Monthly Archives: November 2007

Goodbye, November! I Gotta Get a Move On…

In an email I sent to my Uncle listing possible things he could get my son for Christmas (hey, he ASKED, I don’t just make up lists and send them out to people), I told him: “Anything NOT Star Wars or LEGOs would be good.  We are drowning in LEGOs and Santa’s bringing more and if I have to hear Snags go on and on about Star Wars and Obi Wan Kenobi anymore I swear I will poke my ears out with the first thing I can get my hands on – probably a LEGO.”

But that’s a lie.  A total bold faced lie.  Because actually, at the time I wrote that email, I had already dug my ear drums out with the tines of a fork.  The whole ordeal was a bit messier than I had anticipated and so I tried to staunch the flow of blood with the first thing I could get my hands on – and that WAS a bunch of LEGOs.  Only LEGOs aren’t cotton, so they aren’t very absorbent in that impervious hard plastic surface sort of way, and so I was forced to sit there and build tiny LEGO dams while the blood poured from my empty ear sockets all over my keyboard.  I shoved the little plastic LEGO dams into the holes that once held ear drums, and here I type with sticky fingers telling all the world the truth.  That I am a liar and I am sick to death of hearing about Star Wars.  Honestly, I only lied in the first place because I didn’t want to alarm my Uncle over all the blood.

But like I said, Santa IS bringing more Star Wars LEGOs to our house this Christmas, so I fear I can’t escape the coming waves of Star Ships engaged in the battles of my obsessed child’s devising.  I have seriously considered calling Santa and telling him “NO! Return those LEGOs to your toy storage locker that is Toys R Us, don’t bring them here!”, but then they were the first thing Snags asked for in his letter to Santa, and they were the first things he marked as “Top Choice” on his list, like a butcher grading cuts of meat.  So I can’t bring myself to do it.  Plus Santa I can’t find the receipt.

So Christmas is coming and thankfully I’ve already completed some of my shopping.  I got my parents… oh wait, they might read this so I can’t say. But I got my husband… nope, better not tell you that either. Okay, so instead I’ll tell you about my brother’s Christmas wish-list.  He didn’t prioritize it so I don’t know if this was his “Top Choice” or not, but one of the items on his list was the Magic Wallet.  Have you heard of it?  It’s been around for years.  I think my brother even had one once upon a time. It must have worn out. He wants a new one. But he wants the Original Magic Wallet, not the new Magic Wallet Plus.  Basically the concept is you open it up, drop in a dollar bill or a receipt or something, close it up, and it “magically” moves the paper to it’s proper place.  Well, more or less.  It’s not really magic at all, having elastic bands that hook it all together not unlike a Jacob’s Ladder toy.  Something which, by the way, I always wanted when I was a kid. Something I still haven’t figured out to this day.  But anyway, the Magic Wallet…  I can just picture my brother now, using the wallet as a prop for his pick-up line at a bar, saying something like “Hello beautiful!  See if you can find what I have hidden in my Magic Wallet!”  Word to my brother: If I DO get you the Magic Wallet for Christmas, DON’T use that line.  It’s awful. It’s sure to get a drink thrown in your face and very possibly a kick to your nuts.  So you know, you’ve been warned.

But Christmas!  It’s almost here.  Only 26 or so days left and there is still so much to do!  I’ve got gifts to wrap, bows to tie, cards to sign and mail, and decorations to dig out of the basement.  The tree has been up for a week now but I’ve got to rearrange the ornaments.  Snags hung them all at a six year old level, so the bottom third of the tree looks like it’s wearing a skirt of baubles, the rest looks quite naked.  Rearranging is definitely in order. 

I have menus to plan and more presents to shop for.  I have to buy more Scotch Tape so I can wrap the things I’ve bought.  Snags has used all that I had in a fit of creativity.  He’s building some sort of display, something that combines Star Wars figurines and space crafts, LEGOs, scraps of wood from the garage, and I think, some of the figures from our Nativity Scene, all Scotch Taped together on my coffee table.  Warning to those coming for Christmas: there may not be any place to set your drinks down. 

Which reminds me, I have to go to the liquor store.  Drinks!  I am going to need them.  I hear they help numb the pain.  And my ears, shoved full of LEGOs as they are, they are starting to throb.

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Filed under Christmas, humor, LEGOs, life, Magic Wallet

Spanish on T.V.

A commercial came on T.V. the other day.  It was for Muzzy, the award winning language program that claims to teach young children how to speak a foreign language.  In the commercial, the two children mesmerized by the Muzzy program are speaking Spanish.  One is a little blonde haired girl, the other a curly haired red headed boy.  Freckles abound but their accents are perfecto!

Snags saw the commercial and turned to me. “Can you get me that?” he asked. “We already have it,” I told him, as I got up to dig it out of the clutter that covers the countertop of the bar in our basement.  I had bought the Muzzy program two years ago, when Snags was three or four years old and attending daycare.  Part of the daycare curriculum taught the children Spanish, assorted words here or there related to whatever theme of the week was being addressed, words that they could never hope to string together into an actual sentence.  And even if they could, well, the teachers teaching it were more or less teenage babysitters, fresh out of high school, some even still in it, and attending child care courses at the local community college so they could babysit hordes of children over the summer and get paid miserably for it.  In that setting, the proper pronunciation of Spanish was a pipe dream. 

Now, aside from saying no hablo Espanole and being able to count from uno to diez, I don’t speak any Spanish myself.  But my husband speaks some, enough to know the daycare teachers were totally butchering the pronunciation of all they tried to teach.  It drove him insane when he’d try to correct Snags’ pronunciation of carro de bomberos (Spanish word for fire truck) only to have Snags argue back, “No, Dad!  You’re WRONG! You say it like this… that’s how Miss Karen taught us!”

So when the Muzzy fliers started arriving in the mail and the commercials started showing up on TV, I was intrigued.  I thought, if I bought the program, that not only could Snags learn to speak Spanish, but if I watched the DVDs with him, then I could too!

It turned out, for me anyway, that learning Spanish was not quite as simple as popping in a DVD and watching a cartoon involving a fuzzy green monster.  And Snags, well he was in his Bob the Builder phase, so Muzzy, he more or less got stuck back in the box he came in and shoved under a pile of junk on that basement counter.

But now Snags is in Kindergarten, and his interest in learning is ever expanding.  He ponders places like Ancient Egypt and dead languages, like Latin.

Latin. The language my husband studied for three whole years when he was in high school.  I laugh at him now, picturing him conjugating Latin verbs on words he would never use outside of a textbook and classroom.  He argues with me, claims his study of Latin was useful.  “It helped me get a higher score on my SATs!” he says.  Maybe so, but he’s 40 now, the SATs are long behind him, and Latin, it’s STILL a dead language. 

But Snags, he’s intrigued.  As he climbed the stairs with the first of the Muzzy DVDs clutched in his hand, he turned and asked me:  “Will this teach me that dead language? That one that dad knows?”

“That dead language?” I laughed.  “You mean Latin? No sweetheart, it won’t.  It’s supposed to teach you Spanish though.” 

Veremos!

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Filed under humor, Latin, learning languages, life, Muzzy, Spanish

Like a Drug

Nearly 24 hours later and I am still floating off the high that comes from visiting with best old friends.  These friends of ours, they used to live next door to us.  This was in our newly married stage, pre-kids, as were they, and we had time to get together at each other’s house or a nearby restaurant for dinner, for drinks, for stories, for laughter.  Oh, the laughter!

Years went by and they had their child first, and my husband and I used to spend time with them. We’d hold the baby and she’d fall asleep in our arms and we’d lay her down or our friends would take her home and put her in her crib and come back over with the baby monitor.  We lived in townhouses and really, it was like the baby was just in the next room.

I had thoughts, when I became pregnant, that my friend and I would spend part of our days together, taking long walks, pushing the strollers, and she could share her mothering wisdom with me, like a mentor.  Her baby had recently turned one after all.  But it wasn’t to be.  Just weeks before my son was born our friends announced they were moving out of state.  A new job beckoned and they had to go to it.  A few days after my son was born they were gone, and I was lost.  I mourned the loss of my friends, and I lived the hell that is post partum depression.

Time marched on.  Our friends had another baby.  We moved out of our townhouse. We visited our friends one winter weekend, at their home in New Jersey.  Their first baby was 3 ½ already, the second just learning to crawl.  Our son had fun playing with the girls, we had fun visiting with our friends.

Time marched on again.  Our friends moved to Connecticut, their oldest daughter started school.  Here we are a few years later still, and their oldest is in 2nd grade, loves to read, and is studying tap dancing. My son is in Kindergarten and easily seduced by LEGOs.  Their youngest, at 4 ½ attends preschool, has a head full of the thickest and curliest blonde hair there ever was, and may have stronger seductive powers than LEGOs.  When we got together yesterday my son never left her side. We found them at one point, my son down on one knee, the hand of his outstretched arm clasped by his new found friend.  She was standing, staring down at him, as if trying to decipher the sincerity of his proposal.

Needless to say, when I came home from work a few nights ago to an answering machine message from my friends announcing they were in town for a few days, and did we have any time to get together with them, I jumped at the chance.  I called them back right away and we chipped away at dates and times until we found a spot of time in all of our busy lives that would work. A span of a few hours squeezed in before they had to head back home to work and school and everyday life.

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and rather than fight the crowds out hunting for deals on Black Friday, we got together at a holiday festival where the children shared popcorn, jumped around in a moon bounce, rode carousels, and watched miniature train displays.  The festival was nice but crowded, the children easy to lose sight of as we walked and tried to catch up on time spent so far apart.  We talked in spurts, interrupted by pleads of “Mom! Look!” and small hands tugging at our coats. 

Afterwards we went to lunch and once fed, the children busied themselves at one end of the long table by writing on the backs of receipts and scraps of paper and combing the fur of stuffed animals with the plastic tines of a fork.

We the parents, the best old friends, finally got a chance to really talk, to catch each other up on our lives and our families.  We shared stories and we shared laughter.  Oh, the laughter! 

This time as our friends drove away, headed back to Connecticut after their holiday visit here, I wasn’t sad.  I was sated and still high from our time together, from the laughter, like a drug.  It was, I remarked, as I hugged them goodbye, just like old times.
 

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Filed under friends, laughter, life, old times

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, I don’t like you.  I’m sorry, but it’s true.  I used to like you quite a lot, but I was younger then, and more easily impressed.

When I was young my parents used to load my brother and I and all of our luggage into the car and we’d spend four or five hours on the road heading to my Grandmother’s house.  Once there, other relatives would slowly arrive until my Grandmother’s house was full to bursting seams, and there we’d spend Thanksgiving.
 
In time the gathering outgrew her kitchen so it was moved to the basement where card table after card table would be set up, end to end to end.  The tables would be covered to stretch out like one singular impossibly long table that spanned the long end of the room, and chairs and benches and step stools would be gathered from all around until there was enough seating for everyone.

My grandmother and female relatives would busy themselves in the kitchen with the Thanksgiving meal, and other family members would be put to work carrying bowls and platters and baskets over flowing with food down the basement steps until everything edible had been transferred from the kitchen to the basement.

Finally, everyone would sit down, a prayer would be said, and we’d all begin to eat.  And eat.  And eat.  And eat.  And eat.

Thanksgiving was fun then.  During those visits all I really had to do was play and eat.  Visit with my cousins, hang out with my Aunts and Uncles, play cards or go to Bingo with my Grandmother.  And eat.

Thanksgiving now though, it’s just so much work, none of which seems worth the trouble.  For a holiday, a day off, it’s not a day “off” at all.  Thanksgiving is HOURS spent in the kitchen, bent over a hot stove, basting the turkey, blending the mashed potatoes, thickening the gravy… Shooing people from the kitchen because it’s too small and they are only in the way.  Setting the table with the good china, the kind that can’t go in the dishwasher, the kind that has to be washed by hand after the meal.  And then eating the entire meal, the one that took all day long to prepare, eating it in twenty or thirty minutes flat and thinking, “This is it?  We’re all done?  Now what?”  The men all wander off to watch football and fall asleep on the sofa, the floor, the recliner, their bellies full of turkey.  The women stay back, cleaning up the dishes, the pots and pans, putting away the leftovers.  And it never fails, the second the leftovers are put away, the men are awake, looking for more, not hungry really, just awake now, bored, in between games.

Admittedly, I haven’t had to actually pull together a full Thanksgiving meal at my house in many years.  We usually go to my in-laws house and except for an occasional green bean casserole or a bowl of cranberry sauce, I don’t have to cook too much. And for that, at least, I’m thankful. But I still can’t help feeling like the holiday is all too much effort, the large gatherings and the travel and the cooking, the cookingthe cooking, just to replicate a meal that was eaten hundreds of years ago by a bunch of Pilgrims and Indians. 

And that’s why Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday… next to Easter…

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Filed under life, Thanksgiving

“Good Morning… No!”

I spent the morning telling Snags “No!”

No, you can’t wear your red Spiderman robe to school over your clothes so you can “look like Santa Claus”.  No, because a robe goes with pajamas so it’s considered pajamas and you can only wear pajamas to school on approved pajama days.  That’s in the school rules – it’s part of the dress code.  And today is not a pajama day.

 No, you can’t take the red pillow case to school with you even though you think it looks like Santa’s bag of toys.  Because…  It’s uh,… considered bedding!  Like pajamas. You wear them to bed. And the pillowcase belongs on your pillow which belongs ON YOUR BED. See? Sorry.

No, you can’t wear your new snow boots to school today.  It’s part of the school rules, too.  You can’t wear snow boots if it isn’t snowing out. Sorry.  I know you think they look like Santa’s boots. You still can’t wear them. Put your tennis shoes on.

In the end, he settled on wearing a red short sleeve polo shirt.  On top of that he wore an “orange red” fleece sweatshirt.  He had on brown cords but changed into gray sweatpants because they “looked more like Santa.”  He took a Santa Hat with him. You know the kind. Red, kind of fuzzy material, has white trim.

He thought he was going to fool his kindergarten teacher with this outfit.  Fool her into what, I don’t know.  Into thinking HE was Santa Claus?  Because if he walks into class saying “Yo, ho, ho!” like he’s been doing around the house for the past 48 hours… saying “Yo, ho, ho!” instead of “Ho, Ho, Ho!” Then instead of “Santa Claus?!” his teacher will probably be thinking “Christmas Pirate?”

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Filed under Christmas, humor, life, Santa, Snags

The Horses Wore Blankets

I was planning to go running yesterday morning, but then, when my alarm clock went off at 5:30 a.m., I laughed and mumbled to myself something like “no friggin’ way,” and I went back to sleep thinking maybe I’d run today instead.  When I woke up again at 7:00 a.m., I had to let the dog out and as I did so, I remembered it was supposed to rain today. Now, running in the rain might be refreshing in the summer, but in the late fall, with winter pressing at your heels, the thought of running in a cold rain, well, it didn’t seem like anything I’d enjoy.  And I really wanted to get a long run in this weekend so I wouldn’t be damning myself all week long for skipping it.  So after considerable dawdling and debate, I donned my running clothes and finally pushed myself out the door at 8:45, a late start if ever there was one.  I was tired beyond belief, and the entire run felt like a struggle, but in the end I was very glad I took the opportunity and got out there. 

Because as I was driving down the road on my way to my favorite running spot, I passed several farms and fields filled with animals, mostly horses and cows.  The horses, I noticed wore blankets. The cows, however did not.  Now I am not a farmer, but what is up with that?  Were they trying to keep the milk cold so it wouldn’t spoil?  I also wondered what the horses blankets were made of.  Surely they weren’t made of horse hair.  I mean, that’s what covers the horses already, and obviously it’s not warm enough if they need a blanket.  So maybe, I thought, the blankets were wool.  Or cashmere.  Imagine that, cashmere blankets on horses…  How lucky are they?

Another reason I was happy that I decided to go running is that the weather was perfect.  It was cold and breezy and cloudy out.  Maybe it was 45 or 50 degrees.  The sun was hiding behind the clouds so I didn’t need a visor and I didn’t need sun glasses and I didn’t have to worry about feeling annoyingly hot, the way I often do when the sun starts beating down my back.  

Despite the cool temperatures and the clouds, I still broke a sweat. I was wearing a fleece running jacket though, one that I bought at the race expo for the Virginia Beach ½ Marathon last year, and it has zippers in the arm pits that you can unzip to let in some air if you need it.  I never really gave those zippers much thought until I was out running yesterday and stopped to yank the zippers down.  I felt cooler almost immediately.  These are great, I thought!  And then I contemplated how, if you were the sort of person who liked to go all natural, and didn’t bother to shave your arm pits, you could conceivably let your pit hair grow long and silky, then you could braid it, and still wear this jacket.  You could unzip the armpit zippers and let your braided arm pit hair hang out on either side like pigtails, flowing behind you in the wind while you ran.  Not that I would do a thing like that, mind you, but someone else could, if they wanted to.  I’m just saying.

The other thing I like about this particular running jacket, aside from the pit zippers and the dry wicking fleece it’s made from, are the pockets where I can stash some shot blocks and my cell phone.  It makes running in the fall and winter a lot more enjoyable, having a place to stash my stuff without having to wear a running belt.

The place I like to run, it’s quiet.  There is nothing to hear but a few geese honking as they head South, the sound of a car engine approaching every now and then, or the wheels of bicycles turning as a group of cyclists roll past. In certain spots you can hear the water in the steam, or leaves rustling from squirrels overhead.  And sometimes, I am not kidding, you can hear an acorn fall.  But that’s it.  In this quiet I can run and run and I can think about everything and nothing at the same time.  Yesterday I thought about the pit zippers on my jacket and, well, that was really about it.  I ran for 2 hours straight.

When I got home, before I could even get out of the car, Snags popped up next to my driver’s side window, opened my car door, and climbed into my lap.  “STOP!”  I told him.  “I’m all sweaty.  I smell stinky.  Don’t sit on me!”

“You don’t smell stinky, mom,” he said.  “You smell HOT!”

“What?!”  I asked, a little panicked.  How gross is that?  My six year old son thinking I smelled “HOT!”  What on earth could he mean? I wondered.  How did Snags know about HOT!? 

So I pressed him.  “What do you mean I smell HOT?  What does HOT mean?” 

And I was relieved as he said, “You smell like you’ve been sitting in here with the car heater on the whole way home from running!” 

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Filed under cows, horses, running, Snags

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat

And by Goose I mean me.  Boy do I hate the weeks between Halloween and Christmas.  I’ve read all the advice, how not to gain that average 5 pounds or so, but you’re reading the writing of a woman who gained the Freshman 15 back in college and kept it ON so really, advising me to be mindful of my holiday eating or to eat BEFORE I go to a holiday party… well, that only ends up with me eating two meals.  The one before the party and the one AT the party.  So that isn’t going to work at all.  Last year’s 5 pounds on my left hip are proof of that.

But Christmas is coming and Snags is EXCITED! EXCITED! EXCITED!  More so this year than any year past.

He’s already made his Christmas list for Santa and revised it twice.

It started off as a simple one page letter asking for three things.  It has since morphed into a small catalog of photos cut from toy magazines and glued onto a stack of paper from the printer in the basement, stapled together, then attached to a cover sheet, lest Santa get confused as to whom the list came from.

Recently he decided to prioritize the list.  Only he wrote “Top Choice” by each and every item on his list.

I finally had to sit down with him and explain that EVERYTHING can’t be his “Top Choice.”  And as we flipped through the pages of his ever expanding list, I had to point out that Santa was not likely to bring him a rock tumbler because it was for children ages 10 and up. Ditto the chemistry set. “Darn it!” Snags yelled.  And then he drew a big X over the items.

“Also,” I said, trying not to dampen his Christmas spirit but also wanting to keep my house fee of bugs, “No ant farm.  Even when you turn eight and are old enough for an ant farm, see here where it says 8 and older?  Even then, I am not having ants in my house.  Not even if they live on a farm.”

“Why not?” Snags demanded to know. 

“Because,” I said, “that’s why I pay the exterminator in the first place.  Too keep ants out of here.  Sorry kiddo.”

“Darn it!” He yelled again as he crossed the ant farm off his list.

My husband and I have been having a bit of a discussion lately too.  He wants to limit what Snags gets for Christmas, set a budget.  And I do too.  We just can’t agree on what that budget should be.  Because when your kid is six and wants a couple of $90 LEGO sets, well, there won’t be much under the tree if you say $200 is the limit, you know?  And then also, my husband is of the opinion that the best presents should come from mom and dad and Santa should only bring maybe one or two gifts.  I’m all against that.  Because when I was a kid, SANTA BROUGHT EVERYTHING.  Or nearly everything.  My husband grew up differently than I and seems to think this puts the appreciation of Christmas on Santa, and not mom and dad.  Jesus, some of you may notice, is left out of this part of the discussion.  Yes, the holiday is about him, and he is lying in the manger we set up, but then, as Snags notes, Jesus was a baby at Christmas, and babies don’t bring you presents.  But Santa, he does! 

“Look at it this way,” I tried to explain to my husband.  “We’ve probably only got another year or two of Santa left around here.  Some older kid at school will spill the beans soon enough.  I’d rather Snags be all excited about Santa while he can.  He has the rest of his life to appreciate the fact that Santa was US.  He can appreciate you and me and what we gave him from Santa when he’s grown.  Right now, let’s let the mystery and excitement go on as long as possible.  That’s what being a kid is all about, isn’t it?”

Well, that and being able to eat all the holiday junk you want without gaining an ounce.
 

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Filed under Christmas, humor, life, Santa