Tuesday, September 25, 2012

If It Smells Like a Rat

A few days ago, a stench took over our garage the likes of which has never been smelled before.

"What in the world is that?" I asked rhetorically as I stepped out of the car, confident that my young sons who had just returned from an arduous day of second grade did not hold the answer.

"Whoever smelt it, dealt it!"  Nick squealed with laughter.

And I was right.

"Yeah, Mommy!  That means it was you!"  Vince positively howled with laughter.  Per usual, he thought his brother's most recent comedic offering deserved a perfect ten for content, originality and delivery.

I covered my nose and mouth and ran into the house, yelling:
"Don't forget to take your shoes off!"  

The door slammed shut behind me.

Is it possible those fumes are toxic?  I thought to myself as I stepped into the kitchen and took a deep breath. 


Vince and Nick burst through the door.

"Mommy, that's disgusting!"

"Yeah, Mommy, what is that smell?"

"I think something died out there."  And I really did.  We have had rats before, though for some reason Jeff calls them mice.  I imagined it was a giant dead rat that had been cooking for several days of 100+ degree temperatures.

I just love fall in southern California!

A few more days passed and the odor began to take on a life of its own.  Horrifically pungent by day and moderately pungent by night.

"Honey, when are we going to do something about that smell?"  I asked my husband after Saturday's soccer games.  Jeff's dad whom they affectionately call Bobo (pronounced "Bob" with a long "o" sound at the end) had come up to see the boys play. 

"It's probably just a dead mouse decomposing." Was Jeff's response.

"Yeah, I think we're all buying the dead rodent theory but are we just going to endure that rancid stench indefinitely?"

"How long can it take for a mouse to decompose?  And there are games on today, baby!"  My knight in shining armor nestled deeper into the sofa for an afternoon of college football.

Around 5 p.m., there must have been a game change or something because father and son elevated from the couch and headed toward the garage intent on finding the presumed dead rat.  All I could think of was that the odor must have made their trips to the garage for beers almost intolerable.

In no time at all, the source was uncovered, behind the refrigerator, dead as dead gets.  From where I stood, at least 10 feet away on the drive-way, the rat didn't appear to be decomposing but the men-folk mentioned maggots as they shoveled him up and dumped him in the trash.

"We gotta work on this garage, Jeff."  At the age of 61, Bobo still loves him a "big job".  Particularly jobs that involve manual labor.  He hails from many generations of "big job" lovers, including his father who helped him lay tile around his pool in Phoenix several years ago at the age of 80.

"Yeah, I know.  It's a mess.  Let's go!  Game's still on!"  My Jeff is doing his best to break the chain.

"Come on, let's at least move this refrigerator to that wall."  Bobo persisted.

I actually felt myself elevate from the drive-way.

Are we doing this?  Are we really doing this?

We have lived in this house four years now and our three car garage has been a shit hole all four years.  I take that back.  A couple years ago, Jeff's mom visited and helped us tackle some of the mess (noticing a pattern here), primarily Jeff's tool bench.  Anyway, it all went back to hell inside of 60 days.

I ran inside, grabbed my glass of wine, and ran back out to the driveway to watch.

We talked about the possibility of getting rid of some items to clear out space at the upcoming neighborhood garage sale.  Discussion soon turned to our currently dysfunctional garage storage solutions.

"You know it wouldn't cost you much to have someone come out here and build something for this wall and that wall," Bobo was motioning to a side of the garage as he spoke.

"Yeah, you're probably right." Jeff responded. Somewhat half-heartedly, then turned to me.  "Do we really want to deal with this right now?"

"Yes, yes we do.  We want order and we want cleanliness and we want no rats.  I want zones for your stuff, my stuff and the kids stuff.  Everyone needs to learn how to put things back where they found them…"  I went on longer but Jeff turned away from me and started emptying the flimsy, old cabinets.  

I fell in love with him all over again.

"Alright," he finally turned back to me.  "Call a guy."

I called four.  Construction begins in two weeks.  

And I owe it all to this guy or gal...not sure how to tell the difference...I'm going with gal, it was a suicide mission so she might save her sister from all the man chaos and filth:

Look how long that tail is!  She is definitely a rat!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fans of Cans

I dropped a King's ransom at the make-up counter Sunday…alas, my "problem areas" remain problems.

The impromptu trip to the department store was about as spontaneous as it gets for me.  My dear girlfriend of fifteen years now and I were sitting around in my kitchen chatting, while our husbands watched football and our children swam in the pool.
Then she turned to me:

"Lizzie, what are we doing today?"

Up until that moment, I hadn't thought a mama's adventure was an option for our Sunday but we went for it!  A trip to the make-up counter.  Something neither of us ever have time to do. 

I went first.  Perched upon that stool, I tried very hard to listen to the pretty, young Girl-Behind-The-Counter (GBTC) as she slathered this paint and that, first on the back of her hand, then on my face.  With brushes and sponges and Q-tips and tissues flying around me, I couldn't help but reflect on where it all began.  This love-hate relationship I've had with make-up over the years. 

It all started in the eighth grade.  That was when I finally broke my mother down.  Her first give was frosted blue eye-shadow, her second give was frosted tangerine lipstick.  Something about the combination of the frost and my silver braces just felt soooo right to me.

I next graduated up to mascara, which I wore copious amounts of, in royal blue.  I had decent eye-lashes of my own but they were not naturally blue. 

I then discovered "cover-up" or maybe it discovered me.  The fore-head acne I suffered during my senior year of high school may or may not have contributed to the fact that I was a virgin until college. 

Somewhere in there, powder became a part of the regimen, then blush, then I abandoned blush for bronzer, then bronzer for blush. 

Then in my early thirties, after more than a decade of 50-60 hour work weeks and the birth of my twin sons, I began to explore the magic and wonder of under-eye concealer.   It remains the greatest tool in my arsenal.  And thanks to my Sunday, it's made a couple new friends named "foundation primer" and "tinted moisturizer". 

My under-eye concealer has also been amped up a couple notches:

STEP ONE: Apply Eye Serum (According to GBTC, serum penetrates the dermis, the layer below the epidermis, and works "below the surface".  I'm not exactly sure what "work" needs to be done below the surface but my serum is officially on the clock.)

STEP TWO: Apply Eye Cream (Only treats epidermis and dermis/moisturizes - good for something but not a lot according to GBTC.)

STEP THREE: Apply Under Eye Concealer with a BRUSH (Hello, your face is a canvas!  And in accordance with GBTC bylaws, using fingers will ultimately wipe the concealer completely off during application…What are you? NEW?)  

STEP FOUR: Secret Brightening Powder (I shit you not, you can buy a product with this name, then brush it under your eyes, on top of the aforementioned three layers, click your heels three times and absolutely nothing will happen!  I've tried every day since Sunday.  And I'm not giving up.  I WILL know the SECRET!)

When it was my girlfriend's turn to have a seat on the stool, she immediately harkened back to her adolescence when her mother sent she and her older sister to Barbizon to learn how to apply make-up during the 80's.  She said they giggled together through their hours-long lessons.

To be honest, I was a little surprised that she was a Barbizon graduate.  Not because this friend isn't as beautiful and poised as a girl comes but because this is also my friend who holds a Masters degree in Economics and has helped run her family's real-estate company for a couple decades. 

She was at the counter seeking a refresher course in applying eye shadows and liner.  Shockingly, twenty years of working and having babies has left little time for mastering the smoky eye in plum hues. 

She was also interested in "coverage", though her coverage concerns run deeper than my own.  She takes medication every day now following her breast cancer diagnosis when we were 36.  She doesn't like a few spots of discoloration on her face resulting from the medication.  Frankly, you have to study her face pretty hard to see them.  I imagine for her though, they serve as a constant reminder of the surgeries and treatments she has endured, as well as the loss of her own mother when my girlfriend was just 17.

She finally cried "UNCLE" from the stool before GBTC had finished applying liner to both of her eyes.  This friend of mine isn't too keen on being still for very long, unless she is with her daughters either reading quietly or playing a game together.

We left the department store, new and improved packages of war-paint in hand, and stopped at the market before returning to our families.  We all spent the afternoon together, laughing and playing and discussing shared family vacation plans following the holidays. 

It is in honor of this special friend and many other special friends the world over that we will celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month in 10 short days!  Yes, October is almost here!  And did you know today is national breast self-examination day?  When I find mine, I am totally doing an exam!

I have also included the below link to donate to a Breast and Ovarian Cancer walk another dear friend of mine participated in with a team called "Fans of Cans" in honor of her mother last weekend in Long Beach.  If you are interested, you can still donate to this one.  I know there are a million ways to give to this exceedingly worthwhile cause but the name on this one alone won me over!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nice Headband

I don't know why I still haven't switched my kids' dentist. 

No, I do know why. 

I haven't switched my kids' dentist because I have yet to go to the huge effort of securing the name and number of another dentist in town from one of the two friends who have told me that they have a dentist that they like and trust that is also great with kids. 

Instead of switching, I complain about it for a week or so after our visit, then another six months goes by and I load up the kids in the car and we are off to the Villa Villekula of pediatric dentistry once again.  The dentist office where four cavities are rewarded with a "1" rating for brushing and the opportunity to pick not one, not two, but three prizes PLUS a token to get a super ball from the gumball dispenser.

"How did he get a '1'?  You said he had four cavities?'' I asked.

"Yes, but they were in between teeth.  He needs to work on flossing but he got a '1' for brushing." I am told by the hygienist. 

I go against my character, shut my mouth and proceed to computer terminal two to get a print out of my quote for the damages. 

Not today. I told myself as we waited in the lobby to be called this afternoon.     

Today, if there is even a whiff of plaque, there will be no prizes.

To clarify, I am a mother who holds herself perhaps marginally accountable for her young sons' oral hygiene.  I get them to their semi-annual cleanings and I provide a constant supply of spin brushes, fresh batteries, flossers, and fluoride rinse.  I also set all three item ups (including putting tooth-paste on brushes and rinse in cups) next to each of their sinks in the morning and at bedtime.  I then call to the boys:

"It's time to brush, floss and rinse!"

Then I make sure they get in that bathroom and get to work.  But never ever do I wield their brush or flosser in my own hands.  I grew weary of the fight over a year ago. 

"Mommy, stop!"

The squirming would start.

"Mommy, I can do it!"

They'd grab for my arm and push it from their mouths.

"Mommy, go away!"

"Fine.  You're on your own." 

I choose not this battle.

As we walked to the exam room this afternoon, I asked the hygienist:

"Can we do sealants on their permanent molars?"

"Well, not today," she snipped.  "But we can do them."

When the boys climbed into their exam seats, I took mine in a ringside folding chair and pulled out the catalog I had stashed in my purse. 

Maybe if I don't appear engaged, she won't try to engage me.

Then I heard.

"Oh. <pause>  OH."  I looked up and saw Happy Hygienist was looking at Nick's chart.  She looked over at me.

"So WE didn't fill TWO from last time?"

I loathe the royal or editorial "we".  Like Mark Twain said, "Only kings, presidents, editors and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial 'we'."

"No."  Our eyes held for a few beats but I offered no further explanation.  Pretty much just to see what she would do but also because I didn't owe her one.  The young adult, female, pink head-band-wearing hygienist with no children (I asked before) who speaks to me in a condescending tone about my sons' oral hygiene every six months like clock-work doesn't get an explanation.  Not today.  But as background, I didn't fill the last two because we almost didn't make it through filling the first two.  In spite of movie goggles featuring the movie of his choice, laughing gas administered in the scent of his choice, and a good ol' fashioned shot of nova cane that he didn't see or feel because of steps one and two, he was somehow balling by the time I carried him out of the exam room.

"Mrs. Pieri, shall we go ahead and schedule his next session?" the office assistant called to me as we passed.

"Not now!"  I yelled back to her on our way out the door.

Happy Hygienist reluctantly flipped the light on over Nick's head, grabbed some tools and got to the real task at hand.  I went back to my catalog.

"Have WE been flossing once a day?"

Are you kidding me?

When I didn't hear Nick respond, I knew I had to answer her question.  I looked up from a page featuring a really cute, long, charcoal cardigan-come-poncho with fringe and a red pattern around the edges.

"HE better be flossing TWICE a day," I answered in my best mommy, sing-song voice.  "Mommy sets everything up for him in the morning and at bed time."

"Oh, so WE'RE brushing on our own?"

Not unless YOU'RE climbing in through his bathroom window twice a day to brush with him.  And if you were, you'd already know the answer to that question, wouldn't you?

"Yes."  I told her, with a smile.

"Ok."  <pause>  "Well, flossing at night is the most important."

Thanks for the hot tip, head-band. Can't wait to have Nick throw that fine fact in my face when I put his flosser out tomorrow morning!

I ignored her and turned back to my cardigan-come-poncho and my earlier description didn't do it justice.  

I didn't even want to be in the exam room this time.  I asked the boys if I could wait in the lobby like the other mommies we saw.  It's obvious at this point what their answer was.

Then I heard.  "Sticky."

I looked over to see Happy Hygienist shoving the pointy end of some tool into one of Nick's six-year molars.  You know, the molars in way back that they keep forever, a.k.a.: The 100 Year Molars.  I stood up and acted interested.

"Nick, you might have a cavity in one of your grown-up teeth already."  I told him, my tone was one of mild annoyance.  I wasn't surprised.  He has a track-record, after all.

Happy Hygienist then went about brushing and flossing his teeth.  The service we came for.  I giggled with Nick as bubbles formed and popped on the sides of his mouth and saliva dripped into the cup he held under his chin during his fluoride treatment.

When the dentist arrived, she checked Vince first.  All clear.  He had permission from all sides to go grab a prize.

Then it was Nick's turn. 

The dentist's verdict:  "I need to fill the two cavities from before and there are two small spots of decay on two of his six-year molars.  I can fill them easily, without nova cane, then do sealants on them during the same visit."

"Ok.  Thank you."

I got up from my seat and turned to Nick, "Nicky, no prizes for you today, honey."

Happy Hygienist turned on her heels and glared at me.

"He doesn't get a prize?"  In her estimation, this was a moral outrage.

"No, he doesn't.  He has two new cavities.  And the last time we were here, he had four cavities and was somehow given a '1' and offered four prizes.  It just doesn't make sense to me."

Happy Hygienist and the dentist locked eyes as Nick and I held hands and walked out of the exam room toward computer terminal two. I scheduled our fillings and sealants appointment for the next week.

"And do you want to make your six month appointment at this time?" the office assistant asked.

Don't do it.  Don't do it.  Don't do it.

"Sure, why not?"

Villa Villekula, where Pippi Longstocking didn't have a mom or dad
to tell her to go to bed just when she was having the most fun!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's All Fun and Games Until...

So, I joined a bowling league.  A mere one week later, I have been asked to leave said league.    

Just kidding.  But it's only a matter of time.  

Moms participate in morning bowling leagues as a kind of an escape.
You roll the ball, you grab a piece of coffee cake, you roll the ball, you introduce yourself to the opposing team, you roll the ball, you throw a mimosa down your neck (I had no idea alcohol at 9 a.m. was even going to be an option with these broads!  Good on ya, mates!).
You roll a ball, you get deeper into chit-chat.
You find out that your opposing team is filled with moms of "older kids" who go to middle school and even high-school.  You learn one even has a tenth grader who has a boyfriend that's a senior!

Holy shit!  You think to yourself.  That mom has some serious stuff to contend with.

And then you keep asking her questions because the mom is really cool and together and seems into it.  I mean, come on, she has to be consumed by this in the same manner that you are consumed with your second grader starting piano again but multiplied by infinity.  So you go ahead and ask what you know she is thinking about every second of every day:

"So do they have sex?"

As expected, Cool Mom doesn't miss a beat  She tells you no and you believe her, and her tenth grader, and her tenth grader's senior boyfriend because again, the mom is really cool and together and tells you how she has sat BOTH of them down and talked to BOTH of them about it on more than one occasion.

"You mean you sat down with the boyfriend?"  You ask.

"Yes."  She says.  "You have to!  And the senior boyfriend says he's a virgin and he wants to stay a virgin."  Cool Mom gives you the look like STAY A VIRGIN, MY ASS!

Holy shit again!  You think to yourself.

You roll a few more balls, you grab another slice of that delicious homemade coffee cake, you think a little about Type 2 diabetes but you finish the cake, anyway.  It's just too good to stop.  

More chit-chat.  

You think about another mimosa but you stop yourself because you have client work to do when you get home, you're driving, and you don't want to send yourself down lane #2 with the bowling ball.

You're eventually so consumed by chit-chat, you're not even thinking about what you're rolling and you suddenly realize you are somehow kicking bowling ass!  You almost roll a TURKEY / three strikes in a row!  You're thinking you can't wait to tell your husband you actually broke 100.

Then you're into your second game. 

Cool Mom tells you Homecoming is coming up and the senior boyfriend KNOWS there will be ANOTHER sit down with BOTH of them prior to the dance or tenth grader can't go.  Cool Mom tells you there's a big bus taking the whole big group of kid couples to Homecoming.  This is Cool Mom we're talking about.  She wasn't born yesterday.  She knows what kinda shit goes down on the bus on Homecoming night.

At this point you're feeling pretty comfortable.  You're basically all talking about an unwanted teenage pregnancy or some gnarly STD (the moms with the older kids brought up the STDs, by the way - NOT ME!).

"Chlamydia and Herpes are all over the place," Cool Mom tells you.  "Our doctor said we should worry more about that than pregnancy.  None of the teenagers are getting pregnant around here."

At this point, your head is reeling.  All you can think about is blowing up poster-size images of Herpectic legions and plastering them to the ceiling and walls of your sons' rooms when they're in high school, then sprinkling condoms all over the house, in the living room on the sofa, in the cookie jar and the cereal boxes in the kitchen, in their room, in your room, everywhere.  And you tell the other moms this because you're comfortable.  Too comfortable.  You've only known each other 90 minutes.  They laugh.  Ok, one mom looked a little scared but not Cool Mom.

Third and final game isn't long on chit-chat.  You all need to go so you're all jumping back and forth from lane to lane, firing off your balls.  Might be why you bowl like a 50 that round.

You all finish.  Cool Mom is recording everyone's scores on a little score ledger paper.  You check it out because you want to make a mental note of that first game score for bragging rights.  You scan to the little box next to your name with the first game score.  You see "77".


"77!  Cool Mom, that's not right.  I definitely got higher than 100."  You tell her.

"That's what the board says.  77."

You turn and look at the board together, which you didn't even realize showed all of the totals at the end of league play.

"Ohhhhhh," she says.  "177." 

We turn back to the paper and she adds a "1".

"What're you trying to cheat me, Cool Mom?  You're daughter is definitely having sex on Homecoming night."  

As soon as the words come out of your mouth, you feel yourself raise your hands up to try to physically pull them back in but after 40 years of taking everything just a little too far, you know you can't.  They're out.  It's too late. 

"Now that was mean!"  Cool Mom was smiling when she said it but come on!  You know she was thinking I hate this lanky coffee cake eating bitch with the second graders.  Her day will come.

"I'm sorry!  It was!  She won't.  Let me know what happens...it was nice meeting you!"  You yell to her as she grabs her purse and walks out of the alley.

So, I'm thinking about getting a new bowling league together…anyone interested? 

Welcome to my life.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I Wish I Was One

It has been a long time since Jeff and I took care of a one-year old for more than a few hours.  Six years, to be exact.  And back then, it was two one-year olds.  It was all we could do to just keep them alive.  If it weren't for pictures, we wouldn't remember any of it.
We hosted my one-year old nephew for two nights this past weekend.  And while we really enjoyed his visit, by the end of bath time on the first night, Vincie was reneging on his recent request for a younger sibling.

"Mommy, it's just sooooo much work." 

I was most struck by how completely belligerent you get to be when you're one.  If I tried to pull half the crap that kid pulled this weekend, I'd have been thrown in the tank by Sunday night, guaranteed.

Most Memorable Moments:

  • One-year old physically assaults seventy pound black lab during every waking hour of entire two-day period.  Thick coat of back hair is pulled by the baby-fistful, tail is grabbed, and eyes are poked while lab is chased from room to room, upstairs and down, to unrelenting cries of "Gog!  Gog!  GOG!"

  • Verbal dispute between one-year old and kitchen trash compacter turns physical when trash compactor finishes thirty-second cycle.  One-year old delivers one kick and one open-handed smack to stainless steel trash compactor door before walking away, the apparent winner.

  • One-year old completely thwarts dishwasher emptying mission with layered tactical approach of first attempting to climb into the dishwasher, then attempting to pull out sharp utensils from lower rack by the handful, then lying down on the ground next to the dishwasher and pressing all the buttons along the top of the open, dishwasher door.

  • One-year old discovers six-pound, pristine white Chihuahua with pink collar at friend's birthday barbecue.  While his approach is slightly less physical than that employed with large lab breed, one-year old is equally persistent.  One-year old ultimately spits up combination of milk and watermelon on pristine, white Chihuahua.

Upon further reflection, I think the above would have landed me in a 28 day program, admitted against my will.  

And I'd be on the top of every SPCA watch list in the tri-county area.

That shit is real.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sugar Balls

My son Nicky was home from second grade battling a fever most of this week.  Between his 102 fever, the mysterious bug bite on his neck, and my obsession with national news programming, I had him diagnosed with West Nile Virus well before I even called our pediatrician.  Fortunately, my unique combination of neurosis and paranoia as it relates to every aspect of my children's lives seems to have once again led me astray. 

"It's probably just some virus he picked up at school."  If I had a nickel for every time…

This mysterious virus afforded us a lot of mother-son bonding time.  When I wasn't at my desk, Nicky and I were playing iPad games (a lot), reading (a little), and watching episode after episode of The Mighty B! on Netflix. 

The Mighty B! is definitely my favorite cartoon of all time.  I tried to make Vincie and Nicky watch it with me back in the summer of 2009 when I first discovered it.  I came across it by pure chance while flipping through the channels in the early months of my unemployment.  This was when I was feeling super good about myself and therefore super motivated in general so tuning into programming like The Mighty B! in the middle of the day became a regular activity.  My sons were only 4 then.  They didn't get it.  Watching The Mighty B! again with Nicky this past week was a fun reminder of the many ways in which my sons are developing, even their sense of humor.  Now that they're 7, they're right there with me, giggling away and even referencing particularly funny moments in certain episodes long after we've pressed off on the remote. 

This week, I decided that in some ways the show's leading lady, 10-year old Bessie E. Higgenbottom, helped pull me out of my slump that summer.  She never lets anything get her down.  If she needs inspiration, she beckons The Mighty B, a quite muscular combination of Bessie herself and a bumble bee that exists only in Bessie's imagination.  Bessie also talks things through with her left index finger which also serves as a central character in the show.  So The Mighty B! may or may not be a dish best served with a side of LSD.

Bessie and Finger, figuring out some heavy shit.

I did leave Nicky's side for a few hours yesterday morning to fulfill my 9 a.m. commitment for the next 10 Thursday mornings.  No, I didn't join a gym and hire a personal trainer.  I joined a bowling league.  Wonder Friend conned me into it.  Well, it wasn't really a con; she just called and asked if I'd do it with her and I can't say no to Wonder Friend.  Bowling was far less physical than the gym but I did manage to strain a muscle in my left ass-cheek while attempting to roll a 10 pound ball.

Would I say the bowling experience was a blast?  No.  Witness the lingering pain in my left ass-cheek.  Would I say it was somewhere in the same neighborhood as fun?  Yes.  Did I meet some new people?  Also, yes and that's almost always a good thing.  And I look forward to meeting more new people as the weeks progress.  Like the guy who was attached to the voice on the bowling alley's public address system.  His services include the "drilling and engraving" of new bowling balls after regular league play.  He was a little slice of heaven right here on earth complete with teal-colored tank-top revealing pasty white upper body flesh and thick gold chain.  He was like a real-life Kenny Powers from East Bound and Down and I basically have a standing date with him every Thursday morning for the next couple months.  

Jealous, much?  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

So, Do You Like Boys?

I live in a house of men.  Two sons, one large male dog and one husband.

One husband. 

Wouldn't it be great if I came out right now as a polyandrist?  If I went on to share the names and locations of a couple other husbands that I had tucked away here in the U.S. and abroad, in this very post?  Well, I can't.  Mostly because I don't; I love my one and only.  That could have been a good read, though.  A complete fabrication but a good read.  

Sorry.  Please keep reading. 

Because I live in a house of all males, I tend to do a lot of "male" things.  Witness my Labor Day weekend activities: tossing the football with my sons at the beach; playing an unnamed game in the pool wherein we essentially attempted to drown one another; watching a horrific scene on the National Geographic channel where a lioness went toe-to-toe with a giant crocodile over a day-old hippopotamus carcass, leaving the lioness' lower jaw literally hanging from the rest of her head as she slowly walked away from the battle scene, then laid down.
"She will soon die for she can't even take a drink of water," the narrator closed the scene.

I dry-heaved and had to look away.  

My seven-year old sons were stoic; their steely gazes did not leave the television set for a second.  Not even during their emotionless attempt to offer their visibly shaken mother some perspective:

"Come on, Mommy.  It's just the circle of life."

Now, I'm not totally averse to all this maleness (well, the lioness scene was a bit much; she was attempting to gather sustenance for her young cubs!).  But generally speaking, I like guys.  Two of my six bridesmaids were males.  Some of my best friends are male.  I have enjoyed working in a largely male environment all of my career.  But at the end of the day, this girl needs her girls!

I have gotten better about recognizing my need and actually planning for "girl time" in recent years.  Whether it be a quick coffee, lunch, some kind of work-out class, or a playdate featuring mom chit-chat, or even a night out with a girlfriend during the week.  Or better still, a whole day out with a girlfriend on the weekend to shop, possibly partake in a facial or pedicure, and a yummy, long dinner where my outfit isn't completed by a pony tail or sneakers.  Discussion topics range from nail polish colors to the equal parts mind-numbing and magnetic "The Real Housewives" series to why we want to kill our husbands (the core of why I could never be a polyandrist).

Every second of all of these simple she-activities and girl time does wonders to help me remember that I am only a little insane for locking myself in my closet with the September Nordstrom catalog and a glass of pinot noir at six in the evening on the 28th day of my cycle, ignoring my sons' and then my husband's knocks at the door.

"We know you're in there, honey.  We see the light under the door."  I hear Jeff's voice from behind the door.


"So, we're on our own for dinner?"


"Ok, we'll probably just go to In-N-Out then."  I hear him take a step away from the door and panic.

"Oh… honey…are you out there?  I didn't realize...I was just getting dressed.  Be out in a second."

I was very lucky to sneak a little girl time in at the end of my Labor Day weekend.  My brother-in-law Todd and his fiancĂ©/Baby Mama Jennifer invited us over for dinner last night.  She probably won't invite us again because I referred to her as his Baby Mama but I sure hope she does because she is an amazing cook and fun to talk to.  And let's face it, "Baby Mama" is just funny, especially when it comes from the mouths of white people describing other white people who cohabitate and keep a joint checking and savings account deep in the 'burbs.  In fact, I am pretty sure she even calls herself "Baby Mama" from time to time.  See, now you know she really is fun.

So alone in her kitchen, our girl-talk covered Jennifer's new treadmill she received for her birthday, her first experience in Cardio Barre class the week prior, whatever the hell sauce she was making for the steak tacos in her mini-mixer thing she has had for years but I have somehow never laid eyes on, what we thought was happening in our mother-in-law's life (specifically in her love life with her new boyfriend or whatever he is), my one-year old nephew's ability to tear apart the house in six seconds and inability to sit quietly in his stroller for the same amount of time, and how much we were looking forward to eating the cakes I brought (no, I did not actually make them).

Then her 12 year-old daughter, my eldest niece Heidi, entered the kitchen and sat down at the table across from me.  It was time for middle school girl talk.  A very easy transition for a woman of my immense maturity.

"So you like 8th grade?"


"Good teachers?"


"How about your friends?  Do you have any classes with Gina (her best friend)?  How about that crazy, tall, blonde one?"

"Madeline?  Yeah."

"So, do you like boys?"


I looked over at her mom, wide-eyed.  I had been asking Heidi this question for a few years now and this was the first time I got a firm "yeah" versus "yeah, sort of, not really, <giggle>".  

I don't want to downplay the scene.  It was very exciting.  At least for me.  I put down my wine and carefully architected my next question in my mind.  I had to be sensitive to the fact that her mother was in the room but deep down, I wanted the goods.  The pubescent, middle school goods.

Her mom looked up from slicing tomatoes.  

"You do?  Who?"  Jennifer asked Heidi.

"You know, Mom.  Michael,"  Heidi responded.  Cool as a cucumber, I might add.   

"Oh, yeah, Michael."  Jennifer went back to slicing, equally cool.

This could mean only one thing.  Michael was not only a known entity but perceived to be a non-threat.

"So, is Michael a 4.0-er like you?"  I asked.  Heidi is an epic student.


"So, does Michael like you?"  It sounded better than going straight for "Do you talk on the phone?", "Do you text?", OR what I was really after, "Do you hold hands?"

"Steak's ready!"  Todd opened the sliding glass door to the kitchen with one hand and carried a plate full of meat in the other.  Heidi simultaneously rose from her seat at the kitchen table.  This was also my cue to get off my ass and set the table or at least fix one of my children a plate or, let's be real, top off my wine glass for dinner.

Damn!  I didn't even begin to scratch the surface on this Michael situation!  

At least I got a little girl talk in this weekend, I thought to myself as I threw some shredded cheese into Nicky's tortilla.  

Enough to see me through another week of Adventures in Boy Land!

A Tibetan woman and her family, rollin' polyandrist style.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

For The GIRLS!

Phyllis Diller's Bathroom

Phyllis Diller died last month.  95 years old.  What a legacy she has left for all women, not just the funny ones.

We learned the news of her passing as a family a few weeks back.  The Today Show serves as the backdrop to our morning ritual of emptying the dishwasher, pouring milk into bowls of Trix (sorry to rub it in boys, summer is now over…no more sugar cereal 'til June), stealing sips of coffee, and handing out sweaty, gummy bear vitamins.
Footage of the late comedian throughout her career was spliced into Joan Rivers' editorial on her friend and mentor.
"Did she die?" Vincie asked.

I looked up from the counter and saw Joan Rivers' face (does she even call it her own?) on the TV.

"No, honey.  She didn't die.  She's still alive."  I told him.

The editorial went on for another few seconds.  I went about the business of refreshing our dog Stitchy's water.

"So she died then?"  Vincie asked.

I looked over at the TV from the sink.  Again, I was looking at Joan Rivers. 

"No, she didn't die."  I turned and walked back toward the sink.

"So she died?"

It's too freakin' early for this!  Why do I leave the national news on after they get up?  Why?  Why?  Why?

I put down Stitchy's bowl and grabbed an empty seat at the kids table, but not before grabbing my coffee from the counter.  I took a big sip, stared at the screen, and waited.

"Ok, there."  I pointed at the screen.  "You see her, with the funny hair?  She died."

Vincie looked up.  I know he caught a glimpse of Phyllis Diller before they cut back to Joan Rivers.

"Right, her," he pointed at Joan Rivers.

He thinks they are the same person.  Awesome.  Well, I suppose in many ways they were cut from the same cloth.

"No, honey.  It's two different people.  See that one?"  I pointed to Joan Rivers man-made mug covering the full expanse of the 50" TV that often feels like it takes up our entire home (thank you, Jeff).  "She is alive!"

"Now, that one."  I pointed to a new clip of Phyllis Diller alongside Bob Hope.  "She's dead."

Of course, by this time, Vincie's fleeting obsession with the passing of an aged, unknown female figure on the television set had passed.  His brother had brought a miniature, make-shift Lego plane he had just constructed over to the table and was pushing a Lego Storm Trooper into the pilot's seat.

"Vincie, we're going to fly this off the top of the stairs and see if he makes it."

"I have a rubber-band!"  Vincie spilled half the milk left in his bowl as he excitedly pushed himself from the table and ran out of the kitchen.  Leaving me to ponder flying Legos in my house, sopping up spilled milk before it dripped onto the rug under their table, and the death of comedic legend Phyllis Diller. 

I pulled my coffee cup in for another sip and tried very hard to ignore the smell of Stitchy's fresh morning pile that had wafted its way in from the backyard through our screen door.
I jogged my memory for the first images of Phyllis Diller I had stored in my brain.  Those images were displayed on my parents' television set in our family room in Wheaton, Illinois.  It wasn't half as big as the screen my children glue themselves to today but the images were still larger than life to my brother, sister and me.  We laid on the floor in front of that box from the mid-seventies through the mid-eighties until we moved to Minneapolis and the television was banished to the "finished" portion of the basement.  In Wheaton, we watched all manner of programming right there on the first floor with our parents, including Bob Hope's famed USO missions.  I was first introduced to Phyllis Diller when she was performing for our nation's troops. 

After attending to the spilled milk, I stepped over Nicky and Vincie, and around Lego pieces (R.I.P. Captain Rex) on my way upstairs to my desk where I conducted a myriad of Google searches which yielded loads and loads of links to images and clips of Phyllis Diller's stand-up routines, interviews, as well as "celebrity reactions" to her death.  

Colorful, oft-times shimmering dresses and jewels; big, platinum hair; and her signature, long, cigarette holder did nothing to distract from what she had to say: the jokes she wrote and delivered on stage in rapid succession with impeccable timing.  It was easy to see that this girl worked as hard as she laughed, maybe even harder.  

Several articles cited that she went to work as a stand-up comic in her late thirties because she "had to", to help support her five children.  I'd like to think that a shot of "had to" was mixed with two shots of "really wanted to" in that shaker.
So , what did I learn from my short, cyber trip down Phyllis Diller memory lane?  

Be exactly who you are, work hard, laugh harder, and make your bathroom POP!

A quick, 1.32 sec clip of Phyllis Diller in action from 1973.