Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cor Blimey!

Having spent two weeks in England with my parents (although, in this case my mum is entirely innocent), my brother, my sister and her husband (who also happens to be my brother's best friend - awww!) my children desperately need a remedial course in how to behave in public. I can't go into great personal detail but needless to say a fair amount of colorful euphemisms have entered our vocabulary and we have readily adopted the great British obsession with flatulence.

It is inevitable, I suppose, that some amount of slang is absorbed. I always play a little game with myself as to who will be the first to run upstairs for their "jumper' or "trainers". And the various brand names of sweets and crisps are processed as though through osmosis. But there was an awful lot of "Christ on a bike!" and "Bloody Nora!" type statements as well and they can quote Cockney rhyming slang like proper little Eastenders.

For the most part, I blame the nightly, highly-competitive games of Uno, where alliances were made and broken in the blink of an eye and all comments were sung in the voice of Fine Young Cannibals singer, Roland Gift (long story), which caused great hilarity and a slipping of inhibitions; somehow, cursing doesn't seem so sinister when it's sung in falsetto. My three little sponges, so pleased to be included, took it all in.

So now we are home and I return to being just a parent instead of a child and sibling. I miss those roles as mostly now they are easier to assume but someone has to be the adult, right?! And when my nieces and nephews are old enough to talk, I will happily teach them some fabulous new words ; )

Friday, July 23, 2010


We re-did the bathroom and office downstairs. They looked great. I was thrilled. But....

There's always a but, right? (And in a house with a seven year old boy there's always a "butt." The word alone is enough to cause side-clutching guffaws.)

My problem was The Smell. Whenever I would walk through the doorway leading into the parts that had been updated I got a whiff of something between sawdust and body odor.

It should be noted that-- for better or worse-- I have a very good sense of smell. [SIDE NOTE: My brother-in-law literally has no sense of smell. He doesn't mind, he says, because as far as he's observed, most of the time people are complaining that things smell bad. Evidently no one is stopping to smell the roses.]

I attributed The Smell to the newness of the work that had been done.

But weeks passed. And, still, every time I went near the office I would be overcome by The Smell.

I don't know what possessed me, but one day I put my nose against the (new) door into the office. Ew. I had located the source of The Smell.

Repulsed and thrilled, I announced my discovery to my husband. As I recall, he took no notice. On the smelling spectrum, if my brother-in-law is a zero and a bloodhound is a ten, my husband is about a three. To him, The Smell was in my imagination. Or just-- gasp!-- "the way our house smells." He grudgingly sniffed the door and shrugged. Nothing.

Undaunted, I made all my friends smell the door. And good friends they are-- "this smells gross, here, smell it." And they did! And they all agreed. My contractor, on the other hand, couldn't pick up any smell. For a while, it seemed that The Smell was only perceptible to women and children. My husband insinuated that I was leading the witnesses.

The heat of this July had only served to empower The Smell. I constantly re-routed myself to avoid passing through the offending doorway. Something had to go-- me or the door. Not wanting to be too dramatic, I opted for the door. When my contractor finally surfaced, he had his partner in tow.

I restated my desire that they not leave my house without taking the offending door with them. Was that an eyeroll?

Minutes later, a call from downstairs. The partner: "I'm totally with you on the door. It stinks! It's awful! Gaah!"

The door is gone. As is The Smell. Cue the Hallelujah Chorus.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yes, No, Maybe So

I can't make up my mind about Evite.

Part of me absolutely loves it:
An Evite party invitation lets you peruse the list of people who were invited to the party and check out who is actually going to attend. And that's before you even reply! Advance knowledge of a party's guest list is some powerful information. To butcher the Syms ads, evite makes me feel like an educated party consumer.

But the other part of me hates it:
Evite's reply function provides space for a comment to accompany your yes or no. The comment portion of the reply is OPTIONAL. And, yet, most feel the need to fill the silence.

So you get your "no" replies with excuses, which, whether long or short, always read badly.

And, worse still, are the messages that accompany the "yes" replies. "Can't wait!!" "Wouldn't miss it!!!" "We're in!!!!" You think I'm joking about the exclamation points but I'm not.

A lot of my son's friends are doing evites these days. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to craft a response that doesn't look like I crafted my response (if that even makes sense). My problem stems from the fact that, because I waited to see who would be going to the party before responding, I've already read everyone else's repsonses. Since I don't want it to look like I read all the responses before responding (that would be shallow, wouldn't it?), I have to come up with something unique that I might actually say in real life. Impossible.

I'd leave the comment box blank but I imagine the party host is somehow deriving some kind of joy or satisfaction from the responses and I don't want to come off as cold.

Responding on behalf of my son adds an element of strangeness to the whole exercise. And makes the exclamation points seem even more ridiculous. "Wally is a yes!" "Wally will be there!"

My son's name isn't Wally. But maybe I'll start writing that Wally will be there as my go-to yes reply.

Friday, July 16, 2010


On Monday I flew trans-Atlantic with the kids to see my family, as we do every summer. When they were very young, this journey was a lesson in survival but this year they were old enough, I thought, that I didn't have to worry too much about behavior on the plane. And I was right. I should, however, have worried about everything else.

My husband drove us to the airport and helped get us checked in, which basically consisted of entertaining the kids while I was patient with the newbie at the check-in desk. I was so relieved to be done with him (check-in guy, not my husband) and seated all together that I didn't question our seating arrangements. Then, we were held up in security so long (because SOMEONE in our party was carrying a pair of craft scissors which won't even cut paper) that we just made the flight. So it was quite a relief to be on board at last.

Imagine my horror when I discovered that we had been put four across in a row that was flanked by the bathrooms. If I put my arm straight out to the side I could lay my hand flat on the bathroom door. Ditto my daughter. So, as well as the pongy smell of airplane toilet all night, we had the squeek/bright light!/squeek/CLICK/tinkle/FLUSH!!!/click/squeek for eight hours. Not to discount being bumped by people waiting for the toilet (nothing says 'STAY AWAKE!' like a handbag to the face). Needless to say, noone got any sleep.

Eventually, we made our destination only to be told that the gangway had broken and we had to wait half an hour for a set of stairs to arrive. I have to say that at this point the behaviour did begin to deteriorate. When we finally made it out, walking across the tarmac in the pouring rain - yes, the string of lovely, summer weather broke that morning - it was with the relief of a rescued claustrophobic. Clearing customs and immigration was thankfully quick and we walked limply through looking for the sunny face of my sister.

Sadly, her car had broken down.

Air travel used to be such an exciting adventure, we even got dressed up for the occasion. Now I look at it the same way as I view giving birth. You look forward to the end result, while you are doing it you vow to never do it again, and then with time you forget the pain and agree to do it again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Wrote Mighty Mouse a Love Letter

My kids have discovered Tom and Jerry. They love it. Who could blame them?

But Tom and Jerry is our gateway drug.

It's on Boomerang, a 24 hour commercial free classic cartoon network. For better or for worse, "classic" basically means the stuff that I eagerly soaked up on Saturday mornings. Back in the day, there were only a handful of shows for kids on PBS during the week-- I remember stubbornly sitting through Villa Alegre, which was mostly in spanish, just for something to watch.

But Saturdays were a different story. All three networks had cartoons on on Saturday mornings. If you sat right up near the dial you could flip from show to show and maybe catch a "Dear Alex and Annie" or "Schoolhouse Rock" segment during commercial breaks. [And, yes, I said dial. Shut up. The first "remote" was still a couple of years away and even then it was really more like a typewriter connected to the TV by a wire.]

And the cartoons would run almost until lunch (and even beyond if you got desperate enough to watch Davey and Goliath, the even less subtle precursor to Veggie Tales).

I loved them all. I remember day-dreaming that my best friend and I would be the next Hanna-Barbera.

So.... is it any surprise that I'm having a hard time turning back to Disney, Nick Jr. or PBS for the kid's allotted TV time? The old shows, even though they were originally broadcast in order to satisfy the FCC's "children's programming requirements," didn't actually try to teach you anything. And they weren't all preachy and squeaky clean. They were just funny.

And they still are. In addition to Tom and Jerry, I'm especially enjoying re-watching Wacky Races, which pits a bunch of different cartoon characters against each other in various road races.

I had forgotten about Dick Dastardley and Muttley. Growing up, my brother and I co-opted "rassafrassa" and general incoherent under-one's-breath muttering (a la Muttley) to protest perceived slights. It's all coming back to me..... "En garde Monsieur Pussycat."

I'm off to go WishList the Laff-A-Lympics.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Teach Your Children Well

THE SCENE: The showers at our pool club. Two little girls were in the showers being helped by their older sister, while the girls' mother stood just beyond the spray shouting in helpful things like "Put on your flip flops!" and "Get the shampoo out!" A short while later, as my daughter and I exited the showers, we could hear the mother talking to one of her girls in the dressing room.

MOTHER: "Did you pee in the shower?..... Good."

I can only hope that the girl's response-- which I couldn't hear-- was no.

But the flip flop thing has me a little concerned.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Watching You Watching Me

We took the kids to a water park today. It turned out to be the best place to spend a 100 degree day. We all had a great time.

Part of the fun for me--as is always the case when I go to any amusement park-- was the people watching. Bathing suits only add to the fun.

I remember going to Hershey a few months after I had my little one. We left the baby at home with her grandparents so that we could make the trip something special for the new big brother. I was still wearing maternity pants and just felt all loose and gross and doughy. Because the baby wasn't with me, I was worried that nobody would know why I was all squishy.

[Remember, we've already established that I'm crazy and think people are actually paying attention to me and the things I do.]

To my post-partum delight, at Hershey my not-quite-fighting weight still qualified me for "lookin' good!" status.

There's not a lot of middle ground at amusement parks from what I've observed. Generally, people seem to fall into one of two camps-- either they are a Jack Spratt-type or they look more like his wife.

But it's not the relative sizes that are interesting. It's the pairings. And the ink. And the piercings. And the clothing choices. And the children (or are they siblings?). There are so many stories going on. As I wait on line I try to figure them all out. Sometimes I just try to take it all in and enjoy the show.

And, like I said before, throwing bathing suits into the mix takes the whole thing to another level.

We left all our dry stuff in a locker near the entrance to the park, which meant we spent the whole day in our suits. Evidently, I do not have the self-esteem that some park-goers have: I wore a simple one-piece with a rash guard over it so as not to actually catch on fire.

Because everyone is in a bathing suit you get used to being in one pretty quickly. We even ate our lunch--inside, at a table-- in our wet bathing suits. As we were leaving the restaurant, a large table near the door burst into laughter. The crazy me assumed for a second that they were laughing at me. Wait, that can't be, I reassured myself, because I'm practically wearing a burka and, besides, all the parts that are showing are my best parts.

Not so fast Private Johnson.

Turns out my inventory of parts was incomplete. A minute later my husband came out and informed me that my bathing suit had split up the back. ACK!

All the SPF and rash guards in the world couldn't save me from the color red I turned. I can only hope that it happened at lunch and not earlier (as in before I had climbed into inner tubes and onto water slides). Fingers crossed that all phones and cameras were safely tucked away in lockers.

Sigh. I'm going to be wincing about this for months.

Of course this only feeds the crazy. You're not paranoid if it turns out people actually are talking about you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sticky Business

My ubiquitous 4-year-old, Minx, is going through a new phase. Every weekday morning she is awoken at 5:30 by my husband going to work and refuses to go back to sleep. I've tried everything from threats to incentives to keep her in her room but nothing works. She JUST DOESN'T CARE. I settle for her coming into my room so that she doesn't wake up the other two kids but she never goes back to sleep. She fidgets, makes squeaky noises rubbing her hands slowly along the sheets, burrows to the bottom of the bed, and slithers feet-first off the bed inch by inch to escape downstairs and watch TV.

Lately, she has added a new segment. She has always helped herself heartily to the food in the pantry, leaving a trail of Goldfish detritus all over the sofa and floor in the family room. Now, in this warmer weather, she has discovered the joy that is the freezer. On Monday I lifted a throw off the sofa to fold it and discovered a bright green puddle with a wooden Popsicle stick laying neatly in the center. She must have hidden it under the throw when I came downstairs.

After a couple such incidents, I sent her to her room for a major time-out. She went rather too willingly and soon enough I discovered that she had bypassed her own room and gone straight to mine where she was lounging in bed, watching TV. So I took her and her piggy bank to Target where we bought a child lock for the fridge-freezer.

This morning, the lock was busted open and there was a bright red puddle (again, centered with a Popsicle stick) on the rug under the TV table.

This, too, shall pass. This, too, shall Pass. This, too, shall pass ......