QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

By popular demand...

Okay.. many of you have requested the "after" pictures from the big cleanup ( http://literallylaughingoutloud.blogspot.com/2009/03/things-have-to-get-worse-before-they.html). Someday I'll learn how to provide the link more gracefully.... (Wendy from On the Front Porch --http://wendysees.blogspot.com/ --has tutored me but I'm slow...). Here again are the before pictures...

The floor is there somewhere... this was actually taken before the worst of it... see my previous blog for the really painful picture.

yada yada yada...

That's a "desk"...

And now I proudly present the "after" photos, once again proving that bribery is good: (kinda anticlimactic, but I'm a happy mom):

He can use his desk for homework now!!

It's DUSTABLE now!!! (not that I do that...) Dusting sucks. Who has time to dust?

There is now a clear path to the window so that, when he desires to throw things at other kids outside, it is much easier...


This should last about 2 days?

Birthday boy under the radar

Okay, so… I’m officially the mother of a teenager. No longer will I be writing “my almost-13-year-old”; no, alas. My boy is 13 as of yesterday. We had a family and friends, “OMG-themed” birthday party for him over the weekend…. which was all my unassuming boy could handle.

Yesterday as I woke him to go to school, I paid him obnoxious attention:


Boy: “oh, thanks.”

Me: “Wahoo! It’s your day, buddy!!! Happy Birthday !!”

Boy: “yeah. Thanks. Okay, … mom? I don’t want you to bring cupcakes or brownies or anything to school. I don’t want anyone to know it’s my birthday… I don’t want my locker decorated, I don’t want people singing happy birthday to me… I hate that stuff…”

My thoughts: “wow did the apple fall far from the tree on this one.”

Me: “No WAY!!! Come ON, bud! It’s your birthday! YOUR special day! Let the world know!!”

Boy: “nah, mom. C’mon. please.”

What’s wrong with this boy? When I was that age I announced it to everyone I encountered:

“Hi – nice to meet you. It’s my birthday. Yup. Today. Wanna sing me happy birthday? Have a present for me? Have I mentioned it’s my birthday? Uh huh. That’s right. Today is MY birthday.”

Well, okay… I’m still like that. It’s our ONE DAY, for crying out loud. Milk it for all it’s worth, I say.

Not my boy. I picked him up from school, thinking for sure that he had told someone.

“So hey! How was your day?! Happy Birthday!!! Did you tell anyone? People knew, didn’t they?”

“nope. And it was cool because it was an 8th grader’s birthday, too, so that was a nice distraction.”

Insert moping mom face. How can you enjoy your birthday without the whole world’s knowledge that it’s YOUR special day?

Later in the day…

Me: “Okay, buddy… YOUR special day… where would you like to go for dinner?”

Him: “awww, that’s okay; we don’t have to go out to dinner for me.”

My thoughts: “is this kid for real?”

Me: “hey – you may not want to go out for your birthday but I pushed you out 13 years ago and I am not cooking.”

Him: “well, okay… someplace where they won’t all stand around and sing to me. And can I have a soda?”

Eventually he chose Five Guys, a burger joint… the husband and I had to stifle complaint that we wouldn’t be able to order a beer there, but we humored him. We came home and enjoyed ice cream cake in the privacy of our own home, and you’re darn right we sang to him.

So… I can’t imagine having such a low-flying birthday, myself… I like the attention I get on my birthday, I admit it… but he was happy. Hard as it is for me to accept as my kids get older, it’s not about what I want….my 13-year-old was happy, and that’s all that counted.

She's one of us now...

I’ve officially run my 8th marathon, and full of fanfare it was…. Although I had no intention of running a marathon in March, my sister-in-law twisted my arm. Last year she started a healthy eating kick, accompanied by exercise, so she started jogging… just a little here and there. And then a little more… and then a little more. After 4 months of running she announced she would run a marathon in the fall. More running…. More… moreMORE!!!! (insert sardonic laugh here). The week before the Philadelphia marathon in November, which I was also running, the miles she was logging had their revenge: she developed a horrible case of bursitis. For those of you who haven’t heard of this ailment, here’s what the mayo clinic website says:

“Whether you're at work or at play, if you overuse or repetitively stress your body's joints, you may eventually develop a painful inflammation called bursitis.
You have more than 150 bursae in your body. These small, fluid-filled sacs lubricate and cushion pressure points between your bones and the tendons and muscles near your joints. They help your joints move with ease. Bursitis occurs when a bursa becomes inflamed. When inflammation occurs, movement or pressure is painful.”

Ouch. Yup. That’s what she had. She ran the marathon anyway. She limped pathetically around the Expo the night before, determined to go her 26.2 miles… and yes, she finished!

I figured that was the end of my new running partner days, but then she mentioned she’d like to sign up for the National Marathon in March, and I am absolutely delighted that she has become the crazed junkie running addict that I am… someone who understands my love of running….the thrill of running through rain, ice, snow, sub-degree temperatures, heat and humidity…

We ran the entire National Marathon together, chatting all the way, without a goal except to enjoy it without bursitis – it was the first time I had run a marathon with a buddy the whole way, and it was fabulous to have company for 26.2 miles.

We piled up with the masses at the start and set off with the sounding gun. Unlike any other officially timed races I’ve run, the computer chip used to time us was only attached via runners’ shoelaces. Although I lace my shoes pretty well (there was recently actually an entire article written in RUNNER’S WORLD about how to tie your laces properly, and I was very proud to discover that I’ve been tying my shoes correctly now for 32 years or so…), fear still lingered that I would somehow lose the chip if a lace came loose. And so started the “chip check.” It’s fun to say. Try it now. (I’ll wait. Go ahead. Just say it. Chip check. The alliteration is thrilling). Every few miles I’d yell: “chip check!” and that would amuse us for a few minutes until we figured out how to get through the next mile.

Hopefully my sister-in-law still likes me, for as one runs along for 26.2 miles, at many points encouraging one’s partner (particularly after mile 20, but I’ll get to that), one blurts out many personal things about one’s self. Okay… I am very open anyway, but we had 4 ½ hours to kill, so I came out of the closet about some of the goofy things I use to keep myself going in a marathon. One of them is that (and this is a quote I saw… I can’t take credit for it) a marathon is a 6.2 mile race with a 20-mile warm-up. Those of you who do marathons totally get that. Everything changes at mile 20: your body, your mind, your enthusiasm, your soul. They all turn against you as you wonder why it is you just don’t stop.. and why it is you decided to do this dumb-ass thing in the first place. So… as we plodded through the miles I would count down the miles left in our warm-up, which perplexed our fellow runners but entertained us greatly.

After the first few miles I noticed she was carrying a banana which was becoming, inevitably, increasingly brown and, in my humble opinion, rather unappealing.

“Ummm…. Are you gonna eat that banana or what?”

She laughed. “Well, it’s my motivation now. I keep telling myself I’m gonna eat it at the halfway mark.”

Okaaay,” I thought… but before I had a chance to voice my dubious opinion of her plan, she blurted out, a little quietly:

“it’s my WILSON.”

Remember Tom Hanks and the volleyball in Cast Away?

This was too much for me. Everything is quite funny before mile 20, and this was no exception. And so Wilson the banana became our motivating mascot. Wilson did have a close call when we caught up with our family o’ spectators around mile 8; as we stopped to say a quick hello to the hubbies and kids, she asked her husband (my husband’s brother) to hold Wilson while she shedded layers. Seeing a disgustingly brown banana and having common sense, he chucked Wilson under the metro bus stop.

“HEY!” she screamed. “That’s WILSON!! Give it BAAACK !!” Sensing it was in his best interest not to argue, her tough-guy policeman husband hastily retrieved the brown banana and returned it to his crazed runner wife. So much for quiet…. But Wilson was back.

Every marathon has its creatively-dressed runners, and at one point we were rather steadily running behind a guy in a kilt and a tuxedo top. “Nice legs,” we commented. The cute chick running beside him turned around. “Not you,” we corrected.

Around mile 10 we turned a corner to be greeted by the very loud bang of a wrecking ball; yippee! For a block we had some pretty good entertainment of a building demolition – my boys would have loved it. After we passed 13, Wilson got digested (well, half of Wilson) and we plodded on. We ran up some slightly daunting hills where I revealed that I sometimes think of a giant hand pushing me up the hill. We arrived at mile 20 where I announced the start of the race, much to the confusion of those around us.

We were going over a huge bridge with a pretty steep rise over the Potomac River in Washington DC. “Have I ever told you I’m afraid of bridges?” she alerted me.

“But YOU dragged ME into this marathon… didn’t you look at the course? Hah hah,” I nervously chuckled. “Not much you can do about it now. C’mon… this bridge has been here forever.”

“That’s the ISSUE,” she pointed out.

“The view’s beautiful…” I offered. Whew. Down the other side and done. Note to self…

Everything was going pretty well until I noticed a bit of a decrease in energy in my trusty marathon partner… I had read about pacing team leaders and decided I needed to get creative about how to get through the next 5-6 miles.

“Okay,” I announced, “for the next 6 miles we’re going to have a theme for each mile. The first theme will either be “most embarrassing moments” or “the person who has had the most influence in your life. You choose: sappy or funny.”

“Funny,” she answered without smiling.

“Alright then… most embarrassing moments.” I started by recalling some of my more embarrassing moments in life and then turned it over to her. It worked pretty well. 5 miles to go. The next mile was funniest movies…we talked about TALLADEGA NIGHTS (“If you’re not first, you’re last”), OLD SCHOOL, AMERICAN PIE, and some others, and then our fellow runners joined in. That got us through a mile and a half or so. This was working pretty well!

Around mile 24 I ran out of ideas but at that point I could tell she wasn’t into the talking thing… it was taking all of her energy just to keep moving. So I tried something I read in a running book once (by Jeff Gallagher): I decided to pick out a person around us and make up a story about him. I won’t retell the story (you’re welcome) I made up about the poor guy in front of us (it was pretty pathetic), but it got us through about a half mile.

Then the rolling hills began. For crying out loud. At the end of a marathon. Was this someone’s idea of a joke? It’s like the scene in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK when Indiana Jones looks down into the pit at the only thing he fears: “snakes… why’d it hafta be snakes?” Hills… why’d it have to be hills? They weren’t little, either. They were steep, conniving, evil hills, and they kicked my butt. I was also becoming a bit nauseated by the powerade sloshing around in my tummy, but I didn’t admit to it.

We arrived at mile 25 and my marathon partner could smell the finish. She reminded me of my German Shepherd Sophie with her ears all perked, in full alert. Just as I was becoming increasingly nauseated, my marathon partner picked up the pace.

“What are you DOING?” I whined. “Where is all this energy coming from, you freak?”

“We’re almost there!” she gleefully and quite energetically pointed out.

“uh-huh,” I acquiesced. I was thinking of answering ala my son’s style: “whatever.”

She kept going, and I tried to keep up. At mile 25.2 I felt pretty sure I was going to toss my cookies, so I stopped to walk.

“Whatsa matter?” she asked.

“Keep going… I think I’m gonna hurl,” I admitted.

“I’m not leaving you NOW,” she valiantly offered.

“Nah. Are you kidding me? Go get your personal record, girl.”


“Yeah… go!”

Off she went. Good thing. Walking for a bit made me feel a bit better, and I finally started running again to finish the beast.

My sister-in-law shaved over an hour off of her time from her first marathon, and I couldn’t have been more delighted for her… This isn’t the most well written of my postings, but I have to say I’m quite proud of her and quite appreciative of having had a marathon partner. There is a certain amazing camaraderie among runners, particularly distance runners; it’s difficult for anyone else to fathom why anyone would push him or herself to run a marathon (or run a faster marathon), but we just all know. (My husband says: “I don’t even like to drive 26.2 miles, let alone run them”). One of the cool things about running a marathon is the human spirit you feel; you’re not only surrounded by other crazed running addicts who perfectly understand your love of distance running, but also surrounded by spectators who encourage perfect strangers to persevere. It gives you the warm and fuzzies about the world and its human inhabitants.

And now my sister-in-law is one of us… (insert evil laugh again).

Monday, March 30, 2009

One Moment, Please...

I've been a blog slacker!!!! Among totaled cars (the husband is fine - and it wasn't his fault!), another marathon, 13-year-old birthday parties (omg... today I am officially the parent of a teenager) and week-long trips to Napa Valley and San Francisco (no pity, please), I've been a little busy!!

Sorry for the paucity of blogs.... Just imagine yourself on a phone with a very pleasant woman who says: "one moment, please..." and I'll be right with you! The bad news is there has been no blogging... the good news is I'm accumulating boatloads of blogging material!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Another real quote...

This morning my almost-13-year old son came into my office after he arose from a good night's sleep; he must have been a bit groggy.
"Hey, buddy! Good morning!" I happily extended to him after my 2nd cup of coffee.
"Ya know what? You're gonna be 13 in 10 more days! What kind of cake do you want?" I asked.
"I want a cake with the kind of icing that makes you thirsty," he responded.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Please Hold...

So one of my worst fears came true… a conference call gaff.

As a preface, it’s necessary to know that, when one is put on “hold” on our company phone system, the listener is treated to a detestable, and very loud, array of elevator music tunes. There are no words, just an irritating, extremely loud bouncy tune repeated a million times. It would be more pleasant to stick a needle in your eye than to be unnecessarily and cruelly subjected to this happy, bouncy, loud elevator tune.

So… I had been on this high-level, “important” corporate task force team for months studying the ways in which our company could be more global. In the end, we had pulled together our research and ideas and were scheduled to present our findings via conference call, armed with a Power Point Presentation, to the CEO of the 10 billion dollar umbrella parent company. Not everyone who had been on the task force was included in the call, but I was very honored to have been requested to participate. The conference call dial-in was all set up, and we were instructed by our task force leader that, once we had done our part in the presentation, please to stay on the line so that the call with the big-whig CEO would not be interrupted by the audible beeps that chime when people join or leave the conference call. Easy enough. I was all set.

The day of the conference call arrived. When called upon, I submitted my remarks on our part of the presentation, satisfied that I had done a good job and was then quiet. Our portion was finished, so I muted my phone and just prepared to listen to the rest of the companies’ presentations. In the meantime, another call was beeping in, so I put the conference call on hold to answer it. I finished the call and hung up.

About an hour later, my telephone rang again. I picked it up. “Was that YOU who put the call on hold during the conference call?!!!!” the task force team leader demanded.

I was horrified. When I had answered the call that came in via call waiting, I had put the conference call on hold, thereby causing the bouncy “hold” music to infiltrate the entire big-whig CEO conference call. Oh my God.

The team leader laughed (thank goodness she likes me) and told me that they were in the middle of a presentation when the bouncy happy “please hold” music invaded the conference call, and all were stunned and confused… had someone put the call on hold? They couldn’t hear each other over the deafening happy tune. After a few minutes of confusion they all had to hang up and call back on a different conference call dial-in number. She said she had wondered if it had been I, but didn’t mention anything to the other folks on the phone, thank God. I’m pretty sure she has kept my secret, and I’ve learned my lesson.

Technology is a dangerous thing….call-waiting capability in the hands of those not trained to use it can have very bad consequences…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Things have to get worse before they get better, right?

The room-cleaning project continues... and this is an actual photo of my 10-year-old's room. Here is an actual quote from him: "hey - if you take away the stuff on the floor, my room has never looked better!"

I see wine in my future...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pigs are Flying...

Pigs are flying… my boys have been up in their rooms for most of the day so far “cleaning up” their rooms. I decided that, rather than haphazardly nagging them about it, I would sit down and describe to them, in solemn and copious detail, what needed to be done. Ordinarily when I nag them to clean their rooms, the connotation is that they need to get everything off of the floor to clear a way to walk to their beds and/or vacuum the floor. This involves very carefully taking anything that is on the floor and tossing it onto the bed, under the bed, onto the desk chair, onto the desk, into the closet, in a drawer, or against the wall.

The overwhelming mess is too much for my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) neat personality (see my “Honey Do” post: http://www.literallylaughingoutloud.blogspot.com/2009/02/honey-do.html. )

I generally bury my head in the proverbial sand and hope the rooms disappear into some other dimension. Alas, that hasn’t yet happened.

The urchins (boys) are home from school for spring break this week while I try to continue to work from home. They are bored. They are restless. They are boys. It is chilly outside. I have forbidden the constant watching of television. I frown upon incessant video gaming. Their neighborhood friends are in school. Their rooms need an overhaul. I saw my opportunity. I pounced.

I sat them down this morning, explained the issue (stoically trying not to get emotional), and handed each of them one garbage bag for trash and one for “stuff to give away.” 10-yr-old whined right off the bat: “…but I don’t wanna give anything away…” (This is true, I know. The kid wants to save not only the dollar store “gift” but the plastic bag in which it was packaged). I determinedly ignored him and catalogued the things that needed to be accomplished: reorganize their bookshelves, take everything out from under the bed, reorganize their junk baskets, clean out their drawers, get everything off of the floor… in essence, pick up every single item that currently exists in your room, evaluate and prioritize the necessity of its presence there, and establish an organizational system resulting in everything’s ending up in its proper place or in the trash can….

Awww, mom… why can’t you assign us this stuff on school days? We’re on ‘vacation.’ ”

“You don’t have time on school days.”

“We don’t wanna spend all day cleaning our rooms..”

A bribe and a few hours, later, I’ve created a monster and I’m a little frightened. Motivated by the knowledge that I will take them to see Race to Witch Mountain in the movie theater if I am satisfied with their jobs, they are upstairs in their rooms, quietly “cleaning.” Bribes are a beautiful, beautiful thing. Did I mention that they’re quiet? The usual, incessant cacophony typified by one’s constant singing and the other’s constant humming (never the same tune) has even been hushed; apparently they’re unable to multi-task.

Now… I haven’t been upstairs to observe the progress and/or process ( 1- I’m scared of what I may see and 2- I’m working), but I know what I hear and what they bring down to me.

Every 5 minutes (this is just an average), one of them plods downstairs exclaiming: “hey! Look at this! I forgot I had this…” At this rate, as they play with and marvel at every item they rediscover, I estimate that this project will take approximately 114 more days. So far they have unearthed (and these are only the treasures they have brought downstairs to show me) various sized-cups, some filled with unidentifiable liquid; a plastic iPod holder; a plastic spinning toy made at the Chicago museum of Science and Industry a few years ago; a snakeskin; various rocks, neon personalized golf balls, a Toblerone chocolate wrapper, a good luck charm I schlepped back from Beijing, a wooden candle holder crafted in cub scouts years ago (yes… a wooden candle holder); and an Easter basket. I have heard various beeps and whistles, at one point punctuated by my begging for the incessant beep to stop. The 10-year-old brought down the plastic iPOD holder (which was part of the packaging when it was new) and had an entertaining conversation with himself about whether to keep it… “hmmm. I probably don’t need this [gets ready to break it in half and chuck it] but then what if I’m traveling and I have it in my suitcase or a backpack and if I need some way to hold it so that it doesn’t break because after all it is kind of fragile because people have told me about theirs breaking and what if I throw this out and then I can’t find anything like this again… I’d better keep it.” I did open my mouth to contribute to the one-sided conversation but the effort was useless, thwarted pretty much immediately. There’s no interrupting the 10-year-old once he gets started on an elegant soliloquy. Do we all know the “This one time, at band camp, …” chick from American Pie?… that’s the 10-year-old. He’s my “this one time at band camp” child. One must tune him out if one is to accomplish anything at all during the day. (My almost-13-year-old unfortunately noticed my propensity to tune them out as he was speaking to me once. I hesitated, then asked: “is what I say always interesting to you?” He pondered for a moment, then responded: “no…. oooohhhhh.” Light bulb. Okay; I felt kinda guilty, but we all know realistically we can’t listen to our kids actively/effectively 100% of the time… or even 50%...If you’re one of those perfect parents who does, then you can’t be friends with me, your loss. And stop reading my blog.)

Anyway, my older son brought down the wooden candle holder, designed to house a votive candle inside a wooden box painted haphazardly in primary colors. He asked:

“Do you want this, ma?”

“Awwww…,” I answered (he had made it in cub scouts), “no.”

“What am I supposed to do with it?” he asked.

“My love, we can’t possibly keep everything you ever made when you were little. We could give it away?” I suggested.

“Well… who would want this?” he intelligently responded, [exactly my point...] “You’re throwing it in the trash can even as you’re saying ‘awwww.’ ” Lol. He knows me too well.

At one point as I was focused on a work email, the almost 13-year-old came down the stairs en media ras of the room clean-up, muttering, as he walked past my office, “I need some butter…”

“mmm hmmm,” I subconsciously nodded. Then I did a mental double-take… butter? Huh?

Turns out he had found an old mood ring a friend had given him and hastily shoved it onto his finger. Surprise, surprise. His finger had gotten larger in the 5 to 8 years it’s been since he’s known he owned a mood ring. Not to worry, a little Glass Plus saved the day.

It’s been hours now and they seem to be really dedicated to this project…. After lunch I did muster the courage to go up and take a look. Their rooms look exactly the same to me, no change whatsoever. I started to nag, but then I realized that, though it is slow-going and not at all yielding the results for which I had hoped, they nonetheless are occupied, quiet, not at war, and ostensibly cleaning up… maybe I’ll get them to clean out the garage next.

It was worth a try...

During the summer we frequent a fabulous restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland called “Fishtales.” Its location directly on the bay coupled with its kid-friendly atmosphere make it very popular and therefore very crowded. During the summer it’s not uncommon for them to have 2-hour waits and, notwithstanding their pirate ship-in-the-sand playground, it’s a humbling experience to wait 2 hours with children.

One summer after I fought my way through the crowd to the hostess stand toting my then-4-year-old on my hip, I gave the hostess my name and the number of folks in our party. She jotted down the information and, as she handed me the “your table is ready” buzzer which would lie silent for 2 hours, she told me that they would need “collateral” such as a driver’s license or car keys to hold the table.

Without missing a beat I hoisted my son onto the hostess’ counter as collateral, thinking delightedly that this was a win-win situation: they have their collateral, and I have 2 hours of peace.

The hostess frowned. Alas, this form of collateral was apparently not acceptable. Without any sympathy whatsoever (how empathic can an 18-year-old be toward a tired mom?), she informed me: “you’re not the first to do that.” Bummer. I thought it had been pretty clever….

Defeated, I meandered over to the bar to order a margarita on the rocks with salt.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Miscellaneous memories of a weekend past...and looking forward to the week that will be...

Rather than a themed idea today, I find my mind is a mish-mash of thoughts; why not write the same way?

Highlights of the weekend: the good and the bad...

- Accomplishment of some of the stuff on my "long-term" To Do List (yes, I have one). Yahoo! I cleaned out the coat closet in the foyer (okay, the husband helped a little), wherein we discovered jackets we hadn't worn since college and a WHOLE lot of dog hair on the previously unaccessible floor of the closet. bleagh. Also in the mix: vacuum bags from a vacuum long since deceased, now antiquated dial-up moden cables, very cute polo down vests that are too small for my boys now (first friend to read this blog and notice that they're now available for their smaller boys gets them!), and a tampon in a jacket I haven't worn in 10 years (darnit! Why couldn't it have been a $20 bill?) I also did my sewing after 6 months... took me awhile to find the clothes I had stuffed out of my sight that needed mending, but I did it! (Mom, your pants are ready).

- The Terps men's basketball team rode over the bubble to get a bid to the NCAA tournament! Good for the Terps! The season began quite dismally; however, they pulled themselves together to get a #10 seed and be one of 7 ACC teams to compete the in the big dance this month. Let March Madness begin!

- I started a new 1,000-piece puzzle on the card table in the family room; this makes me feel like a good mom even though I end up hogging all of the puzzle-doing... and ignoring the poor husband

- World War IV erupted in the basement last night between the boys. The husband and I were watching Hitch when I began to hear some rather unpleasant rumblings below. I paused the Tivo. "It's starting to sound nasty down there," I observantly remarked, as voices were reaching never-before decibels and clues that it had become physical were becoming obvious. The valiant husband proceeded downstairs, broke up the fight, and sent both boys to their rooms to bed (8:30 pm).... after which my almost-13-year old continued to make the "rational" argument that it wasn't fair to get sent to bed for fighting. (Just a note here... the parenting books all encourage us to allow siblings to manage conflict on their own unless/until it gets physical. Clearly these authors don't have boys. It's always physical, for crying out loud). Almost 13-year-old's argument was that it's our responsibility to settle the disputes rather than punish them... on what planet has he been living? I dunno... In the end, I went up to tuck them in around 10 and found them sleeping in the same bed, all buddied up. The secret to promoting sibling love is to punish them both, thereby allying them against the evil parents.

- A rousing game of Taboo was played with my brother and sister-in-law-to-be, us and the boys. Game blurtings are frequently funny, especially when wine is involved, and this evening was not an exception. For those of you who have never played, Taboo is a game in which one attempts to get his/her teammates to guess a certain word but is not allowed to say 5-6 related words. There is, of course, a timer. Here were some words:

"glasnost" - the husband picked that word and passed...

"strategy" - my sister-in-law-to-be won the prize for this one: "uh... this is an idea... about other ideas... within a framework of ideas...." hee hee.

- A new recipe I tried, Enchilada Casserole, got a thumbs' up by 5 out of 6 people. My 10-year-old thought it sucked and refused to eat it. When I encouraged him to try some of it, he appeared to be dying, choking on scum, unable to breathe, and mothered by the most evil woman in the universe. I'm happy to report he is alive and well and has had his Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast.

- I finally got my new neighbor out running with me! She was a cross-country runner in high school and currently runs on the treadmill since she has twin 5-year-olds and a 3-year-old. We did a very pleasant and fun 3.11 miles... I did a very nice 8.3 miles in the drizzle yesterday and, as I ran through a neighborhood next to mine, a man on the sidewalk yelled out to me: "hey - I just saw you running through town [3 miles from here]... shouldn't you be dead by now?" I love that stuff...

- My 16-year-old microwave died. God Bless it. It has heated up everything from midnight nachos during our early 20s to baby formula (but NOT breastmilk, of course! Microwaves kill the nutrients in breastmilk as I recall fuzzily from 10 years ago...). sigh. Goodbye, microwave.

As for this week... my boys are home from school for spring break. If I were techno-savvy, I would have a sanity meter displayed at all times on my blog; no doubt it would reflect the deteriorating state of my mind as the week progresses. Alas, I am not that techy... Just please wish me luck.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Beer is Good

A friend sent a funny email to me today, and this was part of it.

Here is the value of beer, as explained by Cliff Clavin, of Cheers.

One afternoon at Cheers, Cliff Clavin was explaining the ' Buffalo Theory' to his buddy Norm.
Here's how it went:

'Well ya see, Norm, it's like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first . This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells.. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest a nd weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you alwa ys feel smarter after a few beers.'

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stick Shift Memories...

You know those times when you’re sitting around with a group of friends talking about embarrassing moments? I used to tell a story about how, as a rookie driver, my first car was 5-speed stick shift; I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, but 5-speed cars 1) got better gas mileage (important in those 89-cent/gallon days, huh?) and 2) were less expensive. Stick shift it was!

I sort of learned as I went along, but I was in luck because I lived in the suburbs of Chicago, where the land was (well, it still is) blessedly flat. Some of you who have never driven stick-shift, nor do you ever care to drive a stick shift, are scratching your heads… what the heck does flat land have to do with anything? There are others of you already chuckling because you have first-hand experience at learning how to drive a stick shift and having to stop and restart while going up a hill.

As a beginner, even on flat land, it’s quite a precarious balance, learning just the right amount of gas to give it while you’re letting the clutch out ever so slowly. Give it too much gas, and you peel out…. Too little gas, and you putter out. We beginners have all been at a red light that turns green with our patient fellow drivers beeping at us from behind as we restart the engine after having given it too little gas.

So… I was sixteen, a sophomore in high school, and I was quite excited to drive to school daily rather than take the dreaded school bus. One morning as I was driving the flat land to school, I happened upon a boy on whom I had a tremendous crush. He was a walker. All aflutter, I stopped to offer the cute boy a ride the rest of the way to school. He opened the door, heaved his backpack in, and plopped himself into the passenger seat. The butterflies in my stomach were going crazy. Oh My God!

With measurable anxiety I managed to get the car going with a decent clutch/gas combination that neither propelled us violently forward nor extinguished the engine altogether. Everything was going fairly well, conversation included, when I made the last turn toward school.

I froze.

There in front of me, the only thing between us and the school, was the one and only hill between my house and high school, complete with a traffic light at the top of the hill. The school building was literally not 100 feet more past the traffic light. I was so close! oh my God. Please please please don’t let the light turn red. I promise I will not talk back to my parents anymore. I promise I will be nice to my brother just PLEASE let the light stay green so I don’t have to stop on the hill. Please oh please oh please oh please oh pleeeaaassse!

The light turned yellow.

NO! In milliseconds I considered whether I could possibly make it through the light…but not a chance. Unsuspecting cute boy had no idea of the contemplative storm going through my head at lightning speed.

I stopped, defeated, my head dipped in gloom. Why did I go this way? My spirits sank. Cute boy kept chatting, oblivious to my impending doom. As if things could not get worse, a car pulled up practically to my rear bumper, making it so that I could not roll back even inches without hitting it. Dear God; why hast thou forsaken me?

The light turned green. Determined not to roll into the car behind me, I opted for the too-much-gas option over the not-enough-gas choice. We lurched forward, my tires screeching loudly, and completely peeled out going through the intersection. It was like NASCAR, only I wasn’t being sponsored.

Cute boy was absolutely stunned into silence for a moment, caught his breath, then blurted out, at the top of his lungs: “JESUS CHRIST!!! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT SHIT?!!” [apologies for the cussing; I just can’t phrase it euphemistically without losing the very essence of the outburst].

It was time to reconsider who I would ask to be my date for the Turnabout dance the next week…

That’s the story I used to tell… but now I have a new one. I’ll tell you about it next time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Adventures at the Dog Park

I just returned with Sophie from the Dog Park, and every time I come back from the Dog Park I’m inspired to blog about it. It’s hysterical to me.

I’m not a “regular” there, because Sophie runs with me; that’s enough exercise for her. I took a running day off today, however; my muscles are still a little tired and sore after a 20-miler 2 days ago and a recovery 4 miles yesterday. When they’re still sore and tired after a recovery run they’re saying: “yo. Chill, babe.” So I am.

I digress, though. I wanted to talk about the Dog Park….and so I shall.

We pulled up to the Dog Park and Sophie was immediately STOKED.

OMG!! I LOVE this place!! Ready? Ready? Ready? Ready? C’mon c’mon c’mon let’s get outta the car…”

Today as we approached the 2-phase gate to enter, the pack which was already there smelled new blood and came to greet us. Any time a new dog enters, all dogs cease all activity, no matter how enticing, and swarm to check out the newbie. Sophie was thus ceremoniously greeted. It was a free-for-all with each dog trying to be the first to catch the unique aroma of her rear end, and Sophie simultaneously attempting to catch whiffs of theirs. (Ron White, a stand up comedian, tells the story of traveling with their dog and the hotel has a “dog concierge” who comes around and offers services for the dog. Among the offerings were “aromatherapy” for the dogs. Ron jokes that they should have “ass candles.” Llol)

Every visit to the dog park has the same components: there is always a canine bully; there are always big dogs, little dogs, cute dogs, ugly dogs; dogs with smart owners; dogs with no-so-smart owners; there is always a toy hog; and the people there have no kids.

Today’s bully ID’d Sophie for the wuss she is immediately. A Rottweiler mix chased her over to the nearest corner, pounced on her, and held her there WWF style. Sophie is a full-bred German Shepherd, yes – and the biggest wimp on the doggie playground. She likes to chase but not wrestle. Once the playing deteriorates to wrestling, she is outta there. “Whoah, there, manly Rottweiler… okay. Heh heh. Ya got me. Yup. You’re dominant, big boy; you win. Uh… may I get up now?”

Clearly disgusted from the lack of challenge she presented, the Rottweiler let her up, wandered over to the Dalmation, and promptly snatched the deflated soccer ball with which it had been playing.

“Ha ha!” the Rottweiler’s owner nervously chuckled, “sorry ‘bout that…”

Sophie next began searching for her perfect playmate: anyone who wouldn’t tackle her and would be content to be the chaser or the chasee.

A black and white speckled cockapoo then entered and was immediately immobilized by the curious canine crowd. The barking began. From the time it entered until the time it left (far too long), the cockapoo hung around the edges of the canine play sessions barking incessantly. I can only imagine what was going through his little doggie mind: “hey guys! Can I play? Can I play? Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh?”

Sophie finally found a couple of Labs with whom to run. This time she was the chasee; she happily ran in large circles, tongue hanging out, periodically resting behind the various benches which grace the Dog Park.

In the meantime, a smallish yellow Lab had predictably picked up a mud and drool-covered ball and rope toy and was prancing around in front of the other dogs, dangling it like candy dangerously close to his fellow canine buddies and then psyche! Off and running with it. Whereas previously none of the other dogs had noticed the toy, now they were all green with jealousy. “Ah, man. She is so lucky!” This happens with every visit – there is always a dog that picks up a disgusting toy that has been left at the Dog Park and turns it into that “must have” object of desire. It always reminds me of that Eddie Murphy Saturday Night Live skit? The “you ain’t got no iiiiccceee cream” one? The thing is… I find this funny… and whenever I mention it to the fellow dog owners, all standing around watching their dogs with a keen eye, no one else gets it.

At this point now we have 3 Labs all chasing Sophie, who is getting a little tired and would probably like to stop; alas, she cannot. The Labs have too much energy. There is the smallish Lab (I know – a lot of Labs today – 5 in all) toting around the coveted, drool and mud-covered ball and rope toy, the Rottweiler repeatedly stealing the deflated soccer ball from the Dalmation, and the cockapoo barking at the entire scene….

Every so often an owner will perceive his dog misbehaving and admonish him or her: “Oh, Bella… come on. Play nicely.” “lol. Hank, cut it out, boy.”

…When in walks the Coonhound. Immediately surrounded by the other dogs upon entering, the Coonhound unceremoniously ignores all of them and obsessively/compulsively begins his tour of the Dog Park on his own. “I MUST smell everything here before beginning… oh my… it’s a bit overwhelming.” He circles the entire Dog Park, periodically stopping to mark his turf, and then at last decides he might deign to play with some of the other four-legged creatures there. He walks over to a fellow dog owner and, before the unsuspecting Lab owner could react, pees on his leg. I am not kidding. The Coonhound’s owner is not paying attention, so the Dalmation owner sheepishly says: “um… he just peed on your leg.”

“Oh my gosh…” says the Coonhound owner, incredulously, “he’s never done that before. I’m sooo sorry.”

And so goes another blog-worthy adventure at the dog park, with dog owners anxiously standing around just like parents at a playground, comparing dog-parenting anecdotes and swapping advice and making sure everyone is playing nicely in the sandbox.

I can’t wait until our next visit…
PostScript: Anyone who enjoys personification of dogs as I do might enjoy Merrill Markoe's Walks in Circles Before Lying Down, a novel giving voice to dogs and whose protagonist works at a doggie daycare. It's light, fun reading and will make you laugh.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brussel Sprouts?

Now that you, my faithful reader(s) (thanks, Mom...lol), think of me as a cereal-eating, candy-usurping Mom who is derelict in grocery shopping duties, I will proudly tell you what I cooked for dinner last night.


Brussel Sprouts.

Yes; you read correctly. I served my 10-year-old and almost-13-year-old boys (and 40-year-old boy) brussel sprouts! The fresh kind.
I can tell by the bewildered look on your faces that I need to explain...

My nightly standard vegetables consist of fresh broccoli or fresh spinach. Apparently my children are tired of these vitamin-packed nutritious vegetables. I can tell by the volume of whining audible each night. I do a good job, too, sauteeing them with garlic and a little bit of olive oil or butter. The boys don't think so. They are T-I-R-E-D of broccoli and spinach.
"My gosh!" I exclaim exasperatedly. "It's not like they're brussel sprouts..."

"We want brussel sprouts!" came the chorus without hesitation. "Anything but broccoli or spinach!"

"Fine," I snorted... and off I went to the grocery store the next day to purchase fresh brussel sprouts, which I have never, in my life, cooked before.

I found a fabulous recipe online; many thanks to the host of 101cookbooks.com, who provided a delicious recipe involving ingredients I have in my kitchen! Brussel sprouts (obviously!), olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Voila! (Here's the link: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/goldencrusted-brussels-sprouts-recipe.html)

Who'd a thunk it; they were a huge it! The only criticism? I didn't make enough!

There you have it, folks. Brussel sprouts and delicious can occupy the same sentence.

Mea Culpa

I am ashamed to admit it. I am addicted to my kids' Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. Once General Mills took the hydrogenated oils out of it, it became admissible in the household. It has made school morning breakfasts more manageable. No more hemming and hawing about what to eat for breakfast, no more arguing about whether the whole wheat frozen waffles were digestible. It's all Cinnamon Toast Crunch.... except when Mom has finished off the box. It is sooooooo yummy! I used to babysit for my next-door neighbors as a teenager and they always had Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in the household. I used to eat it for all my meals there as I babysat. I guess they thought I was a decent babysitter, because I babysat quite frequently notwithstanding the rapid disappearance of Cinnamon Toast Crunch while I was on duty.

My kids know whom to approach when anything that tastes good in the house is all gone. "Mom!! Where is my chocolate bunny that the Easter bunny brought me?"

"umm... uh..."

"Mooommmm... did you have another chocolate attack?! ugh!!"

"I'm sorry, guys. Tail's between my legs."
"Mom! You have to buy me a new chocolate bunny... and you owe me Reese's peanut butter cups from Halloween!!"

Last night my ten year old was pumped to enjoy a nice bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream right before bed time.... uh oh.

(It was delicious!)

back to the grocery store.... Good thing I'm a runner...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Real Conversation:

I walked into my almost 13-yr-old son's bedroom this morning; I knew he was awake because I could hear him singing. I climbed in to chat.

"You are always singing," I pointed out the obvious.

"You know those theme songs in movies that go along with the scenes?" he matter of factly questioned.

"Yeah," I answered.

"Well there aren't any in real life so I make my own."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Caution: I Work from Home

For the better part of 12 years I have worked for a major corporation from my home office. It has its perks for sure, but there is never a down moment. Challenges include not working all the time, dealing with my wonderful friends who call and expect me to be able to chat because I’m home, the dog, and the kids. Most significantly, I live in fear that I will not be muted on a group conference call.

About a year and a half ago when our dog Sophie was a puppy, a well-meaning, dog-loving colleague of mine sent a squeaky toy as a puppy gift. I was leading a fairly serious conference call with co-workers on the phone, and I was trying to juggle the mute button effectively. Sophie, like all 5-month-old puppies, had to go outside to go potty quite frequently. I would try to ask questions requiring a long answer, hit the mute button, run outside with the puppy, and make it back inside the quiet of my office in time to unmute and continue the call. This all went swimmingly until Sophie eyed the new squeaky toy lying innocuously on the floor across the room from me . Horrified, I saw that she had noticed it. Panic struck. My life went into slow motion. We both lunged for the squeaky toy simultaneously. Alas, I fell back, defeated. All of a sudden, in the background during the call, there were these very loud, sporadic squeaks which started low in pitch, rose to a crescendo, then fell again slowly at inconsistent speeds. I didn’t know what to do except laugh and explain the situation amidst uncontrollable background squeaks, feeling quite professional, indeed. It’s much easier now that she’s destroyed the squeaky toys altogether and has to potty much more infrequently, but every once in awhile, as my boss will attest, I’ll be on the phone and she will burst into a barking frenzy, stoically protecting me from a cat passing outside or a child walking home from the school bus. I am the safest home worker in the world!

Other harrowing times my kids have been home during a conference call, and inevitably they have erupted into what I would euphemistically call World War III in the background of the call. We all know that it is like trying to stop the earth from spinning to attempt to squelch a siblings’ argument, and it is rather even more impossible when one is stuck on a conference call. When this happens I have no choice but to get as far away from the boys as possible, unable to discipline them while I’m on the call. I’ll typically end up in the freezing cold (or squelching hot, depending on the season) garage or even outside so that my colleagues are not treated to the background squabble. It’s nice when conference calls fall on temperate days, to be sure. No matter, they find me. My desperate attempts to communicate wordlessly, via my eyes or flailing arms: “I am on a conference call for work; put your hands in the air, and back away slowly. Cease and desist” fall on blind eyes. It is no use. They will hunt me down and involve me in the argument, each angrily pleading with me to punish the other, notwithstanding the importance of my need to pretend professionalism on a conference call.

Indeed, all mothers know that children are like magnets to us as soon as we get on the phone, whether it’s a work or personal call. They could be outside playing with their best friends on a beautiful, warm day; the ice cream man could come along. It matters not. They employ a sixth sense which tells them that we are on the telephone now: “! … My mother is on the phone. I must GO to her now. I must ask her questions. I must speak to her NOW.”

Sometimes, neither the dog nor the children is problematic; instead, I go about my daily business if I merely need to listen rather than speak. You know those calls in which you must participate, but not actively? I fumble around the house doing dishes, running the water, pouring coffee… and after a lot of coffee….. I am terrified that, one of these days, the mute button will not be activated.

In the meantime, I persevere, ever mindful of the mute button’s status and ever protected while working…

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dear University of Maryland,

Dear University of Maryland,

You are quite fortunate, indeed, to be able to display the simple, unobjectionable colors of red and white as your school colors. I went to a high school whose colors were the abominable black and orange (guess what our mascot was?!), and there are educational institutions whose colors are even more hideous (although none comes to mind at present time).

Although admittedly I've been a fair-weather fan of your college basketball team this year (come on; you have had some pretty pathetic losses to below average teams...), I have caught a few games on tv. After having watched these few games, I have one comment:

What's with the loathesome gold uniforms? wtf? Our colors are R-E-D and W-H-I-T-E. Yes, the beautiful Maryland state flag has gold on it; however 1) it is a much prettier tone of yellow/gold and 2) it serves to complement the red, black and white colors. It works for the Maryland flag.

Bright, puke-gold uniforms do nothing for the players, nor for the spectators. The sad part is, these invidious uniforms are unnecessary! Some schools are stuck with odious colors, but we're lucky! We have red and white!

Change is bad, very bad!

Can we please have the old uniforms back?

Thanks very much!


A troubled, admittedly fair-weathered fan.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Snow Days...

So many moms, myself included, hold ourselves up to these ridiculous idealistic expectations. June Clever, Carol Brady, and Martha Stewart have just messed it up for the rest of us.

Today is a snow day, conjuring idyllic visions of children playing in the snow, throwing snowballs, sledding, frolicking, playing with the dog who loves the snow so much…the family cuddled up, spending quality time together.. fire in the fireplace.

Here’s what really happens…

The alarm goes off… I crack open an eye, fumble for the remote control, and verify that school is, indeed, closed due to the 3 inches of snow outside.

The husband goes off to work.

The kids sleep in until 9ish… and then the sibling wars begin…

“Get off of me,” I hear from the 12 ½-year-old’s bedroom.

“Get out of my room!!”

“Mooooommmm! Make him get out of my room!!”

“Mommy! He punched me!”

Ahhh… a snow day.

I hunker down at my computer to work and bribe the 10-year-old to shovel the driveway. We negotiate a bit; he wins. As far as I’m concerned, the benefits of having the boys separated AND the driveway’s getting shoveled are priceless.

While the 10-year-old gets ready to go outside, the 12 ½-year-old informs me that he has a demonstrative speech to give tomorrow; do I have any ideas? (He has known about this speech all year long).

I roll my eyes, sigh, and navigate away from my work emails to google: “demonstrative speech topics.” I suggest a few ideas that he can ponder while I go back to work.

Moooommm! Where are my boots?!”

“In the garage where they’re supposed to be,” I answer calmly. And I haven’t even finished my first cup of coffee.

Back to work…

Moooommmm! I can’t reach the snow shovel..”

The dog barks, knowing that signs are in the air that someone will be going outside. She doesn’t want to be left behind.

I go out to get the snow shovel. “Put your coat on.”

“I don’t need a coat.”

“Yes, you do.”

“It’s not cold out.”

“Cold is a relative term. It’s 29 degrees outside; I think that qualifies as weather necessitating a coat. Put on a coat, no arguments.”

“Then you’ll have to pay me more.”

I’ll omit my reaction to that statement…

(the dog is now barking incessantly. The phone rings. I cannot answer it because I cannot hear.)

The 10-year-old, at last, goes out to shovel the driveway. He has his coat on. I have not increased his salary.

I sit back down at my computer to tackle work that actually pays me. I actually get 5 minutes in…

“Mom – I picked a topic. We need to go to the store for some supplies.”

I drop my head to my desk, then slowly pick it up and sip my coffee. Thank God for coffee (and wine).

I let the dog out to be with the 10-year-old. She is barking, unceasingly, at the snow shovel, prompting the 10-year-old to insist that she come back inside.

“Sophie!” I yell… “No! If you keep barking you’ll have to come back inside.”

Sophie hears: “Sophie! No! blah blah blah blah,” and barks some more.

“Mom we hafta go to the store…”

[Calgon, take me away….]

I pour myself a travel mug full of coffee and off we go to Michael’s craft store for supplies, leaving the 10-year-old to shovel industriously.

Upon returning from Michael’s, the driveway, I must admit, is pretty well-shoveled. The walks, however, are still snow-covered.

I enter the house: “what’s up with that?” I question the 10-year-old.

“I’m tired,” he explains.

(At this point the two boys enter an argument as to what amount of energy the shoveling of the driveway and the walks exacts from a human body. Predictably, there is no clear winner in the erudite debate).

It is, by now, mid-day. Thank goodness I have no conference calls scheduled.

I earnestly encourage the 10-year-old to finish shoveling the walks and direct the 12 ½-year-old to write the outline for his speech as well as practicing the demonstrative aspects of it (he will be demonstrating how to fashion a native American dream catcher).

I now have a good hour or two to work while the 10-year-old shovels (with great drama and pretense of being near death from the caloric expenditure) and the older son works on the speech. Aaaahhh.

Then.. good feeling’s gone. Moments of peace are a memory. Shoveling finished, speech mostly finished.

“Why don’t you guys go out and play in the snow? Go sledding?”

“nah. The hill’s too far away.”

“How about if you make a snowman?”

“Snow’s too dry.”

Sigh. How about some hot chocolate?

More of the same occurs… and, needless to say, not much of my paying job gets done.

I get dinner going and the husband walks in.

“Hey!” he says animatedly, clearly energized by having had his entire day with grown-ups and not having been interrupted, “did you read the article in the paper about blah blah blah?”

“No,” I answer, “I didn’t have time to read the paper.”

Maybe tomorrow...

And so another snow day has come and gone…

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Quick laugh

My 10-year-old son has extremely fine, sandy blonde hair. Bed head, for him, resembles a bird's nest mostly confined to the back of his head, where all of the fine hair gets pushed up as if it's been teased for a Broadway debut in Hairspray.

Last Friday morning was no exception. He came downstairs with a perfectly normal, combed-looking front and a crazy back. This did not bother my son. He is not out to impress anyone in 5th grade, apparently. When I expressed dismay that he would go to school with his hair looking that way, he simply replied: "oh c'mon, ma... it's just business in the front and a party in the back!" How can I argue?