Just Driving Around, Learning Some Life Lessons

Ugh!  It is only Thursday.  Why can’t Friday just get here already?  This does not sound like something that should be said during summer vacation.  What is going on?

This week has been filled from start to finish with stuff on the schedule and I am not happy about any of it.  The Joy of Summer is that the wall calendar is basically empty, with the exception of “AT THE BEACH” that extended as far as I could stretch it and some doodles that I drew to keep it colorful and fill in the blank spaces.

But this week has been very un-summery because of the jam-packed schedule and non-stop driving around.  Kid A has thirty plus hours of driving school and Kid B has soccer camp.  And the drop off and pick up times have made it next to impossible for the rest of us to do anything for more than twenty whole minutes before having to get back into the car again.  In scheduling these two things I knew it would be the case, so I also decided to throw in a few other necessary appointments and check-ups, just to get it all over with at once.  The end result is that this week has felt like a punch in the face.

Last week we were doing nothing more than catching up on our Good Luck Charlie episodes and lounging at the pool.  We were all total slackers when it comes to meals and showers and going to bed.  We were just chillin’ and loving every minute of it.

This week I have to make sure that the clocks get reset every time the power goes out because I actually need to know what time it is.  And I keep almost running out of gas in my car.  I have been planning meals and enforcing bedtimes.  I feel like I am one “Did you finish your book report?” away from it being the school year.  Yuck.

One of the only fun things about all of the driving around is that the kids will usually request that we watch a movie while we do it.  Once we all agree on something then we just pick up where we left off each time we get back in the car.  This week, in honor of Kid B’s activity, we have been running Kicking & Screaming, starring Will Ferrell and Robert Duvall.  And let me tell you, that is one funny film with some really great quotes…

Mike Ditka: Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions.

Buck Weston: I take a vitamin everyday. It’s called a steak.

It is a movie about a family man who has been living in his dad’s ultra-competitive shadow all his life.  He ends up coaching his own kid’s soccer team (along with Da Bears coach, Mike Ditka, as his assistant) and eventually he starts acting all crazy – just like his dad – when it comes to the championship.  In the end he learns that having fun and trying your best are more important than winning.

Screeeeeeeeeeech.  Wait, what?  I hate when movies that start out all awesome end with such lame lessons in the end.  I mean, don’t be a jerk to your kids if they don’t come home with the gold, but encourage them to win a little.  Or a lot.  Just provide them with unconditional love even when they lose.  You’re not doing anybody any favors by teaching them that nobody really needs to keep score.

Maybe I’m extra negative because I’ve been driving around in traffic all week, or maybe I’m just grouchy because of the unnatural scheduling issue I’m dealing with in the middle of my lovely summer, but that just pisses me off.  Are you telling me that I am paying all of this money and spending all of this time and committing all of my resources so that my kids can have a good time?  What about preparing them for the future in the real world?  The one where they need to get a good education so they can get a good job and make a positive difference.  The one where some people win and some people lose.

I realize that they make family movies that are all happy and fun and nice, but our kids are learning from these movies.  It can be and has been done right before.  Take the movie, The Incredibles, for example.  Now that movie has a very well articulated message about the downside of letting everybody think they’re special.

Mr. Incredible: You mean you killed off real heroes so that you could *pretend* to be one?
Syndrome: Oh, I’m real. Real enough to defeat you! And I did it without your precious gifts, your oh-so-special powers. I’ll give them heroics. I’ll give them the most spectacular heroics the world has ever seen! And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun, I’ll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. *Everyone* can be super! And when everyone’s super…
[chuckles evilly]
Syndrome: – no one will be.

All right.  It is about time that I have to get back into the car to pick somebody up from somewhere.  But before I get back into the car I am going to switch out the DVD and run something that teaches some more realistic life lessons.  Hey kids, who’s up for some Varsity Blues?

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Don’t Be Tardy for My Party

…and the parade of sisters continues as well.  Somehow I have managed to inspire (read: subtly threaten) all three of my sisters to contribute their wisdom nuggets to my blog.  Whatever their motivation, it makes me very happy because each of them has a very different style of parenting and I think they are pretty good at what they do best.

Sister B and I are the closest in age.  She was the one who invaded my pink princess canopy bed when she was less than two years old (I was a much more mature five-and-three-quarters) when Sister C came along.  So sue me that I may or may not have deliberately pushed her out of bed every night so our mom thought she wasn’t ready for a big girl bed and she needed to go back into a crib.  What some call “mean” others may describe as “mad genius.”  It’s all in the point of view, folks.

Sister B was the one who was such a baby when our parents went out of town and left our grandmother, Kettle, in charge (whom I so easily encouraged to go back to her own house for the night…”We’re fine!  Go and sleep in your own bed.  You can come back in the morning after you have your Sanka and a good poop.”), that she cried all night during the massive party I threw because she was scared for all of the teenagers who were getting their drunk on downstairs.  I also made her cry every time I queried, “You’re not wearing that, are you?” as she was about to get on the public school bus and I was walking out the door in plaid polyester to my uniform-required high school.  And I think she cried again when we had a fight with pots and pans that scared Sisters C and D into running away to the playground at the end of our street where a little boy asked them if they had gotten their periods yet.  Wait.  Did we grow up in the ghetto?

Anyway, Sister B and I have history.  Real sister history.  I never had to babysit her.  I was never old enough to change her diaper.  We are four years apart in age so we were never really in school together, but we were together all the time otherwise.  And together we survived the crazy that was pretty standard growing up with our family.

I have since apologized on multiple occasions for being mean (or a mad genius) and making her cry all the time.  And despite having a semi-tortured childhood, Sister B has grown up to become one of the women I most admire in this busted up world.  She completed college in three years, had a big-time career, lived in the city, married an incredibly charming and colorful metrosexual and together they have three great kids (an Aspie followed by two neurotypicals).  After settling in suburbia, Sister B was not content to simply rest on the tailgate-ready 3rd row seat of her minivan.  No!  She dove headfirst into the complicated world of extensive therapies for her son with Asperger’s Syndrome, and by working with the best that Atlanta has to offer they made it possible for him to mainstream by the time he was old enough for kindergarten.  And for the past few years she has been el presidente of her kids’ elementary school foundation, where she has led her team to raise over $90,000 for capital improvements for their school (www.MBEFoundation.net).  Yes, she’s that awesome.  And a little bit nuts.

And now I proudly present her post to you…


Don’t Be Tardy for My Party by honorary guest writer, Sister B

Sister A inherited our Mom’s beauty.  Sister C inherited our mother’s cooking prowess.  Sister D, hands down, got Mom’s empathy.  And I got our mother’s profile (well, really just her nose) and her intense passion for throwing a good party.  My 3 sisters are what you might call xenophobes, or homebodies – happy most often to stay at home versus going out on the town.  But Mom and I are kindred spirits in the social sense.

Mom owned a very successful catering company for 12 years.  I have fond memories of growing up on Chelsea Road surrounded by lots of Mom’s friends/employees who descended upon our kitchen like ants to the anthill each week to cut, chop, dice and slice in preparation for the upcoming weddings, bar mitzvahs and anniversary parties.  I was, and still am, so fascinated by her ability to come up with a party idea and pull it off under budget and exceed her clients’/guests’ expectations.

Our mother always makes a big deal out of birthdays.  Growing up in a big family, I realize it wasn’t easy for our parents to always “do it up,” but Mom always did.  She taught me at a young age that with a great theme and a small budget, you could have a party that no one would ever forget.  And that the secret to a fabulous party was always in the details.

When my husband and I were first engaged, we decided to start a gourmet club where friends rotated homes and hosted a themed dinner party once a month.  Our most memorable was our French-themed soiree, complete with a red, white and blue fabric tablescape and a mean coq au vin (did I mention my hubby is an amazing cook?), ¾ liter of vodka, 8 bottles of wine and lots of beer (for only 6 adults)…the cops showed up because we were being too rowdy with our late-night karaoke.  I was excited because I had earned some validation that we still had “it.”  We also started our tradition of a yearly Christmas Open House and quickly learned that hiring a bartender was a necessity in order to actually enjoy conversations with our guests.

Fast forward several years and three kids later and the daunting task of planning our children’s birthday parties surfaced.  Mom didn’t even have to specify that paying a bouncy house or carting the neighbors’ kids to Chuck E. Cheese were not viable options.  Thus began my quest to plan some excellent parties for my kids with great themes and on the cheap.

The year our oldest son turned 4, he excitedly announced to our family that in honor of his upcoming birthday, he would like an airplane party and I gladly accepted the challenge.  I purchased world puzzles, inflatable globe beach balls and packets of cloud-themed tissues for the goody bags.  We decided we needed some entertainment and hired a girl who did face painting and balloon animals.  We made her dress in a navy suit and airline hat and made her a “Pilot Katie” name badge.  When she showed up at our door in a tight skirt and a low-cut blouse with a boom box, all of the dads in attendance sat up a little straighter hoping to get noticed and our next-door neighbor went home to get a few singles.

Super powers include being able to wear this costume after having kids

Our middle son was obsessed with superheroes (like most 5-year-old boys), so we planned a dress-up party with lots of photo ops, complete with our neighbor in a Spiderman suit, Sister C as Wonder Woman, and sister D as Catwoman.  And once again the neighborhood dads were happy with a cooler of beer and some eye candy.  I see a recurring theme here…We started a great and inexpensive tradition of creating a CD as a party favor with songs related to the theme of the party.  The parents, as well as the kids, were excited to hear “Wonder Woman,” the “Theme from Superman,” and “Spiderman,” classics every kid should know and love.

One of our favorite kid parties was our oldest son’s racecar birthday.  Thank goodness the weather was supposed to be beautiful.  My husband reluctantly agreed to my latest crazy creative idea of spray painting individual cardboard boxes and letting the kids and affix stickers/decals and black paper plate “wheels” on their cards upon arrival.  We drilled holes on the tops of the finished boxes and used rope as suspenders so the kids could wear their cars at the party.  When everyone finished pimping their rides, we handed out racecar driver helmets and the kids ran around the neighborhood, checkered flag at the finish line and all.  On the food tables, I used black plastic tablecloths and masking tape to create a roadway with dotted lines, tossed on a few matchbox cars and…voila!…instant table décor and entertainment for the kids while they waited for their food.

For our daughter’s third birthday, she chose a rainbow theme and I talked my husband into creating a balloon arch rainbow in our living room out of PVC pipe.  The look on her face made it all worthwhile.  She couldn’t believe we actually had a rainbow in our house!  We had a dance party to “Over the Rainbow” and other color-themed songs and made rainbow necklaces.  We just threw a magic party for our 8-year-old and all of the kids learned tricks and put on a show at the end of the party.

Several times a year, we host a movie night on our lawn.  It’s an easy party to host because we are not entertaining inside.  Everyone brings food and drinks to share, lawn chairs, blankets and bug spray and our kids and friends love it!  Together we are making memories for our children which they will look back on fondly.  So I challenge you to use a little imagination and creativity and you’ll be surprised at how little it takes to throw a party your family and friends will talk about for years to come… and you just might have fun doing it!

Pants on Fire

…and the appointments and exams just keep on coming.  This morning I took all of the kids (minus Kid A who is at driving school this week… consider yourselves warned) and myself to the dentist for our regular 6-month cleanings.  Our dentist’s office is a really nice place and they have a lot of hygienists so they can be great about fitting us all in at the same time.  And because their staff is so accommodating and they really make a tedious chore into a no-brainer, we have been going there like clockwork two times a year since we moved here.

I think it is standard practice with most dentists, but at ours they do not ask the parent to come back for a child’s exam and cleaning.  That works out well for me because I can’t be with all of them at once, and I certainly couldn’t get my own teeth cleaned at the same time.  The kids’ hygienists just periodically stick their heads in my exam room and ask me questions about their mouths and give me their status updates, all while my hygienist is scraping away at my (relatively minor amounts of) plaque or Mr. Thirsty is sucking the spit out of me (no, that is not a dirty euphemism).  Sometimes they blur together, but I’m pretty good at keeping track of everybody’s individual oral status.

I would give us a B minus for our overall family teeth grade this time around, as Kid B showed a new (albeit small) cavity that has to be filled and Kid C needs sealant on a molar, thus resulting in two extra appointments (that will have to be scheduled around school, as that crap starts in fewer than two flipping weeks).  Kids D and Kid E (his first time!) had great showings in the chair and I was a Superstar!  Funny enough though, Kid D was kind of mad because he didn’t get the absolute best review of the day.  A little background…

You see, just about this time last year Kid B was guiding Kid D on his development of proper flossing habits.  Together they had created calendars on the computer and every day, sometimes twice day, Kid D would make a note on it when he flossed.  He really liked the visual reminder and followed through regularly, so he had something to be really proud of by the time his check-up rolled around.  He brought it to his appointment and showed the dentist and the hygienists and the desk staff and everybody else in the office with eyes.  They made such a big deal of it that he actually continued to floss regularly for a really long time after that.

But as all things go, this little boy started getting older and more easily distracted and Wii came out with new video games, and baseball season started (twice), so naturally he got bored with the calendar and started flossing less and less regularly.  Some days I was just pleased that he brushed his teeth at all.  I wasn’t even dreaming that he might rinse the sink out afterwards.  I was just hoping for less of an “I just ate a handful of goldfish snacks” smell on his breath and little to no cavities.

So when he went in for his end of the year cleaning last year he was still into good habits, but for his appointment this time the calendar idea had been well out of his routine for a while.  I had certainly forgotten about it.  I’m sure he had too, until he was in the chair and the hygienist asked him if he had been flossing every day.  Oopsie.  Being a good little boy, he didn’t want to tell a lie.

“Um, no,” answered Kid D.

Then he apparently went on to tell her, “I told my mom that we ran out of flossers and she said that she didn’t want to get me any more.  As a matter of fact, my mom said that SHE WAS NEVER GOING TO BUY FLOSSERS EVER AGAIN.  So that’s why I haven’t been flossing every day.”

I rescind the “good boy” comment.  Hey kid, your pants are on fire.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Four Blind Mice

So our back to school preparations continued last Friday with eye exams.  The boys do not have any vision issues (yet… knock on wood), so it was just a girl thing this time.  We needed to update our contact lens prescriptions and the girls all needed new glasses as well.  It was going to be a very long and expensive day.

Squint and say, "Sears Optical!"

I have been seeing everything blurry and therefore wearing glasses and corrective lenses since I was about eight.  I wore the most hideous wire-framed glasses throughout most of my childhood, and they were so thick I could almost see into the future.  They were just like my dad’s, so I guess that made them less dorky (as far as I knew).  At least they weren’t the black plastic kind held together with masking tape.  I was so excited when I got contact lenses, I did not care that it was an incredibly time-consuming daily chore to care for them.  I have always worn soft lenses, but not the disposable kind back in the beginning.  I had one of those contraptions that you plugged in to boil your contacts clean each night.  I’m talking real old school stuff, like the cave people used to have.

We all learned in biology about the 23 chromosomes given to a child by the mother and an equal amount by the dad.  Vision is certainly part of the genetic crapshoot when you are making a baby.  Sheepdog has really good vision, so I was always hoping that our kids would get his eyes (and my ears – oh, please! don’t let any of them get his ears).  Having limited sight is one of those things that has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember so I’m used to it.  But it is inconvenient and disabling and really freaky to wake up each and every day not even being able to see the numbers on a clock that is right next to my face.  I just really hoped my kids wouldn’t have to deal with it too.

But that’s not how things are working out.  Kid A has one good eye and one bad eye (now complete with an astigmatism, like me) and Kid B and Kid C are both on the way to eventually being as blind as I am.  They outgrow their prescriptions and the shape and size of their glasses frames so often (usually two times a year at least) that we are at the eye doctor’s office more often than we are at the pediatrician’s office.  You don’t even want to know what kind of bill we rack up when you count the comprehensive exams, frames for school, frames for sports, lenses, contacts and the accompanying solutions and paraphernalia.  Sheepdog definitely does not want to know, so please don’t tell him.

Kid D failed one of his school vision screenings a while back, but our eye doctor said his vision is great so far.  Kid E also says he can see everything just fine, but only time will really tell what the future holds for the boys and their vision.  I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

All I can say for now is at least they didn’t get Sheepdog’s ears!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Back to School Shopping Did Not Suck

Yesterday we started our back to school shopping.  Nope, I’m not kidding.  It has been almost ten years and I still haven’t quite made the mental calendar adjustment, especially since I grew up not going back to school after Labor Day (more specifically, the day after the Miss America parade up on the Atlantic City boardwalk, which we attended every year… “Show us your shoes!”).  In the South we usually go back to school really early – no later than mid-August, but realize that my kids have been on summer break since before Memorial Day.  I may not ready for summer to be over, yet the countdown has begun.

I had to buy a shower curtain the other day, so I bopped on in to a Walmart.  (I was able to bop because I was alone.  There is never any bopping when you have a constant parade following you around.  We are kind of like a traveling circus.)  On my way to the shower curtain department I couldn’t help but notice that the back to school supplies were already on sale.  And then I calculated that there are only four weeks left until school starts.  So I went back home and announced to the kids that they should start going through their clothes and shoes to see what fits and what doesn’t, and we would figure out what everybody needs to be ready for school.

Let me say right now that I am generally not a fan of shopping.  It’s just not my thing.  If I need something, I go get it.  Otherwise, I do not go to stores.  I do not browse.  If I ever meet the person who invented internet shopping I will make out with him or her.  My mom shops like it is her job and I grew up being dragged from store to store to store to store.  I have so many childhood memories of hiding under display racks and waiting in checkout lines.  I absolutely hated going shopping as a kid.  We went to retail stores, outlet malls, discount chains, farmer’s markets, and garage sales.  It was nothing short of torture for me.

So shopping with me as an adult is all about the efficiency.  It is certainly never an all day event, but even the simplest shopping trip with all five kids can sometimes take a little while.  We planned to go to three stores, which are conveniently located in the same shopping center.  We had looked at the weather (the forecast was cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms) and decided that yesterday was a good day to go shopping, even though it was hot and sunny when we left the house.  We bought some shoes, a bunch of clothes, and most of the school supplies on their lists.  The kids were especially well behaved the entire time (which is a critical component of successfully completing a shopping trip of this magnitude) and the weather even cooperated by clearing up (the storms had arrived in full force while Kid B was trying on some new shorts) whenever we left a store to walk down to another one or load bags into our car.  Dare I say that shopping on this day did not suck?

In the last store I was paying for our stuff and the kids were behind me off to the side near the entry display.  We had quite a haul and check out was taking a while.  As she was scanning the giant pile of clothes, the cashier asked me if all of the kids were mine.  I responded with what I thought was a very believable, “… all FIVE?  No!”  Because I have all of these residual icky feelings towards shopping I guess I figured my shopping luck had run out and they had just broken something or were swinging from the rafters or Kid E had removed his pants or something else inappropriate.  But they were actually being really quiet and still and posing amongst the mannequins.  Kid A even took a picture of them…

"Mom, lemme ask you, did I ever do anything really strange as a child?… Is there any history of insanity in the family?" - Mannequin, 1987

Now that was a fun shopping trip.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Keeping Up With the Kids – LAX Bro Slang

I’m going to start a new post category today called Keeping Up With the Kids. I will include all sorts of ways that my kids make me feel old (tumblr.com, anyone?) and how I am compensating for/ coping with such abominations. Let’s remember that (in my own mind) I am about nineteen to twenty-two years old, despite the fact that my body is screaming otherwise at me. I still think I am totally cool and hip and in touch with the youth of America. And I’ll also tell you that my sisters and I make fun of (note: present tense) our mom for not knowing any slang or how to upload music to her iPod or even how to turn on her cell phone. So I am continually paying attention and trying to follow what the kids are saying and doing. I’m really just trying to keep up with them so they don’t start making fun of me…


Yesterday Kid A (asked to come), Kid E (everyone else asked that he go) and I went over to Sister B’s house (she is having her turn out-of-town at the beach… I’m so jealous) because she said we could borrow some DVDs. While I was inside I took a look in her nightstand to see if she kept anything untoward in there (she totally DOES!)… just kidding. And that’s what you get for not submitting a guest post. Thanks for letting us borrow your movies, Case. I love you!

…sorry, I got sidetracked… so we were on our way over to Sister B’s house and as we were turning into her neighborhood I watched a teenage boy pull up to the traffic light in a rusted up, old Bronco with a raised body and muddy tires and I said, “Did you see the size of that?” And Kid A said, “That’s called ‘lettuce.'” And I was all, “I thought it was a lift kit?” and she looked at me like I was drunk.

“That boy’s hair, mom. When boys – usually lacrosse players, or ‘LAX bros’ – grow their hair out long like that it is called ‘lettuce.’ And when they tie it back they use a ‘flow band.'”

That is some fresh lettuce for a football player, Tommy.

I was learning new, hip jargon and I didn’t even have to look it up on urbandictionary.com! I felt so cool, so in touch. I kept asking her the proper ways to use these new words, and I kept attempting new combinations and possible scenarios. But for some reason my brain wasn’t working right and I kept calling it “cabbage.”

So by the time we got to Sister B’s driveway and we got out of the car, Kid A had just about enough of me and our Lesson of the Day. I was still screwing up all of the words and I didn’t want her to be frustrated with me so I started to do the Cabbage Patch dance real smooth, you know? Then I took out my ponytail and I let my own giant hair down. And I asked Kid A if she had a ‘lettuce wrap’ to tame my awesome ‘flow.’ Then I got hungry for some chinese food.

Kid A just sighed and then I think she posted something about me on her tumblr.com account.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I Suck at Coupons

Coupons drive me crazy.  I love them because they are FREE MONEY!  They are the bane of my existence because I feel like I am burning the free money if I don’t use them.  One in particular has been weighing on me for weeks now.  It was for twenty dollars off of a two hundred-dollar order at my regular grocery store.

Now, with seven people in our house you would think that I could rack up a two hundred-dollar order without even trying.  Sure thing, especially if I build some storage shelves and stockpile, Extreme Couponer-style.  But I don’t buy stuff I don’t need.  And I don’t buy things just because they are on sale.  Plus, I have been trying to be extra frugal in my shopping when I can because – I don’t know if you’ve heard – there is a recession going on, and a third driver/ third car/ third gas tank and insurance costs are less than a year away for us, and college tuition is only three years away, and Good Lord these kids always seem to need new shoes.

… but back to my $20 off $200 coupon.  I didn’t use it.  Sob.

When it first came in the mail we were just about to leave on an extended trip.  So we were trying to eat the things that were already in the house and clear out the pantry.  “Waste not, want not” and such.  That trip ended up being almost a month.  When we returned I was planning to go to the grocery store for a big stock-up trip, but I was pouty because I wasn’t living at the beach anymore so I kept putting it off.  And we kept eating stale oyster crackers and almost expired soup.  And it was so flipping hot outside that I was not inspired to do anything.

Eventually I could not serve/ eat another packet of oatmeal or bag of frozen vegetables, so I went to the store.  There are two of the exact same chain grocery stores near my house.  They are about the same distance away in opposite directions.  One is really fancy and one is, um… not so much.  I always go to the Not So Much one because it is rarely crowded and they have basically the same things, so what if they get the hand-me-down rusty carts.  They know me and let me do my thing at the Not So Much (like bagging my own groceries – which is a form of packing, so I’m really good at it – it drives me insane when the idiots crush my groceries).  At the Fancy one they have kids with “Bagger” on their name tags (imprinted, not just written in Sharpie!), so you’d better not try filling your own bags at that one.

You just know that boy doesn't put the milk on top of the bread. You Go, Danny!

For some reason I chose to go to the Fancy store on this trip (probably delusion from all of the heat, but whatever).  They seem to have more of a produce selection and I was in the market for lots of fresh stuff.  I filled my cart with meat and chicken and fruits and vegetables and bread and eggs and cheese and milk and yogurt.  Wheat bread, cake mix, Coca-Cola, shaving cream (Sorry, that last stuff wasn’t on my real list – it was from a commercial from when I was a kid and I will never be able to recite a grocery list without adding them at the end for the rest of my life.  Excellent marketing job because I can still recite it when I often can’t even remember my own kids’ names – my guess is that it was an ad for Coke.  It’s a shame that stuff is poison and I just won’t buy it.).

So I go up to the checkout with a full cart and my Very Special Customer coupon.  Until that moment I had forgotten that they are so fast to check you out at Fancy – someone was even pulling stuff out of my cart and putting it on the belt while the checkout girl was scanning at lightning speed and the Bagging Team (seriously, there were TWO kids bagging my groceries!) was like Matrix-fast.  I was blown away so much that they disoriented me.  I was even a little dizzy when the cashier gave me my total and it was… $192.  Wait!  Nooooooooooooooooooo!  I can’t use my coupon unless the total is at least two hundred dollars.

I should have picked up another ginormous pack of toilet paper or some more lunchmeat.  I should have gotten more cereal.  Maybe I could just go grab something else right now.  But, no!  The Fancy store will not tolerate hold-ups in their lines.  They move you right along, almost forcefully so.  And there were at least three people in line behind me.  I guess I could have been, but I didn’t want to be “That Shopper.”  So I paid the bill and I left.  With my coupon still in hand.  Sigh.

I was kicking myself as I loaded the groceries into my car.  I continued all the way home.  And it has been on my mind ever since.

I should have planned better.  I should have bought one more this or a couple more of that.  If only they counted big bottles of wine towards the total.

That coupon has since expired.  I mourned it much more than I should have.  Because soon another one will come in the mail and I will start the whole process over again.  Damn coupons.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

It Was Definitely the Hair

The future has arrived.  I can listen to whatever song I choose, make a phone call and send a message (through the air!), all from one device that fits in the palm of my hand.  I can push a button and whatever flavor coffee I want comes out of the machine instantly (like in Judy Jetson’s kitchen!).  “Space Tourism” is an actual industry.  I can even load a photo onto my computer and the computer will identify the people in the picture.

I am sorry, but that last one freaks me out a little bit.  A computer can LOOK at a picture and IDENTIFY PEOPLE from it.  Like when your kid pulls out an old, square Fotomat photo from a dusty box, wipes it off and asks, “Who is that little boy, Mama?”  And you squint and jog your memory and say, “Um, I think that was my uncle, back when he was young and super cute, you know – before he started smoking pot all the time and living with the crazy cat lady who didn’t wear underpants to your aunt’s wedding reception.  Yeah, that was him.  Don’t do drugs.”

A bunch of different computer applications have face recognition software now… iPhoto has had it for a while and Facebook apparently has it too.  I get how it works (our souls have a fingerprint-like uniqueness and the computers have a way of recognizing those very specific and detailed nuances), but I am leery of it at the same time.  I would feel so much better – and the computers would seem so much less alive – if they were just measuring the distance between the eyes, width of the nose, depth of the eye sockets, shape of the cheekbones and the length of the jawbone.

So I was reassured and very pleasantly surprised the other day when Kid A posted her Hermione picture on her Facebook account and the computer identified her as… ME!

Now, let me give you a little background.  Kid A is the first grandchild on both sides, so all of the relatives gathered together in the hospital room when she was born.  My mom was so excited and overwhelmed to have a grandchild.  She stared down at the minutes-old new life, scanned her beautiful baby face and gushed to me with joy, “She looks just like you!”

Everyone in the room responded, “Stacy looked just like Sheepdog as a baby?”

Seriously, Kid A looked exactly like Sheepdog and nothing like the woman who just attempted ripping the rails off of the hospital bed while forcing another human out of her body.  And while Kid A’s looks have changed over the years, she has always most closely resembled her Daddy.  Yet the computer identified her not as him, nor even as herself, but as me the other day.

Why did the software recognition program identify Kid A as me, you ask?  I mean, yes, she is my kid but we really do not look alike.  We clearly have different noses, different eyes, and very different face shapes.

There’s only one logical conclusion.  It was definitely the hair.  Unmistakable, big, Jersey Girl hair.  She DOES look just like me!

Kid A (but Me, according to Facebook), 2011

Me, 1987

It All Ends Today

…or so says the tagline to the latest and final (sniff, sniff) movie, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (which releases today), based upon the epic book series by J. K. Rowling.  Unless, of course, we are mistaken about that because they found a way to cast a Confundus Charm over the entire world… now wouldn’t that be something?

I have always been extremely affected by books and movies and television, so it is natural that their conclusions would move me monumentally as well.  I know that they are manufactured, but they could be real – good fiction is always based in reality – and regardless, through reading about or watching them, they have allowed me to be a part of their life lessons.

I learned about the joy of realizing your true calling from Sam Malone (“Boy, I’ll tell ya… I’m the luckiest son-of-a-bitch on Earth,” as he shuts off the lights in the bar) and the meaning of life according to Cliff Clavin (“comfortable shoes”) and Carla Tortelli (“having children”) during the final episode of Cheers.  I learned about letting true friends know that they will remain in your heart even when you follow different paths in life (the “GOODBYE” stones that Hunnicutt left for Pierce to see as he flew off in the chopper in the M*A*S*H finale).

I learned from Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King that you sometimes can but you can’t always go home again, for when they returned to the Shire – free of their youthful innocence and ignorance – it was a very different place than the one they had left.  I learned that war can be necessary even though it ends childhood and tears friends and families apart, and that power will corrupt almost everyone, from The Hunger Games trilogy.

I was reminded that relationships are complicated and the “right” guy is determined by the beholder (Team Kellan!, I mean Team Sheepdog!) and that everybody comes with a list of pros and cons from the Twilight books.  And Friday Night Lights’ Coach Eric Taylor and his football motto “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!” couldn’t show me any more simply that winning is not the true indicator for success, and that family should always come first.  The Cosby Show taught me that families should dance together often, preferably to cool jazz music.

And perhaps most importantly I learned from the conclusion of Zoey 101 that sometimes 16-year-old girls get pregnant and it is incredibly important to be a good parent to your teenager and talk to them about sex and responsibility and how bad choices can end your career before it really even begins (empathetic shiver! for both of the Spears girls).

I am smarter than all of you. Oh, and my parents are dentists.

So it is actually Thursday night and Kid A is leaving now dressed as Hermione to attend the midnight-ish viewing of the last Harry Potter film with her friends.  Kid B was so excited that she made wands for them out of actual trees for Kid A and her friends so they could use them when they dressed up for the premiere (I am telling you that these kids are B.O.R.E.D.).

Sheepdog, Kid B and I are looking forward to a Sunday afternoon IMAX showing of the movie, where I hope to be as moved as I have in the past by the creativity of those who write and make these incredible stories.  The Harry Potter books speak of unconditional love and selflessness as the ultimate weapons against evil.  I think that they are pretty good at warding off the everyday icky as well, so I’m going to stick with them.

After Sunday I will say, “Nox!” to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, so I can make room in my heart for new, even more imaginative tales and more importantly, the lessons that I can learn from them.  And so the end is actually the beginning.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

From L to R, the wands of Cho Chang, Padma Patil, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter (made by Kid B)

The Economic Upswing Starts at Home

My weird, yet very imaginative kids have had a lot of down time this summer.  They have read through every book, watched every movie, played every card game, exhausted every toy.  We are almost seven weeks into summer break and they have now resorted to developing elaborate new businesses.

Kid B did it first.  She told us to check our emails repeatedly, which contained print ads for her new restaurant.  Then she sent us promos with “unscripted” video reviews from Kid D and Kid E (“Come to the new… What is it called again?  Oh yeah, come eat at… wait, what is the name?  I can’t say it right.  Well, the food is yummy and you should go there!”).  Then she bugged us to no end about it.  So we finally gave in and walked into the dining room/ patronized her establishment.  She presented us with detailed, realistic menus.  We were encouraged to order meals, which she actually prepared for us (Jackpot!).  It was mostly breakfast food and it was good.  Then she presented our table with a bill.

Normally I would just play along and give her fake money (invisible, Monopoly, counterfeit… anything we had lying around).  But for whatever reason I was in a really good mood (probably because I didn’t have to make anybody breakfast), and I could appreciate all of the effort she put into making the menus, meals and promotions.  So I gave her real money to pay the bill, plus tip.  Two brand-new twenty dollar bills fresh out of the ATM, to be exact.

Kid B played it so cool.  She did not bat an eye when she saw that she was getting legitimate United States greenbacks for playing a game.  She just continues to do her waitress-y things and asked if we would like any change (as a family we have frequented a restaurant or two, so the kids know the routine), took her money and ran.

This is Kid D's drawing of me (candid) playing Super Mario Brothers on the Wii. I am just happy that I was not on the toilet when he decided to draw me.

What struck me as funny (but in hindsight I really should have predicted) was how quickly many more new businesses started popping up all around our house.  Kid C started an art studio where a customer could commission a drawing or painting.  Her artwork was spectacular!  Not as original, but just as hardworking and eager, Kid D opened a business called “Pictures Without Picture Frames.”  He did not wait to be hired, but drew on spec his renditions of whatever you were doing when he happened to decide he wanted to draw you.  Even Kid E got in on the action with a toy store.  He sold toys that he didn’t happen to be playing with at the moment (“Um, no, actually that isn’t for sale.  I am playing with that.  And that one too.  No, THAT one is my favorite, so sorry but you can’t buy it either.”).  Funny enough, I got bills from each and every one of them too.

So of course I went back to the ATM and paid every single one of them with real money.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…