Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Been Great, But...

I have a headache, and it's not because of a hangover, illness, or concussion. It's due to the extremely loud, piercing, bone-rattling ringing sound that only I am able to hear, which is the signal that quality time with my kids has come to an end. As much as I enjoy some time off, it makes me happy to know that in 96 hours I will have my schedule back. Even though there is a little more space in the house because the tree and gifts are put away, I can feel a hint of claustrophobia creeping into my spine and am actually craving being in my car, by myself. When someone needs something or asks me a question, my response is developing an impatient "Oh my holy hell for the love of God can you let me sit in silence for more than two fucking minutes" edge to it.

In an effort to keep the winter break as stress-free and nag-free as possible, I figured this wasn't the best time to expect huge strides in the self-sufficiency of teenage boys department. And since our house could often be referred to as Overindulged Kids Headquarters, I kept the past two-weeks as unscheduled as possible. I did throw in a couple tennis tournaments for the boys, just to make sure that their bodies didn't atrophy as much as their brains, and yesterday they managed to drag themselves out of bed by 9:00 (after I opened their doors and told them to get up) so that we could all go to breakfast, and then to the bookstore.

At the bookstore, they each had one gift to exchange, and they decided to pool their credit together and buy a 3-D globe puzzle. As soon as we got home, they ran to Charlie's room to put it together. I mentally patted myself on the back for the fact that, even at the tail-end of winter break, they were getting along so well and voluntarily hanging out together. Two minutes later, cooperation came to a grinding halt.

"Knock it off! Don't yell at me! It's not my fault!" Charlie yelled, using his I'm-about-to-turn-violent voice.

"What are you talking about? You're the one that took the box off the shelf. YOU obviously got the wrong one." Zach said, before opening the door, walking down the stairs, and saying: "Forget it. I'm not putting that thing together with him. It's the wrong puzzle, and he thinks I'm super mad that it's different than the one we thought we were getting. Really, though, I'm not mad, and I don't care. And I don't need to have puzzle pieces thrown at me."

That's funny. Here I was sure we had managed to bring our children home from the store, but somehow we acquired these giant, immature morons.

After both boys apologized for crimes that, when said aloud, sounded pathetically ridiculous (Charlie: "I'm sorry I threw puzzle pieces at you." Zach: "I'm sorry I yelled at you."), and I put the plastic bridle on Zoe's plastic Playmobil horse for the 16th time today, that's when the ringing began.

Some families have an Advent Calendar for the kids to count down the days until Christmas, rewarding them for each day of patience with a small toy or piece of candy. Maybe moms need a Winter Break Calendar to count down the days until the kids return to school. But instead of a small toy hidden behind each little door, our patience will be rewarded with a shot glass, or three.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No Year's Resolutions

New Year's resolutions are, without a doubt, lame. If anything, resolutions should be made each morning, and be based on the activities of the day. If you're volunteering at school, resolve not to "accidentally" push the kid that picks his nose all the time. If you're headed out to run errands, resolve not to give anyone the finger, no matter how bad they drive. When you open a new bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, resolve not to eat the whole thing and then hide the empty bag, wrapped in the classifieds, at the bottom of the garbage. When figuring out what to make for dinner, resolve to include something that doesn't involve noodles. A small amount of success each day would definitely put a smile on my face and make me feel like I have a little bit of control, even if everything else around me is chaos. Making yearly resolutions like "I will go to the gym more" or "I won't eat French fries" are things that might seem achievable for a while, but after six weeks, as you're driving to the gym, you'll eventually drive right on by the parking lot and find yourself elbow deep in a bucket of fries with salt jammed under your fingernails, yelling at the server to "Bring more ketchup, dammit!"

Yesterday, while Zoe was reading a book, I thought I would get a jump start on this Daily Resolution thing with something simple: I resolve to pee by myself today, with the bathroom door shut. Sure enough, as soon as I sat down, I heard Zoe's heels digging into the flooring (what is it about the acoustics of kid's feet anyway? Why are they so loud?).

"Mom! Hey mommy? Where are you? I need help with this word! MOM!?"

Thinking about the resolution I had just made, I created another resolution: I will not yell today.

"Umm, hey Zoe," I said in my best I'm-so-freakin'-happy mom voice. "I'm in the bathroom, and am a little busy right now. You need to wait a few seconds, or find a brother and ask him."

"What? I can't hear you? Where are you? I need you to help me with a word!" Apparently I needed to speak up a little.

"I said I'm in the bathroom. You need to wait. Okay?" I still wasn't yelling, and even though I was having a (loud) conversation through the door, technically I was still in the bathroom by myself.

Suddenly, the doorknob turned and the door flew open. "Oh, there you are! You're in the bathroom! Help me with this word, S-O-M-E-T-I-M-E-S."

"It says sometimes. Like sometimes I would like to be able to pee. By myself. Without someone hunting me down and forcing me into having to talk while I pee. And sometimes it would be really cool if people could recognize a closed door and the sound of someone peeing and WAIT FOR ME TO FINISH!" I realized I was yelling, and that I was, in fact, not in the bathroom by myself anymore.

Screw the daily resolutions. Maybe I should consider 15-minute increments instead.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Perfect Schmerfect

Christmas is over, the kids are a little over halfway through their two-week winter break from school, and although you may think I must have hit my head on something by admitting this, I have to be honest and say that it's been great. It's not only two weeks off from waking up early, nagging kids about homework and helping with projects, but a half-month break from running around to all of their horizon-expanding, brain-enriching, mom's insanity-inducing activities. I have slept in a few times, haven't had to put gas in my car, and everyone has been healthy. Yeah, there have been a few disagreements, a couple eye rolls, and there was that whole "Zoe choking Charlie because she was losing at basketball" episode, but that's because even though we may be more relaxed than usual, we still have a pulse.

Since December 25, I have been asked no fewer than 148 times: "So, how was your Christmas? Did you have a nice Christmas?" or "What did you do for the holidays?" Instead of being able to tell drama-filled tales of get-togethers with distant cousins, driving in bad weather, eating figgy pudding, or trying to be nice to people that I would rather see wipe out on an icy sidewalk, all I could honestly say is: "Christmas was fine, we didn't start the car for almost three consecutive days, we ate a lot of meat, vodka was consumed, gifts were opened, my wardrobe consisted of sweats and, umm... that's about it." As uneventful as my winter break is, I have no regrets or complaints that we aren't doing do more, seeing more people, or hosting an ugly sweater party.

While I was spending a couple days in my pj's over the holidays, a couple of my girlfriends probably could have used a sprinkling of boring, a dash of uneventful, and would have definitely welcomed a few swigs of booze.

My girlfriend, Theresa, is genuinely content with her gorgeous family, keeps realistic expectations for the holidays, is grateful for the simple pleasures in life, and has a great "if the kid's socks don't match, who gives a shit" attitude. Theresa's low-maintenance holiday enthusiasm was drenched two days before Christmas Eve by a three-year-old that welcomed the winter break by throwing up no fewer than 25 times within 12 hours, and then developed an ear infection on Xmas Eve. Her six-year-old, who had strep throat the week before Christmas, was lucky enough to wake up with another sore throat on the 24th. Because her in-laws are of the "more germs the merrier" mentality, they welcomed the kids with open arms for Christmas Eve dinner and went about things as usual. During dinner, her daughter's stomach issue hit Theresa and she spent the next couple hours in the bathroom alternating between hurling, sitting on the toilet, and lying on the floor, thanking the ceramic tile for it's cooling qualities. Somehow, her husband managed to eventually drive her home without getting a speeding ticket, and she collapsed into bed, where she remained through most of Christmas Day.

Another girlfriend, Marie, endured a three hour drive in a blizzard, with her kids, to spend the weekend with her homeschooling sister, a brother-in-law that doesn't drink, and her sister's homeschooled humorless kids that don't get to stay up late, even on holidays. While a holiday weekend at a cabin surrounded by snow, woods, and family sounds ideal and postcard-perfect, it was more like something out of a dark comedy written by the Coen's. The kids whined, no one wanted to get drunk with her, the brother-in-law fabricated a story in order to get his own bedroom (and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep), and she had to scrub lasagna throw up out of the carpet at 3AM. To top it off, Marie's adorable dog who has a tendency to eat some not-so-adorable objects got some mysterious bit of shrapnel lodged in it's throat, causing it to drool uncontrollably on Sunday morning. Knowing that there would inevitably be a bill for an emergency vet visit, stirred and shaken together with the fact that there were eight loads of laundry waiting for her at home, a tree that needed to be taken down, and a job that she needed to make an appearance at on Monday made her say: "Cheers! This cocktail tastes like shit, and what in the hell just happened to Christmas?"

Despite the fact that our weekends were so varied, they were all memorable, and even fun, in their own way. We all know people that are never content: things are either too boring, or hectic, or messy, or spontaneous. No matter what happens, they're never satisfied, they're always a little bit pissed off, and they're willing to tell anyone who will listen just how pissed off they really are. Theresa and Marie, though not jubilant with the outcome of their holidays, weren't angry about things either, and are actually able to laugh at the absurdity of how they managed to spend 48 hours. They probably would have been fine dealing with a little less pukeage, someone understanding their humor a little more, and a little less dog drool, but since Theresa's husband is willing to clean up barf, and Marie remembered to pack her own bottle and knows better than to be ashamed about drinking alone, it was definitely a Christmas to remember. For all of us.

Feel free to share your own tales of Christmas imperfection!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Playmobil Poop Farm

You would think that buying presents for a five-year-old girl would be an easy task, but unfortunately Zoe despises most things that a typical five-year-old girl likes. Whenever we're in a store and she makes the horrid error of walking by Littlest Pet Shop, Polly Pocket, princess outfits, or Bratz dolls, she always says: "Look at all this junk. Who plays with this stuff? It's so stupid! Oooh, Xbox! Meet me over there!"

Before Christmas, we would occasionally torment her a little bit by picking up one of her wrapped presents, giving it a shake, and saying: "Hmm. This one sounds like it is definitely Barbie Fairy-Tastic Princess. Or maybe it's the Glamour Camper or Style Salon Playset!"

While her eyes filled with rage, she would yell: "No! Take it back! Barbie is junky! Please don't get me Barbies or Polly Pockets!"

Since we already have a house full of trucks, video games, sports equipment, Nerf guns, and board games, finding Christmas presents for her was a bit of a challenge. One thing that she loves is Playmobil, and since she already had the Horse Show set, I ordered the frighteningly elaborate Horse Farm.

The farm came complete with a large barn, a few horses, grooming accessories, trainers, hay, and even a barn cat to catch the barn mice! I couldn't wait to see her imagination at work, coming up with horse-themed scenarios and adventures. Charlie was nice enough to put most of the barn together, and also discovered that the playset came with plastic poop, and a shovel and pan to scoop it up. Once they started playing, sure enough every story line was based on which horse was pooping, where he was pooping, the sounds he made while pooping, and who stepped in the poop. Even the cat got in on the action by peeing on the plastic flowers.

The following day, when Zoe was playing with the barn by herself, I thought that maybe the novelty of the poop had worn off since the horse trainer dialogue seemed to include some words other than "poop." When I took a glance at the barn, I discovered that I couldn't have been more wrong:

Apparently, brown pony didn't like to be led around and told what to do by some bossy kid, so brown pony pooped. On bossy kid's face.

Even if some well-meaning relative makes the error of buying Zoe a Barbie Dream House in the future ("Because after all, Zoe's a girl, and all girls love Barbie!"), at least I know that there's one room of the pink palace that won't go to waste. Rather than Barbie spending hours in the bathroom primping in front of the mirror, though, she'll be sitting on the toilet.

While I was going through the pile of miniature plastic milk cartons, teeny tiny horse brushes, and plastic pails, and trying to figure out why there were an absurd number of "pieces required for assembly" leftover, I found a couple accessories that left me bewildered. I can identify the black barn cat and the carrots, but honestly, what the hell is the brown thing, and why would two of them be included with a Playmobil horse barn?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pulling The Plug

The first thing I thought of when I woke up on Saturday morning was: "Holy shit. I just slept nine hours, and I only had one beer last night." The second thing was "When can I pack up the Christmas decorations?" Since we were celebrating a belated Xmas with the in-laws on Saturday evening, I didn't think it would reflect well on my "Hostess with the Mostess" status to say: "Merry Christmas! Thanks for coming over! The tree was over there a couple hours ago, and it sure was pretty this year. But man was I sick of looking at that thing!"

Hauling out the evergreen, lights and ornaments seemed to take an entire evening. I put some Christmas music on, made a couple drinks, and my brother and sister-in-law were here to help out. In contrast, putting it away will be done in mere minutes, by myself, and I'll most likely have ESPN's NFL Countdown on in the background.

I'll continue to let the outdoor lights suck electricity through New Year's Day, but not a day longer, even though they'll probably have to remain on the bushes until Memorial Day since they are now buried under a foot of snow. Inevitably, there are always a few morons that leave those suckers plugged in until February or later, because after all, "They look so pretty, and the LCD lights were quite an investment." Honestly people, just because they're stuck to the arborvitae doesn't mean you need to turn them on! They're Christmas lights, not Valentine's Day lights, or Groundhog Day lights, and even though I think I deserve fancy lights and fireworks, they're not Mother's Day lights either.

So here's my request for January that will bring everyone, especially me, some post-holiday cheer: When you are done eradicating all traces of the holidays from the interior of your house, have thrown out the last cookie, found the time to exchange the ill-fitting sweater, and have mailed the last "I'm so sorry I got so drunk on Christmas Eve again, I never meant to say those things" letter, take a moment to stand in your driveway and look at your house. I mean, really look at your house. The greenish/brownish wreath with the red bow that's been askew from day one? Chuck it. The plastic snowman that got his face punched in by crazy Uncle Bruce? Put it in storage. The illuminated candy canes, the three wise men, the North Pole sign, the gingerbread man, the holiday train, and yes, even Santa Claus; put them all away. Oh, and see that orange extension cord, attached to that timer, which is attached to your house? Reach down, firmly grasp the cord, and with a much appreciated tug, pull the plug.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Two Million? Is That All?

If you asked me to choose between either taking a stroll through piranha-infested waters or playing a board game, I'd probably ask: "Well, can I wear my flip-flops? The lake bottom seems kind of rocky." The fact that the rest of my family loves board games fascinates me. Just the thought of having to sit in one place for more than twenty minutes, rolling a set of dice that I have no control over, and potentially losing at something makes me sweat.

Because of my analness, one thing I hate even more than playing the game is seeing bent-up Monopoly money scattered around the game board or crumpled up under a couch cushion. When I found the Electronic Banking edition for the boys, I figured it was the perfect gift. After all, reviews have said that this version makes "setup and cleanup so much easier." Those are words that make me happy.

Last night, after Christmas dinner was scarfed and before the gingerbread was sliced, they ripped off the shrink wrap, selected their game pieces (a Segway, a flatscreen TV, a tin of Altoids, and other "modern icons"), picked a bank card color, and started figuring out the new rules. Everyone starts with $15 million (just like in real life!) and instead of property being bought in amounts of $100, $250 or $500, it's now in terms of K's and millions. Now, when you pass "GO" you say, "Hand over 2 million please!"

For the next fifteen minutes, I heard Zoe saying: "Sure, I'll buy South Beach. Woo Hoo! I get to buy Disney World! Yeah, I want Wrigley Field." At the same time, Zach kept complaining: "It sucks to go last. You are definitely at a disadvantage. All of you have at least twice as much property as me. Oh good, I get to go to jail. I guess it's safe to say I've pretty much lost!" These are the phrases I am all too familiar with, but usually it's me saying them. His real scare came when Charlie, who was managing the bank card calculator, informed Zach that he was down to $6.5 million.

"What? How can it be so low? Where did all my money go?" Seriously, these are questions that 40-somethings were just asking about a year ago. Hearing a 13-year-old ask that was a little unnerving.

"Oh. Sorry. I mean $16.5 million. My bad." Unfortunately, this is not the answer that those 40-somethings had the pleasure of receiving. Zach let out a loud sigh of relief and managed to not lunge across the table to smack his brother in the head.

According to the game description, "The bank cards operate more like debit than credit, so players will learn responsible money management, not how to run up credit card debt." Well, that's all fine and good, but hearing someone that still has meltdowns and thinks that Ring Pops are expensive say, "Sure, I'll buy O'Hare for $2 million" definitely takes some getting used to.

When Doug wasn't getting me a beer or rescuing Zoe from "the grossest ladybug ever," he was landing on all of her properties, and paying her $170K, $200K, and then $220K. After landing on the fourth property, he said: "Geez Zoe. It seems like all I'm doing is giving you money." Unfortunately, I have a feeling this isn't the last time I'll ever hear this phrase.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Ho Ho Ho!

Merry Christmas! Enjoy the day with your always-entertaining family, sanity-providing friends, ass-enlarging foods, and favorite bottle of booze. After all, that's why I like to refer to January as "31 Days of Detox."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Look! The Angel Is Flying!

After devoting last Sunday to baking cookies, I feel like I have definitely filled my quota of "beat butter and sugar until creamy" and "cut butter into flour until it resembles fine crumbs." Honestly, why don't recipes just say "beat the shit out of it" and "mash it until it looks like dirt," because those would be terms I would be able to decipher.

You'd think that after hanging out with my stand mixer for seven hours, I'd be done baking, but unfortunately I still hadn't made any cut-out sugar cookies or gingerbread hoodlums. I tried to convince the kids that maybe we could skip the frosting and sprinkling mayhem this year, but they were excited about spending an evening together spreading royal icing on snowmen and stars. Damn traditions.

I figured I'd just pick up a couple tubs of pre-made sugar cookie dough and be able to put the mixer away for another year, but apparently everyone else had the same idea, because it was out of stock everywhere. What the hell kind of grocery store buyer can't figure out that maybe he should order extra cookie dough during the holidays? A dumb shit buyer, that's who.

I managed to find a decent recipe, cream more butter and sugar, and also made the gingerbread dough on Monday night, mentally preparing myself for a fun morning of rolling out dough, having the dough stick to the table, arranging decapitated snowmen on the cookie sheet, swearing a few times, sweeping up flour from the floor, and making memories. No better way to start out the day than spending a few hours coated in flour.

Imagine my surprise when the dough rolled out just like Martha's, nothing stuck to the rolling pin, and the snowflake actually looked like a snowflake instead of a snowball! Was I actually enjoying making cut-out cookies? Hell has frozen over!

According to the recipe, the trick to making sure that the snowman still looks like a snowman after you bake it (instead of a morbidly obese snowman that looks like he ate six other snowmen) is to chill the cookies on the cookie sheet before it goes into the oven. Since my refrigerator had limited space, I thought: "Hey! It's cold outside! I'll just set the cookie sheet on the deck railing to chill for a few minutes. I'm a genius! Cookie baking is a piece of cake!"

I preheated the oven, and after about ten minutes, I opened the door to discover this sight:

What the hell? Where did my cookies go? Did some asshole walk up on the deck to steal my cookies? I know they looked pretty, and making them can be a real pain in the ass, but is anyone really that desperate? Suddenly, a cold wind hit me in the face and that's when I looked down on the patio:

There, in a crumpled heap, was a sad snowman, an angel, a couple stars, and a few little Christmas trees. The wind had lifted the parchment paper like a kite and sent it flying through the air. I knew things had been going too well.

By the end of the evening, the remainder of the dough had been baked, the frosting was tinted, and since we couldn't find any Christmas music that didn't make us physically ill, 93X was cranked in the background. While we all sang along to Guns N' Roses, the cookies were finally decorated. Doug even participated, and I'll give you one guess to figure out which cookie is his:

The gingerbread man would say "Merry Christmas" if it weren't for the fact that his mouth is full. Of angel head.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In Reality, I Rarely Skipped Classes, So WTF

Like most people, I usually don't remember my dreams. The exception to this is when, over the last 20 years or so, I manage to have the same dream over and over again. Unfortunately, the recurring dream doesn't involve alcohol, a vacation, a money tree, a dust-free house, or anything else that leaves a smile on my face. It involves high school.

Thanks to the fact that I showed up at a junior high fundraiser last Friday, I have had the displeasure of having this dream three out of the last five nights. Maybe it's the fact that as we were leaving the school, a junior high dance was just beginning. Walking through a mob of teenagers induced a shocking amount of anxiety and made me remember how much I disliked junior high. The bad wardrobe choices, braces, greasy hair, inability to use obscenities in a creative way, body odor and bad posture made me grateful for adulthood, but also triggered this dream:

I'm at high school, but I've been skipping so often that I can't remember where my locker is. I wander around the locker bays, finally find my locker, but then realize that I don't remember the combination. Even if I get my locker open, it doesn't matter because I have no idea what class I'm supposed to be in, or where that class is, because I don't even remember my way around. Is the cafeteria that direction, or is that where calculus is? Somehow I end up finding an area of the school that I never even knew existed.

I figure since I'm so far behind in English, I might as well just drop the stupid class. So I head to the office, only to stop outside the door because I realize that if I drop it, I might not have enough credits to graduate. So I head back toward the class, 20 minutes late, and just keep walking right by the door. After all, the teacher probably won't even recognize me, I'm weeks behind in assignments, and there's a test today that I haven't studied one minute for.

There are usually slight variations to the dream: what I'm wearing, the color of my locker, the class I've been skipping, and the friends I see in the hallway. But no matter how hideous my outfit is or who I wave to, the end of the dream is always the same: I leave school early after deciding to skip classes again, and have a lot more fun doing something else. Unfortunately, this part of the dream I never seem to remember.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some Evenings Stink More Than Others

Here's how my Monday night ended:

After dinner, Zoe hauled out Winnie The Pooh Candyland. When it was finally bedtime, and after I had played approximately 82 rounds with her, she made me promise that I would leave it on the table so that we can continue the marathon after breakfast. I agreed to leave the game out, but will consider this as pre-payment for any naughtiness I may commit in 2010, because: 1. I hate board games, especially licensed character mind-numbing, boring-ass board games, and 2. Leaving toys out-of-place overnight means I'll have a hard time going to sleep.

So anyway, after Zach and Charlie had played a couple hours of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" and managed to level up and acquire a throwing knife, they came upstairs around 10:00 and discovered Candyland sitting on the table. They proceeded to make up their own rules and became so captivated by the game that they failed to hear the "click click click" of the dog's toenails as he ran back and forth in front of the deck door. I knew what was about to happen, but waited to see if they would snap out of their moment of regression to notice. Sure enough, after a minute or so, I heard Charlie say: "Hey, you have to move two blue squares past the Heffalump before you...oh man. What's that smell? It smells like...OH MY GOD! COSMO TOOK A CRAP FIVE INCHES AWAY FROM ME!"

I walked over with a wad of toilet paper and saw both boys standing across the room, pinching their noses shut with one hand, and Charlie holding his Piglet game piece in the other. I calmly told them that if it was too hard for them to simultaneously notice that the dog needed to go outside and play Candyland, maybe they needed to move on to something easier. Like going to bed.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Psycho Sundays

During the week, Zoe and I have a pretty predictable schedule and she is almost always well behaved. After she gets home from kindergarten, we have lunch together, talk about her day, and then she catches up with her toys and will occasionally watch a little Tom & Jerry. Sometimes we'll play a board game or do some shopping, but mostly she loves having this time to herself before the boys get home from school and the chaos of the evening begins.

Since the rest of the week can get so hectic, I try to keep Sundays as open as possible, and this jolt to the schedule seems to throw Zoe for a loop. Instead of just hanging out with me, everyone is home. This means that there are more candidates for board games, video games, or Uno, which creates more opportunities for her to lose. She holds it together pretty well if she loses once, or even twice. But if she loses at a variety of games throughout the day, the frustration becomes unbearable and she ends up making John McEnroe look like Sportsman of the Year.

There were a couple times yesterday when I thought she was going to have to forfeit every single present under the tree. She hauled off and whacked Doug in the leg, she tried to cheat at Dora Candyland, she screamed at Zach and then hid in her closet, she tried to cheat at Uno, and then she got mad at Zach again while playing Wii. Fortunately for her, Zach thinks her competitiveness is pretty funny, and although he gets annoyed when she's threatening to hit him over the head with the game board, he's able to laugh about it later.

Around 6:00 last night, she came outside while I shoveled the driveway and I watched while she hurled her body off of a snowbank over and over again while bellowing, "Heee-yaaaah! Waaaahhoooo!" and threw ice chunks at a miniature snowman that Charlie built in the cul-de-sac. Except for having to occasionally pause so that I could readjust her mitten or put a hat back on, she cathartically flailed around for about 45 minutes, ridding herself of all traces of pent up aggression.

Maybe I need to be more realistic about expecting her to have a "relaxing" Sunday. After all, even though I kept yesterday open and didn't drive anywhere, it was filled with laundry, a little bit of cleaning, nagging kids, seven hours of cookie baking, shoveling snow, and shouting at a couple football games. I guess if she truly is my daughter and blessed with my genetics, being stationary and quiet for more than ten minutes at a time isn't going to happen. Since she's only five, I'm sure I'll have to tolerate a few more Sundays of listening to her complain because someone is in her way and getting pissed off after a loss. And then when she's a little older, instead of yelling at everyone the instant she gets frustrated, she can write a blog.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Driving? What Driving?

Yesterday, while waiting for Charlie to finish up playing six hours of tennis in Lakeville, I got a call from Zach, who was playing tennis in Fridley. These two suburbs of Minneapolis are approximately 40 minutes away from each other.

"Hi mom. I'm not feeling the greatest. Could you just pick me up now, because I'm not going to stay for the second practice."

"Well, I'm still waiting for your brother to finish his clinic in Lakeville, so I won't be there for at least an hour. Maybe you could buy yourself some dinner and hang out with your friends while you wait for me." This seemed like a completely reasonable suggestion.

"Oh. Well, okay then. You can't get here for an hour? I guess I'll just have to hang out here. What are we doing for dinner?" Note to self: stop speaking German on cell phone.

"Ich werde Ihnen Futtermittel sp├Ąter, und ich rufe dich an, wenn ich auf meinem Weg."

"What? I can't hear you." I think that he sometimes has a tendency to hold the phone on his neck.

"I said, I'll feed you later, and I'll call you when I'm on my way."

When I was about 20 minutes away, I called to let him know that I was, in fact, in the car and headed in his direction and would be there soon, so please start getting ready. Providing your kid with a cell phone really does make things more convenient. Now I won't have to wait in the car when I get there!

As I approached the last stoplight before the club parking lot, I called him again to let him know I was there. His response was: "Oh. Okay. I guess I'll get my pants on and switch my shoes then."

At this point, after enduring two weeks of running kids to extra practices and holiday concerts, keeping Zoe entertained throughout a six hour tennis clinic (yes, I got a pedicure), and suddenly facing a 7:00 dinner dilemma, it didn't surprise me one bit that I had to sit in the parking lot for a couple extra minutes, waiting for someone that wanted a ride an hour ago to figure out that he should put his pants on.

We decided to stop somewhere for dinner on the way home, and while we were inhaling an obscene amount of carbs at Noodles & Co. and I was slamming a Summit EPA, Doug called to see when we would be home. He must have detected the impatience and general bitchiness of my mood (maybe it was because I said something like "Driving around through this fucking day has really sucked ass."), because when I got home he had a martini shaker, a bottle of Ketel One, and my favorite glass waiting for me on the counter. That's when I realized that my time-off from running kids around had officially started. So 'tis the season, ho ho ho, shake shake shake, cheers all around, and happy holidays to me!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Note From The Dog

I know this is going to seem a lot like Billy from "The Family Circus," but I'm not going to share with you how I run aimlessly through the backyard trying to deliver a letter. (I just run aimlessly through the backyard trying to figure out the best place to pee.) I'm writing because the person that feeds me, walks me, picks up my crap, and clips my nails is moving around at kind of a sluggish pace this morning, so I figured I'd take advantage of this opportunity to explain a couple things, and maybe clear up my bad reputation.

I will be honest and admit that I am probably part of the reason for Jody's need to self-medicate with Ketel One last night. You see, Minnesota winters are cold, and last week was really fucking cold. I am a little over 14 dog years old, which makes me about 108 in people years. If you ask a centenarian if he would voluntarily head outside in below zero weather to take a crap, I'm pretty sure his answer would be, "Go to hell, sonny." So, considering the fact that I've been good about defecating outdoors for over a decade, I think I'm entitled to a little cold weather leniency. Will I risk death by taking a dump on the kitchen floor instead of freezing my ass off? Definitely.

What I've discovered is that instead of the usual "Bad dog! Don't shit in the house! Ugh! Why did we get a dog?" routine that I tolerated as a puppy, she kind of feels sorry for me in my geriatric state. I still hear the usual "Why does the house smell like dog shit?" and "Oh Cosmo! That is really gross! You're a stupid dog!", but the whole incident seems to be wiped under the table in a matter of seconds, after the evidence has been flushed. Hmm...under the table. There's a spot I haven't visited yet.

Also, she stresses out about the fact that I have a tendency to throw up in the afternoons, but what does she expect? After dining on a little bit of frozen poop, licking myself whenever the desire hits, and eating random bits of food that happen to fall on the floor, excuse me if I happen to get a little nauseous in the afternoon!

I may act deaf, blind, and like I have no control of my bowels, but I'm not stupid. After 14 years, I have finally figured out that after I go outside around 10:00 at night, I get a treat. Should I go through the effort of going all the way down to the frozen grass, piss in the snow, and trudge all the way back up the deck steps just to get a stupid treat? I think not. I have figured out that if I just go halfway down the stairs, stand there for about 14 seconds, and then head back to the door, I still get the treat! Yeah, she's busted me a couple times and ends up standing at the door, waving her arm like a lunatic while yelling, "Go down the fucking steps, you moron," so then I just pee on the deck instead.

I guess I should get going. After a little ramen, a few Ritz crackers and a couple Advil, she seems to be moving around a little more. Besides, I have an itch I need to lick and the deck is just begging to be peed on.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I Swear, This Is The Last Trip To Target

"Your hair looks nice today. You're just in time for happy hour. Would you like this free chicken pot pie?" These are phrases that I love to hear. I don't even hate it when a kid says: "Hey mom. Are you going to the store anytime soon? Because I need _____ by tomorrow." The exception is when I hear that question at 9:00 PM, after I've turned my brain off and changed into pajamas pants. At that point, it's pretty much the equivalent of jamming an ice pick into my nail bed. A couple nights ago, I was jabbed by Zach.

After determining the last possible moment that the required item could arrive at school, I decided I could put off the trip to Target until the next day. I'm not sure that this was a good thing, though, since it would put me in the home of the red bullseye one week before Christmas. You can see, and hear, the desperation as people race the quickly-approaching deadline. Everyone is crabby, no one is able to use common sense, the bright red reindeer towels suddenly seem like the perfect gift for the mother-in-law, and holiday cheer is in short supply. It's a little like watching a Stupid-Off, where the person with the worst attitude and least amount of Christmas spirit is the winner.

I overheard one stressed out mom bitching at her kid: "Get off my case and cut momma just a little bit of slack already. Quit telling me about the things I don't do. I'm not perfect, okay? Now, should I get Aunt Julie an XL or XXL sleepshirt? Either way I'm sure I'll be wrong!" I glanced over to see a woman holding up two giant pieces of pink fleece, and a kid that was probably six months shy of two-years-old sitting in the cart. Did this woman really want someone in diapers to "cut her some slack?" I'm thinking that instead of stressing out about buying Aunt Julie a sleep shirt that resembled a ginormous bottle of Pepto Bismol, maybe Aunt Julie should be the one cutting this woman some slack.

As I wandered through the mayhem, I passed another woman that was pissed off because there weren't any Zhu Zhu Pets, a grandma that was disappointed with the selection of iPod cases, three kids having meltdowns in the toy department, one guy touching all of the red lace bras, a lady that was so freakishly loud I'm sure she must have had a megaphone implanted in her larynx, a display of eggnog ice cream that made me nauseous, and a little girl whining: "But I want the Hello Kitty lip gloss now! I'm tired of waiting for Santa!"

After I encountered two more kids having tantrums in the candy aisle, I grabbed the item I needed (a bag of 300 Dum Dum suckers for a fundraiser), and got the hell out. Thankfully, I am done shopping and wrapping, and except for one last trip to the grocery store, I will not have to put so much as my big toe inside any stores until after Christmas. This is probably a good thing, since it's still a little sore after I got nailed by that ice pick.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coming Clean

Hello. My name is Jody, and I am a little bit anal. This may come as a bit of a shock to those of you who thought you knew me, but it's true. Dirty dishes never sit in my sink, my junk drawer contains a labeled divider, and laundry baskets are rarely more than half-full. Sometimes when I look at my hand, it seems to be frozen in a position as if holding a can of Pledge, my finger ready to push the trigger at the first sight of dust. I have been known to Dust Buster crumbs off of Zoe's lap, I despise white spots on the bathroom mirror, and I bought myself a wall-mountable Shop Vac for Mother's Day so that I can keep dirt and crumbs out of my minivan. And yes, you might find a Swiffer cloth in the glove box.

Unfortunately for my family, my anal tendencies aren't just limited to cleaning and organizing closets. There are specific "zones" for everything in the pantry, I always know exactly what's in my freezer, and there is a designated spot for the ketchup in the refrigerator. Disturbing? Maybe, but I also never end up with four open bottles of ranch salad dressing or find a dish of mystery mold lurking in the back.

Staying organized amidst the addition of holiday food requires some skill. Suddenly there's large hunks of meat, obscene amounts of butter, and big bottles of booze that need to be chilled. In addition, I always like to have a spare loaf of bread in the freezer because, well, that's what anal people do. Since I don't want to own or organize a second freezer, space is at a premium.

What I really hate is when one of the kids leaves one ice cream sandwich or one waffle in a box that originally contained a dozen because then not only do I not know to buy more waffles, but the empty box is taking up space that would easily accommodate a loaf of bread, or even a bottle of vodka. Everyone that lives here has been told that if there are fewer than 10 crackers, less than a bowl of cereal, or two bites of ice cream left in the container, please suck it up, eat the last few bites and throw the packaging away!

After having this conversation no fewer than 127 times, you can imagine how happy I was when I was trying to get bread to fit into the already-full freezer, and found this container of chocolate chip ice cream taking up prime space right in the front:

That's when I decided to hell with the spare loaf of bread. This anal girl is obviously going to need to keep more vodka in the freezer if I'm going to survive the holidays. If someone wants a peanut butter sandwich on Christmas Day and finds that we're out of bread, then they'll just have to use crackers. After all, I'm sure there's a full box in the pantry, cracker section, subsection saltines.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just Stick To The Sports Section

Yesterday while eating breakfast, Zach was reading an article in the paper about a prominent Minneapolis lawyer who is being charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy after giving him alcohol, and was instantly regretting not sticking to his usual routine of reading the sports section first. "Holy crap! Who is this guy? He's an adult, and a lawyer! That is so wrong. And gross. And wrong. Ugh. Hey, what does sodomize mean anyway?"

Nothing like starting out the day with a little light conversation. "It is a reference to anal sex. And sometimes oral."

After a moment of silence during which he processed this information, he said: "Okay then. Sorry I asked. That's. Just. Ugh. So, did you see that the Timberwolves beat Utah?"

I went outside to shovel the plow hump at the end of our driveway, and resisted the temptation to shove my head into a snowbank. Did my kid just ask me to define "sodomize?"

That afternoon, I happened to catch a brief story on "The Doctors" about an activity that a disturbing number of teenagers are participating in, called "The Fainting Game." This "Game" involves intentionally depriving the brain of oxygen in order to bring on a partial or even complete loss of consciousness. Obviously, serious injuries can occur, sometimes including the unwanted side effect of death.

I casually asked Zach: "Hey. Do you know anyone at school that has done 'The Fainting Game', and have you ever been asked to try it?"

"What the heck is 'The Fainting Game?' It doesn't sound like anything I'd want to try. Unless I was insane." Exactly the answer I was looking for.

"It's this game where kids intentionally choke themselves or a buddy, until the person faints, and nails their head on the floor. And sometimes dies."

"Yeah, see, that's definitely something I won't be lining up for. What moron would do this?"

"This moron," I said, as I made him watch a home movie of someone fainting and nailing his head on the floor. He just shook his head in disbelief and went back to watching tennis videos on YouTube.

Zach is 13, and even though I know that conversations like these have to happen, it freaks me out to think how fast the last decade whipped by and how it seems like just yesterday that he was asking me how the power windows in the car work and was learning how to tie his shoes. Now he's in 8th grade, surrounded by girls with boobs, and just watched an episode of South Park about a giant douche.

Talking to the boys about these uncomfortable topics makes me really appreciate having five-year-old Zoe in the house. When asked how she managed to remember so many songs from music class, she said: "Well, I keep them in my head. And then they come out of my mouth. It's not that hard."

I'm thinking of never letting her become a teenager.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Playing Well With Others Is Overrated

The first trimester of the school year is complete and the report cards have been sent home. While this is normally a pretty uneventful day in our house (no, I wouldn't really beat them if they get a B), this trimester held a little more excitement because since she is a kindergartner, it is Zoe's first report card.

Instead of the standard "A-B-C" grading standard, kindergarten uses an "O-S-N" system. The letters stand for Outstanding, Satisfactory and Needs improvement, although I think it would be more appropriate if they stood for Overachiever, Sort-of-gets-it, and Normal.

I had no concerns about her academic performance, but her tendency to chatter and lack of patience makes me a little nervous. As I reviewed her report card, I was relieved to see that, unlike some adults I know, she "displays self-confidence, has a positive attitude, demonstrates self-control verbally and physically," and in the words of her teacher, "is a pleasure to have in class." Then I got to the "works/plays well with others" and saw that she wasn't doing such a satisfactory job. Or was she?

When I asked her if she is fighting or arguing with the other kids, or maybe even being bossy at times, she initially said, "No mom. I'm always nice to all the kids, and I always sit quietly at the table."

Without saying anything, I just looked at her and smiled. After a minute or so, she clarified her answer.

"Sometimes, Nathan is so naughty. He doesn't listen and he picks his nose, and the teacher says 'Nathan! Go wash your hands!' and he doesn't go, he just sits there. I try to sit quietly, but it's so gross. And Tim. Tim will start to sing for no reason and he sits right by me and it gets so annoying. And sometimes, when it's my turn to play with the truck and that one other boy tries to take the truck from me, I'm not going to give it to him, because it's still my turn!"

After hearing all of this, I felt conflicted. Do I encourage her turn a blind eye to the nose picker, become more tolerant of the impulsive off-tune singer, and give in to the demands of the truck hog? Hell no. This is a girl that is confident, strong-willed, outspoken, smart, and pretty much kick ass. She's a five-year-old trying to figure out how to get along with gross, sticky, linguistically-challenged, hygienically-deficient children. As long as she isn't yelling "Haven't you ever heard of a bath?" while shoving them onto the ground, I think she's doing just fine.

Earning respect without being viewed as a bitch-in-training is something that's nearly impossible for girls to do, and it seems that if they're not being labeled as bossy bitches, they're being called a push-over. I'd rather my daughter risks being called bossy before she has toys taken away from her during free choice time.

Whenever I have the "pleasure" of volunteering in her classroom, I am reminded of the fact that I do not play well with others, and would definitely get a failing grade. But I've had a lot of time to discover who gets on my nerves (a lot of people) and who I would do tequila shots with (you know who you are). The process of getting to this point is something everyone should go through. I wouldn't want Zoe to miss out on this experience just because she was already annoyed by everybody with a quirk or two as a five-year-old.

I don't want Zoe to be intolerant and hyper-critical of kids that may smell funny, eat ear wax, or still watch "Caillou," yet. I will encourage her to be more patient with her classmates, compromise more often, and maybe just subtly plug her ears once in a while when Tone Deaf Timmy starts humming a tune. And I will definitely teach her the "look" she can give to some of these kids that will wordlessly say: "I kick ass. You don't. And your mom dresses you funny."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chore Charts

I know there are a lot of households that operate smoothly with chore charts for the kids, and the chores range from the basics (breathe oxygen) to the extravagant (shingle the roof). I've seen a chart that consists of different lists for morning and evening, each broken down into subsections. Each of the four daughters has a list of simple chores, including: get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, sort hair ribbons, throw daddy's newspaper away, and push in chairs. Although there is a noticeable absence of chores for dad (he can't throw his own newspaper away?), there is a daily chore listed for mom: clean up baby. Did someone really need to include "clean up baby" on a list?

In order to maintain some of my sanity, I actually find it easier to not maintain a chore chart and instead hand out jobs as needed. If I want one of the boys to take the garbage out, I usually just have to ask about seven times and voila! The garbage disappears! They still pretty much suck at putting a new bag into the can, though, so I just do that part myself, because I hate it when there is a ton of air trapped between the bag and the can, leaving just enough space to throw away a gum wrapper and coffee grounds. I know that you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Doug often accuses me of doing way too much for everyone, and he's absolutely right. Due to my complete absence of patience, tendency to be picky, and not-quite-a-control freak personality, I find it extremely difficult to justify taking the time to get someone's attention, politely ask them to do a chore, explain how to do the chore, not-so-politely demand that they do the chore, ignore the fact that they sighed and rolled their eyes, and then watch them do the chore half-assedly. It's much easier for me to skip this painful process, do the stupid task, and deal with a little resentment.

The one thing that I do expect on a daily basis is for someone to set the table. By "set," I mean going through the long ordeal of putting a few forks and napkins on the island. This task gets completed without my asking about three nights out of seven. I know, it's impressive. Last night, after he wandered into the kitchen and plunked down the forks, I told Charlie to go tell his sister, who was upstairs playing in her room, that dinner was ready. While standing two feet away from me, he started hollering: "Hey Zoe! Dinner's ready! Come eat!"

"Excuse me, mutation in the gene pool. I could have done that myself! I told you to go up there and tell her, not alert the entire neighborhood!" Honestly, did I need to explain to him that he should actually put one foot in front of the other, climb the stairs, open her door and, using his inside voice, inform the girl that she could come eat dinner? Apparently, yes.

I like to believe that his inability to figure out how to do this simple chore is a direct result of my coddling and failure to raise a kid with common sense, not because the chore wasn't written down on a list. It might also have something to do with the fact that I used to do the same exact thing when I was a kid.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Home + School = Are You Crazy?

After today, the kids have one week of school left before the two-week winter break begins. I love this break, almost as much as I love the day that they return to school in January, and I love that day almost as much as the first day of school in September. Experiencing these joyous moments are something that homeschool families miss out on.

There are some things that I've said I will never do (use bribery, yell in public, drink schnapps, buy toy weapons, double-dip a chip) that are obviously unrealistic and were prematurely promised. One thing that I can honestly say that I will never do, though, is homeschool my kids. I know that people have a variety of reasons for homeschooling (insanity being #1), and I have several reasons why I won't be completing a registration form for the Minnesota Homeschoolers' Alliance 2010 Annual Conference.
  1. The kids are building important communication and debate skills every time I tell them, "Talk to your teacher about it."
  2. I wouldn't want to ruin the excitement created by the rare snow day.
  3. They'd miss out on learning how to manage the crowds and extreme body odor found exclusively in locker bays.
  4. I like my Monday mornings just the way they are.
  5. I can't get them to take out the garbage or remember to floss. There's no way in hell they would listen to me as their teacher.
  6. The math/science lessons should probably be more extensive than "1 oz. mixer + 2 oz. booze, blend with ice."
  7. The thought of organizing a school environment in my home gives me anxiety.
  8. Would I get a property tax reduction? I didn't think so.
  9. They need to be exposed to a variety of germs to build up their immune systems. Licking the shopping cart handles at Target just attracts unwanted attention, and doesn't make you as sick as you'd think.
  10. They like being with their friends, and I love hearing the "you won't believe what happened at lunch" stories.
  11. I may be insane, but I'm not that insane.
Maybe I'm being a little premature when I say I won't be attending the MHA 2010 Annual Conference, since I see that it's scheduled for a Saturday in September. I'll be looking for a reason to get out of the house and away from the kids, and I'm sure the other attendees would appreciate my math/science curriculum.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Teenage Boys Have An Unfair Advantage

Due to the age range of my kids, my days require a variety of communication skills. Explaining something to Zoe takes a lot of patience, a little reverse-psychology, a smidgen of bribery, and occasionally a threat or two. Getting the boys to listen, or getting information from them, requires short, concise sentences, and adjectives are considered frivolous and unnecessary.

Taking into account the boys' preference to communicate through arm gestures and grunts, you would think that they would kick ass at charades. We found out a couple weeks ago that this is not the case. Zach tried to act out his phrase and all he did was stand there, his head cocked to one side, his jaw askew, and a distant look on his face. I have to be honest and say that I've seen him with that same expression when we're not playing charades, so I refrained from yelling out guesses like "trying to put laundry away" or "listening to your mother." Hard to believe the word he was trying to pantomime was "dummy."

While picking up the last of the Christmas gifts, I was wandering by the board games, seeing if there was anything that might appeal to a teenage boy that is too old for "Sorry," too impatient for "Risk," and too young for "Dirty Minds." I picked up a game I had never seen before and read the back:

"Cro Magnon Board Game by University Games challenges you to adopt the eccentric habits of your tribe and evolve or not through the ages. Rediscover your prehistoric communication skills miming, clay modeling, primitive speaking and charcoal sketching to help the members of your tribe guess words and move ahead in this fantastic adventure. Give in to your primal instincts and let them lead you to victory. Only the caveperson who evolves happily to the stage of homo sapiens will win the game."

Oh, and it also comes with a "primitive language sheet." Maybe now I'll finally be able to decipher all those grunting sounds.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tennis? Yes. Peas? No.

Thanks to the snow last night, I was able to spend an evening at home making pork chops, peas, and mashed potatoes instead of driving Zoe to her tennis lesson. After seeing the peas on the stove, she announced, "I'm not going to eat dinner, no way man, not hungry, not gonna happen." Instead of offering to make her something else, I simply said: "Okay. Don't eat. But if you're hungry later, this is what you're having." Was I worried about her starving to death? No, and unlike another family I know, I wasn't worried about the long-term repercussions of her missed tennis lesson, either.

Although it may seem like we have become a family that is consumed by tennis, I've realized that we are no where near as intense as some others. Yes, I re-grip racquets, drive to lessons, sign the boys up for tournaments, make sure that they're at their matches on time, and pack coolers. I also insist that they be good sports on and off the court, and as a result they always have fun at tournaments, whether they are winning or losing.

We have encountered families that have their kids on the court six days a week, promote cheating, racquet smashing, screaming, on-court crying, and the line calling strategy known as, "when in doubt, call it out." There is one family in particular (let's call their son "Ivan") that takes competitiveness and cheating to a whole new level. The father will stand near Ivan's court and coach him throughout the match, yelling at him in Russian. He has been told several times that coaching is not allowed during a tournament match, but refuses to abide by the rules. I suppose I could be super sneaky and try to coach my boys in Spanish, but I don't know how helpful it would be if I was lurking behind the baseline yelling: "Cerveza! Por favor! Margarita! Hola! Hola! Mucha cerveza! Chips and salsa! Adios!"

When Ivan's family is at tournaments, it adds stress to the whole event. They show up late for their matches, the mom will verbally berate the opponent's parents and accuse them of raising a cheater, the tournament director always has to keep an eye on the dad, and if Ivan is losing he will whine loudly and smash his racquet. I'd like to say the whole thing is funny to watch, but really it's embarrassing and sad.

Charlie beat Ivan at a tournament this past summer, and it was not a pretty sight. Charlie played great, and Ivan spent quite a bit of time flopping down on the court and yelling. A couple days later, the dad went to the club and decided to stoop to a new low by telling anyone who would listen that: "That Chinese kid, Charlie, the only reason he beat Ivan is because he's a cheater. He called every ball out even if it was in, and he's a cheater." Needless to say, Ivan's dad and I ended up having a little confrontation, and he now knows that not only is Charlie not Chinese, he's not a cheater.

Zoe is five-years old. She hates peas, but she loves tennis, and would probably play every day if I was willing to drive her there, and pay for it. But if she was on the court every day at the age of five, she will want to play zero days when she is 16. And I don't know of any college willing to recruit a kindergartner.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

See You On The Freeway!

During the next two weeks, my attendance is requested at an 8th grade choir concert, a 6th grade orchestra concert, a holiday piano recital, an MMTA piano recital, and a 6th grade Christmas program. I will also be driving to four tennis lessons for the boys, two tennis lessons for the girl, two piano lessons, two violin lessons, two before-school choir rehearsals, and an after-school orchestra rehearsal. There is also a six-hour tennis clinic an hour away from home, the last-minute holiday shopping to get done, plus a fundraiser at the junior high. In addition, Doug will be out-of-town for two days, and working a shit load of hours on the days that he's in town.

Oh, and at some point my family would probably like to eat, and they will need clean socks.

Up until this month, my schedule has been pretty manageable because I usually only need to be in one place at one time, with one activity per night. But December is always busier because of the holiday-theme concerts, the Christmas parties, and 4,000 extra errands, all crammed into three-weeks. It definitely makes it difficult to sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. Unless, of course, the sights include my bangs stuck to my sweaty forehead as I schlep stuff to and from the car, and the sounds include phrases like: "Get your shoes on now and get in the car! It's your concert we're late for!" and "No. I do not have a snack for you because I'm not a vending machine."

I cannot imagine December without having to simultaneously shop, wrap, cook, occasionally pee, decorate, entertain, shower, bake cookies, clean, be merry, and drive kids around. Right now, though, I am strongly considering buying all of my cookies, letting the dust accumulate, faking a couple illnesses on concert nights, serving take-out on Christmas Eve, and spending my newfound time taste testing festive cocktails. Something tells me that I wouldn't enjoy the holidays any less. In fact, I might even enjoy them more.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Fishing Allowed

Over the weekend, while the boys played a couple hours of tennis, Zoe and I went swimming. A bunch of middle-aged moms in swimsuits, in December, in Minnesota, doesn't exactly provide the same scenery as South Beach. It's obvious that we've all jammed a couple duffel bags through the keyhole, collagen is in short supply, and the boob fairy has a sick sense of humor. But no one cares about any of this because after all, we're not voluntarily swimming in an over-chlorinated indoor pool to impress other women with, or feel bad about, our bodies. We're there to swim with our kids and have fun.

After we were done swimming and had attempted to eradicate all traces of chlorine from our hair, Zoe and I stood at our locker with strategically placed towels, ready to dive into the "try to look presentable with the contents of a gym bag" routine. Unfortunately, there was a crazy lady standing nearby that didn't think towel use was necessary. She had a rail-thin body that had probably never digested a carb, tanning bed skin that resembled beef jerky, and a couple frontal additions that she obviously wasn't born with. This was a woman that was out to impress us with her body and hopefully make us feel bad.

She stood completely naked in front of the mirror, slowly combed her hair, and then finally grabbed some jeans. After looking around at the other normal-looking people, she loudly announced: "Oh. Look at that. I'm still all wet. I hate getting dressed when I'm all wet. I'll just have to dry my hair while the rest of me air dries." Then, she looked at me and continued: "Oh. Your little girl is so cute. My daughter is 24 and borrows all my stuff, including my clothes. We're the same size, you know. I still can't believe I have a 24-year-old. Isn't that hard to believe?"

"No. Not really. You're probably the same size because of that crazy thing called genetics." Yes, I know she was fishing for me to say something like: "Wow! That's amazing! You are sooo skinny and look incredibly young! I wish I could look like you!" But the truth is, she didn't look amazing. She looked like she needed to eat a meatball hoagie on real bread, embrace at least 5% of her natural hair color (I know for a fact that she isn't really a blonde), and put on a bra.

Instead of just getting dressed and leaving, which is what we were all hoping for, she continued: "Yep. The same size. Size zero, in fact. She buys me clothes just so she can wear them first, since we have the same taste, too."

At this point, I didn't trust myself to say anything besides "Mmm hmm. That's interesting." before I flipped on my hair dryer. The thing is, the more I thought about this woman, the more irritated I became. A health club is filled with bodies of all shapes and sizes. Every person that has taken the initiative to get there has the same goal: to be in better shape and to feel good about themselves. The last thing any woman needs is to have to deal with some skinny bitch that knows she's skinny flaunt her naked ass through the locker room, fishing for compliments.

I've decided that my resolutions for the New Year aren't going to include any drastic weight loss measures, desires to look like anyone else, or fighting the laws of nature. They will include carbs, cocktails, the occasional workout, more carbs, yanking out a gray hair here and there, and resisting the urge to push leathery-skinned skinny bitches into the deep end of the over-chlorinated pool.