Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mommy & Me Time. Must We?

Monday night I went clothes shopping with and for Abby. This always proves to be a most unpleasant experience as Abby and I have quite different tastes. She basically limits herself to skinny jeans and a very specific style of sweatpants. Tops cannot have buttons. Skirts cannot be worn to school. Pink is out, as are ruffles, ribbons and bows. Basically anything remotely "girly."

This clothes shopping experience reminded me of the many other things I dislike doing with Abby:
  • Homework, particularly math: Her math homework is difficult and I feel stupid when she asks me for help. And I think she asks for help just to make me feel stupid.
  • Driving: The kid has road rage and she's never been behind the wheel. Everytime I slow down she has a fit and I have to explain that it's unacceptable to drive through the vehicle in front of me. To say I'm anxious about her actually driving one day would be an understatement.
  • Hair styling: We argue about the length of her hair (I want to cut off about eight three inches; she thinks losing 1/4 inch counts as a hair cut). We argue about brushing her hair. And I am completely unable to manage a decent braid like any good mother should be able to do.
  • Family Game Night: If you know anything about my daughter, you know she's competitive. That means when she loses a game, tears and frustration are a given. She usually announces that she's never playing with us again. The exception to this scenario is when we play Set or 24. Then she's unbeatable and the rest of us vow to never play those games again with her.
  • Offering my humble opinion: Abby lives for thoroughly enjoys praise.Who doesn't? Generally when she asks me my opinion on something, she's assuming I will gush with compliments. When I offer the slightest bit of constructive feedback, she becomes angry and tells me I'm always "so critical."
I realize this is a fairly lengthy list of trouble spots in my relationship with my daughter, however it's nothing compared to the list that Ian would share, given the opportunity. Perhaps I'll ask him to blog about it someday. Of course that would do nothing to improve their already fragile relationship.

To make me feel better, please share some of those things you particularly dislike doing with your son or daughter. Admit it. It gets near impossible dull always looking for the positive. So pour yourself a glass of wine and let it all out...

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Jews Don't Bowl" and Other Things You Learn at the Alley

In every friendship, there comes a time to take things to the next level. The 2 a.m. sobbing phone call, help burying the body, shameless dancing during milestone birthday celebrations, and yes, bowling. Yesterday was that time for us and our friends the Mendells and Andersons. (The fourth family in our little group, the Fischers, mysteriously had "something else to do.")

I could have taken pictures of us bowling,
but we didn't want any evidence...
It was all Karen's idea. A nonchalent suggestion that we all go bowling together. Her New Year's resolution was to spend more time with her children, together as a family, and what less contentious better way to do that than with friends? "Lucky Strike in Philly?," she suggested. "They serve alcohol for the adults and unhealthy food for the children and have big screen televisions with the playoff games on." Clearly, Karen knew her audience. This was a no-brainer.

Prior to slipping off to the big city for some over-priced fun, the adults in our posse assured one another that we all were completely awful at bowling. This is an essential first step before bowling with friends. Having hit the lanes with an actual bowler, I can tell you that there's nothing worse than having someone along who really knows what they're doing and wants to win.

Supposedly the worst bowler in our group was D.A. He teared up a little remembering the whooping he took at his daughter's bowling party (I think she was five at the time. Or maybe ten). He still hadn't recovered his self-esteem. To get it out of the way, D.A. opted to bowl first. And naturally, with his very first ball down the alley, he got a strike. I believe that was followed either by another strike or at least a spare. Serious verbal abuse ensued. The good news is that we succeeded in getting into Dave's head and messed with him until he appropriately started throwing gutter balls and brought balance back into the universe.

Karen, the brains behind this outing and also Dave's wife, proved true to her word where her performance was concerned. We'll just leave it at that.

As for the Mendells., well, words can't really describe Dave's performance. Dave had not adequately prepared us for his bowling acumen. Or lack thereof. The poor guy did not actually know which hand to bowl with - left or right? It made no difference. He threw gutter balls equally well with both. He did, however, explain his performance by quite simply stating,
Jews don't bowl.
And now we know.

Emily and I bowled like we live. Pretty consistently and with little fanfare. Though I would say I offered a little more visual pizzazz to my performance; Emily never fell to her knees upon releasing the ball down the alley. And I think I'm the only one in our group who tried the "wave the ball over with your hand" move (which has yet to work, by the way).

Ultimately, Rob won our first match, securing a free meal for us as the winning couple based on a bet we had made at the start of the game. I should note that he was the only one to break 100.

We seriously considered playing with bumpers for round two. But it turns out more beer practice was all we needed. By the end of the second game, D.A. had gotten his groove back, Emily had thrown a strike or two, Dave M. managed to take down all the pins at least once and ended up bowling a 100, and Karen, well, she hadn't gotten any worse. The extra beer practice clearly benefited me the most because I won that round with 125.

We've decided to rename the alley "Lucky (to get a) Strike" and we're forming our own league of misfits. Who's in?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sacrificial "Ma'am"

In the early days of motherhood (roughly the first ten years), I had some major issues with the new life I was living. The one that particularly stands out was the shocking realization of a previously unknown level of sacrifice. Not only had I sacrificed my body for nine-plus months, but after the little bloodsuckers dears were born I discovered I was also losing my free time, my extra cash, my career growth, my travel dreams, and practically my very identity. For many several years, I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into. And unlike a new job that doesn't quite fit, there was no resigning from this gig.

Of all the sacrifices I made as a mother, I felt most acutely the sting of lost "personal growth" opportunities. There were many times when I bemoaned being unable to pursue my interests whenever and wherever they took me. I passed up photography classes, wilderness survival training, choral groups, flying lessons, theater auditions, pole-dancing, college courses, clown school, and everything else that struck my fancy. Instead I volunteered on the dysfunctional board of our daycare, held mundane PTO positions, and ineffectively taught Sunday school. To be perfectly honest, I resented all of these sacrifices. Inside I screamed, "Whose idea was it to have these kids What about me?"

But, as promised, the early years of childhood went by more quickly than anticipated. And while I couldn't appreciate my sacrifices back then, I am starting to see that the next several years will present opportunities even greater than those I missed. While these opportunities may not be mine personally, I am now in the position of watching and helping my children achieve, succeed, and grow. It's their turn, and surprisingly, I'm not all that bitter.

I confess, I don't love being the chauffeur, juggling schedules, shopping for duct tape and baking ingredients, or making sure the appropriate clothes, equipment, or field trip forms are in place, but I am thoroughly enjoying the bragging rights end results:
  • Musical concerts and theater performances
  • Academic achievements
  • Healthy visits to the gym for fitness and even duathlon training
  • Benefit projects for charity
  • Sporting events displaying not only good skill but sportsmanship
So it's taken me roughly 13 years to accept that it's not "all about me," but as the saying goes, better late then never. And of course, it will only be a few short years before I have all the time in the world for "personal growth opportunities." But then what excuse will I use for never becoming a sherpa, broadway star, clown, or world famous exotic dancer?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Woman

Source: Psychology Today 
Go figure.
Yesterday I posted about women's tendency to nag thoughtfully offer their infinite wisdom to the men in their lives. I scientifically proved that failure to listen to said wisdom often has tragic consequences. What I didn't cover, however, was how men should react at the moment this advice is being shared. This information will come in handy, regardless of how much good advice your wife offers you, and particularly if she's delivering her helpful suggestions with a good bit of emotion. Without further ado, here are:

10 things you should never say to a woman: 
  1. Relax. Settle down. Simmer down.
  2. Be quiet (or the death wish version: Shut up)
  3. Don't you have somewhere to be?
  4. Chill out (or the death wish version: Chill the f* out)
  5. I'm sorry, did you say something?
  6. Keep it down I'm trying to watch the game.
  7. Quit your bitchin (or the death wish version: You are such a bitch)
  8. You sound just like your mother.
  9. You sound like my mother.
  10. If I wanted your opinion I'd give it to you.
I like men. I'd like to see most of you live long and healthy lives (with one or two exceptions). Disregard this advice at your own risk.

Thanks, and have a great day!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Living Up to the Stereotypes

A giggle, a toss of the hair.
All in a day's work on The Bachelor
Last week and again on Monday night, I watched "The Bachelor," purely for research purposes. Here are the top three things I learned in the first (and last) two episodes I will ever watch:
  • Single women giggle ad nauseum when in the presence of a desirable man
  • Pathetic single women are willing to stand in line to make out with the same man, regardless of "God knows what" being exchanged in all those sloppy seconds
  • Men are oblivious to the evil schemes of desperate women, particularly when access to their brain is obscured by a woman's large...
While the women on "The Bachelor" reflect a dozen ditzy blonde (regardless of hair color) stereotypes, I can guarantee that the one woman "thing" you will never see them do on this program is nag. We typically save nagging until we're in a relationship. Yes, I went there. We women have a propensity for nagging. Now lest you think I'm dissing my own species with a blantantly anti-feminist statement, allow me to explain. First, you should know that nagging is Latin for "we truly know more than you do and you would be wise to listen." And historically, men who did not listen to their nagging infinitely wise women met with misfortune. For example:
Cleopatra imploring Caesar to watch his back.
His body language says "Woman, I know best."

  • Cleopatra told Caesar repeatedly to "beware the ides of March," but did he listen? Nope. And he was stabbed (23 times) to death.
  • The Queen of Sheba begged King Solomon to spend more time with their son Menelik because she feared he was on a dangerous path. Did he listen? Nope. And Menelik went and stole the Ark of the Covenant and we're still looking for it today.
  • More recently, Calista Flockhart highly recommended that hubby Harrison Ford pass on a role in the 2010 movie "Cowboys and Aliens." He went for it anyway and it made the Rotten Tomatoes list of terrible films.
Women have different self-imposed guidelines for when they will nag share helpful advice. Some go public with it, while the more sophisticated among us prefer to limit our wisdom sharing to one-on-one time with our man. Keeping mum in public when instruction is needed, however, can have tragic consequences. Case in point: We recently spent time with friends, drinking and enjoying a rousing game of Apples to Apples. A lit candle sat on the table near the husband. He reached over the candle to pick up a card and the sleeve of his sweater was suddenly wrapped in flames. The wife's reaction?
I was going to say something because you kept reaching over the candle, but I didn't want to tell you what to do offer advice in front of friends.
The husband's response?
You regularly nag me about every little thing offer me helpful suggestions, but you chose now, when I could have caught fire, to give the nagging advice a break?
The lesson here is clear. Women were born with superior intelligence, reasoning skills, and a natural desire to nurture and care for our men. These are inherent traits that have caused countless divorces prevented many a tragedy. Men, if you would just listen to us, the world would be a much safer and productive place.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to call Rob and remind him to put down the toilet seat and ask him why he failed to bring in the trash cans last night. I swear, I have to do everything around here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Hair-Raising Experience

Well, the drama never ends around here. And it's not even exciting drama, it's just the everyday variety. Abby's illness turned out to be strep throat so she was home yesterday for the fifth straight day in a row. When we tried to run to Wawa for a smoothie, I discovered my car battery had died. Oh, and I received a truancy notice from Ian's school because I haven't turned in notes for his last three absences. For cryin' out loud. Enough already.

Generally, when life gets rocky or just plain annoying like this, a visit to the spa or health salon can do a girl a world of good. However, in keeping with the theme for 2011-2012, my most recent visit to the "spa" was downright irritating.

The hair styling and waxing area was in a tiny room in the back...
With a $50 gift card in hand, I paid a first time visit to the Spa at the Springfield Healthplex. The Healthplex is the gym I belong to so I expected the spa there to be equally overpriced but impressive. The pricing did not disappoint, but the "impressive" sure didn't hold true. I'm not sure which I found most disturbing:
  • The cramped quarters in which waxing takes place an elbow's distance from the hair styling (an area about the size of an average walk-in closet)
  • The one-sided conversation with the waxologist (is there a real name for those people who rip the hair out of your body?)
  • The two-timing, hairball hacking stylist who laughed at everything whether it was amusing or not
Perhaps I'm high maintenance, but I've decided that from here on out I want my stylist all to myself. My guy alternately cut, colored, and styled me and another woman at the same time, and I found it incredibly annoying. Perhaps this was due in part because I didn't particularly like who I was sharing him with. In the space of 60 minutes, I pieced together way too much of this woman's story.
  • Remarried
  • Dopey husband who tells stupid, grandfatherly jokes
  • 10-year-old daughter; allowed to play dress up with makeup and all, but only at home
  • Baby
  • Shore house
  • Money
  • Friend's kid has ADD; emptied very large toy closet in her son's room which is normally super neat and organized
  • Diet coke addict; keeps it in her car
  • Thoroughly enjoys smoking so she starts again after quitting during her pregnancies
And to top it off, it was clear she and the stylist were buddies. They talked about mutual friends and planned visits to the shore together. I felt so left out. It was like being the new girl at school, sitting alone at the lunch table and overhearing the cool kids talking. I don't particularly enjoy making chit chat with my stylist (even those I've known for years), but having to listen to someone else yap for an hour is worse. Ideally I would like peace and quiet in which to thoroughly enjoy this overpriced time away from home.

After this mini soap opera during which I numbed my mind with outdated People magazines, my only prayer was that I would leave the Spa looking like a million bucks. Or at least like the amount I paid. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I would have done just as well at the Hair Cuttery for a third of the cost.

Oh, the trials and tribulations of a suburban working mom. The fun just never ends!

P.S. I enjoyed the husband's humor:
The kids ask "what's for dinner?"
He replies, "Shut up and get in the oven."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Between the Covers

Well, it's a new year. Technically. However, I refuse to accept 2012 until everyone is healthy and happy around here. Abby's been sick since 12/31/11 so we're just going to pretend the new year hasn't begun because I am determined to start off on the right foot.

Since it's not yet 2012 I can still fit in my final entertainment review for 2011. You've read my thoughts on fall's new television programs* and Hollywood's slim pickins'. Now it's time for the Year in Books. Please note that these titles were not necessarily published in 2011, I just happened to read them in this calendar year.

It was a pretty good book year for me. At the beginning of 2011, Goodreads, the book lover website, asked its members to challenge themselves to read a specific number of books for the year. I aimed for 25 and amazingly hit 24! And if Abby doesn't feel better soon, there's a good chance I'll get #25 in, too. I'm reading Hoot aloud to her.

Without further ado, here is my top 10 list of books read in 2011:
  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. How is it I never read this beautiful book before? Francie Nolan may be one of the most inspiring female characters ever. I was consistently moved by her ability to acknowledge reality but find the beauty and hope in everything around her and everything that was to come. Loved it!
  2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. A heartrenching reminder of those left behind on 9/11/01 and those who have survived history's other tragedies. The movie opens soon.
  3. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. Not a crowd favorite, but something about this book really appealed to me. I think it was the ironic and sarcastic nature of some of the characters. I could relate. I liked it so much I dedicated an entire post to it!
  4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. You've undoubtedly heard enough about this terrific book. I think what I appreciated most was the glimpse into this incredibly ugly period in very recent American history. I still can't believe how cruely human beings are capable of treating each other.
  5. The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This novel about Japanese Americans during World War II also served as a painful history lesson. Ditto what I said above about my disbelief that humans can be so cruel.
  6. Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron. Though considered to be a "Christian book," without hesitation I would recommend it to the heathens among us anyone. The author's honesty, humor, and grace made this book one of the most special I have read in a long time.
  7. The Likeness by Tana French. I became a big Tana French fan with her first book, In the Woods. Psychological thrillers are not usually my thing, but I really enjoy her. Or I did until her book Faithful Place disappointed me.
  8. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. A brilliant and captivating story with fully developed and engaging characters. Just plain old fun reading. Can't wait for the movie!
  9. House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I'll be honest. I thought I was too good for Jodi Picoult. I thought she was a little too "light" for an advanced reader book snob like me. But lo and behold, I enjoyed House Rules. A compelling and obviously well-researched story involving a boy with autism.
  10. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. A good, easy read supposedly based on the life of Laura Bush. The only thing that bothered me was that I kept wondering which parts were really based on her life experiences and which were total fiction.
There were a few recently popular books that I just didn't enjoy as much as the rest of reading America. These included:
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
  • Maine by Courtney Sullivan
  • The Priviliges by Jonathan Dee
  • Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
For a complete look at my 2011 (and earlier) reads, join me on Goodreads. It's a great site for keeping in touch with fellow book lovers, reading their reviews, and establishing your own book lists. My "to-read" list is at 152. I set my goal for 2012 at 30, so I'll barely be putting a dent into that ever-growing list of mine.

Can't wait to hear what you've read in the past year, and what you thought of those you've read on my list!

*Missing from my new fall programming television list was "The New Girl" with Zooey D. I didn't plan on watching it because Zooey annoys me. Didn't like her in "500 Days of Summer," didn't figure I'd like her on television either. Turns out, "The New Girl" is probably my favorite television show. Very funny. Check it out!