Monday, March 31, 2008

12 Years Ago, March 29th at 1:38 am

Dear Samantha:
A couple of weeks ago I was trying to explain homework to Drew for the 17th time and he and I were both getting frustrated. I stood up and walked away while counting slowly to 10, and he spun elaborate schemes in his head about the possibilities of channeling Darth Vader to destroy long division. Then you came in. I was still pacing, “7…8…9…” and not feeling any calmer when you sat down next to him and started to explain his assignment kindly and patiently. He gave you his full attention and finished his homework in minutes.

At the beginning of the school year you decided to run track for the 6th grade team. With no prior experience and no other friends joining you in this quest, you showed up every day after school for six weeks of practice. Your windblown ponytail and pink cheeks revealed the hard work you were putting in, and I was so proud of you for trying something new. Aside from that one week where they got your name mixed up with that big German girl on your team and had your 55 lb. frame competing in the shot put, I loved watching your track meets. I will never forget the look on your face as you grabbed the baton in the final leg of the 800 Meter Dash and tried to catch up to the opponent ahead of you. The soft ripples around the dimples in your smile condensed into fierce lines that displayed a look of intensity that I had never seen in you before. I entertained the idea of not having to worry about you so much, because that kind of determination will get you a lot further than an 800 meter dash.

Yesterday I watched you walk to the front of the church congregation as the Bishop presented you with a certificate of advancement from Primary into the Youth Program. You recited one of the 13 articles of faith into a microphone in front of hundreds of people without batting an eyelash, and minutes later gave a talk in front of the Primary children without any notes. And it hit me - we sure have come a long way from putting bows in your hair with KY Jelly.

I’ve been watching you learn and grow in various capacities for twelve years now. You learned how to walk on our hardwood floors when you were 1, how to play tea party with Dad at Christmas when you were 3, and how to kick all our butts on Mario Kart’s DK Mountain when you were 10. And while I still believe you get your creativity from me and your apathy toward multiple sugary treats from your dad, in the end you are just you. And being a part of that is the real gift.
Happy Birthday baby girl.

Love,
Mom

Friday, March 28, 2008

A word of caution

If your oven has been unplugged and in your dining room for five days and was used in the interim as a prop to play restaurant, hold your Sonic trash, and provide a nice little niche for dirty socks to get lodged, I highly recommend that you conduct a thorough exam of said oven after returning it to its rightful spot in the kitchen. Otherwise, you might go to use it for the first time and start to smell something funny. When the smell becomes so strong you can no longer ignore it, you may open up the oven door and discover that you have been preheating the top of a shoe box. (Why? Why??) This is not only dangerous, but it can make your pizza smell funny.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hoof Hearted wins!

C'mon, admit it. You laughed!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dear Home Depot: Thank you for living just down the street from me.

Here's why I am cool. I worked for ELEVEN HOURS today purchasing, loading, painting, cutting, nailing, and caulking the new baseboards for my kitchen. I also put two coats of sealer on the grout. If you blindfolded me and turned me around thirty times I could still point you to the paint section and the lumber aisle at Home Depot.

Here's why I am not cool. In the 17 visits I have made to Home Depot in the last week I have only worn something besides my pajamas once. And that was worse, because my overalls, orange shirt and orange hat made me look like the long lost cousin of Mario and Luigi. Also interfering with my cool factor is my tendency to yell and throw things when my 13th attempt to cut a perfect 45 degree angle with a saw that is as efficient as a dull nail file goes awry. It's probably best that my children were at school most of the day. I said some things. Unfortunately, the family who lives behind me and homeschools their 8 children were not spared. "Children!" their mother barks to snap their attention back to their math instead of the flying miter box in the sky. She explains how the phrase "I am woman, hear me roar" was not intended to be taken quite so literally.

Finally I realized that the only thing that could save me (and perhaps the neighbors) were those three magic words: electric. miter. saw. I made some calls and managed to borrow one from a friend and I am telling you, the electric miter saw could not be a better friend if it took my calls and remembered my birthday. The baseboards are done. Oven is out of my dining room, refrigerator is out of my family room, and we will no longer have to eat breakfast at the table in the middle of the living room. I have my kitchen and sanity back. Perhaps I should make some cookies and deliver them to the neighbors.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Home Improvement for Dummies

There are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to laying tile to replace existing linoleum that went out of style about the same time as Atari. One, tile over the linoleum. Two, spend 17 hours ripping up old linoleum, install Wonderboard, and THEN you may tile, you gargantuan fool you have no business doing home improvement. I vote group #1. Mainly because it all depends on your definition of a "fool", and because I am not afraid of being called gargantuan.

Aside from finishing our basement, which was only done because of a friend of ours who told us what to do, tiling our kitchen is the most aggressive home improvement project Cory and I have ever undertaken, second only to dusting all the way to the top of the 20 foot ceilings in our living room. We almost called it off the night before we started because we discovered a water line that we couldn't shut off. Which left us with the following options:
a) Instead of removing the refrigerator completely, we would have to tile around it and work in stages. Pros: we would not flood our kitchen. Cons: I would not have full use of my kitchen until Samantha graduated from high school. And I might kill someone.
b) We could install a new valve. Pros: A decent option if you are “fix-it people”. Cons: We are not “fix-it people”.
c) Turn off the water completely for approximately four days. Pros: Again, able to avoid flooding in the kitchen while still removing the refrigerator. Cons: Despite Cory's attempt to decorate this option with optimism by saying we could "practice for a natural disaster and see what it's like not to shower for several days", I vehemently rejected this choice on the basis that I would again, likely kill someone. Only this time I would also smell bad, so I’d be easy to find.
d) Find an angel at Home Depot who helps you locate a gadget that will allow you to disconnect said waterline and cap it off. For only a few minutes and a few dollars your problems are solved.

We chose “d” with more enthusiasm than should be allowed to display for small copper parts. But seriously, when Cory showed up with that and made it work I have never wanted him more. We got all the tile down in one day, and were barely able to walk the next. But the kitchen looks awesome. A little grout and a couple more nights out at Chipotle and we’re in business.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Riding in cars with boys

I was driving a car full of boys home from school when Drew stuck his head out the window and yelled to a kid walking on the sidewalk:
"Hey brutha (brother) from anotha (another) mutha (mother)!"
Me: "Drew! Don't yell at kids out the window. And where in the world do you get stuff like that?"
Anonymous 1st grader in our car: "Well, sometimes we learn it from books. At recess I tell girls they are the sexiest, sexiest hottie. Uh...but don't tell my mom that." I resisted the urge to ask him what he had been reading lately, then admitted that I was totally telling his mom. Blaming his dad, but telling his mom.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I swear this is what they’re doing when we’re asleep

After days like today, I sometimes wonder if it was premeditated. I imagine Drew walking in our room at night, whispering our names, and when he doesn’t see us respond he knows we’re really asleep and he’s in the clear. He runs to Samantha’s room and jumps on her bed and wakes her up to have a little chat.

“Psssst!! Samantha!” he whispers loudly as he nudges her awake. She sits up groggily and rubs her eyes and asks Drew what’s going on.
“Well,” he says. “Mom seems fragile right now. I have a plan; I think we can take her.”
“I’m listening.”
“So, here’s the deal. She’s picking me and my friends up from school around 2:30pm. I’m going to ask her something that I know she’ll say ‘no’ to so I can immediately start some regular whining.”
Regular whining?”
“Yes. Regular whining. No door slamming or feet stomping, just the repetitive questioning of ‘whyyyyy’???? accompanied with a solid look of disdain and the crossing of my arms. Nothing serious.”
“Sounds fair.”
“Then, at some point my friends will have to go home. And you know how I feel about this. Whether it’s been 17 hours or 17 minutes, it has not been long enough and so I will say, ‘Awwww, but we just got to the fun part of our game where the Good Superhero takes over the world and sends all Bad Superheros to exile in a wasteland of lima beans!’ And she will say, ‘Sorry, but it’s time to go.’ Then I will amp it up, refuse to come down off the playhouse, and when she threatens to take away my Nintendo game I will come off the house but I will add the stomping of my feet and the furrowing of my brow but I will also keep with the crossing of my arms. It looks more defiant and more convincing of how unfair the whole situation is.”
“I see.”
“And after that we’ll pick you up from school, but we’ll only have seven places to choose from to sit for the whole two of us. This is where you come in.”
“All right.”
“So, I’ll sit in the middle seat, then you sit behind me in the backseat, and when I try to push my seat back you can yell at me for hitting your knees, proving to mom and dad once and for all that even if we drove an RV with 8 bedrooms, a trampoline and a spa we would still fight over which seat we sat in.”
“A trampoline sounds cool.”
“Stay focused. After homework starts I will start ripping up papers and pouting and refusing to communicate. When I finally ask for help on my homework, mom will sit down and try to explain it while I ignore her actual words and stare at the ceiling and tell her over and over that ‘I STILL don’t get it’ before she can even complete a sentence. She will lose her patience at about the 8th round of this.”
“Got it.”
“At this point, she will probably forget that she is the grown-up in the situation and start stomping her feet and ripping up papers like I did. She likes to prove how ineffective our own tactics are.”
“True.”
“This becomes the perfect time for you to start crying over the issue that has been bothering you for the last three months. I highly encourage loud sobbing from your upstairs bedroom.”
“I’m on it.”
“And we’re clear on the regular bedtime routine, right?”
“Business as usual.”
“Excellent. This should be fun.”
They conclude with their secret handshake and return to bed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Going Green

The way I see it, there's essentially two kinds of moms. The kind who bake shamrock sugar cookies and invite the neighborhood kids over to frost them and make dinner of all green food on St. Patricks Day, and those who don't. Which category would you like to guess that I am in? Well, normally you would be right. But not this time! Today I was one of the fun moms. Unfortunately I didn't remember that it was St. Patrick's Day until after I dropped Drew off at school wearing blue and brown. So really, I'm not so much cool as repentant; trying to find a way to make it up to my 7-year-old boy who was likely pinched and harrassed all day long. So we did all of the above, complete with a dinner of sugar snap peas, granny smith apples, pears, kiwi, green salad, and guacamole.

During dinner he had several questions, all of them ending the same way: Who is St. Patrick, me laddie? Are we celebrating his birthday, me laddie? How old is he, me laddie? Why does everyone wear green on his birthday, me laddie? And why do you get pinched if you don't, me laddie? And then it occurred to me, that in 37 years on this earth, thousands of dollars in college tuition later, I had no idea who St. Patrick even was let alone why we went through all this trouble. So I answered the only way I knew how, "I don't know. Finish your kiwi."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dinner with the President

Throughout my life I have always been fortunate to have great friends. When I was pregnant with my first child and about to quit working to become a stay-at-home mom, I was feeling a little apprehensive about the upcoming changes and was in need of a good friend. One Sunday we were sitting in church when I saw a new young couple come in and sit down in a pew across the room and I recognized the female counterpart instantly.

It was “Know-It-All-Head.” I recognized her from a college class we had shared. She always used to sit in the same spot and though we never spoke to each other, I nicknamed her “Know-It-All-Head” because she was constantly correcting and challenging the professor (a.k.a. the grad student who didn't really know anything but pretended to be an expert). At church that day it wasn’t long before we approached each other in mutual recognition and in accompanying mutual desperation, we made a date for lunch. We have been friends ever since.

Our friendship hasn’t been one of sheer platitudes and niceties. She tells me the honest truth, I tell her what I really think, then we toast our Diet Cokes and move on to more interesting topics like whether she should highlight her hair before or after her cruise. It’s quite remarkable. She is fiercely loyal, strong, opinionated, resourceful, creative, and smart. We can have conversations of equal length about the death penalty or whether to have a pirate birthday party theme for our kid. When we start a conversation with, “Real quick…” it is anything but. If one of us says, “Hey, opinion question…” be prepared to have a clear stance on the superiority of organic vs. regular, and if we start out with, “Can I just go off for a minute?” then get comfortable. As it turns out, Know-It-All-Head makes some good points.

So here’s the story. Several months ago my friend and her family were preparing to move and she was a little concerned that her strong personality would alienate her new associates at church before they really got to know her. So my husband made her a deal. For SIX MONTHS at church she couldn’t make any controversial comments, share any opinions, or make sarcastic remarks to the person sitting next to her. If she could go a whole six months, Cory would pay to take her and her husband to dinner at their favorite restaurant. [Reason #39 of why we are friends: Highly motivated by food.] The very first Sunday in their new ward would prove to be difficult when the Sunday School teacher asserted his opinion as doctrine, but others in the class chimed in and saved her from having to lose this bet on its first leg of the race. Week after week her challenge got easier, and she settled into emphasizing her easy going and pleasant sides.
Four months later she got a call from her Bishop.
Hours after that she called me. She was a little edgy. It was 10:00 at night, and she was ranting on about how something was our fault.
Apparently the Bishop had an important question for her. As in “We’ve been thinking long and praying hard and feel strongly that you are the person to serve as our new Relief Society President. Will you do it?” Tempted to question his propensity for accurate inspiration and by the way did you know I’m not normally this pleasant? she reluctantly agreed.
Sometimes I call her “President” to her face because I find the rolling of the eyes to be highly rewarding. When she gets hostile on the phone, I accuse of her not acting very presidential and I think she secretly loves that. But it has officially been 6 months, so Friday we made good on our end and took them to dinner. She now spends 15-20 hours a week on the phone or visiting personally with people to assess their needs and address their grievances. One of her biggest challenges so far? People telling her how “sweet” she is. I tell her not to worry, pretty soon they’ll know better than to say such things. In the meantime, I don’t think their Relief Society could be in better hands.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"I think guacamole would be good as a carbonated beverage."

Dad: Did you really say this at the dinner table while eating with mom? She says you did, and I believe her, because a) she never lies and, b) I used to live with you too. We think we know where Drew gets it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In my next life...

...I want to get paid to travel the globe in search of the world's best hot chocolate. And if that doesn't work out, I suppose being a price checker at the Dollar Store wouldn't be so bad. Oh, and I want to have a pencil sharpening fairy who comes once a month and goes through all my drawers and sharpens all my pencils and throws away all the ones without erasers. And I want there to be scissors in every drawer that are never missing, and when the fairy comes I don't think it would kill her to put my tape back where it belongs.

But so help me if she leaves her backpack and shoes in the middle of the floor when she comes she will be fired and her fairy days will be sooooo over.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vehicle Safety Features - Saving Lives or Driving You To Drink?

The way I see it, there are basically two groups of people: Those Who Currently Have Small Children, and Those Who Don't. Those Who Don't will come on to the scene of a child running half naked through a home while being chased by another child wielding a plastic sword high above his head and repeating threats recently overheard from a bad Saturday morning cartoon, and your visitor's eyes will get wide and they might ask if they have caught you at a bad time. Those Who Currently Have Small Children are confused by this, because this kind of activity is happening with such regularity that their senses no longer recognize that anything but Chopin is playing in the background. Because in the world of young mothers everyone knows that the real sign of catastrophe is not noise, but silence.

The opposite is true with cars. Now, I'm not gonna lie; despite my heretofore mentioned minivan issues, I love our new van. But so as not to disappoint, I'd like to share some of my outstanding issues. Namely, the safety features. My van, you see, does not trust me to buckle my seatbelt. If I so much as attempt to drive out my driveway without buckling up, it will beep at me. Six times, actually. In a row. As in *beep*beep*beep*beep*...you get the idea. Also, my van does not believe I am capable of remembering to close my doors. They are automatic, you see, so sometimes they take a while to fully shut. We can actually be sitting in the car, everyone fully buckled and ready to go, doors closing, but if they are not completely closed and I start to move the car, again with the incessant beeping until the doors are fully stopped. Know what else? My car does not trust me to come to a full stop while dropping my kids at school, so it requires me to be in "PARK" before I am allowed to open the doors. And if I try to open them prematurely? You know the drill. I will get beeped. And they will not open. UNTIL I AM IN "PARK". Essentially, my new car doesn't believe that I am capable of doing anything right and so it has to do it for me.
Holy crap.
My van is a democrat.

So here's the deal. Much like the mother of young children, I have started to tune out the noise. In this case, the beeping. I drive from my mailbox (located around the corner) to my house without buckling up and when it beeps at me sometimes I yell back in defiance. When I drop my kids at school in the morning, I start to drive off before the door is fully shut. It is my own special way of taking charge of my own life and not letting a huge mesh of metal and parts and digital technology tell me what to do. And it has only backfired on me once.
Like, Saturday.
When I was backing out of the garage and it was beeping because one of the doors was still open, but it was closing and so I ignored it. Except in this case, there were actually TWO doors open. And the other one crashed into the side of my garage which will now cost over $1200 to fix.
Sooo...that's kind of a bummer.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Not losers, just wieners

This YouTube video is too classic not to share, especially after yesterday's post. If you don't watch it at least twice I might be slightly disappointed in you, but I guess I'll never really be able to follow up on that. Happy Friday.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Wiener", Chinese for "Yes"

Drew has this thing he does where he likes to ask completely random questions that serve no purpose. Such as, “What if someone was 35 and didn’t know how to shower? What if someone brushed their teeth with a toilet brush? What if it took someone two years to say ‘One hundred’?” And just to illustrate how twisted his mind really is he added this one the other day, “What if someone was Chinese and ‘wiener’ meant ‘yes’? And then if my friends ask if I can play I could just say, ‘WIENER’!” Gee, do you think somebody's looking for a legitimate opportunity to say that word a lot more? Too much time with other boys his age on the playground, that’s what I’m thinkin’.

And then it reminded me of a Child Development class I took in college where for various reasons, the professor counseled us to use the proper names of body parts with our kids and not silly substitutes. Good advice for parents I suppose, but not effective in changing the behavior of 7 year old boys. Still, I decided then and there that when the time came I would heed my professor’s advice. Of course, that was before I had a boy and knew it would be used in casual conversation about 47 times a day. That was before I knew that my son would feign peeing on all of my walls and furniture so much that if it were real my house it would be declared unfit, a classification I am barely escaping as it is. That was before I knew he would be putting swords and light sabers between his legs and laughing hysterically at the counterfeit of the real deal.
Why?
Why do they think this is funny?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

You've got mail

I have learned that retrieving one's mail from the mailbox can sometimes be an emotional experience. The year was 1987, and NBC had just taken Remington Steele off the air. I wrote them a letter to express my sheer horror over the disruption of my Tuesday nights, and they wrote me back. (Still haven't written my Congressman about cracking down on internet predators, but NBC knows when they've let me down. I have nothing if not priorities.) I stood still at the mailbox as I read that they were sorry to be the ones to tell me that the world did not in fact revolve around me. I was 17, so this came as a surprise. Very disappointing.

Disappointing, but not quite as horrifying as getting the letter from the IRS at the ripe age of 20, notifying me that I was being audited for the tax return filed after my tenure as a waitress. Note to self: next time you work as a waitress, keep very good track of your tips. Like somewhere other than a post-it note you left on your dresser. And next time, be sure you tell your mother how much you appreciate her getting you out of that mess. (How DID you get me out of that mess?)

Then there were the days when Cory and I had just begun dating. I went back to California for the summer, but he stayed at school to continue making out with other women just to be sure I was still the best kisser working. Before the days of email, cell phones, and text messaging and somewhere in between pulling shenanigans with his roommates and shuttling workshop attendees up to Sundance, he found time to write me a few letters. Complete with references to the most recent MacGyver episodes and hidden messages written for me under the stamp, those letters were a highlight over those months.

The face of good mail days has changed over the past couple of decades. With the exception of December, a good mail day anymore might include a baby announcement, wedding invitation, pizza coupons or 20% off my total purchase at Bed Bath & Beyond. Or if I'm especially lucky, I might get an eye cream sample or a free diaper.

As for the bad mail days, I married an accountant so I only hear from the IRS when they are issuing us a refund. And the bills continue to arrive regularly, but I'm used to that. But one thing that I hadn't experienced until recently is that a piece of mail not only has the capacity to ruin my afternoon, but the ability to transport me back in time.
I got a letter, you see.
A blue postcard, actually.
From my high school.
They're telling me it's been quite a while since I left.
More like 20 years.
Twenty. Freakin'. Years.
And they want to have a party.
Looks like I'm invited, as are the other 527 of us with diplomas from 1988.
I consider that licking hot wax sounds less torturous.

The power that this little blue postcard has over me in this moment is a little surprising. I suddenly feel as if I'm standing in the hallway of my former high school wearing braces, leg warmers and blue mascara feeling awestruck by the moves of Michael Jackson who is, incidentally, still black at the time. The thing is, I don't like that girl very much and so I'd kind of like to keep her there. Let her stand there and be needy and insecure and captured in color in her yearbook on Nerd Day and leave her there in 1988. I have no desire to resurrect that girl and bring her to the Hard Rock Cafe in San Diego. I try to imagine if there are any circumstances under which traveling to this party might sound like fun. Maybe if Pierce were there. I wonder if he'd be interested? I should ask him. Maybe I'll write him a letter.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Wondering...

When an actor/actress gets a call from their agent announcing that they got the job on Power Rangers, do they consider that good news? And don't you think there's a little Red Ranger Envy on the set?