Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Shopping Part 2

OK everyone......or everyone who likes to procrastinate about their Christmas shopping.....

I know the next six days are going to be extremely busy for those of you who still need to finish the elf chores that Santa assigned to you. 
I know there are children's programs, school concerts, church pageants, office parties and 945 White Elephant gift exchanges to participate in, all spanning the crunch of the next 144 hours before D-Day Christmas morning.

I know.

I know you are really sorry that things got this out of control.

I know that you never meant for it to happen this way.

I know you promise to not let this happen again next year.

I know all these things, and yet, I still care enough to give you these last few answers to your retail shopping questions..

1) No....we don't have any more of the items from our Black Friday sale.....that we had a month ago.
2) No.....I don't have that very cute outfit in a size 3T....there is nothing in back-stock except the Spring dresses.

3) No....I don't think your package will make it through the mail to Hawaii in time for next Tuesday....  I don't think I can get myself to Hawaii by next Tuesday, let alone your 300lb package...

4) No, the item you called frantically about at 11:59 p.m. and had us put on emergency  48 hour hold 8 DAYS AGO and then  never came and picked up is no longer on hold.....since the last time I checked, 48 hour holds do not equal 8 days.....

5)No...I have no idea if your mother/father/bother/sister/niece/nephew/uncle/cousin/son/daughter/husband/wife/ grandparent or second cousin twice removed would like that blender/microwave/crock pot/change counter/blanket/ornament/pair of slippers or bathrobe.....

6) No...I have no idea when the next sleigh truck will be in with a new shipment.....best guess is the 26th....

So.   There you have it.   The answers to all your desperate questions. 
Now that you have all the answers, this should save you time, stress and grief as you frantically race from store to store looking for the last bulbous blandis snaarfblat or roast beast to be found in our ZIP code.

Remember...your retailer's motto for the last few days of the season is "Just Say No"

'cause we didn't miss the class on that ;)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Shopping.....

Yes, I know I have claimed that bargain shopping is my mommy version of  high school sports. 
Yes, I know I have publicly performed the "Happy Shopper Dance" in store parking lots in multiple states.
Yes, I know that other people spending copious amounts of money between Thanksgiving and Christmas is what allows me to earn not-so-copious amounts of money as a seasonal retail worker.

.....but I still don't get it....

I think it has something to do with my jealousy.
Oh. No.   Not jealousy over economic status, or credit limits.  We are well provided for and taken care of in many ways, both physically and spiritually.
I think it is just jealousy over having to share my usually empty stores with EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE MID-WEST!!!!

In an effort to come down from my stress over everyone elses' shopping, I will try to offer a few tips to help  those on both sides of the store name tag have a better retail experience.

Tip #1
 The MINUTE after you sign your son up for the middle school band on the August back-to-school night, rush to the nearest retail store and buy a pair of size 14 R  boys black dress pants.  If you can swing it, buy three or four pairs.  Then just wait for December 1st to roll around. 
That is just about the time that the music teacher will send a note home about the dress code for the Christmas concert. If I were a bettin' woman, I would bet that somewhere in that note the words "black dress pants required...NO JEANS!" will appear.  
Guess what size pants most middle school boys wear....
Guess how many middle schools in the tri-county area sent home a similar note.....
Now guess how many pairs of size 14 R black dress pants did NOT show up on the supply truck for my store.
If you bought three or four pairs in August, not only can you avoid the hassle of shopping in a retail store two weeks before Christmas, you can make some pretty good stocking stuffer money selling/renting those extra pants.

Tip # 2
If you are a grandparent, shopping for a grandchild that you don't see very often,  please, please, please...please... buy the size/color/style of item that the child's mother specified.  Even if you don't like said size/color/style or item.   Yes, I know the children should be grateful you shopped for them at all.   Yes, I know that your daughter-in-law isn't raising those kids properly.   Yes, I know that a ball and a stick were perfectly fine presents back in your day. But those are arguments for some other time, place and person...not the middle of the children's clothing department, during peak shopping hours, with me.
ahem....just as a side note...my mother and mother-in-law both have exquisite taste in selecting gifts for  their grandchildren, and the grandchildren are thankful, and they would absolutely love a ball and stick...

Tip #3
Do not, under any circumstances, wait until 10 p.m. on a Sunday night to ask a store if they have any of the sale item that was featured in last week's circular. By 10 p.m. Sunday night, most of the employees in the store have been clocked in for at least 5 hours and are trying to clean and straighten the shelves for the morning crew.  We have very little self control left. (We used most of it up trying to speak nicely to the customers who think that our presence in the store equals free babysitting for their seven year olds.... more on that in a later post)  We do not want to use that last shred of decency and  customer service trying not to laugh out loud at such questions.

We really and truly want to help you find everything on your shopping list.  Our company and store  reviews all center on customer satisfaction and profits.   One usually leads to the other.
If you could only remember one little request before heading off to the store, please.
I am a mere mortal, not a magician.   I can not twitch my nose, point my finger and make everything on your list appear in your cart.  Nor can I blink and make all the lines at the cash register suddenly disappear.   If I could, I wouldn't be working in retail.  I'd have my own T.V. show.....

....but I missed the class on that.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why people hate the campaign season.

I mean, what's not to love?   It can get kind of quiet around the house sometimes, so all the incessant phone ringing really makes you feel like someone loves you and wants to talk to you.  You get to feel really special if you live in a swing state.  Your phone will jingle merrily....For. A. Whole. Year.

I don't understand why people grumble and complain about the pollsters calling either.   I only get to cast my vote once, but I get 2,376 chances to give my opinion about every issue on the ballot for national, state, county, city and ward agendas....Always. At. Supper. Time.

I'm too cheap fiscally responsible to pay for cable television or equipment upgrades, so I really missed out on all the attack ads/Super PAC blurbs/ drama this year.   I did get to see some of them while I was "running" at the gym.  Wow...had to stop and catch my breath because i am out of shape they were so serious and over the top that I was laughing too hard to exercise!  I think I should just ask a friend to burn a CD of them for me so that I can watch it and laugh for an ab workout, rather than do any sit-ups.  :)

I also have a hard time with people who don't like all the extra mailings they've garnered over the last few months.  Again, I believe it is all in your perspective.  I have heard of several different ways to use these amazing examples of demographically targeted graphic design.   I  have a friend who used them as free coloring books.  Seems all the candidates needed facial hair and glasses.   I plan on using mine as free packing material for my Christmas boxes that need to be shipped across the country....All. Five. Thousand. Fliers.

I think, perhaps the most fun though, was talking to the "live ones" that  made it to our front door.  I  was a history teacher.  I do know a little something about politics, foreign and domestic policies, economics and the U.S. Constitution. And I really like talking about them, with real people.  Real people who show up at my real  door.   Before. My. Real.  Coffee.

I have to admit I may get a little weepy as the campaign season ends tomorrow night.  I will miss all those calls from Mitt, Anne, Barack, Michelle, Clint, and Bruce inviting me to all those special events.  I may save a few on my voicemail...just for the memories.   I will miss having to empty my recycle bin eight times a week and checking the front window before I answer the doorbell.  I may even miss the ab workout at the gym induced by all those commercials.

But, like all good things, this too must come to an end.   Tomorrow morning I will commence with my once every four year ceremony of waking up before dawn, pulling all my warm layers on, brewing a fresh pot o'joe and heading over to my local polling place to stand in line with 200 of my closest friends and neighbors.  We will chit chat or complain about the weather, talk to the polling worker, get our ballots and cast our votes.   And just like that it will be over.  I will spend the evening watching the returns and yearning for  2015......

Yes, I know the next presidential election is in 2016, but I'm thinking the phone calls and mailings will find me around Jan 1, 2015...cause it appears that our politicians missed the class on that.

Vote Early!   Vote Often!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Victorian Era.

My daughter and I were recently invited to attend a Victorian Tea Party.   When I explained to her that  it meant we would get to wear frilly clothing and use the tea cups her grandmother had sent, her eyes widened to the size of the tea cup saucers.   Finding dress-up clothes at the thrift store is one of her favorite "sports", and she had a whole month to put our outfits together.

As I was helping her locate pictures of Victorian clothing, hats, shoes and hairstyles for ladies, I started wondering about a few things.   The most bothersome one being, "What if I really DID live in that era?"

Yeah.  I know.
I should have just had that second cup of coffee and left my fuzzy brain alone.

Instead, I continued to wistfully imagine myself as the Lady of the Manor.  Sipping tea and nibbling toast points.  Idly chatting with friends. Entertaining guests on the pianoforte in the salon.....no.....Hiring someone to entertain my guests on the pianoforte in the salon. (There isn't enough coffee in the world to get my imagination to the point where I could be responsible for an evening's entertainment on an instrument...even the kazoo.)

Let's see.....what else.... oh, yes...the clothes....
Luxurious fabrics and flattering designs, sparkling jewelery, pointy shoes, lacy shawls...the works. 
Damsels in distress and dashing young men coming to the rescue, with happy endings for  one and all.
I realize that it sounds as if I read far too many British authors, or watch much too much BBC television, but the perceived romance of the period is very captivating.

Today was the day of that tea party.   My daughter and I spent the early afternoon putting the final touches on our outfits and completing our "toilets"  complete with curling iron and hairspray.  (obviously talked into this by my daughter...normally curling irons and my head are farther apart than our current political parties.)

We entered into our 21st century coach and four with visions of tea and crumpets and life in the 1800's dancing through our imaginations.   Then we were rudely hurtled back to the realities of life in 2012.   It seems the "horses" under the hood had died, and our coachman had taken the day off.
So I found myself at the crossroads of Lady of the Manor Avenue and Woman of 2012 Street.
As a Woman of 2012 I set the example for my daughter, popped the hood, grabbed a wrench and proceeded to make the diagnosis of dead battery.  Note the hair-do, shawl and jewelry still in place.

As Lady of the Manor, I promptly canceled the coachman's day of liberty..... called my own dashing hero, absconded with his smaller carriage and continued on to the society event only slightly past fashionably late.

Thankfully I am married to a man who indulges my flights of imagination into fictional worlds.  This Woman of 2012 is very thankful that he humored my inner High Society self, and fixed my carriage later in the afternoon.  Because while I didn't miss the class on car maintenance, and am very capable of changing a battery, it's not very often I get to play in the 1800's for the day.  :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to get the summer clothes completely stored away before you need them again.

I saw the calendar now reads mid-October so, I figured it was time to put away the summer clothing and brave the plastic storage bins containing our various collections of  long-johns, fleece lined pants and wool sweaters.  
 Some of the other clues that helped prod me towards this decision were:
1) Thinking that I should probably turn the furnace on,
2) My children telling me I should turn the furnace on,
3) The neighbors seeing the icicles hanging from our noses and suggesting that we turn the furnace on.

You would think that it shouldn't take such drastic signs for a mom to get some warm clothing out of the basement and into her kids' rooms....right????    Yeah...you would  think....unless you were a mom.
See, moms who live where there are more than 2 seasons a year DREAD  the quarterly "Changing of the Wardrobes" ritual more than almost anything else. Well..except maybe the  Avian Flu, Swine Flu and  stomach bug du jour hitting the household simultaneously.   What could possibly make this chore that bad? 
Oh!  I am soooo glad you asked that question.  :)

Here is how the procedure works at our house.  By the number of plastic bins I have seen in other homes, I am thinking it works the same for many of you as well.  While the following steps may refer to children..plural, I have found this works best one child at a time.  I don't think there is enough coffee and chocolate in the world to get me through this with multiple children on the same day.

Step 1  Clean up the living room. Find all the spots that haven't been dusted since the last season change. Find the 13 pairs of socks your son said he was missing. Sigh. Brew a strong pot of coffee.

Step 2  Require the children to empty all of the drawers, closets and corners in their rooms of  any and all clothing. All clothing must be brought to the living room for sorting.  Have a cup of coffee while the children are in their rooms.

Step 3  Create three separate piles for the clothing.  One for clothing that is too big and will fit next year. (HA!)  A second pile is created for clothing that will not fit/does not fit and can be donated or passed on.
The third pile is for the clothes that are still in good condition and may be taken to a consignment shop....more on this later..... 

Step 4  Go to the basement and try to find all of the plastic tubs containing the winter clothes.  It is necessary to find all of the tubs because everyone's clothes didn't make it into their individual tubs last year. Sigh again.  Get a second cup of coffee. And some chocolate.

Step 5  Put all of the tubs in your living room.  Sort out the winter clothes that you thought would still fit but don't.  Try  not to forget which pile of clothes is the "too small" pile.  Take a chocolate break when you realize that you did, indeed, mix up the piles and need to go through them again.

Step 6  Have the children take the new set of clothing up to their rooms.   Nag said children about putting the clothes away neatly.  Reserve some chocolate for next week when you check their rooms and find the clothes in piles on the floor.

Step 7 Put the clothes to be donated in bags to sit by the door for a few weeks until you remember to go to the donation center.   Gather the clothes for the consignment shop and spend  a good portion of the rest of the day washing, stain treating and ironing things.  Put these clothes in a specially marked bin and take them to the shop, forgetting that they buy 2 seasons in advance and won't take your bin.   Take the bin  home and put it back in the basement...next to the bin of clothes that you should have taken...from the last time you tried this.  Get a third cup of coffee.

Repeat with second, third, fourth, ....child.
 I would caution you to only do as many children a day as your caffeine consumption and chocolate budget allows.

  This  next step is the one that gets me every time.   The one that has the potential to put me over the edge, no matter how many cups of Dunkin' Donuts coffee or squares of Godiva dark chocolate with sea salt I consume.  (Or Hershey's Special Dark...I'm not picky lol) The one that makes this chore so onerous and tiresome.  The one that makes this thrifty soul want to just give up and buy new clothes every season. (This severely cuts into my chocolate budget, which is why I refrain.)

Step 8  Spend the entire winter still finding last summer's clothes going through the wash!
Remember back in step 2, where you tell the children to empty their rooms of all clothing?  I inevitably forget to tell my concrete, bottom line thinking children to do things like: check under the bed/dresser/chair/desk/fishtank/bookshelf/curtains/legos/stuffed animals etc..  for any clothes that need to make their way into one of the three piles set up in the living room.   I also usualy forget to make sure the laundry is done the day before.  So we spend the dark and dreary winter months catching brightly colored summer clothes in the laundry and stuffing them in whatever plastic bin we can reach. Thus leaving me with the task of more sorting four months later when the season starts to change again.

I am sure there must be a better way to get this done.  Perhaps one that involves less caffeine and chocolate consumption.  Maybe even one that requires fewer platic bins! If you know of an improved method, please sell your stock in Dunkin' International and let me in on your secret...

'Cause I missed the class on that....so I'm going to have to stock up on more coffee.....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

  Trial Law for pre-parents.

This really should be a required class at some level of the educational experience.   Forget birth education, parenting style seminars and the debates over when to introduce solids, when to potty train and when /if you let a child cry themselves to sleep.   I have news for you:   Most children will eventually sleep, eat, pee and poop in a socially acceptable manner  On. Their. Own.   Many times in spite of , not because of, any method you choose to employ.

Therefore I submit that  pre-parents' precious time, money and energy be spent on a much more valuable class.  Trial Law.
The majority of your parenting years will be spent attempting to reason with small people who are concrete, literal thinkers and happen to live in your house.  You will quickly figure out that the Halls of the Upstairs can be turned into the Halls of Parental Injustice in the blink of an eye, so why not get some legal training?

Think about it.  What makes a successful trial lawyer?   One who knows and applies the following rules:
1) Only ask a witness questions to which you already know the answer.
2) Ask  a witness mostly yes or no questions.
3) Stop a witness immediately after they have given a minimal satisfactory response.
4) Some witnesses may be considered "hostile".
Substitute the word "child" for "witness" and I believe we have the perfect parenting class!

Case in point:
My children are old enough to take care of ALL of their personal hygiene needs. I could just assume that they are performing the needed tasks at the appropriate times, but since putting myself through my own little pre-law course (list of materials can be found at the end of this post)  I know that I must become the trial lawyer mom every night at bed time.  The living/courtroom scene usually plays out something like this:
(court stenographer skills not necessary unless going for advanced parenting of teenagers certification)

Mom: Did you brush your teeth?   (rule 1 &2)
Child: Yes.
Mom: Tonight?
Child : Yes
Mom: With toothpaste?
Child : ummmmm, well , you see...
Mom: (interrupts...see rules 3&4)  Go. Back. Up. Stairs. And. Brush. With. Tooth. Paste.

Various other items (shampoo, dental floss, deodorant  etc...) should be checked on random evenings to keep the witness guessing.

Second only to Trial Law in importance is Contract Law.  You should always, always, always  remember to leave multiple layered contingencies in any contract you make with any witness  child living in your home under the legal driving age.    For example:

Mom:  If you clean your room by lunch, then I will take you to the zoo.
Child: OK

Now in my opinion, this contract does not have enough clauses and sub-paragraphs in it.  An almost air-tight liability free contract should look something like this:

Mom:  If you clean your room by lunch,  don't hit your sister, eat all your veggies, leave the cat alone, get your shoes on when I tell you, don't fuss in the car, don't cry when its time to leave, the planets align, and you promise to put me in a retirement home in Hawaii while I'm still young enough to enjoy it, then I will take you to the zoo.
Child: OK

See?   Much better!
After they reach legal driving age, an auditory signal is often enough to produce the desired behavioral results :   the jingling of the car keys.  Almost no other contract required.

So, my dear jury of readers, should you happen upon some poor, unsuspecting victim  pre-parent at the local bookstore standing in front of the fourteen shelves of parenting books, please do them the favor of rendering the verdict of  "useless on almost all counts" to the entire parenting collection and gently guide them to the much smaller, but infinitely more useful legal section.   They will thank you for it later, when they realize that they didn't miss the class on that.

**** I have found that the best legal training can be found on cable TV, as there is hardly an hour of programming that does not include some episode of some version of Law and Order on some re-run channel.    http://myinstants.com/instant/law-and-order-dun-dun/

Monday, October 1, 2012


I didn't really.  I was a history major, then a history teacher.  I went through the whole scenario of All Hallows Evening, All Saint's Day, Martin Luther and his posting of the 95 Theses, etc, etc, etc...
I get the historical and religious significance of the day...just not why we have turned it into its modern day sugar extravaganza.

Don't get me wrong.... I love chocolate and high fructose corn syrup just as much as the next mini-van driving mom....second only to pumpkin spiced lattes as my favorite thing about autumn. I just have a few issues about the process of how we obtain said corn syrup at the end of this month.

The following is a short synopsis for the current cultural method of candy re-distribution.

1) Go to the store in AUGUST and buy $200 worth of candy wrapped in special fall colored cellophane.  Hide  the stash from yourself so it will still be there in October.

2) Decorate your front lawn with inflatable vampires, bats and Frankenstein monsters.  You know...to make your home look warm and inviting.

3) Search high and low to find the perfect costumes for your children that ......
        a)EVERY other child their age will also be wearing .....and....
        b) will be covered up by their winter jacket anyway  ....and....
        c) much like your wedding dress....will cost too much money and is only worn once.

4) Spend most of your child's young life telling them about "Stranger Danger" but then on Oct. 31 undo all that good parenting by:
         a) sending them out after dark on a school night
         b) wearing masks and dark clothing (covered by their winter jackets)
         c) going straight up to the strangers' houses
         d) demanding candy
 While you try to find what is left of your stash purchased in August to hand out to the other neighborhood hoodlums.
Then try to explain to your child that all candy-bearing strangers automatically turn back into federal criminals on Nov. 1....only to be given a reprieve the month of December if they agree to wear a red and white suit.....but I digress.....

5) Spend the next 20 days trying to "ration" the $20 worth of candy they brought home in order to avoid the sugar crankies.  (and hope they don't notice how many pieces they started with.....)

After calculating the cost of the candy, costumes, vampires, dentist bills and new elastic waisted yoga pants for mom, decide to do the following next year:

Take that $200 and load a gift card to your favorite pumpkin spice latte carrying coffee shop, let your kids stay home and cry about how mean you are, and take all the other moms in the neighborhood out for coffee on Oct. 31

Then just tell everyone:  "Hey, sorry.  I must have missed the class on that Halloween thing, but have you ever tried whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkles on those lattes?"   ;)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sept. 11

This is a hard one to write, and I didn't even have family in the impacted areas 11 years ago.

I remember watching a morning show with breaking news and a camera shot of the New York City skyline.   One of the towers had smoke billowing out of it.

Then the surreal moment as we all watched a second plane hit the second tower.
 As I stood in my living room.
Then the Pentagon.

Then a field in PA.

Watching the first responders going up the stairs of the World Trade Center buildings, and wondering how many would be coming back down.
All too soon getting the awful answer to that question.

Shock.  Horror.  Disbelief.   Anger.....lots of anger...

Phone calls to and from loved ones, checking in, checking up on each other.

Silence in the sky as United States airspace is closed to all commercial traffic.

Wondering if it was really over, or if  there was more yet to come.

Eleven years later and I still have a hard time watching those clips, seeing the interviews, hearing a song that mentions the day.  I still cry.  Still cringe at that date on the calendar.  The emotions are less intense now, mostly replaced with a deep, lingering,  sense of sadness.  And questions.  How does one mourn as an individual, and as part of a country when the event is already just a paragraph in history books?  How does a people and a country recover enough to rebuild and continue on?

We look back to history and to the memories of those who have recovered from other cataclysmic events.  We see their resolve and determination to not let evil acts have the last say in their lives. We see their faith and belief in a God who is holy and just and perfect, merciful , mighty and loving.  We listen as they remember what it was like to not know what each day would bring ,only that God had it under His control.  We stand in honor for them as they participate in the days marking their service and sacrifice.  We pray for those not yet home, who still stand watch.  We live, love and remember to not take a single day for granted.

My children have never known a world without the War on Terror.  Almost every aspect of their lives has been touched by the residual effects of that one day eleven years ago.  Travel security, government identification, communications, national spending, even telephone conversations with relatives stationed in war torn countries have been a part of their formative years.

As a student and teacher of history, the one thing I can almost guarantee is that their generation will also have a 9/11 moment.   My prayer is that we will have passed on to them the same faith and determination that has been exemplified for us.

because I hope I don't make a mockery of this tragedy and miss the class on that.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

fall fashions....

I love autumn.  I love the change in weather that signals the end to the seemingly endless, oppressive heat of summer.  I love the fact that I can pull out my soup pot and make hearty meals that hit the spot on a rainy day. I get especially excited that the feel of a blanket at night is now welcomed and needed instead of dreaded.  There's just something so comforting about pulling the covers up to your ears and burrowing under the weight of a handmade quilt on a chilly night.

What I really love about fall though, is that I can now dig out my favorite clothes from the basement storage boxes.
These are the clothes that I wish I could wear year-round.  These are the clothes that inspire me to try and become more "outdoorsy" and adventurous. (or at least try to get a fire going in the fireplace by myself)  These are the clothes that cry out to me to liberate them from confinement in the midst of 100 degree heatwaves.  These are the clothes that inevitably get me in trouble from the fashion police.

These are my flannel lined jeans.

I know that there are cute outfits for fall that incorporate denim, but they just don't work for me. Particularly those adorable draped scarves that make jeans and a plain white t-shirt look dressy and classy.  
First of all,  please remember my track record with light colored clothing...not good, even with a scarf to cover the coffee stains.
Second of all, anything draped around my neck would also be:
a) tangled in my seat belt
b) water stained as I lean over the sink
c) caught in the front door
d) hopelessly wound around me, my purse, and my shopping cart at the grocery store
e) angrily stuffed in the bottom of a bag, leaving me with my coffee stained t-shirt to wear
Not exactly the cultured, chic look I'm supposed to be aiming for.

My next option for dressing up the denim seems to be boots, except my idea of boots, and the fashion world's idea of boots seem to be on completely opposite sides.
I think that boots are to be used for working in the yard, hiking, or shoveling snow.  Try to find anything like that in the fall boot collection at your department store.   Those boots are made for people who do not need to walk or even move to do any of their daily activities.  The last time I checked the heels on those boots my daughter said, "Mom, put them back. You would hurt yourself in those."    She knows me too well...sigh.....

So as the days get shorter, the  temperatures cooler and summer fades away, what is a girl to do?

Gleefully skip to the basement and reverently remove the lid to the plastic tub containing the beautiful sight of flannel friends.

When the fall fashion police come banging on my door, (and they will) I will not panic.   I know I am breaking every fashion rule in the book, but I'm guessing they will run away screaming when I open my door grinning and  wearing:

My recently liberated flannel lined jeans with the layered look of the 80's turtleneck, paired with a flannel shirt, accessorised by a matching colored scrunchy in my ponytail, wool socks and sneakers.

I will chuckle, close the door, and contentedly head back to my pot of baked potato and cheddar cheese soup paired with warm crusty bread and a cup of tea.  Not a fancy scarf, or pair of dressy boots in sight....

'cause I missed the class on that.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

why my parents let me watch so much television in the 80's.....

OK, maybe it wasn't so much "let" as much as me taking advantage of them being busy convincing my brothers they needed to do their homework....but really...80's television???

The original  Battle Star Galactica.
The "A" Team
The Dukes of Hazard
Air Wolf
Scarecrow and Mrs. King
Buck Rogers
Knight Rider
The Love Boat
The Fall Guy
Magnum P.I.

Yikes!!!    Anybody want some MORE cheese to go with those crackers????  
'Cause I'm not seeing much on that list that can be called "Great  writing/acting/producing..."
There were a few shows that did attempt to redeem the silver screen during this decade...

The Cosby Show
Little House on the Prairie

Give me a minute... I know I can think of some more....   (cue the JEOPARDY! theme music in your head please)


But I'm betting that most children of the 80's can identify the theme songs for these shows within the first 5 notes, and then sing/hum the rest of the songs for the REST. OF. THE. DAY.  Regardless of how much we laugh at those shows now, they are ingrained in our childhood memories.   Deeply ingrained.

I realized last week just how deeply.

As I was nodding off to sleep one night, my  wonderful husband was fussing with his iPhone. It seems his old alarm tone wasn't waking him up so he needed to try a new sound clip.
Did I mention I was nodding off to sleep???
Did I mention I am a child of the 80's???
Did I mention I watched too much T.V. that decade???

Then please laugh/sympathise with me in the following scenario:

My dear husband forgets that the volume on the phone is set on high.
My sweet husband decides to try the "alarm" button on his ring tones list.... (please play the link below)
....and this mostly asleep, child of the 80's with waaaayyyy too many hours logged in front of the TV screen, sits straight up in bed with two thoughts in her head:

1) Where is my Haz-Mat Suit?????!

2) Where is MacGuyver?  We only have 30 seconds to fix this!!!

and then a third thought.....Why is my husband falling out of bed laughing???

'cause I missed the class on that while I was watching T.V.
Anyone else? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Home Improvement Projects.

Or rather, why some people should NEVER attempt them.

I am married to a wonderful man who has many talents.  One of his areas of giftedness is home improvement projects.   Drywall, taping, mudding, painting, trim, hanging doors, water heaters, flooring and even gutting and remodeling a full bathroom are all within his scope of ability.  This is one of the reasons why we can afford to buy a house rather than rent one.  We don't really need a building maintenance man or landlord to handle home repairs and we don't have to call licensed professionals with every little thing, thus saving us hours of labor costs.

That being said, our current home seems to be eating up much of his precious few days off.  Every time we go to fix or update some little thing, we find ourselves making multiple trips to the blue or orange home improvement stores to swap out drill bits, hardware, PVC pipe, down spouts, ...whatever.  This tends to make the project time grow exponentially.  We have even started playing a little game before a new project begins.  We try to guesstimate how many trips to the store it will take before the job is completed.  If we get it done in fewer trips than our guess we "win".  What we win, I don't know.  It just feels good to say that we won.

This phenomenon is not limited to my house, or even my generation.  When I was in high school I spent many hours baby sitting for one particular couple that knew my parents.  They had just bought a two family home with plans of renting the top floor unit and living on the bottom floor unit.  That eventually worked out for them, but they hit a problem first.

The problem?   The house had been Buckleyed. 
(I apologize if you are a Buckley....I never met this particular branch of the family, just the aftermath of their projects.)

Every time something had to be done to the house it turned into a major project.
Say you needed to strip the wallpaper off.  That should not require much more than a steamer and some elbow grease, right?    Not if your house has been Buckleyed.  Nope.  This is when you pull off the switch covers and find out that wires aren't connected or grounded, or haven't been updated.  So instead of painting clean walls, you spend your weekend calling electricians and watching your decorating budget get spent on miles of wiring and hourly wages.

For the next weekend you figure you'll just rip up the carpet in the front hallway.  Messy and dusty, but not really expensive, right?  Guess again.  Remember, this house has been Buckleyed.  There was a reason why they put carpet down in the first place.  Apparently they weren't as good at re-finishing hardwood floors as they thought.    And on it went. For the entire time they lived there. 

Fast forward to present day. We love most things about our current house.  It is in a great location, has more square footage than anything we've ever lived in before and  the kitchen has more cabinet and counter space than the galley on the QE II.  It has, however, been Buckleyed.  And not just your basic Buckley plan either.  Oh no. This house has been given the deluxe treatment.

At first inspection the top few rows of exterior bricks on the chimney just looked like they needed to be re-pointed and sealed.  Not a big deal.  Just a weekend, a trip for supplies and some tools borrowed from some friends....... except, some previous owner apparently took a page from the Buckley play book and chose some weird type of brick and mortar that absorbs moisture and allows the bricks to expand and contract....and crumble to dust.....

Three months, two levels of scaffolding and one consult with a master mason later, we are removing the top 20" of brick and re-laying 250 bricks under the mason's supervision.

We knew the downstairs bathroom and shower needed to be re caulked and touched up.  Again no big deal.  A Saturday morning, a few tubes of caulking and time for everything to dry and seal......except....yup...Buckleyesque repairs done here too, allowing water to boldly mold where no water should have gone before.....

Two months, new caulking, new manifold, new shut off valves,  new drywall, new sub-flooring, new moisture barrier and new laminate flooring later and all we have left to do to complete the bathroom, bedroom, downstairs hallway and laundry room  is some tile, grout, bathroom paint, trim and door installation....   sigh.....

We thought maybe the backyard had escaped the "help" of the Buckleys, but alas we were sorely disappointed.   Apparently when a Buckley decides to change the landscaping, they do not believe in removing ANY of the old material...EVER.
Imagine my "delight" when trying to get a patch of yard ready for a small garden to find...
mulch,  laid over
landscaping fabric, laid over
red lava rock, laid over
more landscaping fabric....  in the front, back and side yards.

I was able to get a basil garden planted, but in order to use any other portion of the yard for food production we are really going to need to do/use the following:
Pull down all of the chain-link fence
Grind the 7  tree stumps out
excavate the former coy pond complete with full liner and gravel (now covered with mulch)
Completely scrape, regrade and re-seed the front and back lawns....

I'm thinking that buying tomatoes at $4.99/lb would be cheaper.

I'm also thinking that This Old House could do an entire season on locating where the Buckleys have lived and correcting any projects that have been attempted.
Or maybe we should have a National Register of Buckleyed Homes that qualify for special federal funding for any and all restoration projects.

So, if you ever find yourself standing in line at a home-improvement store behind a family that seems to be on a first name basis with all the staff, you can be sure that one of two things are happening.
Either someone is fixing a Buckley, or a Buckley is fixing to strike again...

'cause they missed the class on that!

Friday, August 10, 2012

How to keep a white shirt white (other than leaving it on the rack at the store)

Actually.... how to keep any shirt clean and stain-free for longer than 10 minutes.  Doesn't matter the color, fabric or style.  I am hard pressed at this moment to think of more than three shirts in my wardrobe that are not polka-dotted with an historical record of my past meals and professions.
As a teacher I quickly learned not to buy expensive blouses/sweaters/tops.  There isn't much point in paying good money for something that is going to soon become covered in any or all of the following:
1) permanent marker (any color....and they have MANY colors)
2) chalk  (yes, I still used chalk on occasion)
3) dry-erase marker
4) dry-erase eraser dust
5) pen (again...many colors)
6) coffee
7) coffee
8) coffee

 As the mother of young children (read infant/toddler stage) I also realized that anything that I bought to wear was going to be frequently baptized in any or all of the following:
1) bodily fluids (any type, from any orifice)
2) pureed veggies
3) pureed fruit
4) soggy cereal
5) dirt
6) tears (theirs AND mine)
7) coffee
8) coffee
9) coffee

As the mother of children who are now more self-sufficient you would think the clothing situation would have stabilized somewhat.

Now it just means that since I am not the one who made the pb&j, I am also not aware of the globs of pb&j that have been left on various surfaces around the house, including, but not limited to:
1) counters
2) cabinets
3) tables
4) chairs
5) I kid you not....bathroom doors
Thus leaving me with slightly perceptible remembrances of my children's lunches on my favorite shirts and sweaters....sigh......

I tried a few months ago to see if it could be done....this wearing of light colored tops for a whole day without disasters.   I made it exactly 32.4 minutes before I spilled my dark cream colored coffee on my new LIGHT cream colored sweater.  Good thing I got it on sale for 80% off, since I only got 2% use of it.

I did manage to keep my wedding dress clean for TWO receptions, but I think that was due more to the fact that I didn't have time to eat much, and went nowhere near a cup of coffee.

I found out this week though that I might actually have very little control over the situation.   Seems this problem is genetic, not academic.
 The children and I went to our state fair yesterday with my dad  A.K.A.  Grampy.
The kids were dressed in bright neon t-shirts and I had a white t-shirt with a 5k logo on the front. (You can already see where this is going, right?)
As my daughter takes her first bite of corn-dog, the copious amounts of mustard and catsup she had applied began to  slide off the corn-dog and onto her lime-green shirt.  She also decided to take a quick bath in her strawberry smoothie.   Her mother  (A.K.A. me) proceeded to dribble bits and pieces of the chili from her chili fries down the front of the (formerly) white t-shirt.   Grampy just laughed and shook his head.  Seems that he also has a wardrobe full of shirts that have been inaugurated in the same manner.

Our solution?
Pay more attention when we eat?  No
Don't eat or write during business hours? No
Don't have children?  Too late
Quit drinking coffee?   (excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor from laughing so hard.)

It is fairly simple.....
Never pay retail for shirts. Always keep a Tide with bleach pen handy. 

'Cause apparently most of my family has missed the class on this!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life in the Mid-West  (part III, the final in a series)

Customs and Cultures...where should I start......
You would think that since English is the official language of the United States, it would work the same across the country.
Yeah, you would think.....
I have found that while we might all be using the same words, we are not using the same definitions.   That can get pretty confusing in a very short amount of time.  

Just think about the following imagined scenario:  I am out of carbonated beverages, so  I ask my husband to run to the store for me and hand him a short list of the things I need.  He comes back with a box of Just For Men.  The problem?  I gave him a list written in New Englandese, but he was shopping in the Mid-West.  See....not so simple after all.
New England: any carbonated beverage...root beer, Pepsi, Coke, etc..
Mid-West: Old fashioned word for men's hair-styling product.

 A real-life scenario:
We have gone out to eat and I have ordered an iced tea with my meal.   The waiter comes with the drinks, and I take a large sip of my tea.....only to choke, sputter, spurt and in general make a huge mess.  The problem???  I had ordered in New Englandese, but was sitting at a restaurant in the Mid-West.  I was expecting plain iced tea, but had gotten a mouthful of high-fructose corn syrup tea.
Southerners and Mid-Westerners have been known to have the same sputtering reaction to iced tea ordered in New England.
Iced Tea
New England = served unsweetened, all the time.
Mid-West = usually served sweetened
*WARNING...in the South, when ordering tea, it will be served iced and sweet enough to induce a diabetic shock.

Next real-life scenario:
I once got to teach a Physical Education class at a school in the Mid-West.  On my list of items the students needed to bring/wear to class I included the type of footwear I wanted the students to have. 
Again, I wrote the list in New Englandese, but sent it to parents who lived in the Mid-West....sigh....
The problem?   the 367 e-mails I received asking me what sneakers were.

Athletic Footwear
New England : Sneakers, or shoes designed and named for a specific sport (i.e. running shoes, basketball shoes, tennis shoes...etc..)
Mid-West: Any shoe used for any athletic purpose :  Tennis shoes

So you can see how the language can get a little confusing.  
Customs and traditions can be just as baffling.  Here is just one example:

State Fair:
New England: Wasn't that a musical???   Do states still have those????
Mid-West: (especially Iowa)  Everyone in the entire state makes it point to schedule their last few days of vacation around the dates of their state fair.  Heated discussions/fights take place in state capitols about why schools should NOT start their academic calendars until AFTER the fair had closed.  Any Mid-Westerner on cholesterol medication goes on a strict plant-based dietthe month before the fair so they can sample all 67 varieties of fried foods (most of which are served on a stick for portability as you walk/roll to the next fried food stand).  Entire sections of the largest newspaper in the state are dedicated to informing you about the fair schedule, exhibit locations and contest information.  Grocery stores put extra staff on their customer service desks to handle the people coming in to buy their advanced discount admission tickets.  And just to make sure you don't miss any of the booths offering bacon wrapped, batter dipped, fried hot dogs...there is a State Fair Food Locator iphone app for that.

Hmmmmm......I think I missed the class on that...
But the fair opens this week, and I bet I can get caught up  ;)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Life in the Mid-West  (part II)

So now that everyone has had a chance to practice their new driving skills, I thought it would be a good time to move on to the next lesson :  How to behave in public.

This may be slightly more difficult than changing your driving habits, but I am confident that you can master these new skills!   As a general rule of thumb, when moving here from the north-east, take almost everything you have learned about public behavior and reverse it.  The few exceptions being bathroom, table and clothing "behaviors", as those are universal (I should hope).

As a north-eastern resident, you have undoubtedly learned the following about acceptable public behavior.
1) NEVER make eye contact with anyone while using public transportation.  You MUST keep your eyes on your e-reader/ipad/book/newspaper..what ever you brought with you to do while on the bus or train.   Making eye contact with a fellow passenger is like making eye contact with a strange dog....it is viewed as a direct challenge.

2) DO NOT try to start a conversation with the clerk/shop keeper/cashier/ gas station attendant who is assisting you with your purchase.   This is viewed as a waste of time and possible territorial challenge
(see #1) 
       2a) don't expect any help from store employees or any of your product questions to be answered...you should know what you want and how to get it before you get to the store.

3) When calling a government agency's office (dog catcher, secretary of state, governor, etc) be prepared for a long wait time and many menus to work through before you may or may not get to speak to a live human being.  If you do get to a live human being, do not expect them to be able to answer your question.  Do expect them to put you on hold, or send you back to the phone menu maze.

4) When visiting a government agency's office (DMV/ county tax office, etc.) DO expect to spend an inordinate amount of time standing in line only to discover one or more of the following:
       a) you have the wrong forms
       b) you have the wrong support documents
       c) you have the wrong form of payment
       d) you have the wrong office
       e) you have the wrong line

But now that you are in the mid-west you can reverse a large portion of your behavior when interacting with others in public.  Here you are free to do the following:

1) Talk with other people, in public, while looking at them, without electronic devices or reading materials in your possession.  In fact, you will be considered rude if you don't speak to people while out and about.
As an advanced exercise for you over-achievers you can even try smiling while talking to others.

2) Feel free to respond to the store employees as they initiate conversations with you.  Again...you will be considered rude if you don't interact with them. They really make it easy for you to ask questions and have a pleasant exchange of words.  They even know how to help you find something, and can do so with a cheerful expression on their face.  Almost as if they were hired to be helpful to the customers!

3) If you need to call a government office, be sure to have your questions ready, since it is very likely that you will quickly be speaking to a real, live, human!  Sometimes you even get the person in charge of the whole department. Not their secretary, not their voicemail, but the actual person.  This one threw me for a loop the first time I tried it and I wound up stammering my way through a conversation with the State Secretary of Education.   Mumbling Idiot was not  the impression I wanted to leave with her, but I really was flustered when she answered her own phone.

4) When visiting an actual government office, phone first (see #3) to get your questions answered.  Since you speak to a real person, not a phone system, you may find yourself doing the following:
     a) getting to the right office
     b) getting into the correct line
     c) having the correct forms, documents and payment options.
     d) NOT wasting an entire day lost in the system.

I will leave you to practice this lesson for a bit before moving on.
Lesson 3: Specific Customs and Traditions  to follow soon.

Because you don't want to miss the class on that!

Monday, July 23, 2012

extreme couponing.

Please understand.  I love saving money as much as the next person....maybe more.  I've often said that bargain shopping is my varsity sport in the University of Life.  I use coupons almost every time I shop. I can work a few deals with the rewards programs at the drug store.  I carry unit prices around in my head so I can know if a sale price at one store beats a regular price at another. That one gets me some strange looks...yes my head is filled with random, useless pieces of information such as how much a pound of bananas costs at all 4 grocery stores in my area!
My children know that in order for something to get into the grocery cart it has to fall into at least one of three categories.
1) It is on the list because it is a need and not a want.
2) It is on sale for a good price and we will definitely use it in the near future.
3) It meets criteria #1 or #2 and there is a coupon for it.

We even play this little game called "The ___________(insert name of store) Game"  We watch the running total as the items are scanned, then watch the total decrease as rewards cards are scanned, then coupons are scanned.  The way to win the game is to get your actual total to be less than the "saved" total on the slip.
Then Mommy does the Money Saving Dance of Joy out to the parking lot.  (I have promised my pre-teen to never release video of this dance for fear of YouTube viralness before he gets to high school.)

But I fear I will always be a simple bench warmer or practice squad member in this competitive sport of extreme couponing.  You see, I have never been able to get my totals down to the levels of the starters and MVPs.  I clip. I organize. I scour store ads for sales that match my stash of Sunday inserts.  I make my weekly menu around what is on sale to maximize savings.  But in spite of all my best efforts, I have yet to get a total that matches what you see on those television shows. 

I finally figured it out though.   I have a few obstacles that no amount of extra training will overcome.
 For a long time I lived in a state that charged sales tax on everything...including food.   There was no way I was getting out of the store without paying my 7.85% on the pre-coupon/rewards price of the items I was purchasing.  In that state I also had only 1 store in the area that doubled coupons, and even then it was only up to 50 cents.  Of course it was the most expensive of the stores.
Now that I live in a state that doesn't tax food, I have hit another obstacle.  No grocery stores here double coupons...at all.

And so, I am sorry to say that you will most likely never see me perusing the aisles while being followed by a television  crew and adoring fans clamouring to learn my shopping savvy secrets.  I will still have to hand over hard earned cash when I leave a store with items in my bag.   I have gotten better over the years, and learned a few tricks to pass on to others, but cable TV programs will not be calling me any time soon.....

because I missed the class on that.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Life in the Mid-West (part 1)

Probably wasn't even a real class, since most New Englanders wouldn't ever consider living in a different (part of the) country.   I, myself, thought I would live and die in that wonderful country region, but didn't take God's sense of humor into account.

I grew up in eastern Massachusetts. Eastern as in the next body of water east of my town was the Charles River, then the Atlantic Ocean.  After getting married and moving around the eastern time zone a bit, our little family moved to eastern Kansas for 7 and 1/2 years.   Eastern as in east of the wheat fields and cattle ranches.   We currently reside in south-central Iowa.  As in south of the central corn fields.  Culture Shock anyone???

There are many, many wonderful things about living in the mid-west as opposed to the east coast, but it did take some getting used to.    Even though everyone speaks the same language (supposedly), not everyone speaks the same culture.  There were some adjustments that had to be made.  What all of our sojourns have given me however, is the ability to teach the class that I never got to take. For the benefit of the few other New Englanders who live west of the border (of MA), I have created a few helpful hints to  hopefully ease your transition into this new life.

For now we will just address the most pressing of topics: Driving
I know that things can be a bit confusing when you first find yourself on the roads out here. Let me give you a little hint:  That driver's manual that you ignored back east?....you should probably go back and read it, then do what it says. No, seriously...stop laughing.... things like 4 way stops and turn signals really do exist, and you are expected to know how to use BOTH of them out here.
That middle light on the traffic signal?  Yeah, the yellow one....really does mean slow down.  Shocking, I know.
Drivers look a little younger?  They are...and most have been driving the farm pick-up truck since they could reach the pedals.  Don't panic, you'll be safe.
Having trouble finding your way around town?  Let me help....the street signs are actually correct. Gasp!
And what's more...most of the streets are laid out in a grid pattern....as in North-South/East-West running streets intersect at right angles.  Sometimes they're even numbered...in order...  oohh ...ahhh.
And now for the one that will probably save you the most money...Speed Limits.  No, they are not merely suggestions.  Yes, they really do mean what they say.  No, there is no need to drive like a bat out of Hades, New York,  well...you get my meaning.  People and life here in the mid-west do not require the same break neck speeds to get the job done.  That leads into our next topic..way of life.

So tune in next time for more helpful hints on a successful transplant.
Just because I missed the class on that doesn't mean you have to as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

how to be a morning person.

Which is kind of ironic when you consider my life over the last 20 years.

In college I had 8 a.m. classes every semester except one....and that was the semester that my work-study job was cashiering for the food service BREAKFAST shift that started at 7 a.m.  :(   In the summers I worked for a day-camp that paid extra for morning and afternoon extended care workers.  Guess who earned extra college $ with morning hours?
As a teacher I was often required to be in the building on school days by 7:30 a.m. It was assumed that I would also be presentable, professional and prepared at that hour....most days I was 2.5/3 with the presentable being left open for interpretation.  Who really needs make-up and finished hair at 7:30?

As an "old" married lady I discovered that my husband was a true morning person.  Sleeping in for him is defined as still being in bed at 6:30 a.m.  I guess we do marry our opposites.

As a mom...well...lets just say that my children's early years are awfully blurry in my mind due to sleep deprivation.  Neither one of my children slept past 7 a.m. as infants or toddlers....sigh.
One of our newer family hobbies is gardening.   Guess what the best time is to water, weed and harvest your garden.  No, really, go ahead and guess.....or just laugh, or in my case cry......   Most gardening books and websites strongly urge you to do your gardening in the early morning to get the best flavor from picked herbs, and allow your plants to get water in their systems before the heat of the day.  Early as in just as the sun is rising.  Sigh again.

So now I do what any non-morning person has been forced to do in this daylight driven culture.  I consume caffeine and sneak afternoon naps :)

While I was no stranger to caffeine as a college student, I didn't consume much of it unless I was studying for finals, or finishing a paper.  Coffee wasn't really on my radar until my last semester and I had started my student teaching.  It was then that I was introduced to the wonderful mysteries of the Teacher's Lounge.  That wonderful room contained fluorescent lighting, a community fridge, uncomfortable plastic chairs at the table and....a coffee pot :)  My supervising teacher made sure to point it out to me on my orientation tour.

At every school I worked at, the Teacher's Lounge and it's coffee pot became my 2nd favorite spot in the building. (The first being in my classroom with the students...one of the few things fun enough to entice me into a job with those hours.)  I had the students in some of my first hour classes trained to check the level of coffee in my mug before they asked me questions like.."Are we really having that test today?, Can I have an extra week to turn in my paper without losing points? and What was the homework I was supposed to do last night?"  If the mug was still full, meaning I has insufficient caffeine in my system, they knew to wait a while before asking such things.

As a mom and wife I helped my family learn how to operate the coffee pot and time the first pot to still be hot when I make it to the kitchen.  In addition, I also taught the fine art of afternoon napping.  Especially for toddlers and extra-especially for Sunday afternoons!  Even if the kids weren't tired we still had afternoon quiet time.  Some of us used that time for a nap :)   I am convinced that Sunday afternoons should be declared International Mandatory Nap Time...for everyone...except the NFL, MLB, PGA and NASCAR.  Without those, its hard to find good background noise to lull you to sleep.

I suppose I could always try something like...going to bed earlier..... 

That might just make me a morning person...and I can't do that....because according to my transcripts...
I missed the class on that.  :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

not being a tacky tourist.

Maybe I missed this class because during my formative years I grew up surrounded by historical tourist attractions.   I walked by the marker of dead British soldiers on my way to elementary school.  I would have to go through famous universities' campuses to get to the bus or train stops I needed.  I avoided any downtown area on major national holidays because of all the "tacky tourists" that were crowding the streets and subways. 
 I never thought I would ever become one of those dreaded out-of-towners.  You know the ones.  They have out of state plates on their cars and GPS systems mounted on their dash boards.  They never know how to get anywhere, and clog up the sidewalks gawking at the sights and sounds of their vacation destination while desperately trying to get the perfect angle for the family photo, even if it means standing in the middle of rush hour traffic. They are also easy to spot because of their universal uniform:   Moms in capri track pants, with sneakers, ankle socks and fanny packs.  Dads with khaki shorts, polo shirts, ball caps and frazzled expressions.   The kids with low blood sugar symptoms, fussing and whining about wanting to go back to the hotel to go swimming instead of looking at any more museum exhibits. 
And then one more thing will happen to forever brand these poor, misguided souls.  At some point in their vacation, they will buy T-shirts emblazoned with the name of the town/site/event/museum that they are visiting.  Then they will commit the ultimate tacky tourist tragedy.....they will wear that T-shirt while still in the same state as the town/site/event/museum.  

Of course our family went on vacation when we were younger.  My parents took us to the same place every year.  Which was the same place my dad's parents took him every year when he was growing up.   That kind of made us "un-tourists".   We had out of state plates, but knew how to get everywhere, and how to avoid the crowds of "tourists" that invaded our favorite sites.   We even knew how to get the family photo in the same spot every year, without interrupting any flow of traffic.
We were "tourists" twice that I can recall...both times were trips to Florida to the one place in the country where 90% of the population is expected to be tacky and touristy...so that doesn't really count, right?

Fast forward a few years.....
I now have a family of my own, but we do not live in the same region or even time zone as my traditional family vacation site.  When we were blessed with the opportunity to return for the first time in 4 years, we jumped at the chance!  We are now at the end of that vacation time, and as I look around at the bags we are packing I am noticing something rather alarming.   What is that in my suitcase????   Capri track pants, ankle socks and a fanny pack???? Oh No!   What did my husband just pre-program with the next 4 stops we have planned????   A GPS????   Gasp!   What do my kids have set out to wear for tomorrow????   T-Shirts with the National Park's name emblazoned across their fronts????   Arrrgh!!!!   How did this happen?  Why did this happen?  How can I make it stop???   Why did I ever allow this tragedy of epic proportions to take place?

Maybe I'll have the answers to these questions when we get back to our state of residence.  You know...after I've downloaded all those family photos with the perfect angles, stored away the GPS, washed my husband's khaki shorts and unpacked my T-shirts and ball caps with Acadia National Park  emblazoned across the front......

'cause I missed the class on that.....but boy did we have a great time!

Friday, July 6, 2012

How to relax on vacation.

Or more accurately...how not to get so stressed out getting ready for vacation that I never wind down while ON vacation.

I know that I once was able to do this thing called vacation, and enjoy it.  I distinctly remember going on family vacations as a child and having a fun filled, restful time.  We would drive to Maine, stay at the cottage, and the four of us kids, plus all our cousins would spend an entire week playing in the tide pools, skipping rocks, and scratching mosquito bites. No television, hardly any radio reception and no city lights to dim the evening stars. It was great, and we always looked forward to it.   Almost nothing could keep us from that yearly tradition.  Not even the year the car broke down on the interstate and the 6 of us were stuck on the side of the road for what seemed like hours, waiting for the tow truck. (Yes, this was before the days of cell phones and OnStar.)

Now?   Not so much.
Now just the thought of a family vacation is sometimes enough to make me want to curl up in a corner and twitch.  It seems I have lost the childhood knowledge of how to relax on vacation. Somewhere between elementary school and now, that ability was erased from my memory.  I think it was around the time that I had two small children and many other things were slipping out of my sleep deprived memory.  Things like what my pillow looked like at 2 a.m., or my husband's name.

That was also the time when family vacations turned into an event that needed all the planning and strategy skills of a D-Day invasion.  I used to think that vacationing with an infant or small children required many, many pieces of equipment,  a stockpile of diapers, wipes, snacks, bottled water, infant tylenol, shot records, pediatrician phone numbers, nail clippers, band-aids, 3 changes of clothes per day (for children and adults), etc, etc, etc.....

Now, even though the kids are older and do much of their own packing, I still have a hard time not stressing about vacations.  Things like batteries for the camera (yes I still use one and not a cell phone for pics), chargers for all of the various electronics, snacks for the ride, $$ for tolls, bandaids and ibuprofen for the first aid kit, phone numbers and addresses, enough knitting projects and books to keep me "busy".   Yikes....no wonder it takes me a good 5 days of a 7 day vacation to unwind.

Today, however, I had a sudden realization...

Pretty much everywhere I travel, there are these wonderful inventions readily available to any weary mom/road warrior.  They cover many acres, have ample parking spaces, bathrooms, air conditioning and employees that wear khaki pants and blue shirts.  Yes, my friends, I realized that there are big box stores almost everywhere I go, and they have shelves stocked with anything I could ever think I would need on a vacation.

I am currently on vacation, in the land of star fish, mosquitos and starry nights. This afternoon I went to one of these stores just to double check.

Yup...they carried multiple brands of anything I could possibly think to pack for a vacation...which leads me to wonder why I even bothered to pack bags in the first place???  Maybe that could be something to try on the next vacation.....Just holler up the stairs at the kids  "Van is leaving in 10 min. for a 1500 mile trip....throw some clothes in a bag and head out the door!"

As I exited the blue big box store this afternoon, I took a deep breath and smelled the ocean for the first time in 2 years.  Between that and the thought of never again having to pack for a vacation, I felt myself get a little giddy :)

I'm glad I learned this lesson now, while I still have time to put my new knowledge into practice, because vacation is something that is supposed to be relaxing.

So glad I got to make up the class I missed!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Board Games and LEGOS

But the rest of my family members were somehow allowed to take the class in pre-school.
My husband and my two children can play  some of these new strategy games for hours on a Sunday afternoon.  My son has been known to disappear into the basement with his small plastic building bricks and only come up for food and water.  I know that it is not just my family.  Many mothers have reported the same phenomenon with similarly aged sons and/or husbands. 

There are some members of the female population that have a similar attraction to games of strategy and toys that can be built into new inventions.  My daughter and my sister-in-law are two such females.  I, however, am not.  As soon as the games come out of the cabinet, I go out the door...usually grocery shopping or some other equally thrilling mom adventure.   Sometimes I even go for a jog.  (see my previous post to know how desperate I must be to not play those games)

I think it may stem back to one of the few truly traumatic episodes of my childhood....the everlasting game of Monopoly that my brothers always wanted to play, and win.  Me?   I was more than happy to while away an evening playing Trivial Pursuit where there was always the chance that you could be the lucky player to land on the history pie space and get the question "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?"  See...isn't that much more fun????  No strategy involved, just dumb luck.

And those little plastic bricks......
We have banned all plastic bricks to the lowest level of the house because I am convinced that if left elsewhere, (under boy's bed, on boy's floor, scattered round the house)  these little monstrosities wander and breed.  That means when you get up to get a drink of water in the middle of the night, you will step on at least 5 of them in your bare feet before you even make it to the bathroom.  Very unpleasant at 2 a.m., in the dark, when you are only half awake.

But I have decided that missing the class does not excuse me from missing my kids enjoy something.  As much as I would really rather be left in a room full of starving pre-schoolers with only one snack baggy of goldfish, than play those games, I have to keep the big picture in mind.   It's really not about me.  I have to get over myself.  My children should be able to have fun and share this with me without my dramatic sighs and procrastination. I should be thankful that they play nicely together and want to spend time with their parents. On the rare occasion that I do play, we usually wind up having conversations about their own little lives and what they are thinking about.  That may not always be the case.  There may come a day when they don't want to talk to me at all, about anything.  That scares me more than the hungry pre-schoolers, as we are nearing those teen-aged years and young adulthood faster than I care to admit.

So my family is going to get to teach me this summer about board games and small plastic bricks, and I am going to shoot for an A in the class.

Because there is more at stake here than just missing the class.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Exercising AND looking good at the same time.

I'm fairly certain that only a select few had this on their schedules in high school. It was probably written in pencil underneath the P.E. class time slot.  I think my guidance counselor's pencil broke before he got to my schedule.

C'mon...you know exactly what I mean.
When you drive the 1/2 mile trip to the library and see all the joggers and bikers along the way. Yes, those fitness fanatics who look good, even when breaking a sweat. And you are driving, because if you ran that 1/2 mile to the library, the librarians might think they should break out the AED upon your arrival.
Or when you take your kids to the "Y" so they can go swimming, and you pass all these people coming out who look like they are old enough to collect social security, but fit enough that they could beat you in a  3 mile foot race any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

I'm not saying exercise is bad.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  There are probably a few thousand blogs and websites dedicated to helping us all look good, feel better and live longer by exercising. Our doctors, our Surgeon General ,our First Lady, our bathroom scales and our non-elastic waisted pants all tell us we need to exercise. I, myself  played sports in high school and college.  Loved almost every minute of it, even though it was exercise.

Except for one thing. 

No matter what the sport, my coach expected us to show up to pre-season with at least some conditioning (read running) having been done during the off season.  This created a large amount of anxiety for me every time.  You see, due to missing the above mentioned class, I could never get more than 5 minutes into a "jog" without turning into the human version of the star of "Attack of the Killer Tomato"  When people are offering to call 911 or get you a bottle of water when you are only 3 blocks from your house, it can get pretty discouraging.  Let's just say I was never quite "conditioned" when pre-season workouts started.  Then I thought I would get smart :)  I would play goalie :) They don't have to run around the field....aren't supposed to run around the field in fact. Brilliant! (I thought).

Until basketball season....no goalies :(
I decided that was OK though because the basketball court was a lot smaller than a field hockey or lacrosse field. (side note..field hockey is NOT ice hockey on a field and women's lacrosse is a very different game from men's lacrosse).   Even the sprints didn't bother me too much, since being sprints, they were done faster.  It also helped that the girls who had gotten to take that special class were just as winded as I  at the end of the sprint drills.

 Until I got to college...and met our team's starting power forward.
She was 6' tall and as graceful as a ballerina.  She never got winded during sprints. She practically tip-toed down the court during drills, while I Clydesdaled my way from one end of the gym to the other. (no disrespect to the horses)  Obviously she had gotten into the advanced class. Obviously I was in over my red faced, sweat dripping head.   We both survived.  One of us just barely.

Fast forward a few (ahem ) years.  Apparently there are very few inexpensive opportunities for adult women to continue playing the sports I loved as a teen and single young adult.  That left me with only one choice for cheap exercise..sigh...running :(  This time around though, I decided things would be different.  I would learn to make it past the first  5 minutes of jogging!  I would find someone who could help me learn more about conditioning and training!!  I would learn how to look good while exercising!!!!

Well, two out of three isn't bad...right?

Because I still missed the class on that.....

Friday, June 22, 2012

Quantum Physics and Technology

No....really.....  Aren't "they" supposed to teach that stuff in elementary school?  O.K....maybe high school, but still, I missed out on this one.

If I had attended this class then I would understand how my computer functions faster or slower (or not at all) in exact  inverse proportion to how many tasks I need to complete that minute

I might also be able to understand things like the space-time continuum that dictates communication with my printer and wireless connections and the worm hole that the information falls in to before it makes it to where I thought I sent it.  Or maybe I might finally grasp the intricacies of what all those function keys at the top of my keyboard actually DO.

I would also be better prepared to use things like cell phones, apps, and texting instead of resorting to my default of smoke signals or quill and ink on parchment.

Again, my parents are not at fault here.  Both my mom and my dad as well as my 3 siblings work in technology related fields and use tech savvy terms as though they were speaking normal, every day English.  Moi?  Not so much.  Family reunions can sometimes sound like Klingon to me....I just resort to using my high school French because I did NOT miss that class :)

VCR?  yup...still have one, and no the clock is not set.
Home Phone?  yup still have one of those too, and yes it IS plugged into a wall.
Family Calendar/Planner?   Hanging on the fridge...in PAPER format.
Banking?  No on-line bill pay for this girl! No sireee..... I prefer to have my information stolen by "honest" crooks who actually have to figure out what a paper check is, and what to do with it.   Besides, I consider it my patriotic duty to buy stamps and support the USPS.
Spell Check?  Good Old Merriam Webster sitting by my side. (It is the "new" edition though.)

Blogging????   hmmmmm...lets just say that we won't say how long it took me to get back to my own blog to create this post.

Don't get me wrong.  I like all the things that technology can do for us.   I would probably be just as lost as the next person without it. Literally.  I actually use a GPS to get around....but I use the "old fashioned" kind that plugs into the outlet on the car dash, not the new fangled one on my husband's smart phone.

Sometimes it does get hard though, this having to function in the everyday life of quantum physics and technology.

Because I missed the class on that.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I'm pretty sure I missed the class on organizing.

I'm pretty sure my family would agree with me.

As I sit here at the computer, I can count no less than 5 unfinished projects with-in arms reach.  I dare not turn around to see what lurks behind me in the dark corners of the abyss...I mean office.....

Now, I know that my mom tried really hard to teach this important life skill.  I had to clean my room, do my laundry, complete my chores...etc,etc,etc.  I just  think that there was a class on this topic that they forgot to put on my schedule at school.
I'm thinking this class would have covered things like....

1) making sure every matched sock that went in to the laundry, came out with the same mate.

2) knowing how to make every piece of meat put in the freezer for future meals  come out in time to be defrosted for the scheduled meal.

3) having every penny that goes in to the checking account be accurately recorded as it goes out of the checking account, regardless of how many people use the account.

4) being able to put your hands on all important documents at any given time, whether they are in or out of your immediate sight.  ( BTW Did you know that the bottom of a pile of papers is a BAD place to keep shot records and birth certificates?)

5) containing yourself to only as many hobbies as you can fit in one tote tub before said tote spills out, forcing you to go in to the big-box store where you buy more hobby things on your way out with a second, bigger tote.

6) how to keep your mini-van clean, no matter how many children are getting in and out.

I know this class had to have been taught at some school, somewhere.   I have many friends who have clean cars, accurately balanced checkbooks, matched laundry, and hobby totes that stay neatly contained and nicely closed.  I even have friends who remember to defrost their meat, and know where their shot records are. Most also manage to do this with families much larger than mine. They are amazing people.  I yearn to know what curriculum their schools used, and if the class was a semester, or year-long option. 

Because I'm pretty sure I missed the class on this.