Tuesday, December 06, 2011

PURE MICHIGAN


A while back I got an email from my high-school Spanish teacher entitled "You might be from Michigan if...." I forwarded it to Beth who I met here in Chicago but is also from Michigan. She replied "If you still keep in touch with your high-school Spanish teacher, you might be from Michigan."

Well I am from Michigan and I do know how to play and SPELL euchre and I do point at my hand when you ask me where I am from. I love those Pure Michigan take-off ads. If you haven't seen them check this one out about University of Michigan football fans. Warning, if you actually went to UofM you may snort food out of your nose laughing when you see this so make sure you are not eating.

My kids like to point out things that they consider to be Pure Michigan when we travel there. Like the enormous woman at Culvers who brought her cheese curds in to the bathroom with her and kept eating while waiting in the bathroom line. Lilly spotted this delightful creature and told me about it in the car saying, "I was afraid she might eat me, so I got out of there. Pure Michigan."

Or last summer when we went to the fancy horse show in Traverse City. When we went to get a pop (not soda, we were in Michigan) we saw a dad on an ATV with his kid on the back. The kid who was about seven had a rat-tail (I think that is what that fashion statement hair-style is called) and the dad was holding a beer while he drove around the grounds. "Pure Michigan" Lilly whispered.

Last weekend Jeff and I had dinner with my old high school boyfriend Greg who lives with his wife Sue in the Chicago suburbs like everyone else who moved away after college. The fact that we had dinner with them might be Pure Michigan--I'm not sure. Anyhoo, he and I got to reminiscing about our old high school which has been demolished and replaced with a Taj-Mah-High-School as my sister calls it.

"You know, they built that new school on our old cornfield," I said to Greg referring to a favorite make-out spot.

"Hey, is that the same cornfield you took me to?" his wife of 25+ years asked.

Making out in cornfields. Pure Michigan.

Although I bet they have those in Iowa and Wisconsin too.

Pure Midwest.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TEXTING 1-2-3

Today's post comes to you courtesy of Lilly, my 13-year-old. Basically, I will just post a text she sent me and you will laugh and I will not have to write much at all.

I just need to set it up.

So last week she wanted to go on a sleep-over. She's not a big sleep-over kid and it was at the home of some friends I don't know well in a neighborhood I am not familiar with. So naturally I had a lot of questions, most of which are pretty useless because in the end you let them go but it's what you do when you're a mom and want to at least pretend you have some control over a situation.

Me: Are you sure you want to sleep over? You aren't big on that.

Lilly: Yeah, I really want to. By the way, they have an indoor pool and want to know if it's okay with you to swim.

Me: Umm, I guess. But you aren't a strong swimmer. Who will supervise?

Lilly: (rolling her eyes) We're 13 there will be no supervisors. Do you send a supervisor with me to the community pool?

Me: Uhh, I guess not. Can you at least have a swim buddy? You know, just tell a friend you aren't a great swimmer and it's her job to keep an eye on you.

Lilly: Yeah. Yeah I'll do that (making a face that clearly says she would not do that if I put a gun to her head). Geez, when did you become Tiger Mom?

Me: It's just that, you know, that's the neighborhood where the candy heiress, Helen Brach disappeared.

Lilly: When?

Me:1977

Lilly: Yeah. Bad neighborhood.

In the end we sent her off to the sleep over in the mansion. A real mansion by the way, not a McMansion. Later that night I texted her and asked if she was okay. Here is her response:

Text: Well, we had to fend off many murderous multi-billionaires and the waters in the pool were rough. But no worries. Not dead yet. I informed Mrs. Levi that she must supervise me at all times (even when we are sleeping) and told the other kids not to roughouse in the shallow end where I have been all night. I also reminded them we can only watch something rated G...maybe PG if we are feeling up to something on the raunchy side. Oh yes, and I also reminded them that Jesus Christ is my savior, since they are Jewish and all. So there are no issues.

Good night, Mommy.


Good night, Lilly.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NEW CHRISTMAS SONG

Our friend Dan Fergus along with his friend Andy, has composed and produced a new Christmas song. Check it out and feel free to download it for your iPod. Or download the music and perform it at your annual Christmas party. It's free for the taking! Just mention him when you do.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

MICHAEL JOHNSON

About sixty years ago, when Jeff and I were first married, we went to dinner at the home of some friends of my parents' --Art and Sondra. They were older than us. Really old. They were, let's see carry the one divide by...they were about my age now. But they were always fun (still are) and made us nice food and drinks so we loved to see them.

As we got a tour of their grown-up home full of teenaged children we came to one of the daughter's rooms. She had a poster on the wall and Art said, "Oh yeah, that's that singer Michael Johnson." This SLAYED us! It was the early 80s and the poster was of course of Michael Jackson. We made fun of Art and then later laughed about it more. In fact, we laughed about it for years assuming that old people just don't know who pop singers are.

But lately, I am not laughing so hard. Because it turns out, this happens to all of us. After filling our brains with useless things like the names of the Brady Bunch (Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy) you find the names of more recent celebs tend to not fit in there. You will not be able to fit Kylie Minogue and Nikki Minaj and actually know the difference. And forget trying to put Kardashian names in there, you have stuffed that space with Shaun and David Cassidy.

On Saturday I came in the house and said to Lilly, "I was just listening to the funniest interview on NPR with Justin Timberfield." As soon as it was out of my mouth I knew it was wrong. I sort of looked at the malaprop as it slipped to the floor. Then I looked her in the eyes, praying she hadn't caught it but I could tell by the snarky smile forming at her lips I would have no luck sneaking it by. I came clean. "Did I just say Justin Timberfield," heh heh, I laughed nervously. "Aren't I funny?"

A few weeks ago I was on the phone with my mom. She was telling me about my sister's trip to New York City, "Yes, she went to see the spot where George Hamilton was shot." Umm, what? "You know, the Beatle." I whooped at this, "Mom," I said, rolling my eyes as Lilly does to me, "George Hamilton is the tan actor your age, I think you mean George Harrison." Of course it was two hours later when I told the story to Jeff that he had to remind me I meant John Lennon. Oh. Right. Shit. When I told my friend Beth this story she pointed out helpfully that at least I didn't think she meant Alexander Hamilton who was shot by some vice president...was that Dick Cheney?

Then Beth suggested we could have a game show for older people in which you say things like "What is the name of the actor who starred in 'Love at First Bite'" and then one of you would say, "Wasn't that girl from 'McMillan and Wife' in that movie?" and "I think he was on 'Dancing with the Stars'" and another would say "And that movie about spring break where boys are, what's the name of that movie?" and the other old person would say "Where the Boys Are" and the first would say, "Yes, I know that's what it's about but what's the name of the movie?" and so on and so on until the game show host's ears would bleed and no one ever would come up with George Hamilton unless my mother was there and she could say "Wasn't he shot in front of The Dakota?" And the funniest part of all is that ALL of the older people will TOTALLY follow this conversation like a lot of you just did.

So there you go. You can make fun of older people but then one day you're older too and you'll have these silly half conversations and it will be oddly comforting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LIMPING TOWARD COLLEGE

As many of you know, the first wave of college application deadlines is coming up on November 1. I thought this might be a good time to recap the whole process (from a parent's point of view) up until this point. Here's how it has looked so far:

Last winter: Start worrying about campus visits. Don't actually do anything about it but talk to every mom you know until you hear a rational strategy that you might follow. Hear this advice "Don't take any special trips out of the way, but visit colleges if you are traveling anyway." Love this advice! Take this advice and run with it.

Spring Break: While in Florida go ahead and visit a Florida college:University of Miami. As you are escorted around the lush green grounds taking in the sights of bikini-top girls and frisbee-playing boys wonder why in the hell you chose to go to a frigid Big-Ten school that had weather like this ummm, well, NEVER. Fall into a deep depression as you realize that your fun college days (which were definitely not as fun as these kids are having...hey are those hammocks between palm trees over there?) are not only behind you but decades behind you. Try not to cry just a little as you are filled with deep, bitter, regret. Have your kid declare this school is NOT his cup of tea.

Summer: Make a few half-assed plans to travel to see more colleges. Try not to listen to your friends when they tell you they have been flying along the East and West Coasts taking their smarty-pants kid to colleges. Wonder why you are even friends with such over-acheivers. Make a note to start having coffee and drinks with people who have much lower aspirations for their offspring. Visit some of the schools you can get to easily. Repeat more or less the Florida experience ("Why didn't I come here?! This is way more fun/cool/funky/ than where I went?") Have kid declare the most expensive one you visit "Is just where I belong". Wonder how people pay for this. Get used to everyone in the world asking your kid what his college plans are. Coach him to just say the name of a college so they will stop bugging him. Maybe even make up a name of a college to watch people make a funny frowny face as they try to think of something to say.

Late Summer: Realize you are in no way going to find "the school" for your kid before application time. The one school he declared he belongs at does not offer the program he wants. Realize further you don't have to figure this out right now...he can apply and then you can visit the ones he gets into. See his transcripts and realize that when the counselors talked about the importance not of just the grades but the trend of the grades that his are not trending the right way. Realize maybe you won't have many schools to visit when it all shakes out.

Fall: Start full-time nagging of your kid regarding application process. Attend yet another parent meeting to go over all the things your slacker kid is supposed to do to apply to each college. Curl up in the fetal position just thinking about it. Watch as your kid acts like it is no big deal. Continue nagging. Set up a weekly meeting with him to go over the progress he has not made and continue to nag. You should be nagging him about filling out the common application, writing an essay, getting teacher recommendations, sending ACT scores, and ordering transcripts. Nag some more.

Early October: It is crunch time. Go out to dinner with your husband and talk about nothing but how your kid has not done anything towards applying to college. Realize, hey, I went to college. Call the blockhead into the living room for the weekly ass-kicking and inform him it is up to HIM to get himself into a college--you are done. Watch his face with its funny mixture of relief and horror.

Mid October: Watch your kid scramble to get all the things done he needs to get done. Enjoy this tiny moment in which you have managed to put the stress back where it belongs. Mix a cocktail even as he sweats over his essay. Be very happy you do not have to do this. Be a little sad you do not get a do-over for college.

So that's where we are. How about you? For all of you with Seniors (and I know a lot of you) I hope it's going pretty much on target and your kids make the November 1 deadline. If you have had to nag them a tiny bit...I'm pretty sure you are not alone.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, September 19, 2011

THE ACTs

A short time ago both my high-schoolers took the ACTs. For my European readers, this is a general college admissions test kids take primarily in the midwest. East and west coast require a similar test called the SATs.

Anyhoo, Grace, a junior was taking it for the first time just to see how she would do and Atticus, a senior, was taking it for the second time to see if he could bump his score a point or two which can translate into scholarship money.

The test was at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and I nudged Jeff early and suggested we go downstairs and offer to make them breakfast before they go.

When we got to the kitchen we found the following scene:

Grace was standing at the kitchen table fully dressed. She declined the offer of breakfast--she had already made herself a smoothie and an omelet and put her dishes in the dishwasher. Her calculator was out along with four spare batteries, neatly arranged next to several sharpened pencils, and her test admission ticket. She was making herself a healthy snack to have during the test break and going over the directions she had printed out one last time.


Atticus was sitting at the computer clad only in his boxer shorts. He had headphones on and was chuckling over his on-line morning cartoons. He declined the offer of breakfast because he was already eating a muffin, much of which was falling apart in crumbs down his bare belly.

There was nothing regarding the test in sight...not even a number two pencil.

None of this was a surprise of course but it is hard not get a little panicky when you see someone not even dressed, 45 minutes before a big test. So I felt I should speak up.


Me: "Don't you want to print out an admission ticket like your sister's?"

Atticus: "Oh. Do I need that?"

Sigh. Yes, 19 months apart and it's like they're from different planets. Just when you think maybe you had something to do with your children (for better or worse) you come across a scenario like this and realize they could have been raised by wolves and Grace would still be the kind of person who has spare batteries for her calculator and Atticus might even forget to take the test (oh yeah, he DID forget to take the SAT he was signed up for last June).

So parents, remind yourself today if you are gloating over your over-achiever or fretting over your under-achiever, you probably had nothing to do with it anyway.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

THE KISSING HAND: THE SEQUEL




Back to school means time to read "The Kissing Hand" that adorable story about Chester the raccoon who is scared to go to kindergarten until his mom gives him a special kiss on his palm to help him know she's thinking of him while he's at school.

It's a tear-jerker but I read it every year to each of my three kids the night before school. Except last night. I forgot my teens would be out until late and as they got home after I was already asleep I did not get to read it to them.

Which is why I was following my high-school senior around the kitchen this morning as he got his breakfast, reading aloud and trying not to cry as he tried not roll is eyes and laugh. I was doing fine but then I started thinking all of my friends who just took their freshmen kids to college--Ann who flew Olivia to TCU and Bridgette who is driving Billy to GVSU and Coop who took Nicholas to Clemson and Martha who drove Rachel to Miszou--and knowing I'm just a short year away from it all I started to cry a little.

As I angrily brushed tears away with the back of my hand I muttered, "I don't know why we all had you kids; all you do is grow up and leave us." And then I had to laugh and say, "Which I suppose is preferable to the alternative; that you grow up and don't leave us."

Lilly liked this idea and suggested a sequel to "The Kissing Hand" in which Chester moves back home after college and his mom pleads with him, "Please, I know we all have to do things that are scary but you'll be fine once you get an apartment of your own" just as she did when he was going off to kindergarten. Chester could be wearing boxers over his little ringed tail and scratch his belly and say, "But mommy, I don't want to leave you and the laundry you do for me and the meals you make!"

I don't know if the sequel would help any of us but it might be worth a chuckle.

To all of you having to say goodbye this month, my thoughts and tears are with you.

I'll be right there with you next year when my own raccoon leaves the nest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

COUNTRY STRONG

Although we are brought up to believe that country music is something that only southerners listen to the real truth is that anytime you are more than 20 miles from a Starbucks and a Target (sure signs of urban civilization) and you turn on the radio, you will be inundated with music that appeals to your inner-hillbilly even if you are well north of the mason-dixon line.

I was reminded of this again as I made a family road trip a few weeks back and though I swear we never got farther south than Oberlin, Ohio the radio played a soundtrack that made it seem like we were deep in Deliverance-land. I kept a nervous eye peeled for a banjo-playing simpleton at every turn.

If you like to listen to the radio as you travel (as I do) to give yourself a break from your own playlist you have the following choices whenever you are out in Sarah Palin Land: 3 country stations, 1 oldies station, 1 to 3 right-wing Christian stations, and a very fuzzy and odd version of NPR (who is this Diana Rehm?

Eventually when you tire of "Brown Eyed Girl" and a staticky "All Things Considered" you will turn the dial to a country music station for a rest and you will get to hear poetic lines like, "Take your tongue out of my mouth I'm kissing you goodbye" and "She's actin' single so I'm drinkin' doubles."

Last summer as we drove around western Michigan my family and I had so much fun listening to these things that we made a list of themes that are featured in almost all country western songs. The best songs manage to incorporate most or all of these themes:

1. She's amazing; I'm a doofus (or variations on this theme such as "I'm lucky she's with me" or "I behaved like an ass and I hope she'll forgive me.")

2. This country is the best country anywhere in the world. So there.

3. I don't have much but I'm happy. So there.

4. I drink a lot of alcohol after work. Usually beer.

5. Poor people have way more fun than rich people. So there.

6. I'm country through and through (even if I live in a Nashville mansion) and that makes me better than you.

7. Blue jeans/women's behinds in blue jeans

8. Pick up trucks

9. Jesus

10. Lil' bitty babies

11. Soldiers (never officers)


I think that covers it.

I know a lot of people like country music and I know a few who pretend they don't but really do but I don't know anyone who pretends to like it if they don't. Do with that what you will.

I honestly don't know if I like it or not but I know it can sure break up a tedious road-trip.

Well, I'm going to go now and I will leave you with this thought from "Honky-Tonk Bedonkadonk"
--"We hate to see her go but we love to watch her leave."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MAMAPEDIA

Hey check me out at this site today! Thanks to Mamapedia for the feature!!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MORAINE SCHOOL STUDENT SPEAKING



The belt is nice. But a cape is better.







We are just home from a family road-trip that I would like to dub, the "You went what way? Tour of 2011" because it turns out you can use a map and your memory as you drive around the state you grew up in (but have not lived in for 25 years) or you can use the GPS but if you try to use the GPS for part of it and your memory for part of it you will make mistakes. Big mistakes. Like thinking you are driving south on 23 while actuallygoing east on 96 when trying to get from Brighton to Ann Arbor to visit your grandma who has lived in the same place for 51 years.

Which is how I accidentally ended up in my hometown of Northville Michigan last week. It wasn't part of the plan but I figured I might as well give the kids a quick tour and as I drove them around and told them stories of my youth I soon had them roaring with laughter. The only problem is, I was not trying to be funny; I was just telling them real life things that happened in my childhood and not even in an ironic way.

Here's the story that really slayed them: when I was in the fifth grade at Moraine Elementary, I was a Service Girl. Yes, a Service Girl. This was the 1960s sexist answer to being a Safety Boy.

The boys patrolled the outdoors keeping us all safe from, safe from I don't know what, but they got to wear reflective belts that went around their waists and across their shoulders as they patrolled the playground and yelled at the "walkers" if they ran and told the "bussers" where to line up. They got to be outside because they were boys and everyone knows boys are meant to be outdoors in the wild.

Meanwhile, we Service Girls stayed indoors safe from the elements (that we had just walked to school through...did this make any sense?) We did not get to wear the reflective belts like the Safety Boys but we did not care. We did not care because we got to wear something waaay better-- we got to wear capes. No, not full capes, more like cape-lets that came to about elbow length. They were a muted orange and one of the front flaps of the cape was tacked back to reveal the yellow lining and the orange chenille letters "SG"--for Service Girl of course.

When we wore these we were empowered to boss everyone in the whole school around which we already did (have you ever met a fifth grade girl?) but with the cape we were official bossy girls. We kept the peace by patrolling the lunchroom to make sure people lined up properly in the milk line and didn't talk too loud or have any fun.

Even among the Service Girls I was extra bossy and this trait propelled me through the Service Girl ranks to lieutenant. I wish I could say I made it to captain but I did not. Jane Mach was our captain (damn her!) and though I envied her I served her faithfully and loyally and to this day would follow Jane into any kind of skirmish if called upon.

Because she and I held these elite stations we were called upon to fulfill the highest post in the land --Office Service Girls (I think that's what we were called, if I messed any of this up I hope a former Service Girl will set me straight).

In this capacity we were left alone to answer the phone and greet visitors while the secretary Mrs. Zeuner and the principal Mr. Jacobi went to the teachers' lounge for lunch (and no doubt a smoke). We were highly trained and answered the phone dutifully with "Hello, Moraine School student speaking, may I help you?" and also learned never to say things like, "Yes, Mr. Jacobi is here but he's in the bathroom right now" and other valuable life skills. We also got to dole out ice packs and band aids to the wounded furthering our social status to giddy heights.

I have fond memories of my official bossy time but when I told all of this to my kids they just found it all hilarious (especially the part about the capes) and they were a little amazed that there was ever a time when 10-year-olds were allowed to run a school office as they have grown up in a world where school offices are run not unlike Homeland Security.

Anyhoo, even though we arrived an hour and a half late to my Grandma's house it was worth it to have the opportunity to show my kids the house I grew up in and the schools I attended and tell them "funny" stories.

I just wish I still had my Service Girl cape because this place could use a little discipline.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WHAT WOULD TYRA DO?


When I used to come home from the 7th grade I would grab the box of Ritz Crackers, a tub of port-wine cheese, and head into my bedroom where I would watch re-runs of "Petticoat Junction" on the small black and white TV my parents (surprisingly) allowed me to have in my room. It was in this manner I would forget about the minor mean girl acts and other mini transgressions that are part and parcel of being in junior high.

Lots of curves you bet, even more when you get, to the Junction! Petticoat Junction! Why on earth were those girls allowed to bathe in the water tower? That seems mighty unsanitary.

When Lilly comes home from 7th grade she grabs the pita chips, the hummus and flops down on the couch to watch "The Tyra Show" on the big family-room flat-screen TV.

I'm coming out! I want the world to know, got to let it show! Who are all these horrible people shamelessly talking about the terrible things they do?

It is hard for me to imagine two shows that are more ridiculously different than "Petticoat Junction" and "The Tyra Show."

I don't really get what my daughter likes about this show. Wait she's in the room now, I will ask her.

Okay, here is what she said, "I like the Tyra show because there are a bunch of crazy people on that show and they are entertaining to watch. And because Tyra keeps it real."

I (along with pretty much everyone my age and older) do not like this genre of talk show because I find it horribly depressing to learn that I share the planet let alone the same nationality with said crazy people. People like the woman who weighed 600 pounds and aspires to weigh 1000 pounds. Or the parents who took their gay son to a fringe church to have his "gayness" exorcised (beaten) out of him. Or the woman who brought her husband to the show so she could tell him (in front of a national TV audience) that he no longer excites her sexually (but she just couldn't bring herself to tell him before that point because it might hurt his feelings WTF??)

I know the parenting manual says that when your kid watches a show you do not approve of you are supposed to watch it with her and say things like, "Well what do you think about that?" or "That's interesting do you think he handled that well?"

Instead I shout things like, "Oh for god sakes, what a horrible human!" "Who DOES that?" and "Please tell me this is a bad, bad joke!"

How's that for keeping it real?

But this stuff cracks Lilly up. Perhaps this horrible behavior makes the junior high nonsense look tame. I don't know.

I do know that she takes much of what Tyra says to heart and quotes her which leads to scenes like this:

At dinner: "You took too many potatoes. Tyra says your serving of carbs should be no bigger than your fist."

When I was worrying about going without my wig when my hair first grew out, "You have to just be you and be fierce. That's what Tyra would say. Then she'd look at you and say something nice about you," here Lilly looked me over from top to bottom, obviously searching for something nice to say and finally came up with, "You have nice teeth."

And she has learned a LOT about black women and their hair and hair extensions in general. Which is why our new favorite game to play when we watch TV is "Is she wearing extensions?" It also explains when she told the sweet 8-year-old African-American girl at our church, "I like your hair," and the girl answered, "It ain't mine, it's a weave," she was not a bit surprised.

So I don't like that she watches it but at least she's learning. I don't think I learned anything from "Petticoat Junction" except if I ever get the chance to stay at the Shady Rest I should not drink the water.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

THE TRUMP-INATOR

This is a repeat because I am told my Aunt Maxine missed it--just as she has missed trump calls for years.



The Trump-inator: Brilliant

When I play Euchre with my family (which is something we do nearly every time a bunch of Zimmermans are together) I have trouble keeping track of what trump is. This should not be difficult--there are only four choices--hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds but I find myself frequently asking, "What's trump?" and hearing the standard reply of "Hearts, Maxine," accompanied by groans at my ridiculous inability to remember something so simple. "Hearts Maxine" is an expression my family uses because my cousin Maxine was sort of the pioneer of forgetful Euchre players and asked what trump was so many times that the phrase was coined.

As the next generation is learning to play Euchre, I find they are even more impatient with my forgetfulness than my own siblings so I have devised a way to keep track. I simply take out four number two cards (you only use 9-Aces in Euchre) and set them at my elbow. When trump is called I turn over the two of whatever suit was called and that way instead of having to ask all the time I can just glance down. This is such a brilliant idea that I have named my stack of four cards "The Trump-inator" Never mind that sometimes the Trump-inator gets tangled up in the discard pile or worse yet the score-keeping cards, it works pretty well overall.

I think The Trump-inator is so ingenious that I am starting to collect other ideas that need a similar solution--situations when people frequently have problems keeping track. Here are a few ideas. I don't actually have a device to solve these problems; I just think it would be cool if there were such a thing. Let me know if you have any ideas and no, "there's an app for that" is not an answer. I don't have a Smart Phone.

1. The Link-inator: this handy device would somehow collect all the websites, YouTube videos, shopping links, and family photos that are referenced in a given conversation and automatically send them to everyone involved. For example, you are out to dinner with your sister and you reference a slutty drunken picture of one of the cousins you saw on FaceBook and she says she hasn't seen it so you say you'll send her the link the next day but by the next morning you realize that you said that about several things and you cannot for the life of you remember what the links were that you thought were so damned funny/relevant/interesting the night before. This would solve the problem and ensure that your sister will never again miss that amazing video of a cat playing piano.

2 The dinner-party-guest-name-inator: This pocket-sized implement has the names of all the guests at the dinner party you are going to along with photos and dotted lines to show who is married to whom. This will eliminate the need for the conversation in the car on the way to the dinner party when your husband keeps saying, "Now what's Susan's husband's name? The Jackass?" and "Will that hot babe from book club be there--what's her name?"

3. The anti-re-gift-inator: This is a discrete stamp noting the date and giver on the bottom of every hostess gift and bottle of wine you receive so that you may never ever accidentally give that bottle of Prosecco back to the person who gave it to you.

4. What's-her-name-inator: Somehow this projects a person's name above her head at a social function so that you will never again know the panic you feel when you realize you need to introduce two people and have somehow managed to forget the name of the person you know best, perhaps someone you know very well and have known for years, I'm just saying, Coffee Friend 2, this could happen.

Just imagine how awesome the world would be if we had these wonderful little helpers. But for now, you can take comfort in knowing you'll never again have to ask what's trump, Maxine.

Friday, May 27, 2011

MY PROM DATE 1978 and 1979 RESPONDS

O.K. a couple of comments (tongue firmly in cheek)

1) I’m probably wearing that hip blue tux ‘cause it was hip back then. You know me….fashionista kind of guy. Or, maybe Moe Dobbie from Dobbie’s Mens Wear convinced me to wear it. He had me and about 3-4 other guys wear a tux to school about 3-4 different days & we were rewarded with a free tux because we sent him business. He was fond of saying (and I’m not joking)…’I’m Moe Dobbie & I’ll make you clean as a jelly bean, put pep in your step & pride in your stride!” Anecdotally, I hear (at least at BHS in Barrington) the free tux is now a goner. In lieu of that you hand out the cards for the various tux shops (of which there are many) & your name is on the card. If a certain # of your friends return to the shop with the card you get dollars for your tux. That kind of sucks. Does everything have to be a contest? Can’t you just give the kid a free tux for shamelessly plugging your business?

2) Tuxes (despite your great post) are NOT like bygone days. EVERYTHING is an up charge & like buying carpet, and mattresses; two things I hate to purchase in as much as comparison shopping is, well, impossible…well, let’s just place tuxes in the same category. You can’t call around to price shop on the phone, I learned that a few weeks ago. I spent $92 for John’s tux. I really wanted him to wear mine, the same one I was married in (’87…which by the way, still fits, although admittedly the pants are getting a little tight in the crotch…..but I kinda of like that look as it makes me feel young & like I belong in some club downtown. And it’s better than wearing pants that hang ½ way down your ass & show off your butt crack….a trend that no kid seems to realize started in prison where guys were auditioning off their backside but somehow the youth of America thinks that it is cool to walk around with pants to their knees. I’ll bet if they ended up at 26th & California one night they’d hike their pants up right quick…but I digress somehow). Anyway, my coat is a 44L & John we quickly discovered is a 38 so off to Mr. Tux. By the way, my quip when we walked in about, ‘where’s Mrs.Tux?’ was not funny evidently. I guess they hear that daily, & I thought it was SO original. Bottom line, the type of coat (3 styles,) vest (striped, solid or reverse striped, oh & color) as well as tie (solid, striped & what color, long tie or bow tie) all get baked into the price & of course you feel like an idiot asking the gal (Mrs. Tux?) what the price difference is between a one, two or three button coat so you shut up & just hand over your credit card, which is what I feel like I do a lot with my kids so why should prom be any different? I got even though….evidently they danced so much & it was SO hot that his date said he sweats more than her Greek father. The mom who hosted his sleep over had the girls march upstairs to change and the boys were herded to the basement whereby they were each given a garbage bag to label & deposit said tux. The next day that bag came home quite ripe & I’d be less than honest if I didn’t tell you I took some solace in seeing it returned to the Mr. Tux in that condition.

Oh, and as far as your question….I have no idea what we did the day after the prom. Judy, I have a tough time telling you what I did last Friday night let alone May 26th 1979. I don’t think though we would have had a band car wash on a Sunday though. Weren’t Sundays back then still a day of rest?

I remember your prom was at Botsford Inn, small room, opening to a courtyard. The theme was Nights in White Satin. My mom commented on the theme & I probably smirked under my breath like Smutley in the Whacky Racers cartoon. Ours was in A Squared at Campus Inn which I thought was a great call as no class ever seemed to migrate out that way. Our theme, picked by the class VP was ‘We May Never Walk this way Again.’ I remember two or maybe three ambulances…Someone dislocated his knee which might have had something to do with the “pre-game” he & his friends had. I don’t remember why the other two came…I think the other was someone was pretty drunk. Some had rooms at Campus Inn I think to get ready in (at least that’s how they sold it to mom/dad) so there was a lot of back/forth to the rooms/party. As your daughter can attest, it’s different these days. Once you’re in, you’re in & there’s no leaving the event.

And just to keep the spirit of ’79 alive at our 30th "Jimmy Smith" dropped like a rock at the bar at Genetti’s & there was much consternation as to whether or not an ambulance should be called. You’d think in our late 40’s we’d know better. I guess it was blood sugar related as Jimmie’s a diabetic.


Greg

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PROM 2011

Beautiful Prom 2011
Prom 1978 Nice dress. I appear to be carrying a mini bridal bouquet. Nice blue tux, Greg.

Perhaps you haven't been to a prom since the BeeGees had a top-ten hit. Or maybe you are so old you wore something called a Gunne Sax to your prom (which is almost as ugly as a real gunny sack by the way). Or maybe you are a bit younger-- a member of the Footloose generation and your kids are not yet going to proms. At any rate, I am here to tell you what a prom looks like these days, at least from a mom's perspective


As Grace is dating a Senior, she went to the Senior Prom last weekend and here's how things look these days, at least in our little corner of the world. Some of this is the same across the country I'm sure.


How he asks: It is no longer acceptable to sit next to a girl on the radiators (that's where we hung out at my high school) and say , "So, has anyone asked you to prom yet?" and then if the girl says "no" to say, "Want to go to prom with me?"

No no no my friend. Those days are over. Now, one must ask a girl to prom in a very creative and fun way. Skywriting is good. Texting is bad. An ad on a billboard is good. Calling on the phone? No way. Even sane girls (like my own) will insist a boy jump through this hoop. When her nice boyfriend Billy said, "So how do you want me to ask you to prom" (a ridiculously moot point as she had already bought the dress and isn't asking that question asking to prom?) she said, "You have to come up with something."

Yes, this is weird and kind of appalling to those of us who grew up in a simpler and more egalitarian age. But there it is. And that is why Billy was in our back yard on Easter morning laying out plastic eggs to spell something. He paused to consult the graph paper in his hand and Jeff looking out the window said, "What the hell? Doesn't the kid know how to spell prom?" Turns out Billy does know how to spell prom but having the heart of an engineer he had plotted the word out on graph paper to make sure he had enough eggs. Awwww. And in the golden egg he had written on a scrap of paper, "Will you go to prom with me?" so sweet. Of course she said yes.

The Dress: Well you know of course the girl must hunt for the perfect dress. That much has not changed. And you must have a dress that is unique--that has also not changed--and I was reminded of the subterfuge I was once a part of involving a dress shop that would not sell the same dress to girls from the same school and my going to buy a dress for a friend under an assumed name and I was not proud of that memory and I apologize to Karen Anderson. But anyhoo, today the girls have a more sophisticated technological way to deal with this problem. They set up a Facebook site called, "Don't steal my dress, slut" and they each post their dresses on there so no one will wear the same dress. Now it turns out that in this case, the term "slut" is an affectionate one. I guess this is like black people using the "n" word--because much to my surprise this is a kind and gentle site in which the other girls say things like, "Oh, that will look so good on you!" and "I was going to get that but since you already have it I will buy a different one!" Don't believe everything you read about mean girls.

The dresses are still long. Some are quite umm, sophisticated. Some look like something Edyta from Dancing with the Stars might wear. No one wears lace collars and sleeves that cover every square inch of skin like we did. Thankfully.

The Tux: You will be shocked, shocked to learn boys no longer wear colored tuxes with ruffles that have been "tipped" to match their date's dress. About the wildest thing you'll see is a white tux. Thankfully.

The Venue: They still have proms at cheezy hotel ballrooms with mediocre food. This much has not changed.

The Groups: This is different. You NEVER go with just your date to prom. You must organize a large and unruly group of friends and acquaintances, many of whom do not like each other or hold grudges against each other. There will be angry texts and maybe even tears and lots of drama. And the girls are worse. In this way, you can actually find yourself rejected by a group even when you have managed to procure a date and asked her in a clever way. Whew! It's tough to be a guy these days. When Grace told me about some of the current drama I suggested she just go to the prom with Billy. She looked at me as if I had suggested that I go to the prom with her. So you see, the group is a must.

Limos and drivers and buses oh my: Because you are traveling in a pack of 20 or so kids, you can no longer go to the prom in you date's Pinto with the faux wood panels nor can you borrow his dad's Ford Fairlane. No silly, this will not do. You need a large vehicle that you and 18 of your closest friends will fit in. The kid in charge will wait til the last minute to book the vehicle and you will end up paying an exorbitant amount of money for a round-trip to the prom in a limo that looks like it has not been cleaned since the weekend before when it was used for a bachelor party that resembled The Hangover. If you are really lucky, you will get a surly, resentful limo driver who is not happy to be carting suburban children around town and he will take you to a dark part of the city and demand more money if you ever want to get home. This is called "a life lesson" and will make a great story for years to come. As a parent, you don't really mind any of this if it means you are not stuck driving the after after after prom party shift.

After Prom Activities: Prom never ends when it is over. It really lasts a whole weekend and there are trips to Great America or the Dells (Wisconsin's family version of Las Vegas) and jaunts to someone's lakehouse. A good friend who has an older daughter warned me about this. Her advice was to decide well in advance how much of this you can stomach and lay down the rules before all the planning begins. Which I did. No overnight trips I said, you are not even a senior. Then when your kid comes to you with a well-thought out plan and complex schedule involving responsible chaperones you can cave and let her go anyway. Which I did.

So there you have it. Prom 2011 is not a whole lot different from Prom 1978 as I see it. You still have a lot of young people dressing up like grownups for one night and lurching around on the dance floor to a DJ. Moms still ooh and ahh over their babies all dressed up for the night and take way too many pictures of their babies squiniting into the sun.

And prom is still a night you never forget.

Friday, May 20, 2011







Everyone's name in this story has been changed except Arnold, me, and Maria)


Okay, okay now that he's all over the news again I think it is time to reveal my own Arnold story (for the few of you who have not already heard it). Yes, I have met the man--had dinner with him in fact--but I did not have an affair with him.


The year was 1981, the place Madrid. I was there for my junior year abroad. He was there filming Conan the Barbarian (a movie I still have never seen). His cast and crew were living at the Villa Magna, a fancy high-rise near the University and my ex-roommate "Wilma", a fancy girl from Louisville had moved out of our boarding house and into the Villa Magna over the Christmas break. Being blonde and American the Conan Crowd quickly found Wilma and she became friends with a lot of them and had parties with them that we were all invited to or sometimes we just all hung out in the Villa Magna bar.

My friend "Mary" (no that's really her name, she doesn't care if I tell this story) started dating one of the stuntmen, a nice dumb kid from LA whose name I still see in movie credits from time to time. He's the guy in the cowboy hat on the left. The guy on the right is also a stuntman, Tony something. The girls are classmates.

One night that winter, Wilma called me with a last-minute dinner party invitation. She was hosting Arnold and his buddy Franco and Wilma's roommate, "Catherine" (the fabulously wealthy Belgian girl who had been sent to Spain to get over the death of her Grand Prix race-car driver boyfriend who'd been killed in a race....you can't make this stuff up), had to cancel at the last minute. Did I want to come? Heck yes I wanted to come. It was free food and I was always a starving student in those days. It was a low-key night. The guys were exhausted from a tough day of shooting on horseback and I don't remember much about it except that I ate more than either of them which was kind of funny.

The parties were more fun-- an eclectic mix of American actors, crew-members from all over, and the students at our Spanish school who were mostly American and European, and our Spanish friends. At one party, I remember, Arnold grabbed Mary's ass as she was introduced to him. This was just his way of being friendly apparently. He also would work out in the apartment gym with my friend Wilma and give her fitness tips that also included a butt-grab--purely technical of course--to demonstrate what she should be working on.

I'm a little sad to say that he never tried to grab my behind. It may be because I was with my Spanish boyfriend when I met him the first time or it may be, as Mary says, he sensed I would deck him if he tried. Of course it can't be because my ass is not grab-worthy--it still is and it surely was in 1981.

Anyhoo, even then there were rumors that he was cheating on Maria (they were not married yet, still dating) with one of the European girls from my school and rumors about his co-star. I've been thinking about all this as the tawdry news unfolds. I remember thinking back then that surely even Maria, a cosmopolitan member of the Kennedy family would not be okay with this. Maybe I should have sent Maria an anonymous letter then. Maybe she could have avoided this.

Who know? She probably has received a lot of anonymous letters over the years and chose to ignore them.

Which is too bad. I feel badly for her, and her children, and the housekeeper, and I feel even worse for the 14-year-old "love child" who surely is the most innocent victim of all in this mess.

But I sure don't feel bad for Arnold. I don't suppose anyone feels bad for him.


Except maybe Tiger.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

THE ZOO



"When you write a book about us I want my name to be 'Elizabeth'," my former roommate said at our recent annual reunion. She brings this idea up every year, but I'm not sure what the book might be about. I mean, how much does everyone want to hear about how great my college roommates are and how lucky I am that the eight of us are all still in touch?

Well, maybe you'd like to hear a little, so I'll blog about them.

First, I have to tell you that we all met (for the most part) our freshman year at the University of Michigan. We all had come to Ann Arbor knowing next to no one. We lived on the fifth floor of Williams house in West Quad and soon found out everyone referred to our hall as "the zoo" as it had until recently been where the football players lived and since they acted like animals --well they got the nickname. People would say, "Oh you live up in the zoo" and after awhile we just started calling ourselves that. We even had sweatshirts made to look like a sorority sweatshirts with the Zeta Omicron Omicron letters on the front. We were well-known for having parties with way too many men and too few women. It was a formula that worked for us.


We have been getting together nearly every year for the past 25 years. We are all in long-term marriages (mine is the longest I think at 27) and we all have kids. Between us we have 20 children (four of whom are named Nicholas) and 3 step-children and too many college degrees to keep track of including one MD, two RNs, three MBAs, one MA in landscape architecture, and a degree in international finance (there are more as some of us have multiples but you get the idea).


When we get together we do pretty much the same thing every year, as follows:

1. Tell the same stories: most of the stories are about boys in our past. Who went out with whom, who moved where to follow a boy, who was found in a closet with whom at which party etc. Sometimes, since we mix stuff up over time we need to untangle entire sagas. Three of the guys we knew in college are now husbands. There is some overlap.



2. Laugh until we pee: usually this happens when one of us says something ridiculously funny (unintentionally). This year that award went to the following exchange: "Has anyone gone through the change yet?" "I sure went through the change on that toll-road."



3. Cry: We don't always cry but we do when someone has had a tough year or a toufh loss such as a parent, a sibling, or a pet. This year someone had a sad story about a life-threatening illness she's been battling. So we cried.



4. Discuss who we would like to have sex with if we were gay: Ever since one of us came out of the closet years ago, we feel, for some reason, compelled to have this discussion. This year, I have to say almost everyone agreed on Kalinda from "The Good Wife" and Gwyneth Paltrow.




So there you have it. A brief discussion, if not a full novel on my awesome college friends. Some day I may write that novel. I could start with the story of a beautiful blonde with dazzling blue eyes from Traverse City named "Elizabeth" who grew up to marry the dashing international financier "John" with even bluer eyes and they had three children, one of whom got mixed up in a banana caper.... well you'll have to wait for the novel to see how that goes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

THAT DRAWER and BAND POLOS

Now that we are hip deep in the electronic age pretty much every house has "That drawer". You know the one. The one where old (and current) chargers go to die. If you have a few cell phones, laptops, and digital cameras in your house you have a bunch of these cords in a tangle somewhere. Add to the mess that the teens in your house upgrade their phones every few years so you have the old ones in there too. Add a husband who has just moved from a Blackberry to an iPhone and now you have even more.

This drawer makes you crazy. Every time you go to look for your own phone charger (for the oldest phone in the house--somehow you always have the oldest phone in the house) you paw through the mess and think, "Can't someone come up with a better way to store these?"

You might even try a charging station but this will not work at all. Why? Because even if you make a nice little spot to charge things your children will still insist on charging their phones all over the house. So you will give up and go back to the drawer.

One day, you will have had enough and in a rare moment when all the kids are home at once, you pull out the mess of cords and hold each one up saying, "How about this? Does this belong to any of you?" and they will clutch their own chargers to their breasts and say , "No. It's not mine," and you, who have just set aside your own phone and camera chargers and your husband's new phone charger, will with great confidence and a feeling of accomplishment, toss the old stuff in the garbage. You have a tiny twinge of guilt because you are pretty sure you are supposed to recycle old chargers but really, sometimes you just say "screw it" and throw things away willy-nilly and irresponsibly (the latest earth infraction you have been committing without even knowing it is batteries--who knew you were supposed to 'dispose of them responsibly'? and how would one do that?) But I digress...

Now you have a clean and orderly drawer and you actually know what device belongs to each and every cord in the house and you are proud and feel clean and good and righteous.

Until.

Until that morning when you are all rushing around to get out the door and your husband who is not usually part of this mix but is today because he has to fly to Nashville to make a presentation, says to the room at large, "Has anyone seen my laptop charger?"

You look up from putting your flip-flops on in preparation of driving the second shift of kids to school and gauge the crowd. Should you confess at once or play dumb and pray the teens who are stuffing their backpacks and slipping into their hoodies do not give you up. After a moment you see they are not taking the bait. They are good children and would not shout out "Mom threw a bunch of those away." No. They know this will result in a scene and a scene could make them late for school. So they stay loyally mum for mum, so to speak.

Out of sheer desperation you go upstairs and rummage through some silly bag of parts you once bought called an "iGo" and you try to plug nibs into your husband's laptop and though you find one that fits you cannot find the other end that should plug into the wall. Still, you try to sell this device to your husband. "Here is something that fits! Perhaps you could get the rest of this at the airport!" But by now he is in no mood and as he approaches a melt-down you make your escape shouting, "Gotta take the kids to school!"

As you drive the kids to school, leaving him to search through the house for his charger that you are fairly certain you threw away, you come up with a dozen reasons why this is not your fault. It's not like you went into his laptop bag and took the charger and threw it away. No. He must have left it out for weeks for it to have ended up in "the drawer." This is what he gets for being so careless. As you drive back from school you hope desperately that the cab will have come and taken this problem, I mean , your husband to the airport.

But alas, the cab is just arriving when you pull in the driveway and you steel yourself to go in and confess and try to help the man you love, the man who supports you all, find his stupid laptop charger because really, without it he cannot make a presentation to new clients in Nashville, and he will not get paid, and you will all starve and it will be your fault because you just had to clean "the drawer."

However, much to your surprise, when you go in the house your husband is smiling. He found his charger and in fact is rather sheepish about it because he found it under a pile of crap on his own dresser and you are too relieved to give him a hard time about it. And you don't have to because he laughs and says, "My god, I'm as bad as the kids when they wait until about 10 minutes before the band concert to realize they don't have black pants that fit and their band polo is in the laundry," and you resist the temptation to say, "Yes, exactly," because you know this could have turned out very badly for you like the unfortunate knife-drawer purge of 2008 which still comes up from time to time.

And as you kiss him goodbye and send him on his way, you wonder what the moral of this story is--is it that you should not throw away old electronic stuff? is it that no matter what happens at home it is mom's fault? or could it just be that the other people in your house need to keep track of their shit a little better?

Nah, now that's just crazy talk.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ROYAL WEDDING: THEN AND NOW


Ever since it was announced that Prince William will be marrying this spring, those of us of a certain age cannot help but reminisce about when our Princess Di got married. We can't help it, it was such a wonderful, beautiful fairy-tale wedding. And we can't help but compare that wedding to this wedding. Here are some of my observations:


That Princess: I loved Diana. She was so sweet, so charming, so my age. She worked for a living even though she came from some distant royally connected family. She was shy and kept her chin down. She had short, sassy hair.


This Princess: I don't know why and it is not fair to say this, but I don't love Kate. I think it's because she is (like most girls in the media these days) just a little too slick. She would never be caught wearing a see-through floral skirt with the sun behind her. Her teeth are perfect. Her makeup is too. She is a party girl and I just cannot imagine our Princess Di throwing back tequila shots (well, not in her twenties...she did that later). Kate was working, sort of, for her family's business --a party supply company--which is just not as noble as taking care of little children. And, (now this is just catty), she has no upper lip. She has predictable hair.


That Prince: Charles was a douche. Even then we were pretty sure he did not really love Diana. He married her because his mum told him it was time to marry someone and Di happened to be the virgin standing in front of him when the music stopped in the game of musical-chairs-date-a-prince game. In his defence he was never parented very well. But still, he should have manned up and told his mum he'd get married when he fell in love.


This Prince: I like the boy. He is darling and was so brave when his mum died. He was loved by his mom and that goes a long way toward making a man who can love properly. He does stuff that shows he understands the gravity of his inherited role and also the importance of appearing a little less ostentatious--for example his choice to maintain a home without servants. It's cute. Not the smartest thing but cute.


The virgin thing then: Doctors had to examine Princess Diana to verify that she was a virgin before she could marry Charles (who was notoriously not a virgin). WTF? No one knew why really--I mean it wasn't a hundred years ago, just 30, and everyone was having a lot of sex. But for some reason, poor Diana was expected not to have and was subjected to this humiliation. It was implied that it was just a rule and there was nothing anyone could do about it.


The virgin thing now: Apparently it is no longer a requirement which means someone could have done something about this requirement 30 years ago. This is irritating --not because I think Kate should be a virgin but for the implied fact that someone (the Queen?) could have dropped this qualification back in 1981 and saved us all a lot of trouble (not to mention Diana's life). Old Chuck could have married the icky love of his life and Diana would have been free to marry a commoner and live a nice long life with a man who actually loved her. Now that would have been a fairy-tale ending.


The ride to the church then: Was that not the best part of the whole damn day? Watching our bee-yoo-tiful princess in the glass-covered horse-drawn carriage as she rode to Westminster Abbey? I loved that part.


The ride to the church now: Kate is taking a car. Not sure why. According to the Huffington Post, William wanted to save money but the Queen pointed out that the whole Royal Guard will be on hand that day anyway so there's no savings. Then someone said maybe security but no, the bride and groom will be going in an open horse and carriage after the wedding. So who knows. All I know is that I agree with Grace who said, "Not going in the glass-covered coach!!! That's the whole reason you marry a prince!" Exactly.


And finally:


The marriage then: Well, unfortunately it was a sham. A farce and a myth. We kind of knew that going into it (as did Diana) but we really, really hoped for the best(as did Diana). But it was not to be.


The marriage now: It looks like the real deal. Kate and Will are good friends and have known each other for years. No one pushed them into this. It would be lovely if we could get a royal who could stay happily married. It's been a while since that's happened. So I wish those two crazy kids all the luck in the world.


And I know our Princess will be smiling down on their special day, wishing the same thing for her little boy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

GARBANZO BEANS AND TABLECLOTHS


To be a parent is to find yourself saying things you just never thought you'd say like, "You know you can't iron the tablecloth when it's already on the dining room table, right?" and to have one of your children look at you with that "duh" look but then say with not much conviction "Of course I know that!" only to later remove the tablecloth and find the very distinct imprint of an iron seared into the fine wood of your only piece of Ethan Allen furniture in the house.

It is also to come home from a nice dinner out with your husband to find strange things around the house like the above picture. You won't really know why that is there but you are pretty sure that one of your offspring constructed it for what seemed to be a very good reason at the time, not that it is a random piece of modern art. And perhaps when you go looking for your clipboard the next day you will find it inexplicably covered in aluminum foil.

Some how these things always crack me up although I know they are not always funny to everyone. My own mother would have had a heart-attack if she'd caught me ironing on the dining room table. For some reason, ruining wood (by spilling milk or not using a coaster or taping something to it) was about the most egregious act you could commit upon our house when I was a kid. I don't know why that was. Was wood more scarce then? Were people judged by the quality of their wood furniture? I don't know. I just know it was a crime in my home just shy of dripping candle wax on the bee-yoo-tiful red shag rug in the basement, the one that matched the Early American Bi-Centennial couch and lead to the now legendary story of my mother finding the said wax and pointing to it in horror saying in a tone of voice usually reserved for pedophiles, "CANDLE WAX!"

But I digress. I was talking about funny things you find around your house or find yourself saying like:

Me: Hey, who put an open can of garbanzo beans back in the pantry!
Child 1: What are garbanzo beans?
Child 2: I hate garbanzo beans.
Child 3: I don't even know how to use a can opener. You probably did it old lady!

All of which are salient points. Notice not one of them just said, "I didn't do that" (future lawyers?) and then you vaguely remember making a bean salad a few weeks before and deciding at the last minute to leave the garbanzo beans out of the recipe as Child 2 does indeed hate them and that quite possibly Child 3 is right and it was YOU who put an open can of garbanzo beans back in the pantry but you are also quite sure that before you had children you never did such things-- so really, it IS their fault.

The morning after you have discovered the nail file taped to the desk and your aluminum-foil-clad clipboard one of your children will show you the fabulous video she made of herself playing the piano and you will be pleased and proud but most of all you will be happy to figure out that the nail file contraption was built to prop the iPhone up while it filmed her (though you still to this day don't know why your clipboard was covered in aluminum foil).

And that is why it is fun to be a parent because even when they are teenagers they will still be doing wacky things that confound you and amuse you --if you are not overly fond of your wood furniture and you don't really need your clipboard.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TALENTED FRIENDS AND FAMILY



I want to tell you about two new creative ventures launched this month. One is from my niece Layne who started a house-staging business (Chicago area) and has mastered the art of the total room transformation for well under $500. She also seeks and finds fun vintage housewares and sells them, like that cool glass bottle collection above.

Layne blogs about design here:

The Jones Fix

and sells stuff here

Jones Style Etsy

The other new amazing business is from my friend Coop (we've called her that since college because her maiden name is Cooper...isn't that incredibly creative of us?)She has launced a website showing her many talents as a water-color artist (sample above) and YES she can do a fabulous job of painting a picture of your house or your parents' house (think anniversary gift).


Check her out here:

Picture to Picture
Good luck to both you gals because the world can always use some more creative beauty in it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

MARY AND MARTHA AND TAKEOUT

(sorry, the first time I published this the end got cut off--here it is in it's entirety)

A week or so ago I was having martinis with my church group, the Mary Circle. We named ourselves after Mary in the bible story--not that Mary but the one whose sister is Martha. And it's such a great story I thought I'd tell it again for those of you who may have forgotten it or never heard it.

Here's how it goes:

Jesus was invited to a meet-and-greet at Mary and Martha's house to talk about his ideas and maybe do a little fund-raising. A bunch of neighbors had heard about this guy and his crazy ideas of loving everyone so they figured, what the hell, they'd stop by and see what it was about and everyone knew that Martha and Mary threw a great cocktail party so why not.

As the house filled up, Martha and Mary got a little nervous about entertaining so many people and they ran around the kitchen trying to make little appetizers for everyone. Martha especially liked those cubes of cream cheese wrapped in corned beef but Mary had forgotten to get toothpicks so she was having trouble with it. Finally, Mary got annoyed with the whole thing and figuring she would miss the party if she stayed there trying to help Matha make everything "perfect" she just left the kitchen and joined the crowd in the living room. She tried to get her sister to join her, "Hey Martha, ditch this and let's go see what this Jesus guy has to say." Martha was annoyed with her younger sister and said in a very sarcastic, martyr way, "Go right ahead, I can do this by myself." But she was pretty ticked about it.

Mary went into the living room and sat right down and Jesus's feet. She was fascinated by him. She loved every word he had to say and she stared up at him like he was George Clooney himself. She forgot all about the appetizers she was supposed to be passing and the cosmos she was supposed to be mixing and just listened to him talk about loving everyone.

After a while, Martha came in with the appetizers and finding Mary at Jesus's feet, just sitting there (she hadn't even passed out the cocktail napkins) she had had enough. Jesus could see she was agitated and said, "Martha, what's wrong, dear?" (he was like that, always calling people dear even though he was much younger ) and Martha blurted out in her best tattle-tale voice, "I have been in the kitchen for the past hour trying to make nice food for you and Mary is just sitting there listening to you and not even helping!" She was a little sorry she'd tattled but felt a little happy knowing she would soon be vindicated when Jesus told Mary to help her sister.

Much to her surprise (and that of Mary) Jesus did not chastise Mary. Instead he said, "Martha, come sit down with Mary. That's where you belong, here with your guests, not in the kitchen! Mary gets it."

I love that story and I love my Mary Circle friends and I love that we try to be more like Mary but mostly we are like Martha (hey someone has to make the food) and I love that even Jesus wants you to get out of the kitchen and just order takeout for dinner sometimes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

MOMS IN PAJAMAS

This is a rerun. I am posting it since it is mentioned in an article in my local paper today:

Winter 2008
On Wednesday I drove Grace to school because the bus never showed up after a night of snow. As I came back down our street I saw Coffee Friend 1 out shoveling her driveway. I stopped the van and rolled the window down.

"Can you believe the wife?" I said referring to the drama that has been unfolding all week about our incredibly inept/corrupt governor Rod Blagojevich.

"I haven't heard the details about her, what?"

"I skimmed the complaint. I'll forward it to you. They have her on tape yelling over her husband's shoulder 'You tell that F***er he can forget his deal on the F***ing Cubs if he won't fire that editorial staff!'"

"Holy shit, I knew she was a bitch," Coffee Friend 1 said as she leaned on the handle of her shovel.

"Yeah, but really, who does that? Who stands over their husband's shoulder while he's on a business call telling him what to say?"

We both shook our heads, trying to imagine the scenario. It was really one of the most shocking revelations in a shocking week of revelations. We talked a few minutes more about the scandal, the possiblity that Rahm Emmanuel dropped the dime and the prospect of hearing him on a tape cursing like Ari from "Entourage" the character based on his real-life brother, and then I drove on.

As I pulled into the driveway it occurred to me that the entire conversation had taken place while we were both in our pajamas. Both of us had been wearing winter coats and boots over our pajamas, bed-head hair, and not a stitch of makeup (by the way, that expression makes no sense, makeup does not come in stitches).

This is not that shocking for me. I can often be found in my pajamas until 10:00 or so (I am right now actually, polar bear flannel, thank you) and even on my wedding day I don't think I wore anything more than mascara. But for Coffee Friend 1...well she was a model in her youth. I'm sure there was a time in her life she wouldn't have been caught dead outside un-showered and in p.j.'s.

I thought about this the next day when I drove another child to school for band and I saw a mom in the pajamas/boots/winter ensemble as she helped her special needs child on to the bus and I realized, consciously for the first time, that I LOVE seeing my peers like this.

To be sure, I usually see them fully dressed, coiffed, and made-up, and many of them could audition for a part in "Desperate Housewives" but I like them best this way--when they've just rolled out of bed. They look more vulnerable, more approachable, more human, and much younger. Like a sleeping child, an un-groomed mom is the sweetest mom of all.

This made me feel better about the time I went out to get the paper wearing the shorts of one summer pajama set and the top to another, my sad post-breast-feeding boobs hanging low in their natural braless state only to look up after scooping up the paper to see my children's principal as he jogged by our house. I played it cool, "Good morning, Mark," I said. "Good morning, Judy," he said as he continued on. He never spoke of it. What happens in the driveway stays in the driveway.

I wonder if Patti Blagojevich is ever caught in her jammies. Probably not. She is the daughter of a prominent Illinois politician who bought the governor job for her husband when she was only 35 so she's probably been the picture of an entitled brat her whole life. She probably hasn't taken out the trash or shoveled a driveway in her entire life or, God forbid, been caught in her jammies. And therein lies much of the problem I suspect.

So here's to all my mom friends today. If I see you in the 'hood with your hair rumpled and your snowflake patterned jammies peaking out from under your coat as you run kids to school or fetch the paper, rest assured you've never been more beautiful to me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

READING LOGS: CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

So there's this new movie called Race to Nowhere which is about how some of us have been pressuring our children to be high achievers at school and participate in many activities and that maybe this is something that seems like a good idea but has gotten out of control and our kids are buckling under the pressure and falling apart.



The movie is causing quite a stir among those who have been uncomfortable with this all along (me) and those who want to keep pushing the kids to further greatness (Tiger-Mom.) Here's an excerpt about the movie from NPR :


The film is becoming something of a rallying point for frustrated parents, who are now pushing for change from the bottom up. "Just last week we had a parent get up and say, 'You know, at some point it comes down to civil disobedience. If a bunch of us just say, 'We're not having our young kids, who are in elementary school, do the homework,' or, 'We're going to keep them home on the test day,' " Abeles [the film's producer] says. "I think that you're seeing parents and educators feeling much more empowered."



Yeah, baby, civil disobedience! I'm a fan. Sometimes I purposely keep a DVD past the due date and just say the heck with late fees I may never see the end of The Kids Are Alright if I turn it in on time! And more than once I have even gone through the red light at the high school parking lot on Lake at midnight when there is no traffic and I have practiced saying, "Yes, officer, I know I did that. It was a conscious act of civil disobedience because that stoplight is too damned long and besides it is just a sign of oppression from the man."


But much braver than those trivial acts, I have allowed my kids, nay encouraged my kids, to make up stuff for their reading logs!! Oh yeah. It's true. Come and get me DCFS!


That's right, I NEVER made my kids fill out the reading log truthfully. (In case you are not familiar with the reading log, it is required from K-8 that kids in our district read X number of pages each month and log it. Then parents have to sign off on the log) They would take those cursed things at the end of the month, look around their rooms and write down a few titles of the several books they would have been reading anyway and make up stats about pages read. Then I would sign it.


The reason I do this is NOT because I am opposed to reading. Quite the contrary. The reason I do this is because I think it is ridiculous to require kids do something they should just be doing anyway like eating, breathing, and reading. And I am thoroughly convinced that if you require kids to do something that is inherently fun you will immediately take the fun out of it and I will not be a party to anything that takes the fun out of reading. A reading log is the biggest buzz killer ever invented and only serves to make kids think reading is just another school chore in their lives. It so effectively takes the fun out of whatever you have to log that I bet if you made your kids eat 20 M&Ms a day AND keep a log of it by the end of a month they'd never eat another M&M again.


Now, as I said, I do NOT underestimate the value of reading--quite the opposite. I'm aware that how much a kid reads is the number one predictor of school success-- which is why the academic world wants our kids to read and thus hit upon the diabolical reading log.


I suspect I am not the only one out there who has fudged a reading log but perhaps you are concerned that your kids won't read enough without it. So here, for those of you with kids young enough to still screw up, is what I did that seems to have worked pretty well :


-Read to them every day: I read to Atticus every day from the day he was a week old. Not kidding. I did this selfishly because I liked it. I'd waited years to have a kid of my own on my lap to read to. When Grace came along, I read to one kid and Jeff read to the other. Every night. When Lilly came along, we got Atticus in on the act and he started reading to the girls. Now of course they just read to themselves but the fact is they do read. A lot.


-Never say no to reading: I also had a rule as they grew--no matter what, if they asked me to read to them, I would stop whatever I was doing and read. I would stop folding clothes to read "Good Night Moon" or I would turn the stove off to read "Noisy Nora" It did not matter what I was doing, it was the one request that was always honored.


-Never say no to books: I never gave in when my kids begged for toys and candy (my standard answer was, "is it your birthday --do you have money?" this works by the way, they hardly ever asked for stuff), but I WOULD buy them a book if they asked. (If you cannot afford this luxury, subsitute a trip to the library.)


All three of my kids are avid readers--but it is not because of the stupid reading logs. It is in spite of them.


So I encourage you to fight the system a little and say no to some of the nonsense. Who knows, if we band together maybe we could get rid of the word searches and the map coloring. A girl can dream.

MAKE SOME MUSIC

I want to let you all know about my Dutch friend Laurent's new website. He's offering his guitar playing musical talents online. Check out his new site and maybe some day when you need a guitar line for your song you'll remember him! You can even hear some of his music on this site. So check it out!

http://iplayguitaronline.com/

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

DOOZY

Hey gang, check this out from my dear friend Christie Mellor who is the author of the fabulous "Three Martini Playdate" and a friend I made by stalking on the internet. This talented author is also a wonderful performer AND one of the best moms I know. So check out her video and if you live in the LA area, get your butt over to one of her Thursday night performances at the Culver Hotel (details below).
Tell her I sent you.


All I Really Saw
An original Doozy tune from our upcoming CD, "Heavy Sugar."
If you like it, do pass it along to a hundred of your closest pals, won't you?

See you at the Culver Hotel!
Every Thursday Night
7:30 - 11:00
9400 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA

And become a "fan" on Facebook, where you can find out about all upcoming Doozy events!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

DARK DAYS OF WINTER

A while back Lilly was complaining that I repeat myself a lot. I do. I repeat myself a lot. So I said, "Look, tell me the top three things I repeat the most and I'll try not to say them too much."

She cocked her head and thought a minute. "Make me a Cosmo. I'm going to take a nap. Can't you get a ride?"

In my defense, I never say, "Make me a Cosmo," to the kids. Not one of my kids can handle a martini shaker properly. No, I say that to Jeff. Or more accurately, I say "Cosmo me." But I do announce I'm taking a nap a lot and for sure I ask, "Can't you get a ride?"

That's because here in Glenview, the kids need a ride ALL THE FLIPPING TIME and even though they are all going to the same three places--The Glen (our shopping area); the High School; or back to our neighborhood--and even though they all have cell phones with the number programmed in of every kid they have met since pre-school, not one of them, no not one single one will use said cell phone to text a friend and say, "Hey, can I catch a ride with you?"

Which is why all of us moms are driving the same two miles to and from and saying "Can't you get a ride?" and waving to each other. Of course, we're almost as bad because at nearly every cocktail party and school event, we talk about the absurdity and wastefulness of this practice and say, "Call me if you need me to get the kids," but we never really do it and I don't know why except no one wants to be the mom of the kid who is constantly bumming rides.

This little scenario gets worse this time of year because it gets dark at 4:30. And it turns out that even though electricity has been around a long time and we all stay up much past 4:30 in the winter, our bodies don't really like it. We don't care to go out in the freezing cold and wipe large amounts of snow off our cars and drive around on roads like ice-rinks in the wintry darkness. We have no problem in the summer when it is light until 9:30 dropping kids and picking kids up but this time of year we rather hate this part of the job.

Recently I learned that a lot of my mom friends hate the winter for just this reason. I learned I am not the only one who counts the trips off in her head during the winter, "One trip to middle school, one round trip to piano, then one last trip to the high school," and then when that last trip is done, after counting heads and making sure all the kids are home, I lock the door so none will escape and race upstairs to throw my pajamas on.

So today, if you are wishing it were summer or light out or that your children weren't quite so active as you shuttle them around, please know you aren't the only one that feels that way this time of year. And also know that tonight, if all goes well, I'll be in my pajamas by around 6:30.