Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Life in These Untidy States

On Friday Michael was getting ready for school when he uttered that phrase that strikes fear into the heart of every parent:  "Mom, I have to bring something for Show and Tell that starts with the letter 'k'."


Of course I say this as a mom who sent him with a fake remote-controlled candle the day the letter was "n", because, you know, a candle has an "n" in it...

Oh, I just had an idea!  I could have sent him with his plastic pirate's hook!  (It has a "k" in it!)  But then, times being what they are, Michael would probably get expelled and I would get arrested and that really would have ruined my day.  Besides, Leah might not have been willing to part with it...  The night before at dinner she randomly announced, "Mom, I'm going to run away with Captain Hook!"  Then she and her siblings launched into a giggle fest because someone said, "booty."

I finally banished them all from the table when the conversation continued to deteriorate (why do kids find the word "poop" so hilarious?) and Leah tried to eat a spoonful of butter right out of the stick.  As soon as they were gone I might have taken my carefully measured tablespoon of crumbled bacon (only 35 calories!) and, because I didn't have to keep up appearances by throwing it on a salad, eaten it straight from my fist.  It was that kind of day.

You want to make something of it?

Now I'm cranky because it snowed today for like the 500th time this winter, David is working late as usual, Matthew threw up yesterday, and I got a call from the school this afternoon that Michael wasn't feeling well.  The good news is that Michael's distress magically disappeared as soon as we stepped over the threshold of our house.  The bad news is that his distress magically disappeared as soon as we stepped over the threshold of our house.  (Mysteriously, it keeps returning whenever I say, "Michael, clean up your room," or "Please empty the dishwasher."  Baffling).

Honestly, I don't think he was bluffing, per se.  I think it was just the kind of stomach issue that can be resolved with a couple of trips to the bathroom, which he was able to take at school while he was waiting for me to pick him up.  And honestly, who wants to risk miscalculating when there was actual vomiting in the house just yesterday?  Not I.  So I didn't push the issue.  But I did banish him to the couch as penance for troubling me to come get him from school.

Okay, okay, I did it so I could sneak a fudge bar from the freezer when no one was looking.

I'm such a good mom.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Love in Action

I've had love on the brain lately, and not just because it was Valentine's Day last week.  Mostly because I jumped from watching the "Twilight" series (and you know how romantic I think those are) to watching old Disney movies with my kids.  And what have I learned?

Cinderella taught me that all it takes to fall in love is one dance.

Sleeping Beauty one-upped the dance = insta-love equation with the added bonus of teaching parents it is better to withhold information and hide their children from the world than to tell their kids what dangerous things are out there and how they can avoid them.

Last, but not least, The Little Mermaid taught me that adolescent crushes are worth giving up one's soul in order to pursue.  Also, being disobedient to your parents is cool and always works out in the end.  (Plus, if I ever become Queen of the Universe, I know it is better to sacrifice everyone in my entire kingdom than to let my daughter suffer the consequences of her stupidity).


Don't get me wrong, I like fairy tales as much as the next girl, but how is that that "Happily Ever After" always consists of meet, greet, and ride off into the sunset together?  (Or in Ariel's case, see cute boy, lose your ever-lovin' mind, and sign away your soul for a chance to play Chase the Prince).

Why is love consistently portrayed as something that just happens instead of something that is the result of careful and consistent cultivation?

In a world of confusing ideas about love, I think this is one of the most damaging; that love exists independent of personal responsibility and action; that it's just a lightning bolt that strikes and once the fire has gone out, it's over, without chance of recovery.  How many people have divorced their spouses because they are no longer "in love" without realizing love is something you do, not something you feel?

This is why I love the example laid out in "Fiddler on the Roof."  After 25 years in an arranged marriage, Tevye wants to know if his wife, Golde, loves him.  At first she tries to avoid his questioning by listing all the things she has done for him over the years.  But, as he persists, she allows herself to internalize the question, again being brought back to all the things she has done for him:  "For twenty-five years I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him.  Twenty-five years my bed is his.  If that's not love, what is?"

What is love if not action?  If not service and kindness and working together?

Once you do, you feel.

So if you are not "in love" with your spouse, get back in love.

Go.  And do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Complimentary Lesson

Michael has gotten so big.  He's grown from a boy who used to wipe snot on my sleeve to a... never mind.  He still wipes snot on my sleeve.  Some things never change.

But, as he is becoming more aware of the world and its idiosyncrasies -- and spurred on by the "you look pregnant" incident -- I've decided it is high time to coach him on things he should never say to a woman; among them:

"Your legs are really jiggly!"

"Your bum is way too big to fit in that chair!"

"What did you do to your hair?"

"I don't like your outfit."

And, for good measure, "Dad is so much nicer than you!"

Okay, I guess that last one is better categorized as "Things you should never say to your mother," but still.

Harrrrumph.  Commenting on my jiggly legs when he gets a sandwich and a bowl of soup for lunch and I'm stuck with one measly little egg and a single slice of bread if I want to have enough calories leftover for an apple.  So unjust that my six-year-old gets to eat more than I do.

But then he proved his true character yesterday after I accidentally whacked him in the face with a snow shovel (the snow had melted enough that we decided to shovel off the trampoline and he was alternately goofing off and helping me when he suddenly straightened up right in the path of my shovel as I turned to pitch a load of snow off the side.  Ouch!!).  After he had settled down and the tears stopped I apologized again.  "That's okay, Mom!" he said.  Then we snuggled and that was the end of it.

Turns out I could learn a few things from him, too.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Things That Make You Go "Awwww"

It's so cute I can't stand it!  Even if they did pull all their bedding onto the floor...

O Be Nice, What Can I Say More?

At Disneyland, while we were in line for Peter Pan, (why is there always a line for that one?) we fell into conversation with a woman next to us who was newly engaged.  She asked us how long we had been married, and when she found out we were in the double digits, she wanted to know if we had any marriage advice.

I said, "Just be nice to each other."

She looked a little disappointed, like she was hoping for something a little more earth-shattering, but seriously, that's it.  Be nice.  If you both do this, you will have a happy marriage.

I can already hear it out there:  "But... but... but..."

But nothing.  BE NICE.

If you would like your husband to do something for you, ask him nicely.  Then, if he does it, thank him.  If he doesn't do it, you still have to BE NICE.  This means no getting snippy when he doesn't pick up the dry-cleaning.  Or take out the garbage.  Or load the dishwasher in the one-true-and-holy way known only to you.  Simply ask him nicely again ("I know you're busy, but would you mind taking out the garbage for me?") or tell him how much it would mean to you if he would put the forks in the dishwasher the way you like it.  Then if he does it, thank him profusely.  If he doesn't do it, let me give you a little tip: do it yourself and don't be a martyr.  And seriously, get over the dishwasher thing.  Just because he's not doing it the way you like it done doesn't mean he's doing it wrong.

Oh, I know.  You think that "if he cared" about you he'd leap to put those fork tines down when you ask him (ask being the operative word there - no ordering each other around).  But I'm going to let you in on a little secret (well, two, to be exact).  The first is that there are many, many things that don't actually matter -- If he wipes off the counter, it doesn't matter that he doesn't fold the towel in half when he's done.  The second is that the nicer you are to your husband, the more willing he will be to do things for you.  It's not rocket science, ladies.  If you are kind and grateful, this attitude will be returned to you a hundredfold.

There is absolutely no reason to get upset if he continually leaves the toilet seat up.  This is not to say you should never mention the things that bother you (how is he supposed to know it bothers you if you never say "Honey, I almost fell in the toilet when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and the seat was up.  Would you mind putting it down next time?") but really, it takes approximately one second of your life to put the seat down yourself.  One second.  Is that really worth getting worked up over?

How many other petty things do we let chip away at our marriage that only take ONE SECOND to handle ourselves?

So don't get in a snit waiting for your husband to be nice to you.  And don't get in a snit because your husband is not reading your mind when it comes to romance or work or helping around the house.  Appreciate him for the things he does for you, and BE NICE about the things he doesn't.  You hold the power here, ladies.  Be nice to him and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Come on, try it.

You'll like it.

Store-Bought Politics

In days gone by it was generally understood that decent people would have differing opinions when it came to things like religion, politics, and social issues.  An argument might go like this: 

Person 1:  I think this because of A, B, and C.

Person 2:  Well, I think this because of D, E, and F.

Person 1:  I understand your point of view, but I think the concerns of A, B and C outweigh the concerns of D, E and F.

Person 2:  Fair enough.

Nowadays, arguments go like this.

Person 1:  I think this.

Person 2:  Only a bigot/racist/homophobe would think that, you bigot/racist/homophobe!  You are the stupidest person alive!

No one can talk about anything without first ascribing nefarious motives to everyone who disagrees with them.  These days there are two opinions:  Mine and Evil.

If you disagree with Obama's policies, you are a racist.  If you are in favor of traditional marriage you are a bigot.  And now, thanks to the kerfuffle over Chick-fil-A last year, if you do so much as eat a chicken sandwich, you are a hateful, horrible, homophobe (not to mention a soulless chicken-killer).  Pop an Oreo in your mouth afterward and you somehow morph into a fanatical gay rights activist.

Ah, remember the good old days when going to a restaurant only meant you liked the food?  And shopping at a store meant nothing more than the fact that you liked the products and the prices?

Well, for me, it still does mean that.  Sure, I might be inclined to visit a store more often if I know the owner donates a portion of his profits to help starving children in Africa, but how exhausting would it be to have to research the personal preferences of every CEO and the charitable contributions of every company before I dig in to a box of Ding Dongs?  (Ding Dongs...  *tear*  RIP, Hostess).

Going to a particular store does not mean that I am subscribing to the owner's political or religious philosophy, nor that I am endorsing the causes they support with their profits.  (If that were the case I wouldn't be able to shop anywhere).  And that is why I will continue to eat at Chick-fil-A (because I love their shakes and cookies), I will continue to eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream (because it tastes delicious), I will shop at Amazon.com (because they allow me to buy stuff without having to go anywhere and they ship it to me for free in two days), I will watch the Ellen show (because she is hilarious and knows how to be funny without being vulgar or profane), and I will go to movies starring actors who are terrible people (because I'm there to see a movie, not to endorse someone's personal life).

I will also continue to make fun of PETA, because it is completely and totally ridiculous.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Twilight: The Serious Version

I've been making fun of "Twilight" a lot lately.  And since David and I finished watching "Breaking Dawn, Part I" (Hollywood executives:  "Let's take one slow movie and turn into two even slower movies") you can expect that to continue.  (David:  "What just happened?"  Me:  "He just performed an anesthesia-free c-section on his wife, using only his teeth.  Why do you ask?")

But, let's be serious for a minute.  What is it that galls me so much about this global phenomenon?  Why do I hate it so much?

Well, I can tell you in one sentence:  It's not about love.

If it were about love Bella would end up with Jacob - the best friend she can talk to for hours, who makes her feel secure and safe, who doesn't put her in danger and wouldn't require her to give up her soul or abandon any of the people she loves.  Instead we have her walking down the aisle with Edward - danger in sparkly wrapping paper, whose jealous behavior and lust for her blood is portrayed as "romance".  (Oooh, he's following her around and breaking into her house to watch her sleep!  He's sooo romantic!)

Memo to teenage girls:  A man who nurses fantasies of killing you is not husband material.

The only connection that exists between Bella and Edward is physical attraction on Bella's side (caused by Edward's self-admitted vampiric ability to draw people in) and blood lust on Edward's.  That does not exactly spell "forever".  And it certainly doesn't spell "happiness".

Love is not made up of heat and obsession.  It doesn't fantasize about harming you or get jealous when a shirtless guy talks to you.  And it definitely doesn't stalk you or put you in danger for its own selfish ends.  If Edward truly loved Bella, he would have stayed away from her.

Why do I hate "Twilight" so much?  It has been the means of causing millions of teenage girls (and dissatisfied wives) to confuse obsession and intense attraction for eternal love.

The damage of which is incalculable.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why You Should Visit Sea World in the Winter

The first reason is because the weather here in Inversion Land is horrible.  We haven't seen our lawn since Christmas and I feel like we're a bunch of popcorn kernels swimming in an oil bath, just waiting for someone to explode.  That someone will probably be me.  (Confession:  I might have said a bad word yesterday when I was trying to make a batch of forty-step chocolate chip mini cupcakes involving cookie dough and cookie dough filling and cookie dough frosting for David to take to work (it's busy season - they all need sugar) and my "helpers" were all in full Hinder Mode.  By the time everyone had been shooed off the counter for the millionth time, someone spilled the powdered sugar, someone pinched someone else, Matthew fell off a bar stool, and Leah took a swig of vanilla when my back was turned, I cracked).

But I digress...

The second reason is that, in the summer, Sea World has as many as 30,000 visitors a day.  On a sunny day in January, they have about 3,000.  It was like having the place to ourselves.  We even had our own personal tour guides:


The lights were on in the penguin exhibit (if you go in the summer they keep it dark to simulate their natural environment), and we didn't have to fight anybody for a chance to see the sharks or pet the velvety bat rays:

Or the sea stars:

Plus, we could stay safely out of the "Splash Zone" for the animal shows without having to line up an hour beforehand.

The only problem is now I want my own bat ray.

Do you think I could keep it in the bathtub?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Three Down, Two to Go

I have now watched "New Moon" and "Eclipse" and lived to tell the tale, mostly because of David's hilarious running commentary throughout each movie; for example:

"Oh, Edward, you're so sexy when you're walking through a parking lot."

Hahahaha!  But seriously, the last time I saw that slow-motion, bouncing-hair film technique it was on a supermodel whose hair wasn't the only thing bouncing.  So to see it on a pasty-white, cranky-looking vampire was pretty hilarious.  Unintentionally hilarious, of course, since these movies are dead serious.  And by "dead serious" I mean so angsty and moody that by the end you feel the urge to sit in a trendy cafe and recite poetry containing words like "maudlin" and "lachrymose."

"Eclipse" was definitely better than "New Moon" but that was an easy task considering nothing happened for the entire movie in "New Moon".  Oh, Jacob turned into a shirtless werewolf and Edward tried to sparkle himself to death at the end (proof that the Romeo and Juliet story line is just as ridiculous as ever). But aside from Bella playing how-stupid-can-I-get by jumping from dangerous activity to dangerous activity in hopes of seeing Edward's pastel face in her subconscious, there was nothing going on.  An hour or so into Bella's moronic escapades -- because I wasn't focused on the movie -- I leaned closer to David in our freezing basement and said, "I'm still cold."

"I'm still bored," he replied.

Luckily, "Eclipse" had a teaspoon worth of plot, so it was slightly more tolerable, but I still laughed out loud when an army of newborn vampires slunk up from beneath the surface of the lake just like creatures from the Black Lagoon.  Almost as hard as I laughed when one of the vampire bigwigs tried unsuccessfully to read Bella's mind and David said, "They can't read her mind because there's nothing in there."

That about covers it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Twilight Saga

A week ago when David was scrolling through TV channels, he happened upon "Eclipse" and suggested we watch the entire "Twilight" series.  "For the sake of pop culture awareness," he said, "I feel like I have to torture myself and watch it sometime."

All right, then.

Now, if you know me, you know I hate "Twilight".  I couldn't even read the second book because I hated the first one so much.  (Dumbest girl on the planet meets sparkly, stalking creeper, gets obsessed with his 10-warning-signs-of-an-abuser behavior, and puts herself in constant mortal danger so she can exchange long, brooding glances with him?  Sign me up!)

That said, I do enjoy a good laugh at the expense of a bad movie now and then.  And it's been years since we sat through "Twilight" for the first time (which we did solely for the sake of writing a review, which you can read here), so we watched.  And it was all worth it for this one classic piece of dialogue:

"Hold on tight, spidermonkey!"

Ahahahahaha!  Worst screenwriting ever.

But, by far, my favorite scene is with Bella and a glittering Edward standing in a meadow, having the following conversation (I am not making this up):

EDWARD:  "I'm designed to kill."

BELLA:  "I don't care."

EDWARD:  "I've killed people before."

BELLA:  "It doesn't matter."

EDWARD:  "I wanted to kill you at first.  I've never wanted a human's blood so much before."

BELLA:  "I trust you."

Ahem.  Allow me to interpret:

EDWARD:  "I want to kill you."

BELLA:  "I know, but I'm dumber than rocks so I'll continue to wander alone in the woods with you.  And you have such beautiful sparkly skin."

EDWARD:  "You wouldn't be the first person I've killed."

BELLA:  "Actually, rocks are like nuclear physicists compared to me.  And your eyes are so mesmerizing.  Let's stare at each other and breathe deeply."

EDWARD:  "I've wanted to kill you ever since I met you."  

BELLA:  "Here, let me test that statement by putting my pulsing carotid artery right next to your teeth.  And don't worry, I made sure not to tell anyone where I was going.  I'd hate for someone to be able to save me from my own stupidity."

Honestly, people, this is romance?

That said, David and I will be watching the second movie tonight, in which I hear the Edward vs. Jacob dilemma begins.  All I've got to say is that Jacob better cut his hair, because, while Bella's blood might be Edward's own "personal brand of heroin", Jacob's long tresses are like my own personal brand of ipecac.

And you know how much I hate puking.

The Great Disney Adventure

 The quintessential Disneyland photo

My cute boys on Winnie the Pooh

Disneyland is "The Happiest Place on Earth."  I know this because they tell you so, right next to the signs that say this:

Ah, happiness.  Can't you feel it seeping in?

Honestly, California, don't you realize that by warning people about everything, you are effectively warning them about nothing?  Because let's be real here - the only actual danger involved in riding the Teacups is that someone will barf all over your shoes, which is precisely why we didn't go on them.  (As far as our children are concerned the ride DOESN'T EXIST).

The nice thing about going to Disneyland in January -- aside from the fact that we left weather like this --

is that the lines are short, the weather is nice, and it's still chilly enough in the evenings that people actually have to wear clothes.  (You know how California is in the summer -- not only are they obsessed with cancer, they suffer from some sort of disease that causes them to forget half of their outfits).

Except for the illness that swept through every single member of our family, we had the time of our lives.  Especially Leah, who hopped off every ride saying, "That was a fun one!  Let's go again!"  She was like The Little Engine That Could -- on crack.  She bounced from ride to ride all day long and ended each day spinning in circles and singing.

on Triton's Carousel

Much to our delight, Michael was just baarrrrely tall enough to ride all the "big kid" rides involving loops and falling and soaring over California.  Also to our delight, he was still young enough to wipe the back of his hand (which bore his re-entry stamp) across his face forty times a day, which meant all the dark rides were illuminated by the glow of his ink-covered face.

waiting in line for Toy Story Mania

Thanks to short lines and four full days, we had time for all the "lame" things like The Tiki Room and Pirate Island and watching parades and shows. David and I also had ample time for people watching while Matthew and Leah napped in the stroller, which is what I was doing on a bench near Main Street when a straggly looking man with multi-colored hair ambled past me while saying to his friends, "You know what Disneyland needs?  A tattoo parlor."

My thoughts exactly.

Matthew got hit hardest by the illness, but all of us took a turn at feeling miserable.  David and I were so congested that we started looking around for souvenir ear trumpets after our conversations deteriorated solely into expressions of "Eh?" and "What?".  I felt mildly guilty about getting on rides with a fever and pockets full of snotty kleenex, but then I remembered that all of us are going to die of cancer anyway, so all things considered, what's a bad cold?

Matthew was thrilled to ride Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters and meet Lightning McQueen:

Leah was thrilled to ride Dumbo and The Little Mermaid and to drink chocolate milk for lunch every day:

And Michael was thrilled to have his parents to himself on rides like Splash Mountain and California Screamin':

As for David and me, we were thrilled with the whole thing, which is why we are ditching our plans of doing it again in two or three years and planning for 2014 instead.

Assuming we haven't died of cancer by then...