Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mind over mucus.

At this moment, there is a battle going on in my body. It's between me (the good guy) and some icky funk that started as a tickle in that spot between my nose and my mouth (I think it's called the soft palate) and is trying with all its might to take over my entire head and body (obviously, the bad guy).

But I'm winning! I will win. I have won. Here's my secret:

I don't ever admit to being sick.


Who's sick? Not me. You know why? Because the second I start saying things like I feel like my face might explode from all this sinus pressure or I'm pretty sure I'm dying or even something as innocent as I just have a little cold, the terrorists win. Okay, maybe not the terrorists, but the sickness. The sickness wins! What kind of person just goes around letting the bad guy beat the good guy? Not on my watch, baby!

So, I ignore it. I drink plenty of fluids (like glass after glass of pomegranate & orange juice), take some extra pro-biotics, get plenty of rest, soak in a hot bath full of Epsom salt, and "take a knee" whenever I can (Sure we can watch another Yo Gabba Gabba. Why not?). If I am forced to talk about my current status (like if someone wants me to drink wine or wonders why I have such a romantic voice) I say I'm fighting something off as opposed to I'm a little bit sick. See the distinction?

I have even gone so far as to tell my husband not to ask me how I'm feeling. I mean, I don't want to have to lie to him but I also don't want to tell him the truth and have all that negative sick talk thrown out there. Don't you know that whatever you say (or think) always comes back to bite you on the butt?

Just take my word for it. Last year I was sick for pretty much the entire winter. (True story. You can read it in my archives.) And do you know what I said anytime someone would notice I was still sick? I just can't seem to get better. I think Liam and I are passing it back and forth to each other. We've been sick all winter. And do you know what happened? Exactly what I said! When I finally got over it (after literally 2 or 3 months of suffering, a B-12 shot in the neck and antibiotics), I vowed never again to take something like that lying down.

This winter, I got sick once, briefly, then almost got sick again a few months later but I Jedi mind tricked myself into not getting sick and you know what? It totally worked. It happened (or rather, didn't happen) when Bill was out of town and I was babysitting an infant full time. I so did not have time to be sick. So I stopped it in it's tracks. True story. You can't even read about it in my archives because that's how much it it never happened!

I suppose my improved immune system could have something to do with the fact that I work out much more regularly than I did last year, or the pro-biotics and vitamins I take on a daily basis, but where's the fun in that? Believing I can think myself healthy makes me feel like a warrior (if you are among the 15 people in the world who watch Survivor, you will probably get a chuckle out of me comparing myself to Coach - that guy is crazy...crazy awesome!).

I think I'll go pour myself a tall glass of juice and toast to my health. Cheers!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Solve for X.

I just noticed that the Saturday routine I have fallen into does not really make sense from a mathematical point of view. Let me see if I can explain.

On a good day, like when I get to bed at a decent hour the night before, I like to wake up early and head to the YMCA for a high-energy Pilates class followed immediately by Zumba with my most favorite teacher. I know what you're thinking, Damn girl, that's pretty bad ass. And you're right, it is pretty bad ass. Especially for a Saturday morning. But just stay with me for a minute.

I get home from the Y all sweaty and full of myself and hang out with my boys for a little while before they leave for Kindermusik class. Then I take a quick shower and head over to meet them for lunch.

This initially started off as a bribe. We told Liam if he was a really good listener in music, we would get an ice cream after class. He was, of course, on his best behavior.

Now meeting up after music class to hang out and have lunch is something we all look forward to (lunch, ice cream, whatever...). The music school is in Riverside Village - a collection of local restaurants and shops with a shared courtyard and community garden just a few minutes from our house. It's adorable and hanging out there has become a highlight of our weekend.

Liam always gets a scoop of homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream (it's green - Steve's favorite color) from Sip Cafe, while Bill and I are more partial to sandwiches from Mitchell's Deli. Specifically the turkey-avocado-sprouts-bacon sandwich from Mitchell's Deli.

Mmmmm.

So, here's where the mathematical stuff comes into play.

Workout - Deli Sandwich = X

Where X is greater than or equal to a complete wash meaning I could probably just stay in bed all morning and have the exact same results (mathematically speaking, of course). But, just like everything else in Algebra, just because something "makes sense" doesn't necessarily mean it makes sense. Does that make sense? I didn't think so.

Math is hard.

And now I want bacon.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Laundry tips from a lazy homemaker.

I am probably the last person who should be giving advice on something as domestic as laundry. While some people seem genetically predisposed to keep a neat, clean, lemon-fresh home, others (like me) simply aren't. Naturally I blame this on my mother. (To this day one of her proudest parenting moments is when my kindergarten teacher sent a note home that read, "Today your daughter identified a picture of an iron as an antique. I can't wait to meet you - I think we'll get along great.")

But when I was in Reno, I couldn't help but notice my sister's home reeked of lemony-scented goodness. She even referred to something called "laundry day." I was confused. Didn't we have the same genes and upbringing? How was it possible that she had turned into some sort of domestic diva (after working all day, I might add) while I was still genuinely surprised when dinnertime rolled around every night (Didn't I just make dinner yesterday?).

But then I dug a little deeper and realized that just because I don't whistle while I work doesn't mean I don't get er done (did I really just quote Larry the Cable Guy?). At least enough of it to fool the untrained eye. If you didn't know better you might even mistake me for the domestic one in the family. Just don't look too closely or open any closed doors - that's where all the mess is.

I even have some of my own household tips! Here are just a few of the ways I keep me and my family looking sharp:
  1. If you have say, a white wool coat (one that screams I am the antithesis of mom jeans!), and your small child pours, oh I don't know, a full sippy cup of chocolate milk onto it (because mom jeans or not, you're still a mom), and you shove it in a suitcase on your husband's advice (Just get it dry cleaned once you get to Reno...) and forget about it for four days before sheepishly taking it to the dry cleaners on a cold and snowy day (Can you fix it? It's my only coat and I'm freezing my ass off!) only to return the next day to find that, big shocker, the chocolate milk has permanently stained your once lovely coat making it look even more like a homeless man's jacket than the one it was meant to replace (my sister got it for me for Christmas because she said my old coat was unacceptable), don't freak out. Just take your dry clean only coat home, throw it in the washing machine (maybe wash it a couple of times) and hang it up to dry. Sure it will smell like a wet sheep for a couple of hours but after that, it's practically as good as new. Slightly worse for the wear and wrinkly, sure (you can take it to the dry cleaners to be pressed if you like), but who are you kidding? You're only going to wear it to the grocery store or the playground anyway. I'd say that's about as fancy as you need to get.

  2. Have you ever accidentally turned something white pink? Well, I can't tell you how to turn a whole load of whites white again but I can help you salvage an otherwise normal garment that is spotted with pink (like, say, if you took a load of laundry out of the wash and put it in a laundry basket instead of immediately into the dryer because you happened to be using the drying for something else - like "ironing" a shirt - and then forgot about the hamper for just long enough that the super cute green and white striped shirt your son just got in a big box of hand-me-downs couldn't help but get all pink and splotchy because it was in a wet balled up mess with, among other things, a couple of red shirts, and what the heck did you think was going to happen?). Here's what you do: make a thick paste with white vinegar and baking soda, smear the paste all over the offensive pink spots, let the paste soak in for a day or two, wash the shirt, and voila! If no voila, try repeating the process (disclaimer - this might not work if you've already tossed your garment into the dryer). You'll feel so domestically victorious, you'll want to slap that smug look off Martha Stewart's face. As it turns out, this stuff isn't really all that hard!

  3. If you get a fairly significant amount of poop on a garment and for one reason or another don't get around to washing it out immediately (maybe you're at someone else's house so you just shove everything in a plastic bag and stick it in the trunk of your car, or you happen to have friends over and don't want to stop watching Family Guy to go outside in the rain to wrestle with the garden hose and an extra heavy pair of Thomas the Train jammie bottoms), just go ahead and throw the garment away. Seriouly. If you ask me, something that goes through the wash three times and still smells like poop, does not deserve a place in my home. (I'm sure using bleach or something like that would work too but I'm just not that kind of girl.)
So there you have it: laundry tips from a lazy homemaker. Any household tricks up your sleeve? Spill it. But keep in mind, I reserve the right to delete any comment that involves bleach or hard work. A lady must have her boundaries.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tag this.

This morning I logged onto Facebook, like you do, and found that I'd been tagged in several photos from a surprise party I went to on Saturday night. This always makes me feel a bit uneasy. I mean, if you're not the one posting the pictures, who's to say if they look good or not? I take a lot of pictures so I can tell you, while some turn out great, most are just okay. A good chunk are usually really, really bad. (Like the time Bill took pictures of me and Liam on a porch swing from an angle that just happened to shine the flash right up my dress making the spot where my legs come together look exactly like a totally bald vajayjay.)

I had seen enough of the pictures on Saturday night to know I was not looking my best. Add to that the fact that I had been completely acting like a fool at the party and, well, drum roll, please...

Here we are watching You-Tube in an attempt to learn the dance from Oops I Did it Again. I wonder whose idea that was? Probably not the girl swinging her hair in a way that says, trust me on this one you guys, Britney is practically like my best friend or something.

I stayed in this room most of the night. Not because I'm totally anti-social and didn't know most of the people at the party, but because it had balloons and hula hoops and music I could dance to. There was a weight bench too, just in case.

I managed to drag myself away from the dance party just long enough to refill my wine glass and join a band.

Have you witnessed the awesomeness that is Rock Band? It's like guitar hero (which is obviously really hard for me) with drums and singing.

Yeah like karaoke.

Only it's even more awesome than karaoke because there are two other people playing with you. It's fairly easy to convince yourself that most of the people standing around snickering are probably watching the guitar player or the drummer. Chances are no one can even hear the high pitched screeching you are trying to pass of as Weezer. It's quite liberating.

And now, the whole reason Facebook invented the "remove tag" option:

Do you see me? In the background? I'm the one talking to a guy I met who grew up in Reno. I'm like, Wow, what a small world! By the way, did Sarah mention...(here's where my voice would get all deep and scary)...I'm PURE EVIL! Alright, maybe I don't look evil so much as, well, totally un-photogenic. Nothing like a little zoom to fix that:

PURE EVIL!!!

PS - How come no one told me my hair is red? I had no idea.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Britney, bitches.

Halfway through my recent visit to Reno, I took a vacation-within-a-vacation. A road-trip, actually. With my sister. TO SEE BRITNEY SPEARS IN CONCERT! Okay, so really that was the whole reason for my trip. I promised the grandparents 10 full days of Liam if someone would please please! keep him overnight so I could simultaneously regress (a road trip with my sister! big gulps and orange slices! clove cigarettes!) and move forward with my most recent hobby (going to pop shows is kind of our new thing). What grandparent in their right mind would possibly say no to that?

Moose (or Molly as Liam now calls her) and I started our trip at 7-11 where a half-hearted attempt at recreating that Aerosmith video with Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler (if only in my mind) quickly took a dive as I realized making a Slurpee look sexy is no where near as easy as those girls made it look.

That buff guy behind me looks impressed! Oh...that's a poster.

The cashier did ask us if we wanted to see his pride and joy (literally a picture of the cleaning products he's had in his wallet for 20 years) and when we asked him for a pack of cloves (!) he took it as an invitation to personally ensure we chose the right brand. We wanted to be like, Dude we're not smokers, this is just a nostalgia thing, but instead we were like, We just love those Djarum Specials!

Don't look so smug - fountain Cokes are easy.

In case you've never made the short trip from Reno to Sacramento, here's what it looks like:

With a little of this thrown in for good measure:

Singing a Sleeper song off-key (aka - harmonizing with me).

Rocking my new $5 shades - just like the one's Madonna wore!

Once we were definitely in California (palm trees are a dead giveaway), we got off the freeway to see if we could find the orange slices or cinnamon bears 7-11 didn't have (road trip essentials from the good ol' days!). While we were at it, we decided to tear open that pack of cloves and really kick things off.

The fact that we were smoking in a church parking lot in the middle of the day while a couple of teenage boys circled us on their skateboards wondering what the h-e-double hockey sticks we were doing made our pit stop feel that much more awesome.

We heart road-trips!

We got back on the road and after a slight detour where we almost kinda sorta but not really (really) got lost, we found our hotel.

Orange slices taste good like 1996.

Once we arrived, we realized we didn't actually have that much time to get ready. I mean we did and we didn't. We did if getting ready simply meant showering, getting dressed and doing our hair and makeup. But on a special sister bonding trip that centers around, among other things, Miss Britney Spears? Where getting ready means not just putting on clothes but choosing an outfit and having a preemptive dance party and drinking vodka and possibly experimenting with fake eyelashes? No. For conditions like that we could have used at least three more hours.

But, we made do with what we had and took turns eating take-out burritos over the kitchen sink and hogging the bathroom mirror. Finally, with enough time for a second toast to the new Queen of Pop and a couple last minute phone calls to friends who might know of a good dance club for after the show, we were ready to go.

This is truly impressive if you consider the fact that this whole road-trip actually began at Charlotte Russe where we spent far too much time perusing adolescent frocks and cheapy baubles, trying on anything and everything we could shove into a dressing room, walking out with bags full of potential party clothes that we later tried on again and again for a brief but entertaining hotel room fashion show before folding everything up with the tags still on and sticking it all back in the bags to be returned at a later date. At least we tried.

Oh, how we tried.

As much as I wanted to be the kind of girl who gets all costumed up for a concert, I just couldn't pull the trigger. Remember, I'm fairly new to the whole pop show circuit. How am I to know if people go all out like that? Especially, and I hate to say this to myself, 31 year old people. I didn't want to feel embarrassed or do that thing where all night long you're like, Are you sure I look OK? It's hard enough to pull off hot pink tights but if you're not 100% on top of your game, forget about it. More than anything though I just didn't want to spend the whole night sucking it in or feeling anything less than ready-to-rock. If I wasn't going to wear heels for the sake of dancing, I may as well make sure the rest of my outfit was comfortable, too.

As soon as we got down to the lobby of the hotel, we got an answer to our how far is too far? clothing quandary. It had just dawned on us that we probably should have taken a cab to the show to avoid parking (nothing like a cab sitting there waiting for someone else to make that light bulb go off) and were asking the woman at the check in counter what she thought we should do when four girls dressed in totally hot circus-inspired ensembles strutted around the corner and toward their cab. Our first reaction was to gawk and smack each other (I told you we should have dressed like that!); our second was to hurry after them and ask for a ride.

As soon as we jumped in, we realized we had zero cash.

Since the decision to take a cab had been completely haphazard, we not only felt like a couple of under-dressed freeloaders (we slipped some money under the girls' door the next morning), we were also stuck carrying the big purse with all the stuff we intended to leave in the car. My one chance to get out-and-about without a bag full of baby wipes and graham crackers and I totally blew it. Luckily I was able to convince Moose to hold it most of the night because I was "too tall". Sometimes I really love being the big sister.

We had everything we could possibly need...
except matches and a car.


From the moment we got out of the cab and apologetically said goodbye to our new friends, we were in the zone. The crowd outside the concert was incredible. It was overwhelmingly female and we seemed to fit in perfectly age-wise. The girls we caught a ride with were just a few of many who understood that at a pop show, sometimes you wear a costume. My favorite were the groups with each girl dressed like a different Britney - the one with the snake, the one with the school girl uniform, the one with the sexy secretary hair...

Before the show started, we got a quick drink. Tequila, by default.

A short line right next to the ATM? Mas tequila, por favor!

We got to our seats in time to catch the tail end of The Pussycat Dolls who put on one heck of a lively show. Even though I only know them from that song in that Heineken commercial (Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me...), I was still on my feet, screaming and dancing the entire time. I couldn't help myself; the crowd was toxic. I swear, the energy in that place could have made even the stodgiest old fart jump up and shake a tail feather.

Between The Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears there was an honest-to-god circus that kept everyone enthralled and on the edge of our seats. It really was the Greatest Show on Earth and made those Barnum & Bailey hacks look like a tent-full of...clowns. They had all the stuff I like best - contortionists, hula hoopers, gymnasts; and none of the stuff I don't - clowns, sad looking animals, annoying ringmasters. My most favorite was a girl on a balance beam suspended between two men. She would bounce a few times and then fly into the air, twisting this way and that before landing perfectly back on the beam. Amazing!

The bartender said, "You want salt? It's purple. For the kids."

By this point we were totally freaking out. We were like this close to seeing Britney Spears. Okay, not like seeing her seeing her (our seats weren't close enough for that), but experiencing her. Live. In concert. Probably just dancing around to recorded music but still. Still. It's Britney-freaking-Spears. How close do you want to get?

We were one click of the mouse (and a hundred dollars or so...) away from having floor seats. Had we known pop shows sell out so quickly we might just have gone for it. But we hesitated. Once and the floor seats were gone; twice and level one was gone. If we hadn't bought our tickets when we did, we might not have seen the show at all. Initially we were kicking ourselves about our upper deck seats and thinking oops, we did it again. We had to sit in the nose bleeds for Madonna and, while still an awesome show, it lacked a little of the wow! factor a closer seat may have delivered. We had to sit down for most of the songs to avoid blocking the view for the fuddy-duddies behind us and didn't have as much fun as we assumed that we would. Fortunately for us, at Britney, location hardly mattered a bit.

From the second she took the stage, the auditorium was like a dance club. I doubt a single tush ever touched down. (Except during the slow song, of course. But there was only one! And it was the one with the video where she drowns in the bathtub - not too bad as far as pop ballads are concerned.) Everyone was on their feet, dancing, singing along and screaming - I'm surprised I didn't lose my voice. She played almost all the hits - even Baby One More Time! - and danced her ass off the entire show (from where we sat, the girl looked good). Every song left us screaming gimme more (which was one hit she didn't play - perhaps the VMAs left a bad taste in her mouth?) and were completely blown away by every bit of the show.

At one point it hit us that, while touted as a concert, what we were witnessing was really no more than a really good dance recital. We were obviously fine with that and wouldn't have even thought about it at all except for the fact that we had just had a long conversation about Oops I Did it Again, and were still perplexed as to why in the world that talking part with the guy and the diamond and the Titanic has to be in the song. And not just the cheesy radio version, but every version we've ever heard. We were so curious to see if it would be in the concert or not. You know, since she's not really singing anyways would she just have to make due with the whole well baby, I swam down there and got it for you bit because a version without it simply DOES NOT exist.

We're pretty sure that's why she skipped the song.

But the show. The show! Whoever produced this tour is a creative genius. There were acrobatics and fireworks and a ring of fire and 10 tons of confetti. Everywhere we looked were amazing dancers and circus performers (throughout the show) and at one point there was some kind of dance-off between all the different back-up dancers (indulge me, why don't you?!). Video screens formed a circle around the top of the main ring (the stage was set up like a 3 ring circus in the round) but instead of just showing a close up of the main performer (who was not even pretending to lip sync), the video became yet another element of the show. During one costume change, we were treated to a video of Britney and a bunch of other circus types rolling around all hot and bothered to Marilyn Manson's version of Sweet Dreams. Go on, Brit; get there. ("Get there" is kind of an inside joke with my sister. It has something to do with a cow poke stance and 90210. Oh, nevermind. Just watch the darn video.)



By the end of the show we were so riled up we didn't know what to do with ourselves. We made an immediate beeline for the exit as if we had some place exciting to go and a car to take us there. Of course, we didn't have either one. What we did have were cigarettes and lots of them. Finding a lighter proved trickier than we imagined (apparently the word has gotten out - smoking causes cancer) so once we got a light we didn't dare let it go out. For a couple of non-smokers, we sure had a lot of fun chain smoking! (It's like it's addictive or something.)

The people who lit our first cigarette also told us about a gay club we should go to if we wanted to dance. We probably should have asked them for a ride but didn't think of it until much, much later. We were too caught up in the excitement of finding a lighter and a club to think of anything else at all.

As time went on we realized the lack of car thing was a real problem. In our haste to leave the building, we neglected to notice that we were rushing out the back door. We just sat there, people watching (like watching them leave) and wondering why not a single Sacramento cab company had thought to cruise by Arco Arena to see if any Britney fans needed a ride. If we had walked a quarter of the way around the building we would have been like, oh, there are all the cabs, but we didn't. Instead we sat in the loading zone, chain smoking and laughing at ourselves, waiting for the cab driver I talked to on the phone who made me promise we would wait for him so he wouldn't waste his time driving all the way to Arco for nothing. Anytime we'd see a car (any car!), my sister would motion to it like, Well, should I see about getting us a ride or should we just stand here smoking and freezing our asses off all night? and I'd have to remind her that I had made a gentleman's agreement with a cab driver and would have to stick to my word no matter how ridiculous it was.

Alone but not lonely.

We weren't totally bummed about our situation. For one, it was kind of hilarious. Stuck in a loading zone a mile from our car but afraid to walk 10 feet this way or that because of a gentleman's agreement with an unknown cab driver? Oops! We did it again! (No, it never got old.) Plus, it was kind of exciting watching the entire show unload and drive past us in unmarked semis. A couple of 9 year old girls waiting with their moms by the loading ramp are totally sure we saw Britney's bus too so that's pretty cool. We hooped and hollared along with them and held our still-lit cigarettes in the air to mimic their awesome collection of light up souvenirs. That never would have happened if we'd gone out the front door.

We finally got a cab (no, not the one I had promised to wait for - he never could find us and had to let me out of the agreement) and it took us all the way across town to the club. Or technically, first to an ATM, then to the club (apparently we have a bad habit of getting into cabs with no idea where we're going and not a cent to our names). The ride cost us $40 which totally sucked because: a) we weren't nearly drunk enough to need a cab (we'd been in the loading zone a LONG time), and b) we knew it would cost us another $40 to get back to our hotel.

Not the type to dwell on the negative, we quickly picked ourselves and our big purse up and got on to the business at hand: dancing. This may come as a surprise (I know I was surprised) but this was my very first time dancing at a gay club. It seemed a lot like a non-gay club but with a whole lot more gray area. For instance, at a non-gay club I don't think I'd let a guy dance with me at all. But at a gay club, that line starts to blur. I mean, if a guy is gay, what difference does it make if he dances with me? None at all as far as I can tell. Here's where it gets tricky: there's no way of telling who's gay and who's straight. I would have just assumed all the guys there were gay except the guy who first danced with my sister told her that he was totally gay while his friend (who was dancing with me) was totally straight. She grabbed me immediately and we went outside so she could fill me in. Thank goodness we were smokers for the night! I can't count the number of times we had to excuse ourselves from the dance floor for yet another cigarette. We couldn't tell if it was the same two guys who continued to dance with us or if everyone at the club looked kind of the same. Either way, we figured it was better to be safe than sorry with totally straight guys in the mix.

Not only did we have a great time dancing, taking tequila shots and smoking, we were also treated to an eye-full of amazing people watching (we couldn't look away from the young man in boxer briefs and sneakers who alternated between dancing on a platform and hanging suggestively from the rafters). But for me, the best part of the club was the very last song (and no, not just because my tired old ass couldn't take much more dancing). We were on a dance floor that had really started to clear out when that song Don't You Want Me came on. While it may not be a particularly funny song, the fact that Molly and I made a home movie of ourselves singing and dancing to it for our parent's anniversary gift one year had us bent over in a fit of what were we thinking? giggles. The video consisted mainly of us taking turns doing really fast kick turns off of the couches while the other one sang in a high pitched, warbly voice I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar... Since it was the last song at the club that night, there was enough room on the dance floor for us to spread out and semi-recreate our video. It gave us enormous glee to be so publicly ridiculous.

If it hadn't been for the eighty bucks spent on unnecessary cab rides (even after tequila shots at the club, we still never got our buzz on), it would have been the most perfect road-trip in road-trip history.

Nothing like a nice hot soak after a heavy night of dancing.
We call it The Afterburner.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Good on paper.

There are some things in life that seem like a good idea until you try them and realize that no! they are actually not good. At all. A few I have discovered this week:
  1. Big houses with lots of land. Seems like an obvious one, right? I mean, who wouldn't want that? Uh, me for starters. Being in this big old house outside the city with no one to protect me except my three year old is, well, it's terrifying! Every little noise sends shivers down my spine and I can't walk past a window at night without thinking there's probably a pervert lurking in the bushes spying on us. I never thought I'd say it but I kind of miss the boom boom Cadillacs that drive past my house at all hours on their way to and from the projects. All that noise somehow makes me feel...safe. Even though, hello!, I am probably a lot more likely to run into a bad scene in my somewhat sketchy neighborhood than out here in the boondocks. But I can't help but thinking of the first Scream movie when Drew Barrymore gets that phone call and the guy is like the nearest neighbor is 10 minutes away... Eek! Even though there are neighbors on all sides of me and I have stayed in this house a hundred times without feeling the slightest big uneasy, I can't help but miss the ghetto birds who circle my neighborhood, making sure no crazy mask wearing weirdos will hang me from a tree.

  2. Good bathroom lighting. I had no idea how many gray hairs I had! Not to mention random patches of facial hair, clogged pores and poorly applied makeup. I miss my bathroom lighting where I never have to know what the back of my head looks like and I can get ready in 5 minutes and leave the house thinking I look pretty darn good.

  3. Fancy wide screen computer monitors. If you have one of these, please note: my face is no where near as w i d e as it appears on your screen. I was just looking at concert pics of Britney Spears thinking, Oh no, she got fat again. Then I realized it was the computer monitor morphing her thighs into overstuffed sausages in fishnet casing. Phew! I hope to avoid seeing any photos of myself until I am safely behind my dinky laptop monitor at home.

  4. Travel potty seat. A tiny plastic seat that will keep your young child from falling butt first into a public toilet that folds up small enough to fit in your purse. Genius! Or it would be if it wasn't for one tiny but very critical design flaw: the darn thing won't stay unfolded! Picture a travel weary mom (kind of like the woman pictured above but with a thinner face) trying to lift her 33 pound child onto the toilet in a ridiculously cramped (and probably filthy) airplane bathroom while holding the travel seat flush with the airplane toilet seat with her knee (gross) so it won't fold back up and goose her child. As you can probably guess, the situation did not end well. I somehow managed to get Liam on the seat but in the process his sweet baby thigh got pinched between the two seats. Can you imagine how bad that must have hurt? While I'm not sure I would have screamed as loud or for as long as Liam did, I would have been pretty pissed if that happened to me.

Your turn. What have you discovered is no where near as good as it looks on paper? Save us the trouble of having to find out the hard way.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On the road again.

I'm coming to you this morning LIVE! from Reno, Nevada; home to both sets of parents, two sisters and brothers-in-law, two adorable little nephews, countless friends and memories, three llamas, one turkey and a cat named Roach. To call it The Biggest Little City in the World is a considerable understatement.

Every time I plan a trip home to visit, I have the highest of hopes. I figure I will see everyone I know - friends, acquaintances, people I used to work with, everyone! - at least once, maybe twice. I will eat at all the restaurants I used to love - Bangkok Cuisine, In-and-Out Burger, Blue Moon Pizza - and get some really good Mexican food while I'm at it. I will check out all the new bars and shops and walk around downtown by the river to really get a feel for this city that feels so unfamiliar. I will drive up to Tahoe at least once and bask in the natural beauty that simply cannot be missed. If there's time, maybe I'll even ski a little.

Of course, as soon as our plane touches down, I realize I have left one very important thing out of my plans: reality. OK, maybe two things: reality and Liam. Not that I would necessarily be super productive and skiing without him (for someone who grew up 30 minutes from Lake Tahoe, I am surprisingly bad at winter sports), but with him I am almost embarrassingly useless.

This trip is especially bad.

Liam and I always stay with Bill's parents because they have plenty of space for us and Liam has his own room (with his name on the wall and everything!) that he has been sleeping in since he was a baby. On previous visits, I would sometimes get Liam down for a nap or to bed for the night and then slip out for a little bit to see friends. I felt a little awkward assuming my in-laws would babysit just because they were here but I appreciated the break so much I think it more than made up for it. While not a perfect system (sometimes he'd wake up looking for me or I'd leave before he was fully asleep), it was still a heck of a lot more freedom than I'm used to.

Well, yesterday morning Bill's parents took off on a trip to Italy for two weeks. Now Liam and I are staying in their house all alone (aside from the cat the turkey and the llamas, of course). If I want to sneak away to do something without him, I have to actaully call and arrange for a babysitter. I don't know about you but if I was my mom and got a call like, Hey, I know I don't get to see you very often so I was wondering if you would come over...to babysit, I might be a little offended.

So, yesterday after our play date in the park, Liam took a nice long nap while I tiptoed around the big, quiet house wondering how much time I had before he woke up. Should I call a friend to come over and hang out or make plans to meet for a child friendly activity later? How long is this kid going to sleep? I ended up wasting most of my time wondering about it and by the time he woke up it was time to meet my sister and her husband for dinner. The afternoon of day 3 totally bit the dust.

I think the real reason I am somewhat baffled when it comes to seeing friends is I am not used to being a parent in Reno. My Reno consisted of things no respectable parent would expose their child to. Liam is too young to appreciate dive bars and indie bands and late night tacos (and to be honest, I don't even know how much I enjoy those things anymore). Instead of calling up an old friend to see if they want to grab dinner or drinks, I have to remember the Liam factor and plan accordingly. Coffee? A walk? Surely there are activities that work for all ages.

Today I will be driving up to Lake Tahoe with my sister and Liam to see my most favorite cousin (one of my most favorite people!) and her family. Liam will have to skip his nap but all other activities for the day will be child friendly and appropriate. I doubt there will be any skiing (if I'm lucky) but day four of our trip is going to be great. Look out days five through ten, Mama might finally have this travel thing figured out!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Trial and error (and sometimes success).

The other night I found myself in one of those awful parenting positions where things kept coming out of my mouth that I knew I had to follow through on but that I would have just as soon taken back. The more ultimatums I gave, the more footing I lost. It was a battle of wits and I was being seriously outwitted by my three year old.

"Hey Liam, let's see a bite of oatmeal please."

"No thanks."

"Liam, that is your dinner. It's exactly what you asked for. Let's see at least one bite, OK?"

"Uh-uh."

"Liam, I'm serious. You need to take one bite of oatmeal or I will turn off Olivia."

Nothing.

"OK. Olivia is off now. OK? Now let's see a bite."

"Maybe we could just play something instead?"

"No, Liam, I am not going to play with you until you eat your dinner."

"No thanks."

I was trying not to let him see me sweat but I was panicking. First he wouldn't swallow his PB & J at lunch ("But, Maamuh, peanut butter sandwich will make me yak!") and now he wouldn't eat his old standby, apple oatmeal. Our short list of acceptable food items was growing impossibly shorter by the second. If he decided bananas were out too, he would surely starve to death within the month. Time to show him I meant business.

"OK, Liam. I am going to count to five and if you don't have one taste by the time I get to five, it's straight to bed." We both knew I was serious. I don't mess around with the cardinal rule of parenting - always follow through on what you say you are going to do, no matter how dumb it might be.

I took a deep breath. "OK, here we go. One." He wasn't budging. "Twooooo..." Nothing. "Threeeee. Liam, if you don't have a bite before I get to five it's time for bed." Blink. "Four." Picture his arms crossed tightly across his chest, nose up in disgust, untouched bowl of oatmeal growing colder and more unappetizing by the second. "This is your last chance, Buddy. Just have one little taste, OK?" I couldn't believe he was making me do this! "Fine. Five. Let's go brush your teeth."

Initially he took the early bedtime in stride which really ticked me off. If he's not going to be upset by a punishment, is it really a punishment? But by the time we got to the bathroom he was in full protest mode. He sat on the floor and refused to climb the steps to brush his teeth or wash his hands. Since I was already on such a roll (ugh), the situation quickly snowballed into a complete disaster. Fast forward a few ultimatums and counts of five and Liam was sent to bed crying with no bedtime stories, no milk and no sight of the mother I try so hard to be.

I stood in the hall by his room for a while wondering what I could have done differently. I wanted to rush in and hold him and tell him I was sorry for getting so upset. I didn't feel bad for punishing him but recognized immediately that there could have been a better way to do it. I had gotten emotional and raised my voice and allowed him to get under my skin. I was frustrated with the limited tools in my bag of tricks (time outs, taking things away) and starting to worry that he would always have the upper hand when it came to these types of power struggles.

Eventually I did go into his room to talk to him about these things and by the time he went to sleep I think everything was once again right in his world. I didn't go back on my word or let him win the war, I just showed him the person-to-person respect that I hope to teach him to show others.

I felt better after we spoke but it didn't do anything to change the fact that the exact same situation could crop up the next night and I would not have any better ways of handling it. Even if I kept my cool and did everything right, I would still be sending my three year old to bed with no dinner and no bedtime stories. That's not exactly my idea of good parenting. But if you don't spank (which we don't), how else can you get a stubborn child to do what you want?

Fortunately for me, my sister has her master's degree in behavioral psychology and works with lots of different families with similar problems. She has a much bigger bag of tricks than I do and can give me practical suggestions for specific problems as well as her professional opinion on the really big questions. I called her immediately.

"Moose, how much does it take to screw up a kid?"

"Oh, a lot. I don't think you don't have to worry about that."

Phew. After listening to me cry and berate myself for a bit, she talked me down and gave me some suggestions for working with Liam in the future.

Since threatening to take things away from him wasn't working, she suggested offering incentives instead. For example, instead of letting Liam watch TV while he eats and pausing the show or shutting it off to encourage bites (this used to be the best way to get him to eat which is why we let him do it), tell him he can watch a show after dinner if he eats well. This way, we will be on the same team instead of me vs. him. If he does a good job (sitting with us, tasting everything on his plate, and asking to be excused when he's finished), he will earn the chance to watch a show.

We have tried this a few times this week and I think it's working. He has yet to earn a show (taste everything on his plate - ha!) but we have all stayed relatively calm and happy with the outcome.

This same principle can be applied to other situations as well. If he's giving me a hard time about getting dressed, I can offer him a treat (like a few jelly beans) if he cooperates. You might be thinking that will teach him to expect candy every time he listens to me but, as long as I don't push it, the expectation of a bribe will naturally drop off.

We just experienced this with potty training. At first, every time he went potty he got a dance party and a parade and his choice of a candy treat. Now, one week later, he just goes potty like a big boy and doesn't expect anything at all. I still tell him I'm proud of him after he goes and every once in a while I'll offer him something special just because he's doing such a great job, but it's not something he demands or expects. My sister says that is normally how it works. Unless the parent continues to offer the bribe after it's needed, the expectation for it will soon vanish.

Such a small shift of perspective - earning something instead of losing something - makes a huge difference in the way things feel and in the way kids behave. Negative consequences are never as powerful as positive reinforcement and, even though I already knew this, I appreciated the reminder.

In about 30 minutes we are off to the airport to fly home to see our family. Instead of feeling anxious about traveling all alone with a newly potty trained 3 year old, I am feeling excited for an adventure with my precious boy. My carry on full of lolly pops and special treats doesn't hurt either. It's exactly the bag of tricks I was looking for.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Let's get physical.

I went to a new workout class this week that totally kicked my butt. It's called Sculpt but I think something along the lines of Annihilate may have been more appropriate. I am so sore. Like the kind of sore I can remember feeling after the first day of cheerleading camp. When a whole summer of sleeping late and hanging out with friends would come to a screeching halt as I was suddenly forced to spend 8 hours in the hot sun doing herkies. No? Not following that one? Well let's just say it makes you really sore, OK?

Like almost as sore as I am right now.

I feel OK if I am sitting (or even better if I am fully reclined), but once I try to stand all the muscles in my lower body simultaneously contract making me feel both very weak and very strong all at the same time. Weak because all my movements have corresponding sound effects (like oof, eee and ow-ow-owww) and I'm hobbling around like a senior citizen; strong because once the soreness goes away all the places that hurt will be that much more buff. No pain no gain, right?

Ouch.

Since I am obviously in no condition to work out (or move or whatever) I am catching up on my stacks of unread magazines while pruning out in a bathtub full of Epsom salt. This works out well because, while my entire lower half feels ripped to shreds and abused, my upper half seems to have escaped the class relatively pain free. I have no idea how this happened considering the unholy amount of reps we did of bicep curls, military presses, tricep push backs, bench presses and anything else that can be forced upon you by a relentless instructor with an arsenal of hand weights and medicine balls.

Maybe my upper body was just strong enough to handle the class? I am not by any means muscular but keep thinking back to a week or so ago when I inexplicably flexed my biceps at the dinner table and asked our guests if they had tickets to the gun show. But, no, that definitely had more to do with the wine I was drinking than the heat I was packing. Still, my weak ass legs are never going to hear the end of it from my guns.

I mean, my arms.

Anyway, as I was flipping through Shape (not my favorite magazine but perfect for reading in the bath) I saw something that made me do a double take.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you, those are definitely scrunchies they are suggesting we wear to they gym. Scrunchies! They don't even try to pretend they are anything else. Look:

It's right there in black and white. Scrunchie. Wow.

I mean, sure, I loved my color coordinated scrunchies (either in my hair or on my wrist!) as much as the next girl but in hindsight don't they seem kind of silly? I could definitely see a child getting away with that look, but a full grown woman with a big floofy floral fabric band around her pony tail seems kind of ridiculous. Then again, I do own a brand new pair of leg warmers. Maybe the scrunchie is the logical next step.

I was going to say something about a scrunchie being better
than feathered hair but then I realized that's kind of what my hair
looks like right now. Damn.