Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fantabulous Weekend

My husband and I decided that the best way to celebrate our wedding anniversary was . . . to spend over five hours in the car for a weekend trip. With an irritable second grader in the back seat. Tres romantique!

I have to say that the kid was actually pretty compliant on the drive both ways. She has gotten into playing Minecraft (her cousin gave her some pointers) so she plays that on the Kindle Fire for fairly long stretches. Apparently the game involves building stuff. There are two modes: creative mode and monster mode.  She dabbles in monster mode (the game cycles through day/night and, as I understand it, the monsters come out at night) but mostly plays in creative mode. During the trip, we asked her what she was building.

"I'm building a house. I'm building the floor out of snow."

P and I looked at each other and then asked the same question: "Don't your feet get cold if the floor is made out of snow?"

A, looking at us as if we are complete dumb asses: "No, because you have to sleep in your shoes so you can fight at night."

Well, duh.

Anyway, back to the trip. The purpose of the trip was to visit some friends of ours. It's the same family that we accompanied to Disney World a year ago. We already know that they can put up with us for a solid week, so three nights seemed more than do-able. We arrived at their house fairly late, so we reconnected, had a couple drinks, and then crashed for the night. A slept in the living room with the other kids. P and I slept in the thirteen-year-old son's bedroom. I just prayed I wouldn't accidentally leave behind a pair of underwear or something that would cause irreparable psychological damage to the kid.

The next morning, we got up and went to their middle son's basketball tournament. I know this will come as a shock to you, but I know almost nothing about basketball. I watched the kids and watched the play clock and did my best to follow along.

"Sooooo," I asked my friend, "Is the game divided into periods, quarters, halves, isosceles triangles, or . . . ?"  I had no idea if I should plan to be there for an hour, a week, or what. Anyway, the team lost so we all headed out.

As we drove to a restaurant for lunch, I fiddled with my phone (I almost never get to be a passenger in a car - I am always the driver).  As I was poking around on Facebook, I noticed a post from a friend I've known since the sixth grade.  Maridith was flying in (from California) to attend a conference.  She would be just 40 minutes or so from where I was staying.  I contacted her through Facebook to see if she had time to get together.  She did! We made plans to meet at her hotel later that evening.

After lunch, the eight of us went roller skating.  I love to roller skate, so I was more than happy to go.  We rented a wheeled walker thingamajig made out of PVC piping for A (because she demanded to have one).  The three boys flung themselves out on the rink with abandon. Our kid was a little more cautious.  Over time, though, she decided to try skating without it and went around a few times on her own. I was very proud of her!  The rink did a special "age group" skate at one point. First they had kids 10 and under skate to a song. Then 11-13 and so forth.  I was curious to see if they would have one for adults. Well, sure enough.  They played "Atomic Dog" and invited everyone over the age of 18 to skate.  The deejay looked to be about 15.  I could picture her getting ready to put that song on. "Hey, where do we keep that song that we play for the old people?"  We skated for about two hours in total and then decided we were all getting blisters and headed out.

After dinner, I set off on my own to meet up with my long lost friend. I don't think we had seen each other since we graduated high school in 1988. I found her at her hotel and had a couple of drinks with Maridith, her husband, and a couple of their co-workers who were attending the same conference.  I'm still floored that we were in the same city at the same time and that we were able to get together. I took the liberty of reminding her of the time, in seventh grade, when my mom gave me a perm and then Maridith made fun of me.  She, in turn, reminded me of the time in sixth grade when she'd also made fun of me for my inability to kick a ball.  She was right, though. I still can't kick a ball very well. Or throw a frisbee. Or, do anything sporty, if I'm being honest here.

The next day, Sunday, we took the kids to an amazing park.  Had it not been 50 degrees and rainy, I suspect we would have stayed there all day. Instead, we packed up after about an hour and headed to a bowling alley.  We split ourselves into two lanes.  Much like my ability to kick a ball, my bowling skills are lacking as well.  I bowled a 76 the first game. I did manage to break a hundred on the second game. For what it's worth.

That night, the grown-ups went out to dinner at Buca di Beppo. We stuck the teen with all of the younger kids.  He was a good sport about it, though. When we got home, we played Balderdash.  The 13-year-old and 11-year-old joined us as well. I had never played Balderdash before, but allow me to say that I DOMINATED the game.  I can't kick a ball or throw a frisbee but I can play a word game, dammit! Of course, later it occurred to me that I'd beaten a fifth grader, a seventh grader, and three adults who had been drinking for several hours. Perhaps I've overstated my awesomeness at Balderdash here.

The next morning, we hit the road for the long drive back home. The kid was so quiet and non-complaining on the way home that we checked her temperature when we got to the house. I am not even kidding - she is never that compliant unless she is sick.  She didn't have a fever, though. We decided that either she is maturing or she is lulling us into a false sense of security while she plots some sort of hostile takeover.

Roller Disco Queen!

My oooold friend. And I do mean old. She's ancient. Ha ha! Seriously, though, if we're the same age, how come she looks so much younger and cuter than I do?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Well, I hope you people are happy.

I'm working on a blog entry about our eventful holiday weekend, but in the meantime, I wanted to accuse several of my friends of ruining my life. You see, at least once a day I get a message via Facebook: so-and-so invited you to play Candy Crush Saga.

"Pffft!" I always say. "Do I look like I have time to play Candy Crush Saga? I'm too busy wasting time playing Words with Friends and trolling playlists on Spotify."

Then, one evening last week, my daughter and I biked to the park for a little fun before bath time. She immediately befriended a group of n'er-do-well kiddoes from the 'hood so I sat on a bench and fiddled with my phone.  "What the heck," I thought, "I'll install Candy Crush Saga. See what all the fuss is about."

It took a while to install, so I left my phone to do its thing and then forgot about it. A few days later, my daughter was playing with my phone and found the game. "Can I play?" she asked.

"Sure," I said. The next thing I knew, she was flying through levels and had a gazillion points. I asked her to show me how to play.  Yes, I needed instruction from an eight-year-old. Previously, my friend Rachel had shown me the same thing (during our trip to Chicago) and I didn't really get it (what do you mean, "clear out all the jelly?"). In my defense, I'd had a couple of adult beverages at that time.

We were out of town over the Memorial Day weekend and I had time on my hands, so I gave the game a try. before I knew it, I was cussing at my phone and working my way through the levels. But, you see, there is a catch. You only get so many lives.  I have repeated level 13 more times than I will ever admit. "Level failed," it tells me each time. Then the game informs me that I have to wait X number of minutes before I can try again. Son of a !!!  So I wait X number of minutes and try again. "Level failed." Fuuuuuuuuck! Honestly, if the game informed me that I could get an extra life by engaging in prostitution or bludgeoning a toddler, there is a high likelihood that I would say, "Well, that certainly seems reasonable."

Anyway, if you are one of the people who sent me an invitation to play, just know that I will find a way to make you pay.

Friday, May 24, 2013

16 years ago

16 years ago today, I married this guy:

(The curly-haired girl showed up a lot later.)

We've been together 21 years. During our many years together, he:
  • Has watched me lose and gain hundreds of pounds. Wisely, he says nary a word about my weight. 
  • Tells me "you look nice today" twice a year like clockwork. He doesn't want me getting too cocky - you know how it is.
  • Lets me listen to my music as loud as I want.
  • Never complains about my cooking, even that one time during the early years when I attempted that one recipe that resulted in grey potatoes.
  • Has busted me repeatedly for my failure to refill the ice cube trays. But, you see . . . he's so good at it!
  • Has proven to be a wonderful, wonderful father. 
  • Has proven to be a terrible homeowner. I almost think a random stranger at the grocery store would be more alarmed about the condition of our lawn (and everything else inside and outside our home) than my husband is.
  • Has gone completely grey but maintains that he has some brown hairs left in there somewhere. Okay, Sweetie! To me he is still the handsome 20-year-old Marine I met all those years ago.
  • Has let his nerd flag fly. He reads comic books and doesn't care who knows it. 
  • Refuses to argue with me no matter how hard I try to pick a fight with him. 
  • Has proven that he doesn't know where we keep anything and doesn't absorb much of what I say, but still somehow knows all my favorite things. 
  • Always kisses me good-night. 
Happy Anniversary to my one and only! 

Monday, May 20, 2013


A week after my dad left, my middle sister and her middle son arrived for a visit. We are so popular!  My daughter is over the moon to have one of her cousins around for a few days.  On Saturday, we took the kids to a science museum. A and her cousin are 16 months apart and get along really well. They haven't seen each other in a year but they were thick as thieves in a matter of minutes. On Sunday, we took the dynamic duo to an indoor water park. Then, they spent most of evening creating masterpieces out of sidewalk chalk (on our driveway). We even let them back outside in their pajamas after dinner. Hey, you only get so many opportunities to eat ice cream on the porch in your pj's. Before you know it, you have to be a grown-up and a responsible citizen blah blah blah.

The cutest part about the artwork on the driveway was the teamwork involved. My nephew sketched this huge dragon (with fire in its eyes, of course) and my daughter helped color it in.  Then she made a poster announcing the "awsome artwork" and taped it to our mailbox.  It's a shame we live on a cul-de-sac and don't get many passersby.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wait, you went where?

Despite my ardent attempts to sabotage my own happiness on Mother's Day, it turned out to be a pretty nice day. At church, we were holding a flower communion service.  This is a Unitarian Universalist tradition.  In our church, the entire flower communion service is presented by children in the religious education program, and my daughter had volunteered to read two long passages. In one passage, she had to read the word "Czechoslovakia."  We practiced it all morning.  I even wrote it phonetically for her on the paper.

When it was her turn to speak, she had a sudden bout of stage fright and one of the teachers read with her until she felt comfortable enough to read on her own. She did fine after that.  I was so proud of my baby! And yes, she pronounced "Czechoslovakia" correctly.

After church, the three of us went out to lunch. A local joint has a walnut burger that makes all my dreams come true, so we went there. We even went crazy and got dessert. We didn't have any specific plans after that, though.  The weather basically sucked, so outdoor activities were out of the question.  I did my best to relax on the couch. I was tired, in as much as my roommate had snored to beat the band the night before.  However, I am not much of a nap taker. I watched a couple episodes of the "Long Island Medium" (the hair! I can't look away!) and then decided to see what my kid was up to. She was watching shows on Hulu (on the Kindle Fire). Then I heard myself say this:

"Hey, sweetie, you want to go to Chuck E. Cheese?"  Her eyes lit up. Wait, what did I just say? Yes, I invited my child to Chuck E. Cheese. On Mother's Day. She quickly got her shoes on and announced that she was ready to go.

Now, I did drag her through Kohl's first.  Since it was Mother's Day, I thought I would treat myself to a new shirt. I know, gettin' crazy up in here. She did everything she could to get herself abducted by wandering off while I was looking at clothes. Anyway, I found a shirt and off we went.  Chuck E. Cheese is painfully close to our house. We pass it daily. We can almost see it from our back yard.  When A was a toddler we used to tell her it was closed for renovations. Then one day she asked, "But, Mama, why are there so many cars there?"

I don't mind Chuck E. Cheese as much as one might think. We never eat there - we just play games.  I play the games, too. I am obsessed with this one game that requires you to fling a token onto the moon. However, the moon moves around and acts all tricky.  This time, it was my daughter who landed on the moon and won 100 tickets. Moments later, she won 100 more at another game. She was on a roll. By the time we'd used all of our tokens, she had over 650 tickets. That sounds like a lot until you look at the prizes and realize that you could have a hundred million and you'd still only have enough for an inflatable beach ball. And maybe a plastic mood ring.

The most notable aspect of our visit to Chuck E. Cheese was not our success in winning tickets but rather, the fact that the joint was empty. I mean, all but deserted. We didn't have to wait for anything. Normally the place is packed but not, apparently, on Mother's Day. It's almost like all the other moms in our town had more sense than I do.  I'm either the dumbest mom ever or the best mom ever.

I will fling that token onto the moon next time. Mark my words. And my child will win the best piece of crap the world has ever seen!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Seeing it all wrong

For reasons I don't entirely understand, Mother's Day causes me a fair amount of angst and anxiety. Not because of my own mom. I mean, it goes without saying that she rocks. I sent her a bunch of quirky stuff for Mother's Day plus one practical thing - a Kohl's gift card. I spoke to her on the phone last night and I think she dug the gifts. I told her I love her and wished her a Happy Mother's Day. It's all good.

The angst is related to my role as a mom. If I'm being absolutely honest, I'm uncomfortable getting any special attention on Mother's Day. For moms who didn't give birth to their children, there is a whole separate undercurrent. If someone is going to give you a child, you'd better be the most spectacular mom the world has ever known.  I am sure much of it stems from my own anxieties and insecurities. I didn't give birth to her. I don't deserve her. I'm a terrible mother.  

I didn't ask for any gifts for Mother's Day this year. I did, however, ask for a day off. The division of labor in our home can seem a little very lopsided at times. I'm sure it's not intentional, but when I cook dinner for my family and then they get up from the table without saying a word (and often without taking their dishes to the sink), for me it reinforces what I already suspected . . . you're not a good wife, not a good mother.  What you do for us has no value. Remind me to add self-pity to my list of issues. I thought maybe a day off would reset my internal barometer or something. I don't know. When I told my daughter that I was taking the day off, she said, "Well, I guess we'll have a dirty house then."  I had to laugh at the thought that it didn't occur to her to take on a couple of household chores on her own. Anyway, so far this morning I've picked up dog poop in the yard, mopped the kitchen floor, made my daughter's lunch for tomorrow, and scrubbed some spots on the carpet. This "day off" business kicks ass! (Adding "self-righteous" and "martyr" to the list right now.)

When my daughter heard me say that I didn't want any gifts, just a day off, I quickly realized that I'd hurt her feelings. She wrote me a long letter letting me know that she already had a gift for me and that I shouldn't say I don't want a gift. I apologized and did my best to make it up to her. I took her to a bluegrass concert last night, bought her a new hat, and then painted her fingernails and toenails. She could cut steak with some of those toenails, but that's a whole other story. This morning she presented me with some vanilla scented bubble bath. I told her I will use it tonight.  She won it at school with some sort of "Bravo Bingo" game they play in her classroom. She and her classmates get their bingo card stamped for things like good behavior, turning in homework, etc. I thought it was sweet that she used her prize to get something for me. She did offer to make me breakfast in bed this morning, but I politely declined because I wake up hours before she does. There's just no way to make the logistics work. I mean, I guess I could've woken her up but c'mon . . that's crazy talk! Sometimes I wake up grumpy, sometimes I just let her sleep. 

While I may not feel that I deserve my awesome kid, I hope it goes without saying that my love for her is utterly bottomless. She tells me I'm beautiful. She draws pictures of me in which I am always wearing ballgowns and tiaras. She writes me letters telling me how much she loves me. I just don't know how to justify my great good fortune, this wonderful - if undeserved - gift, this amazing child I get to raise. Please, please, don't let me bungle this too badly.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas out there!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

G to the Randpa

My dad flew in from Maryland last week. He stayed with us for a week. It's been 17 years since I left the east coast and this was his first visit. He's retired now and has more time on his hands these days, so I issued an invitation and he promptly bought a plane ticket.

If my daughter has a fan club, I'd have to say that my dad is a charter member. He sends her texts on my phone (then I have to hand her my phone so that she can tap out a response). On Friday, I picked him up at the airport and then we drove to Kindercare to pick up the kid. She spotted Grandpa Ted and ran towards him. He scooped her up and gave her a big squeeze. "I came all this way just to see you!" he exclaimed. Um, Dad, you know I can hear you, right? 

We had a fun week. I still had to work during the week, but I pulled the kid out of school Tuesday afternoon so that she could drag Grandpa Ted to the park. P took Thursday off and went out to lunch and whatnot with my dad. Thursday was also Grandparents' Day at A's school. She was so excited to have a grandparent there this year. P's parents died in 2005/2006 and my relatives all live far away, so we don't have a lot of opportunities to spend time with my extended family. There was also a Scholastic book fair going on so I warned my dad that his granddaughter would probably take him to the cleaners in book purchases (she did).

Before I took my dad to the airport yesterday, he hugged the kid and said, "I love you very much. Always remember that, okay?"

I think the fan club should really look into having some custom tee shirts made.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Party of the Year

The event of the year was held on Saturday. I spent several months booking the location (a water park), ordering custom invitations, ordering personalized wooden forks (no plastic for the landfill, yo), filling goodie bags, coordinating pizza/drink orders with the facility, tracking RSVPs, buying decorations, napkins, and paper plates, ordering a cake (and picking it up), and buying birthday gifts for our daughter.  My husband's contribution? Showing up on the day of the party and blowing up a few balloons.  Thanks, Sweetie!

The kid invited 14 friends (plus my dad, who is visiting us from Maryland) and all but one came to the party.  A few parents stayed, but most left. We had a party room right next to the water park (located inside a hotel).  The room was really nice and the staff was helpful. As soon as all the kids arrived, they quickly exchanged their clothing for swimsuits and hit the water park. They swam for about an hour and a half until it was time to serve pizza. We had a few adults in the water park watching the kids. The following incidents were reported:
  • One skinned knee (one of A's cousins)
  • One girl came up to me and announced that, "I bit my tooth!"  I didn't know what that meant. She put her mouth very close to my face so that I could investigate. I was not sure of the protocol for this. I didn't see any blood so I decided she must just need consolation. I assured her that her tooth was fine and sent her on her way.
  • Two girls got in a tiff. I tried to get to the bottom of it. One claimed that the other one was talking about her behind her back. These girls are in second grade . . . what would one say behind the other's back?  "She sleeps around?!"  My husband and I did our best to get to the bottom of the situation and to defuse it.
  • One crying incident during the gift opening. Cause undetermined.
  • When it came time to open gifts, I learned that at least two kids brought glitter glue for my kid. I am pondering my rights as far as taking legal action against those parents.
At around 12:30, the wet kids headed to the party room and plowed through a few pizzas. There were only two boys at the party and one of them claimed to have eaten 10 pieces. I took his word for it.  Next, we had the gift opening. It was sheer chaos. I was trying to keep a list of what each kid brought (so that I could force my kid to write thank-you notes later) but all the kids were jammed up in the same corner, watching A open everything. My friend Candi was trying valiantly to keep the gifts and cards together. My daughter did get some nice gifts. There was one card that featured different planets. Stuff like, "Saturn wishes you a happy birthday." I have to confess I laughed when my daughter read the card aloud and I heard her say, "Your anus wants all of your wishes to come true!" Anyway, she did get lots of craft sets and clothes - exactly what she wanted. My dad gave her cash so she immediately requested a shopping trip for later that day.

After the raucous gift opening, we served cake. I am kicking myself for not getting a photo of it first. It featured a picture of a girl swimming in a pool. It was really cute. My husband inexplicably cut a ginormous slice for each kid. I mean, it goes without saying that kids need as much sugar as we can possibly pump into them.

Finally, the kids had about 30-45 minutes to do some more swimming before it was time for parents to start showing up. They made the most of it. When we cleaned up the party room, we noticed some cake in the sink of the adjoining bathroom. I'm pretty sure that's one of the signs of a kick-ass party - cake smeared in the bathroom sink.

We only give our daughter a birthday party every other year, so we're now off the hook until she turns 10. Hallelujah!

Friday, May 3, 2013


Hey, Goober . . . you're eight! Thanks for letting me call you Goober. You have a few other nicknames: Curly Girlie, Gooberlicious, Pie, Sassypants, and Your Highness. We call you Your Highness because you sometimes confuse the term "parents" with . . . "servants." 

Eight years ago today, your dad and I were hanging out at the hospital, waiting for you to show up. You were due on April 26th but arrived on May 3rd. Even then, you did not emerge voluntarily - an induction was required.  Your birthmom had a very long day that day. Everything changed on 5/3/05 - for all of us -  but it remains the best day of my life.

Today, you still do everything on your own timeline. You're feisty and smart and funny and we wouldn't have you any other way. Oh, and bossy. We thank you regularly for not being twins. Although we are still waiting for you to comb your own hair and put the cap back on your toothpaste, you have matured in other ways. You "get" jokes and often crack some good ones yourself. The other day your dad was leaving for work and I teased him that he was leaving early to meet his girlfriend. You said, "Oh yeah, his girlfriend!  I think I see her car!" (Or at least it seemed funny . . . it's not funny if you really did spot her car.) Recently you and your dad were playing Headbanz and he was having a tough time guessing what was on his card. He had already asked, "Am I an animal? Can I swim?" Then he asked you, "Am I a tool?" and you and I both laughed. When I play a game with you, you do a really obnoxious victory dance. You get mad when someone else wins and tries to emulate your (surprisingly involved) dance.

Occasionally you manage to make your own breakfast or to do something without being asked. The other day you started your math homework without prompting, so I had to check your forehead for a possible fever. One big change this year was that you've started doing sleepovers with friends. We had one failed attempt last summer but you seem to feel more comfortable with it now. Another sign of growing up: you're a lot more concerned about fashion these days. You asked your Aunt Craggy for a jean jacket for your birthday and were very specific about the style, color, etc. You desperately want to wear clothing from Justice. That store hurts my eyeballs but I still take you in there occasionally. I tell you that if you'd do your chores, you'd get an allowance and then you'd have money for Justice. You'd still rather not do chores, however. You told me you might be willing to do chores if you can choose the chores yourself. I told you that's not how it works.

With each passing year, I find myself watching you and wondering what talents will emerge. So far I think we've ruled out sports and math. You kick ass at reading, writing, and art, though. You're very creative and are constantly making artwork (and then obligating me to keep it for all eternity). You go through paper like I don't know what. One of your greatest skills seems to be your ability to be . . . popular. Your fan club has a lot of members.

I, of course, will always be your number one fan. You make me crazy sometimes, like when you are supposed to be brushing your teeth and I find you singing and dancing in the bathroom instead, but I hope you know that I love you with all my heart, baby girl. I love every bit of you, from your unruly curls to your jagged toenails that you won't let me cut. I love your infectious laugh and the way you won't let go when I kiss you good night. Happy eighth birthday, sweet girl. You make all my dreams come true.