April 15: A Celebration of Our Tax Write Offs

tax-day 2 April 15 is our annual “come to Jesus” meeting with The Man… Tax Day (insert sinister music).

I don’t know of anyone who looks forward to Tax Day; however, it is not without its potential for celebration. For those with a high number of “dependents” (think Jim Bob of “19 Kids and Counting” fame), April 15 brings a kind of fiscal thankfulness that we do not have on any other day of the year. For example, my wallet is not joyous and thankful when I’m still buying a $35 box of diapers for my nearly three year old who refuses to potty train. So, April 15th allows folks like me an opportunity to celebrate our inability to grasp the concepts around the birds and the bees (no need for diagrams… I think we’ve mastered the high-level concepts). Not that we don’t love our little “blessings” every day of the year, but on Tax Day, Uncle Sam high fives us financially for our suburbans or minivans filled with our babies, especially our surprise multiples, vacation babies, our “didn’t make the appointment for the vasectomy” babies, or our later-in-life babies.

Therefore, I ask, is it wrong to consider it even a minor celebration among our other American holidays? Perhaps you think it isn’t fitting with the rest of our non-religious holidays, even the Tier 2 less-commercial holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and Labor Day. You may think that Tax Day is overshadowed by doom and gloom and bitterness to be an appropriate candidate for holiday classification. I would suggest, in rebuttal, that our holidays are merely based on perspective. Consider the following:

On Jan.1, we celebrate the New Year with its fresh start. We promise to be thinner, nicer, more loving and successful than we were just one day before. We resolve to call our moms more regularly, give up sugar, go to the gym, and watch less TV for at least the first two weeks of the new year.

On Feb. 14, we pay through the nose for roses, wait an hour for a table at Red Robin or Chili’s (read: no time or energy to make reservations anywhere else in advance), and lick somewhere in the neighborhood of 108 little Valentine envelopes in the name of L-O-V-E.

On Mar. 17, we “forget” to wear green so that someone… anyone… will pinch us on the ass because that is clearly what a magical little creature who hoards gold at the end of a rainbow would do. Obviously.

In May, mothers are inundated with homemade meals (because dad didn’t think ahead to make reservations), school projects involving a handprint, a flower, and/or some kind of bird as a one-day thank you for the crap they put up with the other 364 days per year.

In June, fathers everywhere eat BBQ and open polo shirts, golf balls, and tie- or fishing-themed school projects while celebrating the 7-minute contribution they made to the creation of the child/children in question.

July brings a celebration of our freedom …. freedom to BBQ, drink a ton of beer, blow up stuff for entertainment and dress like an American flag.

Labor Day is an ironic holiday to be sure as I’m convinced all we do is laze about and do absolutely nothing except BBQ.

In October, we allow our kids to dress up and become candy pan-handlers… begging for free candy under the threat of a “trick”. Even better, we walk them to the edge of a sugar coma and then, when they are in bed, we look into the eyes of one ourselves as we devour both our kids candy and the leftovers from what was not given out in our own homes.

Late November brings Thanksgiving during which we don our “comfortable clothes” to watch football for at least six hours and gorge ourselves until we’re sick.

December means all things in excess, a fat man in a red suit, and that damn Elf on a Shelf that moves around your house like an invited stalker.

Of course,  I realize that it’s going to be difficult to have April 15 named a national holiday by the government. I recognize that Tax Day as a holiday could be controversial and polarizing (frankly, neither of which I have the energy for). Perhaps I’ll merely mention this new “holiday” to Hallmark and other retail establishments. Then, they can immediately start the design and marketing of all things Tax Day: baby-shower-meets-Monopoly-board-themed cards, decorations, and the like to be in the stores just after Valentine’s Day along with the St. Patrick’s Day and Easter stuff.

Eek, creating a new national holiday is overwhelming. Maybe I’ll shoot for next year. Today, I’ll celebrate my babies in blissful ignorance to the cost versus tax savings ratios. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to worrying about keeping my fridge stocked (an impossible task) and buying new shoes/clothes for four growing boys (a costly endeavor), paying for college (ack… one of them better be smart and/or athletic) and saving for retirement (groan… this is beginning to seem like it will never happen).

So, please, let me be. It’s Tax Day and I’ve got four healthy, beautiful tax write offs and a bottle of wine.

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When March Madness Has Nothing to Do with Basketball

spring_cleaning_ecard

For me, the arrival and duration of Spring brings out some deep-down subconscious anxiety I refer to as March Madness.

No, I’m not talking about late-night research in order to fill out my brackets with the teams I think are going to make the Sweet 16 or the Final Four in the NCAA basketball tournament (though that has been known to happen). Nor am I talking about the impending weather changes that make shorts and [gasp] bathing suits part of our day-to-day experience (that, my friends, is an altogether different blog post).

No, this about the Pavlovian Spring Cleaning reflex (an impulse that makes pregnancy nesting look mild and… frankly, lazy) that begins to emerge at the end of Winter.

This year, when Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his lair on Super Bowl Sunday in early February, he predicted six more weeks of winter. In that moment, there was an audible sigh of relief in my kitchen. Because I was the only one in the kitchen at that hour, it had to have escaped from my subconscious, but I was too busy making guacamole, green and blue jello jigglers, rice krispie treat 12th man fans, and blue and green chocolate-dipped marshmallows for our Super Bowl celebration to investigate further (Go Hawks!).

Fast forward a few weeks. As small hints of the coming season began to arrive (e.g. stores start filling with Easter decorations and cut tulips), I felt the start of the once-per-year awakening of my housekeeping instincts (note: these instincts are dormant roughly nine months per year. How could I tell this annual ritual had begun? I started to notice what had occurred in my home since the last Springtime “episode”: the exponential growth of my “someone-is-coming-over-so-hide-this” piles and the expansion of my junk drawer into multiple drawers, closets and hidey holes. As my awareness grew, several areas in my house, like my garage, began to mock and visually assault me daily with its bins, shelves and cabinets of disorganized clutter and junk.

At some point in late February, though I have no recollection of the “incident”, I even made a special trip to the store to buy trash bags, disinfectant and new rubber gloves (uh, weird). This kind of cleaning-related blackout was a first for me, causing some concern. Was my subconscious planning (a) scrubbing and purging like I’d never done before; (b) some kind of killing spree; or (c)  scrubbing and purging following a killing spree? With no answers, I was scared of who I was becoming. However, as I had no immediate urges to kill anyone or bleach the crap out of a blood-stained floor, I attempted to simultaneously push these concerns down alongside my nearly constant cravings for Girl Scout cookies (another annual tradition in this general timeframe).

Around this same time, women’s magazines began to appear in grocery stores and mailboxes with articles like “Spring into Action — Wash Away Winter”, “Declutter and Organize Your Life in 5 Minutes or Less”, and “Slobs Turned Superstars.” As far as I’m concerned, these are the same regurgitated articles that have appeared in every women’s magazine at the end of every Winter since the dawn of Man. These pieces merely serve to send women everywhere into some level of panic over the state of their cave, log cabin, pre-fabricated single wide, apartment or sprawling estate. The message is clear: “Your home is a wreck, sister. Get your s— together. It’s so easy even a slob like you can do it.”

Then, one day in early March, full awareness was finally realized.  I woke up panicked and sweating as if the city had been called and the Hoarders TV crew was about to arrive with dumpsters, high-definition cameras and hazmat suits (yes, with four boys, I live THAT close to the edge). All my senses were on overdrive. I was determined that no corner, drawer, closet or hidden space would be left untouched … even if it took all Spring (let’s be honest, when you don’t do this for nine months of the year, your cleaning muscles are weak and your cleaning endurance and attention span are even worse).

Of course, being a Type A personality, instead of pacing myself and building stamina, I try to run a marathon from the start. I’ll admit, I was overconfident. I started emptying drawers (first up: taking Tyler’s suggestive pants out of the rotation before we had a repeat of the Pork Chop’s First Reconciliation … something I feel that neither Jesus or Child Protective Services would understand following Easter or Pork Chop’s First Communion in April). I also start opening bags and boxes that were previously minding their own business in some dark corner until I decided to pick a fight. Soon, I found that, with every cardboard box I touch, another filled with unrecognizable and useless crap is quietly born in another part of my house. I don’t know how it is possible, but it happens.

Unfortunately, at the end of one intense week of full-time receipt shredding, clothes shuffling in the boys’ rooms, and further pile making, I had filled several bags for donations and several garbage bags, but had not yet reached the 50 percent completion mark. I also noticed that my early-March response to immediately get a broom, a garbage bag and mouse trap had relaxed a bit. In week two, I could look around and identify half-started attempts to organize, purge and clean without breaking into a sweat (both a good and bad thing). At this point, I was happy to attack my Spring Cleaning in more reasonable chunks in between other projects, hoping that someone else… ANYONE… will help me take care of this disaster. By week three (last week), had someone asked, I was relaxed enough that I’m not sure I could have told them where I had left the Swiffer Duster, the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (a necessary tool of the mother-of-boys trade) or if we had any more garbage bags.

So, here we are in early April staring into the face of week four and I’m a mix of stressed and ambivalent. One school of thought would be to call a cleaning service to bail me out. This is reasonable, surely, but that would still require the removal of the piles and messes caused by the emptying of junk drawers, boxes and hiding spots. Option two would be to call one of my many OCD girlfriends who might be all-to-happy to scrub my house to a high shine (the same ones that are great candidates for my Olympic curling team), but my pride and/or embarrassment won’t allow me to expose them to my mess or to the nasty things that appear to be happening here (I swear, I think I just saw a dust bunny doing something R-rated to another dust bunny). Another option is to put on my big girl pants, grab a bottle (or two) of wine, dive in and don’t stop until the job is done. Again, rational, but I like my sleep and I fear that we’re looking at multiple days of nonstop elbow grease to eliminate the clutter and reduce the vast amount of stuff currently in my house.

Where does that leave me? Sadly, with a still-messy house, four kids making a new mess daily, AND a bad case of March Madness that has extended into April.

That can’t be good… for anyone.

And, this month, I have house guests coming and a party to plan for, which forces me to either (a) keep putting one foot in front of the other or (b) find a good hiding place for all this crap.

As always, suggestions and alcohol donations welcome.

Wanted: Hair Stylist For At-Home Treatments and Salon-ese Tutoring; Must Have Own Salon Robe and Other Tools

scared-woman

A real salon — a place where beautification is promised and, more often than not, is delivered — is the mecca for the young trying to look older and, most certainly, for the old trying to look young. It is a magical place with its own language, its own culture, and millions upon millions of secrets.

The visit to a real salon is a right of passage. While I don’t remember my very first time, I can recall a few of my earliest visits. I remember sitting in the chair; stumbling with my words, trying to describe the hair style that would be practical for soccer AND that would cause 1980s modeling scouts (at least in Sunnyvale, Calif. — the epicenter of the U.S. modeling) to come a-callin’. I also remember my mom filling in details in some kind of foreign tongue to the stylist. Later, I would come to recognize some of the horrific words she used. Words like “body wave” and “shaved sideburns”.

Of course, with repeated exposure to the Salon experience and enough issues of YM or Seventeen magazine, a woman becomes accustomed to foundational Salon-ese. No longer overwhelming is the thousands of hair color variations, the seemingly infinite number of cuts, and hundreds of services from highlights, lowlights, and semi-permanent color to Brazilian blow outs and Japanese hair straightening treatments.

Over time, you also learn the unspoken rules. From the time you sit down until the time you leave, it is the custom to engage in some variation of small talk or worse, full personal disclosure. In fact, if I dig deep into the recesses of my addled brain, I recall some kind of cardinal rule that you must divulge at least two minor details and one major personal secret during every visit. If you listen carefully, you can hear women in chairs getting this exposure out of the way immediately: “I play tennis so I want to keep my hair short. My husband, Jack, and my two daughters (Sam just became a lawyer and Audrey is in her fifth year of junior college) like me blond, but, to be honest, I kind of want to move to a fiery red like I was during my experimental summer in college.” Bam. Obligation complete.

Other unspoken Salon rules include never, ever saying “Surprise me” unless you are willing to be a test dummy for that modern-day razor cut mullet with bright blue lowlights that your stylist has always wanted to try on some unsuspecting or open-minded fool.

Unfortunately, speaking Salon-ese isn’t like riding a bike or changing diapers — both of which you can do successfully even after a long hiatus. On Sunday, I found out that, if you stay away too long from this mysterious world, you can forget all that you once knew. Completely.

Of course, it started out fine. Muscle memory helped at first. Once I checked in, I knew that I was supposed to take off my sweater and put on the ugly brown robe (a strategy that I suspect is less about the protection of my clothes and more about increasing the chances that I’ll think I look spectacular when set against an ugly backdrop). With hints from other waiting Clients, I also remembered to flip absentmindedly through the periodicals, including the hairstyle magazines.

All seemed to be going smoothly.

My name was finally called and I met Marissa, a teeny little homegrown Seattle blond with a head full of “I-spent-the-summer-on-the-beach” highlights (even in the dead of winter), a crop top (reminiscent of the early 90s) and a pair of black leggings that highlighted her tight young… err… asset. As I walked behind her to her chair, I became self-consciously aware that I looked like an aging Rapunzel smuggling 12 assets and a full-sized tire underneath my unattractive brown robe.

My panic worsened when she sat me in her chair and asked, “So, what are we doing today?”. Instinctively, I looked in the mirror in front of me. Wrong move. I didn’t even recognize the old lady in the chair. My brain shut down and, for the first time in recent memory, I was completely and utterly speechless. Somehow, I had forgotten how to have this conversation. Even worse, I had somehow gotten really old.

Of course, I blame my kids.

Without a crib sheet or some kind of digital translation device, words began to shoot out in jumbled incomplete angry-sounding sentences as if I was some kind of third-world dictator or living in a cave for 15 years: “Shorter. Need to pull back. Four boys 10 and under. Six white hairs. Four boys. Start coloring. First time. Six white hairs (note: this one sounded a bit like a screech). Four boys. Four boys.”

Marissa blinked her eyes rapidly (don’t know if this was in response to my Tourette-like outbursts or if her fake eyelashes were coming unglued) and nodded as if she understood my jibberish. Without hesitation, she launched into full Salon-ese. I heard grunts, clicks, sighs and hisses punctuated by recognizable words like “natural”, “chunky”, “streaky” and colors (or were they snack offerings?) like caramel, strawberry, mocha, and latte. Then, while she did some kind of high-impact step aerobics routine around my chair, she started throwing out coloring alternatives like bullets whizzing out of a double-barrel Nerf gun: “full foil, partial foil, partial with color, or full color”.

Marissa’s laundry list of options continued to sound like the “waa wah waahs” of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Why couldn’t I understand her? Worse yet, why couldn’t I be understood? It was at this point that I knew in my gut that this language barrier was going to result in a helmet of ash blond hair suitable only for a 1980s AquaNet commercial or a repeat of my permed mullet in 1986, but with some kind of colored twist. Crap.

I looked around me, trying to make eye contact with someone who understood my discomfort. Instead, I saw five or six women in their 40s, 50s and 60s in my immediate vicinity nodding amiably with their colorist. I overheard brief conversations about covering the gray and moving away from the asymmetrical bob, but I also heard loudly whispered overly personal bits about a messy divorce, an upcoming cruise with a much younger man, and a very satisfying boob lift.

As I looked around, all that ran through my mind was: OMG, am I one of them? Am I seated in the old folks section? Can I still get out of this? How much do I like the sweater hung neatly in the dressing room? If I bolt, will they send the cops after me to retrieve their ugly brown gown?

I must have blacked out because the next thing I remember is bubbly Marissa saying, “Okay, I’m going to go mix the color.” She disappeared for a minute and returned with a pile of small squares of tin foil, a bowl of light purple color, a paint brush and a glass of tepid water. No sign of strawberries, caramel, mochas or lattes.

As I guzzled the tepid water down, I silently declared defeat. I would retreat and assess damages once I got to the hair stylist who would cut my hair. I would not, could not, should not engage any further. I picked up my book and let bouncy Marissa do her thing… without another word.

By the time Dree, my stylist who looked like a cross between Katy Perry and Wednesday from the Addams Family, came to get me for my cut, I had begun to really enjoy my vow of silence.

She walked me over to her newbie chair in the Bermuda Triangle of the Salon — that place where fluorescent lighting and natural lighting clash and create cruel results. She forced me to look straight into the mirror so she could begin combing out my hair. As I made eye contact, she smiled like a Great White Shark — all teeth, all malice. Then, she began firing personal questions without breathing: Are you from around here? Where do you live? Do you have kids? What did you do this weekend? What did you do last night? Do you have anyone who can corroborate your story?

I found that I could understand her questions. She was speaking English. This had to be some kind of Salon-ese trick, a method used on resistant Clients to get them to provide the required torrent of personal information.

My words had a rusty quality (it had been about two hours since I had last spoken): “I’m from Mill Creek. I’m married with no boyfriend or “boy toy” (I nodded to the overly botoxed, 60-something woman with the boobs around her chin to my right). I have four young boys ages 10, 9, 8, and 3, making the ability to pull my hair back critical. Other than that, surprise me.”

Crap. As soon as I said it, I knew I had blown it. I should have gotten the Salon-ese Rosetta Stone before trying to re-enter this world. Clearly, I wasn’t ready and I was vulnerable. Now, I’d have streaks or chunks of who-knows-what color in my experimental haircut.

Of course, I blame my children.

As Dree absorbed my break with cultural norms, her eyes widened then narrowed. She eyed me like a lioness watches a hurt gazelle in the middle of the African Savanna. Her laugh was an eerie sound, one that chilled me to the bone (of course, that could also have been caused by sitting so near the windows).

As she wielded her scissors, she carried our conversation. She rattled on about her nine year-old daughter; being a single mom; turning 30; her ideas for her next tattoo; her mother’s pressure to get married; reconnecting with her first kiss on Facebook. She would ask questions about after-school activities and limits on video games and I would give brief answers as I watched her every move of the scissors.

So far, no mullet.

In the end, Dree took pity on this Salon-ese rule breaker (I didn’t divulge my one major personal secret; I uttered the words, “Surprise me”; and I didn’t speak even when spoken to). I suspect this was because even Dree, a newbie, knew that one hair punishment was enough. Though she kept telling me that she thought my highlights were beautiful, she and I both knew that bouncy (and clearly, vindictive) Marissa left my color on too long, leaving the caramel-colored hairs looking dry and frizzy.

Upon reflection, I should have eased my way back. I need a Salon-ese Yoda that will manage my split ends and cover my growing army of white hairs — all while reintroducing me to the ways of the Salon world.

Damn… I’m an older woman desperate to look younger.

Of course, I blame my children.

When Moms Night Out Turns Into “Surburban Moms Gone Wild” (the Over 30 Edition)

Credit: thefoggiestidea.wordpress.com

Credit: thefoggiestidea.wordpress.com

Before you start judging (or planning your own Moms Night Out), I just want to say there’s nothing wrong with a mom embracing her precious moments of freedom (and I don’t just mean peeing or going to the grocery store by yourself).

You need to escape after those mornings when: Child A and Child B start picking at each other by 6:30 a.m. and Child C and Child D both wake up in foul moods; Child C insists he will not go to school (he “hates it” and therefore, will not get dressed or complete the established morning routine); You ask Child B if all of his homework is complete and he hesitates and remembers that he has a 25-question math quiz he needs to take in the 10 minutes before the bus arrives; mind you, Child C still is not dressed and still has not taken his ADHD medication that would allow him to move along this process with more focus and speed; While you fight the good fight with Child C, Child A and Child B let Child D douse himself in water and practically flood the upstairs (carpeted) bathroom; In the three minutes before the bus arrives, somehow, you tap your inner Sherlock Holmes to deduce from the sweaters covering the teeth of Child A, B and C that they lied about brushing said teeth; Still in his wet pajamas, Child D starts screaming that he wants to go outside into the freezing rain to see Child A, B, and C off on the bus; Child C, finally dressed, doesn’t want the sweatshirt you throw at him as the bus pulls up and Child A decides he’s still hungry after three (count ’em, three, breakfasts); when the bus finally rumbles away, Child D cries for five minutes because he wants to go to school with Child A, B and C.

[Sigh] It is only 8:35 a.m. Yep, sometimes you’ve just got to blow off some parental steam.

And yet, why do I feel that there is an old-fashioned expectation here deep in the ‘burbs that once thou hast procreated, thou shalt be home by 9 p.m.? Not only is there an unspoken Mom curfew, I’ve recently recognized the trend that, for many of my friends, Moms Night Out has morphed into Moms Who Lunch While Kids Are At School — an elite club that I’ve not been unable to infiltrate and research as a working mom.

Maybe it is the disproportionate amount of stay-at-home moms in my community who have changed our much-needed nights out to a daytime social culture because they are free from their school-aged kids during the day and too tired to venture out at night. Or, maybe (if you are a conspiracy theorist), the dads (especially those with multiple strong-willed young children) have colluded to keep the moms home at night to avoid being solely responsible for the children they too have spawned.

Regardless of the truth and despite my desire to fight the system, I’m seldom out late anymore. My recent excursions beyond 9 p.m. were two nights in a girlfriend’s kitchen finishing PTA “look what we’ve done” binders, a casual Valentine’s Day date with my husband, one trip to the grocery store to get milk and eggs, and one glorious, soul-refreshing Moms Night Out. And by Moms Night Out, I’m not talking about the typical suburban over-30 definition (don’t pretend you don’t know what that is): the quick margarita after a PTA meeting; the monthly book club meeting involving the book’s period-inspired food; a Bunco night that you hope is hosted by a friend with a great appreciation for alcohol; or maybe one of those new paint-while-you drink-wine (yawn) “extravaganzas”.

It is true. As of late, my social adventures have been typically limited to hanging out with a girlfriend at her house au natural (definition: no makeup, t-shirt and yoga pants) or, at best, an infrequent Moms Night Out for dinner and a drink within a six-mile vicinity. But lately, I’ve been itching to shake it up. So, when the moms on my oldest son’s basketball team decided we were going out, we decided we wouldn’t go to the safe (read: expected) restaurant/over-40 pick up joint in the local town center and chose instead a seedy-looking bar with live music, a DJ, good pub food, and more grease fires and girl fights than Mill Creek, Washington knows what to do with. An uncomfortable and conventional choice, but everyone put on their big girl panties and left their sweater sets and matching Tori Burch flats at home.

We left the boys’ game and headed to the bar in our minivans, suburbans and other assorted family trucksters. At 5 p.m., we had arrived early enough to have our choice of prime seating (read: no one was there yet), avoid the cover charge, and take advantage of happy-hour pricing. Tonight, we promised ourselves, we would hang out for more than an hour or two… even (dare I say it?) stay out past our unspoken 9 p.m. curfew. Maybe long enough to catch a glimpse of the never-before-seen “twentysomething hipsters” that were said to arrive around 11 p.m., an hour that typically finds me, in my bed, watching shows on my DVR, eating the ice cream that I promised myself I wouldn’t eat, and listening to my husband snore.

While I can’t give out too much detail here for fear our husbands will crush our future attempts to rally, I can tell you that, to my knowledge, no one made out with the bartender, got an ill-advised tattoo, drank tiger’s blood or snorted cocaine off the back of a toilet seat. With one pair of black leather (okay, pleather) pants and more than six hours of drinking, gambling ($10 on a UFC fight card counts, right?), pool playing, dancing, eating tons of fried food with unspeakable calorie totals, drunken texting, 22 group trips to the ladies room, and dozens (if not hundreds) of mentions of one woman’s love for Mary Jane (no, not the shoes and not a Catholic school girl she grew up with), I’d suggest that the outing was deserving of the title “Suburban Moms Gone Wild” (the over-30 edition), but I’m afraid not quite racy enough for an illicit video sold on cable TV after 1 a.m. right after commercials for the No-No hair removal system, Bacon Bowls and Dump Dinners (it’s a real thing).

When we left the bar six hours after our arrival, we emerged exuberant (except for those that felt an incessant spinning sensation) having braved the unknown. Even though we were within spitting distance of our homes, our husbands and our children, we survived what can only be described as suburban debauchery. Did some of us write checks that our over-30s bodies couldn’t cash? Definitely. Are there periods of the night that some of us can’t remember? Most certainly. Was there a lot of money spent on red wine, golden ales and (ahem) light beer? Affirmative. Did the evening prove that, if you bottle up your “party like it’s 1999” for too long, you can be this close to seeing your name on a suburban police blotter for indecent exposure in a public place? Yep.

That, my friends, was the kind of late-night, let-your-crazy-flag-fly Moms Night Out I needed. After that one evening, I was armed and ready to fight another day. Well, at least one.

Next up… book club. It’s gonna be a rager.

Curling: Making Housework and Orthopedic Shoes Just a Little Cooler

womens curling3

I’ve long given up on the U.S. presentation of the Sochi Olympics via NBC. If it wasn’t Bob Costas’ horrifying pink eye infection or, arguably worse, Matt Lauer’s ill-advised, “Am I too late for Movember?” mustache, it has been hour after hour of the same Olympics coverage repeated on a loop like Groundhog’s Day (as if all we are interested in is ice dancing and figure skating). So, now you can find me watching the Olympics on the Canadian CBC station, where I can watch simplistic, pleasant, deception-free advertising; avoid horrid TV reporters that relentlessly pick at Bode Miller about the death of his brother until he cries; and get more than my fair share of curling, bobsled, luge, downhill and ice hockey coverage.

For folks other than Canadians (who clearly love the sport), I suspect that curling only appears on their radar every four years, when it gets a little bit of air time during the Winter Olympics. I myself haven’t paid much attention until two days ago when one of the boys said, “Mom, you could totally do that.”

I’ll admit that I have absolutely no background knowledge of curling, its rules, its equipment or the training that is required. So, I’m not sure what the curlers (is that what they’re called?) were doing at the moment we were watching that landed the sport squarely into my son’s perception of my abilities and strengths (or lack thereof).

Perhaps it was the limited movement required [shakes head] or the vigorous  and almost panicked “sweeping”  of the ice as if drunken underage friends spilled beer and food all over the hardwood floor and mom and dad decided to come home early from their weekend away, forcing what can only be described as the sudden-death, party-aftermath scramble. Could it be the noticeable absence of body-hugging lycra as the sport’s uniform (seriously, curling would be a totally different sport if participants wore hooded one-piece lycra bodysuits)? Or, most likely, the boys could more easily imagine me loudly yelling “Hurry up!”, “Faster!”, and “Stop!” to teammates further down “the sheet” since they hear those screams every single morning.

Yep, at its most basic level, it would appear that I could become “the skip”. Most notably, I am over 30 and I’m bossy. But before I announce my campaign to raise funds for training for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, I recognize that there are additional considerations:

The Ice: I don’t like it. Period. This could be the deal breaker, especially if we are expected to just wear a polyester bowling shirt. If we can wear a down parka or a thick fleece jacket, then I’ll consider it.

The Sweeping: I don’t clean my own floors that well (or, virtually, at all). Therefore, I’m going to need to surround myself with ladies who love to clean and are willing to fly their OCD flag on TV at the Olympics. I have a few girlfriends that could scrub the ice right out of the facility (oh, you know who you are) so we’ll have to be measured about this.

The Deep Lunge: That sliding deep lunge move seems to be risky when you’ve got a bunch of minivan-driving, middle-aged women participating. I can’t remember the last time I got into a position like that that didn’t result in a groin tear or medical assistance. Maybe this is why you see a few younger women appearing on the curling scene… to push the 40-somethings to act as though they are 20-somethings. I guarantee you won’t hear a 40-something grunt as she stands up from her lunge if standing next to a 20-something who somehow makes a bowling shirt and pleated Dockers look attractive.

The Shoes: Seriously? I’m not a fashion plate, but those horrid-looking orthopedic shoes are a buzz kill. They make middle-aged women seem even older, which should be a capital crime. If I’m going to do this, we’re going to need to look into a shoe redesign over the next four years (puh-leeze, Nike?). You know, something that will keep my feet warm, give me the appropriate levels of slip and traction and that won’t aggravate my bunion. Um… I’m going to end up wearing those “cool” orthopedic shoes, aren’t I? [sigh] Shit.

The Microphones: Frankly, this is where I get most excited about the opportunity to combine my desire to pursue comedy with my drive for gold in Peongyang. As I understand it, all team members wear a microphone so you can hear their discussions throughout the match. I see potential here if I can tap my sarcastic inner color commentator, seriously spicing up the televised action beyond the current light fist bump or a missed high five. The challenge here is finding funny, quick-witted team mates who like to clean obsessively — two traits that are often mutually exclusive.

The Olympics: I do love the Olympics. Watching the lifelong pursuit of a dream. I cry every time at the visions of pure joy in victory and the agony of defeat. The commercials and short athlete bios make me cry as I see their stories and witness the pride on the faces of parents. As I sit on my couch watching the Olympics, I find myself wishing and wanting…  Wait a minute… this could be my chance…

Oh, what the hell. I’ll do it.

I’m gonna be a curler. If you are interested in going for gold with me, I’ll be holding tryouts in my kitchen over the next several months. You’ll need to scrub my nasty floors, but be funny about it.

Ah, I love this idea.

Making Memories: One Empty Water Bottle at a Time

peewaterbottle

I often think about making memories for our kids. You know, childhood memories that dilute the less desirable ones involving injury, consequences or punishments, disappointments, sibling fights, inedible recipes, and heartbreak over the “one who got away”. I realize these memories can’t be avoided (for example, I’m now thinking about all the times my dad broke up late-night sleepover antics in his thin tighty whities — horrifyingly embarrassing then; nearly illegal today).

My goal? Pepper in enough happier alternatives so their therapy bills later in life aren’t greater than their cost for rent.

You know. I’m talking about those trips to Disneyland/Disneyworld; fun family vacations; your first annual Friendsgiving; birthday parties; 1:1 parent/child experiences; special efforts made on holidays and other random days; the day you served ice cream for dinner; and, of course, the Seahawks resounding victory in Super bowl XLVIII.

I hope my boys will remember these… always. In fact, I’m counting on it.

So, when organizers announced plans for the Seahawks victory parade in Seattle, it was a no brainer. We were going.

Weather reports came out: sub-20 degree temperatures, which is very cold for Seattle, very cold for my year-round-athletic-short-wearing boys and a deal breaker for this summer-loving momma. Organizers urged fans to plan for enormous crowds converging on the city at once. Undeterred by all of this, my husband was determined that he.. err… my kids would be at the parade.

As he crawled into bed the night before, I asked him how he was going to juggle the protection of his coveted front-row-spot on the curb and safe-guarding of his three bigger children (Bacon Boy, it was decided early on, would make it only slightly longer than I would) with keeping the boys from peeing themselves during their adventure on the streets of Seattle. As far as I could see, this was a nearly impossible task without another trusted adult… unless… [shakes head]… he pulls out the emergency ultra-long-distance-car-ride-little-boy-fail safe: the empty water bottle (one positive of the 5P:1V ratio).

[Sadly, I know that the first (and only?) time we’ve utilized this particular parenting lifesaver is a sense of pride for Drew, my nine-year-old, and likely has been filed among his childhood memories. Thus, all the more reason to create alternatives, right?]

Nothing says “lifelong happy memory” like a five-hour wait outdoors in freezing temperatures, painful frozen fingers and toes, an empty water bottle, and crowds of people pushing your little body filled with pee around (as I typed this, I stuck another dollar in the boys’ therapy jars).

And yet, to hear the boys tell it now, they will always remember how cold it was, but what is much more clear and colorful already is the sheer joy of seeing the Seahawks as they drove past. Later in life, The Chop will tell his grandchildren about when he and Earl Thomas locked eyes and the NFL star pointed at him (of course, there are several conflicting reports that Earl Thomas was pointing “near” Jay, but who is going to argue with a smiley, story-telling grandpa they call “The Chop”?) The boys will always remember being so close to Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, KJ Wright, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Golden Tate, Jermaine Kearse, Luke Willson, Percy Harvin and so many others in the Seahawks organization. They will forever have etched on their brains the visual of Marshawn Lynch throwing Skittles into the crowd while dancing on the front of a Ride the Ducks WWII amphibious landing craft.

Success! I figure this Super bowl parade memory will outweigh at least one grown up temper tantrum, one missed playdate as a result of bad behavior (it’ll be my fault regardless), and at least one awful meal that I’ve yet to make (and I can guarantee you it’s coming).

And, so it would appear, the memories I crave for my kids are being made… one empty water bottle at a time.

Side note: I’ve been bombarded with images (some hysterical and some frightening) of an ill-prepared Sochi. I can’t help but wonder what kind of memories the Winter Olympics organizer was trying to make and what memories will last a lifetime. Will the same basic “I-pray-the-positive-outweighs-the-negative-memory” principle be applied for the Sochi Winter Olympics? With a lack of human comforts, such as private toilets or toilets/urinals with working plumbing, will the memories of these Olympic games be positive enough to outweigh the practical need to carry around… I don’t know… empty water bottles?

Here’s hoping that the pictures of a topless Putin found in media hotel rooms does not foreshadow Putin showing up to shut down celebratory parties in his tighty whities. That one takes a long time to get over. Believe me.

Sorry, Jesus, for the Tight Pants and the Flying Hippo

little people hippo

On Saturday morning, The Chop received his First Reconciliation, a Catholic sacrament in which the penitent asks God’s forgiveness for their sins. As we walked into Church, I considered that this sacrament was coming at a good time given the last 18-24 hours we’d had at our house. And, now reflecting to the 24-48 hours since, I recognize we’re in real trouble.

It all started Friday night when we prepared for our trip to Church with haircuts, one of my least favorite duties as the mother of four boys. I dreaded the chore not just because I end up with itchy hair schrapnel all over my body, but also because of the whining that can accompany the project — “ow”, “you are cutting it too short” or “remember, I still want to style it in a faux hawk”. There have been occasions when you would think I was cutting their hair with my teeth while making them sit naked on a block of ice. Furthermore, though some of them can’t be bothered to wear underwear on a daily basis, brush their teeth or color coordinate their athletic wear (which is all they ever seem to wear), suddenly they are mindful of “their look” when I am cutting their hair (really?).

Sorry, Jesus, for being just the teeniest bit gleeful (on the inside) when the hot water supply was tapped midway through the hair cutting process. Sorry, Jesus, for nearly losing my shit when nine-year-old Drew started to cry (remember: the water was warm, not cold) just standing there in the shower shivering with his “too short” hair dripping wet, but not doing anything else to get himself out of the shower quickly.

Saturday morning is a blur. By 7:00AM, I’m pretty sure Thomas had his fingers poised over the last digit in the number for CPS, ready to turn himself in just to get a mini break. We then began our daily battle with the Chop over what he was going to eat with his peanut butter (read: what delivery mechanism will we use to eat the peanut butter in which we hide his ADHD medication that he refuses to take?). “Apples?” “How about celery?” “Would you like an English Muffin?” “We don’t have toast, buddy, sorry.” “How about apples?” “No, how about celery?” “No, I’ve already told you we don’t have bread to make toast, sorry.” Step and repeat for the next hour with growing aggravation on all of our parts.

Sorry, Jesus, for considering what it would take to pin him to the ground and force feed that damn peanut butter into his mouth.

Meanwhile, I’m pulling out dress up clothes for the boys (thankfully, everything is clean and hung where it is supposed to be). Regrettably, I discover that Tyler has grown again (shocker!) and his pants are more than a little tight. With only two hours before we need to be at church, I have no choice but to send him in pants that would make the “see-through-Lululemon-yoga-pants” protesters shudder in disgust.

Sorry, Jesus, for putting my son in suggestive pants for Church.

We get the boys all dressed and I now have 30 minutes to shower, get dressed and get out the door. This minutes means rush job… something everyone around me knows happens more often than I would like. Unfortunately, it can’t be my yoga pants rush job or my “let’s-pretend-I’m-just-coming-from-the-gym” rush job. This needed clean up clothes (clearly, a necessity) and makeup (another necessity). I knew right away that the sacrifice was going to have to come with the hair  — the Crystal Gayle-esque hair that takes at least 30 minutes to dry and another 15 to curl or flat iron. Lord, help me. No, seriously, Lord help me. There are going to be mothers at this service that are going to be dressed and coifed as if they are going to a White House Inauguration. I guess I have the whole “Oh, poor thing. She looks like hell. Probably because she has four boys” pity thing working for me with the Church ladies.

[Sigh]. Sorry, Jesus, for the wet hair at Church. Sadly, I suspect that it may happen again.

As we drive to Church, we give the “we-expect-your-best-behavior” speech. We ask for one hour of their best, knowing full well that the service could be 1.5 hours (or, dare I say it… longer). However, should we show all the cards, we’re going to have a revolt on our hands. One hour, we repeat, then you can go home and change out of the pants that are cutting off circulation to your lower extremities before our afternoon events. Other than our rousing monologues, the drive was uneventful… the calm before the storm.

As the service was beginning, Jay moved over to sit next to me. He quietly leaned over and said, “Mom, what am I supposed to do?” A little surprised that he was so unprepared, we reviewed the procedures laid out in the program. He nodded with understanding. A few more minutes passed and then he said, “Am I supposed to tell Father ALL of the things I’ve done wrong?” I paused to consider my response, knowing that Jay’s list may be extensive. I opted for: “Think of it like Santa Claus. You can’t possibly cover everything. Instead, focus on the big three or so… the ones that you really want forgiven or the ones that pop up often.”

Sorry, Jesus, for comparing reconciliation to my child’s Santa Claus wish list.

In preparation for our extended visit to Church, my husband, Thomas, had packed snacks and quiet entertainment for the 2.5-year old to keep him busy when the service passed his sit-still mark, which can be anywhere between 10-40 minutes. Per usual, Thomas had grabbed a variety of snacks, ranging from fruit snacks and Goldfish crackers to the last-resort bribe, lollipops, hoping we could get through the entire service. He had also packed Cade’s favorite animal books and small plastic animals from Cade’s new Little People Zoo to keep him entertained. In retrospect, I should have known that someone or something was going to die during the service. I should have known.

Sorry, Jesus, for the fight-to-the-death-animal-battles in pew 3 on the right side of the altar. Yep, hey, it’s me. Ah, now you recognize me. I realize the hippo roars and alligator hissing was probably distracting during the homily. Of course, it might not have been as distracting as when the hippo went flying to what could only have been his death right under the first pew. Good news: he was quiet from then on. Oh, while I’m at it, I should probably also apologize for the lime lollipop  that is stuck to the carpet somewhere near the back of the Church. It might have happened just before I asked the religious education coordinator if any of the six priests would be available for an exorcism after the completion of the service.

All told, the service went one hour and 45 minutes. Nearly an hour longer than I had hoped or expected. During that time, I might have threatened lives three… okay… four…alright, if we’re being honest, maybe five times. There was the monster-under-the-stairs-incident when Cade was quietly doing some sort of Army belly crawl under the pew (around minute 80) and reaching under the kneeler, nearly grabbing the feet of the eight-year-old and his father sitting right behind us. For a young boy, it may have felt like a nightmare. Thankfully, Cade was in cords, a sweater vest and those ridiculously cute nubuck lace-up oxfords. Err… how menacing can that be?

Sorry, Jesus, that that little boy may need therapy and that he may not wish to come to Church again.

With the service running at least 30 minutes longer than I had planned, we were now pinched to get Tyler home and changed for the birthday party he was supposed to attend at 1PM. We still didn’t have a gift and he needed lunch. I could feel my blood pressure rising as we also needed to prep for Tyler and Drew’s basketball games in less than three hours. Somehow, we quickly got a great gift for the birthday boy and made it back home for Ty to change. I grabbed a gift bag, tissue paper and the card Tyler had made in the morning. Tyler and I get back in the car and back out the driveway. I look back now and see that I was overconfident. I was vain, congratulating myself that we were going to pull it off and get him to the party on time. When the bag ripped in half, I should have stopped the car and dropped to my knees begging your forgiveness. Instead, though I knew it was an accident and I knew I was overreacting, there may have been a moment when my face split open and the fires of hell exploded forth. I sent him back inside to get another gift bag. The next thing I know, instead of returning to the car with a new gift bag, Tyler opens the garage door and begins doing some cross between charades and Tyler-created sign language. I vaguely remember asking you why you gave me a baby whose brain was underutilized on a regular basis.

Sorry, Jesus, for failing to see that Tyler couldn’t help it. His brain had been likely deprived of oxygenated blood for nearly two hours (see tight pants above). Something as small as a man’s brain, which is very fragile, can’t handle that kind of abuse.

All this, and I’ve only recapped up until 45 minutes after the end of the service. We could be here all day and I know you’ve got stuff to do. How about we sum this up by saying, I’ve got 142.5 other reasons to apologize in the roughly 47-48 hours since then. Yes, I recognize that comes out to just under three an hour. It’s amazing how many things a girl can rack up without even trying. I just wanted to hit the ones that may jump out at you when you check your log books.

Anyway, I really am sorry, Jesus. Especially about those inappropriate pants and that dying flying hippo. How about you put it on my tab?  In the meanwhile, I’ll see if Father Mario or Father Marc can swing by on a regular basis… daily even.