Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Phone Call

These days when the phone rings it’s usually one of two possibilities.  It is either a telemarketer or it’s my friend Jill calling to tell me she almost hit a goat/clown/wild turkey.  Jill’s not a good driver and she used to live in Montana so those references are not fabricated.  That’s not the point of today’s story, although sometime I would be happy to share how she got lost going from Provo to Orem (helpful hint: when you pass Thanksgiving Point you’ve gone too far) or how it used to take her 20 minutes to get to my house which was only a mile away.  But.  Today’s story is about a telemarketer.

The phone rang last night and my 13-year-old son, Drew was closest to the one downstairs so he picked it up.  “Hello?” I heard him answer as I simultaneously grabbed the upstairs phone and hit “Talk”.  That’s when I heard the woman on the other end begin her pitch.  “…and with your generous donation today of $75 you can really help us make a difference….”  Drew listened politely as he made his way upstairs to hand the phone over to me.  When he got to me, however, I turned him away and mouthed silently that I didn’t want to talk and told him to handle it.

Game on.

After said telemarketer made her pitch Drew grew emotional with her and responded while Sam and I listened on the other end on speaker.  “Well, I’m so sorry but I have 5 kids and I just lost my house and…” *sniff *sniff “…I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!”  He was not too emotional to invite suspicion so the telemarketer showed mild concern.  “Oh, wow.  I’m so sorry.  I definitely understand.  (Um, really?)  But, you know, you don’t have to do $75.  You could just do $50 and pay it off over time.”  How thoughtful and generous of the telemarketer lady!  Realizing he needed a little more grease on his wheels, Drew upped the ante.  “And my MOM JUST DIED!”  I wondered if the woman would know she was being played at this point but it seemed as if this new revelation made her genuinely concerned.  
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.  That’s terrible,” she said.  And then, “How old are you?”  
Abort!  Abort!  We’ve been found out!
But Drew didn’t back down.  “About…32.  Almost 33.”
“Oh,” she continued.  “You sound more like you’re in your early 20’s.”  Seriously lady?  Are you actually falling for this?
“Wow, THANKS!” Drew responded, as if he felt complimented on appearing younger than his age rather than the other way around.
“Well, I’m so sorry for your loss.  I don’t want to bother you, maybe we’ll call you again some other time when it’s more convenient.”
“Ok, thanks.” Drew said, and hung up.

The three of us then dissolved into laughter on the floor of Samantha’s bedroom and the poor telemarketer lady ran off to her next victim.  Preferably they are nicer, more attentive, and are willing to part with seventy-five bucks.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Everything

As I shut the back sliding glass door behind my 13-year-old boy this morning, there was a fresh two inches of powder on the ground.  He quietly made his way to the bus as I headed toward the front to shovel our driveway.  When I came back I glanced out the rear window and saw the trail he left behind.  It felt rather symbolic of the last few months and elicited the following thoughts:



Everything

The babes I once held close
To whisper away the cries
To rock to sleep
To hold
Just because I wanted to.
I was their everything.

They learned to walk.
My hands outstretched
To catch (just in case)
To steady
To encourage
To engulf in a hug when they made it.
Aside from fruit snacks
I was their everything.

Their feet grew.
Their world got bigger.
Their strides grew longer.
Now they walk
They run
They jump
They do everything.

But the trail has shifted.
The footprints face away
Instead of toward me.
Positive they know what to do
Positive they know the way
But I wonder.
Are they ready?
Have I taught them everything?

It is what I want for them.
It is how it is supposed to be.
This hollow breath in my throat
It has nowhere to go,
No way to feel right.
Have I done my job?
Is this all there is?
Is this everything?

Dear God,
I hope you know what you’re doing.
Lead them
Guide them
Walk beside them
Please make sure my babies make it.
They have to.

They are
After all
My Everything.

Drew's footprints left in the snow this morning

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Phase I’m In

I’m considering writing a book on Parenting.

CHAPTER 1:  It’s hard.
CHAPTER 2:  It’s fun!
CHAPTER 3:  It’s pretty hard.
CHAPTER 4:  It smells weird. 

I’m telling you, you’re going to want to buy multiple copies.  One thing I learned when I got pregnant for the first time is that people enjoyed making jokes about how I wouldn’t sleep for 18 years, as if that was going to be the hardest part.  Newsflash:  It’s not.  Don’t worry though, if you’re a parent of young ones I’m not about to tell you how easy it is to have small kids now that I no longer claim that phase of life.  The only scenario under which I would return to that period of time is if I could do so in 2 hour increments, and if I could choose the increments to be after naps, before bedtime, and during a Disneyland ride followed by ice cream.  And for the record, you will sleep again and it won’t take 18 years.  However, you will still have sleepless nights. 

Right now it’s 5:00 am and I’ve been up for 45 minutes already.  Not because my baby is awake and screaming but because the world is awake and screaming at my babies and it stresses me out.  Here’s a little note I would like to write to anxiety:  In the future I would appreciate it – and I mean “appreciate” in the way I appreciate not bleeding to death –  if you could wait at least (at least!) until 7:00 am on a Saturday before you nudge me alert with visions of doom and woe.  ARE WE CLEAR?

As a parent of teenagers I’m learning that most of the things I have worried about are not the things that are worrying me.  I guess I convinced myself that if I could keep my kids off drugs, immorality and free from kidnappers the only thing left to do was bask in glittery fairy dust.  But so far I’ve done all that and yet here I sit, at 5:00 am, already waiting for the day to be over.  Nobody told me that one of the hardest parts about parenting would be watching your kid meet rejection and disappointment; that one day you would see a host of kids heading off to a party that yours wasn’t invited to.  That you would stand on sidelines watching other people's kids light up the "stage" while yours sat on the outskirts waiting to be noticed.  That you would have to witness your kid leave the room after bad news to assume a position face down on the couch with a pillow over their head so you wouldn’t see them cry.  Nobody told me that seeing your kid hurting would be worse than a thousand needles in the eye.  Oh, and the needles are on fire.  And coated in cayenne pepper.

Another hard part about the phase I’m in is figuring out how to “be there” when you’re not the one they want to talk to.  Oh, I almost forgot about CHAPTER 5:  YOU’RE NOT THE ONE THEY WANT TO TALK TO.  Except I’m sure your kids won’t be like that.  (They will probably be like that.)  I try to appeal to them by getting out the scrapbooks and showing them pictures of when we used to cuddle on the couch but it doesn’t seem to ignite warm feelings.  So then I try buying them their favorite chocolate milk and they love it!  They hug the gallon like it’s their best friend.  You might think this is the right time to go in for a hug yourself. 

It’s not.

You’re supposed to leave the chocolate milk at the door and get out.

I am fortunate, because our good times are good and we have a lot of them.  There’s a big difference in conversation when you can talk using full sentences – we’ve come a long way from Samantha telling me to “push it out, mama” back when she was small enough that we still had to share a public bathroom stall.  But this part - the disappointment - was easier when they were little, when tears could be wiped away with my hand, love could be showered with hugs and kisses, and peace could be restored with Cheez-Its and The Aristocats.

Oh, I know it’s only temporary.  I just didn’t know it would be this hard.  And seriously, it ALWAYS smells weird.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor (Day) Intensive

I don't know why it's so hard to get a family of 4 to agree upon something to do together, but it seems that we have never been good at it.  I suppose the "divide and conquer" approach that Cory and I have had has mostly worked, but there are some negative side effects.  For example, we were never the family who said, "Hey, we need milk.  Everyone hop in the car we're going grocery shopping!"  It was more of, "We need milk.  If I go to the store by myself I can pick the cereal I like best, you get to stay here and watch TV, and the kids won't talk us into getting the gross fruit snacks."  It worked for us.

But on holidays like today when we have the whole day to spend together, nobody, and I mean NOBODY is on the same page about what to do.  I anticipated this, but I also had a vision in mind about what I wanted.  I tried to approach it diplomatically when my "Let's go on a family hike!" idea got shot down. 
Me:  "Okay, so Dad wants to golf, Drew and Samantha want to hang with friends, and I want to go hiking.  What can we do to make everyone happy?"
Drew:  "How about we invite friends over to watch a golf movie while Mom walks in place?  Everybody wins."

You see why this is an uphill battle.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

That I Might Not Shrink



I’ve been open about the fact that I had to seek outside help during a rough patch in my life.  Depression hit me rather soundly after my son was born - it took me a year before I realized I wasn’t going to snap out of it on my own and I sought the professional help of a therapist.  I’m not ashamed of it.  The 12 oz bag of milk chocolate chips that was on my shelf yesterday and is now mysteriously gone, THAT I’m ashamed of.  Beginning my morning with toaster strudel and a game of Candy Crush, not super proud of that either.  But therapy…I recommend it.  If I had $100 a week just sitting around, gathering dust I would still go but with the skyrocketing costs of milk and butter and no plans of becoming a vegan it’s just not in the budget.

We had some good times, my shrink and I.  We laughed, we cried, and on some twisted level I convinced myself that he must have really enjoyed having a client like me that wasn’t as troubled as some.  (You think I’m narcissistic because I have a blog?  Ha!  Child’s play.  *I* thought my therapist LIKED ME BEST.)  “I bet I’m a joy to have in class!” I would tell myself.  Then, as I handed him my last check and told him I would call if I had any relapses he informed me that I was his last client – he was hanging up his hat on private practice and was going to write a book, attend to corporate level needs, and focus more on talking to larger groups about parenting and the like.  I went home and wrote in my notebook 150 times, “This is just a coincidence.  This is just a coincidence.” 

Then again when I dig deep, (AS HE TAUGHT ME TO DO) I realize that we had some rocky times, too.
Shrink:  “You seem to have a lot of irrational fears.  Where do you think that comes from?”
Me:  “Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe because my home was robbed three times as a child and strangers went through all of my stuff?”
Shrink:  “Really?!  I guess I missed that.”
Me:  “It’s in the file of 75,000 questions you made me answer so you could get to know me better.”
Shrink:  “I should totally read that sometime.”

I haven’t seen my therapist since I walked out of his office on that last visit.  It’s been ten years.  Sitting in church on Sunday the woman standing at the front of the room was announcing the details of an upcoming event.  “You and your spouses are invited to attend this Parenting class.  It’s going to be really good.  Our speaker is going to be Vern’s Therapist.”  Of course they didn’t say “Vern’s Therapist”, but DUDES.  Let’s not miss the point.  The point is: My therapist.  Is coming!  TO CHURCH! 

The lady at the front of the room was trying very hard to convey that this guy was going to be really good.  Should I pipe in?  “Hey you guys, she’s right.  I used to pay this dude a hundred dollars an hour to complain about all of you and he totally took me from zero to hero by the end of the year.  Mark your calendar.”  I chose to remain quiet.  (And now I have that in writing.)  The truth is, it will probably only be awkward if he doesn’t remember me.  THEN what?  I’ll be standing there going, “Remember?  I shut me eyes, you told me to visualize So-And-So’s head and I threw stuffed animals at the wall as hard as I could?”  Then, if it still doesn’t register I could just lean in, smile, look him in the eye and give a quick nudge to his side and remind him, “You know, I was your favorite? Then all of the sudden it will hit him like a Viking during hard labor and he’ll be like, “VERN!  Oh my gosh!  How ARE you?”  Then I will regale him with all of the details about how awesome the last 10 years have been.  

And then maybe it won’t be so weird that my shrink came to church.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

80 Year Spin

Last week my Dad turned 80 years old, and soon my mom will follow suit.  We decided to celebrate with a big party and with half our constituency already in Utah, that became the center of our festivities.  Some of the adults smuggled in caffeine and there wasn't a single jell-o dessert, so it was pretty much a rager.

The older I get and the more I learn about my mom, I am blown away at our similarities.  This thrills me and terrifies her, though in her defense she has never been skinny dipping and in MY defense I have never tried to pass off carob as a suitable chocolate substitute.

Recently my parents were here visiting and my mom said she wanted to go into a clothing store.  This was highly uncharacteristic.  She couldn't have shocked me more if she had said, "I'd like to send the Obamas some flowers."  So I quickly obliged, wanting to support her in this sudden act of bravery.  She was looking for an outfit suitable for an upcoming wedding, so I began flipping through hangers.  Before offering up any particular suggestions she coached me what to look for by saying, "I try to stay away from the manlier looks.  I haven't been called 'Sir' in a while."  Oh the huWOmanity.  At the same time I also knew that mom was not the shmoofy type either, so I set out to find the most egregious assault to her senses as I pulled out a black organza ruffly number covered in black and white overlapping hearts and said, "Hey Mom, what about this one?"  I held it up, assuming she would instantly recognize my jest but she surprised me and responded with a cursory glance, "Oh yeah, that's pretty."  I dropped it to my side, disappointed that she didn't realize what I was doing and said, "Mom!  I was just kidding," to which she answered, "Oh good, I was just being polite."  And all was right again in my universe.

I really, really love my Mom.

During our party there was a point where the siblings gathered together and presented my parents with their respective gifts.  My mom received emeralds, her birthstone.  My Dad received a canvas collage of every single member of his posterity from his children down to his great grandchildren - proof of a promise made to him long ago.  My oldest brother, Mitch, shared a story as he presented our gift to my Dad that I had never heard before.  I'm sharing it again here, because I don't want to forget it.

Mitch had just returned from a two year stint as a missionary for our church in Argentina.  He was trying to figure out what to do next with his life, and had wild aspirations.  One day he sat in the front yard talking to my Dad about it while I and my younger brothers played nearby.  (Twelve years separates me from my oldest brother, so we would have been roughly 9, 7 and 5.)  Per Mitch's account he turned to my Dad at one point and asked if he was happy with his life's choices (becoming a high school Biology teacher, having 7 children, small income, big responsibilities) adding, "I mean, Dad?  Haven't you ever wanted to change the world?"  At which point my father gestured to me and my younger brothers playing in the distance and said, "I did."

I really, really love my Dad.

The last 80 years have been good to my parents and as you can see, many of those years have been good to us too.  So, here's to my Mom and Dad.  For not setting fire to the joint when we made them blow out their candles, and of course, for changing the world.

With my kids at the Broadmoor Hotel



Blowing out their candles

Friday, August 9, 2013

Once Upon A Time...A Fairy Tale For The Underprivileged

Once upon a time I went five whole days without showering and nobody even died.  Yes, I survived Girl's Camp.  It wasn't even that bad.  A fairy tale, really, if you happen to find cleanliness and civilization to be cumbersome.  Yesterday I was in a store looking at birthday cards and there was one with a cartoon sketch of two bears standing outside an apartment door.  The caption quotes one bear saying to the other, "Look here Earl, all you have to do is push this little button (the doorbell) and out pops a snack!"  Maybe that's funny for regular folk, but coming face to face with a bear has a way of making bear jokes seem...not hilarious.  But despite our bear sightings prior to camp, we didn't see one all week.  We made sure of it, which is why when one of our girls was barfing outside her tent because she was dehydrated we were there shoveling it into a bag.  I guess bears like human vomit.  Filthy animals.  That's when I decided that shoveling vomit at camp is the equivalent to pricking your finger and becoming blood sisters at a teenage bonding ritual.  I'm just saying if any of my camping cohorts ever needs a kidney....

Once upon a time I went five whole days without using a real toilet and I almost died.  I'm pretty sure you don't want me to elaborate on how 250 people went a whole week on 6 port-a-potties, but I'm also pretty sure I never asked you.  Here's the thing - it's not great.  As in, the gas station Subway bathroom we hit on the way out felt like a Marriott in the springtime.  At one point some well meaning campers tried to label one of the "bathrooms" a #1 zone only to allow for at least one stall that wouldn't stink to high heaven.  That turned out to be...ineffective.  Also, high heaven = not far enough away.  On a positive note, the graffiti on the port-a-potty walls was quite motivational at this Christian based camp.  I'm just saying, have you ever witnessed a line from Lincoln penned at a KOA?  I DON'T THINK SO.

Once upon a time our Camp Directors were mistaken for lesbians and I laughed so hard I could have died.  One night our tent and cars were decorated with rainbow colored plates by some "neighbors".  We thought we had cleaned them all up but the next day when our leaders drove to town for some emergency supplies they stepped out in all of their back to nature glory and discovered a rainbow of color still attached to the front grill of the truck.  I'm sure the guys at Ace Hardware didn't judge.

Once upon a time I climbed a massive tree and jumped off and totally didn't die!  And just for good measure I did the Karate Kid stance from the very, very top.  With my tongue sticking out, because apparently I want to send the message that this activity is a Gene Simmons kind of crazy:


 Once upon a time I woke up from 5 days of camping and it was time to go home and all I could think about was getting a shower so when I walked in nobody would die.  I was met with this lovely display - Cory's idea, Samantha's execution, Drew's signature channeled from the 1st grade:


Once upon a time I went five whole days without a shower and a toilet and I jumped off trees and shoveled vomit by flashlight and nobody died.  And then I came home and showered and caught up on Drop Dead Diva and we all lived happily ever after.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"I'm Going To Have A Heart Attack And DIE Of NOT Surprise"



Life can be surprising.  Case in point:  Matt Lauer is still relevant, 48 hours is actually only a one hour show, and Maury Povich is still on television.  [Side note:  For the longest time I avoided reading Tuesdays With Morrie because I thought it was a book about paternity.  What a nice surprise to learn that it was about death and relationships!  Mostly relationships.]  Of course, none of these hit me quite as hard as learning that my best friend had never heard of a taquito, but that’s a story for another time.  I’m still waiting for news that Calista Flockhart ate a sandwich one time and that Bill Maher is dating a Republican but in the meantime I’ll just have to settle for, oh I don’t know, trying to find a sweet, ripe honeydew.  Keep those goals attainable, folks. 

Life also has a side that’s NOT surprising.  Like Lance Armstrong being a tool, Mama June wearing camo on her wedding day, or a 20-year-old marrying Hugh Heffner.  NOT for his money.  I’m also not surprised to see Miley Cyrus spiraling downward (Hannah Montana TRIED to warn her) and if I had a nickel for every time an NFL player got arrested well, I might make more money and serve less time than they do. 

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and misleads you with something you think should surprise you when really, it shouldn’t.  It’s like those $1/scoop Chinese restaurants.  You go in thinking, “Wow!  Really?  Only $1 a scoop?” and you pile your plate high.  Then about an hour later when you’re in the bathroom for the 7th time moaning for the Diarrhea Gods to show mercy you act surprised again, as if…come on, man.  You HAD to know.  It’s also kind of like me with running.  I actually enjoy running, which surprises no one else more than me.  I completely blew my own mind when we were on vacation a few weeks ago - the Cruise was sponsoring a 5K on the private island upon debarking and I GOT EXCITED ABOUT IT.  People.  You need to understand the significance here.  I got excited about something that didn’t involve the words, “cupcake”, “buy one get one free”, or “Hugh Jackman called back”.  Are you feelin’ me?  I talked Samantha into doing it with me and we had a lot of fun.  I was surprised how much faster I was at sea level.  I was not surprised at the amount of sweat dripping from my brow which could have re-filled the Caribbean.  I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that when I finished and arrived at the shore where Cory and Drew were parked, ripping off my shirt was like trying to pull a wetsuit off a sea lion in heat.  At that point I didn’t want to fuss with changing into my swimsuit because I was hot NOW, and instant relief was available only a few feet away.  So, down to my sports bra and shorts I was headed straight for the ocean and said to Drew, who was waiting for me to go in the water, “Alright, let’s go!”  He shrunk back behind the umbrella and said, “Um…does anyone else want to go?  I don’t want to go with mom anymore.” 

I guess when they say, “Life is full of surprises” it’s just a nice way of saying, “One day your adolescent child who sucked on your DNA for nourishment inside of your belly will grow up to eat all of your Cheez-Its and tell you thank you for this Caribbean vacation by dissing you at the water’s edge.”

Then again, I guess that shouldn’t surprise me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

There Is No 'I' In Camping. Wait...Aw, Crap!

I found out in October that I would have the "opportunity" to accompany 200 girls from my church between the ages of 12-18 on a week-long camping trip.  More accurately, it's not really an opportunity so much as it is a responsibility.  See fine print under the sub-heading, "Mormon Guilt".   It is now July, and camp is in one week, which means I have been trying to come down with the cholera for almost a year now.

People keep saying it's going to be fun, and I suppose it will be as long as I can convince myself that bathing isn't really my thing and singing songs about kookaburras makes me want to hold hands and shout for joy.  Problem is, I can't.  And it doesn't.  I'll tell you what makes me want to shout for joy is something called "soap".  Also, the Hyatt Regency.  Last week I drove up to the campsite with the other leaders (who are going straight to heaven after this) to check out the lay of the land.  ("Lay of the land"?  Look at me, I'm adapting already.)  So there I was, chillin' with my homies in the 'hood when up yonder (I'm so confused!) we saw something big and brown and furry.  The dog that accompanied us was going nuts, as dogs tend to do when coming face to face with a bear.

(No really, it's going to be fun!)

It was fine - the bear ran off, his chunky haunches lapping in the wind as he surged up the trail.  So that's what it looks like when I....  We continued our tour of the facility and before our morning was up we saw another bear...and another one...AND ANOTHER ONE.  Since then we have upped our game in the bear safety department and have informed our leaders and girls about what to do/not to do (no eye contact, walk away slowly, no food in tents, no scented lotions, B.O. doesn't smell as bad as being dead feels!) so I'm not worried because I know that teenage girls never overreact, especially when it comes to PMS'ing away from home when they are sharing tight quarters in the wilderness.  And did I mention?  WITHOUT SHOWERS.

It's going to be fun!

I'm naming him Kookabeara.



Friday, July 12, 2013

The Hypocritical Oath


People always say they're suckers for men in uniform.  I admit I am one of those "people", especially when it comes to, say, Val Kilmer circa 1986.  Also, as much as I hate to give a nod to Tom Cruise because he is certifiably insane (obviously, because the "source" from People magazine is never wrong), but the guy can rock it when he's groomed from head to toe, there's a dewy glow along his brow and his steely gaze is fixed on saying, "Sir, yesSIR!"  (Now if he could just master the "Ma'am yes MA'AM!")  In addition to the uniform, men with badges also wield a certain appeal.  You can really tell how important it is when someone dies.  If you die and you have served your country in the military or community the picture that gets showcased on the nightly news is never the one from New Year's Eve wearing a sweater vest and Old Spice, it's always the one in uniform with the badges and the American flag hanging in the background.

However, despite the similarity of making oaths to perform duties to God and country, not all uniforms and badges are created equal.  For example, Scouts have uniforms and badges and yet they get no respect.  I guess we revere those who save lives and put away bad dudes more than those who clap in circles and give "rounds of applause".  Just a few weeks ago when we were flying home I passed a military officer down the airplane aisle so I caught his attention and simply said, "Thank you for your service."  But I would never single out a Scout Master and say, "Dude, thanks for teaching my son how to do blue darts."  When I worked a small stint at a photography studio we had mothers who came in all the time making their Eagle Scout sons wear their uniforms with all of their merit badges as an outfit to showcase in their senior pictures.  I always wanted to pull these boys aside and give them some hot wings and a Mountain Dew before going in so they could literally hold on to a little manhood before it was stripped away in front of the soft focus lens.  I imagined whispering to them, "Repeat after me:  I am cool like VinDiesel and one day I will have a girlfriend.  Say it."  They would repeat back, "I am cool like VinDiesel and one day I will have a girlfriend."  I would gesture a friendly smack on their butt and say, "Good.  Now go get 'em tiger.  This will all be over soon."  Regrettably, it never went down like that. 


It may not seem like I'm very high on the organization but the truth is, I support it.  I married an Eagle Scout.  I'm also in the process of raising one, and there's actually a lot of crap to do.  One of the requirements is that he has to have a certain number of nights spent camping with his troop, so he spent this entire week up in Rocky Mountain National Park passing things off.  His leaders are outstanding and they were very organized in letting us know the things Drew needed to complete beforehand.  We diligently hacked away at his list - he gave a speech, wrote a letter to "express [his] opinion" on a topic (and then the manager of our housing development called him back to say that the weeds in our yard were not his responsibility), prepared a creative introduction of himself (his rap was a big hit), and attended a public meeting.  The only remaining requirement was to "develop a plan to teach a skill or inform someone about something".  We had discussed various ideas and he assured me that everything was under control.  Unfortunately, "under control" is teenage boy code for "wait until 9:30 the night before and search for ideas on YouTube."  Which reminds me, I would like to amend the scout motto from "Be Prepared" to "If Momma Ain't Prepared Ain't Nobody Prepared".

Nine thirty.

THE NIGHT BEFORE.

I was not amused, but that's only because he hadn't yet arrived at the part where he was rummaging through the junk drawer mumbling, "Where are all the paper clips?"  He eventually found some and made his way toward me and said, "Ok, Mom.  Check this out.  I'm going to fold this dollar bill...and then attach these two paper clips.  When I unfold the dollar bill the paperclips are going to magically link together.  WATCH."  He unfolded the bill with hearty enthusiasm, paper clips went flying, and he almost ripped the dollar.  I observed in great frustration and mild amusement.  "Wait!" he urged.  "Let me try again."  NINE FORTY-FIVE.  He returned to YouTube and came back a few minutes later to show me how to hold a rope from both ends and tie it in a knot without letting go.  His right hand shot over his left, his left folded under his right, and he stood there struggling to get it right.  Samantha walked into the room to discover the scene, saw Drew fumbling and said, "Give it to me."  She performed the trick, threw the rope on the couch and triumphed, "There."  And then she walked away.  Drew ran back to the YouTube video to practice his tricks, and I returned to the couch and practiced not killing him.  Ten o'clock.

He got home last night so I've been gathering facts today about how things went.  "How did your skill teaching go?"  "Oh," he said.  "Well, it didn't work the first time because I forgot how to fold the dollar bill but I eventually got it right."  Communications Merit Badge - check.  As we speak he is upstairs arguing with his sister as they clean their bathroom, so I think he really soaked it in.

No respect.  There might be a reason for that....

Thursday, July 11, 2013

St. Thomas - The Island, Not The Priest

It was raining when we got to the much anticipated Coki Beach, but a guy with red dreadlocks and bloodshot eyes who was trying to sell me a $12 grilled cheese sandwich pinky swore me that it would stop soon.  He lied.  Stoners, man.  You just can't trust 'em anymore.  However, the thing about rain when you're in the Caribbean is that it doesn't matter that much.  It's like the lines on a Saturday morning at Krispy Kreme; in 15 minutes you're still going to get a hot donut so what's the hassle?  I kept glancing up at the grey clouds spitting droplets onto my paperback and sat amused thinking, "Sorry tropical storm, you're going to have to try harder."  Apparently the storm didn't know that the alternative to my being on the beach that day was doing dishes at home while Good Luck Charlie played in the background as my kids ignored their summer homework.  It also probably helped that my parents never fed me the line about rain being God's tears that He shed over my mistakes or that could have been a serious buzzkill.  In that case I may have exerted the effort to get up from my chaise to shake my fist at the sky and yell, "All right, all RIGHT!  I promise to call my mom as soon as I get home and confess that I DID call and vote for those dancers on TV back in 1983 and that those charges on our phone bill were not bogus."  (Hey, Mom?  You maybe should have tried that line about God crying.  Forgive me?)

To sum up:  Never hang your hat on the pinky swear of a hungover beach bum, snorkeling in the rain is not the worst thing that could happen to a person, and Good Luck Charlie is trying to kill my dreams.  The only thing that sucked on this island...their grilled cheese. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Drew's Clues

Drew was kind of on a roll this trip so we wrote down some of the funny stuff he said.  Here's a sampling:

"When a kid named Leland starts making fun of you that's when you know you've hit rock bottom."

"I'm willing to protest but I'm not going on strike.  A man has to eat."

"Tofu is like vegetable poop."

Unfortunately, at one point we passed a woman along the beach who didn't see the need to cover herself while breastfeeding.  I saw her first as Drew was walking behind me - I was hoping he wouldn't notice but it was too late.  As he passed her and realized what he was witnessing he grew wide-eyed and in horror confessed, "I think I just died right there."

While waiting for our flight home Drew was processing his withdrawal from the 24-hour access to food when we ordered him 10 chicken nuggets from McDonald's.  Five minutes later he said, "I'm still hungry."  The kid has grown an inch a month for the last year, so I believe him.  I bought him 10 more.  Five minutes later he said, "I'm still hungry."  I looked at him in dismay and he added, "Funny thing is, I haven't even pooped the others out yet."

He's a keeper.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cruise Part II - Cory Speaks Whale

Going on a cruise was a first for all of us, so there were a few adjustments.  First, the drunken sailor syndrome.  Before we left I couldn't really comprehend how the movement of traveling on a small city across the ocean would manifest itself, but there were times where I felt like I'd had one too many citrus souffles with grand marnier crème anglaise.  IF THAT IS EVEN POSSIBLE.

Secondly, I couldn't get used to being surrounded by people whose only job was to clean up after me and make me happy.  I noticed you had to take an elevator 6 flights and walk a whole half a yard to this all-you-can-eat buffet, you must be exhausted.  Would you like a fresh towel for your weary, propped up toes as you lunch by the ocean?  Have you had 17 mickey bars yet?  There's still 6 minutes left in the day.  Perhaps you would enjoy it more if you were poolside while watching a movie?  Or maybe you would prefer this plush, corner loveseat overlooking the ocean to read that book.  Are you getting so sick and tired of all those clean sheets being changed on your bed every. single. day?  Do let us know if all of that cleaning of your bathrooms while you're at the beach and leaving chocolates on your pillow at night is making you tired.  P.S.  I lied.  I could get used to it. 



Third, in contrast to my normal life where I jump when the phone rings because it startles the silence, I was constantly entertained.  You don't get bored on a Disney Cruise any more than you don't get head lice in a refugee camp.  Not even dinner time was low key!  One of the meals we had was in a restaurant on the ship called "Animator's Palate".  During dinner one night we found ourselves engaged in a live conversation via a virtual aquarium with the popular animated sea turtle from Finding Nemo, "Crush".  I don't know how they do it, but somebody, somewhere behind the scenes takes on the persona of "Crush" and he can see the people in front of him, so he talks to his audience.  (You may have experienced a similar activity at Disney's California Adventure.)  Anyway, "he" managed to single Cory and I out and after giving Cory some pointers on how to speak in "whale" (again, inspired by Finding Nemo) he had him stand up in the middle of the restaurant and tell me that he "adored" me...IN WHALE.  I think they expected him to shrink a little at the request but Cory owned it and bellowed something to the effect of, "KristEEee, I adOOOOre yooOOuu."  You could hear it echo to the surrounding tables and then he sat down to the applause of the onlookers.  It was awesome.  Never underestimate an accountant, y'all.

Other things that happened during "down" time:  I practiced my Spanish with a Chilean guest, won a prize from the jewelry store, watched Drew eat snails, danced merengue with our waiter, saw 4 musical productions, solved an on-board detective game, reunited a lost boy with his mother, forced the kids to learn salsa, and eavesdropped on some teenagers talking about their prom from the observatory deck.  Never a dull moment!


Friday, July 5, 2013

Cruise Part I - St. Maarten



I think one of the hardest lessons in life after learning that actors can become politicians and two Fiber One bars can regulate a dormant volcano is when you learn that koala bears are not cuddly in person.  Next up is when you realize that your kids are about to leave home and render that whole Stay At Home Mom gig completely irrelevant.  I've talked about my daughter's impending departure from our home and how we hoped to engulf it in memories this summer here.  The best part is we still have a whole year to beat this to death!  Have I mentioned how much fun I am at parties?  At any rate, it seemed like the least I could do is follow up on that "Trip That Magic Bought" and give you some highlights and quotes from our excursion.  We were gone a week that felt like a month that we wish had lasted all year, and here's how it played out.

We went on a Disney Cruise to the Caribbean.  Are there any other words strung together in one sentence that could sound more lovely?  Other than, "Your kids will never suffer!" and "You just won a sectional from Arhaus!" it's pretty high up there.  I started off the week by taking notes on every dessert I had.  Let's just say that I had 29 desserts in 7 days.  Katherine Heigl had 27 dresses, Kate Hudson lost a guy in 10 days...they'll be making my trip into a movie any day now.  Our best food discovery:  Mickey ice cream bars delivered free of charge to your room ANYTIME YOU WANT.  Say I'm Angelina Jolie, and the Mickey Bars are orphans.  It was like that.

Early on our trip Drew noted an advertisement in our room with the name "Anders" on it.  He decided that was cooler than his own given name and told me we had made a mistake by not putting that on his birth certificate.  Later we had to chastise him for something and he responded, "Anders says he's sorry."  He's kind of a goofball.

Our first stop was St. Maarten where we signed up for an excursion to hike through the rainforest.  I envisioned plucking fresh chamomile leaves and petting chimps while maintaining a balmy glow along my forehead.  I neglected to envision that a 78-year-old man whose body would give out 1/4 of the way down the path would also sign up for this excursion and would result in Cory absorbing MANY extra pounds of weight to help this guy down the mountain.  Either we paid $250 for the world's lamest strength training class or we paid $250 for Cory to secure his mansion in heaven and we made some new friends.  We're gunning for the latter.  One thing is certain, we were bonded for the duration of our cruise.  Before our kids bailed and elected to run ahead of our struggling group we enjoyed a measure of comic relief when Drew said to Samantha, "If a tribe jumps out at us I'm handing over YOU as a sacrifice."


This is Cory and our new buddy, Glen.  His wife's name was Irma.  They've been married 51 years.  Also, Cory wears fedoras now.
The interesting thing about St. Maarten is that half of the island is Dutch and the other half is French.  Basically what this means is you can smoke pot on one side and go topless on the other, making it ideal for Justin Bieber but not our little Mormon family whose sole exposure to drugs and nudity is Tylenol and bathtime baby pictures.  So we headed for the clothing required side and made a break for the gelato stand.  We win.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Truth About Life



There’s a commercial that runs rampant in my neck of the woods for a store called Kay Jewelers.  It’s a picturesque scene – husband and wife are staring into each other’s eyes over some filet mignon and chocolate mousse.  Hubby is all shiny in his pressed white shirt under his suit, and the wife is all decked out in her basic black dress that hugs and forgives in all the right places.  Their table is adorned with a simple rose in a vase as the scene behind them glistens in ambient light.  Then, from across the table the husband stretches out his arm and un-cups his hand to reveal a small, velvet box and hands it across to his wife.  He is smiling as if he’s courtside at an NBA game with hot wings in his lap rather than parked at a pricey restaurant with $20 wedge salads.  His wife responds by arching her eyebrows in gross anticipation, then gently takes the box and flips open the top only to reveal some emblem of diamonds.  Either shaped in a heart to signify their undying love, or perhaps in a circular round symbolic of a never-ending commitment to one another, the woman conveys her approval with a knowing look.  He nods proudly at his own move then smiles to himself as if to say, “I am so getting action later.”  Finally, in culmination of this perfect moment they lean across the small table to share a kiss, and then the commercial jingle pipes in, “Every kiss begins with ‘Kay’.” 

It makes me want to strangle a puppy.

And then it makes me want diamonds for my anniversary.  Which is today.

Twenty years, baby.  Or as Rent would say, ten million five-hundred twelve thousand minutes.  It’s been two whole decades since my sister did my hair, I gave myself a manicure with a polish I think they now label, “Grandma’s Powder Room”, and San Diego ordered a downpour that forced our garden reception indoors.  Twenty years is kind of a long time and I dare say I have learned a lot.

I learned that I share an anniversary with Mariah Carey and her ex-husband, Tommy Mottola.  I learned that getting married to further your career is a recipe for a divorce.  I learned that I am better at marriage than Mariah Carey. 

I have learned that New Year’s Eve will always be overrated, and that kissing under bright lights and mayhem at midnight is just as good as kissing under a fluorescent light in the kitchen at 9pm when you’re kissing the right person.

I have learned that not all husbands cry like babies when they see their babies being born.  Sometimes they hold your hand while watching the Masters and rooting for Phil Mickelson, but it’s ok.  Because 16 years later he’s going to take that baby out on a daddy/daughter date and make her feel like a million bucks and she won’t remember that he didn’t cry when she was born.

I’ve learned that jumping off waterfalls, exploring Israel, zip-lining through a grove of aspens and swimming with dolphins can be a lot of fun with your eternal partner.  And I’ve also learned that even though it’s fun it has nothing to do with love. 

No, love is when I was overweight for 10 years and he never EVER mentioned it.  Love is when I broke down crying in the bathroom, overwhelmed at the thought of being a first time parent and he held me and promised me we would figure it out together.  Love is getting in the bed first to warm up my side while I’m taking off my makeup.  Trumping all, I would say that Cory’s greatest gift to me in twenty years of marriage has been loving me when I’m not being lovable.  He’s really brave. 

The truth about life, and in this case the truth about married life, is that the perfect moments are usually messy.  For me, they haven’t been born in bistros over wine and diamonds.  He’s not wearing a tux, I’m not wearing a satin gown, and we’re not standing on top of the Eiffel Tower renewing our vows.  We’re usually at home.  He’s trying to figure out what’s wrong with the sprinklers, I’m trying to figure out how many chocolate chips I can fit in my mouth.  We’re often dealing with homework – he sits patiently aside a child and helps with math.  I make cookies while they study for Finals and teach them about the dangers of emotional eating.  We’re a team!

The truth is, not all kisses begin with Kay.  And even if they did, I’m confident that it wouldn’t be as satisfying as the commercial makes it seem.  Someday they will make a commercial where the wife is sitting on the couch and her husband comes downstairs wearing a fedora and a skull shirt and asks, “What do you think?”  Their 17-year-old daughter scoffs and says, “Wow.  I can’t un-see that.”  We’ll laugh as the husband retorts, “I kinda like it.  I’m wearing it anyway.”  His wife then takes him to a graduation party and jokes about her new boyfriend, Bruno Mars.  I’m not sure what the commercial would be for exactly, but my family would be the stars.  In the meantime, forget the diamonds.  

Just give me 20 more years. 



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Day More


Someone once told me that there is a difference between giving a PRESENT and giving a GIFT.  A present, they said, was something YOU wanted the other person to have whereas a gift was simply something the other person wanted.  I believe this distinction applies in regard to the choice Cory made about what to give me for Christmas last year.  I received three envelopes on our snowy, Christmas morning – one marked “February”, another marked “May”, and the final one was labeled “September”.  Hoping for the best (airfare to a warm beach!) but preparing for the worst (coupons for a date night to watch all of Star Wars on DVD) I lifted the top of February’s envelope and pulled out the folded papers.  I was delighted to find something completely unexpected, as a pair of tickets to Broadway’s Jekyll & Hyde was revealed.  Now, even more curious about May’s envelope I opened that one up and found two passes to the ever popular Les Miserables.  Amazing!  Finally, I landed on September which produced a final set of tickets to the musical rendition of Sister Act.  In a matter of seconds I went from having nothing to do in 2013 to having a year’s worth of musical theater to look forward to.

Present or gift?  I swear on the grave of my grandmother these tickets were positively, absolutely, unequivocally a GIFT.  For starters, aside from a short middle school stint with a trombone Cory’s musical appreciation pretty much started with Van Halen and ended with Guns ‘N’ Roses.  Throw in a little Kenny G we both tolerated on our honeymoon and you’ve got Cory’s musical background.  My next clue:  Early in our relationship when I attempted to explain my love affair with Les Miserables his response was, “The key word there is ‘LAME’.”  And as for that time he was kicked out of the 4th grade choir – I think he still harbors a little resentment.  In short, musicals are not Cory’s thing in the way that jockeying is not Shaq’s thing.

Jekyll & Hyde in February was rough.  Maybe it was the bone chilling walk from the parking garage to the theater that set a poor tone, or maybe it was because the main character of the show starts out nice until he drinks a potion and then he kills everyone and it ends with him committing suicide that it was kind of a downer, but we didn’t love it. 

In preparation for Les Miserables we bought the movie and I told Cory how important it was that we watch it before we saw the live version so he could follow the story.  I just didn’t think he would do it with Drew while Samantha and I were gone and I couldn’t tell him which parts to fast forward.  Samantha and I arrived home mid-movie; we heard the music as we came in from the garage, turned the corner from down the hall and spotted Drew and Cory sitting on the couch.  Cory paused the show as he saw us appear and yelled, “What’s up with the Anne Hathaway character dying?  Didn’t she get an academy award for that part?  How can she get an award when she’s only in half the movie?” At which point Drew raised his voice, “What?!  This is only half over?!”  Groaning, he threw his head back against the couch and slapped the palm of his hand against his eyes. 

Meanwhile, I put on my pajamas and sat down with them to watch the rest.  I made them rewind “Do You Hear The People Sing” and proclaimed that this was the first time our surround sound had ever been put to good use.  They objected vehemently, something about Lord of the Rings Indiana Jones Harry Potter Crappity Crap and I had to shush them as Jean Valjean dragged Marius through the sewers to try and save his life. 
“Is he dead?”
“If he dies I’m turning it off.”
“Is that poo they’re walking through?”
“Who’s that guy stealing the teeth?”
“How long are those tunnels?”
“Why do they have to sing ALL the lines?”
“SHHHH!!”

Finally, Javert comes face to face with his demons once and for all in the film and as he bellows his struggle in song my tone deaf accountant spoke up once more and said, “Russell Crowe is terrible,” and for the first time in 38 minutes I wanted to kiss my husband on the lips.  I agreed whole heartedly but he didn’t stop there.  “I mean like, Pierce Brosnan in Mama Mia terrible.”  Again, I concurred.  Then, “Who would you rather hear sing, Russell Crowe or Pierce Brosnan?” 
“SHHH!”

When it was finally over Drew appeared violated, Cory looked mortified and while steeping in bewilderment he asked, "Wait, so then who won the war?"  I hung my head in defeat and told him that if he hated it so much I could find someone else to go with me on Friday.
“Wait, what?  Friday?!”  Drew said.  “But that’s when Fast & The Furious 6  is coming out!”  Cory made plans with Drew on Saturday and kept his date with me on Friday.  I rather enjoyed it – I think he would have rather shoved bamboo splinters up his fingernails and soaked them in lime juice, but he got through it.  After all, he had F&F 6 to look forward to the next day.

September’s show should be good; we’re looking forward to it.  As for Christmas in December, I can’t wait to see what he gets me this year.  Except this time it might be best if he got me a present.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Proof I'm Not A Robot


I'm kind of in a bad mood today and we are snowed in, so I find myself stewing about all the things that are irritating me.  It's the kind of day where I'm torn between counting my blessings that we have heat and a roof over our head as the blizzard rages outside or yelling at the refrigerator because it still insists on being a side-by-side.  Cory is currently stranded in Missouri due to flight cancellations on account of the weather, so the only thing sparing us from utter ruin right now are the 6 episodes of Duck Dynasty currently stored on our DVR and a box of girl scout cookies.  Hmm...I'm actually feeling better already.

But before I get too crazy seeing silver linings and stuff I feel compelled to air my grievances about word verifications these days.  Is it just me or are they getting increasingly complicated?  I understand the whole "prove you're not a robot" concept, but proving you're not a robot is one thing; it's quite another to eat a can of Alpha-Bet soup only to poop it out and ask me to decipher the letters.  Is it that critical to prove myself?  'Cuz if it is, I think I have a few other strategies.

Take RoboCop for example.  


I am nothing like him.  For one thing, he has probably seen the movie.  In addition, he was a "HE", and I am a "SHE".  What, you want me to prove I'm a woman?  Fine, once 20 years ago Cory told me I had that "outdoor smell" when I was giving him a hug and I have never forgotten it.  Boom.

Next, R2D2 is probably one of the most well known robots that has influenced many generations.

But guess what?  I AM NOT HIM.  I've never had a flashlight for an eyeball and haven't walked like that since my hysterectomy.  I've also never spoken in bleeps so I can understand if you get R2 confused with Jersey Shore, but not me.  Also, this robot is really popular and I...have a really sweet spirit.  Let's just say nobody has ever tried to turn my physique into a camping chair...  

OR A SLUTTY TANK TOP...


OR A COOKIE JAR.  Although, genius.

It hardly seems  fair to discuss R2D2 without mentioning his indispensable sidekick, C3PO.  


This is a trick example though, because everyone knows C3PO wasn't a robot he was a DROID.  Geez man, don't you know anything?  Proof that I am DEFINITELY not a robot but possibly a droid:


Finally, WALL-E.



Listen, just because people fall asleep while watching me too doesn't mean WALL*E and I share the same DNA.  Obviously, because robots don't have DNA and I do.  *I* DO!  There it is boys and girls, I am not a robot.

Perhaps I should have lead with the DNA argument.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Be Mine



Around 10am this morning I noticed the lonely brown paper sack sitting in the fridge.  It was someone’s forgotten lunch, so I texted my daughter to ask if it was hers.  It was.  Her lunch break was only 45 minutes away so she asked if I would drop it off.  I was headed  out anyway so I said, “of course.”  I took it out, folded over the top and stapled it shut.  Catching a glimpse of the pink highlighter nearby I picked it up, popped off the lid and spontaneously filled in a pink heart on the front of the bag above her name.  Several minutes later it was waiting for her at the school’s front office.

I’m familiar with this routine – getting the call, “I forgot my (homework, folder, flute, Xanax, just kidding, Advil, not just kidding, underwear, still not kidding, running shoes etc.)” so I grab the item, jump in the car and make my way to the school.  Sometimes this exasperates me, other times I’m happy to help.  It usually depends on whether I’ve showered yet.  I’ve shown up in various forms of impressiveness/shame at that front office but today was extra special.  I was on my way to help my friend do some painting so I had not showered, was wearing paint stained overalls (overalls!) (with paint ALL over them) (they're going to make a comeback I just know it), had no make up on, and then, because it was cold I threw on a fleece jacket OVER my OVERalls just to help me get that female lumberjack who needs lap band surgery feel.

Rare form guys, RARE FORM.

Later tonight we decided to run through the drive thru at Chick-fil-A before dropping Drew off at basketball practice and on the way home, the girl who forgot her lunch just started talking.  And talking and talking.  She prattled on about school, boys, friends, teachers….  At one point she paused for emphasis before adding, “Mom, I LOVE ENGLISH.  I mean, when have I EVER loved English?”  Her teacher is someone that she adores, who went so far as to cheer for my Samantha when she spotted her after school running drills with the track team today.  I love teachers who root for their kids, especially when “their” kids are mine. 

The car ride monologue eventually transitioned to the kitchen as we arrived home.  I set to work unloading the dishwasher and just listened as Samantha analyzed her high school life and I marveled at her awareness and ability to dissect the psychology of it all.  That girl is paying attention to the world around her – she knows what she wants, and she knows what she doesn’t want.  She gets it when people are being manipulative, and her senses warn her when someone is being inauthentic. 

I’m just listening. 

I squirted some detergent on the dishrag and started to move it in circles around the counter as she talked about some of the decisions she is making and why she’s making them.  This whole time I thought she was just cruising along but no, she’s making conscious choices - freaking awesome conscious choices.  As I stood there and relished this seemingly out of body, glorious moment she suddenly stopped, looked up at the clock and gasped, “Oh!  I have to go!”  I checked the clock also and confirmed, “Yes, you do.  Drive safe, have fun.  I love you!” I called out as she grabbed the keys and headed for the door.  Seconds later the door reopened and she re-emerged from around the corner.  “Can I just give you a hug?” she asked as she came toward me.  “Of course, baby girl,” I answered as she threw her arms around me and told me she loved me.  I kissed her head and reminded her, “You know you never have to ask.”

After hugging her tight I released her from my grip; she started back toward the door and turned around before shutting it behind her and explained, “You know, when I went to pick up my lunch from the office today the security guard saw the heart you drew on the bag.  He commented about it then told me I should go home and give you a hug and I thought to myself, ‘Yep, I definitely should.’  Anyway, ‘bye Mom.”  And with that she was gone.

I stood motionless and stared at the freshly closed door, soaked in the lingering presence of that child who is mine and my eyes began to sting.

I’m so glad she’s mine.