Thursday, March 19, 2009


See, it's cleverly hidden and attractive!

If your house is anything like mine, you have a plethora (that means "a lot", not "fake leather" as my friend Barb thought) of electronic cord chargers all over the place. Every cell-phone, ipod, and digital camera has at least one charging cord and in a family with two adults and two teenagers that adds up quickly unless you are "urban Amish" like my friend Lisa who still listens to music on something called a "radio" and takes pictures with a film camera from last century.

Keeping these cords organized and out of sight is apparently impossible. They appear everywhere, multiplying mysteriously, and often after everyone has left for the morning I find them plugged into different outlets around the kitchen, still smoking from the charging they did all night long.

I tried to wrangle them a little. I designated an entire drawer in my kitchen to these gadgets but before long the drawer became an unusable tangled mass of cords, and no one was bothering to put them back there anyway. This was making me a little crazy but I accepted the challenge. My goal is to organize things in a manner that is so logical even my slob children can get with the program (which is why I had a laundry basket in the play room for years to catch the socks they liked to whip off, though come to think of it, it was usually empty with socks laying all around it).

So for a few months I've been trying to come up with a plan to organize the chargers that would be so easy and convenient that even my kids could use it and not leave cords around constantly. (At this point several of you will say, My God she needs to get a life, to which I'll say, I have one thank you and it, by design, allows me to ponder such trivia, oh please as if you use your free time so constructively with your Facebook!) I don't mean I spent hours on it, I just mean I kept my eyes out for a clever system that surely someone else has invented to organize these cords. It could be called the "Cord Wrangler" or the "Cord-anizer" or something.

Anyhoo, one day while I was at Staples, realizing again that no one has invented such a thing, I decided to design my own system. So I bought a power strip that had enough outlets on it to accommodate all our chargers. I took it home and picked a seldom-used corner of my family room and plugged the power strip into the wall. I then hid it behind a piece of furniture and slipped the charge couplings out in a cleverly semi-hidden fashion so that all my family had to do was walk over to this thing and plug their phone or i-pod or whatever into it. It was hidden enough that you did not even have to put anything away, I could leave it out all the time.

Unveiling it to them, the natural marketer in me took over. "Hey look. I've simplified your life by installing this new thing. I call it the 'Charging Station'!" I stood in the corner, doing my best Carol Merril impersonation, showing the features of the Charging Station and explaining how it was going to vastly improve the quality of their lives. "It's nice over here. I think I'll start serving snacks and it could be a hangout!"

My spouse and offspring dutifully plugged their devices in at the Charging Station, smiled, and congratulated me for my cleverness. For the first few days all went well. No one misplaced a vital electronic device and I did not have to coil up any cords laying about. The Charging Station was revolutionizing our lives and it was good.

The bliss did not last long. By the third day I had a defector.

"Hey," I said lifting up the phone charger that had found its way back on to the kitchen counter, "Who's not using the Charging Station!"

Everyone looked shocked and innocent but it was easy enough to figure out which phone fit into the cord like Cinderella's slipper. Knowing the jig was up, Grace confessed. She didn't like it because, get this, she had to be away from her phone for too long if it was WAY over in the corner.

For a while I tried to entice her back to the Charging Station. "You know, we're serving espresso and biscotti over here in the Charging Station." I'd say from the corner.

"No thanks," she answered, maniacally texting while her phone was plugged into the kitchen outlet.

The next day I tried again. "Hey Atticus," I said as I found him fetching his phone ever so conveniently from the designated area, "What's going on at the Charging Station today?"

"We're having live jazz and smoothies over here," he answered. Grace smiled but she was not coming back to the Charging Station.

After that it was only a matter of time before my brilliant idea was completely discarded. I found Atticus's phone plugged in to the kitchen outlet too the next day. "HEY! What about our special place?" I tried one last time.

"Umm, it wasn't working, I needed to text some friends while it was charging."

Lilly, the baby and appeaser tried to make me feel better. "Hey, Mommy, I still use it! Look, I'm going over there right now to try the sundae bar!" But she's just throwing me a bone. She doesn't even have anything to charge yet and really it just looks silly to find a plastic horse with a USB up its butt.

So now it's just me using the Charging Station (and Lilly's horse) which really doesn't make it a station at all. More like a Charging Portal or, if you want to put a fine point on it, a cord plugged into the wall. The magic of the Charging Station is gone because it's boring to be standing at the station by yourself even if you are virtually serving themed martinis next to a make-believe piano-bar.

So there you have it. You can invent a special charging place and even offer faux food and entertainment but unless they can text from it, no one will come.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Wine not a good gift. Gloves good gift.

Last month when Prime Minister Brown of England came to visit our new president, he presented Barack with an amazing gift: a "pen holder crafted from the timbers of the 19th century British warship HMS President (whose sister ship, HMS Resolute, provided the wood for the Oval Office's desk)" and his wife brought the two First-daughters "dresses from the UK's trendy Top Shop (with matching necklaces) and a selection of books by British authors."

In return the Obamas presented PM Brown with a collection of greatest American movie DVDs (which won't work in a British DVD player) and the Brown boys were given replicas of the AirForce One helicopters that looked suspiciously like they came from the White House Gift Shop.

Barack got out-gifted.

I truly feel his pain. You see, I live in Glenview where I have been for the past 13 years constantly out-gifted by the women here.

This is NOT, I assure you a matter of money. It is a matter of good manners, good taste, and a little thought all of which I apparently possess very little of.

It has taken me some time to get used to this. There is a complicated and intricate set of gift-giving customs here that could take an anthropologist years to decode but I think that I have finally cracked it so I will share with you what I have learned. If you ever move here (or if you live somewhere simlilar) you will then avoid the embarassment of being "out-gifted" which is the term (I think) I made up for this.

Here are the rules:

1. Hostess Gift: This should be a tasteful, never too-expensive, very thoughtful gift for the lady of the home. Under no circumstances is it to be a bottle of wine you grabbed from the fridge. Wine is only acceptable if it is a very, very good (again, not necessarily expensive) bottle of wine in an incredibly creative bag (like one made of red and white santa velvet for Christmas). Over the years I have been the recipient of some amazingly creative hostess gifts such as a pair of rubber gloves fashioned after some worn by Bree VanDeKamp on "Desperate Housewives", a wine stopper with our initials engraved on it, and a bejewelled pair of ice-tongs. I believe that the smart cookie buys these things as she discovers them and keeps them on hand for special events so she is never caught grabbing a bottle of Chuck Shaw Chardonnay on her way out the door. I am not a smart cookie.

2. Holiday gift for neighbor: Here I have been so out-gifted by my neighbor Sue Ruch year after year that my children have coined a phrase "you got Ruched" meaning "you're a thoughtless clod whose idiocy was made clear when you both opened your gifts". Now in my defense, I do have to buy Christmas presents for my husband, my children, my husband from my children, my children from my husband, my sister, my brothers, their children, my parents, my grandmother, the teachers, the bus-driver, my two former co-workers, and don't forget the mailman and the newspaper carrier. So by the time I get to the last half of the list sometimes I do not give it the thought it deserves. This is not really much of a defense as Sue has to buy for a lot of people too and manages to find something amazing for me each year. One year (and I am not making this up) I was horrified as she showed up with a hand-made bag (yes, the gift came in an adorable bag she made that I could use as a purse) with cocktail napkins with funny sayings on them (I collect those), and coffee mugs that matched my newly decorated kitchen. As I was opening and exclaiming over these delights she was gamely making a fuss over the home decorating book I had grabbed in the sale bin at Walgreens which was not so cleverly wrapped in Christmas paper and no bow.


I vowed never to be Ruched again and now I go online and find great stuff for her sometimes weeks in advance. My goal is to actually out-gift her some year. If that's not the spirit of giving I don't know what is.

3. Teacher Gifts: These can be classic gifts but never useless tchockes (how the hell do you spell that word?) No paper weights or "World's Greatest Teacher" mugs, puh-leaze! Engraved stationary or a donation to their favorite charity are okay. In addition (yes, that's not enough) you should contribute to the class gift which is usually a generous gift card or even (again not kidding) jewelry from Tiffany's.

4. Others: Do not forget the bus-driver, the crossing-guard (you will have both if your kids are spread out in age), the mailman, the soccer coach, gymnastics teacher, piano teacher, and your hairdresser. A small gift-card is perfectly fine as long as it is tucked inside a thoughtful note written on your personal stationary. Oh, you don't have personal stationary? Well, you'd better get some.

Okay, well, I guess that's enough of a lesson for today. I'll forward this on to Barack and maybe with all his spare time after he fixes the economy, cures health care, and brokers peace in the middle east he can focus on what really counts: not getting out-gifted by the British.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


He proposed to Molly but ditched her for Melissa.
No wait, he proposed to Melissa but ditched her for Molly.
Ooops, no one can tell the difference.

Leave it to Lilly (10) to sum up just how badly that guy on The Bachelor behaved. "Hey, they teach you that in kindergarten: once you pick a cookie you don't put it back and pick a different one!"


If you don't know what I'm talking about, please tell me where you live because I would like to live somewhere where I can avoid hearing gossip about a reality show I don't even watch being pawned off on the news shows as "news".

Don't pretend you don't know ANYTHING about what I'm talking about. Okay, fine, I'll explain. There's this reality show called The Bachelor. On it, beautiful 20-something girls with seriously low self-esteem and major daddy issues subject themselves to the humiliation of allowing a man to choose among them. When he has chosen, the "winner" gets to marry him.

Really? Is this what Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinam fought for?

So anyhoo, apparently on this show, this paragon of manhood chose one bubble-headed overly-made up girl to marry. Then on the next show, he changed his mind and chose another girl. All on national TV.

Now the fans of this show are --wait for it-- actually outraged on behalf of the spurned girl. The airwaves are a Twitter with it all. The humiliation! OMG! That is SO not cool! How COULD he do such a thing and of course the inevitable, how could SHE (the second girl) accept? There is speculation that maybe the producers set them all up (do you think?). Imagine that: a man who would choose his mate (and the mother of his young son) on a reality show might behave in a less than gentlemanly manner.

It's this debate that is baffling to me. I mean really, when you come to a Jerry Springer show you don't complain when the transvestite hits the Nazi with a chair. It's a little nit-picky don't you think? Debating whether or not this man's behavior is socially acceptable on a show that is so socially unacceptable is a little like debating the moral implications of taming wild animals while watching a Christian being thrown to a lion. It might be missing the point just a little.

I'd like to wrap this rant up with a pithy lesson to be learned but I don't know what it is except maybe, we should all stop watching reality TV.

Okay, gotta run, "Dancing with the Stars" is on.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


If it's fifth grade and spring time around here it means it is time for the Human Growth and Development Unit in science. In case you didn't follow that, I'm talking about Sex Ed. As a parent, I am going through this for the third time so here is a primer for the newbies. This is how it'll go down:

The Letter: You will get a letter from school warning you that the topic is about to be raised. It strongly suggests you have a talk with your child before this happens. I strongly second that. If you do not, you will have a child looking puzzled for the next few weeks as there is much talk about eggs meeting sperm and fertilization but not a whole lot of talk about how that sperm met up with the egg in the first place.

-Desensitization: The teachers, wisely knowing that some words have the ability to make a fifth-grader burst out laughing, will work on some desensitization training before they get started. This is why, if you walk past Ms. Pierce's room this week you will hear twenty fifth-graders shouting out "penis!" "vagina!" then laughing uproariously. If this makes you uncomfortable, I suggest you avoid fifth grade. If it makes you want to laugh and repeat the words under your breath then come on over for happy hour on Friday and we'll say dirty words and giggle together because yes, I am that immature. This explains why my fifteen year old son and I are equally likely to laugh out loud if, say, while playing a word game he draws the card and reads aloud the clue that says "I am a tool" No really, that happened over Christmas. I snorted a martini through my nose.

-The presentation: At the end of the unit, the parents are invited to take their kids to see an enlightening and educational presentation put on by a local health museum. This is pretty straight-forward though again, not much is made of how A goes into slot B. Still, there will be graphic questions in a co-ed setting about "nocturnal emissions" and "menstrual cramps" that would have made our parents extremely uncomfortable. This is however, much preferred to the sex-ed "filmstrip" I was shown in fifth grade, you know the one they showed the girls while the boys saw something else. It was produced by Kotex and was so vague and unhelpful that I left being concerned that I would have to put a belted contraption on a butterfly after it emerged from a cocoon.

-The Talk: Whether you do it before, during, or after the Sex Ed unit, you will most likely have to have the talk. Most families agree that dad will have the talk with the boys and mom will have the talk with the girls. For most families this is just a formality because when it comes down to it mom will end up having the talk. Here is how it often goes:

Dad takes son out for dinner/movie/snack and to have the talk. Afterward, mom checks on dad.

MOM: So, did you tell him you know, the penis goes into the vagina?

DAD:(looks horrified) No, I was supposed to say THAT?

MOM: Well what did you think you were supposed to say?

DAD: I said, 'you know where babies come from, right?' and he said 'yes'.

MOM: Great. Now I have to do this for the girls and the boys.

Later there will be an enormously uncomfortable moment when mom traps her son in a room alone and says, "Okay, I'm just going to say this out loud to make sure you know," and she says it. Son will look mortified and they will move on.

So, if this is your first time with a kid in sex ed I wish you well. If you go over the homework carefully you might even learn something new and hopefully when it's all said and done you will know just what to do when a butterfly comes out of its cocoon.