NSFW in the Hair Care Aisle

NSFW – (from http://www.urbandictionary.com) Not Safe For Work. Used to describe Internet content generally inappropriate for the typical workplace, i.e., would not be acceptable in the presence of your boss and colleagues (as opposed to SFW, Safe For Work).

Unless, of course, you work in a strip club or in the porn industry, right?

This past weekend, after having been in the house with Sheepdog and the kids for Atlanta’s Snowmageddon 2014 for six long days, I decided to go out and run some errands.  The kids and their friends had eaten us out of house and home during our impromptu vacation, so I headed for my number two most frequent check-in on Foursquare, the grocery store.

I loaded my cart with the basics, then checked the list to see what other goodies the kids were asking for.  One of the requests was “the conditioner that you use that smells good.”  Considering the fact that I have no less than 9 bottles in my shower, I had some detective work to do.

So I moseyed on down to the hair care aisle, and started pulling random bottles off the shelves.

Pop! went a lid.  Sniff.  Eh, I thought to myself.  That one’s just okay-smelling.

So, I tried another.  And another.  And another.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  They were all starting to smell the same to me until…

Pop! went a final lid, and the creamy, white conditioner shot out all over my face, my hair, and my chest.

Oh, how I wish I was kidding.  That totally happened.  And my kids are old enough now that I no longer carry a roll of paper towels in a Mary Poppins carpet bag just in case.

I remember making a sort of moaning, why-me? kind of noise, which – in hindsight – probably did not help my NSFW status.  I ignored the people around me as best I could while I tried to get all of the conditioner off of me, but I was imagining the worst-case scenario at the same time… mothers pulling 180’s with their carts while shielding their young children’s eyes, and dirty-perv men lingering and watching me while they pretended to peruse their Just For Men grey-blending options.  Please, oh please, do not let anybody have a cell phone camera pointed at me right now.

Is that hair gel?

This is what my hair looked like by the time I got to the checkout line

When I was finished with my clean up on aisle 10, my elbows and hands were silky smooth.  Then again so were my face, my knees, my pants, my fleece jacket, and the grocery cart handle.  There was not a rough patch of anything anywhere, but I decided that it actually smelled really good (thankfully, because that smell stayed with me for days), so I threw two bottles into my cart and moved on to the next aisle.

Oh, the lengths this mother will go to in order to check something off the to do list.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

September 11th as an American in Turkey

We left Istanbul the day prior and motored all night and into the first half of the following day.  We pulled into the port of Kusadasi, Turkey around noon on Wednesday.  Kusadasi is less than 900 kilometers (not even 600 miles) from Benghazi, Libya, the site of the attack on an American diplomatic mission exactly one year prior.  It is also just about 1,500 kilometers (approximately 900 miles) from Damascus, the capital city of Syria, where civil war brings daily images of death and destruction that most Americans can’t even begin to imagine.

I was worried.

I was on high alert.

I was situationally aware.

We were American tourists in Turkey on September 11th.

I had promised Sheepdog that I would always stay close to Kid A during our travels, but most especially on this day.  Most Americans over the age of twenty-five are able to tell you in detail where they were and what they were doing that clear, fall morning when the planes deliberately crashed on our American soil.  Even twelve years later, I can still remember those feelings of anxiety and fear and grief and uncertainty.

As a group, we decided to disembark the ship, go into the port, but not travel too far into town.  I was adamant that we have some sort of escape plan (as lame as it was to “escape” onto a cruise ship… it was the best I could do under the circumstances).  That meant no tour of Ephesus, the ancient Greek, and later Roman, city famed for the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which was destroyed by Goths in the 3rd Century AD), as well as the still-standing Odeum, the Celsus Library, the Temple of Hadran, and the Great Theater.  It also meant no visit to the House of the Virgin Mary, which is widely recognized as the final resting place of St. Mary, Mother of God.  So what was left for us to see and do in Kusadasi, you ask?  Take a wild guess.

My dad and I carefully watched my daughter, mom, and sisters as they moved from shop to shop throughout the winding district.  Shopping, as per usual, was on the docket today, especially once someone heard a rumor that shopping in this port rivaled and even surpassed that in the Grand Bazaar.  At least here I didn’t totally hate it, but only because the sales people in Kusadasi were less intimidating and pushy.  They were even kind of funny.

"Sir, I know I will like you VER much.  Come." - common sales pitch heard in port of Kusadasi

“Sir, I know I will like you very much. Come.” – common sales pitch heard throughout the shopping district in the port of Kusadasi

We made it through the shopping district in under two hours.  And a wonderful thing began to happen during that time… I was actually able to relax a little and enjoy the people of Turkey.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was still very situationally aware and always had eyes on the Energizer Bunny Shopping Team as well as others around us, but I also interacted with many of the vendors while my dad and I waited outside of the stores.  Most, if not all, of them were kind and interesting and really enjoyed practicing their English (which can be a fantastic source of entertainment).  We asked questions of each other and I learned many things that I did not already know.  It was a wonderfully surprising experience for me.

When there was a lull in the procurement of souvenirs, we decided to sit down at a cafe for a bit to enjoy some wi-fi and Turkish beer.  It was a gorgeous day… sunny and in the high 70’s/ low 80’s.  We were checking in with family and friends at home, talking to one another and other people around us, and generally having a very nice afternoon.  We enjoyed it so much that we ordered another round.

Facebook check-in on 09/11/2013: Kusadasi, Turkey.  God Bless America!

Facebook check-in on 09/11/2013: Kusadasi, Turkey. Mom, Dad, me, Sister B, Sister C, and Kid A.  God Bless America! (and free wi-fi)

It was getting later in the afternoon.  Soon it was time for the Muslims’ salat, specifically the Ahr (afternoon prayers).  We had learned a little bit about the five daily Islamic prayer times from our tour guide on Tuesday in Istanbul.  There was a mosque beyond the area where we were sitting that broadcast what I presume was the salat into the marketplace.

Imagine being an American tourist sitting at an outdoor cafe with your family on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, drinking an Efes Pilsener, and enjoying the company of those around you, all while listening to Islamic prayers playing live over a loudspeaker.  I have never had a more surreal experience in my life.

I understand that we were in a very insulated town that makes its income mostly from tourist revenue, so we were as safe as we were going to be in that part of the world.  Nevertheless, what a pleasant surprise on this day in Kusadasi, Turkey.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

It’s All Greek to Me (Day Seven in Mykonos)

This is Monday.

This is Monday, September 9.

This is Monday, September 9, 2013, and today we are docked in Mykonos, Greece.

I have to repeat a similar mantra for each day we are on this trip, else I might lose my mind.  I am thrown off by the whole waking up in a different port/ city/ country/ continent thing.  I feel like I have been away from my family and my home for months at this point.  If someone had a finite number of days on this planet earth, I would highly recommend they spend their last ones on a cruise ship.  Time seems to double or often triple when experienced this way.

Day Six was spent completely at sea.  We were excited for Day Seven so we could scream, "Land Ho!"

Day Six was spent completely at sea. We were excited for Day Seven so we could scream, “Land Ho!”
Coincidentally, that was also my nickname in college.

We have only a few hours in port today.

I’ll bet we spend some of it shopping.  It never ceases to amaze me how much shopping my mom, sisters, and Kid A can do.  Just when you think they’ve bought everything they could possibly need or want to buy, they see another store that they just have to browse.  My dad observed in Spain that he was missing the art gene.  If that is possible, then I am definitely missing the shopping one.

This port is incredibly beautiful. There is so much blue water, which is in stark contrast with all of the white buildings and white beaches.  Mykonos has a very relaxed charm, despite the fraternity/ sorority row comparison (I am just being sarcastic…. I’m perfectly aware which is the chicken and which is the egg).

Someone mentioned wanting to rent a house up in the hills here, but I fear it may be a little too quiet for me to spend an extended vacation.  I really wish we had more time to explore this city and see what it is all about, beyond the touristy stuff.

In the meantime, we are going to wander, window shop, stop for a most excellent Greek coffee, and take lots of pictures.  Most importantly, I want to put my feet in the sand and let the water splash over them.. What a glorious day to be at the beach!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I’m in Toulon, It’s in France, Buy Flea Market Underpants (Port of Toulon)

When my sisters and I were younger, my mom dragged us whenever she could to the Columbus Farmers Market on Route 206 in Columbus, NJ.  We would get up at some insane hour and arrive at what was basically a field with wooden tables in it.  There were some paved roads, along which people pitched tents and sometimes displays.  They backed up their windowless vans and the odd men and women wearing vendor belts full of change would all sell their crap to anyone with cash in hand.  Long live capitalism!

Columbus Farmers Market, "The Place Where Everyone Shops"

Columbus Farmers Market, “The Place Where Everyone Shops”

They sold clothing, furniture, cosmetics, toys, tools, food, plants, wallpaper, luggage, housewares, jewelry, hardware, electronics, and sno-cones.  They sold fruits and vegetables and seasonal whatevers.  They sold belts and purses and underpants.  They sold baseball cards and china and formal evening gowns and hair bows.  Its claim to fame is being the largest and oldest flea market in the Delaware Valley.  Apparently, it has some staying power.

I think that this is the place where I developed such a strong aversion to shopping.  I really hated Columbus.  Following your mom around while she shopped for junk for four or five hours will do that to you.  Being ten years old and trying on matching, smocked dresses with my little sisters in a sex offender’s van will definitely do that to you.  And how many hair bows do I really need?

**************************************************

We pulled into France on the morning of Day Two of our cruise.  When I woke up, I wondered if France was mad at our cruise ship because there were a bunch of grey battleships right off of our balcony.  We took a water taxi to shore and then walked around the tiny village of Toulon.  Kid A bought some French shoes.  We went into a beautiful church, which – odds are – was called Notre Dame.  We tooled around cobblestone streets to do some window shopping, and practiced what few, lame French phrases we could recall (Combien?).  Then we came around the corner and saw something that I found truly shocking.

They had a French Columbus right there in the middle of the street in Toulon.  They had crappy clothes and cheap fabric and vegetables and sun meat (meat out in cases, not refrigerated as far we could tell, and sitting in direct sunlight).  The sun meat stores also displayed for sale some tripe that looked like dirty rags.  Tripe comes from the stomachs of various farm animals.  We thought they were the skin off of lamb faces, complete with the eye and mouth holes, so I guess cow and pig stomach isn’t actually so bad in comparison.

Put that into the category of some things that you can’t unsee.

Put that into the category of some things that you can’t unsee.

Where was the incomparable French shopping?  The fancy clothes?  The lacy lingerie?  I was a little disappointed that Toulon had such crap for sale because I believed that the French were above the low-end nonsense, but I guess that everybody has to make their living somehow.  And this was the small port of Toulon, not Paris.  At least there were some really cute storefront shops along the road as well.  I tried to ignore the creepy vendors and focus on the good stuff.  Vive le capitalism!

We walked all the way down to the end of the market and soon made our way back to the pier.  As we rode the water taxi back to the boat, the salt water flew up and splashed me in the face.  I watched the French mountains fade away into the background.  And it struck me  – despite the icky flea market – how incredible it was that I had just spent the morning in France.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Getting So Much of the Not Having of the Sleep – Day One in Barcelona, Spain

“I feel like I am going to DIE,” I whispered from 17F across the plane seats as we jetted toward Spain.  It was midnight to my body, Eastern Standard Time, and I had been upright for 18-plus hours.  Kid A, my sisters, and I had flown into Atlantic City from Atlanta the day prior, then traveled on Monday in a monsoon by bus-limo to the Philadelphia Airport to take a flight to Barcelona, which would land 8AM on Tuesday.  I hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep.

"There's a colonial woman on the wing!  She is dressed in traditional colonial garb." - Annie, Bridesmaids (2011)

“There’s a colonial woman on the wing!” – Annie (after she mixed alcohol with Xanax during a flight to Vegas), Bridesmaids (2011)
P.S. I really took this photograph on our flight from Atlanta to Atlantic City.  Isn’t it so cool?

“It’s like when you have a newborn!” exclaimed Sister B, who was against the window in 17A.

From 17 D, Sister C agreed.  “Yeah, I would trade just about anything for some sleep right now.”

Kid A had been sleeping in 17C for three hours.  Teenagers can sleep anywhere.

We were so jealous.

“I would trade my first-born for a reclining pod in First Class,” I admitted.  “And conveniently, she is on this plane with me.”

There was no one in 17E, but we still couldn’t get comfortable enough to rest.  And there were miles to go before we would sleep.

We arrived in Spain to beautiful weather… it was bright sunshine and 80-plus degrees outside.  After waiting and gathering our luggage, and a quick power nap for me on a cold, marble pillar nearby, we boarded a short shuttle to our port of departure.

Conveniently, we were able to go to our rooms on the ship earlier than expected.  Our luggage hadn’t arrived yet, but we quickly got the lay of the land and saw the room we would call home for the next twelve days at sea.  “Tiny” was a generous description, especially with three of us sharing a berth, but no matter.  This was going to be an adventure!

The Royal Princess was scheduled to push off later in the day.  We weren’t due to be on board until 5:30PM, so several of us decided to tour Barcelona for the day.  We took a bus into the marina district and we walked from there.

For those of you still keeping track, none of us had slept since a couple of nights prior.  And we were getting a little punch-drunkety.

We made our way through the narrow, crowded streets as we held our purses close to our bodies.  We walked around with cameras pointed at the architecture and other unique sights in an attempt to capture the feel of the city in just a few short hours.  All I could see was graffiti, discarded McDonald’s wrappers, some fairly unsafe construction, and a lot of other tourists.

It is weird what sleep deprivation can do to you.  I was exhausted on a cellular level.  Yet, I still thought it was beautiful.  And I was in Spain.  Amazing!

After much walking and a little window shopping, we finally found the Museu Picasso.  I remember seeing paintings and vases and pitchers and sculptures, but I only saw them with my eyes, not with my heart or soul.  I didn’t feel any connection to the artist at all.  Utter and extreme weariness trumped everything at that point.  My dad sat on a bench by the gift shop.  He sighed and said he  thought he was missing the art gene.

untitled-1937-11

“Picasso used to say to me, ‘The smell of opium is the least stupid smell in the world'” – Jean Cocteau

Really and truly, how high was Picasso when he painted that?

Eventually, it was All Aboard.  We also desperately needed showers.  So we checked in and we scrubbed and rinsed the travel off of our bodies just in time to follow the crowds to our assigned Muster Stations for a quick safety drill.

We were barely still standing upright as we carried our bulky, orange accessories down to a dining room, with the rest of the people with whom we could potentially share a life boat or a deserted island for the rest of our days.

A message was delivered via loudspeaker from the ship’s captain.  He sounded exactly like the school principal from the television show Glee.  Every night for the rest of our cruise, when the captain would address the ship from the bridge, I would make the same comparison and think what a wicked shame it is that that talented Cory Monteith boy died earlier this summer.  Oh, Finn… such a waste!

During the rest of our practice at Muster Station F, we sat at a table with a mother and her daughter.  The teenage daughter was not yet unplugged and she was fiddling on her phone.  The mother was lost in her own thoughts, but likely hearing Sister C, Kid A, and I as we mumbled how completely and utterly tired we were.

I had become completely nonsensical at that point.  I said something to Sister C and Kid A about “getting so much of the not having of the sleep,” and they burst out laughing.  They knew exactly what I meant because they felt it too.  We were totally sober, yet completely intoxicated by our sleep deprivation.

Hey!  Maybe I did get something out of the Picasso Museum.  Do I smell opium in here?

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

His Cup Runneth Over

It’s that time of year again, friends.  School is back in session and the kids are settling in to their classes, adjusting to the homework load, and – if they haven’t already – it’s about time to add a sport or activity to the mix.  Load ’em up!  Yeah!

When playing youth sports now-a-days, there is likely the obligatory shopping trip to your local sporting goods store to stock up on the essentials.  Not only do they suck away all of your time; they also suck away all of your money.  And since both boys are playing baseball this season, we tried on some last-season and hand-me-down clothing and equipment first.  It figures that very little of what we had in stock was transferable, so we headed out to buy what was left on our list… grey pants for both boys, cleats because little feet never stop growing, batting gloves to replace the ones that got gum on them last season for Kid D (don’t even ask), and a helmet with a cage for Kid E (gotta protect that pretty face… that’s his moneymaker!).

All of that stuff was important to them, but what do you think was the number one, non-negotiable thing on their lists?  You guessed it… the boys decided that it was imperative that they go athletic cup shopping.

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you may have read about Kid D and his first experience with a protective cup (Protecting the Family Jewels).  I’ve also mentioned his obsession with his junk a time or two before, but Sheepdog assures me that this is standard male behavior.  And Kid E is even more enthusiastic about his, if you can imagine.  So, while we were taking inventory of our baseball gear prior to shopping for more, a very large part of our discussion centered around the balls that are nearest and dearest to their hearts… their own.

Now, the cup that Sheepdog and Kid D settled on last time is likely the smallest size they make.  It is marketed to Age 7 and Under.  And since Kid D is almost 9, he announced that he had outgrown his old cup and needed a bigger one.  Isn’t that always the way?  I did not need Sheepdog’s expertise to recognize that as standard male behavior.  Nevertheless, since we now need two protective cups in the family, it made sense to buy the next size up for Kid D.  And since it was plastic and got washed every time, Kid E could use the old one.

Sheepdog, the boys and I were in the cup aisle at Dick’s (c’mon… where else did you expect we would go?), and they were figuring out sizing.  It turns out the youth cups are all white and then color-coded around the edges (our original one is green).  The one appropriately sized for Kid D came in a standard red color.  Except that the color red on plastic, especially when it is next to a bulge of white, looks a lot more like something you would find in the Barbie aisle.  I steeled myself for a hissy fit in the store because Kid D thought it was bad enough he has to be on the Purple Team (the park is using colors for the first time this season instead of major league team names).  Now he would have to endure sporting a pink cup?

"It's time to protect your nuts, guys!" - Bloodsport (1988)

“It’s time to protect your nuts, guys!” – Bloodsport (1988)

But the fit never came.  Fortunately, Kid D was not fazed in the least by his new pink accessory.  I guess he is more secure in his masculinity than I thought.  He is still beaming about his new cleats, his new gear bag, and the fact that his cup had runneth over in the first place.

Play ball!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Magic Markers

Every year I take the kids back to school shopping for new supplies.   I usually despise shopping, but I love this particular trip, as I am hot for office supply stores and the wares they peddle.  I can’t really explain it, but I can tell you that I get a little tingly every time I go down the padded envelope aisle.  And I have a thing for 5″ X 8″ notepads too.  I like to touch the paper.  My favorite thing is the sound it makes when I fan the pages.  It’s like a magical purring noise. “Puuuuurrrrrrrrr.”  So sexy.  But I digress.

Anyway, each August the kids come with me to Staples and Target to pick out new folders and notebooks and binders.  The younger ones also get rulers and scissors and crayons and index cards.  And everyone gets a new box of markers.  Now, some are classic colors and some are dry erase, some are highlighters and some are washable.  None of them are actually called “magic” anymore, but to me they will always be magical and special, because they mark another important milestone in each kid’s life… the start of a brand new school year.

This year the markers led me to thinking about other milestones in my life and the kids’ lives and how quickly time is passing.  This summer, in particular, seemed to whiz past us in a spectacle of raindrops and road trips and beach sand.  It marked the first summer we didn’t get to relax together as a family (until one week near the very end, which was pretty awesome).

I realized that this marks the last year that all five of my kids will be heading out the door on the first day of school together.  Kid A is starting her senior year in high school.  Next year she will be off at college, starting her own life with some pretty significant new markers of her own.

Then I realized that Kid E still has twelve more “first days of school” ahead of him.  He is not thrilled about this, especially because “school does not have very much Minecraft.”  Sorry, kid.

Kid B started high school this year – a big marker made complicated because her boyfriend also started, but at a different high school.

This is the year that Kid C started dancing en pointe in ballet.  Kid D will begin kid-pitch in baseball next week.  They are in 7th and 3rd grades, respectively, which can be full of all kinds of markers… middle school relationship drama, puberty, playground fights.

Sheepdog and I made it to the 20-year mark of marriage this summer.

And today marks exactly three months since Braden died.

So many markers.  Not all of them are magic.  And not all of them are huge.  But together they become the stories that make up our lives.  So I write them down and take pictures on film and in my mind so we won’t forget.  And we can look back on them and remember each one of the markers and what they meant to us at that time in our lives.  And they will shape us and affect us and make us who we are.  But they can also inspire us to make change, to do more and be more, if that is what we want.  So much possibility can come from those markers, big or small.

And that is truly magical.  Just like the purr of a good notepad.

I get high with a little help from my friends.  You say "toluene and xylene," I say "magic."

I get high with a little help from my friends. You say “toluene and xylene,” I say “magic.”  Source:  Google Images

Wish me luck for tomorrow…