Monday, April 26, 2010

Canvassing the Park

When you're a stay at home mother of small children, a sunny day can be an obligation. Especially in the spring, when you can't rationalize staying indoors with health conscious reasons like avoiding UV rays and scorching heat. Nope, today there were just enough harmful UV rays to warrant extensive sunscreen usage but not enough to get me out of packing a picnic and loading up the twins for a park adventure. And it's not that I don't want to be outside on a beautiful day, I do. I want to be stretched out under a big oak tree reading one of the fabulous new novels I picked up at the library and then maybe take a little siesta. Instead, I supervised collegiate level gymnastics routines by unqualified three-year-old gymnasts, helped feed methodically stored old bread heels to overfed ducks and geese that are so gargantuan that they won't be able to fly south this winter or any other, and warded off bees that my children assume are out to murder them in some slow, agonizing, dismembering sort of way. None of my children have even been stung by a bee; they just scream in fear as if this were a certainty. Something they heard about in an unsupervised sandbox somewhere.

But the obstacles to getting to the park are even bigger than the ones they climb on once we get there. The first one being what to wear. This is where I'm noticing a big difference between boys and girls (and yes, I know of bigger ones). While my son, to this day - at six and a half, will let me pick out his clothes for any and all occasions, the girls want wardrobe autonomy. And, for the record, I'm open to the possibility that they have more fashion sense than me, most primates do, but, sometimes, mother knows best. Like I know that as beautiful as that Easter dress is, it's also dry clean only and not designed with climbing in mind. Not modest climbing, at least. So, I talked her down to a white smocked tank and a pink skirt with shorts sewn into it, a skort if you will. But I had to talk her into it in such a way that she thought it was her idea. 

After we captured the right "park- look" with our attire (more Central than trailer), I diligently applied 500 SPF sunscreen to the twins. This application came with warnings from me of don't rub it off your arms and touch your eyes. Just leave it alone. In five seconds, there was the early season ritual of one child rubbing sunscreen in their eyes and the resulting screaming and gnashing of teeth. One down, two more to go this year. Because, obviously, it makes more sense to do exactly what mommy told you not to and judge the consequences for yourself. So, once she calmed down and I said I told you so, I packed our lunch, rounded up sunglasses, switched the shoes on the feet of Miss I Couldn't Put My Shoes On The Right Feet If The Fate Of The Nation Depended On It, and then we were on our way.

We had fun once we got there though, and it's always an honor to be along with my smallest child on the campaign trail. She is such a glad-hander, introducing herself and her sister to everyone she meets and launching into political conversations like, "Are you having a picnic here today? We are. Do you like ham and cheese or peanut butter and jelly? I like ham and cheese, but my sister likes peanut butter and jelly." See what she's doing there? She's showing versatility and tolerance of other people's lifestyle choices. Non-partisanship. "Do you want to play with us?" she always asks, in effort to secure this child's vote. It's enticing for any kid that is at the park alone because she already has her own entourage with her twin sister, who usually hangs just in back of her like a bodyguard (her extra five inches and twelve pounds on the President make her look formidable as far as playground bodyguards). When it's time to leave, she says goodbye to all of her constituents and mumbles promises of getting that extra swingset put in for them. She waves over her shoulder and marches out like her motorcade is waiting. It's fun. I can't imagine where she got that ridiculous the-world-rotates-around-me personality.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Athletically Askew

Exercise. I hate to start the blog with a four letter word like that, but it was on my mind. I began a nine week fitness class today and hopefully I will look like the teacher when I'm done. She's very toned, like a pro athlete without the scary big shoulders and overdeveloped thighs, so more of a Jennifer Aniston body. She's also beautiful, with a golden tan, long straight hair that doesn't seem to need ironing - very wash and wear, and then spectacular eyes of some light shade that I can't name because the people at Crayola have not prepared me for this color. The odds of me looking like the teacher are slim I know, and even "slim" is a remote chance, but I needed to shake things up anyway, so I'm giving it a go.

Before we go further in the story, you'll need just a little background on me and the "e" word. Until I was 29, I didn't do it. At least not intentionally. Any exercise I got was of the incidental variety. I have always enjoyed sports, no matter what my skill level may be, and I dabbled in those growing up and into college, where intramurals were a bloodsport. But while I was always up for a game, practices and conditioning weren't my thing, so after junior high I didn't join any teams. I managed to keep my weight up during these years by offsetting a weekly sporting challenge with six other days of eating enough calories to sustain a small horse. And I found that after college, the opportunities for playing sports disappeared. I mean, no Pampered Chef party I've ever been to has broken out into a game of flag football. This would be cool though, right? And any other exercise growing up was unintentional, like trying to outrun my brother after he caught me using something of his that was supposedly "off-limits". Anyone who knows my brother knows I've never outrun him and never will unless he loses a leg in some kind of tragic stock broker accident.

But I changed my ways after my twins were born. I decided to eat calories more on the level with an adult woman than an adolescent horse. And I reluctantly began exercising. This initially consisted of walking a couple of miles a few days a week. Then I noticed that didn't feel much like exercise anymore, so I nervously incorporated a little jogging in my walks. I remember feeling embarrassed out there on the sidewalk where the whole neighborhood could see me jogging, jiggling. Then I had this epiphany where I shouldn't be embarrassed to be out there doing something about my weight when it made more sense to be embarrassed about squeezing into a booth at Chili's and ordering a Big-Mouth burger, cheese fries, and Coke, with a milkshake on the side. Not that the last part of that sentence doesn't make my mouth water!

Anyway, where was I before the cheese fries, oh yeah, so one thing led to another with the running and soon I found that I could run a whole mile. This was a first for me. Remember those President's physical fitness tests in school? Yeah, I couldn't run a whole mile without walking a bit. And don't worry, my phys. ed. teacher made sure to belittle me about that and announce my pathetic time out loud as she recorded it in my permanent records. I really wanted to call her after I ran my first mile (just under ten minutes, but hey I was pushing thirty) and tell her I did it and could she please correct my file. But then I realized that she had probably been murdered long ago by some other youth she humiliated and thus wasn't around to tell. And a few months later, I could run all three miles without breaking for a walk. I know there is a program that takes you from couch potato to 5K in like nine weeks, but for me it was more like nine months. Or 29 years, depending on how you look at it.

But I've never joined a gym or anything. I've gone to a few cycling classes with my best friend, thanks to her guest passes. Well, once I didn't have a pass and I snuck in. I don't know what level of misdemeanor that constitutes, but I'm sure I can trust you guys not to inform the Y authorities. So, the opportunity to mix up my work out regimen with a class sounded perfect. And confident of my high level cardio shape, I took a spot in the front row of participants. Cardio shape is one thing, coordination is another beast altogether. As this was my first experience with trying to follow choreographed and intricately timed moves, I can't say for sure that I'll always move in the wrong direction, kick the wrong foot, and collide with the person next to me, but I suspect I may. I'm sure I got the same amount of exercise as the other ladies, but I know I must have looked like I needed to be in the timing-impaired women's fitness class. I'll be going back on Thursday, but I probably won't be in the front row.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Night In The Life

For the last three days, I've been waiting on a stroke of genius for a blog. But, it was a rough week around here, and it’s hard to find anything humorous about being up all night with a vomiting kid. Hard, but not impossible. Because sometimes sleep deprivation makes the mundane hilarious. I’ve always been like this, which is why I laughed myself to sleep at most slumber parties growing up. And the other reason I found myself laughing in the middle of the night on Thursday, as I put my fourth load of biohazardous laundry into wash, is that I tend to laugh at inappropriate times. Like you’d be amazed at the funny things I’ve witnessed at funerals. Humor’s my coping mechanism. Everybody has one. Well, some of us have two. I have humor and chocolate, which are arguably better than crack and heroine. Is crack the same thing as heroine? I don’t even know, which my in-laws will be pleased to discover.

And it’s not that I look at trying times, like being awake all night with sick kids, in the glass is half full sort of way. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t even find the glass, so how would I know its level of fullness? But for some reason I found myself laughing about the fact that I was getting more laundry done in the middle of the night on Thursday than I had managed all week. Though I consistently find that I’m very productive between midnight and four. I’ve written some startling good chapters in my manuscripts during that time. And given my afterhours productivity and the fact that I’m rarely sleepy when I go to bed at night and always walking around the first half of the day with single-minded determination to get a nap, I think I might be nocturnal. Perhaps it’s just easier to stay focused without an army of mess makers hot on my heels asking for snacks, presenting criminal cases against their siblings, and pressuring me to get to the next daily task. I feel like saying, “Get back to me at two a.m. when I can think clearly”, but I’m afraid they’d take me up on my offer on the one night I’m actually sleeping soundly.

While I could solve the world’s energy crisis during the night, my husband, in contrast, has very little mental functioning between midnight and seven a.m. This was most clearly evident when our children were babies and he would occasionally try to lend a hand during the night. The first obstacle for my husband’s helpfulness is that he doesn’t hear anything. So if I want him to go check on a screaming kid, I have to punch him into consciousness. And then he can’t even seem to perform simple tasks or follow short instructions. One night, he graciously went downstairs and made me a bottle for one of the twins and brought it back up with no lid whatsoever, as if a three-week-old can just sip on it or something. And you’d be amazed at how many wrong ways there are to put on a diaper. He has also dosed the wrong children with Tylenol. Sleeping ones that were experiencing no fever or pain. And he has claimed to have checked on many a situation when indeed he hadn’t even left the bed. He wasn’t intentionally lying, he’s just that confused during the night.

There have been times when my husband is out of town and I find myself on edge with the normal sounds of our house; the ice maker working, the heat cutting off, a squirrel tree-hopping outside, etc. So, I’ll brandish a kitchen knife and search out closets for bad guys. I’ve never found any, though if you saw a few of my closets you’d understand that I could have overlooked them. But I’m not sure why I feel less secure when my husband is gone overnight, because in his middle-of-the-night confusion he’d be just as likely to arm the intruder and offer him a drink as he would be to protect us. I think the home security is best left to the G.I. Joes and pirates my son has securing the perimeter of the toy room.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Popcorn Not Included

Tonight, I went to see Date Night with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey. Well, I didn’t go with them to the movie, they were starring in it. I went with my husband. And while I loved the movie, I can say with complete certainty that Date Night will not be critically acclaimed nor be in the running for Best Picture at next year’s Academy Awards, so basically – it’s a must see! It was a hilarious and enjoyable waste of time, as is most of my time wasting. You always know it was worth taking out a second mortgage to afford a trip to the theater when you’re laughing so hard you cease breathing.
Movie theater ticket prices are in fact one of the primary references for me knowing how quickly I’m aging. Because I remember when movies, the evening showings mind you, were only $4.25. (Saying ‘mind you’ is another clue to the early stages of decrepitness) Granted movies were only worth $4.25 back then, whereas now, I’ll sometimes see something I like so much that I feel like I should leave a tip on the way out, in addition to the ten bucks I paid to get in. Movies have come a long way in the last twenty years. Well, technically they’ve come a long way in the last 600 years when you consider Christopher Columbus, et al., didn’t even have movies. Then again, would they have risked sailing over here after seeing Pirates of the Caribbean II, Dead Man’s Chest? I daresay they would not. It’s just that I’ve only been watching for the last couple of decades. And the advancements aren't only in special effects, which we can all admit are mind-boggling considering the dnuh-dnuh-dnuh sound in Jaws freaked us out back in the day and now we’re ducking our heads in the theater because we feel like we’re in the passenger’s seat of the Batmobile and Christian Bale thinks it’s a good idea to go under the semi. But there have also been drastic improvements in the scripts and the actors. Excuse me for not getting excited about Singin’ In The Rain when I could be watching Edward Cullen destroy a rival vampire in the quest to save his true love, whose very scent torments the boy night and day! And our movie stars are so much better looking than they were even twenty-five years ago. I mean come on early cinema, where are your Dicaprios? Have you not Brad Pitts?
Alas, the most important thing I have to impart from my trip to the theater is that I’m moving. Temporarily. You can reach me at the Wakefield 12 cinema through the end of summer. Because I really want to see every single movie that was previewed, and that never happens. They almost always throw in some random zombie movie where people’s jaws are coming unhinged that I most definitely wouldn’t see. Well, not this time. Hollywood has a big summer planned for us and I’m looking forward to enjoying many more movies.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In the Spirit of Innovation

Economic Downturn Suggestion Number Two: The ten percent of unemployed Americans should work on new inventions. Something that would revolutionize our world like the automobile, the phone, chocolate, or Friends. I mean how did we ever get by without Ross and Rachel?

I suggest inventing not only because it could be lucrative, but because I can't remember the last significant contribution to society. Was it the internet? Cell phones? And after the invention of computers and cell phones, hasn't every successive advancement been about one of those two things? Now our cell phones can play music, movies, and chess; they can take pictures, videos, and your temperature; they give you directions, suggestions, and haircuts. Cell phones are so capable that I'm not sure why we aren't electing them to congress. You know, like the Nokia N900 Smartphone from the eleventh district of Ohio proposes we take the next exit to Afghanistan, then a right onto Sandstorm Street.

But our inventors have been distracted by phones and computers and still haven't gotten around to getting us those flying cars that seemed like such a sure thing in every old movie that flashed forward into the twenty-first century. And what about teleportation? Have we made any progress there? I just think that while so many folks are at home, waiting for Obama to create a job stimulus that actually works, someone could come up with a washing machine that will go into your room and sort the clothes in your hamper and then start itself up. Needless to say, if it could do that, it could also put the clothes in the dryer. At which point, why not get the dryer to fold them and put them away? And can someone please invent a space-calorie continuum that allows a person to eat at the Cheesecake Factory without gaining five pounds?

Despite what you see on QVC, not everyone is cut out to be an inventor. If your ideas are of the okra storage or upside down rotating clock varieties, better keep job hunting and leave the inventing to the Thomas Edison types. But if you have an idea for, say, a swimsuit that makes us all look like Gisele, go for it!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Seasonal Symposium

I feel like Spring owes me an apology. Because, obviously, this is not what I had in mind when I was fantasizing about Spring during my ongoing relationship with Winter. Don't get me wrong, Winter wasn't all bad. He brought snow to Raleigh, more than once. Granted we were ill-prepared with our one snow plow trying to clear the roads of the entire city. But Winter also offered his usual attractions of holidays, cute scarves, hot chocolate and snuggly darkness. (When you enjoy sleeping as much as I do, eighteen hours of darkness is okay.) But I wasn't really happy with Winter. He got to be a little depressing and fattening. So I longed for Spring. Or the idea of Spring at least. You know, 75 degree temperatures, tulips, trips to the park, exercising outdoors, and strawberries!

But Spring always does this, seduces us with butterflies and sunshine, then knocks us out with chores, heat and pollen. And when I say pollen, I don't mean a little fairy dusting for bees to get high on. I mean POLLEN. End times, plague-level pollen. If the pollen is worse somewhere other than Raleigh, North Carolina, I would hate to see it. Because we now have a situation that qualifies us for emergency government assistance. Certainly, two feet of pollen counts as a federal disaster.

I have seen poor souls who don't have the luxury of parking in a garage, digging their cars out with brooms and shovels, and our entire neighborhood looks like someone colored over it with a neon highlighter. I would assume agents are already investigating the CEOs of Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra, to see if they are flying over with crop dusters at night. I have seen people, not in the medical profession, wearing doctor masks to go to the grocery store. And the worst part for me is that I can't wear lip gloss anymore. Because if I do, and I accidentally step into the pollenstorm, my lips get thickly-coated in a gritty yellow powder. Beyond disgusting, it would only pass for fashionable on Sesame Street.

And pollen isn't my only grievance with Spring. It's 93 today. And, last I checked, it's April 6th. If temperatures rise by even only half a degree each day from now to the end of August, that puts us at 166 degrees by August 31st. In which case, we may as well light ourselves on fire, right? As the case against this felonious Spring goes on, the grass is growing at such an alarming rate that my husband may need to quit his job to mow it round the clock. And the ants are marching in with fierce determination, in total disregard to traps and sprays, because it's too freakin' hot for them outside to sit around and construct elaborate vacation homes. They've decided if they're goin' down, they're goin' down with a full belly.

So you know what Spring, thanks for the strawberries and butterflies, but you can keep your nasty pollen and your scorching heat and shove 'em where the sun doesn't shine. (Around here that's only from 8pm-6am.) And if you do decide to apologize, don't send flowers!