroll on the computer, cannot find the On button on any digital camera and has been watching the same channel on her kitchen television for the last five years because she does not know how to change it. But she was excited at the prospect of being able to call anyone at anytime and she was absolutely ecstatic that she could now call me long distance and, thanks to Verizon’s wireless network, not pay anything to subtly tell me how to run my life. She programmed my cell phone number and my land line into her phone and now every time she calls my cell phone, she gets my land line and vice versa and this is a constant source of irritation for her and something akin to medieval torture for me.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Me: Hi Mom.

Mom: Oh, are you’re home?

Me: I’m not home right now to take your call, but if you leave your name and number at the beep, I’ll return your call as soon as I can.

Silence.

Me: Get it, Mom? It’s a joke. Mom? Are you there?

Mom: I was waiting for the beep.

Me (big sigh): Nevermind.

Mom: I thought it was strange that you have an answering machine on your cell phone.

Me: Actually, it’s called voice mail these days but it doesn’t matter, since you called me on my land line.

Mom: No, I didn’t. I called your cell phone.

Me: No, I’m pretty sure you called me on my land line since my cordless phone is currently pressed to my ear and I’m talking to you with it.

Mom: GOD – DAMN – IT. I swear to you I dialed your cell phone. Hang up, I’ll call you again.

Ring. Ring.

Me: Land line again.

Mom: GOD-DAMN-IT-ALL-TO-HELL. Hang up.

Ring.

Me: Land line.

Mom: SHIT-ON-A-STICK. What is going on?

Me: I don’t know. You must have programmed your phone wrong.

Mom: No, I did not. I AM NOT AN IDIOT. Hang up.

Lather, rinse, repeat over and over ad nauseam.

Mom: I HATE this thing. It’s got to be defective. I’m going back to the store and have them fix it. Damn it to hell and back. Do you know how many times I’ve been there already? That nice young man there is so helpful. I’m like his grandmother, did you know that?

Me: No, that is definitely news to me.

Mom: Well, I am.

Me: What color is the sky in your world, Mom?

Mom: Never you mind. I’m going to call when I get back and you better answer on your cell phone.

Me: I will if you call me on it.

I’d try to argue with her, but how do you argue with a woman who insists on sneaking a cigarette in the morning every now and then under the guise it helps her with her bowel movements?

Regardless, she’s a pretty great woman. She threw caution to the wind, dropped everything and went on a spur of the moment trip with Zoe and me to Disney World eleven years ago and suffered through a three hour time-share seminar in exchange for discounted tickets to MGM Studios. She spent ten hours at Magic Kingdom and helped me literally drag a sleeping Zoe out of the park at closing time because some miscreant stole our stroller. Who steals a stroller from a three year old, leaving her stranded with a senior citizen with a bum hip and a thirty year old woman with arm strength equivalent to that of Gumby? A piece of shit miscreant, that’s who, may he/she rot in Disney hell.

She stood up for me when I married Nate, she cried when Nate gave Zoe a beautiful cross during the ceremony, she kisses him first when we visit and she constantly reminds me that I better keep him happy because she’s likes having him around.

She loses about an inch of height a year and she’s a walking dictionary and encyclopedia and the best Scrabble player I have ever known and just once, I wish she’d let me win and not let me know that she let me win.

She’s the one I call when I’m happy, sad or just need to scream at the unfairness of it all and she knows exactly what I’m talking about right there. She’s my go-to person for recipes and medical advice and world history facts.

I am the woman I am today because of the woman she has been for 77 years.

Hey mom … call me. My cell phone is charged and I just found the cordless under the couch, so roll the dice and dial my number and we’ll bet on which one rings first.

June 20, 2008 at 7:00 am 25 comments

Blogging carefully

This is my computer guy, Nate. He’s also my husband. He’s a pretty great guy, even if he is a spendaholic and drives me utterly insane on occasion. But he’s got opposable thumbs like you would NOT believe and uses them to give me foot massages that turn me into jello so I guess I can tolerate a little batshit crazy now and then.

After sharing eleven years together, nine being married, and all that goes with it, like two kids, two moves, two decks, 1.5 bathroom renovations, a succession of cars, a couple of vacations, countless holidays, family gatherings, fourteen hour car trips, flooded basements, some medical scares, 5,673 gallons of paint, more take-out pizza than any four humans can possibly consume, and one chia pet incident, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Nate but when Helena asked me the other day what Daddy did for a job, I realized there was one area I was still a little fuzzy about.

This is what it says on his business card:

I told Helena he worked with computers, because that was all I really understood of his job and it was the only thing I felt I really needed to know because it came in handy every so often when my computer decided to get pissy and act up. This inevitably would happen early in the morning and I would then call Nate at work, frantic for help:

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

Nate: Nate speaking.

Me: It’s me.

Nate: Yes?

Me: You knew it was me, didn’t you?

Nate (big sigh): I had an idea.

Me: I need help.

Nate: No kidding. What’s the problem?

Me: The Internet is broken.

Nate: What do you mean, it’s broken?

Me: I can’t get on it. It won’t let me on it. It hates me. It just HATES me. Why do these things always happen to me? Why? Why is everything so hard? Why can’t anything be easy in this world? What do I do now? What’s wrong with it? It is such a piece of shit. I hate it. I hate its guts, I swear to God I do.

Silence.

Me: Nate? Did you hang up?

Nate: I’m here. I had to take you off speaker phone. What do you mean by “it?” What is “it?”

Me: This thing called a computer and another thing called the Internet. What do you think I mean? Are you mocking me?

Nate: Did you reboot?

Me: Yes, Nate. I know the rule. I always reboot before I call you. I am not a moron.

Nate: Did you turn the computer off all the way?

Me: Am I an idiot? Of course I did.

*silently turns the computer off*

Nate: Did you turn off the router and DSL modem?

Me: I don’t know. Where are they?

Nate: Under the counter.

Me: Where under the counter? There are a lot of things under the counter.

Nate: They have lights on them. You’re going to actually have to move to see them.

Me: You mean, I can’t just sit here and whistle and have them come running to me?

Nate (getting impatient and snippy): Just look for them. Tell me when you find them.

Me (muffled from under the counter): I see them. I think. No, wait. They’re gone. Hang on … ok, I think I see them. Why are they so far back?

Nate: I don’t know.

Me: Well, did you put them here or did they just walk here themselves?

And so it would go until he’d walk me through getting my computer back online and I’d hang up, feeling relieved and irritated at the same time. I don’t like calling Nate at work and I try only to do it as a last resort, as in right before flinging myself out of my second-story office window. He’s not friendly. He’s distant, slightly condescending, has no patience with me whatsoever and conveniently forgets that I bore his child. I think his business card should read:

All I knew about Nate’s job was that he left the same time every morning, came back the same time every night (more or less), dressed nicely and occasionally went golfing during the day with people known only as “vendors” who gave him shirts and lunch and how they knew to do this on days that I actually made a complete dinner that Nate wouldn’t eat, having been too stuffed from lunch, was a constant source of aggravation. He’s always gotten excellent reviews and every one of his co-workers that I have met has nothing but good things to say about him. I bet they never had to call him at 7:00 a.m., to discuss why the Internet hates them and then crawl around the floor on their hands and aching knees under a counter for a router and modem that have been shoved all the way to East Bum You-Know-What.

So in an effort to get to know my husband better, I sat down opposite him last night and asked him about his job:

Me: Nate?

No response as he’s reading the paper and choosing to ignore me. I speak louder.

Me: NATE? NATE? I’M STILL HERE.

Nate heaves a highly exaggerated sigh and peers over his paper at me.

Nate: Yes?

Me: Am I interrupting you?

Nate: Does it look like you are interrupting me?

Me: Yes.

Long pause. Then, exasperated when I don’t vanish into thin air …

Nate: What is it?

Me: What do you do, exactly?

Nate (staring at me): What do you mean “what do I do?” When?

Me: You know … at work. What exactly do you do? What is your job?

Long pause. Nate stares at me.

Nate: Are you asking what I do? For a job?

Me: Yes, I believe that is the question I asked.

Nate: You don’t know what I do.

Me: Yes, I do. I know you’re a Team Leader. I just need some specifics.

Nate (slowly): I am a Manager.

Me: Oh! A manager? When did that happen?

Nate: Four years ago.

Crickets chirping.

Nate: Are you trying to tell me that you have no idea what I do?

Me: No, I am not trying to tell you that.

Pause.

Nate: By that, you mean you are actually telling me that.

Me: Yes.

Nate: And we’ve been married how long?

Me: Nine wonderful years.

Nate: I am an IS Manager, in charge of network security, network support and email teams for the internal private NAME OF COMPANY THAT I’M NOT ALLOWED TO ACTUALLY SAY OUT LOUD corporate network.

Me (furiously scribbling on paper): Wow, that is pretty impressive. I am proud of you.

Nate: What are you doing? Why are you writing this down?

Me: Because it’s important and I care about it because I care about you.

Nate drops the paper. Gets agitated. Changes color.

Nate: Are you going to blog about this? About me? About my job? About my company?

Me: Absolutely not. Yes.

Nate: Let me get this straight. You are going to blog about me. I am going to be the subject of your blog. Is this accurate?

Me: It’s very possible.

Nate: You do realize you have to be careful, right? You cannot just throw around the company name. There are legalities and rules. There are security risks. You do understand that, correct? You can’t just blog carelessly.

Me: I can’t?

Nate stares at me hard.

Nate: You have to be careful. You must blog carefully.

Me: Dammit, there goes tomorrow’s post.

———-

For the record, there was no opposable thumb action last night.

June 18, 2008 at 7:00 am 19 comments

Underwear and swimsuits: all you need to turn an otherwise normal woman into a raving, homicial maniac in 24 hours or less

As I was sorting through 638 loads of laundry today, it occurred to me that I am in desperate need of underwear. Every single pair I own has morphed into period underwear and I have absolutely nothing suitable in the event of a car accident.

I do have the pretty underwear I bought eons ago when Nate and I were dating – I mistook one for a doily the other day and used it under a candle on my window sill. Just for kicks and because I was alone in the house and mostly because I’m a masochist, I thought I’d see if they still fit me. I wrestled them over my thighs where access any higher was immediately blocked by my hips, hips that in no way resemble the hips I had when I first purchased this underwear. They then became uncomfortably bunched up and refused any efforts on my part to un-bunch. I tried some Cirque du Soleil moves I didn’t even know I had in me by contorting myself into positions not meant for the human body and managed to inch the panties over my hips to rest somewhere in the region of my lower waist although it’s been so long since I’ve actually seen my lower waist that I’m not entirely sure I was even in the same zip code as that part of my body.

I looked at my reflection in the mirror and saw what appeared to be my face, flushed with exertion, sitting atop a flesh colored, jumbo sized sleeping bag hogtied with twine. The only thing missing was a label warning CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE, MAY EXPLODE. I started to get a little dizzy and realized that if I didn’t extricate myself from the underwear as soon as possible, my circulation would be forever jeopardized and I’d find myself up close and personal with an emergency room doctor half my age who wouldn’t give me morphine no matter how much I’d beg for it.

I bent forward to start the horrific ordeal of wrenching the panties back down from whence they came but the panties became instantly lodged in a place known only as the Final Frontier and I knew I was a goner.

So I have decided to make the trek into retail hell and purchase some new underwear. And while I’m at it, I figure I’ll get a bathing suit at the same time and blow all my money and every shred of dignity I have at the same time, because I am nothing if not efficient.

And I will hold my breath, cross every appendage I have, knock on every piece of wood in this house, fall to my knees and pray that this time will not be like last time, to wit:

  • 9:45 a.m.: Dress in baggy shorts and baggy t-shirt and flip flops for easy-on, easy-off access.
  • 9:50: Stare at my reflection in the mirror and tell myself that I am a brave, strong, confident woman who survived a divorce, two c-sections and the eighties, a woman who deserves new underwear and a decent bathing suit, who has earned new underwear and a decent bathing suit, dammit, and nothing on the face of this planet is going to stop me from getting said underwear and bathing suit.
  • 10:00: Jump in the car, full of enthusiasm and optimism. The world is my oyster!
  • 10:01: Remember I hate oysters. Fiddle with radio stations, become appalled at what is considered an “oldie” and shout along with AC/DC to Shook Me All Night Long.
  • 10:15: Arrive at the mall and find a parking space right in front of the entrance. Consider it a good omen and celebrate by buying a muffin.
  • 10:20: Walk into the department store and head directly to the lingerie department. No time to gawk at the purses and shoes. I’m on a mission. I am resolute. I am determined. I am woman, hear me roar. ROAR.
  • 10:22: Arrive in the lingerie department and feel every inch of my body try to hide from every other inch of my body as I am forced to wade into a sea of waif like teens and women swarming around the rainbow assortment of thongs and bikini underwear. Make a mental note to write a letter of complaint to management detailing my displeasure at having to navigate through the Only in My Dreams section to get the Reality Sucks section.
  • 10:24: Arrive at the Reality Sucks section and stare at my choices of white or beige. Make a mental addendum to my letter of complaint to insist that those of us who weigh more than our IQ deserve colors of fuchsia, cyan and lemongrass too. Decide it’s not worth getting upset about and ruining my mood since I’m saving that for when I get to the bathing suit section. Figure that my ass is large enough without calling undue attention to itself, grab two packages of beige panties, sized NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS and make my way to the register.
  • 10:30: Head over to the swimsuit section. Pop a couple of Tylenol as a precaution. Pop another one, just in case.
  • 10:45: Find a handful of suits with some potential and head for the fitting room with visions of that perfect, black, slimming, flattering bathing suit at half price. Chat with the fitting room attendant.
  • 10:49: Wrestle the first suit on and discover it covers less than 30% of the territory it needs to cover in order for me not to be arrested for indecent exposure. Look with trepidation at the other suits waiting patiently on the hooks. Imagine that they are mocking me.
  • 11:10: Exit the dressing room, slightly perspiring and a bit concerned, and hand the rejected suits to the attendant. Dive back into the racks again, choosing twenty possibles. Mumble some nonsense to the attendant and re-enter the dressing room, still optimistic that I’ll find a good suit in a dark color at 20% off.
  • 11:30: Tap, knock and scrape the mirror, convinced there is something wrong with it.
  • 11:33: Look up to see what kind of lighting makes my skin look like playdough that’s been left out in the sun for four years.
  • 11:35: Nearly asphyxiate myself on a suit while trying to wrestle it over my head.
  • 12:05: Emerge from the fitting room, frustrated, a sheen of sweat on my face. Can’t find the attendant, toss the suits onto the discard rack, drag myself back onto the floor area and pick out any suit, any color, any size at whatever price in the hopes that if I throw a million darts, one is bound to hit a target.
  • 12:15: Suck in my stomach and ponder the physiological ramifications when it doesn’t move.
  • 12:20: Lose my balance while trying to fit my leg into the 79th suit, smash my head against the hook on the wall, briefly lose consciousness and awake to find my feet inexplicably entangled in my bra. Consider calling for help.
  • 12:25: Undergo a brief outer body experience. Wow.
  • 12:37: Silently cry within the confines of my dressing room and wax philosophical on the meaning of life for someone who is 5’2″, busty, short waisted, prematurely gray, broad shouldered with small, wide feet. Declare myself a freak of nature and make a mental note to look up the nearest leper colony.
  • 1:20: Emit a blood curdling scream, slam the door to the fitting room open and then rip it off its hinges when it swings back and hits me in the face. Throw the suits at the attendant now cowering in a corner, laugh maniacally and spew vulgarities at anyone within earshot. Stare down anyone in my way and march my battered, weary, sweat soaked self out of there with as much dignity as a 5’2″, busty, gray-haired, short-waisted, broad shouldered, small footed freak of nature can.

But this time it’s going to be different. This time, I’m going to park 300 yards from the entrance and that will make all the difference in the world.

Hope springs eternal.

June 16, 2008 at 7:00 am 26 comments

Ten rules of the all-mighty calendar

This is our family calendar.

It’s one of those 15″ by 12″ jobs that came with a bulletin board and a pen holder. We’ve been using this model for years now and I’m still pretty happy with it. I had great plans for this calendar when we bought our original one years ago and it held a prominent position on our old white refrigerator letting us see at a glance what everyone would be up to for the next month.

But the bulletin board became a breeding ground for a plethora of crap which constantly fell to the ground when the one remaining pushpin became incapable of holding up fifty times its own weight. Although the pen holder remained sturdy, the pen itself went missing approximately 7 seconds after we hung that baby up and since it’s next to impossible to keep a pen that actually works somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen, we eventually bagged the entire bulletin board ensemble. Now we keep just the calendar on top of the fridge which makes Nate very happy as he is not a calendar-on-the-fridge kind of guy, especially since we went the route of stainless steel last year. Stainless steel is not meant to be contaminated by a calendar in Nate’s world … it messes with his neatness obsession and causes him to twitch.

I tried really hard to be hip by using a day planner at one time. I so wanted to be one of those cool moms who whip out a black and pink toil covered planner and schedule dentist visits, teacher conferences and play dates neatly within ½ inch borders in perfect penmanship. You should see our girl scout leader’s planner. That thing is truly a work of art and I am mesmerized every time she opens it up. I used to have perfect penmanship. I also used to have a waist. I miss those days.

A planner just wasn’t in the cards for me because there simply wasn’t enough room in one of those things to write down, cross out, write down again, cross out again, scribble in, underline, circle and arrow as much as is required by this family. So we went the mongo sized route. And even if it is big and doesn’t fit in my purse, it’s still portable, much to my eldest daughter’s acute embarrassment. I held it like a suitcase and took it with me to her physical therapy appointment the other week and heaved it up onto the receptionists’ desk to schedule the next appointment. My daughter stepped far away from me and became completely engrossed in a poster of a foot, while the receptionist just stared, transfixed by the calendar covering her counter. It is a sight to behold.

In order to maintain my sanity, I was forced to establish ground rules for the calendar early on. Everyone in this house knows the rules. And may God have mercy on your worthless soul if you break one.

RULE #1: The calendar is the most sacred object in this house. It must not be defiled by melted chocolate or doodles or math problems or vocabulary words or wet drinks or be used as scratch paper to see if the pen you found under the couch still works. And while I’m grateful you made the effort to not only answer the phone but to take a message, haphazardly scribbling “Jen called” on April 4 when it’s currently June is not helpful.

RULE #2: I am the only one allowed to write on the calendar. Otherwise, we have incidents like this:

Apparently Zoe is a bit concerned that we will forget her birthday, even though her birthday is a celebrated event that lasts approximately three weeks, spans two counties and is reported on by CNN. There is no need to violate the calendar like this, especially when I fill in all birthdays immediately upon purchasing the calendar every year. And if that is not enough, it is physically impossible for me to forget something that is chanted incessantly in my ear for months on end. I HEAR YOU. Now, go away and leave me alone.

RULE #3: If it’s not on the calendar, you did not tell me about it, I know nothing about it and therefore, it is not happening. THIS RULE IS STRICTLY ENFORCED, NO EXCEPTIONS. VIOLATORS WILL BE PUT TO THE CURB AND SOLD FOR A QUARTER. Do not try to weasel your way out of it by telling me I forgot to write something down. I do not forget to write things down, unless you count Weight Watchers points and then, who asked you?

RULE #4: Do not under any circumstances tell me of any event, happening, outing, appointment, etc., during Lost. Things told to me during this time never reach my ears and will be deemed never to have been uttered in the first place. While I am trying in vain to wrap my head around the concept of time travel and trying to figure out why Ben’s beaten and battered face has not completely fallen off, I do not need you blathering on about a skating party. I do not hear you.

RULE #5: Just because you are tall, dark and handsome and bring in the bacon and fry it up in the pan and … never mind. Just because you are the man of the house does not mean that you are exempt from these rules. You are not. So do not try to bamboozle me with a foot rub while you explain that by some freak accident, the calendar does not show that you have a golf outing the next day when both girls have to be in two different places in two different time zones at the same time. Time travel and I don’t get along – see Rule #4. So stop with the foot rub. It’s not going to work. It’s not. It’s not. It’s … oh yeah, right there. Sigh.

RULE #6: When you are done looking at the calendar, place it gently on the top of the fridge. Do not fling it will nilly on top of the fridge, causing it to hit the back wall and slide down into no-man’s land. I simply do not have it in me to listen to your father’s wails of pain from the hernia he will undoubtedly believe he has from moving the fridge. And I also don’t appreciate having to dust off all the God-knows-what that will inevitably be covering the calendar upon its rescue. I don’t do dust, or haven’t you figured that out by now?

RULE #7: If the calendar is not on top of the fridge, it better be in either my hands or in the hands of someone standing immediately next to the fridge. It better not be in the washing machine, under the coffee table, in the garage, on the driveway or used as teacher’s art pad in Helena’s School for Gifted Children. Mommy cannot be held responsible for what happens when she is forced to deal with a calendar that is missing in action. This rule is established for the good of the entire household because who’s going to cook dinner while Mommy is incapacitated in the hospital from an exploded head?

RULE #8: I will only write as many things as I can fit in the space allotted for that day so all activities proposed are on a first come, first serve basis. I cannot fit a soccer game, softball game, band concert, awards ceremony, book fair, swimming and fundraiser on Wednesday and even if I could, I wouldn’t because that would be lunacy and I stopped doing lunacy last week. There will be no arguing about this BECAUSE I SAID SO.

RULE #9: This list stays attached to the calendar at all times. If you have this list but not the calendar, or vice versa, that is a problem that requires your immediate attention. Figure out a remedy before I find out about it and yelling WHO’S GOT THE CALENDAR is not a solution as I might hear you and become suspicious.

RULE #10: Do not ask me anything unless you have checked the calendar. This works like the “shortest distance between two points is a straight line” theory. We can save a whole lot of time in this family if you just follow this rule. See below:

YOU: Can …

ME: Are you asking me something?

YOU: Ummm, yes?

ME: Did you check the calendar?

YOU: Ummm, no?

ME: Then why are you talking to me?

YOU: But …

ME: No buts. You know the rule.

YOU: Is …

ME: Am I speaking Braille? I already told you. Go check the calendar.

YOU (one minute later): OK, I checked it.

ME: Now what did you want to ask me?

YOU: Can you help me with my math?

ME: When?

YOU: After dinner?

ME: And what does the calendar say for tonight?

YOU: It says “go grocery shopping.” There’s a picture scribbled next to it … I think it’s someone crying.

ME: Have a seat, we’ve got all the time in the world.

June 13, 2008 at 7:00 am 19 comments

Dinner

I don’t often toot my own horn, mostly because I misplaced it years ago, right about the same time my Weight Watchers paraphernalia went AWOL, but I’m going to take this opportunity to quietly toot for a minute and if you bear with me, you’ll understand why. Here we go:

When it comes to a holiday, birthday or any special occasion that warrants a big meal, I’m your man. Or woman. “It”. Whatever.

I can rock those things out like no one’s business, but I especially like Christmas Eve dinner. It’s my favorite because I just love everything to do with that season and regardless of the stress involved, I really do enjoy preparing that particular meal. Except for that one year when I prepared Christmas Eve dinner for about 15 people and then Christmas brunch the next morning and then Christmas dinner for about 18 people and by night’s end, I was an incoherent, exhausted, stressed-out blubbering puddle of nervous breakdown. But we don’t talk about Mommy’s sad time anymore.

I usually start weeks ahead of time, figuring out a menu, budget, grocery list, seating chart, table settings, keynote speaker, etc. I am a whiz at multi-tasking for this event, not to mention responsible, dependable, and reliable. I’m a Goodyear tire, just a bit rounder with a little more wear on my tread.

I have plenty of appetizers that are cold when they’re supposed to be cold and hot when they’re supposed to be hot. And because it’s an unwritten law somewhere, at least one appetizer has enough garlic in it to peel the paint off the walls. Feel free to breathe around me because I’ll be eating it too.

Our main course consisted of chicken cordon bleu for several years but as our extended family kept getting larger and larger, I couldn’t make chicken cordon bleu and keep my sanity all at the same time so last year, I switched to a roast and that was pretty well received, I believe. Unless everyone was lying to me in which case, thank you.

The main course and all the side dishes are all served hot and at the same time and they consist of healthy items as well as indulgent items, including my once-a-year macaroni and cheese that has ten pounds of gourmet cheese, 7,921 calories a serving and costs upwards of a car payment to make. The desserts are all made by me and there’s a lot of them because I am a firm believer in throwing caution to the wind for the holidays and gorging myself until I burst. Too bad it’s not Christmas all year round.

Our table is set with red tablecloths, pretty gold chargers, ivory plates that match, silverware wrapped in pretty ribbon, name cards decorated by the kids and small glass votives running down the length of our table.

By the way, did I ever tell you the story of how our nephew bumped into a votive and spilled a whole bunch of hot wax onto our brand new 42″ ultra-modern, flat screen, behemoth of high definition, otherwise known as Nate’s TV? Surprisingly enough, Nate remained calm, did not lapse into a coma and ultimately saved his beloved from the next day’s garbage heap using a hair dryer and a damp cloth. And other than a tiny facial tick any time the incident is mentioned, you’d never know he even went through that ordeal. Good thing our nephew is cute. And yeah, yeah, yeah, I shouldn’t have had the votives there in the first place but they were pretty and I’m all about pretty at the holidays.

So yes, I am bragging about a stellar meal I make once a year and that is only because the other 1,092 meals I make for remainder of the year can best be described as BLECH. And if anyone can come up with a better way to describe visually unappealing, physically unhealthy food that is dumped onto chipped and scratched Pflaltzgraff and thrown onto a table laden with crumbs and crumpled napkins, spotted glasses, yesterday’s homework, that morning’s breakfast bowl and an occasional dirty sock, and is then consumed in thirty seconds or less, knock yourself out.

I am just not one of those women who can dive into my pantry at any given moment and whip up a healthy, hearty, low fat, protein enriched, fiber rich, guaranteed-to-keep-you-regular meal in thirty minutes. First of all, there is no such thing as a thirty minute meal in my house unless you count the time it takes to drive to Mark’s Pizzeria and back and second of all, the only staples in my house are in my actual stapler, the very same stapler that is not allowed under any circumstances to leave the confines of my office but was found by me under my daughter’s bed. Unless you count a package of three month old bologna, a box of Cheerios, a can of tuna fish and a bottle of corn syrup as staples. If so, then I’m good to go.

I don’t know how other moms do it. I can’t seem to get my act together and serve a substantial, healthy dinner on a daily basis. It seems like I go grocery shopping around the clock and yet everyone yells THERE’S NOTHING TO EAT IN THIS HOUSE immediately upon opening either the fridge or the pantry, including me. That means I’m yelling at myself, which is another issue entirely. It doesn’t help that our schedules are bipolar and I’m too busy figuring out how to be in two different places simultaneously to worry about whether we’re properly consuming from the food pyramid, unless the pyramid is shaped like an octagon and contains categories like grease, fat, carbs and the all important ready-in-two-minutes-or-less-in-the-microwave.

And nothing ticks me off more than when I actually do manage to make a somewhat healthy meal and one or both of my kids won’t eat it because it either doesn’t look right or it’s touching something else on their plate or the sky is blue that day. I’ve learned that just because my kids eat something today does not guarantee that they will eat it tomorrow or ever again, unless I don’t have any ingredients on hand to make it and then it is the only thing they want to eat. And don’t even get me started on my husband who knows full well I’m making a meal and calls me five minutes before we’re supposed to sit down to tell me he won’t be home in time and to save him a plate. This is the same man who will get home an hour later and then proceed to eat a frozen pizza instead of the plate I prepared because he doesn’t do leftovers.

Insanity – party of one? Your table is ready.

I try to make sure I’ve got spaghetti, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, Tony’s pizza, boxed mac’n cheese and peanut butter on hand at all times because they’re quick and easy and 99% of the time, quick and easy is our only option when we’ve got approximately 5 minutes to inhale dinner before jumping in the car to wherever we need to get to that night. That’s only if Helena doesn’t need to wear cleats that night because if she does, we’ll only have 3½ minutes so as to allow enough time to find the cleats, pick the knot out of the laces, tie them up and shout HURRY UP AND GET A MOVE ON OR WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE at least three times. I don’t remember the last meal I actually chewed. And I’d be lying if I said we’ve never had cereal for dinner even though cereal rarely requires a lot of chewing. Nope. Never happened in this house.

I also try to keep apples or bananas or strawberries or carrots or salad or something green on hand, so that there is a healthy snack available or a potential side dish ready and waiting. But I ask you, what good are apples when unbeknownst to me they are transformed into an apple crisp by a fourteen year old sous chef whilst I am otherwise occupied in my office?

Am I the only one that finds herself in this predicament?

Someone throw me a low calorie, low fat, bran muffin and give me a hug.

June 11, 2008 at 7:00 am 17 comments

When politeness just gets in the way

This past weekend, I earned uber points towards Mother of the Year by going to my daughter’s softball game on Friday night, roasting in the beastly humidity, racing home, washing her sticky, sweaty t-shirt so that she could wear it Saturday in her next game, a game which I attended in 95º heat with full sun, trekking up and down five fields to have team photos taken and sticking around for a water balloon fight, all the while as my bra filled up with about a gallon and a half of boob sweat, and I didn’t complain. Not that anyone can prove anyway. It doesn’t matter though because usually my chances of winning that award are shot to hell by January 2nd every year. But I continue to keep track of points because I have masochistic blood running through my veins.

We are smack in the middle of our third season of softball and soccer so I’ve spent a good amount of time sitting on the sidelines in hellish heat, drinking water, taking shallow breaths and generally moving as little as possible so as not to unduly exert myself. I want to save the little energy I have in this heat to lift myself out of my chair and cheer my girl on whenever appropriate. I know she appreciates my efforts and I’m just going to pretend the eye roll at my screeches of GET IT, HELENA, GET IT, GET IT, GET IT is simply the sun glaring in her eyes and nothing more.

In soccer, I’ve yet to figure out the phenomenon known as “soccer ball suck” which happens immediately upon the ball going into play. This is where every single player on the field, regardless of position or team affiliation, is automatically sucked as if by a vacuum to the ball. This creates a tangled mass of kicking legs and flailing arms that proceeds to move up and down and all around the field as one collective unit. The ball can no longer be seen. As spectators, we cheer like maniacs whenever there’s a break in formation and the players actually separate for a brief moment, allowing the ball to escape. This is not so much in hopes that a goal will be scored or saved as much as it is in relief that our children did not, in fact, superglue themselves together while the coach wasn’t looking.

Way over on the opposite end of the spectrum is softball where I can quite easily see the ball at all times as it rolls on its merry way across the infield and sometimes the entire outfield, unfettered and free, while the players all look at it and each other and then scramble to figure out who should run after it and pick it up. No fear of any superglue funny business happening in softball.

I love to watch seven and eight year old girls play these sports. That’s because they don’t look upon soccer or softball as an athletic event so much as a social gathering, an opportunity to catch up on all the latest and greatest happenings in second grade. Actually playing the sport at hand is incidental. Apparently they need this time to catch up with each other as there simply isn’t enough time in the 6.5 hours they’re in school with one another to properly and thoroughly discuss the merits of flip flops over crocs, argue over whether Colin likes Maddie or Alexa better, contemplate why Jessie was being such a goober that day and to STOP EVERYTHING AND LOOK AT MY CARTWHEEL! I’ve got to think that the conversations happening out there on the field must be absolutely fascinating in terms of the seven year old psyche.

Emma (first baseman, picking a scab): Hi Lis.

Alyssa (running over first): Hey Em. Watcha doing?

Emma (wiping her fingers on her jersey): Ick. I’m bleeding!

Alyssa: Ewwwwww … that’s gross, Em. Lemme see it. Cool.

Emma: Like my socks? My mom got ’em at Target. Look how high I can pull them up!

Alyssa: Awww, those are awesome! I want some. Can I wear ’em sometime?

Emma: Yep – you can borrow them after the game. We’ve having icies for snack when we’re done. What’re you guys having?

Alyssa: Fritos and juice!

Emma: No way! I love fritos. You’re so lucky. Can I have some?

Alyssa: Yeah, I’ll save you one. It’s hot out here. I’m sweaty. Lookit, I’m a dog! (shaking her head so sweat flies everywhere). Hah, I got you! Did you see Jason today? He said his armpits were sweating! I didn’t see any sweat though. He’s such a show off. He likes Amanda.

Emma: Ewwwwwww. That’s gross. Wanna come over to my house and play later?

Alyssa: (jumping around excitedly): Yeah, yeah, yeah! Can we go swimming?

Emma: (eyes widening like saucers): HEY, CAN YOU SLEEP OVER?!?

Alyssa: (convulsing with excitement): LET’S HAVE A SLEEPOVER! SLEEPOVER, SLEEPOVER, SLEEPOVER!

Bloody scab and sweat forgotten, the girls hold hands and jump all around first base together, giggling.

And from somewhere in the vicinity of the pitcher’s mound comes the exasperated shouts of the coach: Hey! Look alive out there! Who’s getting the ball? Somebody? Anybody? Throw it to first! To first! No, that way! JUST THROW IT ANYWHERE.

I watch my daughter and her teammates out on the field, blowing daisies, looking for four leaf clovers, practicing their hand stands or watching the sky for airplanes or blimps or anything of the like and I am struck by the irony.

As parents, we try to instill in our children the virtues of being polite. To say “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” and to patiently wait their turn. To use their indoor voices. No budging. No hissy fits when things don’t go their way. No celebrations if everyone isn’t included. And as a parent, I hold my breath whenever my child finds herself in a situation where her manners will be the deciding factor in getting an ice cream or getting a lecture. I then breathe a happy sigh of relief when, more often than not, scoops of triple chunk brownie gelato are in our immediate future. Then I pat myself on the back, tell myself I’m doing a good job and inhale my gelato.

So yes, I’m all about good manners and consideration and courtesy.

Except on the playing field. There’s no crying in baseball and there’s no Miss Manners either. Same goes with soccer. So throw those cleats on, put your game face on, march onto that field and forget everything having to do with manners that we drilled into your head for the last seven years.

Because on the playing field, it’s OK to budge a little in soccer. It’s OK to run to be the first to get the ball in softball. It’s perfectly acceptable to use your outdoor voice. It’s totally OK to celebrate a run, goal or out, even if your friend on the opposing team doesn’t want to celebrate with you.

So in response to my daughter’s open mouthed shock and exclamation of “I’m not allowed to budge!” I step lightly into the murky sea that separates politeness from competitiveness. I try to plant the seed that she can be competitive on the field within the boundaries of good sportsmanship and even if she gets the ball first, scores a goal or gets her friend out at third, she’ll still be invited to sleepovers. I try to explain the subtle differences between being competitive and being mean spirited. It’s OK to budge in soccer, but it’s not OK to body slam your opponent to the ground. It’s OK to overrun first, but it’s not OK to steamroll over the first baseman in the process, leaving her unconscious with your tread marks on her shirt. See the difference? It’s OK to celebrate a run or a goal or a win, but it’s not OK to flaunt it in your opponent’s face. It’s OK to be happy for your friend when she or her team does well. It’s OK to want to win and to try your best to make it happen as long as you practice good sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship is all about playing to the rules and having respect for your teammates and opponents. It’s not about standing over the soccer ball and waiting politely to see who wants to kick it first.

For a seven year old who still cannot read the word “stupid” out loud without glancing at me for permission, this is all pretty sketchy and when I launch into this discussion, she’ll look at me suspiciously, wondering if I’m just messing with her. Because my sole purpose in life, other than driving her where she needs to go, is to CATCH HER IN THE ACT and dish out consequences. I live for that stuff.

So anyway, it’s a lesson in progress and as it stands now, Helena is more polite than she is competitive. And really, she’s only seven and wants to have fun and there will be lots of time to nurture this philosophy. I just wanted to plant the seed and then spend the next couple of years on the sidelines watching it grow. And if there is a merciful God, boob sweat will be kept to a minimum during the process.

June 9, 2008 at 7:00 am 16 comments

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