Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Brown Stain, Vol. 3

Everywhere I go, I hear people rejoicing about the fact that Thanksgiving creates a short week, and oh yeah man! A three-day week! This is going to kick ass only having to work for three days! Woo hoo! And while I know of several school districts that, in addition to Thursday and Friday, also have Wednesday (or, in some cases, the entire freaking week) off, my kids only have two days off. Some people might think this is a great situation, since kids in school means kids not at home. But unfortunately, all this means for us is that five days of school concerts, science projects, class parties and chaos have been crammed into three. Very. Busy. Days.

And it all started with first grade.

I don't know exactly when or how it happened, but a few weeks ago a note came home informing me that the first graders were going to be having a Fall Festival! and Oh boy is it ever going to be fun! I remember seeing a place for me to sign my name and thinking hmm, maybe this piece of paper shouldn't go directly into the recycling bin. Maybe I should sign it and send it back. Because maybe aliens are invading my body and I've lost all ability to think clearly and rationally and holy shit! I just volunteered to help out at the Fall Festival!

As the day approached, I was pretty sure I felt a scratchy throat, raspy cough, nasal congestion, Ebola virus, super ouchie paper cut, shin splints, or a combination of these and was thinking I had a good reason to cancel. And even if I did manage to make a miraculous recovery from my plague in time for the Fall Festival! I was sure that my presence wouldn't be missed. After all, tons of other parents were probably volunteering for the fun-filled Fall Festival! and I would just be standing around with nothing to do but point and smirk. Yeah, that's it. I just won't show up. Just as long as Zoe doesn't know that I was supposed to be there, because that would really suck if she walks around yelling "Where's my mom? Has anyone seen my mom? She was supposed to be here and she said that all of her compound fractures had healed up, so where is she?" But she hasn't mentioned anything, so I'm sure it's fine if I...

"Here mom! This note is for you! We have a party tomorrow and you get to come help! See, your name is right here next to the 'Thanks for offering to help out at the First Grade Fall Festival! See you tomorrow morning!' So you're coming, right?"

Seriously, how do I say no to that face? (cough...cough...sniffle)

So Tuesday morning arrives and I figure okay. I can do this. I'll just show up earlier than scheduled, snag the easiest game (because there is no way in hell I'm going to get stuck with Turkey Bowling), boss some kids around and at the same time, accumulate some major good mom points with my kid. No problem.

Well, there wouldn't have been a problem if it weren't for the fact that, much to my surprise, a Fall Festival! Leader Mom had stepped forward weeks ago, and she took it upon herself to pre-assign everyone to a game. I had to check "the list" to find out; A) which game I was in charge of and, B) the name of the other parent also assigned to my game. I broke into a panicy sweat. What if I had to hang out with Fanny for an hour? Or the Halloween Party mom? And what if I had to hang out with either of these women while face painting!? Oh my fucking hell! What have I gotten my control freak-self into?

As I walked up to check the list, I started having flashbacks of my college days. I felt like I was checking for my calculus grade after I had taken a test while completely hungover, and this just made me sweat more. And holy shit did I breathe a sigh of relief when I saw that I was assigned to Penny Toss with a mom that is super nice. This was good because in addition to the sweat, I was starting to feel nauseous.

So, Penny Toss -- easy enough. Toss a penny toward a piece of poster board that has "Toy, Sticker, Candy, Play-Doh" written on it and win a prize. I quickly drew a couple neanderthal-size feet on a piece of purple construction paper (see, this is why I will never be a good candidate for face-painting) and taped it to the floor so that the kids would know where to stand and, while chatting with the other mom, waited for the first kids to show up. And that's when it occurred to me: 120+ kids were going to be playing this game, and we had eight pennies. Count them...EIGHT.

While quickly making a mental note to not allow my hands to come within 20 inches of my face for the next hour no matter how much my nose itched, the game began and went a little something like this:
  1. Hand penny to child
  2. Pick penny up off of the floor
  3. Hand penny to child, which child grabs after pulling finger out of their nose
  4. Child tosses penny
  5. Penny rolls near garbage can before I pick it up off of the floor
  6. Hand penny to child
  7. Child tosses penny four feet further than necessary
  8. Pick penny up off of the floor
  9. Child puts penny in mouth, then tosses it onto board
  10. I gag a little bit, then pick the penny up off of the floor
And on and on this went, with me adding little variations here and there to keep things interesting. Small things like "Hey, if you land exactly right on this corner here, you win an Xbox" and then the kid would miss and I'd just shrug my shoulders. Or if a kid bitched about landing on the Play-Doh square (because honestly, they all just wanted the damn candy), I'd say "Well, you can take the Play-Doh or you can have a kick in the shin." They all thought I was pretty much insane, and now feel sorry for Zoe.

Even though it felt like the Fall Festival! was never going to end, I was finally able to make a break for it, decontaminate my hands and continue with my day. My very over-scheduled, chaotic, barely time to pee let alone make dinner and get everyone where they need to be day. Oh yeah, dinner. I guess I can't totally complain about making dinner, since I had a little help in that department. Or, at least, I thought I did.

Since I knew I would have exactly 23.7 minutes from the time I walked in the door from one kid's tennis lesson until we had to walk back out the door for the same kid's orchestra concert, I put the oldest kid in charge of turning a burner on in order to save time and get a pot of water boiling. I called him from the car, said "turn the burner on HIGH" and thought he'd be able to take things from there. After all, everyone can boil water, right? Or, maybe not right. As soon as I walked in the door, I sniffed the air and immediately knew that there was a hot burner in the house, but sadly it wasn't the burner that was directly under the pot of water. It was the one behind it. And did you know that rotini takes less time to cook than linguini? Just in case you were wondering.

And now you're probably wondering why this blog post is called "The Brown Stain, Vol. 3." There was "The Brown Stain" and "The Brown Stain, Vol 2.", so get to the brown stain already!

Okay, so while I was waiting for the water to boil, I noticed a brown smudge on the carpet. It wasn't a big spot, like the puppy had taken a dump in the house, it was small like someone had dropped a hunk of chocolate chip granola bar on the floor and then stood on it for a few minutes. I reached down, touched the still-sticky spot, smelled my fingers - and was about to ask who had been eating chocolate on the carpet - and then realized that I had just stuck my finger in a smear of dog shit. Yes, that's my life. My wonderful, glamorous, shitty finger life.

I tried to figure out how the hell it got there if the dog didn't crap in the house. Did he step in his own feces while he was outside? And if so, wouldn't that mean that there are little shitty footprints all over the house? And if that's the case, wouldn't it just be easier to burn the house down and start all over? Seriously, Oh! My! Gawd! Zach was all "No, no, see, I let him out and saw him take like the biggest crap ever. This is not my fault!" And I was all "I don't care if you saw him shit! Dude! I have shit on my finger!"

At this point, the dog ran away from me because he doesn't like it when I yell, and as I watched him run that's when I saw where the brown stain came from. Because it's pretty hard to miss a hunk of brown shit stuck to the ass of a cream-colored dog.

And I'll give you exactly one guess as to who was lucky enough to wipe the dog's ass.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Airing of Grievances

There are times when I truly amaze myself. Somehow, I managed to make it through the last five days without ending up in jail, facing charges of aggravated assault or creating a public disturbance. And believe me, I had several opportunities to become a "caught on surveillance camera" YouTube sensation:
  • Asshole #1: While waiting - with my turn signal blink-blinkety-blinking away - for someone to back out of a parking spot in the insanely overcrowded lot at the club, this gem of a human being sped through the lot and stole my spot. He then looked at me, smirked and said "Too bad."
  • Asshole #2: Moron in the hideous Escalade who ran a stop sign in the Target parking lot, glared at me in the crosswalk, threw his arms in the air and slowly inched forward while I sprinted across the white rectangles.
  • Asshole #3 - #5: Those people who dared to assign school projects of any kind during the holidays.
  • Asshole #6 - #59: The shoppers at Target.
  • Asshole #60: The Minnesota Vikings offensive line.
Considering that Black Friday hasn't even arrived yet and I've already witnessed some extreme crankiness in the general population, I'm going to make the safe assumption that we all have a long, perilous, patience-testing, pain in the ass, oh my god I hope I don't die of alcohol poisoning month ahead of us. So to help myself face the near-future with even a trace of optimism and happiness, I'm going to add the above-listed individuals to my already-existing list of grievances instead of following through with what I would rather do, which is to commit an act of aggravated assault and create a public disturbance, instantly becoming a caught on surveillance camera YouTube sensation.

(Originally posted on November 30, 2009)

Christmas is a month away, and for the most part I actually look forward to the kids' excitement, the parties, extra time spent with family and friends, great food, and checking out the (sometimes horrendous) Christmas lights. There are times, though, when I would happily embrace the opportunity to celebrate Festivus with the feats of strength and the airing of grievances, even if only for one day.

At a time when everyone is expected to be politically correct, polite and filled to the brim with holiday cheer, I think it would be very cathartic if just once I could tell someone that's being particularly rude that I think she's being a bitch before pushing her into the row of carts at Costco. There have been plenty of times when I encounter someone who is being completely clueless, inconsiderate, selfish, and basically stupid. I never say anything to him/her, but occasionally give the look that says, "You are an unbelievably annoying person and you just ruined the last five minutes of my life. And by the way, if looking ugly was your goal, mission accomplished!"

Shopping is especially trying on my patience. Some people are buying food that they only eat once a year, and of course all of the shelves in the grocery store have been rearranged since last Christmas, so they have no idea where the cranberry apple chutney is stocked. Instead of asking an employee for assistance, they grab a cup of coffee and wander aimlessly through the store, parking their cart in the middle of each aisle, never noticing that other people are trying to actually buy food. I have resisted the temptation to find their sought-after product myself so that I can get them out of my way. Besides, I know that I wouldn't be able to hand them the chutney without saying: "Here you go, moron. The chutney would obviously be found by the condiments and jelly. Not the pet supplies," and I'm pretty sure that this doesn't translate into "Merry Christmas" in any language.

Buying anything at Best Buy is equally frustrating, but can also be pretty good entertainment. Every ten minutes or so, someone walks in wondering where the latest DSP or PST or PS8 gadget/gizmo/doohickey/ thingamajig is, and how many games does that fancy contraption come with? Does it need any accessories? After they find out how much the console is, they usually say: "What? For that little box? You've gotta be kidding me! Well, in my day we had fun with a radio and an old coffee can. Kids these days are so spoiled!" Since most of these customers tend to drive Buicks that are incapable of parking correctly or going over 17 mph, it explains why I avoid Best Buy, and 98% of the boxes delivered to our house by the UPS man this month say "Amazon."

The list of day-to-day grievances varies depending on which day of the week it is, but it always includes people that text and drive, throw cigarette butts out the car window, tailgate, let their kids cry in restaurants, are mean to dogs, slowly walk across the street on red lights, mooch, mow their lawn after dark, smoke by their babies, don't clean their refrigerators, give backhanded compliments, and cheat.

Since Festivus isn't until December 23, I have plenty of time to add to my list, and please feel free to contribute your own list as a comment below. We can share them at the feats of strength, which will include arm wrestling, moving heavy bar stools, and picking up 35 oz. beer mugs. After all, I need to bulk up for when I finally get the nerve to shove that lady at Costco.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I've Heard Enough

All moms have the same complaint -- the kids never listen. After repeating ourselves over and over again, saying the same things time and time again, it always ends in the same result: the garbage doesn't get taken out, items get left behind, the shoes aren't on the feet on time and bedtime always arrives with a surprise.

I know my kids get sick of hearing me repeat myself, yell, nag, sigh with exasperation and stomp around the house and the truth is, I'm tired of hearing them say a lot of things too.

Things I'd Be Happy
To Never Hear Come Out
Of My Kids' Mouths
Ever Again
  • You never bring me anything good to drink/buy me cool stuff/let me stay up late/say yes.
  • What are you talking about?
  • I don't want to right now. Maybe later.
  • I said okay, okay? OKAY!
  • Yeah, sure. Wait, what? I wasn't listening.
  • I don't need you.
  • Oops, I forgot the ____ at home/at the club/at school.
  • What's the big deal anyway?
  • Have a spaz, why don't you!
  • I want some/buy me this/can I have it/I need this.
  • It's not fair.
  • Hey, did you know that when you waved at Jenna's mom your arm kind of shook like an old lady arm? Weird.
  • I forgot to tell you about the science project due tomorrow/crappy grade on my math test/that I broke a string on my tennis racquet.
  • I know I know I know I know I know I know. I KNOW!
  • That really wasn't that funny.
  • Oh, so that's what's for dinner...
So here's the deal, if they stop saying even a few of these phrases, then I'll make an effort to stop ranting and raving about the full garbage can, the homework, the failure to wake up on time and the inability to remember what time we leave for piano lessons on Mondays.

Actually, on second thought, scratch that last one, because after enough weeks and years of piano lessons, even a complete moron should be able to remember what time we leave.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I always love it when I wake up on Monday morning, reflect back on the last couple days and think "Wow. That was a really great weekend. I was super productive, the kids played some tennis, I found time for a few cocktails and, for the real icing on the cake, no one barfed in my car." I was lucky enough to be able to think these wonderful thoughts today. Last week, however, not so much.

It started on a Tuesday night with Doug saying something about a stomach ache. And since I can't give him the same advice that I give the kids, which is "maybe you should try to go poop," I'm left with a limited assortment of sympathetic phrases, none of which sound very sympathetic. The poor guy gets a lot of "Uh huh, that's too bad, what did you eat for lunch, oh really wow" and eventually "____" as I stare intently at my iPad while pretending not to hear his most recent sigh/groan.

Then I woke up in the middle of the night to discover I had the whole bed to myself. Probably not a good sign.

Then I woke up at 6:00 to discover that I still had the whole bed to myself. Definitely not a good sign.

I went downstairs to discover what appeared to be my husband sitting on the couch, except this version had taken on a slightly pale greenish tint and had definitely moved past the sigh/groan stage and proceeded to the puke my guts out stage. This was definitely, definitely not a good sign, because I HATE BARF!

While he slowly crept up the stairs, I ran into our bedroom and quickly grabbed whatever I thought I would need for the next 36 hours and then shut the door tight. I briefly considered running out and picking up a 3M window insulator kit and installing it on the outside of our bedroom door to really seal those germs in tight, but then decided not to because I couldn't figure out how I would I seal it to the carpet. And besides, I was busy. I had a bathroom to burn down and doorknobs to disinfect. There is no way in hell I am allowing a stomach bug to take this family hostage just in time for the weekend to arrive.

The poor guy suffered through the majority of the day with an "I just got off of a roller coaster after eating four cans of Dinty Moore stew and drinking a 2-liter bottle of Sunny D" feeling, even though I know for a fact I did not feed him Dinty Moore Stew (he had several reminders about what he did eat: pulled pork and some coleslaw) and I don't even buy Sunny D (anymore). I spent the day running kids around, bringing the dog to a vet appointment, and trying to mentally block the fact that there was someone in my house that felt like, or was, puking. Because, I HATE BARF!

It's not like my hatred of barf completely inhibited my nurturing side and prevented me from showing any sympathy. I was more than willing to bring Doug cans of Sprite, saltines and the sports section -- and leave them outside the bedroom door. And I expressed how sorry I was that he felt crummy and told him about the crackers sitting outside the door -- via text message. In fact, I think once I even texted something like "I'm so sorry u feel crummy. Do u need anything, besides death?"

Maybe I should consider going into nursing...

In addition to the sick husband, I got a call from the school nurse on Wednesday afternoon, half-an-hour before the end of the school day, informing me that "Zoe has a low-grade fever and is coughing quite a bit. Please come pick her up." Oh goody, I thought. Two family members with two different illnesses at the same time! This is such a super day! At least I knew Zoe could be consoled in person since she was just coughing and not barfing, because I HATE BARF! And she doesn't have a SIM card in her cell phone, so I wouldn't be able to text her.

Doug felt better by Thursday and Zoe's fever was gone by Wednesday night, which should have made me happy, but instead I felt like I was surrounded by ticking bombs. Every time a kid coughed, sighed, moaned, went into the bathroom or said "uh, oh" I froze in my tracks, ready to switch off all of my senses in order to avoid the sight, smell and sound of the stomach bug hitting another family member. Because, as everyone knows, I HATE BARF!

Fortunately, the rest of the family seemed to be immune to the two diseases lurking in our home and since I had scoured all of the light switches and door knobs three times, I was pretty confident that the disease was gone. But just to be on the safe side, before we left for a tennis match that was about 45 minutes away, I folded up a bath towel and put it on the car floor in front of Zoe's booster seat. I figured in a best case scenario, it would be used for nothing more than a dirt catcher and in a worse case, well, we won't talk about that because I HATE BARF!

While we were at the tournament, Zoe passed the time playing her DS, grazing through the cooler I had packed and also taste testing most of the snacks found in my tote bag, which included a Fruit by the Foot, Nibs, granola bars, and Goldfish. And since the matches didn't end until about 9:00, she was tired by the time we left, and for some reason when the girl gets over-tired, her stomach is also over-tired which, as I soon discovered, creates nausea.

The majority of the drive home was uneventful because, as soon as her butt hit the booster seat and the seat belt clicked, she was asleep. And then when we were within 15 minutes of home, she woke up a little and made The Sound. The most dreaded, horrific, oh my fucking hell why did I ever agree to reproduce, disgusting sound.

Charlie, who was sitting in the seat next to her, said "Oh. Gross. Zoe just threw up. Oh gross. Oh gross. Oh gross..." and on and on and on as he fled to the back of my minivan.

I thought, well fuck me. She did contract the stomach fucked-upedness after all. How in the hell am I going to get Charlie to his match at 8am tomorrow morning? Or maybe she's not sick. Maybe that was just a little burp slosh because her stomach is so full of crap and she's tired. Maybe she's...

And then the gates of vomit hell opened and for a few brief seconds, I seriously considered steering the car to the right and just driving into a concrete barrier.

While Zoe continued to hurl what appeared to be at least two boxes of Wheat Thins, a gallon of lemonade, six apples, three pouches of fruit snacks and I have no idea when she found the time to eat those four Thanksgiving dinners, the boys passed the time by hanging their heads out of the car windows, gasping for air that wasn't tainted by the stench of the regurgitated contents of their sister's stomach. A couple times, Zach yelled out "Oh my god! I just about threw up! Oh my god! Gross! How's it goin' back there, Zoe?" and then "Um, mom, it's pretty much everywhere, just so you know what to expect when you get home."

Ooh, look. I managed to drive past another concrete barrier.

The last ten minutes of that drive home is kind of a haze and involves a lot of muttered and some not-so-muttered swearing, mouth breathing and the development of a fairly noticeable sweaty film on forehead. I did manage to call Doug at one point to let him know what was happening, to which he calmly responded "Oh that's just fucking great." He took the words right out of my mouth.

Miraculously, we made it home, the boys survived, I handled the barf cleanup much better than I ever thought I would have, and I repeatedly thanked the part of my brain that was responsible for coming up with the idea of putting a towel on the car floor, because as we all know, buying a new towel is a lot cheaper than buying a new car.

After she declared the whole experience as "really, really disgusting," Zoe sang songs while sitting in the tub and then danced down the hallway before jumping into bed. And this is when I realized that at no point during the beginning of Doug's illness did he ever barf and then break into song, and there certainly wasn't any dancing down the hallway. He barfed, and then continued to feel crummy before he barfed some more. This girl hurled once and was over it.

I, on the other hand, am not quite over it. It'll take me a couple months before I will be able to hear her cough and not feel a little bit of panic, and it'll be even longer before I'm able to get in the car without making a conscious effort to not breathe through my nose. I know that if I get so much as one little whiff of hurl, my mouth will start to water and I'll replay the entire horrific evening in my head, because nothing will ever change the fact that I HATE BARF!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Really, You Shouldn't Have

Since Doug already told me about a couple things I could get him for Christmas, I figured he must already be brainstorming about what to buy me. And since I don't change very much much - except a few additional gray hairs, a couple extra ounces here and there and maybe a liberal sprinkling of insanity - this list remains pretty much the same from year to year. Oh wait, one thing has changed: in addition to vodka, I would happily accept beer, rum or Jameson.

(Originally posted on 12/14/09.)

A few nights ago, Doug asked me what I wanted for Christmas. While I found it almost impossible to think of things that I would love to find under the tree, the number of things that I knew I didn't want was a little overwhelming. I don't really consider myself difficult to buy for, but I definitely don't like things that are crappily constructed, emit smells, burn through batteries, or considered "collectible." Since this pretty much covers everything sold at a Hallmark store, here are a few other items that upon receiving, would require 100% fake enthusiasm, and might even trigger a little bit of anger directed toward the giver:
  1. Jewelry in any shape other than a solitaire. This includes angels, birds, crosses, snowflakes, candy canes, flowers, snowmen, hearts, elephants, or "a key to my heart."
  2. Seasonal dishes or serving pieces that take up coveted storage space for 11 months out of the year, only to be forgotten about and never used for the one month that they would be relevant.
  3. A personal massager, unless the massager has human hands and shows up at my front door for two hours every Monday with a bottle of hot oil.
  4. A "Birthstone Babies" necklace, bracelet, or keychain.
  5. A membership to a "_____ Of The Month" club, unless the blank can be filled-in with either "Booze" or "Illegal Drug."
  6. TV trays, because I never sit down to eat.
  7. Any device that would be used for the removal of carpet stains.
  8. An Ab Rocket abdominal trainer, unless you want to get punched in the face.
  9. A Roomba
  10. Luggage, unless it comes with round-trip tickets to Jamaica.
  11. Scented lotion gift sets, because even though I may like gingerbread, it doesn't mean I want to smell like it.
  12. Potpourri, in all of its hideous forms.
  13. Scrapbooking supplies, or a gift card to Archivers.
  14. Pajamas that don't keep me warm.
  15. The $25 gift card to a restaurant that came free with the purchase of a $100 gift card, which I know the giver kept for themselves.
  16. Anything written by Koontz, Baldacci, Palin, or Beck.
  17. Items from "As Seen on TV," including Shamwow, Bump-It, Flingshot Flying Monkey, Point 'n Paint, Hanger Cascader, Forearm Forklift, or the super stylish Buxton Cellphone Wallet.
  18. Any season of "Desperate Housewives" on DVD, because contrary to popular belief, all of us gals do not watch this show.
  19. Small kitchen appliances, because I already have a toaster, coffee maker, and popcorn popper, and even though they're popular, I don't need a panini press.
  20. The book "Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool," because the author of this book has obviously never spent any time with actual kids.
I realize that this doesn't leave much to choose from, and some of the things that I already asked Santa for might be hard to find at Target. So if nothing else, I guess I'd be happy with a healthy family, kids that get along, and a dog that doesn't smell. And if I still can't have these things, then just get me vodka.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mobile Multitasking

A few fun facts:
  1. My kids play tennis. Clarification, Zoe plays tennis, but my boys play a lot of tennis.
  2. We live in a northwest suburb of Minneapolis.
  3. Apparently, the Tennis Court Construction Guys feel that indoor courts are an unnecessary luxury for those of us in the northwest suburbs.
  4. After a hop, skip, jump, leap, dos-y-dos and gallop, along with jamming my foot down on the accelerator and cursing at a few other drivers for 17 miles three times a week, we safely arrive at indoor courts.
  5. Don't even get me started on how far we drive for weekend tournaments like, for example, I did this past weekend.
When I made the conscious decision to sign my kids up for extracurricular activities, I knew that I would be spending more time in the car than if they were to just sit at home all day with an Xbox controller in their hands and a bag of Chex Mix wedged next to them on the couch. What I wasn't prepared for, though, was how much time I spend in the car. Between the tennis lessons and tournaments, orthodontist appointments, piano lessons, errands, elementary school pick-up and drop-off, more errands and more tennis lessons, it gets to the point where I don't even want to get in my car to go to the bar on a Saturday night. And that's wrong. So very, very wrong.

Most mornings, I try to be organized before I head out the door. This usually means a grocery list, an errand list, a to-do list, maybe a tennis bag or two thrown in the back and a bag of snacks in case someone is absolutely starving after they get picked up. Also, if there are any calls I need to make or emails I need to return, I bring a list of numbers. Then when I'm singing along to the radio and waiting for a kid to appear, I can get something done besides just feeling like an idiot, waiting. And waiting. And getting angry because I'm waiting. This way, when the kid finally appears, I feel productive and angry.

There are times, though, when I find myself sitting behind the wheel with nothing to do. And it's moments like these that make me wonder: what else could I be getting done? I mean, I know I can't cook a pot roast or shake up a martini, and I could always pass the time spying on what the other moms are doing in the school parking lot, (Like last year when, I shit you not, I saw a woman trimming her nose hair.) but there has to be some sort of task that could be completed to make me feel like I'm not wasting decades of my life in the car. And then I found these ideas in the newspaper:

Do menu planning. I think this means I should plan nutritious meals for the entire week that are to be cooked in my home, with ingredients that I have written down and will have time to purchase, and then served at a reasonable time. What this fails to take into consideration is the fact that during the week, when we walk in the door at 6:30 or later, there isn't a lot of time for chopping, braising, saucing and serving. It's more like nuking, yelling, scarfing and homework-ing. At least I can get my grocery list done: hot dogs, buns, noodles, jar of sauce, limes, tonic.

Make doctors' appointments. This suggestion would work for someone that hauls around a ginormous planner with their entire life etched out in ballpoint pen. And although I have a color-coded wall calendar at home (stop laughing), most people I know, including myself, have switched to electronic calendars for when we're on-the-go. Which means that in order to schedule an appointment from my iPhone I'd have to keep saying "Hold on a second, I'll see if that day would work" and then hope like hell that I don't accidentally drop the call while I'm seeing if I can wedge the time between an ortho appointment and a tennis match. Luckily, I don't have to schedule very many doctor appointments. On the other hand, vet appointments for a puppy? Don't even get me started.

Plan date night. For me, hearing the term "date night" churns up the same nausea that the term "play date" manages to trigger. And everyone knows that if you plan anything that requires reservations of any kind, advance tickets, the booking of a babysitter and the purchase of a new piece of apparel, the babysitter will cancel and/or a kid will get sick, probably all over that new piece of apparel. If Doug and I happen to find ourselves with a free Friday night and we're extra thirsty, we go to the bar for beer, onion rings, more beer and hopefully a live band where people are dancing so that we can laugh at them. And we don't call it "date night," we call it "having fun" or "getting drunk."

Pay bills. I won't be doing this in the car, since the sounds of my screaming and crying might make other people worry.

Read. The article says I'm supposed to rip out newspaper and magazine articles and throw them in a tote bag for moments just like these, and this tip makes me laugh. One of my most vivid memories from my childhood is riding around on Sunday mornings in the back of my parents' Buick. The sun was blinding, I was tired and my brothers were on either side of me, still reeking of whatever party they were at the night before. Worst of all, my parents always brought a thermos of coffee and a couple sections of the Sunday paper. The amalgam of all those smells, paired together with the sloshy suspension of a Buick sedan, always resulted in the same thing for me: carsick. So now, even though I can tolerate the smell of my brothers and even like the smell of coffee, one whiff of a newspaper in a car makes my stomach turn. And I'm pretty sure no one needs to see me barfing in the school parking lot.

Catch up with a friend with a phone call. I try to limit the amount of time I spend talking on the phone when I'm actually driving, but because I'd like my conversations to consist of more than "Green means go, Moron!" I admit that I will never not answer my phone. Unless it's that one person. You know who you are. Anyway, for those times that I find myself sitting in a parking lot for the 18th time in a week, this tip is actually useful. But it only works if I'm waiting by myself, because even though it seems like my kids never hear a word I say at home, they hear everything I say when I'm on the phone.

Write birthday cards. Since most people I know would rather receive a phone call or email on their birthday, I don't waste $4.00 (or more) to send birthday cards anymore. I suppose, though, if all birthday cards were like this one, I might reconsider...

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Mom Cave

For years now, the concept of a man cave has been increasing in popularity. These man caves range from the extravagant (including such items as leather recliners, a pool table, humidor, a urinal in the bathroom, multiple flat screen TV's and, for the truly tasteless, a stripper pole or two) to barely covering the basics (a moldy couch thrown in an extra garage stall, a dorm fridge, a shrub outside the garage, a TV with rabbit ears, and a stripper pole). Either way, a man's need is fulfilled, and that need is to get the hell away from everyone and enjoy some solitude.

I recently came across an article about a designer that is trying to introduce the concept of a mom cave. After all, if guys can have a getaway on their own property, it seems only fair that a mom should be able to say adios to her family once in a while and have access to the same kind of space. A space that "isn't as extravagant as a man cave," but is decorated her way and is used "for everything a woman loves, like knitting, doing crafts, writing letters, or even paying bills."

Umm...what? The fuck?

So let me get this straight -- a guy gets to watch some football from his leather Barcalounger with one hand wrapped around a cold beer and the other hand plunged into a bag of Funyuns, and I get to sequester myself in a craft room, pay the electric bill and knit some booties? Who is the crazy bitch that came up with this concept?

Now I don't know about you, but if this is the extent of what a mom cave should be then I'm pretty sure the idea will die an expedited death. So in order to prevent that from happening, I'm going to take matters into my own hands and come up with a list of things that a mom cave should actually include.
  • A guard dog (that can't be bribed with treats) sitting outside the door, trained to bark and growl at everyone except: A) me; B) those that have been invited by me; and C) anyone delivering booze.
  • Soundproof walls.
  • A large TV, but 3D is not necessary because the glasses are ugly.
  • A stocked Blu Ray DVD library. Yes to Apatow, the Cohen's and Zombieland. No to anything that is considered a chick flick, rom com or involves Julia Roberts.
  • A massage chair, but not the leather kind found at Brookstone that all the teenagers sit in. I want the one that comes with face papers and includes someone with strong thumbs that is only capable of massaging for an hour or more.
  • A bar, complete with a bartender that can't say anything except "You're welcome" and "Would you like a refill?"
  • Half of the floor should be sand, like the white sand found in the Caribbean. And it should be heated so that my bare feet don't get cold.
  • Furniture that is incapable of accumulating dust.
  • An absence of all things that could be considered "collectible."
  • A weekly cleaning lady.
  • An automatically replenishing supply of kettle chips, Skittles and Twizzlers.
  • A self-cleaning bathroom. Or actually, if it is only me using the bathroom, then it won't need to be cleaned.
  • A closet that contains already completed science projects.
  • A phone that only makes outgoing calls.
  • Twice a month, someone manages to sneak past the guard dog and says "It's time for your facial and pedicure."
Now, I realize that some of these items may seem extravagant, but keep in mind that I'm willing to compromise. Like the massage chair -- I guess I'd be happy with half-an-hour. And it's not like I'd automatically expect people to understand my need for a mom cave and the indulgent items it contains. I'd explain it to them by hanging this sign on the door, right above where the guard dog sits:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Campaign Promises

Today is mid-term election day which means that, in addition to ousting the old politicians and bringing in a few new ones, the horribly written, cheaply produced TV spots for some of the least-intelligent members of our population will finally cease. And as much as I'd like to be able to quote specific ads in order to rip on them, I'm not able to do that due to my tendency to either: A) Hit the mute button as soon as I see an angry slow-mo face on my screen, paired with a giant red font that says "LIAR!"; B) Change the channel when I see a perfectly groomed family sitting on their front step, exchanging knowing smiles and talking about small-town values while petting the family dog; or C) Ripping the TV off my wall and hurling it out the window when I see an image of Michele Bachmann in my home.

Voting is a right and a privilege, so I highly recommend that you find the time today to get out there, find your polling place, stand in line (hopefully not next to that guy with the unbearable body odor) and fill in the little circle next to the candidate that you feel will do the least amount of damage over the next few years. And then, when you're done, you can go home and raise a toast to a future that includes a balanced budget, lower taxes, better healthcare, and the return of all those TV spots for tampons. Because even though commercials for tampons are annoying, at least I know when they claim to have "better leakage protection," it isn't code for something else.

(The following was originally posted on August 9, 2010.)

Even though my family has always been involved in politics (as in working for senators and serving on the House of Representatives), I dislike politics. I don't like to discuss it with friends, I don't enjoy listening to other people debate about who is better than who or who is right and who is oh so very, very wrong, and I definitely don't like politics during election years.

Tomorrow is primary election day and it can't come soon enough. I am so tired of listening to monotone radio spots and seeing horribly written TV ads for all of the candidates. No matter what they're claiming they can do or how inferior they think the other candidate is, all I manage to hear is "Hi, my name is Jimmy and if you elect me as your class president, I'll add two hours to recess." I know that the primary elections are a long way from the final outcome as to who the actual winner will be sometime in the fall, which means that there will be many, many more ads in the near future, but at least some of the candidates will be back at their usual jobs, teaching school or flipping burgers or selling meth or whatever it is they were doing before they started making TV commercials that make me want to rip my eyeballs out and jab ice picks deep into my eardrums.

Since I always seem to lose track of which candidate has the DWI and who wants to raise the taxes and whats-his-name that has small town values, I decided to make a translation guide as to what I think the wannabe politician is really trying to say.

What they say: I'm taking my principles directly to the people.
What I hear: See me wearing this plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up? Standing in a farm field and nodding empathetically as these workers tell me about their financial woes? I'd really rather be somewhere else. Like golfing. I like golfing. I think these people would be a lot happier if they all learned how to golf.

What they say: I have a common-sense agenda.
What I hear: I really have no idea what I will do when I get into office because one person only has so much power and everyone knows that all politicians disagree with each other just so that they can hear themselves argue. But I do plan on keeping M&M's in my desk drawer. Peanut M&M's, actually.

What they say: My administration will focus on clean energy.
What I hear: I suppose I'll have to sell my Hummer. Which I guess is okay, since if elected, I'll get a company car. I wonder if I can get a Hummer...

What they say: We need to turn government into a catalyst for private sector innovation that creates shared prosperity for all.
What I hear: I am an investor in a couple bio-med companies that could use a little bit of government funding. I might even donate some of my bazillion dollars of earnings to a local charity, because after all, making a charitable donation is good for my image.

What they say: I will ensure that the rural areas of our state have Broadband Internet access.
What I hear: I want Internet access when I go to my hunting cabin in the middle of the woods. Sometimes it's impossible to watch "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" over 3G network, and playing online poker is hard when there are glitches.

What they say: I promise to create thousands of new jobs and grow the economy.
What I hear: I have no idea how I will go about doing this, but it sounds really impressive and people that are currently unemployed like to hear me say this. And I like it when people clap for me.

What they say: I will not raise taxes. In fact, I will try to reduce taxes while not creating any new taxes, and I will also balance the budget.
What I hear: I will not raise taxes until I walk into my new office, sit down in my super comfy spinny chair, watch my secretary hang up the requisite picture of a loon, and take a sip of coffee. Then I will raise your taxes, create a couple new taxes, and at no point while I ever come close to balancing the budget.

What they say: I am going to create a unique new kind of transit system -- an all weather, elevated, enclosed skyway system for bikes, segways, scooters and electric wheelchairs.
What I hear: I am insane.

What they say: My cards are on the table.
What I hear: I am not very creative, and I like to play poker. A lot of poker. Like, tons of poker.

What they say: I think there should be signs throughout schools that say RESPECT yourself and your family.
What I hear: I am a genius. Obviously the only reason there is bullying, gangs, fighting, teen depression and cliques is because there aren't any signs in the hallways at school, telling the kids to respect themselves! Why hasn't anyone ever thought of this before!?

What they say: I will promote kindness to animals.
What I hear: I have no clue what the real issues actually are, but I like puppies. Puppies are soft and cute and they lick my face, especially after I've eaten bacon.

What they say: I will build smoother, safer, longer-lasting roads without debt or taxes.
What I hear: I have a huge pothole in my street and I want it fixed. So if that means that I have to cut education funding in order to get my street fixed without raising, okay.

What they say: I will make sure that affordable prescription drugs are available to everyone.
What I hear: Prescriptions are too gosh darn expensive right now, especially for pain killers. The price on those pain killers really has to come down, because I like pain killers. Pain killers are good.

Okay, so I guess I don't really hate all of the political ads. Now that I think about it, I kind of like the confidence boost I experience after seeing a Michele Bachmann ad because no matter how stupid I happen to be feeling or how bad my hair looks, at least I know I'm smarter than her. And I have better hair.