Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Questionable Taste?

I have never been on the cutting edge of ... well, anything.  My taste in music, for example, runs from the generic to the just-that-side-of-embarrassing. Once, when we parked our car in a slightly dodgy lot on Manhattan's west side, a thief broke in and stole all my husband's CDs and left every single one of mine. Abba Gold I can sort of understand but the soundtrack to "The Heights"? Come on!

My taste in literature and TV shows is equally off-beat.  As a tween I was obsessed with MASH and Quincy. I wanted to marry Alan Alda and be a Medical Examiner.  When my academic strengths and need for sleep steered me away from a career in medicine I took to reading murder mysteries and watching crime dramas (with the odd Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place episode thrown in for good measure). My latest obsession - I'm sure I've already said - is with Scandinavian mystery writers: Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum, Jussi Adler-Olsen. When we got a dog recently, we named her Ziva after the kick-ass Mossad agent from NCIS. (Sadly, she was a biter and had to go back to the breeder. I was going to blog about our grief and call it "Sitting Ziva", but didn't want to overplay the Jewish card).

So imagine my delight this weekend when reading an article about the Oscar-nominee June Squibb in the Style section of the NY Times when she described a typical night for her involving "watching TV ("Game of Thrones," "NCIS") or reading mysteries written by Jo Nesbo and other Scandinavian writers."!

Glass half empty: I am right on par with an octogenarian.

Glass half full: I share the sophisticated tastes of an Oscar-nominated, salty, hard-working, winsome dame of cinema.

Going to celebrate with Harry Hole while listening to my latest download, Pearl Jam. Have you heard of them?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Serenity Now!

It’s a new year, which means clean slates and resolutions and all that good stuff.
I tend to tie my overly aspirational self-improvement efforts to the beginning of the school year-- as opposed to January 1-- but this year I’m inclined to double dip.
While I didn’t think I could go broader than “figure out what you want to do with your life,” for 2014 I’m hoping that the secret to happiness is hiding somewhere in the interplay of these two bits of text.   
The Serenity Prayer:
(God), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
 courage to change the things I can,
 and wisdom to know the difference.
Birthday card I received from my parents last June:
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
I haven’t quite parsed out how to live my life serenely with courage and wisdom but I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to let go of petty small-potato things like how much it bothers me that the serenity prayer leaves off the “the” in front of courage and wisdom.
Stay tuned.
Happy and healthy to all….

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hair Today, Gone to Maui

Hi blog!  It’s been a while.  I’ve…um… been busy?
If I’m being honest, the only reason I’m even writing now is that I’m trying to avoid doing what I’m supposed to be doing and I’ve already used up all my usual go-to procrastination devices. 
I should be preparing for Thanksgiving.  It’s only one week—seven short days!--  from today.  And my whole family will be descending upon my house on Tuesday.  I should be planning menus and making shopping lists and cleaning out the fridge to make room for four kinds of milk, two kinds of orange juice and umpteen bottles of club soda and seltzer (and googling just what the difference is between the two).  A wise hostess would be figuring out who is sleeping where and on what and whether the (clean) sheets in the linen closet need to be washed before they go on the beds.
Instead, I find myself fixated on towels and pillows and worried about whether I have enough of each.  Every time I go to Target (which is obscenely frequently),   pick up towels and pillows.  What am I going to do with all these dang towels and pillows after everyone leaves?
The Thanksgivings that we spend with my family have, historically, been held at my brother’s house.  The bar is set very high.  My sister-in-law is a wonderful hostess.  A real Martha.  She stocks the fridge and pantry ahead of time with things each of us likes.  She effortlessly produces meals and copious baked goods practically from thin air.  She has gobs of great rag magazines that I usually only get to read at the nail salon.  And, exceeding the service of any five star resort, she thoughtfully provides hand-picked toiletries in the bathrooms, tailored to the individual’s needs. 
That last one cuts both ways.   I know it’s the thought that counts and all of that—don’t get me wrong,  I am touched that she takes the time (and spends the money) to make me feel at home.  But it is always kind of funny/awkward that the shampoo and conditioner in the shower that I will be using are labeled  for use on hair that is DRY/DAMAGED/CHEMICALLY TREATED/FRIZZY/GOOD GOD DO YOU CHECK THE MIRROR EVER?! 
I’m sure it comes from a place of love.  Seriously.  But it has left me in a bit of a pickle.  I know that my family has come to expect not to have to BYOShampoo, etc.  so, on my latest Target run, I spent a great deal of time in the toiletries section.  As I surveyed the shampoo options I called to mind each man, woman and child that was going to be using our facilities and, channeling my sister-in-law, tried to guess what their individual hair care needs and wants might be.  
Well.  My brother has been somewhat successfully fighting genetics and a receding hairline since forever.  Do I get him the men’s shampoo for “Fuller, thicker looking hair” or is that mean?  My sister-in-law has been fighting her own battle with hair loss.  Do I get her the shampoo for “fragile, breaking, falling hair?”  Is there such a thing as passive-aggressive shampoo?
 Oof.  The towels and pillows are so much easier.  Maybe I should go get some more.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Goy vey!

I am waiting for my boiler to be serviced (literally, so that's not what this blog is about) and so I thought I would blog about my weekend. Well, actually just Sunday which involved three soccer games and a Bar Mitzvah for my 12-year-old.  I know, high-octane suburbia's twist on "Four Weddings and a Funeral"?

It was our first foray into the Jewish Rite of Passage and we were absolutely under prepared for what was involved.  The invitations read like wedding invitations!  They come with a map, bus info and response cards, pre-stamped, with custom-made stamps depicting a photo of the lucky child or his/her initial.  I sent off a few RSVPs before it occurred to me that it might be traditional to include a gift check with the response.  Oops! And also, how much is appropriate to give?!!!

I finally broke down and grilled a friend of mine who's third daughter is in 7th grade. Here's what I gleaned:

  •  Apparently it's fine to send the check with the RSVP and if you have a child who's forgetful, it's a guarantee that the present will reach its intended destination.  
  • It is considered lucky to give in multiples of 18.   
  • It is acceptable to skip the 3 hour religious ceremony and just go to the party part.
  • Daytime parties tend to be less formal than nighttime soirees. Eek - time to revisit that chiffon dress we had picked out.  
Unfortunately, both my husband and I had to take the other two to away soccer games and couldn't see our daughter leave for the Bar Mitzvah. I asked the mom who was picking her up to give her a quick once-over and check there was nothing glaringly wrong with the outfit she chose, or that she had suddenly opted to wear makeup with disastrous results. I think it hurt me more than her that I wasn't there to help her get ready for her first "grown up" party.

Of course, she looked beautiful; so elegant in a navy sheath dress and ballet flats.  She wore an elasticated hairband as a choker but as it was beaded with little pearls nobody noticed. She also misinterpreted my instructions to shave half her legs and only deforested the fronts leaving the backs au naturel. Again, I think nobody would have noticed.  Most importantly, she had an absolute blast.

Oh yeah, and we (we!) won all three soccer games!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

With the school year once again underway, it feels good to gather some of my scattered thoughts and air them out.  I am down to one child in elementary school this year so when I got the call asking if I would be willing to be a class parent I had a bit of a "Sunrise Sunset" moment and hastily agreed. It just felt nice to be asked.  Unfortunately, that warm glow totally blocked out memories of being class parent from years past.

So being a class parent basically means you act as liaison between the teacher and parents, allegedly for coordinating supplies for class parties and chaperones for trips.  In actuality, you are a patsy, regularly caught in the crossfire of psycho, underemployed parents and the teachers who want nothing to do with them.  Cue Kevlar.

In just two weeks since school started I have had to hand-hold a man I've never met before through the logistics of divorce (I'm sure your wife is a bitch but could you just give me an email address where you can be reached and send in $10 for class dues?) and deal with a slew of emails from parents who want to be included on a particular class trip.  One mother even suggested - with conspiracy theory overtones - that she had been "shut out" of being her son's class parent so expected to have first dibs on accompanying him to the zoo. Hmmm ... Guess who's chaperoning the water treatment plant? Ha ha.

The best yet (and, again, I stress that it's only two weeks into the new school year) was the near-mutiny I defused when the teacher announced that due to the high number and range of food allergies in the class, she wouldn't be allowing any food into the classroom. Big deal, right?  So little Madison doesn't get to bring in cupcakes on her birthday. Aren't we supposed to be reducing the sugar and fat in our kids' diets anyway???

You may be surprised to learn that it was the parents of the kids WITH allergies who were up in arms!  I'm assuming it's because they didn't want their kids to be blamed.  Firstly, kids these days just accept that many of their friends have life-threatening allergies. As a result of this new "normal", it wouldn't occur to children without allergies to punish or blame those who do.  I suggested these parents take it up with the school principal who is a lovely and very approachable woman.  Apparently, the main antagonist had burned her bridges there (shocking) so the issue was dropped.

I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings.  We have a trip coming up in October - maybe I should start charging ...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Camp (Mis)Adventure

I just got a call from the medical emergency company of "I've fallen and I can't get up!" fame. Seriously, how did they know?  No, I'm not in mortal physical peril but I am an emotional puddle.  I put my eldest daughter on a bus to sleep away camp on Monday (at her request) and they called last night to say that she was very homesick and basically when she wasn't playing paintball or riding ATVs or flying down a water slide, she was crying.

Now this kid is tough as nails.  She plays goalkeeper in premiere level soccer.  She never cries and has never been homesick. I keep thinking back to England a few weeks ago when we visited Stonehenge and she declared it, "not bad for a pile of rocks", appalling a British visitor next to her in line.  Seeing the look on his face, I declared "Stupid American!" at which point all three of us lost it.  How can this funny, happy-go-lucky, adventurous epitome of grace be so sad that she is unable to stop crying in public?!!! And what should I do about it?!!

I couldn't think of any advice other than maybe giving her something to help her sleep but the counselor - who bizarrely just graduated from my Alma mater in the UK (small world!) - made it clear that she was there to give comfort and would update me daily (ie. she didn't need my advice). Today's update: more of the same.

I've fallen and I can't get up.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Plead the Fifth

No more pencils, no more books.
No more teachers' dirty looks.
No more math and history.
Summer time has set us free....

After weeks of counting down the days (and a ridiculous number of seemingly pointless half-days) and jamming in countless end of school parties, field days, and early celebrations of summer birthdays, we finally made it through the school year.  Whew.

The end of the year is so hectic that I relish the lazy summer days--  a fact that would be nice for me to remember when I am signing the kids up for camp.  Here I've been every morning the past few weeks mentally ticking off the remaining healthy/appealing/peanut-free lunches I have left to pack and-- DUH!!!-- I still have to pack lunch.  For camp.   

So, off to the deli counter I trudged.  Begrudgingly, I took a number.  (The deli is like a casino floor in Vegas-- it doesn't matter if it's 8AM or 4PM, there's always lots of action.) 

I should point out that the deli clientele of our A&P is very high maintenance.  No meat can ever be sliced thin enough for this "let me have a pound of the Oven Gold" crowd (never a please or a thank you, natch).  No roast beef can ever be lean enough.  It's brutal.

But today was the topper.

The woman in front of me ordered one-fifth of a pound of turkey.  Like, seriously?  I actually let out a sort of snort/guffaw by mistake.  Maybe she heard me because she clarified.  "I'd like less than a quarter. You know, like a fifth."  What?!  Honestly that has to be a difference of about one slice of turkey (or maybe three paper thin ones) and approximately $.35.  Either way, decidedly NOT worth the confusion it caused behind the counter.

Gosh, I sure hope with all those half days of school my kids still had time to learn fractions....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nailed It!

The previous owners of our house left behind a number of things.  Some awesome-- a pop-a-shot basketball game in the basement!  Some clearly inadvertant-- their child's third grade rendering of the sun in painted clay.  Some creepy-- what I thought was a decapitated dog sculpture (turns out it is supposed to look like the dog is digging and it's head is in the hole. Still awful).  Some.... well, Weaselsnob already covered the topic of quirky unmentioned/unmentionable house problems that are invariably left behind for the new owners.

But what our house's previous owners left the most of is nails and nail holes. Sakes alive, did they love them some pictures.   It's as if the Art Marshall came out with a clipboard and told them that one frame per foot is Code.  OK, sure, we're not quite talking the Barnes Museum, but it does seem excessive. And the problem is that-- for my taste-- they tended to hang things a bit too high.  So when I go to use the exisiting hooks or holes (and, yes, I'm lazy enough just to hang my stuff where they hung theirs) my picture is always a bit higher than I'd like.  Which doesn't stop me, but still.

A big hook was left on the wall facing the back stairs.  It was bugging me so I hung a dry erase board there.  I hung it vertically, taking advantage of the (poor) placement of the original nails.

The limitless possibilities presented by the blank, crisp whiteness of the board were too much for my daughter to pass up.  Or maybe she too is feeling the stress of the end of the school year crush.  This morning, on tiptoes, she reached up and created the following:

There are three things that I love about this: 1. "Finish This List."   Is that clarifying the concept of what a to-do list is all about?  OR  is she saying that completing the actual writing of this list is the first thing she must do? 2. "Hug Mommy" appears twice.  I am going to take that in the awesome mushy (and list padding) way it was intended and not in the more cynical  'constantly affirm your love to mommy so you can ask for ice cream with puppy dog eyes' way.  3. "Sometimes shower."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Note

Today as I was getting my mail from the mailbox I noticed a folded piece of paper sitting on top of the pile.  When I opened it up here is what I found:

I think I may have mentioned before that I am a HUGE murder mystery aficionado - currently reading Louise Penny's fabulous Three Pines series, btw - so, naturally, I am threatened by this anonymous missive.  My husband thinks I'm crazy.

Here's my argument: There is absolutely nothing welcoming about the note.  There is no exclamation point nor is there a name attached.  Why not write, "Love this house!!! Your new neighbors from #12, Joe and Jane Schmo."?  Much nicer.

My husband's immediate interpretation was that the author was not suggesting that THEY loved our house, but rather was issuing an imperative, the "You'd better!" being implied.  Could be.  But, again, without the jaunty addition of an exclamation point, rather threatening: Love this house or what? Or else?!

The person who wrote the note and put it in my mailbox - bordering on a federal offence, ahem - would probably be horrified to think I had interpreted it as anything other than a nice gesture.  Me?  I'm picturing a Glenn Close lookalike hiding in one of the outbuildings and have raised my personal alert level to DEFCON 3.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What She Said

Jen Hatmaker's recent blog about being the worst end-of-school mom ever (if you haven't read it, look it up.  It's a riot) really struck a chord with me and made me feel a whole lot better about my current ineptitude/attitude.  Judging by the fact that 6 of my friends independently forwarded the link to me, I'm guessing a lot of other moms feel the same way.

Our elementary school decided to wait til mid-June to perform an Ellis Island simulation where costumes, family trees, heirlooms and ethnic foods (minus any ingredients that might induce anaphylaxis) had to be produced in rapid succession.  Seeing as NOBODY wants to eat English food and I had two children home sick from school - on consecutive days, natch - I rummaged through the pantry and came up with the ingredients for plain scones. Genius, right?

But my laurels were not to be rested on.  Sifting through the laundry baskets, I realize that I can't actually recall when my children last showered and I'm wondering if being in a swimming pool counts.  At the very least it gets rid of superficial dirt, no?  Nor can I remember when I last changed the sheets on the beds.  I haven't had a chance to go to the drugstore for new foundation so my makeup routine consists of coating my face with tinted Clearasil.  Again, not the worst thing, especially since the stress has not been kind to my complexion.  I wear what I can grab quickly at 6:30am and even when I feel somewhat put together a fashion felony is not far off. For example, I arrived at my daughter's last soccer game of the season Sunday with giant TJ Maxx price tags hanging down my back.  I had left them out to remind myself to remove them, then promptly forgotten.

Long story short I'm a mess and so are my kids but we are in good company.  Kudos to Ms. Hatmaker for giving a lot of deserving people a good laugh at a very stressful time.  Solidarity sister!