Thursday, July 18, 2013

"I'm Going To Have A Heart Attack And DIE Of NOT Surprise"

Life can be surprising.  Case in point:  Matt Lauer is still relevant, 48 hours is actually only a one hour show, and Maury Povich is still on television.  [Side note:  For the longest time I avoided reading Tuesdays With Morrie because I thought it was a book about paternity.  What a nice surprise to learn that it was about death and relationships!  Mostly relationships.]  Of course, none of these hit me quite as hard as learning that my best friend had never heard of a taquito, but that’s a story for another time.  I’m still waiting for news that Calista Flockhart ate a sandwich one time and that Bill Maher is dating a Republican but in the meantime I’ll just have to settle for, oh I don’t know, trying to find a sweet, ripe honeydew.  Keep those goals attainable, folks. 

Life also has a side that’s NOT surprising.  Like Lance Armstrong being a tool, Mama June wearing camo on her wedding day, or a 20-year-old marrying Hugh Heffner.  NOT for his money.  I’m also not surprised to see Miley Cyrus spiraling downward (Hannah Montana TRIED to warn her) and if I had a nickel for every time an NFL player got arrested well, I might make more money and serve less time than they do. 

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and misleads you with something you think should surprise you when really, it shouldn’t.  It’s like those $1/scoop Chinese restaurants.  You go in thinking, “Wow!  Really?  Only $1 a scoop?” and you pile your plate high.  Then about an hour later when you’re in the bathroom for the 7th time moaning for the Diarrhea Gods to show mercy you act surprised again, as if…come on, man.  You HAD to know.  It’s also kind of like me with running.  I actually enjoy running, which surprises no one else more than me.  I completely blew my own mind when we were on vacation a few weeks ago - the Cruise was sponsoring a 5K on the private island upon debarking and I GOT EXCITED ABOUT IT.  People.  You need to understand the significance here.  I got excited about something that didn’t involve the words, “cupcake”, “buy one get one free”, or “Hugh Jackman called back”.  Are you feelin’ me?  I talked Samantha into doing it with me and we had a lot of fun.  I was surprised how much faster I was at sea level.  I was not surprised at the amount of sweat dripping from my brow which could have re-filled the Caribbean.  I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that when I finished and arrived at the shore where Cory and Drew were parked, ripping off my shirt was like trying to pull a wetsuit off a sea lion in heat.  At that point I didn’t want to fuss with changing into my swimsuit because I was hot NOW, and instant relief was available only a few feet away.  So, down to my sports bra and shorts I was headed straight for the ocean and said to Drew, who was waiting for me to go in the water, “Alright, let’s go!”  He shrunk back behind the umbrella and said, “Um…does anyone else want to go?  I don’t want to go with mom anymore.” 

I guess when they say, “Life is full of surprises” it’s just a nice way of saying, “One day your adolescent child who sucked on your DNA for nourishment inside of your belly will grow up to eat all of your Cheez-Its and tell you thank you for this Caribbean vacation by dissing you at the water’s edge.”

Then again, I guess that shouldn’t surprise me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

There Is No 'I' In Camping. Wait...Aw, Crap!

I found out in October that I would have the "opportunity" to accompany 200 girls from my church between the ages of 12-18 on a week-long camping trip.  More accurately, it's not really an opportunity so much as it is a responsibility.  See fine print under the sub-heading, "Mormon Guilt".   It is now July, and camp is in one week, which means I have been trying to come down with the cholera for almost a year now.

People keep saying it's going to be fun, and I suppose it will be as long as I can convince myself that bathing isn't really my thing and singing songs about kookaburras makes me want to hold hands and shout for joy.  Problem is, I can't.  And it doesn't.  I'll tell you what makes me want to shout for joy is something called "soap".  Also, the Hyatt Regency.  Last week I drove up to the campsite with the other leaders (who are going straight to heaven after this) to check out the lay of the land.  ("Lay of the land"?  Look at me, I'm adapting already.)  So there I was, chillin' with my homies in the 'hood when up yonder (I'm so confused!) we saw something big and brown and furry.  The dog that accompanied us was going nuts, as dogs tend to do when coming face to face with a bear.

(No really, it's going to be fun!)

It was fine - the bear ran off, his chunky haunches lapping in the wind as he surged up the trail.  So that's what it looks like when I....  We continued our tour of the facility and before our morning was up we saw another bear...and another one...AND ANOTHER ONE.  Since then we have upped our game in the bear safety department and have informed our leaders and girls about what to do/not to do (no eye contact, walk away slowly, no food in tents, no scented lotions, B.O. doesn't smell as bad as being dead feels!) so I'm not worried because I know that teenage girls never overreact, especially when it comes to PMS'ing away from home when they are sharing tight quarters in the wilderness.  And did I mention?  WITHOUT SHOWERS.

It's going to be fun!

I'm naming him Kookabeara.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Hypocritical Oath

People always say they're suckers for men in uniform.  I admit I am one of those "people", especially when it comes to, say, Val Kilmer circa 1986.  Also, as much as I hate to give a nod to Tom Cruise because he is certifiably insane (obviously, because the "source" from People magazine is never wrong), but the guy can rock it when he's groomed from head to toe, there's a dewy glow along his brow and his steely gaze is fixed on saying, "Sir, yesSIR!"  (Now if he could just master the "Ma'am yes MA'AM!")  In addition to the uniform, men with badges also wield a certain appeal.  You can really tell how important it is when someone dies.  If you die and you have served your country in the military or community the picture that gets showcased on the nightly news is never the one from New Year's Eve wearing a sweater vest and Old Spice, it's always the one in uniform with the badges and the American flag hanging in the background.

However, despite the similarity of making oaths to perform duties to God and country, not all uniforms and badges are created equal.  For example, Scouts have uniforms and badges and yet they get no respect.  I guess we revere those who save lives and put away bad dudes more than those who clap in circles and give "rounds of applause".  Just a few weeks ago when we were flying home I passed a military officer down the airplane aisle so I caught his attention and simply said, "Thank you for your service."  But I would never single out a Scout Master and say, "Dude, thanks for teaching my son how to do blue darts."  When I worked a small stint at a photography studio we had mothers who came in all the time making their Eagle Scout sons wear their uniforms with all of their merit badges as an outfit to showcase in their senior pictures.  I always wanted to pull these boys aside and give them some hot wings and a Mountain Dew before going in so they could literally hold on to a little manhood before it was stripped away in front of the soft focus lens.  I imagined whispering to them, "Repeat after me:  I am cool like VinDiesel and one day I will have a girlfriend.  Say it."  They would repeat back, "I am cool like VinDiesel and one day I will have a girlfriend."  I would gesture a friendly smack on their butt and say, "Good.  Now go get 'em tiger.  This will all be over soon."  Regrettably, it never went down like that. 

It may not seem like I'm very high on the organization but the truth is, I support it.  I married an Eagle Scout.  I'm also in the process of raising one, and there's actually a lot of crap to do.  One of the requirements is that he has to have a certain number of nights spent camping with his troop, so he spent this entire week up in Rocky Mountain National Park passing things off.  His leaders are outstanding and they were very organized in letting us know the things Drew needed to complete beforehand.  We diligently hacked away at his list - he gave a speech, wrote a letter to "express [his] opinion" on a topic (and then the manager of our housing development called him back to say that the weeds in our yard were not his responsibility), prepared a creative introduction of himself (his rap was a big hit), and attended a public meeting.  The only remaining requirement was to "develop a plan to teach a skill or inform someone about something".  We had discussed various ideas and he assured me that everything was under control.  Unfortunately, "under control" is teenage boy code for "wait until 9:30 the night before and search for ideas on YouTube."  Which reminds me, I would like to amend the scout motto from "Be Prepared" to "If Momma Ain't Prepared Ain't Nobody Prepared".

Nine thirty.


I was not amused, but that's only because he hadn't yet arrived at the part where he was rummaging through the junk drawer mumbling, "Where are all the paper clips?"  He eventually found some and made his way toward me and said, "Ok, Mom.  Check this out.  I'm going to fold this dollar bill...and then attach these two paper clips.  When I unfold the dollar bill the paperclips are going to magically link together.  WATCH."  He unfolded the bill with hearty enthusiasm, paper clips went flying, and he almost ripped the dollar.  I observed in great frustration and mild amusement.  "Wait!" he urged.  "Let me try again."  NINE FORTY-FIVE.  He returned to YouTube and came back a few minutes later to show me how to hold a rope from both ends and tie it in a knot without letting go.  His right hand shot over his left, his left folded under his right, and he stood there struggling to get it right.  Samantha walked into the room to discover the scene, saw Drew fumbling and said, "Give it to me."  She performed the trick, threw the rope on the couch and triumphed, "There."  And then she walked away.  Drew ran back to the YouTube video to practice his tricks, and I returned to the couch and practiced not killing him.  Ten o'clock.

He got home last night so I've been gathering facts today about how things went.  "How did your skill teaching go?"  "Oh," he said.  "Well, it didn't work the first time because I forgot how to fold the dollar bill but I eventually got it right."  Communications Merit Badge - check.  As we speak he is upstairs arguing with his sister as they clean their bathroom, so I think he really soaked it in.

No respect.  There might be a reason for that....

Thursday, July 11, 2013

St. Thomas - The Island, Not The Priest

It was raining when we got to the much anticipated Coki Beach, but a guy with red dreadlocks and bloodshot eyes who was trying to sell me a $12 grilled cheese sandwich pinky swore me that it would stop soon.  He lied.  Stoners, man.  You just can't trust 'em anymore.  However, the thing about rain when you're in the Caribbean is that it doesn't matter that much.  It's like the lines on a Saturday morning at Krispy Kreme; in 15 minutes you're still going to get a hot donut so what's the hassle?  I kept glancing up at the grey clouds spitting droplets onto my paperback and sat amused thinking, "Sorry tropical storm, you're going to have to try harder."  Apparently the storm didn't know that the alternative to my being on the beach that day was doing dishes at home while Good Luck Charlie played in the background as my kids ignored their summer homework.  It also probably helped that my parents never fed me the line about rain being God's tears that He shed over my mistakes or that could have been a serious buzzkill.  In that case I may have exerted the effort to get up from my chaise to shake my fist at the sky and yell, "All right, all RIGHT!  I promise to call my mom as soon as I get home and confess that I DID call and vote for those dancers on TV back in 1983 and that those charges on our phone bill were not bogus."  (Hey, Mom?  You maybe should have tried that line about God crying.  Forgive me?)

To sum up:  Never hang your hat on the pinky swear of a hungover beach bum, snorkeling in the rain is not the worst thing that could happen to a person, and Good Luck Charlie is trying to kill my dreams.  The only thing that sucked on this island...their grilled cheese. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Drew's Clues

Drew was kind of on a roll this trip so we wrote down some of the funny stuff he said.  Here's a sampling:

"When a kid named Leland starts making fun of you that's when you know you've hit rock bottom."

"I'm willing to protest but I'm not going on strike.  A man has to eat."

"Tofu is like vegetable poop."

Unfortunately, at one point we passed a woman along the beach who didn't see the need to cover herself while breastfeeding.  I saw her first as Drew was walking behind me - I was hoping he wouldn't notice but it was too late.  As he passed her and realized what he was witnessing he grew wide-eyed and in horror confessed, "I think I just died right there."

While waiting for our flight home Drew was processing his withdrawal from the 24-hour access to food when we ordered him 10 chicken nuggets from McDonald's.  Five minutes later he said, "I'm still hungry."  The kid has grown an inch a month for the last year, so I believe him.  I bought him 10 more.  Five minutes later he said, "I'm still hungry."  I looked at him in dismay and he added, "Funny thing is, I haven't even pooped the others out yet."

He's a keeper.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cruise Part II - Cory Speaks Whale

Going on a cruise was a first for all of us, so there were a few adjustments.  First, the drunken sailor syndrome.  Before we left I couldn't really comprehend how the movement of traveling on a small city across the ocean would manifest itself, but there were times where I felt like I'd had one too many citrus souffles with grand marnier crème anglaise.  IF THAT IS EVEN POSSIBLE.

Secondly, I couldn't get used to being surrounded by people whose only job was to clean up after me and make me happy.  I noticed you had to take an elevator 6 flights and walk a whole half a yard to this all-you-can-eat buffet, you must be exhausted.  Would you like a fresh towel for your weary, propped up toes as you lunch by the ocean?  Have you had 17 mickey bars yet?  There's still 6 minutes left in the day.  Perhaps you would enjoy it more if you were poolside while watching a movie?  Or maybe you would prefer this plush, corner loveseat overlooking the ocean to read that book.  Are you getting so sick and tired of all those clean sheets being changed on your bed every. single. day?  Do let us know if all of that cleaning of your bathrooms while you're at the beach and leaving chocolates on your pillow at night is making you tired.  P.S.  I lied.  I could get used to it. 

Third, in contrast to my normal life where I jump when the phone rings because it startles the silence, I was constantly entertained.  You don't get bored on a Disney Cruise any more than you don't get head lice in a refugee camp.  Not even dinner time was low key!  One of the meals we had was in a restaurant on the ship called "Animator's Palate".  During dinner one night we found ourselves engaged in a live conversation via a virtual aquarium with the popular animated sea turtle from Finding Nemo, "Crush".  I don't know how they do it, but somebody, somewhere behind the scenes takes on the persona of "Crush" and he can see the people in front of him, so he talks to his audience.  (You may have experienced a similar activity at Disney's California Adventure.)  Anyway, "he" managed to single Cory and I out and after giving Cory some pointers on how to speak in "whale" (again, inspired by Finding Nemo) he had him stand up in the middle of the restaurant and tell me that he "adored" me...IN WHALE.  I think they expected him to shrink a little at the request but Cory owned it and bellowed something to the effect of, "KristEEee, I adOOOOre yooOOuu."  You could hear it echo to the surrounding tables and then he sat down to the applause of the onlookers.  It was awesome.  Never underestimate an accountant, y'all.

Other things that happened during "down" time:  I practiced my Spanish with a Chilean guest, won a prize from the jewelry store, watched Drew eat snails, danced merengue with our waiter, saw 4 musical productions, solved an on-board detective game, reunited a lost boy with his mother, forced the kids to learn salsa, and eavesdropped on some teenagers talking about their prom from the observatory deck.  Never a dull moment!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cruise Part I - St. Maarten

I think one of the hardest lessons in life after learning that actors can become politicians and two Fiber One bars can regulate a dormant volcano is when you learn that koala bears are not cuddly in person.  Next up is when you realize that your kids are about to leave home and render that whole Stay At Home Mom gig completely irrelevant.  I've talked about my daughter's impending departure from our home and how we hoped to engulf it in memories this summer here.  The best part is we still have a whole year to beat this to death!  Have I mentioned how much fun I am at parties?  At any rate, it seemed like the least I could do is follow up on that "Trip That Magic Bought" and give you some highlights and quotes from our excursion.  We were gone a week that felt like a month that we wish had lasted all year, and here's how it played out.

We went on a Disney Cruise to the Caribbean.  Are there any other words strung together in one sentence that could sound more lovely?  Other than, "Your kids will never suffer!" and "You just won a sectional from Arhaus!" it's pretty high up there.  I started off the week by taking notes on every dessert I had.  Let's just say that I had 29 desserts in 7 days.  Katherine Heigl had 27 dresses, Kate Hudson lost a guy in 10 days...they'll be making my trip into a movie any day now.  Our best food discovery:  Mickey ice cream bars delivered free of charge to your room ANYTIME YOU WANT.  Say I'm Angelina Jolie, and the Mickey Bars are orphans.  It was like that.

Early on our trip Drew noted an advertisement in our room with the name "Anders" on it.  He decided that was cooler than his own given name and told me we had made a mistake by not putting that on his birth certificate.  Later we had to chastise him for something and he responded, "Anders says he's sorry."  He's kind of a goofball.

Our first stop was St. Maarten where we signed up for an excursion to hike through the rainforest.  I envisioned plucking fresh chamomile leaves and petting chimps while maintaining a balmy glow along my forehead.  I neglected to envision that a 78-year-old man whose body would give out 1/4 of the way down the path would also sign up for this excursion and would result in Cory absorbing MANY extra pounds of weight to help this guy down the mountain.  Either we paid $250 for the world's lamest strength training class or we paid $250 for Cory to secure his mansion in heaven and we made some new friends.  We're gunning for the latter.  One thing is certain, we were bonded for the duration of our cruise.  Before our kids bailed and elected to run ahead of our struggling group we enjoyed a measure of comic relief when Drew said to Samantha, "If a tribe jumps out at us I'm handing over YOU as a sacrifice."

This is Cory and our new buddy, Glen.  His wife's name was Irma.  They've been married 51 years.  Also, Cory wears fedoras now.
The interesting thing about St. Maarten is that half of the island is Dutch and the other half is French.  Basically what this means is you can smoke pot on one side and go topless on the other, making it ideal for Justin Bieber but not our little Mormon family whose sole exposure to drugs and nudity is Tylenol and bathtime baby pictures.  So we headed for the clothing required side and made a break for the gelato stand.  We win.