Friday, April 30, 2010

What's that? No babysitter?

(Originally posted on 10/20/09)

A parent is faced with difficult decisions everyday and I try not to be hyper-critical of other moms because I know how hard it is. There's really only a few things -- choice of car, hairstyle, kindergarten girl's hooker wardrobe, exterior color of house, voluntarily eating iceberg lettuce -- that make me truly question some people's ability to make educated and logical decisions. One of the most frustrating of all, though, has to be what people choose to do when the babysitter cancels.

Basically, if you thought that the event/appointment was important enough to get a sitter for in the first place, stay with that frame of mind. Please don't start thinking "I'll just bring crayons and fruit snacks and I'm sure that no one will mind if I bring my adorable little Damian to tag along." Yes, we mind.

If you have a haircut appointment anywhere that doesn't start with Fantastic, Super, or Great, please just reschedule. Other women at the salon are paying large sums of money to both their stylist and their sitters for the luxury of spending an hour sitting in an obscenity-friendly, tantrum-free, snack-free zone. Those looks you get from them aren't saying "What a cute little angel, I could just pinch his cheek," but "Thanks a lot, mean lady. I'm going to make you pay my tip." They would've called you a bitch, but your kid is within earshot.

Headed to a movie after 7:30 that isn't rated PG? Seriously, for those people that used the excuse "it was a movie about puppets" when they were too lazy to get a sitter for "Team America," no one believes you. Again, other people + sitters + expensive tickets to a Coen brothers movie = you should really look into Netflix.

If you have dinner reservations, cancel them. What do you think take-out is for? There's a reason that not all restaurants have tic-tac-toe place mats and balloons. No where is it a law that all dining establishments have to be child-friendly and have chicken tenders stashed away in the freezer "just in case." Again, the other people in the restaurant have sitters and a lot of the women are wearing mascara for the first time in weeks, so please don't make them cry by ruining their evening away from their kids! Just think, you still get a night off from cooking, you save cash by not having to pay for the sitter and you get to control how much Captain goes into the Diet Coke. Because everyone knows you have Captain in the house, right next to the Corning Ware.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Does it Come With a Receipt?

I have spent the last couple days trying to come to grips with the fact that I am hosting a baby shower on Sunday. Now that I've planned the menu, made a few lists and bought some plastic utensils, I realize that I'm exceedingly grateful for three things: 1) I am not pregnant; 2) I do not have to give birth; and 3) I am not bringing a newborn home.

Don't get me wrong, I really liked being pregnant. Besides the no booze part, the nine months went by pretty drama-free, the deliveries were uneventful (I know now to never say no to an epidural) and the only reason the word "post-partum" is in my vocabulary is because I've read about it. But now that I have three kids that are eventually (hopefully) going to attain some self-sufficiency, I'm not looking to take a trip down teething and diaper rash lane any time ever again.

Since this is my sister-in-law's first pregnancy and baby, I figured I'd try to be helpful by shining a little realistic light on the delivery and also, what the hell she and my brother are supposed to do with this miniature human that they're suddenly responsible for. I know that there are shelves full of books about pregnancy and babies, but they're all pretty lengthy and often contain bullshit information like "You may experience a small amount of bleeding for the first few days after delivery." What this tidbit of info really means is: "You will bleed more than a freshly beheaded chicken for a couple days, and then it will taper a bit, but if you do so much as a jumping jack during that first week after delivery, you will start to bleed again." So in order to save Ali some time, here are a couple tips:
  • Postpartum Undergarments: Take the giant mesh underwear that they give you at the hospital. In fact, if you can get your hands on a few extra pair, swipe those too.
  • Rectal Discomfort: If you push for more than three minutes, you may end up acquiring a new friend that is sometimes referred to as Hemorrhoid, and as a result you will have to hang out with Hemorrhoid's buddy, Inflatable Donut.
  • Meeting Your Newborn: The first time you see your baby, it isn't like on TV. It's awesome and obviously something you'll never forget, but at the same time, it's kind of icky too. There's a lot of, um, stuff. Stuck to the baby. Like, EVERYWHERE.
  • Overwhelming Joy: There are so many new moms that talk about the "bliss" and the "intense happiness" and the "immediate and natural bond" that they experience, and they're right: having a baby is a pretty amazing thing. But if your feelings temporarily end up leaning more toward "shock, pain, fear, holy shit," and "excuse me, but can I rewind my life about 9 months," that's okay, too.
  • Nursing Comes Naturally: The baby does not enter the world on an empty stomach and starving. Don't feel like you need to jam your boob in the baby's mouth before she takes her first, or even 50th, breath. Even if a nurse is hovering over you pressuring you to NURSE THE BABY ALREADY don't feel overly pressured. But when you do finally nurse her (if you're nursing), you literally need to just jam what feels like your entire boob into her mouth.
  • Mild Vaginal Irritation: In fact, it's probably best not to try nursing until the doctor is done sewing up your episiotomy.
  • Establishing Your Supply: For the first couple days of nursing, it isn't like flipping the switch on the Kemps truck. In fact, it'll be more like a slow trickle out of an Elmer's glue bottle that is half-clogged with dried glue gunk.
  • I'm a Fucking Dairy Cow: When your milk does come in, then it'll feel like the Kemps truck emptied its entire contents into your chest. And if my brother says "Wow, check out those boobs" and tries to touch them, please resist the urge to either chop off his hand and/or kill him.
  • Your New Baby's Wardrobe: Babies look best when they're dressed in a onesie. That's it. Ignore the outfits with collars (Especially the rounded kind, because they always flip up and make the kid look like they're wearing one of those cones that dogs have to wear after surgery so that they don't chew on their incision.), the buttons going up the back (unless you enjoy making yourself cry while attempting to dress your child), lace and bows, anything requiring excessive snapping, and just put the girl in a onesie. If it's chilly, then put her in one of those outfits that resembles a pillow case.
  • Around week three, my niece will be pissed and discover that she can be LOUD. She will cry, eat, poop, cry, possibly sleep, and then cry some more. You will, at some point, be really tired and cranky and as a result, might kind of yell at your baby. Don't worry. As long as you don't yell every day, you're normal.
  • When you get home from the hospital, and you're finally rid of the nurses and the lactation consultants and everyone else, send EVERYONE home and hang out with your baby. Grandparents are well meaning and friends want to help, but for the first couple days it's best not to have any unsolicited advice. Wear sweats, don't wear makeup, change diapers, find the perfect spot on the couch for nursing and stare at your kid. Tell people who insist on stopping by to just leave food at the front door and then come back in 48 hours to pick up the dirty dish.
Oh, and by the way, at some point you might want to say to hell with this parenting thing because your day is really, really sucking and you will wish that the baby came with a receipt so that you could either return her or, at the very least, get store credit but unfortunately, you can't. But, you can bring her to Aunt Jody's house and I will hold my niece, make you a margarita that is sized appropriately for someone that is nursing and maybe even let you take a nap.

P.S. That's a picture of Zach at 5 days old, taken 13 years and 8 months ago.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Big Hairy Deal

My hair kind of sucks. And I'm not fishing for compliments or trying to be self-deprecating, I am simply stating a fact. It is straighter than straight, boring black, slightly coarse and in an emergency could probably be used to sew on a button. I will say that thanks to some very talented people (color tech Angie, I'm talking about you) and now that the 90's are over with, my hair doesn't suck as much as it used to, but it still has huge styling limitations. Due to the shape of my head, I have never been able to wear headbands and I have always, and I mean always, had bangs because my hairline is, and has always been, pretty much the same as the hairline you'd find on a 55-year-old man.

Growing up with thick, stick-straight, pitch black hair in a very blonde and curly ZIP code had it's drawbacks. Around third grade, my mom paid someone to give me a perm, and those biannual perms continued for years. There are several pictures that document these unfortunate hair-do's, and if I could have found one in time to attach to this post, believe me when I say I wouldn't have. I always dreaded the first couple days post-perm: the stinky head, the too-tight curls, the bangs that shrunk up to the size of pubes, the other kids saying "Wow, pew, I guess someone just got a perm." Then there were the late 80's and 90's with the ginormous bangs that were teased to gravity defying heights. The only question I have is: What in the hell were we thinking, and why did it take us so long to find out about long layers?

I loved the fact that my first two kids arrived in this world with a penis (holy crap, I just about said peanut butter gut) because that meant I wouldn't have to deal with girl hair. The pony tails, the pig tails, the blow drying, the tangles, the debate over bangs or no bangs -- none of this was ever going to be an issue. With boys, the only decision I ever had to make was whether to go with a #2 or a #4 buzz cut, and if I was willing to pay someone $15 a head to cut it. (After a couple sweaty, tear-filled home haircuts that took place in the driveway, the answer is: Yes, from now on I am always willing to pay someone $15 to cut my kids' hair.)

When Zoe arrived, I felt ready and willing to face another head of girl hair since I had finally figured out how to accept and manage my own stick-straight mane. And wouldn't you know, she managed to grow the head of hair that I always coveted: medium brown that gets highlights in the summer, a texture that isn't too fine or too coarse and a perfect hairline, all placed proportionally on a perfectly-shaped head.

Surprisingly enough, I have actually enjoyed brushing it every morning and occasionally putting it in pigtails, but getting someone to cut it the right way is another thing. Why is it so hard to find a stylist that doesn't want to make her look like an American Girl Doll? Does every little girl have to have a bob? No. Do I want a thick hunk of bangs cut straight across her forehead? Absolutely not. Am I supposed to actually pay for a haircut that doesn't have any layers or texture? Okay, you get my point.

About a year ago, a friend of ours left the advertising industry to open up a barbershop. Since this guy has a great eye for design and knows what he likes, I'm sure it won't come as a shocker when I say that this isn't just a barbershop. They play great music, there is a wall mural comprised of music posters, their prices are great and the barbers and stylists all know their shit. Since I like to support friends in business ventures that interest me, we voluntarily drive half-an-hour so that the boys and Doug can get their hair cut at Floyd's Barbershop. But it wasn't until last summer, as I was standing there watching Charlie get a perfectly smooth #2 buzz cut, that I decided to save some time and have Zoe get her hair cut there, too. After all, they have great stylists in addition to barbers and do a lot more than just buzz cuts and straight razor shaves.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that the best girl cut, including perfect choppy bangs, is found at a barbershop in Uptown. And instead of a post-cut lollipop, she gets to rock out to Muse.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Please Be Invisible

I think that from now on, there needs to be a cap on how many times on a Monday a girl can drive in and out of her driveway, shut a car door, pack a cooler, empty a cooler, tell kids to get in the car, tell kids to hurry up and get out of the car, and hit the garage door button. And I'm pretty sure I also set some sort of Guinness record as to how fast a person can sprint through Target while tossing various items into a cart while somehow managing to not squish the bread or run over a small child.

The best part of the day happened around 4:45, after I had somehow managed to be in two different places at the same time. I actually sat in one place and watched Zach's tennis match. Outside. In a chair. And thanks to the dumb shit weatherman and his inability to do his job, I froze my ass off.

Well, technically, I didn't completely freeze my ass off, since it was a really close match and I kept tensing up all of my muscles every time he went for a passing shot. When the match went to a third set, I considered waiting in the car and saving myself a lot of stress, but I decided to be a supportive parent, sit in the wind, stick it out and holler an occasional phrase like "Come on Zach!" or "Nice shot!" Even when Zoe told me, when the set score was 5-3 and Zach was up 30-15, that she had to go pee, I introduced her to the fine art of peeing in the grass so that I didn't miss the final point. I wanted to make sure that when Zach said "Hey, thanks for coming to my match. Did you see that last point?" that I'd be able to say yes, yes I did see the last point. Even though your brother is at home by himself waiting for dinner and your sister just pissed in the grass, I saw the last point.

Turns out, he didn't ask me if I saw it, he didn't thank me for coming and actually, he kind of wishes that I wouldn't have shown up. Turns out I didn't have to find someone else to drive Charlie to his dinner-less home after his orchestra practice, because I could have just picked him up myself. Turns out that I could have avoided having to make Zoe pee in the grass, strategically blocking the sight of her naked ass from traffic using collapsible chairs, and could have wandered over to the outhouse instead. Turns out I probably should have just plunged my head into the shit-filled tank while I was in there.

When Zach got in the car and we were headed home to enjoy a ten minute dinner before we had to head back out for piano lessons, he said "I don't know if I like having you at my matches, so if you can't make it to some of them, that's okay."

Um, gee, well, let's review, shall we? I drive you to your lessons, get your rackets restrung, regrip your rackets, make sure you have decent court shoes, schedule your lessons, make sure your uniform is clean, reassure you when you think your backhand sucks, pack coolers with protein-rich food and force you to go to bed at a decent hour the night before big matches. But should I mind that you don't want me sitting and watching a match, from 30-feet away, with a windscreen between us? Was this the same kid that, just two weeks ago, said to me "I wish you had seen the match I played at practice. It was so much fun and I played really well."

Somehow I managed to not get mad, or even act like I was taking his desire to remove my presence from his matches personally. Instead, I calmly said "No. It's not okay. I'll be there watching, because it's my job to be there. But from now on I'll make sure I'm there, but not there."

He said thanks.

So now all I need to do is add "become invisible on demand" to my list of mom duties, and from now on when Zoe says she needs to go pee I won't feel bad when I take the time to walk with her to the outhouse. Unless she chooses to pee in the grass instead which, in that case, I'll just strategically arrange the chairs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Singing For Science

Some important statistics regarding the school year:
  • The first day of school was on September 8, 2009.
  • The last day of school is on June 11, 2010.
  • As of today there are 38 school days remaining.
  • Between September 8 and today, my eighth grader has completed 18 science projects worth a total of approximately 1400 points. These projects have almost always overlapped with extended school breaks, long weekends and/or holidays and have consisted of creating a constellation out of a pop can, constructing a diorama, performing a couple skits, producing a weather presentation, designing a placemat, a travel brochure, completing a couple weather experiments and 11 other projects.
  • Because of this school year, I have went through more bottles of vodka than I'd like to admit, plus I've been known to drink a beer here and there and maybe even indulge in a margarita or two.
  • We are now in the middle of project number 19, and at this point I am now eyeing the rum.
Project No. 19 is a group project. Each group must perform an eight-minute skit, that also includes a song, about the Earth's "Ring of Fire" which, if you're wondering, is an arc that is composed of over 75% of the world's dormant and active volcanos and stretches from New Zealand, along the eastern edge of Asia, north across the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and south along the coast of North and South America. Obviously, it makes perfect sense to incorporate this type of topic into a song, and the best part of the project is that the kids aren't allowed to be creative and choose or make up their own song: they're required to use Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" which, by the way, I always thought was a song about hemorrhoids.

In an attempt to commemorate the project-induced frustrations that I have endured, and to celebrate the end of the school year that is fast approaching, I have decided to be nice and write a couple verses for them, all to the tune of "Ring of Fire." So here you go, Mr. Eighth Grade Science Teacher Man -- this one's for you:

Oh you suck, you're kind of a jerk
Those projects are too much work
You teach 8th grade, not a college class
I wish you'd kiss my ass

I fell into a pit of depression
When my kid couldn't make a good impression
Because you grade, grade, grade
So weird and arbitrarily
and often unfairly

I know, you expect a lot
And my kid has given all he's got
But never, were you satisfied
Until a few kids cried.

I think that your projects are so pointless
That UFO we built is nothing less than completely useless
And you should know
That we are tired
And wouldn't mind it at all if you decided to take a trip for an indefinite length of time to the ring of fire.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hi, I'm Dick, and I'll Be Your Personal Trainer

When you sign up for a new membership at our health club (I don't know if I should name the club specifically, but let's just say that it's not LA Fitness, Snap Fitness, Bally's or Anytime Fitness.) you get a free initial consultation with a personal trainer. While I agree that there are some people that derive huge benefits from using a personal trainer, I don't think that they're for everybody. And if you asked me what I thought of the trainer giving the free consultation that I overheard last week, I'd say that no one should work with this particular asshole. Ever.

The following is a fairly accurate transcript of what I a) overheard and; b) was able to decipher, based on the tone of his voice and the look in his eye:

So, hi, you're new to this club. Have you ever worked out before? It doesn't look like you've been working out at all.

Umm, well, I get busy, and don't have a routine right now.

Yeah, I can tell. You have some extra weight. You must have a desk job that allows you to go out to lunch and eat crap every day. It's going to be hard to introduce a new routine. Are you sure you're up to the challenge? It's really hard, especially for people like you.

Well, I, umm, I thought so. That's why I have bought a membership. I'd like to...

So really, what are your goals? Is weight loss one of them, because if not it definitely should be. I can't believe I have to sit here for twenty minutes and talk to you about all of this when I could be over by the free weights watching that chick do squats.

I've gained a couple pounds here and there, but am hoping to lose it. Which is why I want to work out.

Are you going to actually use this membership, or are you going to have to cancel it for financial reasons? You aren't wearing a color-coordinated Nike outfit, there isn't a yoga mat tucked under your arm and your shoes kind of suck, so you don't appear to have the cash-ola to pay for this membership.

Well, the membership is kind of expensive, but I'm hoping to...

So you're saying you can't really afford this membership, and it's going to strain you financially? Well, you have to commit, you know. Financially and physically. Are you willing to make that commitment? I hope you're not, because since you're not a blonde 24-year-old, I don't really want to work with you.

Yes, I'd like to make it work. My health is important to me beca...

Well, do you know that the services you receive from a personal trainer aren't included in the price of your membership? Our fees are in addition to the membership fee, and if that's already going to stretch your finances, I don't know how much more of a commitment you can make. We can't help you if you can't pay, lady. And please note, I am talking extra loud because you appear to have a bit of an accent, so by raising the volume of my voice I'm hoping that you have a better chance of understanding me when I tell you that in addition to looking fat, you look poor.

Oh, well, I thought with the free consultation you could get me started on a program and show me around and demonstrate some of the machines.

What? Member services never gave you a tour? (ssssssiiiiiggggghhh). Well, I suppose I could give you a tour, even though a lot of the services you'll see have fees that are in addition to your membership. By the way, what are your eating habits like? Are you interested in nutrition? It doesn't seem that way, because like I said before, you're kind of fat.

Well, I, er, um...

None of that sounds good. You must eat out, which surprises me because you don't look like you have enough money to pay for this membership, let alone eat out.

I guess I eat out some, but not every day.

Well, whatever. I guess I should show you around, even though I don't really want to, so follow me this way and I'll point to all kinds of cool things like the pilates and yoga studio, salon services, the tennis courts and the massage/chiropractic center, all of which cost extra in addition to your membership fee.

Oh yeah, and by the way: Welcome to Lifetime Fitness.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Peanut Butter What?

When kids are learning how to talk, it's always entertaining to hear how they refer to things. If I were a better mom, I would have been documenting every moment of linguistic growth in a scrapbook and would be able to tell you every single funny thing that ever came out of Charlie's mouth, but since I'm normal and have other things to do, I can only tell you that, until the age of two, he referred to everything as a "da-da." And when we were headed somewhere in the car, Zach would always ask if we had to go "on the too-many-cars," which meant the freeway.

Since Zoe is the youngest, and our last child, we are determined to prolong some of her little kid qualities, have resisted the urge to correct the errors in her vocabulary and have actually encouraged her to continue referring to things incorrectly. For example:

Lemonade = Lemolade
Watermelon = Waterlemon
Yesterday/Last time = Lasterday/Yestertime
Flowers = Fowlers
The Park = The Whee
Accident = Asskident
Campfire = Fire camp
Basketball = Baksetball
Boobs = Boo Boos
Sneezing = bless-youing

About a week ago, Zoe and Charlie were playing together and since Zoe recently went through a growth spurt, she came dangerously close to nailing her brother in the nuts. I used this moment as an opportunity to teach her a new vocabulary word by saying, "Zoe, you need to be more careful and not hit your brother in the penis, because it hurts to get hit there. So aim higher, more toward his gut and away from his penis." Somehow, I managed to say this with a straight face.

Yesterday while Zoe and Charlie were playing again, I heard her say "Ooooh, that was a close one. I almost hit you in the peanut butter gut." I just stood there, trying to remember what Charlie ate for breakfast and was pretty sure that he ate eggs, bacon and toast -- without peanut butter. Why would she be calling him a peanut butter gut? After a couple minutes, she said it again: "Why does it hurt so much if I hit you in the peanut butter gut anyway?" That's when Charlie and I noticed what she was aiming at, looked at each other and started laughing.

She couldn't remember the exact word she had learned, but knew that it was located just below the gut and started with a "P," so obviously it must be called a peanut butter gut. In fact, I think I'll have that printed on a tee-shirt: "Don't Hit Your Brother in the Peanut Butter Gut."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thanks, Mom

(Originally posted on November 23, 2009)

One question that a stay-at-home mom deals with all the time is, "So what exactly do you do all day anyway?" In addition to sitting on the couch with a bag of chips watching a Meredith Baxter Birney marathon on Lifetime, there are times when I find it necessary to mutate into more than a few dozen other people in order to create an efficient, happy household. Several of these roles are often overlooked and taken for granted in the chaos of our day-to-day lives. With the craziness of the holidays quickly approaching, I always carve out some time to reflect on the past and give thanks to these people, just in case my kids get too busy asking for stuff and forget to.

Cleaning Lady. In addition to the monotonous vacuuming/dusting/ de-gunking/scrubbing/sweeping, this kind lady also wipes up sticky spills that mysteriously appear, gets dog barf out of the carpet, unclogs toilets, organizes closets, kills bugs, does endless loads of laundry, and has even been known to iron.

Human Resources. Thank you for encouraging cooperation and empathy, teaching the five-year-old how to use words instead of her clenched fists, solving the famous "Who Touched Who First" dilemma, and managing to get the teenager to say something besides, "Maybe you could be lamer, Charlie."

Landscape Contractor. The lawn is always a welcome place for a picnic or a game of baseball, thanks to the person that weeds, mows, trims, and picks up the dog crap. And contrary to popular belief, I know that this person does not appreciate hearing, "Gross Mom, you missed a pile over here."

Hospitality Manager. After making sure that the bar fridge is stocked with an assortment of beverages and always having snacks on hand, I appreciate this individual's willingness to host science project get-togethers, video game marathons, and the occasional sleepover, no matter how weird the other kids might smell.

Dog Groomer. After brushing the dog, washing the dog, clipping the nails, and drying the dog, the dog seems a little less revolting for at least five hours, unless the stupid dog runs into the backyard and promptly rolls in goose shit. And since the dog groomer isn't insane, expressing the anal glands is not in the job description.

Anesthesiologist. Thank you, Benadryl.

Nurse. An extra-hearty thank you for never giving the 32-pound child an overdose of Motrin, knowing all the tricks to reduce a fever, never doing the dreaded "gasp loudly and make giant eyes" reaction when a kid falls down, spotting a phony, dishing out just the right amount of sympathy when necessary, and making soup.

Psychologist. Somehow, this person is almost always able to win a battle and doesn't care if the kids get mad about the result. She can also tell the difference between when a kid is about to lose it and needs a break, and when the kid needs to suck it up and push himself. The psychologist also knows that the oldest kid doesn't talk very much; but when he finally does, she bakes some pre-made cookie dough and actually listens.

Chauffeur. How do I thank this person enough? Constantly getting kids, sports equipment and backpacks in and out of the car, sometimes passing herself on the freeway, rarely being late, never relinqishing power over the radio, and somehow always having a granola bar and a bottle of water available for a hungry/thirsty kid. How she manages to not scream obscenities at all of the stupid, horrible, texting drivers out there is beyond me.

Activities Coordinator. Scheduling dentist, doctor, and eye appointments, violin, piano, and tennis lessons, haircuts, tennis tournaments, and piano recitals in coordination with the school calendar is no easy feat. At least this person is smart enough to also make time for happy hours and vacations.

Nutritionist. Thank you for having the backbone to say, "No. You cannot have a Sour Patch Kids sandwich for lunch," always having fresh fruit in the house, making dinner every night, and even remembering to feed the dog. Creating a meal that isn't too cheesy, spicy, fatty, gooey, meaty, vegetabley, or squishy is not the easiest thing to do.

There are so many things that moms do everyday, and it's easy to feel like no one notices that the house is clean, there's food in the fridge, the school projects are completed on time, and the beds are made. Some people will try to make you feel better by saying: "It's a thankless job, get used to it," "But the kids are so sweet, treasure every moment," "It's such a privilege that you should appreciate," or some other pointless cliche. I know it's a privilege to not have to drive to work, I wouldn't trade being a mom for anything, and while most days are great, some are the absolute opposite of great. At some point every year, I think every mom should be able to say... "SOMETIMES THIS SUCKS! SAY THANK YOU! And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make a drink. Or three."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It Just Doesn't Matter

I could use this post as a way to complain about the fact that the oldest kid almost missed the bus Wednesday morning because he was busy reading the paper.

Or maybe I should be complaining that the 11-year-old started his day out by informing me that he needed a three-ring report cover for a project that is due...tomorrow.

I could also be annoyed by the fact that the friend Zoe was supposed to play with this afternoon while I was busy drinking beer at the Twins game now has a certain digestive disturbance that may require medical treatment, but I'm sure that a five-year-old doesn't get diarrhea on purpose. And fortunately I was able to find another responsible person to hang out with my daughter while I sit in the sun and imbibe.

There was also that issue with the dress that I am having altered, and the fact that I went to pick it up (in rush hour traffic) after being assured that it was completed, only to find out that they forgot to put in a zipper. Not a dart or a hem, but an entire fucking zipper.

I should be pissed because when I thought I was being super prepared by making spaghetti sauce and putting it in a crock pot so that it would be hot when I got home from Charlie's violin lesson, I was actually being an idiot because when I got home I realized that the shit in the pot doesn't get hot unless you turn the god damn pot on.

Honestly, though, none of these things matter anymore because the project is completed, the child care is covered, the kid didn't miss the bus, the sauce turned out just fine, the dress will be done in two days, and despite the fact that I didn't have a chance to talk to Doug even one time during the day, the first words out of his mouth when he walked in the door from the office were: "Are you ready to go to the bar?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Just Pick It Up!

In case you're wondering the answer is yes, we still have the dog. He's almost 15 in dog years, but smells like he's 893 in people years and even though he doesn't have that much hair to begin with, the shedding is out of control. In fact, I think he's actually growing hair just so that it can immediately fall out and piss me off. Also, except for an unfortunate accident a couple days ago, he's been pretty good about making it outside to crap. And while I'm happy about this, I'd be even happier if it weren't for the fact that I'm the only one that is capable of seeing piles of dog shit in the backyard and has the skills necessary to operate a pooper scooper.

On Monday, before I cut the grass, I picked up the dog shit. Completing this chore is an absolute necessity because if the lawn mower goes over a piece of crap that is less than two days old and isn't dried into an almost petrified-state, it clings to the mower blades and I end up walking behind the mower with shit fumes wafting around me. I do not enjoy this experience, especially since it ends up making everything, even a post-mow beer, seem unappetizing.

When Charlie went outside yesterday afternoon to play baseball with some friends in the backyard, I mentioned to him that he might want to take a quick look around for poop and if he sees some, pick it up. This, of course, resulted in no reaction from him. Nothing. No "Uh huh" or "That's gross I'm not going to do it" or "Oh, did you say something?" Not even a questioning glare that wordlessly said "Are you crazy, woman?" Zilch reaction. Apparently, since I was standing on the deck when I said this to him, he thought I must have been talking to a chair, or maybe the grill. So I said again, a little bit louder this time, that unless he wants his friends to fall in a fairly fresh pile of dog crap, he should probably walk around, find the poop, wrap his fingers around the handle of the scooper and PICK THE CRAP UP!

He not only heard me this time, but his brain even managed to process the directions. Or more accurately, he managed to partially process the directions, because instead of walking around he just stood in one place, glanced at the grass and said "Nope, I don't see any." Since I refused to let him off the hook and treat him like the incompetent idiot that he was clearly trying to be, I stood on the deck and waved my arms around like an air traffic controller, guiding him to the two piles of shit that were clearly visible and resisting the urge to bludgeon him with the pooper scooper.

Doug recently sent me an article about some researchers at Berkeley that managed to teach a robot how to fold a towel. (You can view the video and read the article here) To me, the most impressive part of this news isn't the fact that robots can be taught how to do stuff like fold towels, it's that they are able to recognize that what they are holding is, in fact, a towel and that the item can be folded. And not only does it know that it can fold the towel, but it folds at a speed of 25 minutes per towel which, as Doug pointed out, is just slightly faster than an 11-year-old boy.

Now, if they could just teach the robot how to identify that a pile of dog crap is, in fact, a pile of dog crap that can be picked up, I'll really be impressed and may even want to buy a robot of my own someday. Honestly, though, I'd probably kind of miss receiving all those glares. Maybe they could teach the robot how to do that, too.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sometimes, I'm Speechless

There have been a few conversations with my kids lately that seem to serve no purpose but to make me question my abilities as a parent. I mean, really, it would be great to be able to say that I have witnessed actual use of common sense, traces of self-sufficiency and improvements when it comes to their listening skills since the beginning of the school year, and at times I think I'm making progress. But then I end up having conversations like these:

Me: I reminded you three times to put the book in your tennis bag. It's in there, right?
Kid: (pause) Oh, well, I think it's already in there, so I should be fine.
Me: That's not what I asked. Either you know it's there or you don't. You either put it there, or you checked to make sure it was there when you realized that it wasn't where it normally belongs. So, did you check?
Kid: Well, no, but I'm pretty sure it's there.
Me: Maybe you could just admit that you didn't listen and that you forgot about it and you have no idea where it is. Right?
Kid: Kinda.

Kid: We had a different person who teached us today.
Me: Cool, but you mean "taught." Teached is not a word.
Kid: No, I mean she teached. Because she was there teaching, so I was teached.
Me: Yes, I know. But she taught you, she didn't teached.
Kid: We had a, um, a different person be our teacher today.

Me: It's windy today, and you'll be in the sun all day. You should probably put some Carmex on at least once or twice.
Kid: I don't have any Carmex, so don't worry about it.
Me: There's stuff in your bag, I saw it there.
Kid: Oh, well that's not Carmex. It's Chap Stick.
Me: (sigh)

Doug: Are you excited about today?
Doug: I said, are you excited about today?
Me: Don't be crabby, and please answer your dad.
Kid: Did you know that it's hard to be super still? It's like making my brain frozen.

Me: Those shoes are falling apart. You should wear your new tennis shoes tomorrow.
Kid: Then what should I do with my old ones?
Me: Throw them away.
Kid: Okay.
Kid: (the following day) So, should I wear my new shoes today?
Me: Yes, that's what I told you last night.
Kid: What am I supposed to do with my old shoes?
Me: Put them under your pillow.
Kid: Seriously?

Kid: I'll just change clothes at school.
Me: You won't have time. Just change when you get there.
Kid: Yeah, maybe I'll just change in the outhouse.
Me: (wretching sounds) Please. Do. Not. Change. In. The. Outhouse.
Kid: Oh, okay. So I won't change in the outhouse. Or at least I won't tell you about it next time.

Kid: What's for dinner?
Me: I'm grilling pork chops.
Kid: Oh, I'm not really that hungry.
Me: Well, if no one is super hungry, then maybe I'll just make breakfast for dinner.
Kid: Yay! Pancakes for dinner! When are we eating?

Me: Wow, this weather is perfect for outdoor baseball. I love it.
Kid: Oh my god it's so hot. I'm hot. I'm sweating. I'm hot.
Me: Yeah, isn't it great!
Kid: I should have worn a white t-shirt. It's so hot.
Kid #2: My back is sweaty! I'm hot! Oooh, Fun Dip! Gimme!
Me: Beer, please.

Me: Should I steam the asparagus or grill it?
Kid: Oh, definitely grill it. Yum, grilled asparagus!
Me: Dinner's ready.
Kid: (two bites later) Do you want this?
Me: I thought you liked asparagus.
Kid: Last year I did, but now I don't.
Me: Where's my wine glass...

Me: You were supposed to be up at 7:30. Why isn't your alarm on?
Kid: Wuh? Huh? Oh, um, the alarm is on.
Me: No, it's not. I don't hear it.
Kid: Oh, that's because it's turned all the way down so it isn't too loud.
Me: (blink, blink)

Kid: Why do we need to bring empty water bottles to the baseball game?
Dad: So that you can't fill them with vodka.
Kid: Oh, bummer for mom.

Hmmm...maybe they're learning more than I thought.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Maintenance for Mom

I'm probably cursing myself for saying this but, except for the occasional self-inflicted Saturday morning headache and a sore throat that results from yelling at my kids, I rarely get sick. I can't remember the last time I've had the flu (stomach or influenza), strep throat, a sinus-jamming cold or a respiratory infection. I'm not sure why, because it's not like I'm a psycho health freak that eats vegan, sleeps on organic sheets, always remembers sunscreen and is manic about hand washing. Doug and the kids occasionally get sick (except for Charlie -- he never gets sick either), and even though I have no choice but to interact with them when they're feeling feverish, I somehow manage to avoid their diseases.

Recently, since Zoe was nice enough to point out the fact that I was old (or in her words, "Wow, you're a whole lot of years"), I figured that maybe I should stop taking my good health for granted and pay more attention to the choices that I make each day. So, I read an article that included some diet and lifestyle tips for keeping my blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and BMI in healthy ranges and after I read the tips, I realized that I lead a healthier lifestyle than I thought.

Get 150 to 240 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. In addition to occasionally standing on the elliptical trainer, I meet this requirement by spending 75 minutes sprinting through grocery stores, 30 minutes dashing in and out of the aisles of Target and chasing after Zoe on her bike for 20 minutes each day.

Do strength training two or three times a week. Accomplished by hauling bags of groceries, cases of Gatorade and water, gallons of milk, and the occasional schlepping of a tennis bag. Also, 12-oz. curls are usually performed daily.

Consume five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. In addition to eating a ginormous salad for lunch every day, I make sure to include plenty of lemon and lime wedges, salsa, lime juice, onion rings, green olives, pickles and bloody mary mix.

Eat a serving of fatty fish twice a week. I'm assuming this means fish 'n chips since it's pretty fatty, and even though I don't eat it twice a week (or even twice in a month), I make up for the shortfall by eating absurd amounts of it when it's available, sort of like a stock-up sale. As an added bonus, the lemon wedge and the pickles in the tartar sauce = fruits and vegetables!

Get 75 mg of vitamin c (6-oz. of orange juice) daily. Even though I'm not a big fan of brunch, I am a big fan of screwdrivers.

Get 1,200 mg of calcium and at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day. I won't lie here: I suck at the calcium thing, since that's what happens when a girl can't digest dairy. Besides yogurt and a daily vitamin, I don't get much calc...hey wait. There's calcium in the orange juice that I buy, which ends up in the screwdrivers that I make. Hell yeah! I won't snap in two after all! And since I can get my vitamin D from being in the sun, I'm probably at risk of an overdose.

Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day maximum. I assume they define "one drink" as one six-pack of beer, or one 64-oz. tumbler filled with a vodka tonic, or one round of 2-for-1's. If so then yes, absolutely, I only have one drink per day.

Don't smoke. I don't smoke. I used to smoke a little, I like the smell of cigars and I will intentionally sit really, really close to anyone smoking a pipe and inhale deeply, but I don't smoke.

Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Okay, seriously. Who in the hell does this? Are they talking about actual consecutive hours spent sleeping? What about the peeing, the coughing, the cramps in the arch of your foot, the unexplained sweating, the middle of the night thunderstorms, the barfing dogs and the noisy neighbors? I think that if I can remain in one room in a horizontal position in something that resembles a sleep-like state, for seven to eight hours in a row, I'm doing pretty good.

I've also read a little bit about the benefits of interval training and combining several different movements into one exercise. So when you see me running behind Zoe's bike while clutching a 64-oz screwdriver in one hand and a hunk of fried fish in the other, don't be alarmed. I'm just trying to improve my health.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

(Less Than) Wonderful Memories

Yesterday was prom day for our high school. While I'd love to be able to say that when I saw the giant Escalade limo in our cul de sac and watched a bunch of neighborhood girls wearing too much eye makeup, shellacked up-do's and formal dresses pose for pictures (and noticed that there wasn't a minority in the group), nothing but wonderful high school memories came flooding back for me, that would be like saying I'm really a 5'10" large breasted natural blonde that never drinks and looks forward to putting on false eyelashes every morning.

I was adopted at the age of six months from South Korea and lived the first four years of my life in a small town in north-central Minnesota. Before kindergarten, my family moved to a not-quite-as-small-of-a-town just north of Minneapolis/St. Paul and I was lucky enough to be the child that introduced the concept of diversity to our local elementary school. I have vivid memories of a boy named Chris saying, every day of second grade, "Hey everyone, look at Jody. Her face is so flat it must have been smashed in by a Mack truck." If I would have taken a picture every time a kid made a slanted-eyes face at me while calling me such creative things as "Chung King" or "Chop Suey," the pictures would fill about 350 photo albums. Another girl always asked me why my name wasn't Kim, because "all Chinese girls are named Kim."

From grades 7-12, there were never more than four minorities in our school, myself included. I had plenty of friends in high school, but never dated anyone from my school because even though I got along with the guys, they all "just wanted to be friends." My junior and senior proms came and went without being asked to go, and at the time I was okay with it. Thinking back, though, I guess it would have been nice to have been thought of as dateable. But I'm sure it was just that the guys were being considerate because they all knew that I hated wearing a dress. Or maybe it was because they knew that I could drink more beer than them and were worried about me being an expensive date. Or maybe I smelled bad. I'm sure it wasn't because of my hair color, or the fact that in second grade I had been smashed into by a Mack truck.

So, on Saturday night, I was in a Chinese restaurant waiting to pick up some take-out and apparently I was standing a little too close to the hostess stand because a family walked in, the dad looked at me, and then said "We need a table for three." Normally, I would have laughed it off and chalked the moment up to finding yet another moron in the world, but since I had just been remembering all those wonderful moments of being teased and the proms I missed and why I used to hate going to Chinese restaurants as a kid (because the servers always assumed I was a foreign exchange student), I kind of snapped at him. Did I call him a clueless dick? Possibly. Did I point out the fact that wow, I even speak English? Maybe. Did I then grab my egg rolls and chicken in garlic sauce and mumble "what the fuck" as I walked by him and out the door? Absolutely.

Seriously. What a clueless dick.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Moment of Insanity

In a moment of weakness (and because I was suffering from temporary insanity), I agreed to volunteer at kindergarten. I figured since I hadn't been in Zoe's classroom much since November I should probably suck it up and show up for an hour or so. Besides driving to school twice-a-day for drop-off and pick-up, I have pretty much been avoiding the place until after the snow melted and the non-stop stream of strept throat/influenza/ pink-eye/ebola virus notices stopped coming home. Since I hadn't pulled one out of Zoe's take-home folder in over a month and was already committed to showing up, I shouldn't have been surprised when two days before my scheduled volunteer day a note came home saying that someone in the class has strept throat.

For the last couple weeks, the kindergarten kids have been learning about wood. The different types of wood, how to sand it, if it floats or sinks and what it's used for. The most anticipated part of this unit involves each kid constructing a "sculpture" out of wood scraps, using real hammers and actual nails. Yes, that's correct. Kindergartners (some with zero hand-eye coordination) swinging hammers. What in the hell had I gotten myself into.

The first kid I worked with picked three scraps of wood that were harder than marble and grabbed a nail the size of a cucumber. Ah, yes. This was going to go splendidly. In order to save time, and fingers, I decided that I would get each nail started before handing the weapon over. Well, I might as well have been trying to drive a nail with a hot dog bun. Even after several whacks, the nail wouldn't budge and when it finally did the wood split in two, sending a brittle chunk flying across the hallway. Perfect. I tried a smaller nail and noticed that while I was furiously hammering because there was no way in hell that I was going to fail at showing a 5-year old how to hammer a damn nail, and I certainly didn't need him going home and telling someone that "Zoe's mommy doesn't know how to hammer stuff together," the boy that I was "helping" was holding his hands over his ears and had a terrified look in his eye. I said "Here, do you want to try? It's really super fun." He just sat there shaking his head furiously, obviously trying to resist the urge to run away from the mayhem.

Since I seemed to be a magnet for every kid that was struggling with fine motor skills and had just suffered arm muscle atrophy, I stuck to the same script with each kid:
  1. Hi. We're going to build a sculpture. Grab three small pieces of wood. No, not that one, that's way too big. A small one. Smaller. SMALLER!
  2. I'll get the nails. Please don't touch the nails because I don't know where the Band-aids are. No, do not put the nail by your eye.
  3. OK. Sit here and watch me hammer.
  4. Now it's your turn. Hit the nail five times, and hit your finger zero times.
  5. OK. Let me finish hammering while you watch.
  6. Write your name on the back and go back to class.
Another mom noticed that I was finishing three sculptures in the time it took her to get through one and she said "Wow! You're lucky to be getting all of the strong kids! I can't believe how fast you're getting those sculptures done!" That's when I noticed that even though the kid she was working with wouldn't have left a dent in a marshmallow let alone drive a nail into a board, this woman patiently sat there and held the boards while zero-strength girl tap-tap-tapped for ten minutes. Maybe if I had shown up drunk and brought a flask I might have had enough patience for that but COME ON LADY! These kids are only in school for a little over two hours! If we let every kid swing a hammer for twenty minutes we'll never, EVER get out of here! And then we might be stuck here helping the afternoon classes!

With ten parents in a hallway trying to help ten kids not injure themselves with hammers, you can imagine the noise. And I'm not just talking noise. I mean NOISE! Within two minutes, doors to other classrooms and hallways were being slammed as the kids wailed away on these boards and the parents, and some grandparents, were yelling (we had to yell, in order to be heard over the pounding) enthusiastic words of encouragement, along with the occasional "Ow! OUCH! God da...I mean gosh darnett that hurt!"

Since this was technically supposed to be an educational experience and not just a lesson in physical pain, I was told to reinforce some wood-related vocabulary words while the kids were hammering, such as "bent, claw, hammer, drive" and "nail." I made an attempt to use these words and apply them to the project, but I included them in sentences like:
  • You need to aim for the nail, not the floor. No, I said the nail, not your foot.
  • These nails are junky. They must be from Menards.
  • Please don't drive the nail into my thumb.
  • Give me the hammer before you impale yourself with the claw.
  • No, you can't take the extra nails home.
  • Again, that is my thumb. The nail is over there.
  • Seriously, give me the hammer. Now. NOW! GIVE ME THE HAMMER!
I think the kids learned a lot from me, and if you're wondering if I'm still feeling generous with my time and going back next week to help with the staining of the wood sculptures -- the answer is no, especially since I gave up inhaling paint fumes a long time ago and have moved on to other things. Like rubber cement.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm Always In My Happy Place

It's been an interesting week and in particular, it was a very interesting Thursday. Since I feel like there was enough drama before even the most irresponsible person was sitting on a bar stool, I've decided that it's a perfect time to remind people that, contrary to what some might think, I'm not always pissed off and hyper-critical. In fact, I'm generally a pretty optimistic and happy person and there are definitely some things (and people) in life that make me smile more than others.

So, I'm going to take a little break from picking on people (at least for a few hours, but maybe for the entire weekend) and since the weather forecast includes sunshine, blooming flowers and mild temperatures, maybe that will encourage the inconsiderate assholes of the world to take a short hiatus from being their, um, assholeish-selves too.

(The Mean Mom Gives Thanks: Originally posted on 11/26/09, a/k/a Thanksgiving)

At some point today, I'll take a break from the gluttony and carb inhalation, put down the gravy boat, and think about what I'm thankful for. There are the obvious answers: my family, health, indoor plumbing, the fact that Williams Sonoma now sells a citrus wedger "for professional looking cocktail garnishes," and unlimited texting on our cell phone plan. But there are other little luxuries, people and events in my day-to-day existence that deserve a little recognition and appreciation too.
  • The power sliding doors on my minivan.
  • Birth control
  • Restaurant coupons
  • Wide-width shoes with low heels.
  • The "Need Cocktail" flag on the back of my chair when I'm on vacation.
  • Skinny cocktail straws
  • Store-bought ice
  • Lucky jeans and Mini Boden
  • When the five-year-old, from her booster seat, yells "Come on! Green means go!" at the car in front of us.
  • The fine line between OCD and being hyper-organized, ADHD and efficient multi-tasker, control freak and not-quite-a-control freak.
  • Noodles & Co.
  • The fact that when my boys ask for grilled cheese, they mean Swiss cheese and corned beef on pumpernickel.
  • Birth control
  • A happy hour that includes 2-4-1's.
  • French fries at the happy hour that includes 2-4-1's.
  • My husband's (dark) sense of humor.
  • Garbage day at 7:30 AM
  • Byerly's delivery/drive-thru grocery service, which includes booze.
  • A best friend that shares a brain with me.
  • Full fat salad dressing
  • Michele Bachmann, because no matter how bad or dumb I feel on any given day, at least I'm better and smarter than her.
  • 93X, especially in the morning.
  • My eyes, and their ability to say so many things without me having to actually utter a word.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Health Insurance? Oh, we have BCB-Ass.

I don't ask a lot, or expect much, from our health insurance provider. I mean, it's not like we're paying thousands of dollars each year in premiums for coverage that we rarely use. And I understand that expecting them to provide 100% coverage for medically necessary procedures is out of the question because after all, their CEO's, COO's and POS's have to make a living, too. Sometimes it helps me sleep at night if I think of the money we're spending on these premiums as a charitable contribution, except the homeless shelters I'm contributing to happen to be located in Cabo and are used by health insurance executives. Executives that will one day, hopefully, be eaten by sharks.

About five years ago, we discovered that Zach suffered from seasonal allergies. How did we come to this realization, you ask? Well, when the spring grass emerged and cottonwood fluff was blowing through the air, the non-stop sniffling and headaches started, he would rub his nose so hard I thought it was going to end up even flatter than mine and the French's mustard-colored crust gluing his eyes shut every morning were all pretty good indicators. I know, I'm a pretty perceptive person.

We tried to manage his allergies with something over-the-counter, but nothing worked for all of his symptoms. Claritin would help his snot issue, but his eyes still needed to be pried open in the morning. Benadryl helped his eyes, but only because it made him sleep for 23 out of 24 hours. Zyrtec made him groggy, which resulted in him acting like kind of an ass, with an itchy nose. Eventually we ended up getting a prescription for Allegra-D, and have been enjoying snot- and crust-free springs ever since.

A couple days ago, I called our pharmacy to have the prescription refilled and received some less-than-terrific news. Our insurance company was no longer covering Allegra-D, or it's generic equivalent, and was sure that Zach would be fine using something over-the-counter and cheaper for them, like Zyrtec or Claritin. I guess this makes sense to me, because clearly the only reason we have been filling this prescription for four months out of the year is to stick it to the insurance company and get our money's worth after paying our premiums. I mean, how did they find out that once we get the drugs home, we just flush them down the toilet and then watch Zach suffer from excessive snot production and crusty eyes?

Considering the tedious trial-and-error process I went through five years ago in order to find something that worked, it thrills me to know that some asshole at BCBS decided that since we pay bazillions of dollars in premiums and, on average, receive $300 in benefits each year, they should try to make even more money and discontinue coverage for this particular medication. I can see how we are a huge financial burden because, after all, they have to cover two prescriptions for our family: Zach's allergy pills, and that other drug that I take every day in order to prevent creating someone else that might need allergy medication.

I'm sure they'll never discontinue covering my drugs, though, because if they did then they might have to pay for maternity services, which can get kind of expensive. And it's been a few years since I've received benefits for labor and delivery, so I don't even know if they pay for a hospital room anymore. Those assholes at BCB-Ass probably think that I'd be fine giving birth using something else, like a barn floor, without hay. After all, they wouldn't want to make Zach's allergies flare up.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cause & Effect

As an adult, there are some cause/effect situations that don't take me by surprise anymore. If I get my car washed, I can almost guarantee that it will rain within 24 hours. After I pick up all the dog shit in my yard, the neighbor's Fleet Farm food-eating dog will wander over. If I drink gin, I end up with a headache. But the most recent and frustrating situation that I've had to deal with is that every time a science paper needs to be printed, the printer freaks out/breaks down/pisses me off.

If you recall, there was a crisis about three months ago involving a science project and a broken printer. Since then, the defective printer has been replaced and I was looking forward to making it through the rest of this school year, and even part of next year, without any more printer drama. I am a fool.

Last Sunday, Zach was attempting to print his 24-page report on telescopes when we realized that the red lines that were a necessary part of his diagrams were printing in yellow, the grays were brown, the blacks were blues and the blues were the color of pus. Obviously, since no one is a big fan of pus-colored diagrams, this was not acceptable. Luckily, my friend rescued me -- again, and wow do I owe her a lot of vodka -- and I made a call to Hewlett Packard customer service, again. This time, though, it didn't go quite as smoothly as the call three months ago. Here is a fairly accurate transcript of my third call, after I was disconnected the first two times:

(Dial 800-474-6846. Get automated voice of a woman that sounds like someone I would definitely NOT be friends with.) Welcome to HP consumer product support. Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes (followed by random Spanish that I didn't understand because they never said margarita). Please tell me which of the following you'd like to do: Purchase a product, get tech support or check repair status.

Me: Go fuck yourself, because my printer sucks.

I'm sorry. I didn't get that. Please say purchase a product, get tech support or check repair status. Please don't tell me to fuck myself.

Me: I. Need. Tech. Support. Then go fuck yourself.

Okay. Got it. Now, which of these are you calling about? A notebook PC, desktop PC, printer, or say it's something else.

Me: A piece of plastic that resembles a printer, but is actually a giant hunk of shit.

Okay. Printers. If your product is out of warranty, we may have to charge you absurd amounts of money in order to complete this call. An HP agent located half-way across the globe can provide you with your options, which include paying with an internal organ, taking out a second mortgage or selling one of your children. You can review your options at Alright, to get help with your crappy printer, I need to know what kind of crappy printer you have. You might say something like Laserjet, Photosmart, or Edgeline. Go ahead and tell me what kind of defective shitball you have.

Me: I have a piece of shit that won't work, and you sound like a bitch. I think I hate you.

I didn't get that because I'm a useless automated voice, not a bitch. I need to know what kind of printer you have. You might say something like Laserjet, or Photosmart. Tell me now, because at this point the call is definitely being monitored.

Me: Screw yourself. I hate Hewlett Packard. But fine, I have a fucking Officejet.

Sorry. I still didn't get that because you swore at me. Please say one of the following: Laserjet, Photosmart, Officejet, Deskjet, or PFC.


Alright. Are you using a Macintosh operating system?

Me: Duh, of course.

Okay, please have your product, model and serial number ready for your agent. We will also need to know your height, weight, age of your second-cousin's college roommate, how many boxes of mac & cheese are in your kitchen, how much gas is in your neighbor's car and what Santa ate for breakfast. So please continue to be a pathetic loser and continue holding the phone to your head, because I'm transferring you now to someone that won't be of much help.

It's moments like these that explain why, at the Twins game on Monday, our food tab was only $7 but the liquor tab was $50. So I guess even though I don't enjoy the inconvenience of dealing with broken printers and pain-in-the-ass phone calls, it's kind of worth it because I always enjoy forcing myself to self-medicate.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fun? You Want to Have Fun? HAH!

I know that I am far from being the Best Parent in the World and I will be the first one to admit that I make plenty of mistakes. However, when it comes to five- or even six-year-olds, there are a few things that I'm pretty sure about:
  1. Sometimes kids need to run around a couch and play tag instead of sitting on the couch, practicing multiplication problems. Especially on the weekends.
  2. When at a pool and swimming with a friend it's much more fun, and sometimes just as productive, to see who can do the biggest cannonball and swim back to the wall first, instead of always having to practice a back float/front crawl/back stroke.
  3. There are times when it's perfectly acceptable for kids to sing and dance around a room together, instead of sitting quietly and reading books.
  4. An hour or two of video game time, even daily, doesn't cause a kid's brain to fall out of their head.
  5. A kid's body is not designed to play one sport five days a week, three hours a day, 52 weeks a year, no matter how much "they love the sport and want to be there."
  6. During a one-hour lesson of any kind, a six-year-old does not pay attention all the time and may even laugh really loud once in a while. If they don't laugh, then that means they're not having fun, and that's kind of a problem.
A current thorn in my side right now that seems to be gouging deeper and deeper each week is a family that has taken competitive parenting to an entirely new level. Their son is never in the pool to have fun, he's only there to become a better and stronger swimmer. He's never allowed to laugh and make up funny songs with his friends because that is time that could be spent doing something educational. Since he has shown an interest in playing tennis, and they insist that he will be the best at everything, he is on the court four or five days a week, taking private lessons and hitting ball after ball. After ball.

In tennis -- like most other sports -- there is only so much, physically and mentally, that you can expect from a child. You can't teach a five-year-old the same way you teach a 12-year-old, so why would you expect the younger kid to hit with the same technique, the same power, or on the same size court as the older kid? You wouldn't put a kindergardener on an adult-size bike, or make tee-ballers run major league base paths, right?

Unfortunately, these parents have decided that their way is the best, and most impressive way, even though their way is insane and more harmful to their son's development than helpful. They have went so far as to tell the coach that he is doing things wrong: using the wrong balls, the wrong size court, that he should be having their son serve the ball from the baseline because, after all, "he can, so he should."

Now, maybe I'm way off on this, but I always thought that the reason you hire and pay someone else to do a job is because that person knows more about the sport/subject/hobby than you do. I don't drop my minivan off for service so that I can hover over the mechanic and tell him how to change the oil. When I was at the dentist getting a crown, I didn't tell him that I wanted him to try a different, less-sucky technique (Well, actually I did, but my suggestion was just "you should provide margaritas before procedures like this). And even though I play piano, I don't even tell my kids' piano teacher what to do at the lessons, because I'm paying her to give the lessons the way she thinks is best, not to give the lessons the way I told her to.

Being around these particular parents always reminds me of the movie "Parenthood," where there is one family that has a kid who wears a bucket on his head and another family that has a little girl that speaks three languages and does complicated math problems in her head. Take for example, a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon when I'm swimming with Zoe and this family is in the pool with us. They have their son refining his swimming strokes while they yell "Kick! Kick! Use your arms more!" I, on the other hand, am sending Zoe soaring through the air with her limbs flailing, no fewer than 28 times in a row, and between launches she is singing "The Diarrhea Song" at the top of her lungs. Does this scenario make me uncomfortable? Definitely, but only because I know that Zoe is having fun discovering that she can make great poop sounds using her mouth and a wet arm and this poor kid is watching her out the corner of his eye while he kicks, kicks and uses his arms more.

The sad thing for me is the fact that Zoe and this boy get along really well and have become great friends. When I pointed this fact out to the mom, her response was "Well, yeah, there are times when I think they get along too well. I wish they would pay attention more often and take all these lessons a little more seriously. Oh, and by the way, are you guys swimming after tennis?"

Gosh, let me think. Maybe, umm, no. I think that there will be no swimming this afternoon. I think that we will go do something else where Zoe doesn't have to worry about being a distraction, impressing anyone, or grossest of all, stepping over a puddle of pee because someone's kid didn't make it to the bathroom on time and peed on the floor. Yes, hyper-competitive lady, we all know that it was your over-achieving kid that peed on the floor. And that day, at least for me, was pretty fun.