Monday, July 26, 2010

You Should Probably See The Movie First

When it comes to movies, I’m not very deep or particularly bright. I’m all about the mind candy when it comes to films. This explains why I’ve seen “While You Were Sleeping” about 78 times yet still haven’t found the time to rent “Schindler’s List”. Also, a movie needs to ease into the plot in order for me to keep up. I need a good three handfuls of popcorn and a couple of leisurely sips of my soda before anyone starts shooting or using long words. If the opening scene is a guy chasing another guy with a gun I am lost right away. Which one is the good guy? Who do I root for? What is the conflict? Did someone forget to pay taxes? Or forget to tell his best friend that he was sleeping with his wife? Starting from the end and having to catch up feels like someone trying to tell you about the slumber party you missed out on when everybody went skinny dipping; while everyone else is blabbing about how funny it was and who jumped in first, you’re like, “Wait, what?! Whose idea was THAT? Was it dark? Was everyone sober? High on the artificial coloring in Cheetos? Was it a heated pool? Did anyone see you? Did you get in trouble?” It’s too late. You missed it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I saw “Inception” over the weekend. Everyone is saying what a good movie it is, and they’re probably right. They’re also probably smarter than I am. I didn’t quite get it – everything happened too fast and since I’m also not the annoying kind who likes to ask a lot of questions during movies, I just sat there going, “Why is there so much fighting in this person’s subconscious? And why does Leonardo diCaprio keep spinning a dreidel? Why is that guy tying up all the floating, sleeping people? They look perfectly happy to me. Wait, didn’t that guy die? I like Ellen Page, she just doesn’t strike me as the architect of the virtual mind type. She was more believable as a knocked up teenager. When is that van going to fall in the river already? Hasn’t it been like, 18 minutes when they said they only had 2 minutes to go before they all ended up in limbo?” Before you know it they’re all on a plane drinking cocktails as if nothing happened. I was all, “Dude, he just saved your LIFE! The least you could do is say ‘hello’!” I mean, after spending 10 years with someone in a dream don’t you think you’d at LEAST offer a polite nod over your glass of champagne? Then again, maybe it wasn’t actually 10 years in the dream. I didn’t get it, remember?

Here’s a perfect example of why I was too stupid for this movie. Near the beginning, the main character says, “What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.” I think I’m supposed to arrive at the same conclusion that he does in the same amount of time by following his thought process, but by the time he gets to the “why I have to steal it” part, I’m still thinking, “Have I ever known a resilient parasite? And does a praying mantis count? Because I can sorta see how that might work.” By the time I reconcile THAT, I’m on to wondering, “If a single idea can build cities, what does that say for Iowa?” By the time I figure that out, Leonardo diCaprio is holding hands with his dead wife, trying to explain to her that she, SHE, is delusional. (He’s such a GUY!)

From Inception:
You're waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You can't be sure where it will take you. But it doesn't matter - because we'll be together.

I still don’t get it. And for the record, I think it DOES matter where that train is going.

From While You Were Sleeping:
Jack: “Tell me about your Dad, what was he like?”
Lucy: “He was a lot like me, brown hair, flat chest.”

See? Now THAT I understand.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Teacher Becomes The Student

My hands are running out of fingers to count how many times another adult has complimented my daughter to me in the last few weeks. I have to say it is one of the coolest experiences of life to hear someone else say something great about your kid and I’m grateful to those who have taken the time to share their opinions with me. I’ve heard everything from, “She’s so sweet” and “My kids LOVE her”, to “She is a really hard worker”. They’re all true.

One of the things I have enjoyed watching her do over the last couple of years is hone her babysitting skills. Ever the great observer, Samantha took copious mental notes of all her babysitters and slipped them into basic categories of “cool” and “not cool”. The uncool ones watched TV and didn’t talk much or play with them while her favorites took the time to make cookies with them, play games, and some even brought bags of toys from home that were age/sex appropriate. Now when she goes babysitting she totes along her own bag of tricks containing, among other things, Pet Shops and lightsabers.

Last week when Samantha was at camp I got a phone call from one of her “regulars” asking if she was available for Saturday night. Unable to get a hold of her to ask, and knowing she wouldn’t be home until just a few hours before she would need to babysit, I wasn’t sure if she would be up for it. (Had she slept at all the last four days on that plush, inch thick sleeping pad she would have put under her sleeping bag? Had the girls in her tent caused drama? Did she get injured doing the high ropes course? Did she have to sing too many stupid camp songs?) I didn’t know, so I made the following deal: “Tell you what. I will say yes for her, but if she comes home and doesn’t feel up to it then I will be her backup,” the mom and I agreed.

After Samantha arrived home it became clear that she was NOT, indeed, in a good position to go take care of three little kids under age 5. I notified the mom that I would be driving over to do the job instead of her coming to pick up my daughter and we hung up. Two minutes later the phone rang and I answered, “Hello?”
“Uhhh…is this Samantha’s mom?”
A little boy was on the other end. A little boy who was expecting a young, fun 14-year-old to come babysit, not a has-been with crow’s feet and an aversion to Nickelodeon.
“Yes, this is Samantha’s mom.”
His breathing was a little uneven, heavy into the receiver as if laboring diligently to make sure I got the message. “Can yooouuu…weelll, I was wondering…could you bring that whip that Samantha usually brings?”
“Sure,” I promised. He seemed satisfied and then the younger sister got on the line.
“Aaaand, can you please bring the Pet Shops?”
“Absolutely,” I agreed.
The mom got on the phone and teasingly suggested, “Why don’t you just have Samantha pack you a little bag before you come.”

After hanging up I trudged upstairs to find a waning teenager on her bed, minutes from blissful slumber on a for real mattress. I explained my situation and the requests that had been made in preparation for her absence and she began to gather her things for me.
“What whip is he talking about?” I asked.
She pulled out one of Drew’s Indiana Jones whips and said, “Okay. Here’s what you do. You’ll go outside and the boy will have the whip. He will try to swing it at your legs and when he gets you, you fall down and play dead. It’s like tag, except he is always ‘IT’.”
“Got it.”
“Also, the middle child isn’t going to be nice when it’s time for bed. She will probably tell you she doesn’t like you, but don’t take it personally.”
“Okay.”
“She will also probably want you to lie down with her until she goes to sleep.”
“Right.”
“The baby is going to scream when the parents leave, but if she has her binky and her blanket she’ll be fine in a few minutes.”
“Cool.”
She patted my shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, “Good luck.” Then she fell back onto her bed.

I stood there holding Samantha’s Mary Poppins bag and wondered, for a moment, what I might be able to bribe her with to get me out of this. Too late, she was already snoring.

She is sweet.
Kids love her.
She is a hard worker.

It’s all true.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lest Ye Think That Animal Planet Is Suitable For the Whole Family

Cory’s been out of town and Samantha is at camp this week so Drew and I have been on our own for a few days. I believe these two facts and these two facts alone are the only way to explain how we ended up watching Animal Planet one night. Truth be told, we were actually watching “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network but as with any other show, the commercials inevitably come and one is left to choose the secondary show – the one to watch during commercials. So we started channel surfing and came across some of the following options:

Secret Life of the American Teenager (Since when is teenagers acting like sluts suitable for “ABC Family”?)
Billy The Exterminator (Do you wear leather and a studded dog collar? Are you comfortable in front of a camera? Do you ride a motorcycle and just happen to be good at vacuuming cockroaches? How would you like your own show? Welcome to the 21st century.)
Tour de France (Dear Lance: I stopped liking you after you got divorced a 2nd time and started dating a rock star. I think you are a fame whore who is also on the juice. Can’t you just go get a job at Home Depot or something and spend time with your kids?)
Countdown with Keith Olbermann (Hey Drew, wanna see what Satan looks like?) ((No offense to Satan.))

Scroll…scroll…scroll…and then, what’s this? “The Secret Life of Elephants” I said out loud. When Drew was a baby his favorite animal was an elephant. It was among one of his first words (a “no-fant”, he called it) and he carried around a plastic version that fit snug and secure in his hand at all times. So, as we paused on the title I shot him a sideways glance, shrugged a “why not?” and we selected it.

A herd of elephants was crossing a desert as a narrator detailed their moves. The male has followed her scent over hundreds of miles, finally catching up to her and the rest of the herd. But is he too late? Another male is already there - the two males face each other and begin to size each other up. (I'm curious: How, exactly, do you think two elephants size each other up? Is one thinking, “Dude, haven’t you ever heard of Weight Watchers?”, while the other one is contemplating, “Maybe if I sweep the leg….”)

What’s that? Oh. “Cupcake Wars” is back on. We follow it to another commercial before switching back to elephants and their secret lives. The fight is over. (Darn. We missed it.) The battle won, the male rests his trunk on the back of the female, a signal for her to STAY. STILL. (I think I know where this is going and I grow uncomfortable, but I wait for one more second. One second too long.) The male is done being patient [Abort! Abort!] I quickly change the channel, but not before Drew manages a, “Dude, that is messed up.”

That’s when I realized we may as well have watched “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”. Two guys fight over the same girl, the burliest guy wins, and the girl gets pregnant. Except elephants don’t have to pay child support, so I guess they’ve got that going for them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I had a friend growing up whose Dad was passionate about his after vacation slide shows.  If I ever walked into her house and saw the screen set up in the living room and her Dad on the floor, fiddling with controls, I knew I had to walk faster to avoid being cornered.  One strategy for avoiding the dreaded slide show was to mutter something about having "female issues" while rushing to the bathroom - from there, we had access outside through a set of french doors where freedom awaited.  Well folks, today I am my friend's Dad.  Except you don't need any clever excuses to get out of it, you can just go on to your next daily blog read if you'd like and I will never know.  For those of you who wish to pop some popcorn and stay awhile, here are some photos from our recent adventures.

Yellowstone National Park


This is Drew's Daniel Boone look - he wore that hat the entire 2 days we spent in Yellowstone!


Montana a.k.a. "Big Sky Country"


Family



Thanks Again to our Fabulous Hosts who made it all possible!


~ The End ~

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Facebook Status If I Ever Gave One

Remember what a STUPID movie "City of Angels" was?  I sorta forgot.  Wish I had remembered sooner.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reality Bites

It would be really easy for me to sit here and go through all of our photos from our trip over the last couple of weeks and post a few for your viewing pleasure. Eventually I will, but there’s something else on my mind and quite honestly, I don’t really feel like sharing it for fear that it will be judged in a way that I don’t intend. Nevertheless, there’s a nagging part of me that wonders if there aren’t a few who might benefit from knowing that sometimes Vern has bad days. Not in the, “I got a flat tire, earned a speeding ticket, gained 5 lbs and was called ‘Sir’ by the checkout lady” kind of way, but in a, “I feel like Eeyore on valium reading ‘Angela’s Ashes’” kind of way. I’m blaming my vacation. Not because it sucked, but because it was so, SO good.

Before we left I had been feeling an anxiousness to get out of my house – to see something new, do something different, be someplace where (FOR THE LOVE) something besides dishes, laundry and Disney channel were happening. And so we did. It had been planned for a while to reunite with Cory’s family, venture to Teton National Park, spend a couple of days in Yellowstone and then head to Montana for extended R&R. It was glorious! I couldn’t get enough. My SIL and her husband housed all of us in their home and they were unbelievable hosts. We launched water balloons, ate dutch oven desserts, played on the trampoline, bonded over the Wii, set off fireworks and played games. With seventeen people under the same roof on floor to floor air mattresses, I don’t recall a single tense moment or argument that broke out. We went to Jackson Hole (mountains!), Grand Teton National Park (more mountains!), Arby’s (curly fries!), and Yellowstone (don’t pet the bison!). We saw Old Faithful, watched real cowboys sing and play the banjo, ate homemade ice cream, rode bikes and roasted s’mores. Short of holding hands in a circle and singing Cumbayah, it was an All American road trip.

And then we came home. It was nice at first – familiar, comfortable. It smelled nice, looked nice, and other than the elevated temperatures due to being closed up for two weeks it felt nice. But once the laundry was done, the car was cleaned out and the kitchen was back to looking lived in, I sort of sank.
Familiar.
Comfortable.
ZZzzzz.
Everything has turned gray and flat. I don’t want to return phone calls, check my email, or get dressed. Dressed for what? So the boy across the street who’s ringing my doorbell incessantly at NINE FREAKIN’ THIRTY IN THE MORNING (has no one defined the rules of summer break to the child?) can go, “Hello Mrs. Vern. I see you took the time to apply a little mascara today.” I think not.

It’s not that I don’t have plenty to do, it’s that very few things I do fill my emotional/spiritual/intellectual reservoir; like eating a bag of marshmallows on an empty stomach.  I can’t shake the feeling that there has to be more for me, which is confusing because I have everything I need and a lot of what I want, so what the heck does “more” even look like? What is my problem? Am I just high maintenance? Ungrateful? Spoiled? Pessimistic? Impractical? How does a girl with everything she could possibly need in this life still find a way to be dissatisfied?

I told you. I should have just posted a shot of Old Faithful.
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P.S.  Congrats Ganelle for being the contest winner!  I'm curious though, when the internet votes you as the ugliest, do you still feel like a winner?  Oh well, nothing that Olive Garden breadsticks can't fix.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Contest Finalists

When I first started this contest I urged my friend Lorie to enter this picture:





She didn't and so I'm not going to make her eligible for the prize, but that's okay because the important thing is for all of you to see it and it just so happens that I have a copy.  In her defense, those are not her teeth, that is not her hair, and Wal Mart provided the parasol and the background.  Also, it wouldn't do her much good to win because she lives in the middle of nowhere and wouldn't be able to use a gift certificate at any of the places I offered unless she was willing to drive for a few hours.  However, she IS the cheapest person on the planet so I wouldn't put it past her to cross state lines for a Chili's taco. 

With that said, here are our finalists (read: the only people who actually submitted a picture):

First up, LYNN.  Lynn just so happens to be the woman who brought me into this world and has only once threatened to be the one to take me out of it.  She is one fantastic lady and contrary to the looks of this picture, she (as well as Bill Clinton) does not inhale.


Contestant #2:  KATIE - Katie's brother used to drive me to school in the morning.  He taught me about "burm shots" (driving the car up along the side of the dirt bank) and "E-slides" (using the emergency brake to accentuate the burm shot).  Can you imagine what Oprah would have done with that if it had caught on?  I'm thankful to be alive. 


#3:  ELISA - Elisa delurked specifically to enter this contest and I feel like that should be rewarded.  She's hoping you'll look past the mullet to see the eight cows within.


#4:  GANELLE - Ganelle gets mentioned a lot here on this blog and so perhaps you feel like you know her a little already.  You know how you listen to people on the radio and you imagine what they look like, and then you see a picture of them and they're not at all what you expected?  Well, is this what you expected?


Finally, contestant #5:  GINGER - This is what happens when you tell Ginger, "Sorry dude, but we're all out of chocolate chips."


There you have it!  Voting will take place on the sidebar - you have until midnight on Thursday!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Home

It was still light outside when we pulled into our driveway this evening around 8pm.  The neighborhood boys were still out riding their bikes when we drove up and with our windows down we heard them yell, "It's Drew!  Drew's home!!"  They followed behind us until we arrived at our driveway and Drew looked over at me, offered a quick nod and said, "Ahhh...my minions."  Last night's drive lasted four hours, today's route took a little over eleven.  We're glad to be home.  Tomorrow I'll post the finalists for our ugly photo contest but for now, I'm very much looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sneak Peek

In a period of twelve hours we spent the day in Wyoming, had lunch in Montana, and spent the night in Idaho.  The end of our two week road trip is coming near, and you've only a few days left to submit your ugly picture for our contest.  I even asked the bison in Yellowstone if he wanted to participate as he looked to be in an exceedingly foul mood (think Eeyore at a bar with Simon Cowell), but he declined.  It doesn't need to be the same for you - don't delay!  In the meantime, here's a glimpse of our recent adventures.

Awesome View - Jenny Lake/Grand Teton National Park


Best New Discovery:  Mrs. Powell's Cinnamon Rolls




I don't know Mrs. Powell personally, but I am pretty sure she and I were BFF's in the pre-existence.  Not because we share the same culinary expertise, but because I'm certain I would have sucked up to her.  The fact that she serves EXTRA FROSTING with her rolls only shows as further evidence that she knew me before.  I'm hoping we can become pen pals, and by pen pals I mean I hope she writes me soon to say, "Good news, I'm opening a store in Denver."

Our Favorite Spot In Yellowstone:


I felt bad for whoever was driving this car because let's face it, their dream is probably never going to come true:


What?!  The Mammoths get their OWN?


And here's Samantha saying 'bye for now!  Remember, somewhere in the archives of your photo albums lies a picture that makes you grateful you're not famous for fear it would one day be plastered on the big screen during your interview on "Ellen".  Since you're NOT famous, what do you say we plaster it HERE?  Send your pics to me quick at: vernmaster at gmail dot com.  Ciao for now!