Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Borderline Inappropriate

Remember how our kids, when they were little, got the pint-sized, rose-colored explanations and answers? However “age appropriate” they might have been, they were a yawn. They were cute and gentle and nurturing, and most of all, they were fulfilling.

But that was then; this is now. Responses now, while fulfilling for totally different reasons, are borderline slightly inappropriate. Now, it's finally getting interesting.

As much as I miss the little, squishy versions of my children, the clinging hugs to my torso, face burrowed into my neck, feet wrapped around my waist as if we were two pieces of an ancient human Pangaea that occasionally snaps back together for loves, tear-drying or carries up to bed, I don’t miss having to filter, edit and otherwise push the “safe answer” button when it is time to communicate.

With two teens and two “almost-theres” under one roof, communication is becoming something that not only moves information from Point A to Point B, it’s a source of entertainment—for everyone. I love that I can use the sense of humor I was born with, (yet not the same one I use when they’re not around) and I am thoroughly enjoying seeing a sense of humor develop in my kids. It’s a great day when one of them makes me laugh out loud. It’s a better day when I make them laugh out loud. Not that it’s easy – they have pretty high standards when it comes to what’s funny. Luckily, mine aren’t so high.

The transition between kid-friendly responses to their questions and factually correct, non-watered down responses began a few years ago. I recall the night I sat the three little princesses down on  my bed and began The Talk. Before I could even begin, one asked why I had a piece of paper and a pencil. Then, without saying a word, I drew a picture. Of a woman. Down there.

“What’s THAT hole for?”

“That’s exactly what we’re here to talk about!”

The picture made it fun for me. Turns out, it was fun for them also. I refrained from drawing funny weenie pictures, but it wasn’t easy.

I’m also glad that I can stop lying to them, saying stuff like, “Oh, everything will work out,” or “Those striped tights and that polka dot skirt look so cute with that soccer jersey.” Now, I can do a little more tactful truth-telling. The truth is, things don’t always work out. The secret to navigating the tough times is knowing you can handle whatever comes along – good or bad – you’ve got the power.

Just the other day, looking for shoes with my 11-year old daughter, she picked up a shoe off a rack at the shoe store that in my opinion, had clearly been run over by the ugly train.

 “Mom, look at these!” she said with the enthusiasm of a diabetic kid in a candy store who just found out they discovered a cure for diabetes. I could not, would not, let her wear those shoes in public. I had to intervene. My daughter knows, even gets irritated with me when she asks me what she should wear, what color she should color the clown’s pants, etc., because my answer is always the same: I can’t make that choice for you – choose whatever makes you happy. This was different. There exists a code among women – women who truly love each other – to tell the truth when it comes to wardrobe choices.

“Okay, when we look at things, there is a difference between my opinion, if I like something, and if something is right for you, okay? Um, these shoes are for women over the age of 70.”

“Thanks, Mom. I’m glad you told me.”

Then, we promptly went over to the section for ladies without canes and she found a pair she loved and I didn’t have to say a word.

Perhaps the most striking difference between parenting pre-schoolers and pre-teens lies in the delivery of not just important truths and honest life lessons, but funny stuff. And by funny, I mean rude. I mean, how does a parent actually get mad at an 11 year old girl with a smiling comeback like the following:

Dad: Hey, sweetie, don’t forget to grab your lunch on your way out the door.

Daughter: Stop telling me how to live my life!

Then, there’s everyone’s favorite, the somewhat hostile, “Your Face” one-liner.

Me: Honey, please push your chair in when you get up from the table, kay?

14 yr. old boy: Why don’t you push YOUR FACE in!

I can’t help it: It cracks me up every time. It’s a little like diffusing a bomb: he doesn’t want to be nagged, and can’t honestly say, “Stop nagging me” or he knows I’ll hurt him (emotionally of course, never physically, in case we’re counting me pinning him to the ground and sticking my finger so far into his armpit I can’t see my hand). With this routine, we make each other laugh, while at the same time communicating our extreme distaste for what has just been said.

“Hi Mama, what’s for dinner?”

“Your FACE!”

“Really Mom? Really?”

“Hahahahahaahahaha. Meatloaf.”


“I’ll tell you what’s gross….YOUR FACE!”

“Mom!” my daughter yells, unable to keep from laughing. I got her!

Other times, it gets slightly more heated when I select “sarcastic reply” from my menu of options. Especially with my 14 year old son. He doesn’t get sarcasm.

“I can’t get the liner in the trash can right.”

“Keep trying. You’ll get it.”

“No, really, I can’t get it because it is SO STUPID! One side pops up when I pull the other side over the edge!”

“Stupid is a strong word. Apologize to the trash can now.”

“Mom, STOP! I….can’t…..get…..itaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!! Stupid trash can!”

“Your Grandpa always said you have to be smarter than what you’re working with.”

“Seriously, Mom! It’s difficult!”

That’s when I keep the sarcasm, but lose the funny-ha-ha tone. Now I’m getting annoyed. He’s missed the window of opportunity to make light of a frustrating situation and he’s going to pay for it.

“No, Jackson, Climbing Mt. Everest is difficult. Calculus is difficult. A trash can liner is not difficult.”

“Dad says calculus is easy.”

“Dad’s easy.”

“What’s that mean?”


Later that night, we’re assembled at the dinner table. This is where I get the slightly inappropriate stare-down most of the time. I can’t help it though. Making dinner is hard and by the time it’s over, I need a little comic relief. My husband does the nightly "check in."

“How was everyone’s day?” The three girls answer first.



“I don’t know.”

“Dad, mom told me you’re easy. What’s that mean?”

All at once, three little girls’ faces spring to life, staring right at Dad, like little birdies in a nest, waiting for the worm. Since they know me, they know this has the potential for being borderline inappropriate, like the other night when one daughter asked me why we moved our desk out of our bedroom and into the loft area. I told her that a bedroom isn’t a place for a home office. “This is where the magic happens,” I said, raising my eyebrows up and down. She clammed up tighter than a nun’s knees and tried to look like she didn’t know what I was talking about. I think she actually left her body for a moment. My husband, complete with hands on hips and disapproving tilted head, said, “Really, Lisa?”

“Well, Jackson. What mom means, when she says I’m easy, is that I’m just a very agreeable person. I’m easy to get along with.”

“Nuh-uh, that’s not what it means. She would have told me that.”

“Man, you are good,” my husband replied to my son, shaking his head.

“That’s what he said….”  

Really, Lisa?”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Alternative Methods of Communication

In an effort to better serve my audience, because verbal instructions, advice, and threats don’t always work the way I’d like them to, I’ve been toying with the idea of using something I know a little bit about – the written word – to communicate with my kids, and what the heck, my husband. After all, I’ve written letters to the editor of the local paper when I’ve had a problem with the schools, or the city council or the local liquor store (shortening store hours on Sunday? Really? Don’t they understand that Sunday afternoons are immediately followed my Monday mornings?) I’ve always received positive responses from people around town after my letters appear. With this in mind, maybe all these years I’ve been overlooking the most effective way to get my point across to my own people: in writing.

To be honest, I’ve already ventured into this area and it went well. I recently wrote each of our four kids a letter, personalized for their particular stamp on this world, and delivered the letters the night before school started. I just wanted to tell all the children that I’m rooting for them, what with all four in various stages of junior high school this year, and hoping the transition from a busy summer to the agony of sitting in a classroom all day goes smoothly. The result was even better than I had anticipated: two sweet hugs, one bear hug, and one hug accompanied by a handwritten thank you note! 

I’ve decided to really go for it: my first full-length project for my family will be a book. Just in case you’re wondering, you don’t have to be Mitch Albom to write a poignant memoir about a special person, or a special day of the week. With this in mind, I plan to get busy writing Tuesdays with My Foot Up Your Ass as a way of communicating to my kids the importance of, well, just about everything I say. This, in an effort to avoid the kids sitting at my bedside someday, just like Mitch sat at Morrie’s, week in and week out, only I’ll be strapped to mine in a padded cell.

The book will cover a lot of territory. Here’s a sampling of just a few chapters I’ve already begun working on for my kids:

  • If You Don’t Feed Clothes to the Monster in Your Closet, He’ll Eat You!
  • Your Mess, Your Problem
  • Vocal Chords: I Will Remove Yours

Of course, the most important chapter will be, “You Don’t Know How Good You’ve Got It”.

In it, I’ll explain the finer points of living in a house where the most technologically advanced electronic device was a light switch. The house had one TV that received exactly three channels, and it would have been tuned to a kids show exactly never if an adult was home. And there always seemed to be an adult home. Making us play outside for hours and hours at a time. Telling us to get off the phone….the one phone that hung on the wall of the kitchen, which was not in view of the TV in the living room. Not that it would have mattered…

In this chapter, I’d also spend a little time on the topic of alternatives. For example, the alternative to playing outside on a hot day was playing outside on a hot day. The alternative to the food on your plate was no food, period. Let’s not forget talking back. Back in the day, before the authors of parenting books invented “1….2….3…..(insert consequence),” talking back resulted in anything from a glare to a swift smack upside the head, depending on the task at hand, or the distance between the smart mouth and said hand.

My book will have chapters dedicated to my husband, but these will be briefer, because he’s awesome, and because if I ramble on too long, he tends to glaze over, and then we have to start all over tomorrow. His chapters include:

  • How Wiping Kitchen Counters Improves Your Sex Life
  • Putting Things Back for Dummies
  • Football – Whatever
  • This is Me Rolling My Eyes at You (a kitchen-sink chapter for anything not covered elsewhere.)

 Just to give my kids a treat, and feed their addiction to screens, I’ll create a website when I’m finished with the book. This will give me a “real time” venue to keep them updated with important announcements (“The next person to ask me a question will regret it”), and late-breaking news (“Grandparents en route! Remove all visible DNA from the bathroom counter, floor and toilets STAT!”)

To make sure it grabs my kids’ attention, and in the interest of full disclosure should an innocent viewer stumble upon, the first thing they will see on the home page is a meowing kitten and a blinking puppy, with this text underneath:

“Welcome to the Lucke-Eagye Family Website.”

Then, the puppy and kitten will fade out, and a skull and crossbones will fade in, along with a quote by the original parenting expert, Dante:

 “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

In addition to news alerts, the website will be full of lighthearted anecdotes, like the one my stepdaughter hurled over the wall the other day, out of nowhere, during a commercial break from Say Yes to the Dress. You know the show….all about women, with commercials aimed at women….

“Lisa, what’s feminine odor?”

I snuck a peripheral peek at my other daughter, who was in the room reading. Her face froze as she ever-so-slightly pulled her book even closer to her face, as if she was reading Braille with the tip of her nose. So, I knew she was listening.

I gave the little inquisitor the five second answer, which I shall not share here, but that must have been satisfactory, since she turned her attention back to the TV and away from me. Then, I split.
Note to self: never watch chick shows with the daughters again. Or, better yet, tell husband the girls are dying to watch an episode of Say Yes to the Dress with him, just cuz. Film the interaction during the commercials. Upload to Facebook. Mwahahahahahaha.

With a website, I can have a Q & A forum, where my kids can pose those awkward questions and I can give them the straight story without them getting embarrassed, or knowing the number of beers it took me to get through it.

The family website will be chock-full of little gems like this, not to mention a few choice images, and maybe some video. I’ve always wanted to secretly film them at their worst and play it back to them. My plan is to catch them arguing as a way of illustrating how stupid they sound. That’s right, I used the S word. If there is any other way to describe the sight of two kids arguing loudly over which one will hold the poop bucket and which will shovel, I would like to know what it is. I think filming them is a perfect way to get them to see how ridiculous their arguments are. Then again, it could backfire, which would be a bad thing. Like an evil déjà vu, I’d have to experience the idiotic moments again and again:

“See, I told you that you were looking at me during breakfast last Tuesday. Look, the angle of your head is directly pointing right at me!”

“No it isn’t! I was looking OVER your SHOULDER, out the window at the BACKYARD!! Rewind – wait – pause it right there! See, I’m looking toward the dog out on the back lawn!”

“That’s not the dog, that’s a deer!”

“No it isn’t! Rewind!”

The video may require some heavy editing. Especially if the camera is rolling when I sneak into the kitchen during dinner and long-neck the last of the Zinfandel while the kids are trying to decide who should put the milk away, the first person to touch it or the last person to use it.

Overall, I think wading into a new method of communication can improve almost any household’s ability to understand one another. With the written word, a person has time to think! There’s no pressure of an immediate, verbal response, or the kids witnessing my skull splitting in two. After all, we leave notes for each other all the time for silly little things, like “I fed the dog,” or “Your mother called, again,” or “I am not upstairs working in my room with the door closed so don’t bother checking.”

Isn’t it about time we started writing down the important things?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Home vs. Away Games: Don't (or do) Try This at Home

Many people who know me also know that my husband and I have no kids every other weekend. We call these “away games,” (thanks to a clever friend whom I secretly refer to as Metaphor Man because of his ability to create unusual and interesting metaphors for pretty much any situation. One day, this person said, “Home or away game this weekend?” I said, “Huh?” Then, he said, “Do you have children with you this weekend, or not?”)

Anyway, everyone with kids knows what home games are like. However, if you have fewer than four children, otherwise known as “in your right mind,” you probably can’t relate to what our home games are like, which means it will be difficult for you to appreciate what our away games are like. So, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s a little background.

Home games are a mixed bag. During “family movie night”, they are a dream: six people sharing a large couch, a few blankets, and a wholesome flick, like Dodgeball. (We love that our kids are getting to the age when we can expand the family video library to movies that do not include voiceovers, talking toys, or communities of backbiting lions.) The take away value of a movie like Dodgeball should not be underrated. Since viewing that movie, I need only whisper the word, “wrenches” and my kids are clamoring for more chores to complete.

Family dinners are also a bright spot to home games. We don’t ruin them with lectures, or ever give the kids bad news during dinner. Dinner is a time when we hear about who did what to whom, and why, on the playground, and allow them to complain about the food without being interrupted with silly admonishments to keep their room clean.

However, there is another side to home games. They can also be a little like Ultimate Cage Fighting, but with a ring full of stoned, idiot-savant badgers. Vicious, chaotic and brilliant one second, blissfully unaware of having any purpose in life whatsoever, aside from eating and sleeping, the next.

Now, for the away games. The kids leave us for the entire weekend. We don’t hear the word “mom” or “dad” for 48 long hours, save for through a cell phone, which is different. There is also much cussing on my part, just because I can. For me, saying “Now where the heck did I set my mother-fucking coffee cup?” just feels right.

The house is empty and silent. There is no sound of “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” or “OH MY GOD THIS GAME SUCKS!” coming from my son’s room, where he often can be found amusing himself playing video games online with unknown opponents. Nor do I hear the voices of two ten-year old girls arguing loudly for twelve minutes about who should shut the bathroom drawer – the one who just got something out of it, or the one who needs something in the drawer underneath it. I’m also not treated to the sound of TWO people trying to ask me a question through the bathroom door while I’m concentrating on a crossword puzzle.

One of the few things you can hear on away game weekends is the occasional, and by occasional, I mean every 15 minutes, sound of a cork popping. If you listen very carefully, you might hear muffled sniffles – not as I peer into empty little bedrooms, but while watching a poignant movie without interruption, including the tragic ending that I don’t have to pause in the middle of to gently suggest to the children that they go play on the freeway. I’m just kidding. Everyone knows we don’t have a freeway in our town. Drop in on us during an away game and you may be surprised (but probably not, by now) to learn that underwear drawers are about the only place where you won't find any underwear.

Sure, it gets a little bit sad at times, mainly around 5 p.m. on Saturdays, when we’re floating in the pool, by ourselves, and that garage fridge is so close, yet so very far away…

Let’s get one thing straight: we are not advocating divorce. It wasn’t easy getting to where we are in life. There were plenty of tears, frustration, even anger—until we finally found an affordable mini fridge for the patio.

Seriously, most of our friends have asked us how they can get in on our gig. Others sneer at us, as if we waved our magic divorce wand, and then sat down and wrote our bestselling pamphlet, “How to Get Out of Parenting Every Other Weekend.”

Because we are actually on speaking terms with our exes, friendly even, everyone thinks it’s been a piece of cake. The truth is, we’ve earned every minute of our away games, and if you don’t believe me, have a few more children. Then try step-parenting on for size while you’re at it, which eclipses garden-variety parenting tenfold in terms of difficulty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m right where I want to be, and someday, I plan to look back on these days from my padded cell and thank the universe for everything it ever blessed me with. My grown children’s therapists will all point out that my team of therapists had it all wrong, and gave me a bunch of bum advice back in the day, which will probably lead to some kind of hideous intervention-style sit down with a future version of Dr. Phil.

Or, perhaps not.

Perhaps our kids will grow up understanding they don’t just have two people who love them unconditionally, but many others who are ready and willing to shed blood, sweat and tears to make them happy. Four sets of grandparents who have hundreds of years worth of combined experience in life, and can’t wait to feed them lollypops for breakfast when we’re not looking and take them to the movies whenever they can.

Therefore, whether you sneer, or are looking for an Away Game Action Plan, here it is:

1. Marry the wrong person. And by wrong, I don’t mean ever-so-slightly-not-suited-for-you-wrong. Really do it up right, and by right, I mean wrong.
2. Get divorced.
3. Work out, whether through mediation, court or via duct tape and a butcher knife, a thoughtful co-parenting schedule that everyone can live with.
4. Now for the tricky part: Meet someone who has completed Steps 1 – 3, fall madly in love, and convince your exes never to deviate from the schedule.
5. Love your kids like crazy when they’re home, have lots of sex and booze when they’re not.

It’s that simple! Be sure not to let me know how it works out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Now that's a head scratcher!

My head has no dandruff, or even slightly dry skin. No eczema or bedbugs, either. Yet, I’ve found myself increasingly going to it for good scratch lately. That’s because head scratching is the physical manifestation of the acronym WTF? It’s a way of communicating to those around you, “Please help me understand what the hell is going on here” in a non-judgmental way.

There are other uses for head scratching, however, that are a little more personal.

I’ve always been soothed by scratching my own head, in a rhythmic, gentle way. It isn’t anything that most people would even notice; then again, maybe the whole town thinks I have lice. Nonetheless, I can frequently be found scratching my head, whether I’m watching TV, or trying to come up with an intelligible paragraph at work, or actively participating in (enduring) a conversation with someone (misguided soul) I know. Usually, I’ve got my sunglasses on as well, which really helps me to focus on the head-scratching – in other words, my eyes can’t betray what my scratching is helping my ears to hear. There I am scratching imaginary little mini-paths around my scalp, as I’m calmed into a trance that keeps me from making comments like, “What the fuck are you talking about? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Are you really going there?”

Instead, I let my fingers do the walking, as I do the talking: “Huh. Interesting. Wow. That’s a head scratcher, fo sho.” It helps so much that occasionally, I start to nod off. This is when people usually say, “Well, see you later!” and I say, “Where’d I park?” and we both walk away scratching our heads.

We’ve all been there, and we all know it.

Those moments don’t hold a candle to the head scratching opportunities my kids give me. These moments are like terrible hybrids of both of the above: a little bit sedation, a little bit confusion, all rolled up into one, long, scratch. This week alone, two stand out:

Child (with panic): “Mom, I can’t find my shoes anywhere! I’m late!

Mom: “Have you looked everywhere?”

Child: “Yes! I need them now! Mom! Help me!”

Mom: “You checked the shoe basket?”

Child: “No.”

Mom: “Here they are, in the shoe basket.”

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

Later the SAME day, but with different child, whose name I’ve changed to protect the loony, I was again faced with a moment so odd that I decided to write them both down. Hence, this blog.

(sound of phone ringing)
Doris: “Hi Lisa. I can’t find my folder and I need it.”

Me: “Where is it?”

Doris: “Upstairs on my desk.”

Me: “Ok, no problem, I’ll bring it to you.”
(sound of phone hanging up.)

This really wasn’t a problem, because the child in question never leaves stuff behind. I’m happy to accommodate freak-of-nature situations now and then. Unfortunately, the folder was not on the desk, nor anywhere else that I could see. I called her back.

Teacher: “Hello?”

Me: “Hi, this is Lisa Lucke. May I speak to Doris?”

Teacher: “Sure.”

(sound of Doris picking up the phone)
Me: “Um, I can’t find it. Where else could it be? “

Doris: “Well, I’m not sure. I thought it was in my backpack. I’ve looked through it three times.”

Me: “Let me walk around the house again….(sound of me entering every room, looking under, behind and inside of every conceivable hiding spot.) “Nope, I just don’t see it.”

Doris: “That is SO weird.”

Then came the sentence that I always ask, and the same one that results in my hand springing up to my head:

Me: “Where was it the last time you saw it?”

Doris: “Here at school yesterday.”

Me: “You didn’t use it at home last night?”

Doris: “No, I didn’t have any homework. I didn’t even open my backpack at all.”

Ideas were beginning to take shape. The scratching intensified.

Me: “Have you checked your desk?”

Child: “No.”

What happens when a good scratch isn’t enough? Pocket-sized defibrillators that I keep in my purse, or in my jog bra, along with my iPod, cell phone, keys and boobs?

Funniest thing of all is that on this very morning, I couldn’t find my keys. After I shooed all kids out the door, and insisted that my husband, a.k.a., “The Finder” help me, I found them myself.

In my purse.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Endorphin highs and delusions of 42 things

I had one of the greatest days of my life recently, in terms of productivity. It ranks right up there with a single day in 11th grade when I won a tennis tournament, placed 1st in a district-wide essay contest, changed the oil in my Volkswagon and lost my virginity. Just kidding. Everyone knows Volkswagons are impossible to work on. I was 17. My more current brush with over-achievement was a little different, though no less amazing. The more things I did, the more astounded I was that I wanted to do more. I cooked, I cleaned, I cooked some more, I did laundry, I exercised, I solved problems between my children that could teach those “leading” the Middle East peace process a thing or two. There was bacon. I brought it home. There was a pan. There was a man. You do the math.

Late in the evening of my glorious brush with domestic overachievement, I sat down and composed a list of all the things I accomplished on that fine day, from household chores to showing my fifth grade daughters how to use a self-sticking panty-liner as an emergency sleeping mask.

Scanning the list, I decided that the one plausible explanation was an endorphin high, precipitated by my long run at the crushingly painful hour of 3 p.m., when I’m usually yearning for Dr. Phil and a catnap, but instead find myself helping with science homework or prepping for dinner.

How on earth did a run during cozy sleepy time actually feel so good, and not only that, keep feeling good for the next six hours?

It was the next day that I really began analyzing what had happened. It started during a visit with my doctor, whom I went to for a little relief from my allergies. I asked her how her running regimen was going. She mentioned endorphin highs, and how much she enjoyed them. My ears perked up. The elusive endorphin high. I was not so sure I’d ever experienced one. I didn’t admit it to her, however. I didn’t want to seem like an amateur, like some anxiety ridden sorority girl at a sisterly pajama party, keeping her mouth shut about never having had an orgasm, mainly because she wasn’t sure of the exact location of her vagina. Sorry, that was uncalled for. Of course sorority girls know where their vaginas are located – as does every frat boy in town.

Before I made my list, I guessed that I completed about 42-or-so things that day. Here’s the general time frame in which they happened:

6:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
1. Got up (for those of you who have never combined Benadryl and white wine to overcome allergies that can best be described as “Nazi-like,” you may not appreciate why this qualifies as an accomplishment. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.)
2. Facilitated getting four kids out of the house and to school (technically two things, but I’m not one to split hairs.)
3. Finished three loads of laundry.
4. Sent work-related emails from home.
5. Sent home-related emails to husband at work (he loves it when I do this).
6. “Got ready” for work (so many things here, it’s too exhausting to think about, so I’ll just count it as one thing).

10:15 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
1. Saw the doc and got an allergy shot.
2. Took 13-year son’s gym clothes to him at school (please, no comments; I’ll hear plenty about this one soon enough).
3. Did a bunch of work stuff. Who the hell cares how many things that is.

2:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
1. Made a shitload of nachos for all my friends, I mean kids.
2. Delivered three girls to softball practice.
3. Ran 4.5 miles.
4. Went to the grocery store “for a couple things” and spent $174.
5. Made a meatloaf. It was terrible. (I didn’t say I did 42 things well…)
6. Picked up girls from softball practice.
7. Did miscellaneous afternoon dishes.
8. Planted a hydrangea in the front yard.
9. Summited Clean Laundry Mountain, effectively filling up my empty closet.
10. Cleaned the girls’ bathroom. Yuck. (It’s true what you hear about women’s bathrooms being worse than men’s.)
11. Cleaned the main bathroom, which also doubles as son’s bathroom. Double yuck. (It’s not true what you hear about women’s bathrooms being worse than men’s.)
12. Served dinner without killing anyone (sometimes it’s about what you don’t do)
13. Made milkshakes for all my friends! (the kids and hubby)
14. Made egg salad for the next day’s lunches (one with olive oil mayo and one with Best Food’s for the people who think olive oil mayo is “gross.”
15. Wrote this list (it counts!)
16. Put one last load of laundry into the washer, cussing all the way.
17. Performed Satanic Bedtime Rituals, which included: picking out one stuffed animal; no, the other one; no, not that one; served two doses of cough medicine; rubbed athlete’s foot cream in between ten little toes; scratched one back; fed one fish; set up one humidifier the wrong way; set up one humidifier the correct way.

Okay, so that’s six, plus three, plus seventeen, which equals 26. After I wrote this, I took my second and last shower of the day, poured myself a Big Glass of Wine, read something, and retired. All told, about 24 things, give or take a few things that may or may not have occurred during my “retirement,” but that won’t be shared here.

Not 42, but enough. So, on that day, I did at least 24 (or possibly 25-27) things. How could this be? Sure seemed like a lot more things...

Too bad that I bumped into my doctor a few days later at the grocery story and told her about my first endorphin high and the glorious rush of energy that followed. She asked if that happened to be the same day I got my allergy shot, to which I said, "Yes!"

She gave me the bad news that endorphin high it was not, but merely a normal response to the allergy med. Ever the junkie, I asked her if it would continue through the season. Sadly, she shook her head.

Back to doing 24 things.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My favorite superhero: Scenario Man

I can’t get enough of messing with my kids. It makes me feel better. I get a little zing of satisfaction when I say or do something that startles them out of their zombie-like trance while watching iCarly, or puts them in their place to just the right degree in front of people. I don’t embarrass them, or at least, they aren’t aware they should be embarrassed and that makes it both o.k. and extremely funny (to me).

Take my 13-year old son. There aren’t enough hours in the day to take advantage of all the opportunities he hands me to get a laugh at his expense, and therefore, feel younger, less marginalized and more in control of my universe. Most of these situations are due to the fact that my son is actually the superhero I like to call, Scenario Man. Like Clark Kent, he switches at a moment’s notice, and the trigger is always the same: what if?

Recently, I had to check my son out of school early for an orthodontist appointment. It was the middle of the day, during lunch, and he was back at school without even missing a class. The next day, we decided to take off a little early to get some summer clothes, which means driving for an hour to the nearest community that has stores that don’t have ‘mart’ in their name. Since the last class of the day for him is study hall, I told him I’d pick him up just before that class started, at 2:15. I gave him a generic note that I scribbled while driving in the car line in front of his school. It read:

“Please excuse Jackson from school at 2:15.”

He wasn’t ok with that, for the same reason he’s not ok with things like hairy spiders in the shower, stains on his sweatshirt (the white one that he insisted on owning), or a loose bracket on his braces: He is Scenario Man.

“What if it bites me?”

“You’ll live.”

“What if it’s a Brown Recluse?”

“The hospital is three minutes away.”

“What if someone is standing close enough to me to see the stain on my sweatshirt?”

“They’ll think you’re a 13-year old boy.”

“What if the bracket gets worse over the weekend?”

“We’ll go on Monday.”

“What if I have to keep my braces on for more months because the bracket’s broken?”

“I’ll kill the orthodontist until he’s dead.”

These conversations always end with one of two responses from my son: “Ok” if he doesn’t realize I’m joking, or “Mom! Stop!” if he’s finally had it up to here with my nonsense. Either way, I’m laughing.

On this particular day, Scenario Man reared his precious head in a way that drove me to take ultimate action. We had the shopping day all planned out, until this:

“What if it’s too early?”

“What are you talking about?”

“What if it’s too early to buy shorts and I have a growth spurt and grow out of them by July.”

In all honesty, I’m exhausted just writing about this. I simply can’t figure out how, with all the really important things I do in an average day, like four loads of laundry, cooking dinner, picking up, dropping off, picking up, dropping off, picking up, blowing my brains out, dropping off and a few hours of actual work I get paid to do, I have to expend oxygen explaining things like this to my son.

I adopted my best Dramatic TV Narrator voice for this one:

“If you grow out of them, we will go in search of more shorts. Nothing, I repeat, nothing, will keep us from our quest. We will find more shorts that fit you, and we will buy them with the dollars in my purse from the nice lady or gentleman behind the counter of the store where we find them. Then, we will walk back to the car, and - "

“Mom! Stop! I know what you are talking about!”

“Don’t worry,” I say, resuming my mom persona. “We’ll find shorts today that have a little room to grow. Okay?”


The reason for this particular “what if” scenario is because my son is thoughtful. He feels bad that I have to spend money. Again, I’m not exactly sure how he got every single one of the marbles on this one and my daughter is completely lacking:

“Where is your backpack?”

“I don’t know. I think I lost it.”

“Don’t you think you better find it?”

“We can just buy another one.”

So, my son was not satisfied with the note excusing him at 2:15. Remember, we’re in the car line. There wasn’t much time to discuss this. A bus was behind me; the bell was about to ring.

“What if the office lady wants to know why I’m leaving school early?”

“It’s not her business.”

“But Mom, what if she asks me? Should I tell her I have a doctor appointment?”

“Yes. Tell her you have a doctor appointment.”

“What if she asks me what doctor?” At this point, he was getting out of the car. I had no time for this, and neither did the bus full of kids behind me. He was about to slam the door.

“Tell her you have a cyst on your ovary.”

“Ok. Bye mom.”

“Bye, honey,” I said, blowing him a kiss and trying to wipe the grin off my face.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Premature Articulation

Why is it the older I get, the more frequently I hear the sound of my own voice saying something completely inappropriate? What exactly is happening to me? Is this a case of becoming less sensitive to the needs of others, and losing my ability to filter out the socially unacceptable thoughts in my mind before they can bounce off my tongue and infect perfectly normal conversations? Or is this a special talent I’ve always had, but never noticed?  Maybe it’s just a case of everyone else being too uptight.

I’m going with the last one.

I think the rest of the world, or at least people who bump into me in the grocery store, or sit with me at the dinner table, need to relax. They should also stop saying things like, “Oh my god, Mom! I can’t believe you just said that!” I mean, big deal, so I said the word “boner” during a conversation the other night. So what if it was during dinner at Nona and Grandpa’s house. Who cares if my daughter’s 10-year old friend was present, and that she happens to be the daughter of a local law enforcement official who prosecutes people for a living? What’s he going to do, arrest me? Am I doing it again right now?

All I did was respond to something my own mother said. She commented on the last blog I wrote and asked me a question. I answered her. Is there another way of saying it? Apparently, because my 13-year old son sitting next to me hit me with this gem:

“Mom, use the other word. The one the doctor uses.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The word that starts with ‘er’”

“Are you kidding me? Your doctor asks you about that?”

Sidenote: What the hell goes on in those appointments that I’m no longer interested in attending, let alone asked to? I guess that’s why I’m off the invite list and instead remain in the waiting room reading the latest “Ladies Horrifying Journal” article about the top ten ways to inject some spice into your pork roast and your marriage.

My husband was somewhat alarmed at what I said; my dad, mom and aunt were laughing, as was I. My daughter looked amused and rolled her eyes at me. The 10-year old guest? Well, I guess my son and husband win this one, because she leaned over and asked my daughter what a boner was.

I won’t repeat the rest of the conversation because it wasn’t really that interesting, and because I don’t want to incriminate myself. I know my rights. Suffice to say I instructed my daughter to let her friend's parents explain it to her some day in the distant future when I can honestly say, “I said what?”

As I flip through my mental rolodex, I can recall a few other things I’ve said over the years that probably could be filed under “What did you just say?” because that’s how people responded to them. Here they are:

Top Four Things I’ve Said That I Don’t Regret But That Some People Think Were Awful

1.      1.“Hi, how have you been? Did you ever f---k my husband?” (at a cocktail party. It was funny. Really.)

2.      “I don’t care what she has between her legs; someone, somewhere is sick of her crap.” (at a Bunko party with women I barely knew, in hopes of never being invited back. But that’s another story – how I threw the Bunko game, and I use the term loosely, in order to avoid ever being asked to “sub” again.)

3.       "God, I am such a retard!” (again, at a cocktail party, during polite conversation with a small group of women, one of whom has a child with Down’s Syndrome.)

4.      “Every day?” (responding to a freshman student who seemed to never be able to understand one word I said. On this particular day, I was super annoyed at her inability to comprehend my instructions and she told me that she hit her head during P.E.)

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

Perhaps the list is longer in other people’s minds. To that, I say, “I’m taking the 5th.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Douches and Boners and Butts, Oh My!

With each passing day, conversations with my children grow more mature. At ten, ten, twelve and thirteen years of age, we can now chat about grown up stuff, like mortgages, car payments, and periods. Yet, at the same time, conversations can take a sharp left turn toward more juvenile themes at the drop of a hat. Like being caught in a tug-of-war between adolescence and childhood, my kids are currently armed with just enough knowledge to be dangerously funny when overheard discussing things like tampons, and downright hilarious when they purposely include me in their pre-pubescent chat-chit.

They’re curious, but they don’t want to ask. When they do ask, they fidget and squirm and smile, as if I’m pulling out life-sized Mr. and Mrs. Puberty blow-up dolls. To be fair, I am the mom who drew pictures for my daughters when we had the birds and bees talk about four years ago. Here’s an excerpt from the official transcript:

“Hang on. Why are there three holes? What’s that one?”

End of excerpt.

The best part about my kids getting to the age where we not only have serious, forthright conversations about bodily functions is that we can purposely joke about them.

After all, who can resist a good boner joke now and then? Not me, and apparently, not my 13-year old son. In the parking lot of the grocery store the other day, a man waiting outside the store had some interesting looking trousers on…and by the looks of things, he was happy to see whatever it was he was staring at off in the distance. Because I’m losing my ability to filter my verbal mutterings by the day, I made the first move.

“Oh my god!” I blurted out, glancing at the guy as we approached and cruised by slowly (parking lot, remember?) My son shot a look at me and then switched his glance to the direction I was looking. Just in case you’re wondering, this happened instantaneously: my look, my gasp, my son’s look, and my son’s comment:

“Holy crap! You could hang a coat hanger on that!”

There it was – a boner joke, and my beautiful, young, innocent boy said it. Not only that, it was funny and made me laugh.  

Then, there are the girls.

Those little women have a way of getting information out of me, especially the youngest two.

Walking in through the garage door recently, I had just started to kick my shoes into the appropriate shoe box, and they were on me. One had me around the waist and the other had a fistful of my jacket up at the scruff of my neck. They pressed me up against the couch, and bent me over backward just enough to disarm me of the power of leverage.

“Okay, lady, you better tell us right now what that deuce thing was!”

“What are you guys doing? What is going on??”


“What are you two nut bombs talking about?”

“The thing that Robbie said at school today that Jackson was telling you about that his older sister told him about.”

Somehow, I followed that. But, that’s another blog.

“Are you talking about ‘douches’?”

“We don’t know! Are we?!”

“Oh my god. Are you kidding me?!” I was laughing so hard I was helpless. I was also in a stranglehold.

Keep in mind, these girls are ten. I’m not a short woman. They had me bent over the couch in an extremely uncomfortable position. Of all people, I am generally the one who sees sneak attacks from fifty paces. At this point, I would have made any concessions necessary to free myself from the frenzied grip of the ten-year old version of the Spanish Inquisition.

I had to think quickly. Do I really want to tell them this information?  As much as I enjoy them asking for information that when disclosed, makes them almost pee their pants and then run away from me, I wasn’t sure they were ready for this. I geared up for my explanation, though to be perfectly honest, I was going to have to wing it, if you know what I mean.

At that moment, my thirteen year old son walked in the room. He wanted to know what was going on.

“Mom’s going to tell us what deuces are RIGHT NOW!”

If they could not even pronounce it, were they old enough to know what it was? Keep in mind, these are the two very same girls who once found a tampon in the glove box of my car and when one asked what it was, the other said, “It’s those things you put up your butt.”

An hour earlier, when my son had told me the “deuces” story, he asked me the same question, but it went like this:

“Mom, what’s a douche bag?”

“Remember the guy who lived next door to us on Oak Street?”


“Douche bag.”

“No, Mom, I mean what is it really?”

“Dear god are you kidding me? You are going to regret this.”

“I want to know. Christine Collins said her little brother Robbie was running around her house saying it and so his mom hauled him to the grocery store and showed him what it was and he freaked out.”

“Okay, it’s a slang term for a slime ball, derived from the French word, ‘douche.’”

“Mom! Stop it! What is a douche?!”

That’s when we went behind closed doors. Apparently, that’s also when the ten-year old goon squad started whispering and plotting.

I kept it short and simple because frankly, I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

The second I revealed the physical location of the body part associated with douches, thirteen year old boy squirmed, then turned and faced the extremely interesting closet door for a close inspection until I was finished.

“Got it.”

“You asked.”

Back to the mugging.

When the boy entered the room and saw me getting clobbered, I decided to do the mature thing and evade and get this over with. There was no way I was going to contribute to their long list of things to have nightmares about. Plus, they were hurting my shoulder.

“Jackson, the girls want to know what a boner is.” It was the girls who spoke next, in no uncertain terms:

“Oh my god, Mom! Gross!!”

I knew I almost had them, meaning they were on the edge of running away screaming for the sanctity of their bedrooms, putting this hideous, yet hysterical conversation that I was actually highly amused by to an appropriate end.

“Aha! So you know what a boner is??” I snapped, turning the tables on them.

“We’re outta here!”

“Yeah, we’re outta here!”

“I’m glad we had this talk,” I sang cheerily as they sped off like little roadrunners.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Enter Sandman

        Warren Zevon released a song many years ago entitled, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” As the title suggests, the lyrics espouse a certain joie de vivre approach. Some call it a “live hard, die young” attitude that so many edgy, alternative musicians embody – musicians like Zevon, Osbourne, and Bieber. You know, a take-no-prisoners philosophy toward life, save nothing for a rainy day, never play it safe if sorry is an option. Forget trying to keep up with the Jones’ – screw their daughter instead! To recap, the song is your basic feel good ditty – that is, if you need something to make you feel good after waking up face down in a pile of someone else’s puke.
        Recently, I popped Warren into my under counter CD player, and immediately shot back to a time when sleeping was, for me, a complete drag and definitely something I could put off until later. I was young. I was single. I had parties to get to before dawn, and classes to attend after the sun came up. As I listened to the lyrics, my thoughts drifted to the Greatest Weekend Ever, (of my twenties, that is), visiting friends at Cal, hitting the Big Game, then the streets of Berkeley.
        Just as I was getting my nostalgia on, smiling at the mental image that was forming of my own self dancing on a table at Golden Boy, wearing a Heineken cardboard six-pack hat I’d bought off a street vendor, another image faded in – one that expressed a very different connotation of the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
        I shook my head, banged on my temple with the heel of my hand, but it was no use. Like a circa-70’s TV that goes fuzzy at midnight, no amount of adjusting the rabbit ears wrapped in tin foil could get the Berkeley channel to come back into focus. Instead, my mind started showing re-runs of projectile vomiting bestowed upon me by my infant son – at two o’clock in the morning, after being up for the third time that night, trying to get the little life-sucker to, well, suck. Finally, after being oh-so-close to dozing off while he slurped, the sound of my baby throwing up the entire contents of left breasticle chased elusive slumber away, yet again.
        Then, it hit me: the most vivid, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” phase of life was not in my twenty-something years; it was as a new mother. Granted, that was 13 years ago, but let me just say that some memories, no matter how much we’d like them to, don’t fade.
        Enter baby number two, the same maternal-nocturnal emissions, sleepless nights, groggy days and the absence of that old friend I flipped off one too many times: Mr. Sandman.
        The toddler years proved to be just as clever at keeping a long winter’s nap out of reach. Just when I felt like I was indeed dead, and therefore, ready for a little shut-eye, the pitter-patter of little feet barreling down the hall at 3 a.m. reminded me that death, and therefore sleep, was still out of reach.
        Assuming the house must be on fire by the way my daughter was beating it down the hall, I’d jump out of bed, throw a sweatshirt over the sexy one I was already sleeping in, just in time to catch a two-year old flying through the air into my arms.

“Hi Mama!”

“Huh? What are you doing?”

“Saying hi! HI!”

“Hi. Okay, back to bed.”

“Want to play Hi-Ho Cherry-O?”

“No. Bed. C’mon.”

     These days, the opportunity for sleep is greater, I admit. Outside of an occasional sleepwalker roaming the halls asking why George Washington parked his skateboard in her closet, the nights are quiet. I take advantage of them. If I’m down at the local pub, and I see it’s 10 p.m., I get nervous. “Let’s get out of here,” I whisper to my husband, pointing at the clock. He gasps in horror when he sees the time and we sneak out the side door, racing for our Tempurpedic.
     As I listened to Warren finish up his song, I wondered how I might feel differently today, had I banked a few more hours of sleep, back when I honestly didn’t even know what the point of it was. Fewer gray hairs? A better complexion? A more tender pot roast?
     I guess I’ll never know. What I do know is that I now have a greater respect for my pillow. Now, I’ll sleep when I’m tired.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sign This

There are some days in a mom’s life when it all comes together: a hot breakfast on the table at seven a.m., after a soothing early morning run around a quiet town. Lost socks, tangled hair, broken shoe laces – these minor hiccups are no match for me on days like this. In one swift pass around the house the sock has a mate, pony tails are installed, and the laces are replaced. Tears after school? Not a problem. My reassurance that “It will pass,” is met with no resistance or argument. Days like this are capped with dinner on the table promptly at 6 p.m., before the whining starts, and backs are scratched as the little and medium-sized people drift off to sleep at precisely the right time. Just enough time for a glass of wine, a few kisses and another day in paradise is put to bed.

On those nights, I try to remember to fall asleep with my fingers and toes crossed.

However, sometimes I forget.

That’s when I wake up the next morning, and before my feet have even hit the floor, there is a totally different vibe going down.


“What?” my husband says as he staggers to his feet.

“I forgot to put J’s wash in last night. I promised him his jeans would be clean. Shit!”

On days that begin like this, the kids fetch their own cereal because I’m doing last night’s dishes and yesterday’s laundry. The ones not emerging from their darkened rooms are treated to the sound of “Are you going to school today or WHAT?!” at a level even they cannot sleep through. Not only that, but St. Mom, Finder of Lost Things and Slayer of Evil, is lacking in both compassion and patience.

“Mom, where is my new beanie? I left it right here!”

“Must have grown legs and walked away. Probably went to live at some kid’s house who actually cares enough about her stuff to put things AWAY!”

From the other side of the house another tune springs to life:

“MOOOMMMMM, there’s a HUGE WEIRD LOOKING SPIDER IN THE SHOWER! I think it’s a Brown Excuse!”

“Is it wielding an ax?"

"What? No!"

"Then I think YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF IT!” I holler from the kitchen as I scramble to make an inside out sandwich so my oldest daughter won’t figure out she’s eating the heels. How I can’t manage to forget to bring a loaf of bread home from not one, but three trips to the grocery store in one week is beyond even my understanding.

On days like this, sensitivity is not my strong point. It is also on these days when I contemplate the possibility that perhaps, this time, I’ve gone too far.

Usually, those moments happen late into the days from hell. Did I need to point out to my daughter at bedtime that the world can finally stop looking for those elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction as I navigate her bedroom floor trying to avoid landmines? Was it necessary to taint the moment of the goodnight hug and kiss with a lecture? I get all mad at myself as I leave her room. Why can’t I just keep my big mouth shut? Just then I step on an empty hermit crab shell. I stomp back in and let her know that her crab ran away from home with the beanie.

Take that!

I had a brainstorm the other day, one that will finally put my mind to rest, and relieve me of the constant worry of wondering which of my four kids will be the first to haul my butt into a therapist’s office someday. Once I get them to “sign” on to my plan, I can finally relax, knowing it will be narrowed down to only those with access to an expensive, high-powered contract law attorney.

I began putting Operation Safety Net into play with the second youngest, knowing she’d probably be the toughest sell. I knew that if I could get her to sign on the dotted line, the rest would follow, especially the thirteen year-old, who could be convinced of just about anything, especially if he sees it in a TV commercial. (It started when he was four. He saw an advertisement for the Perfect Pancake Maker and came sliding into the kitchen in his fuzzy slippers, eyes big as sauté pans and said, “Mom! Thereisthiscoolthingontvthatmakesperfectpancakeseverytimeand itonlycosts14.99canwegetit?!”)

Another time, more recently, as I searched my purse for my keys for about the tenth time in one day, he gave me his sales pitch for The Organizer.

“Mom, you need to get The Organizer. It has three zipper pockets on the outside and a large, dual-sided inner compartment with special pockets for a cell phone, clip-on key ring, pens and even a notepad,” he said, with all the earnestness of a late-night infomercial host who only has to sell one more widget before he retires to the Bahamas.

“What, no fresh produce compartment?” I queried, knowing he wouldn’t get it.

“Mom, why would you take fruit in your purse?”

I tilted my head back and laughed, swinging my formless, pocketless, bottomless sack of shit over my shoulder after finding my keys in the fridge.

Back to my brainstorm.

“Here, sign this,” I said to my ten year-old, as she shuffled into the kitchen one morning, with her chlorine-infused mass of hair that would have made Medusa proud.

“What is it?” she said, head cocked, peering with her one open eye at the sheet of paper I held out to her.

“Um, nothing really, just a little thingy releasing me from any liability as a mom.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I didn’t make you cry every day for no reason and I served vegetables almost every night.”

“But I’m only ten.”

Now it was my turn.

“What is that supposed to mean?” I shot back, wondering where she was going with this line of questioning.

“It means, I’m still a child. I’m barely half done. Maybe you’ll start making me cry every day next year,” was her retort, with all the negotiating prowess and bad hair of a pint-sized Donald Trump. I didn’t let on that I was impressed.

“Oh, for god’s sake. Fine. Here, sign this other one.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a document stating that I encouraged you to keep your room clean, bathe regularly and not eat off the floor.”

“And why am I signing this?” she said, both eyes open now, with a look that told me I had missed my window.

“Because when people see how you live someday I’m not going to be held responsible. I tried.”

“Mom, are you crazy?”

“Probably, but I’m not stupid. Sign.”

“No. But if you make me some eggs we can talk.”

Thus began the stare down. She was Kruschev. I was Kennedy. The Cuban Missile Crisis had nothing on us. Between us lay my unsigned documents. I swiftly tried another approach.

“Remember the time when you were four, and you came and told me you washed the sliding glass door all by yourself and you were practically peeing your pants with excitement because you did it as a surprise for me right before Grandma and Grandpa were coming over for dinner?

“Yeah, I remember.”

“You used Pledge instead of Windex.”

“But you said it looked great!”

“It did look great.”

“The window?”

“No. The look on your face when you told me you were done.”

“I’ll sign.”


I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Fantasy of One's Own

When it comes to the cultural phenomenon known as fantasy football, I’m a little conflicted. That’s not true. My tortured soul rebounds between moments of clarity one minute and utter confusion the next. It isn’t even a complex issue and this much I know: I don’t like football. My husband, on the other hand, thinks the word “football” actually belongs in a sentence containing the word “fantasy.”

Thankfully, he has most of the standard fantasies men have, like those involving Carol Brady, or teeter-totters, and he happily shares them with me. However, the fact remains that the fantasy he logs the most hours with on a weekly basis is football. Which leads me to my fundamental question: What is wrong with men? I mean, I get watching one game per week, or maybe even two. But the day I gather 11 of my friends and pick a fantasy Oprah line-up with which to win or lose points depending on what they say or do during the taping of a two-hour segment, three times a week for eleven weeks in a row, and then award an engraved trophy at the end of our “season” to the “winner,” is the day I decide to home school my four teenagers.

As I watch my husband study football stats in his spare time, or stay up late to do the fantasy football newsletter, as is his responsibility as “the league Commissioner,” I remind myself to use the word ‘passion’ instead of ‘obsession.’ When I notice myself growing irritated at the sound of one man clapping loudly for a bunch of players four states away, or yelling “pick-pick-pick-pick-pick-pick,” I begin to mentally check off all the considerate things my man did around the house that week: weeding and mowing, helping kids with homework, the dishes, and making lunches. 

When listing his weekly accomplishments doesn’t do the trick, I try a little fantasizing of my own. I tell myself that a forty-two year old man changing jerseys three times in one day in support of a pretend dream team is sexy. Sometimes I follow him up to our closet between games, and he lets me watch. Yeah, baby, the blue one. No, the other blue one. No, that other blue one, the one between your little league uniform and your high school letterman jacket. Oh, baby, these thirty-four jerseys taking up valuable real estate in our closet are hot! Yeah, that’s my fantasy.

It’s not like he doesn’t snap right out of it at the end of the evening each Sunday, because he does. Well, right after he does the stats and sends out the newsletter, complete with hilarious football quips, while watching Sports Center. Then, he snaps right back to being the guy I fell in love with, the guy who made me believe in love again, and the guy who continues to hold me after the regular hug has ended. He is this guy six days a week (save for a couple of hours Monday evening), and seven days a week for half the year. Why, then, do I find myself rolling my eyes when I overhear him on the phone with one of his fantasy league "owners," sounding like Jerry McGuire trying to work a last minute trade with Bob Sugar? Show me the vodka.

Right now, you might be thinking that I am that spouse – male or female – for which nothing is ever good enough. Well, the truth is, nearly everything is always good enough, and my husband would be the first to say that I never complain. That is because my husband, ironically, is a fantasy husband. He is my best friend. He is the guy who never leaves me hanging, if you know what I mean. He brings it. He is the guy who sees a pile of clean towels in the laundry room and puts them away. Hell, this is the guy who even knows where the laundry room is! (I know a woman who once hired a hooker to hang out in her laundry room, just to see if her husband could find it. Three days later she sent the lonely whore home.)

Maybe it has nothing to do with my husband. Maybe it’s my dad’s fault for punishing me with the same weekly clapping and yelling for my entire childhood – back when fantasy leaguers didn’t have computers. My dad and his friends had fifteen sheets of binder paper taped together that they scribbled their points down on as they happened. Our living room was filled with grown men screaming and jumping up and down. And that was just when my mom brought out the dips. 

Perhaps what I need on Sundays is something that gets me out of the house and away from the mental triggers. Just so that I can fully relate to my husband, to see things from his perspective, it will be something that never gets boring, and that I won’t know the outcome of until it’s completely finished. It’ll chew up hours and hours of my time.

Interestingly enough, it rhymes with “ball.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The reality of New Year’s Resolutions

I never have been much for resolutions. At best, they’re excuses for putting off for some number of months things that a person ought to stop doing today; at worst, they’re opportunities for self-loathing and guilt when cast aside.

Instead, I’m a fan of Ongoing Adjustments. These are things that occur to me I should stop, or start doing. Eventually, I get to them. Just thinking about them is sort of a mini-resolution.

Ongoing Adjustments really do work. The key is being mindful of them. (There’s an Ongoing Adjustment right there – be mindful of what you’re doing at all times.) One of my Ongoing Adjustments is to raise my voice less frequently. Walk softly, carry a big stick, etc. I think it was Abraham Lincoln, or maybe Dr. Phil who said, “The problem with yelling is that you have to yell louder and louder, more and more frequently, to get the same result.” I hate raising my voice; it’s unpleasant for everyone, including me. If it’s unpleasant for me, how do the kids feel? Sure, it may shock someone into behaving for a moment, but that’s because it frightens and demeans the person on the receiving end. Ugh.

So, my goal is to stay mindful of the landmines that a busy household can produce, and adjust how I deal with them.

The problem with calling something a “New Year’s Resolution” is that the minute we screw up, we see it as a green light to abandon the project all together. With Ongoing Adjustments, we get a second chance, a third chance, etc. Progress, not perfection.

Mostly, I’m just very careful about making proclamations. Seems like the second I decide to do something, and then say it aloud, I don’t want to do it anymore because I feel like I have to do it, all because I told someone else I would do it. Quickest way to kill the joy is to make something public. The worst transgressors in this department? Celebrities. Perhaps if they kept just a few more things to themselves, they wouldn’t look like the biggest F-ups of all time – because they’re not. They’re no worse than anyone else walking around on two feet – they just have a microphone and cameras (and Twitter and Facebook and publicists) documenting their every move.

I’m also a huge fan of ongoing adjustments by default. These are what I call “back door adjustments.” Here’s how they work: you realize there is something you want to achieve, and you face facts.

Example: I really like getting into my favorite jeans. I also love putting on a bathing suit and going swimming without hating the whole experience. Therefore, I enjoy running and eating healthy most of the time. When I have a choice to make, I think about the feeling of liking what I see in the mirror. I let myself really feel it for a moment. I think about it when I’m heading out to run at 6 a.m. and would rather stay in and snuggle; I think about it when I’m reaching for water instead of a Pepsi. The more I like what I see in the mirror, the more I like brown rice, veggies and running. The decisions and practices become easier and easier.

I like the look on my kids’ faces when I walk over, remove the remote control from their hands, turn off the TV, and leave the room, instead of yelling at them from the other room to stop yelling at each other.

What we’re really talking about here is Reality. If you don’t like the way pizza looks on your butt, stop eating it. If you don’t like the sound of your voice as it hits maximum volume, shut up.

So, if you absolutely insist on making a resolution for 2011, how about this one: Resolve to keep it real. In your relationships, in your closet, in the mirror, wherever it is there might be just a little room for an ongoing adjustment. Don’t forget – you’re human. Most of us mere mortals have ongoing adjustments to make no matter what the calendar says.