Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Problem with New Year's Resolutions

If you are looking for a way to ensure your failure at something, I suggest you make it a New Year's resolution.

I can usually make it 15 hours into the new year before realizing that I've already failed. I spend more time thinking of new resolutions than it takes me to break every single one. It's taken me years to make this connection, but this year I plan to make my resolutions accordingly.

Since I am now convinced that I cannot keep a resolution for more than 24 hours, I'm shaking things up in 2012.

I have no plans to exercise more and eat right. Screw those green things called vegetables! This year I vow to eat as much trans fats as possible so by year's end someone will need a crane to remove me from my home. The only serious exercise I plan to do will be to run from the freezer section of my local grocery story to the checkout line in order to get my Haagen Dazs ice cream home before it melts.

As for financial planning? Ha! Last year's resolution to save more and spend less still led to my eventual hemorrhaging of money. This year I may just wallpaper the playroom in crisp twenty dollar bills. If I have any money left over after that remodel, I'll send the extra to members of the United States Congress. They are obviously under compensated for their efforts!

Which leads me to the act of giving generously to those less fortunate. Charity is an important addition to any list of New Year's resolutions. This year I'm donating to Wall Street. The last few years have been hard on bankers and big business. They need our help. After all, businesses are people too, right?

As for the earth and my previous years' plans to recycle more and go green, isn't healthy air and clean water overrated? Plus, is there really such a thing as global warming? And while we are talking about propaganda, let me just say that it's time for whales to learn to save themselves. We cannot be expected to do it all!

Just the thought of limiting the use of foul language, causes Tourette's-like symptoms. @!$"#%^£!!

Good luck making and keeping your New Year's resolutions!  I, for one, am already committed to the failure of mine.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Turtleneck Christmas

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. Now they, and all of their contents, are strewn around the living room as if they were unwrapped by sleep deprived children who had nothing but a Christmas cookie, a cinnamon roll, and a donut hole for breakfast. Wait, that is exactly what happened!

As my children's pores actually seep sugar, I am reminded of Christmas past. After celebrating 39-ish Christmases, one comes to realize that some are simply more fruitful than others. Of course we all know the true meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the items carefully wrapped under the tree, but the gifts are delightful nonetheless less!

I remember one Christmas when I went downstairs and discovered the Barbie Dream House. Santa outdid himself that year. My 5 year old brain nearly exploded with excitement when I saw it had a working elevator. Ken and Barbie were finally homeowners! The three of us were so happy!

I also remember a Christmas when I was 12 or 13 years old. I was becoming less interested in toys and more interested in clothes. Among other things, I asked Santa for a turtleneck. Well, Santa outdid himself that year, too. I opened a white turtleneck, a cream turtleneck, a mother of pearl turtleneck, a red turtleneck, a crimson turtleneck, a scarlet turtleneck, a green turtleneck, an olive turtleneck, a forest green turtleneck, a black turtleneck, a black mock turtleneck, a grey turtleneck, and an orange turtleneck. I'm forgetting a few because I am nearly certain I received 15 turtlenecks that Christmas.

I watched as my younger sister opened a present. She received a cool new board game. I unwrapped a turtleneck. She opened a box with costume jewelry, and then I unwrapped a turtleneck. She opened a box of art supplies, and then I unwrapped a turtleneck. She unwrapped a a box of Christmas chocolates, and then I unwrapped a turtleneck. You get the picture.

I was old enough to know that no one should cry on Christmas. Tears on Christmas really anger Santa! Truth is that I felt like bursting into tears around turtleneck number 6. By turtleneck number 11, however, I gave into the humor of it all.

I've never seen my father so angry at Santa! I started to feel bad for Santa. Poor old Santa! He had been delivering items to good little boys and girls for years. He was bound to make a mistake like this at some point. Santa felt horrible (I have it on good authority), but you can't possibly expect Santa to get it right all of the time.

To this day, my family still laughs about the Turtleneck Christmas.

I was reminded of Turtleneck Christmas this morning when my son unwrapped two identical Mario Brothers toys within 10 minutes of each other. He was thrilled the first time he opened one of the gifts, but he was puzzled and confused when he opened the second identical one. All I could tell him was, "At least it's not a turtleneck!"

May you have a lovely Christmas filled with all of your favorite things even a turtleneck or two!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Birds & the Bees

Recently my son asked me, "Did you do a mating dance when you met daddy?"

"No, but your father did."

Apparently my attempts to have Animal Planet educate my son about the birds and the bees is more complicated than I initially realized. It's cowardly of me to approach reproduction this way with my son, but I'm still traumatized over the discussion I had with his sister years ago.

It was a day like any other. She was probably around 6 years old. She looked up from her chicken nuggets and asked, "So, Mom, how does the baby get in there?

"What?" I ask. This is my 'go to' response when my children ask any variety of questions. "Can I have a slumber party?" "Can I have glitter?" "Why are your legs prickly?"

I fake hearing loss in a vain attempt to avoid answering the question. "What?" buys me valuable time to think while my child re-asks the seemingly innocent question.
"How does the baby get in the mommy?"

"Well, when two people love each other they get married. When they are married, they have a baby." I've been giving her that answer since she was 4. Of course, 6 year olds are much smarter than 4 year olds. Yes, my answer is overly simplified and full of stereotypes, but it's consistent with my childhood upbringing. "Jenny and Chris sitting in a tree, k - i -s- s- i -n -g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Jenny with a baby carriage!"

I'm pulled from my memories of the sing-song rhyme by my six year old's dogged determination to get to the bottom of this mystery. "But how does the baby get in there?"

I repeat my standard response, and I can tell my child is beginning to see that her mother is not as bright as she once thought. She begins talking vveeeerrrrrrryyyyy slllllooooowwwwlllllyyyy because she can tell I'm having a hard time understanding her.
"Mom, I knoooooow that. But how does the baby get in the mommy's belly?"

"When two people love each other, it's like growing a tree. The man plants a seed in the woman and a baby grows." Why I've resorted to comparing sex to tree farming, I'm not exactly sure. I blame my own mother for that one. She, too, told me I started off as a seed. I always worried when I accidentally ate any sort of seed that I would mange to grow a tiny person in my belly and wouldn't that be hard to explain to my kindergarten friends! Plus, how in the world would the tiny person be able to crawl out of my bellybutton? Certainly that is the exit door, but it's just so tiny. Or worse, what if I actually grew an apple tree in my belly? That would certainly be both painful and embarrassing! Did I mention I was a remarkably naive and stupid child?

My daughter continues to chew on her nugget while looking expectantly at me. I should add here that, for reasons I don't completely understand, I am now sweating and looking for the best way to exit the dining room. Did I leave the oven on? Is someone at the door? I think the phone is about to ring. Damn telemarketers can't call when you need them!

"But, mommy, how does the seed get in there?" Ohhhhh, she is a persistent and inquisitive child!

At this point, I am reminded of the Verizon commercial with the man who has 100 people behind him. "Can you hear me know?" I think what a benefit this could be to parenting. I wish I had a panel of moms behind me who I could turn to and ask, "What's the best way to answer this question?" Of course, I bet half of them would just look at me cross-eyed and ask, "What?"

As I look into my daughter's beautiful eyes an answer forms on my lips. Before I can respond, she sweetly asks, "Does the woman swallow it?"

With that, I tell her in detail how babies are made. When I finish, I cannot miss the disgusted look on her face and she emphatically declares, "I am NEVER doing that!"
I, of course, tell her she never has to do that.

So yes, son, your father and I did do a mating dance. If you need specifics feel free to ask your dad about it. If he responds with "What?" please go ask your sister.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Please Pass the Potatoes

What better time than the overindulgent holidays to pay tribute to my favorite food...the spud.

There is a delightful scene in "Forest Gump" when Forest's friend Bubba is listing all the various ways to prepare shrimp. This scene speaks to me because I have the same love affair with the potato. The potato is one of the most versatile foods. Imagine all the ways to enjoy a potato: baked, twice baked, scalloped, roasted, mashed, fried. Is your mouth watering yet?

The list could go on, but let's stop at the fried potato, specifically french fries.
Recently I was at a fast food establishment when the teenager behind the counter asked me, "Do you want fries with that?" I resisted the urge to ask him if anyone ever answers, "No."

Of course, I want fries with that!

To be more precise, I want a cheeseburger with my fries. In fact I'm only standing here in this fast food establishment for two reasons:

1. I am addicted to your greasy, calorie laden fries
2. My son is a huge fan of the chicken-like products you serve (exactly what part of a chicken is in the chicken nugget? Never mind, I digress).

The point is, who doesn't love french fries?

Well, blessedly, I do happen to know one person who doesn't love fries. He's my nugget addicted 8 year old son. I know this may sound horrible, and there is a part of me ashamed to admit it, but his aversion to fries is just one more reason why I love him. More fries for me!

There are so many different types of french fries. Prepare it skinny, curly, or Cajun. They are all good. The potato is one of those unique foods that actually makes other foods better. Today I actually encountered cheesy bread with fries baked on top! Never tasted cheesy bread so good! Cover a potato with butter, onion, cheese, chili, you name it, and suddenly you have a spud delicacy.

Want to know what else is good? Any food stuffed with potatoes. A perfect example is the perogi. If you've never had a perogi you need to immediately stop reading this and go eat one. Seriously, stop reading. GO EAT A PEROGI. I'll wait.

Wasn't it just about the best thing your mouth has ever experienced? A dumpling filled with potatoes and sautéed in butter and onions. Mmmmmmmmm. Let me just have a moment....... Delicious!

Holidays are a time to reflect on the blessings around us and to appreciate those we love. Clearly, you know what I'm thankful for this holiday season.

Now please pass the potatoes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Holidays, Amtrak!

Thanksgiving is the kick-off to the frantic, stress-filled holiday season. With family spread from Cleveland to Boston, Thanksgiving is also the start of our own personal traveling frenzy. We've made the trip from Ohio to Boston countless times in several different ways. We've traveled by car and minivan. We've flown direct flights and circuitous indirect flights. As we planned the journey this year, my husband pondered, "Wonder what it would be like to travel by train?" We purchased 4 round-trip Amtrak tickets. We were ready for an adventure!

I suppose there are longer and more uncomfortable ways to travel to Boston. For example, next year we might travel by mule.

Blessedly our 8 and 10 year old kiddos were quite content for the entire 20 hour trip to Boston. Yes, 20 hours. It wasn't advertised as a 20 hour trip, but trains can be delayed just like planes. The trains are equipped with electrical outlets so our children's treasured electronic devices never ran out of juice. As I watched my children's eyes dilate to twice their normal size, I did wonder about the long term effects of nearly 20 hours of uninterrupted electronic bliss. Sure they risked thumb cramps from the constant pushing of tiny buttons, but I treasured their silent contentment.

Their quiet contentment gave me ample opportunity to reflect on the environment around me.

Public bathrooms are often unfortunate places. Train bathrooms are in a league of their own. Imagine a small, moving, coed, public restroom. Let me help you get a better mental picture of this traveling urine-rich space. Picture a small walk-in closet. Shrink it by 3 feet and add a metal toilet and sink. It's basically 2 times the size of an airplane bathroom.

Keep in mind the following facts (yes, facts):
1. Men are not known for having great aim when sober and standing perfectly still.
2. The train has a popular "lounge car" that sells mediocre, over-priced alcohol.
3. Men's ability to aim while intoxicated and while moving along bumpy train tracks is almost laughable.
4. Women do not like to have their bare cheeks touch public toilet seats.
5. A woman's ability to hover over a seat is greatly decreased thanks to the lounge car and the moving toilet seat.

Multiply the 5 facts above by 20 hours and see how long you can "hold it."

The door slides open, and the first step into the pee-zone warns you of the coming scene. Your shoes stick to the floor and you pray to the bathroom gods that there is a rational explanation for this other than the fact that you are standing on the semi-dried pee of your fellow travelers. The smell reminds you of toilets you encountered as a youth in college bars. You pause a moment and realize how much fun you had in college compared to how little fun you are having at this very moment. Perhaps it's the memory, or the stench around you, but tears come to your eyes. The tears are a blessing. They keep you from clearly seeing the droplets of urine on the toilet seat. For the first time, you truly understand penis envy. You contemplate trying to pee like a man. That's clearly what the lady prior to you must have done. Instead you make vain attempts to sanitize the area before allowing your own precious butt cheeks to make contact with anything in that space. When your bladder is empty you whisper a prayer that it will remain empty for the remainder of the trip. Despite the urge to drown yourself in the lounge car, you resolve to not drink anything for the remainder of the trip. Dehydration has its advantages!

You return to your seat to find your children hovered over their electronic devices. You say something to them, but their precious brains have begun to ooze out of their ears as a result of electronic nirvana. They turn their glassy eyes towards you briefly, but you know they hear nothing but the beeping of their electronic games.

You turn to your husband and find him making vain attempts to sleep. The train chairs are wider than airplane seats and they recline more, too. However, the seats are ill designed. Imagine a slide on a playground. Now imagine a tall adult trying to sleep at the bottom of the slide. If there is a way to sleep comfortably on a slide I don't know how one does so. The chair reclines and gravity slowly pulls you towards the floor. You recall the floor in the bathroom and you know with absolute certainty that your own shoes have brought dried urine back to your seat. You dare not touch the floor, and you fight with your seat to keep from slipping to it. You pull out numerous neck pillows only to realize you've forgotten an eye mask. You try not to beat yourself up about this, after all you're a novice train rider. How did you know that Amtrak would keep the lights on for the entire trip? You rig up some strange contraption that involves a napkin, sunglasses, and a headband. You are suddenly desperate to cover your eyes and sleep. Just as you start to drift off, the evilness of the reclining chair slips you closer to the floor. You jolt awake and sadly the napkin on your eye mask contraption slips and falls gracefully to the floor. You want to cry because there is no hope for that napkin. It has been contaminated. You realize you may never sleep again. You look at your watch to discover you only have a mere 6 more hours to go.

After 36 hours (amount of time for the roundtrip journey)of trying to sleep on the train, I declare it impossible. I believe I've invested enough hours into trying to accomplish this impossible task that I can be considered an expert on such matters.

On the plus side, the Amtrak staff are delightful people. Nearly every single worker we spoke to was friendly and helpful. I imagine the workers at the stations are just grateful they don't actually work on the trains. As for the staff on the train? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps cheerfulness is a side effect of dehydration or perhaps there is a clean staff restroom hidden on the train.

All of that to say... Happy Holidays, Amtrak!
I hope the New Year brings you shorter trips, fewer delays, and pee-free environments!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Calling All Tween Girls

Your mother is not as stupid as you think she is.

When you give her that look (and you know what look I'm talking about) you fail to appreciate that she knows EXACTLY what it means. Do you really think she was born yesterday? You see, she perfected that look ions ago. You weren't even a twinkle in her eye when she was giving that same look to her mother over much more serious matters like the cost of Jordash jeans (ohhh, to wear a horse emblem on your butt cheek!).

Despite what you think, she does not wake up every morning plotting the various ways to embarrass you in public. She actually has other things on her mind including (and I mean this lovingly) her own fears that YOU will embarrass her! Yes, I know, this is shocking information. But the truth is that you represent her in some strange, twisted way. You go off to school or a friends house and your behavior reflects on her. It's really not fair because frankly raising you to your tween years was actually much harder than she truly appreciated.

You were such a sweet charming little girl. She forgot you had the ability to roll your eyes around in their sockets as if it were an Olympic event. Your abiliy to flip or whip your hair is unparalleled, and you somehow manage to make "mom" sound like a 3 syllable word. Although it's impressive at times, she really just wants to know that you act more like her in public.

Try to do that and, in return, she'll try not to sing in front of your friends.
I'm 40. How did this happen?

I vividly recall being a young girl and thinking that 35 was old. Ha! My younger self was an idiot, but boy did she have nice legs. I kind of miss her.

She was insecure, but she had a good heart. My younger self truly believed in happy endings and that good would conquer evil. You see, she was raised by decent, hard-working parents. They tried to tell her that life isn't fair, but as I stated earlier, my younger self was an idiot.

I'm only marginally smarter now. I've come to believe that one does grow wiser with age.

In fact, I've spent the last 4 decades growing wiser and wiser. Since the "Golden Rule" was emphasized in my upbringing, I've somehow managed to keep some of my wise observations to myself. Never saw any reason to inadvertanly hurt someone's feelings.

However, now that I'm 40 (eek), I seem to be losing some amount of self control over my mouth. I cant seem to keep my observations to myself any longer. So here goes...