Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where are your manners? (rhetorically speaking, of course)

Last night at the dinner table, in a span of twenty-two seconds, the ten-year old daughter was caught licking her mashed potatoes off the back of her fork and the twelve-year old boy turned the simple task of drinking  milk into a highly complex procedure - which he failed to execute.  Instead, he decorated his face with it, where it dripped onto both his shirt and the table. In fact, the mashed-potato-lollipop-licker got nailed twice in less than a minute; it was between takes that I turned to look at my son and saw the dairy beard.

What the hell?

I was already annoyed by the fact that husband, who sits right next to potato girl, didn't seem to notice because he was far too busy licking his fingers one by one: slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp. He doesn't lick his pinkie finger, but always hits the others in the same order, beginning with the ring finger and working toward the thumb. Guess what he does next? He picks up the napkin and dries his fingers.

Sooooo, when I turned and spied the milkman, doing it for the second night in a row I might add, I had a little somethin-somethin to say - to all of them.

"Can you slow down and make sure the cup is actually touching your lips before you tip it up to drink?" I said rhetorically, of course. He didn't get that. He actually answered.

"Mom, I DID!"

"Don't even go there. You didn't, or it wouldn't be all over your face and the table, now would it?" And another thing:  his ability to detect rhetorical questions is non-existent.

"Mom, I --" but I cut him off.

"Just slow down. The goal is not to toss the milk from the cup to your mouth from an inch away." I wanted to add that there would be plenty of time for that someday with beer, after breaking his mother's heart and joining a fraternity, but I didn't want to open up that can o' worms at the moment. Fingerlickin' good man would have chimed in and admonished me not to criticize the brotherhood. Plus it would only lead me to conjure visions of frat boys in their underwear, getting blindfolded and paddled and it was certainly too early in the evening for that fantasy.

That's when I saw the potato-licker, at it again. Who taught children that it was a good idea to spin forks or spoons around and go at it from ten different angles? This is the same one who will simply tilt her head up to the ceiling if someone asks her a question just after she has taken a drink, so she can talk without it spilling onto the table. I desperately wish I was kidding.

"Kee, just move the food from your plate to your mouth with the fork; it isn't a sugar cone for your dinner."

I decided to test them one more time, just to see if anyone had learned anything.

"Why is it so hard to eat without involving fingers, noses, chins and fork cones?" I snapped. All but one had finally figured out that mom's questions don't always require answers.

"Well," clipped the younger daughter, who's nine and always ready with a long-winded speech when just a syllable will suffice. "Sometimes when the food is..." she began, glancing up to see The Look on my face. "Nevermind."

Not two minutes later, I noticed a smiley face made with mashed potatoes and peas on my son's plate. He can't be serious, I thought to myself. I looked at him. He looked at me. We both looked at the plate. He looked scared.

"Are you kidding me?" I said incredulously. My annoyance at his poor timing surged ahead of my disbelief that he was making pictures with his food. Again, the rhetorical question meter failed to launch.

"I wasn't  --"

"You don't have to explain what it was you weren't doing. I can see exactly what you weren't doing because I have eyes in my head. And stop answering my questions!"

I ask you, am I asking too much??

(Don't answer that.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Ironic Vampire Song

Remember that scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall when the hot concierge that the main character goes out on a date with tricks him into getting up onstage at a local bar and singing a song from the vampire opera he's been pouring his heart and soul into composing? Remember? The guy adopts a Transylvania accent, right out of a Count Chocula commercial and adds a sadsack tone to his voice that gets the bar full of local islanders practically crying in their beers: "...die...die...die...I can't" the guy sings in his plaintive, slow-motion-like wail as he drops his head down and to the side on the last note. Even the hot concierge undergoes a tranformation in that moment, seeing the guy as a real person, with a real heart and real emotions - unlike the goofy bastard that dumped her a few years back. Remember how funny and perfect that song was - in the movie? In the movie, it brought two people together.

Now imagine your husband singing the same refrain, over and over. Imagine it's 10:30 p.m. and you're flossing your teeth, trying to tell him about something important that your boss did to you that day, some great injustice that needs to be expressed. You glance in the mirror and see your husband in the walk-in closet, pained expression on his face that might also indicate a furious case of gas and those words dripping from his sad lips: "...die...die...die...I can't" as he throws one limp sock, then another, into his already overflowing laundry basket. Imagine he's still singing it as his your head hits the pillow. Then, you're head starts singing it - well after he's snoring.

Fast forward eight hours. Kids are looking for their backpacks, which they left "RIGHT HERE LAST NIGHT" but that somehow have evolved into upright, walking hominids and split since then. Someone needs her hair brushed while you're brushing your teeth (a talent most moms have, yet try their best to not let anyone find out about) and the twelve year old wants to give you a hug. A hug? At seven-twenty in the morning??? There's no time for hugs! About this time you realize your husband has picked up where he left off last night with his serenade and "...die...die...die...I can't..." drifts into hearing range, which means he isn't doing anything because you know damn well that he uses both hands to dramatize the song, spreading his arms apart as if an enormously fat woman of his dreams is going to spring into them.
Are you imagining it? What are you feeling?

"Die...die...die...I can't."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Things to do when you’re dead

I'm starting to worry. I need to sleep through the night and I need it yesterday. My usual remedy of doubling up on my thryoid medicine is not helping. I've been waiting patiently now for almost a dozen years; my kids are practically grown and I still rarely get a full night of sleep. The youngest two seem to think it's an all night party. The older two, eleven and twelve (their ages, not their names) believe they invented bloody noses and that they go away quicker with an audience. My plea to "pinch and go back to bed" falls on deaf ears.

Question: Shouldn't nocturnal interruptions have ended years ago? When my first child hatched, I plunged into sleep deprivation hell so surreal that I once forgot how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - halfway through the complex procedure. I remember a sudden feeling of hyper-consciousness, aware that I was holding a knife and a jar of peanut butter, but unable to figure out why. It was just the four of us, including the bread, alone in the universe with no purpose or attachment to anything - not even each other. Turns out that unless one is purposely trying to zen out, it can be a little scary. Either way, it was the closest thing to amnesia I've ever had, except for when I'm in the grocery store with my kids and pretend not to know them.

Anyway, I told no one. Not even my husand (now ex-husband, keep reading) who was very busy sleeping in, going to his job as a bar manager at noon-ish (after surfing) and coming home at about the time I was going to bed for the third, though not yet final time of the night. I was too embarrassed and afraid to tell anyone about my momentary coma so I chalked it up to lack of sleep.

Fast-forward a few years. Nighttime feedings were replaced by other, more complex needs: cough medicine, the fan turned on, the fan turned off, a hug, the blankets pulled up, the blankets pulled down, etc. The little people, their feet flying, bounced into my room at all hours with endless, sadistic requests. Good thing they were still little, soft and smelled good. Tucking them in, even an hour before dawn, felt satisfying.

Now, it's a little different. We're currently in the sleepwalking years: new husband, a blended family and increasingly inventive ways to prevent a full night's sleep. Closet monsters and wayward blankies have been replaced - last week it was with the sound of Santa and his reindeer in one of the children's closet. Turns out it was the eight year old doing a midnight search for her bicycle, which she explained she must have in order to go to Paris. Other times a nine or ten year old might pop up at the foot of our bed asking if we know where Larry is. One of us gently nudges the miniature somnambulist back to bed, assuring her that Larry will be right back - he's probably catching a nap somewhere. Some nights we simultaneously drop back into bed, exhausted and share our adventures:

"Where ya' been?" I ask groggily.

"I had to get in the airplane (bean bag) and land it safely so the boy from 14F would go back to his seat (bed). What about you?"

"Just some general hysteria. A little involuntary farting. That's about it," I mumbled.

Our fate as permanently addled zombies was sealed last summer when we made the tactical error of getting a dog. Not just any dog, but a beagle. Beagle owners out there, wipe that smirk off your face. For the rest of you, the question, "What could a dog possibly do between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. but slumber?" is contained in the following list, for starters: skunk interaction, shocking intestinal distress, sleep barking/farting/whimpering, endless self-gratification (licking).

I guess several nights in a row of solid sleep will just have to wait until they are all out of the house - the college years. Then, we can lie awake at night wondering not just what they're doing, but where and with whom they're doing it.

Many years ago, when sleep was what you did after you got laid and before you snuck out of someone's apartment, I thought I understood Warren Zevon's plan to "sleep when I'm dead." It was an option I exercised. Little did I know that one day I'd be penciling "sleep" into my color coded, month-at-a-glance day planner under the heading, "To Do (After I Die)."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Grey Matter Management 101

Sometimes, you have to kill off the weak to make the robust ones work to their fullest potential. No, I’m not talking about offspring. I’m talking about brain cells.

Brain cells are funny. Not funny ha-ha, (nothing funny about sitting in the driveway with the car running and wondering where the hell you were going), but funny weird. Sometimes they fire on all cylinders and other times, not so much. Like the other day when I found a package of shredded cheese in the cupboard – next to the dog biscuits. Hmmm, I said, pulling the package out with two fingers as it dangled like a dead bug – one that took a left instead of a right and ended up in a pantry instead of a shrub. Of course, my husband had to be standing right there at that exact moment so I couldn’t bury the package at the bottom of the garbage can and pretend it never happened.

“Oh” I said casually, “I must have tossed this up there on accident when I was putting away groceries yesterday.” The look on his face said it all: a kind of “yeah, right” smirk. But, because he’s so good at being a husband, he kept his mouth shut and did his very best at disguising what he was thinking.

“Hee hee…silly me,” I quipped.

My theory is this: aging, half-dead brain cells are what make me get into the shower with my underwear still on and they need to be regularly and mercifully sacrificed for the greater good. If not, they draw down on the fresh, powerful brain cells that help me remember to turn off the sprinklers or locate my reading glasses. It’s all about thinning the herd. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Clearly, the simplest and most enjoyable way to eliminate the almost-dead weight is through the use of a cocktail or two. Just a little nip does wonders for a brain and the results are immediate. Case in point: last night my son showed me this week’s logic problem that his math torturer, I mean, instructor gave him for homework. I read it. I read it again. I gave up and said, “Wait ‘til your father gets home,” but not like June Cleaver says it. When it comes to homework, my husband and I know our place: I get language arts and he gets math, or anything connected to math, like science, history, social studies and Spanish.

About thirty minutes after reading, and then abandoning the logic problem, I made myself a cocktail. Just a little fruity concoction I threw together with canned pineapple and mandarin orange juice leftover from the nearly fresh fruit salad I made to go with the crock pot meal that was simmering. The logic problem was a distant memory…or was it?

As I sat on the couch, sipping and staring at the kids staring at the TV, the following sentence popped into my head: “If Colonel Mustard gets six shots, and the first two add up to an even number on the bullseye chart, that leaves four shots and three of them have to be odd points or he’ll never arrive at 71 points!” I reached over and poked my son on the shoulder, rapid fire, and told him to “go get the logic problem, Q-LAB!” (Quick Like a Bunny” which is responsible parenting code for “Hurry the f*&! up!) I didn’t want my sudden burst of vodka-induced cognition to evaporate without getting it down on paper – which of course would have been the fault of those feeble brain cells slowing everything down.)

My son returned and we quickly plugged in the numbers. I was correct! My son was not convinced. He listened, nodded and then said politely, “I still want to show it to dad.”
Fine, I thought to myself, knowing I had the problem solved. Thanks to proper brain cell management, that is. If I had not kicked up my feet with a cocktail, nudging those addled cells over the cliff into grey matter oblivion…

I pondered the idea of writing a book. I’d need a doctor to collaborate, to give my theory legitimacy.

Now where did I put that phone book...