Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Birthday I'll Never Forget

Yesterday was my birthday. The day started out auspiciously enough. Abby gave me a big beautiful handmade card and a pair of earrings, and Ian asked me what I wanted and suggested I take him out to get it (along with a side trip to GameStop so he could get a little something for himself). On top of that, I was touched to see all the birthday greetings on Facebook and my friend Emily called to make plans to take me to lunch. The day was set to end on a high note with tailgating and the Phillies game with my Freakin' Angels.

Somewhere around 10:00 a.m. it appeared things might take a bit of a turn. That's when the good mother in me (prompted by the good Jewish mother in Emily) called the pediatrician to see if Ian should visit the doctor for the bruising and swelling to his hand that I had ignored assumed was nothing serious. [On Sunday evening, after Delco Idol Jr., Ian decided to chat with his friends on the stage in the Media Theatre. On the stage was fine. It was falling off the stage that didn't work out so well.] We made an appointment for 11:15 a.m. Of course the doctor took one look at him and told us x-rays were required. My lunch date appeared to be in jeopardy.

Once again, however, the fates were smiling on me. The x-ray visit took less than 30 minutes and the orthopedic couldn't see him for his probable finger fracture until 3:30. Lunch with Emily was on and it was delightful, complete with conversation about our imaginary love affairs with Justin Timberlake and Matthew McConaughey.

After lunch I returned home to try to get some work done, but Abby had other plans. And not good plans. She was feeling lousy. As in sweatshirt-in-the-90-degree-heat lousy. She accompanied me to Ian's afternoon appointment and curled up in my lap. By the time we got home after 4:00 p.m., Abby was miserable and wanted me to stay with her. I knew it was bad if I was suddenly more desirable than our babysitter. I told myself she'd be fine with a little Tylenol and I was prepared to see my selfish plans through until she uttered those fateful words, "I think I'm going to throw up." And with that, my evening was shot to hell.

The Freakin' Angels at Cathie's 40th b-day party.
A bit more successful than mine!
I cancelled the babysitter, I called my friends, I shed a small tear, and I settled in at the computer to get some work done while my baby girl slept. And then the doorbell rang. And Freakin' Angel Karen stood there and informed me she wasn't going to the evening's festivities without me. Then the phone rang and the remaining angels said they weren't going either. A short while later I was surrounded by the earth's very best angels with tailgating hoagies, margaritas, chips and salsa in tow. We alternately celebrated my birthday, watched the Phillies game, and nursed Abby through her fever and belly ache.

Though my day didn't turn out exactly as planned, I ended up receiving the best gift ever, a powerful reminder that
Faithful friends are beyond price;
No amount can balance their worth. (Sirach 6:15)
 My friends, I thank you. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Everyone's a critic, right?

This may come as a shock to many of you, but I can be a bit critical. On occasion I have criticized my children. And sometimes their friends. And my friends. And even my church leaders. And occasionally Rob, although I'm careful with him because he can be vicious when attacked.

Like most Americans, I don't think this flaw (or my other one) are my fault. I could blame my critical nature on my fairly critical parents, but instead I think I'll blame it on reality television. "American Idol," in particular, has increased my capacity for criticizing. For ten solid years now, I've spent my winters judging others.
Who told this person he could sing?
Those screaming high notes make me want to scream, and not in a good way.
Bad song choice; a little pitchy; didn't work for me, dawg
How did she make it this far?
I really miss Simon Cowell. He's the only one who said what all of us critics are thinking.

You should know that my critical reviews and comments are not relegated to my living room or Hollywood productions. Closer to home, for example, the Media Theatre is hosting its third season of Delco Idol Jr. Ian's best friend Noah is competing* for the second year in a row and the kids and I enjoy attending the live performances. As you can imagine, however, this can be a hazardous outing for someone as critical as me. I have been known to visibly cringe when a singer causes me pain, comment when someone's flat or sharp, and grumble about every tacky little cheesy Broadway wanna-be who dresses in character and dedicates their mediocre performance to their dying grandmother whose only wish is that sonny-boy fulfill his dream of stardom. The biggest problem with my reactions is never knowing whom I'm sitting near. Best friend? Mom? Grandad? Neighbor? I have to watch my volume and facial expressions. It's a minefield out there for critical folks like me.

My critical nature extends to how I publicly (not in a snide whisper) show appreciation or displeasure at live performances. My friend Emily, Noah's mom and blogger at Mothers of Brothers, recently wrote a post titled "The Clapper."  Emily and I are polar opposites in this regard. She bravely goes out on a limb to applaud even when no one else is, and, in keeping with my critical nature, I am completely stingy with my applause. If I think you're awesome, I'll go embarrassingly overboard in my praise for your performance. Hooting and whooping are not out of the question. If, however, you do nothing for me, I may offer a brief clap, sometimes just one-handed, slapping my thigh to make a bit of noise. I have also been known to withhold my applause completely.

[And while we're on the topic of applause and performance recognition, I think we've become way too generous in our standing ovations. The last few professional performances I have attended have all garnered standing o's. Seriously, if we're going to stand up for everything, it rather dilutes the meaning behind it, doesn't it?]

Now you may be wondering how my critical nature works when it comes to my children and their performances (talent shows, musical events, sports). Rest assured, I do not take it easy on them. I'll always applaud the effort, but I'm also unfailingly honest when it comes to my constructive criticism. After all, I only offer my critique in an effort to help them improve and ultimately succeed. This may explain why Abby's a hyper-neurotic perfectionist and why Ian figures it's best to avoid performing at all. Hmmm. I may be on to something here. Well, shoot. Who knew that a blog post would reveal this psychological insight into my children and their issues personalities?

I better end this post right here. I have an important call to make. Can anyone recommend a good family therapist?

*Noah's Delco Idol run came to an end last evening. He was robbed. Creepy little over-performing Broadway star wanna-bees moved on, but guitar-playing rockers don't make it far in this strange little world of the theater...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hold On a Minute, I'm Not Ready for This

This week I went to two musical events -- Delco Idol Jr. and Abby's "Band Camp" summer concert. Naturally, kids performing can always be counted on to provide excellent blogging material, however, something else is heavy on my mind and in order to exorcise the demons, I'm going to share it with you. Here it is:

Without warning, my children, and their friends, have moved past the "kid" stage and right to the "young people" stage.

This is not so much a chronological phenomenon as a physical, mental, and emotional one. For instance, while Abby is only 10 compared to Ian's 13 years, she's showing as many signs of having moved up to this stage as he is. In case you don't personally have children who have morphed from kids into young people, here are some of the signs:
  • They stop caring about the look of their bedroom (if they ever did) and start caring about the look of their clothing 
  • They no longer say "ewww" when someone mentions the opposite sex
  • Sleeping with you after a nightmare or during a thunderstorm is no longer an option (for them, not you)
  • Spending time with friends is nearly always preferable to spending time with mom and dad, even when they're not embarrassed, irritated, or pissed off at you
The number one sign your child has moved up a level in the climb toward adulthood is when, during a brief moment, time stands still and you suddenly see that child as an "outsider" might see them. I don't know about you, but it has me freaked out. 

Tonight was moment #3 for me. Moment #1 happened back in April and it wasn't even my child. You may recall that we vacationed over spring break in the Outer Banks with three other families. Early on in that vacation I found myself coming back from the beach in view of our house and noticed someone new in the hot tub. I thought to myself, "Hmmm, who's the young guy hanging out in the hot tub?" It wasn't until I came closer that I realized 1) the "young guy" was Ian's best friend, 13-year-old Noah and 2) I clearly needed glasses.

Moment #2 occurred just a couple weeks ago while at a soccer game with Abby, friends, and friends' parents and siblings. The 13-year-old brother of one of Abby's friends walked up to my baby girl her and said "How ya doing?" Thankfully She looked at him as if he had lost his mind, said nothing in response, and the moment passed. But meanwhile, mom here had one of those out of body experiences. I suddenly saw Abby as a 13-year-old boy might see Abby. And I didn't like it one bit realized she's darn cute and no longer such a little girl.

And last night I saw a touch of the boy/girl dynamics at play when Abby and friend were engaging in conversation with Ian and friend and there was an element of bashfulness/coyness/flirting that I'd never seen before and hope to not see again for another eight to ten years.

As if I don't already have enough gray hairs...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Simple Pleasures

Technology and electronic gadgets are the bane of my existence. If I'm not fighting with Dell over my now officially dead laptop, or trying to figure out the case of the missing internet connection on the desktop, I'm bemoaning the countless dollars we've spent to have the latest "toys" for gaming, all of which are used by only one family member (though he does spend as much time on them as four people should). My irritation with high-tech toys recently got me thinking about simple pleasures, including:
  • Crisp, clean bed sheets, ideally dried on the wash line outside
  • A brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons
  • Planting flowers
  • Having new windshield wipers during a downpour
  • A good book 
  • Water draining from your ear after swimming
  • An ice cold glass of milk with warm chocolate chip cookies
And then there's the incomparable pleasure of a nice hot shower and the comfort of your bed. Two memories from my childhood illustrate the powerful pull of the shower/sleep combination.
A DAY AT THE SHORE. When we were kids we would occasionally go to Long Beach Island just for the day. I don't remember that much from our time on the beach itself, but I will never forget the ride home. In a black 1972 Grand Prix Pontiac with vinyl seats. I'm pretty sure when you opened the doors of that monster, the internal temperature was about 210 degrees. And the seats were guaranteed to give you third degree burns. Best of all, you had three pounds of sand in the crotch of your bathing suit and a two hour drive home to look forward to. A shower and the comfort of your bed were all you dreamed about for those two very long hours.

The lasting impression of sand and heat are rivaled only by my memories of A NIGHT AT THE RACES. When we were kids, my dad worked for a guy whose son raced stock cars at Flemington Speedway in Flemington, New Jersey. On Saturday nights my parents would take my sister and me to the races where we would whine for concession foods and then eagerly wait for a crash to provide some element of excitement in which was an otherwise incredibly boring evening for two young girls.

The only other noteworthy element of our nights at the races was the dirt. Flemington Speedway had a dirt track from the day it opened in 1915 until being paved at the end of the 1990 season. By the time we left the track, well after our bedtime, we were coated in a fine layer of grit that also made its way into our eyes, ears, and nose. And then, because torture isn't complete without a long car ride, we would climb back into that '72 Pontiac for the 45 minute drive home, again craving nothing more than the comfort of our beds, but knowing a shower had to come first despite our complete exhaustion. To this day I use the expression "Night at the races tired," when trying to explain to Rob the degree of my sleepiness.

Showers, sleep, windshield wipers, milk, crayons, bed sheets, books, and flowers. These are a few of my favorite things (along with cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels). Simple pleasures. Your turn... 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No Thanks, for the Memories

I always thought it would be great to be part of a big family, but it turns out when you combine my parents, my sister, her husband and son, with me and my two kids in a two bedroom cottage, even a small family unit can be too close for comfort. Still, my sister only comes home from Denver twice a year so I was prepared to deal with the accommodations so I could see her my awesome 2 1/2 year-old nephew William. I guess I should back up and explain the setting. When my sister comes home the one place she most wants to be is at the shore. (This may be the only thing we have in common.) For the Shimers, that translates into a second cousin's six-room (not bedroom) cottage in Waretown, NJ near the marina where my dad keeps his boat on Barnegat Bay.

Last Thursday evening, I traveled with Ian and Abby to Waretown to spend the night so we could have a full day together with William, et al on Friday. This is how the sleeping accomodations worked out:
  • Abby slept on my dad's boat with my mom (Nana). Sleeping accomodations are probably about the size of a bunk on a submarine, but Abby was up for an adventure and my mom actually enjoys sleeping there.
  • Dad (PopPop) slept alone in one of the bedrooms because he has that scary-looking breathing aparatus that folks with sleep apnea use.
  • Dawn and husband Rob took the other bedroom
  • And somehow I ended up with William and Ian on the sofa bed. Ian laying (or is it lying?) horizontal across the bottom at my feet
When Dawn first put an already-sleeping William in the bed with me (she can't sleep with him for some reason), he was angelic -- sound asleep, holding his blankie. I was transported back to that idyllic time in childhood with my own two. It was/is so easy to love them when they're asleep. But somewhere around 12:53 a.m., angelic sleeper boy turned into bed-hogging non-stop motion boy. My nightmare included William, at irregular intervals, flopping around like a fish, sticking his feet in my mid-section, scratching his stomach, and whimpering. At one point he even made motorboat sounds. Seriously. (Obviously knowing this, Dawn was apparently trying to get even with me for some long-held resentment over a sibling wrongdoing during our childhood.)

Somewhere around 2:03 a.m. I gave up trying to get a minute's sleep with the little pain in the ass dear and moved to a recliner next to the sofa bed. I was close to settling down when he started crying out softly with that heart-wrenching "Mommy" that brings even non-maternal women like me to our knees.

I crawled out of my recliner to lie next to him and calm his fears and you know what the little stinker said in his in his semi-coherent state? "My side."

Yes, apparently my resting to his left was a problem for the little control freak William. As I moved to his right side, the little bully sweetheart proceeded to steal my pillow. After that it's all a blur. The last time I looked at the clock it was 4:12 a.m.  And by 7 a.m, my adorable nephew was awake, chipper, and all smiles and charm.

Ask me if I miss having little ones. Go ahead, ask me...

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Power of Suggestion?

I'm in Atlanta until Wednesday for the International Christian Retailing Show. It's where Christian publishers like Judson Press hawk their wares present their newest titles to Christian bookstore buyers. A rockin' good time to say the least. What are you snickering at?

It just so happens that the four days I'm in Atlanta are the same four that Rob is in Phoenix for the MLB All-Star game. Playing golf, wining, dining, and watching the best players in all of baseball. I know he's totally wishing he had my job and could hang out with the holy in Atlanta's convention center, but we can't all be so lucky.

While Rob and I are both out of town the kids will be enjoying the company of their Nana (my mom). They are sure to enjoy this little break from me given that my mom decided recently that she only wanted them to love her and therefore she would no longer in any way discipline them or ask them to do anything around the house. Great for her. Sucks for me.

Mom asked me yesterday before I left, with a touch of melancholy in her voice, if I get lonely when I travel solo. I coughed up what I was eating and milk flew out of my nose when I laughed and responded with "Are you kidding? I love it!" And I do love it. It's downtime for me. No one to clean up after. No one to reprimand. No one saying "I hate her/him, why did he/she have to be born?" I like having a bed to myself, and a tv to watch while propped up on way comfy pillows in air conditioning (our attic level bedroom is an oven in the summer). I don't even mind eating alone which some people are uncomfortable with. Just gives me a chance to read without having to make conversation.

So yes, I told mom I love to travel alone.

And wouldn't you know it, the whole way to the airport, and sitting at the gate, I was oddly homesick and missing the kids, and Rob, and my mom.

...I can't believe I'm stuck traveling all alone.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hot Blond Seeks Hunky Man for Walks on Beach

So this wedding thing from last weekend has me thinking about marriage. My feelings about this institution depend on the day and whether Rob has helped around the house, tried to do home improvements, or yelled at the kids on my behalf. The good news is that if I were to decide I'd get married again, I'd marry the same guy. Love ya, honey!

Thinking about being single, however, (just hypothetically, of course) I believe I'd be totally into those online dating sites like and eharmony. I know folks who've found true love, even marriage that way! I also like filling out forms and taking personality quizzes. They're all about me, and I appreciate that. Rob and I recently saw a commercial for one of those sites and I suggested we both sign up and see if they would match us based on our profiles. I'm not sure he's game, but in the interest of a fun blog post, I thought I'd draft my profile and then have you do the same. Hey, we're going interactive today!

Kim, age 41, Wallingford, PA

Kim, age 41
Intelligent, sarcastic, reasonably attractive woman seeks intelligent, witty, down-to-earth man age 30-45 for long-term relationship. Must be kind, a good speller, and physically active/fit to defend against my superior black belt skills in case you piss me off. Ideally seeking a Protestant church-going Christian. I enjoy the shore, boating, movies, books, baseball and football, and writing. Interested? Respond with your age, a writing sample, the title of the last book you read, and a recent photo. Smokers, drug users, heavy drinkers need not apply.

Okay, now you try it. We'll do this like a Mad Lib:

[adjective], [adjective], [adjective describing physical attractiveness], [gender] seeks [adjective], [adjective], [adjective] [gender] [age range] for [length of time] relationship. Must be [adjective], [adjective or noun], [adjective or noun]. I enjoy the [activity], [hobby], [sport]. Interested? Respond with your [adjective], [noun], [noun], and a recent photo. [Icky quality], [Icky quality], [Icky quality] need not apply.

Simply copy and paste this into the comment section below or into your Facebook response, and fill in the blanks. Hey, if you're single, perhaps we can make a match; not with me, but with another Freakin' Angel reader. Good fun!

Disclaimer: Freakin' Angel author is not responsible for any matches resulting from this post.

Monday, July 4, 2011

From This Day Forward

This past weekend I attended the wedding of one of Rob's colleagues from the Phillies. Jocelyn is a lovely young woman who began her time with the team as a ball girl and has moved up to sales and marketing. Rob says she's very bright (a Penn State honors program grad) and good at her job. She also happens to be stunning and incredibly fit, and therefore immensely unlikeable a lovely catch for her boyfriend, now husband, whom she dated for nine years before tying the knot.

Weddings are tricky things, particularly when you're not personally close to the bride or groom. Your whole experience, especially at the ceremony, can be colored by the current state of your own union. If your spouse tells you how wonderful you look, squeezes your hand, looks lovingly into your eyes during the vows, and whispers "I would marry you all over again," then you're likely to be moved by the ceremony, possibly to tears. You may find yourself recalling your special day and the vows you wrote (because you're a writer, after all), and thanking God for this special someone you're blessed to be spending your life with.

On the other hand, if your better other half says nothing about your appearance, avoids looking at you during the ceremony, and can't wait to hightail it outta the church, then you may be screaming inside "Don't do it! Run like the wind!" and "You've still got your youth." You may even be secretly hoping for the true love/scorned lover to start banging on the church doors, screaming "ELAINE!!!" (see "The Graduate"). And if that doesn't happen you may settle for taking bets on how long the marriage will last.

Barring a bolting bride at the church, the reception is where things can get really interesting. And not just because the Phanatic makes an appearance, as he did at these festivities. The reception is where you decide:
  • You hate Phillies former ball girls in their obscenely short skirts with their obscenely shapely legs
  • You hate strappy shoes that keep slipping off your heels
  • You hate strapless dresses that you're not well endowed enough to hold up
  • You hate the band leader who keeps chiding people into moving on to the dance floor
  • You hate whomever is drunk enough to start the "train" dance
  • You hate whomever is delaying the cutting of the cake
  • You hate that you're 40-something with two kids and a mortgage surrounded by 1) Young, beautiful people with not a care in the world, and 2) Older couples whose kids have moved out and whose mortgages are paid for and who now spend their time at the country club or traveling through the south of France
  • You hate knowing that you're never going to eat and drink enough to justify the size of the check that you put in that damn over-priced greeting card which you know the bride and groom are never going to read anyway cause all they want to see is how much money they made by inviting you
Now lest I leave you thinking that I really hated this whole evening, I must applaud the happy couple on several excellent decisions:
  1. No receiving line. If you don't already know the mother and father of the bride or groom, meeting them on this particular day is really not necessary. They don't care who you are and won't remember you anyway, unless you fail to write a big check to make this ridiculously expensive affair worthwhile. 
  2. A donation to Phillies charities in lieu of wedding favors. Does anyone ever eat those little boxes or chocolates or keep those trinkets anyway? Rob and I gave out monogrammed ice scrapers. It was January, and I am nothing if not practical.
  3. Skipping the champagne toast. People are already drinking what they want to drink by the time your maid/matron of honor and best man get up to stumble their way through a toast. They don't need champagne, just a glass to click with their neighbor.
  4. Nixing the Chicken Dance. Really, the Chicken Dance is only a hair classier than the Dollar Dance. Rob and I probably had the Chicken Dance, but he forbade me to have the Dollar Dance. Which is too bad, cause I could have framed my first dollar, like it was my first day in the business of being married.
  5. Banishing the garter and bouquet toss. I guess the bouquet toss isn't that bad, though I personally had no sense how hard to chuck it. But the garter deal is just asking for trouble. Just ask my sister's boyfriend at the time of my wedding. He had to remove my garter from the thigh of an 80+ year-old distant relative who had recently suffered a stroke and was blind in one eye. She It was ugly. Though the looks on the faces of the guys who didn't catch the garter was priceless.
Whew! Who knew I had so much to get off my chest about weddings? Lest I seem like the ultimate wedding grinch, please share your memories, issues, complaints about weddings. Your own or someone else's!