Tuesday, December 28, 2010


My daughter just turned ten and, in her excitement, has taken to signing everything with her name followed by 'DD'. I only discovered this little gem when a (male) classmate's mother emailed me to ask what it stood for. In screaming hysterics, I assured her it wasn't an allusion to bra-size and promised I would find out. It turned out to be 'Double Digits'. Poor thing; even when I said that DD had another meaning, she guessed 'Dunkin Donuts'.

When I finally gave the giant boobs explanation, she was duly mortified and asked me if this was like the time she voted to name the newly-hatched class chick, Pecker. "Exactly", I said.

There's no way to walk the minefield that is our language without receiving at least a fleshwound but I'm trying to ward off as much embarassment for my kids as possible. They can recite most of the swear-word-alphabet (or say they can - for some reason they won't say it to me) but even there, Minx thinks the "s" word is "shut-up". More importantly, they fall short on the double-entendres and here's where I come in. There's nothing like a good British upbringing for finding rude hidden meanings in practically anything. I just have to tailor my talent to age-appropriate knowledge and remember that some prejudices must not cross the Atlantic (in America there's nothing wrong with the name Kevin). In fact, I fancy myself as a bit of a sapper, carefully seeking out and defusing verbal mines.

Speaking of which, I now have to go have a word with my son for making Minx sing Yankee Doodle, starting every word with the letter 'F'.

Think about it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Steak, Chicken, or Ear Plugs?

After much debate over what would constitute a fun, festive Christmas Eve dinner (last year's at-home cheese fondue having been more mess than success), we decided to go out to dinner at a Japanese hibachi place.

It was a perfect solution, really: no cooking, no cleaning, and a volcano made out of an onion. Merry, merry.

What we hadn't focused on is that we usually go to the hibachi place with another family, which means that our party usually fills a whole table.

On Christmas Eve, the four of us were joined by another family of four-- Mom, Dad, and two boys in their early 20's.

Guess what? It's actually pretty awkward to share a dinner table with strangers on Christmas Eve. The Club Med-bred side of me felt like we were supposed to engage them in conversation.

Fortunately, they were already talking amongst themselves. About one son's grades. Oy.

Now, depending on your point of view, I am either blessed or cursed with a highly developed talent for eavesdropping. I can't help it. I can't even control it. And, believe me, as dinner went on I was DYING to tune these people out.

As they discussed the son's two B minuses, two C minuses and one D plus, I tried very hard not to register my reaction. Adding to the awkwardness/hilarity of the whole thing is that in the midst of all this high drama the chef is juggling knives and tossing broccoli bits at our mouths.

Saving me from them (and myself), my daughter had to go to the bathroom (big surprise).

By the time we got back to the table, the stranger family had started debating politics. Dad assumed the loud, blustery, interrupting Bill O'Reilly/conspiracy theorist/what-are-those-liberal-college-professors-teaching-you role and the kids tried to point out the trouble brewing between North and South Korea and defend Obama. It was ugly.

Maybe I wouldn't blame the Dad for questioning anything that ever came out of his academically underachieving son's mouth (political or otherwise), but every time Dad was confronted with facts that he didn't like he would shout that he doesn't "have time to watch the news or read about all this stuff because he WORKS six days a week" (which later became "SEVEN days a week") and then he would blame Obama and the democrats for something. It was hideous.

Peace on Earth and goodwill toward.... Check please!

Monday, December 20, 2010

I've Got Mail (Damn it!)

I have communication issues. Unless someone is in my face, I just don't stay in touch well. Part of the problem is that there just is never a good time to sit down and have a quiet, uninterrupted phone call. The other part is that I hate talking on the phone.

To some extent email has saved me from being totally wiped off the holiday card list. It allows me to communicate at any hour of the day or night and not have to worry about screaming kids in the background. Or foreground. And my Blackberry makes email even easier. At this time of year when we are bombarded with offers from J. Crew, Restoration Hardware, and every online photo service in existence, it feels really good to erase 11 emails while standing in line at Starbucks.

Personal emails are trickier. I like the text-message-email, which has a specific question or request and can be answered in one line. Invitation emails are also fun, easy to respond to and paper-saving to boot. Obviously, spam is a big no-no (seriously, how many times do I have to put the Christian Singles Club on my delete list?).

Then there is the misplaced instant-reply email which gives false urgency to a friendship-maintenance-email: You get a message, you respond, and PING you get another email right back. No! No! No! I crossed you off my list! I didn't require a response but now that I have one, I owe you again. Basic etiquette must be to wait a few days, no? Otherwise, do you reply back instantly or wait a few days yourself?

I am such an ingrate.

What a Gwyndbag

Why oh why is Gwyneth Paltrow coming out with a cookbook?

It can't be the money. It can't be a big career move. It can't be that she fears she doesn't have enough media exposure.

Really, it has to be one of just a few potential reasons: the first is that she is trying to help me deflect some of my enormous hatred for Sarah Palin back on to Gwyneth, where it was cultivated and has thrived for so many years thanks to Gwyneth's inherent annoying fish stick-iness. Ladies, please, there's more than enough to go around!

The second possibility is that Gwyneth doesn't just come across like she thinks she is the cat's pajamas, she actually believes that she is and that others aspire to be just like her. And she wants to help them with their noble undertaking. What a generous soul! The cookbook would supplement Gwyneth's lifestyle website, the poorly named GOOP, where, as I understand it (lord knows I would never let any cookie anywhere register me as having visited the damn thing), Lady P. lets people in on all kinds of Gwysdom and Gwyfty Gwyft ideas. I just made those up, but I should totally file for the copyright before she co-opts them and becomes a macrobiotic Hasselhoff. Hoff with her head.

The only other thing I can come up with is that somehow, even with the acting career, the GOOP, the televised foodie trips with Mario Batali, the ruining Glee! for me, the yoga, and the celebrity matchmaking, she is bored. To which I say (cc: Jerry Seinfeld's wife), go spend some time with your kids! Help out at their school! Or do some volunteer work! Or get a dog! Whatever, just spare me from having to see your mug on yet more magazines and talk shows as you do publicity for the book. At the very least, please combine the book tour with the promotional tour for that movie in which you sing country music.

In case you think that Gwyneth can't possibly be Gwyneth in recipe form, here are a few lines from the book that were quoted on eater.com and that I masochistically read through:

"In the last ten years or so, cooking has become my main ancillary passion in life."

"The stove is really the epicenter of my house — I am never far away from it and most of the time there is something atop it, simmering away for my family."

"More often than not when I prepare desserts, I am thinking about keeping the sugar intake low, as well as limiting other ingredients that don't do us any favors."

"I am constantly thinking about ways to give my children something filled with as much nutritional value as possible."


Saturday, December 18, 2010

And to All a Good Night

After eagerly watching and waiting for my kids to clap, sit up, roll over, stand, walk, talk, feed themselves, give up diapers, get dressed on their own, catch a ball, throw a ball, hit a ball, wash their own hair, tie their shoes, snap, whistle, blow bubbles, read, write, and lose the training wheels, I have been completely blindsided by a milestone I hadn't even considered: last night both of my kids had their first "away" sleepovers.

And.... wow.

Success. On all fronts. Sure, my daughter ended up sleeping in her friend's mom's bed; and, okay, my son watched a wildly inappropriate Adam Sandler movie; and, yeah, they were crazy exhausted today. But-- and this is HUGE-- they both had a ball and my husband and I had a super date night that didn't end with a wallet-whomping babysitter payment.

And we got to sleep in this morning.

And they both went to bed early tonight without a hint of trouble.

A milestone to embrace. At least until we have to return the favor as hosts...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This is "Great"

No, seriously. How could I not have created this site?


(Sorry. I can't make the link button, you know, "work")

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear Santa ...

I vaguely remember writing letters to Santa when I was a kid, begging for that one item I desperately needed and then, like the kid in 'A Christmas Story', not getting it. Don't get me wrong, I was far from deprived, but there was definitely a disconnect between the fluff I wanted and the more practical things I got. Not so for today's kids. One of my son's friends (so age 7) was laughing about the iTouch he got for Chanukkah this year because (ha ha) he lost the one he got last year. Oh, and this one has a camera in it. Talk about the instant gratification generation!

On that note, I decided to publish my daughters' Christmas wish lists and see if you can guess which items will end up under our tree (my son didn't write one; he wants Santa to guess - great).

Wii Wipeout
Felt Coloring
Remote Control Car
Mocha Frappachino
TV in my room
Paint by numbers
Pedicure and manicure
Sour candy maker
To meet Mia Hamm
Building kit
Smelly stickers
Mind Flex
Poster of Mia Hamm

(she's good for the candy, stickers, art stuff and poster)

Minx (5)
Cooking sduf
Coloring books
Harry Potter play toys
los uv candy
100 dolrs
New York toy
I wont to see Snta
Wke up on sevin frde (wake up at 7:30)
COTTON CANDY MAKER (this seems to be a priority)

I'm not even sure what some of it is. And truth be told, I'd rather not buy any of it and give the money to Smile Train or Make A Wish or any worthy cause because my kids need NOTHING. But then I think back to that Weeble tree house I SO desperately wanted, or the Barbie head you could beautify, or the Bionic Woman action figure (which cost $9.50 and ended up taking me almost a year's worth of pocket money to buy) and, once again, I indulge. Just a little bit.

Monday, December 6, 2010

When Bad People Happen to Good People

A very dear friend of mine always has crazy-neighbor stories to share. Most of the people on her street are genuinely certifiable and I delight in hearing the latest loony installment. Then I got a crazy neighbor of my very own and the shine wore off: It's just too close to home.

The first couple of incidents occurred at preschool, where this woman's kid and mine were students. In front of the teachers and a classroom full of four-year-olds, she gave me a huge bear hug (that lifted me clean off the floor), followed by a threefold locker-room pat on the bum. What the???? A week later, waiting to pick up our children from school, she admired my Keratin-straightened hair and asked if I'd had my "other" hair straightened too. EWWWWWW! So inappropriate.

Over the next several months we reluctantly learned exactly what she did to earn a fabulous new pair of boots from her husband and how she tells her husband she would never cheat on him because she doesn't even want to have sex with him; she is "all dried up". The children at the bus stop look on with saucer-eyes.

The cherry (so far, at least) was this morning. She strutted down the road, butted right into a conversation about a play date, and announced that she was getting old. My heart filled with DREAD. We laughed politely and continued with our conversation. But she wasn't done.

"I'm getting old, y'know why?"
"No ..."
"I just did a wee-wee in my pants." (verbatim, I swear)

Thank God, the school bus picked that moment to arrive. We busied ourselves with saying goodbye to the kids, then hastily beat a retreat, shouting excuses on the fly.
"Not much of filter on that one!' my other neighbor whispered.
No filter at all.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Peel and Stick it

Dear USPS,

Seriously? This is your idea of festive winter holiday stamps?

Couldn't you at least have added some snow to those muted-tone boughs?

I feel like you've sucked a fair amount of joy out of the holiday card season-- both the sending and the receiving.

These stamps have "utility bill" written all over them.

Bah humbug,