Friday, March 28, 2014

"Dress Thinner by Dinner" and Other Lies

I'll buy any magazine that features an article on "easy" ways to look younger, lose weight, get in shape, feel better, be sexier, etc., etc.  You get it.  Shallow and looking for a quick fix.

I recently read an article, "10 Steps to Look 10 Years Younger."  As I read the article, I was happy to see that I already did 9 of the 10 steps.  My happiness was short lived when I realized I'm almost 54, but I don't look 44.  I look 54.  Does that mean if I didn't do those 9 steps I would look 64?  This math is giving me more frown lines.

Maybe the problem is that it's "an all or nothing" thing, and that unless I do all 10 steps none of the steps count.  Okay, I will buy an eyelash curler tomorrow and start curling my eyelashes, in addition to continuing with the other 9 steps, and we'll see if I look 10 years younger.  Stay tuned.

Another article title that grabbed my attention was "21 Days to a Bikini Body."  As you might have guessed, the title was a little misleading and assumed the reader was beginning their 21-day countdown with a pretty fit body.  Who edits this junk?

Why did I bother with that article?  I don't know?  Memorial Day is quickly approaching and I thought that might be a good goal for the summer kickoff, even though I have not worn a bikini in over 30 years.  Sadly, I determined that I would need more than 21 days even if I ate only lettuce, drank only water, and exercised all day.  Oh well, I love a cute cover-up anyway.

I'm a reasonably intelligent person and yet I still bought the magazine hoping someone discovered a secret plan that would work in 21 days.  News flash: There is no secret plan.

You will probably not be surprised to learn that I also bought "Tiger Beat" magazine (I loved that magazine!) when I was 14 years old because it included an article that promised bigger boobs with exercise and magic creams.  My issues go way back, and you may have noticed that article was a load of crap.

Finally, I found an article, "Dress Thinner by Dinner" that was not completely misleading.  I just need to buy Spanx, lots of Spanx, follow a few suggestions on what to wear for my body type, and pay attention to my hairstyle and makeup.  I can do this, but wait; workout clothes are not an option!  How am I going to get fit if I don't wear workout clothes?  What do you mean I can't get fit just by wearing workout clothes?  Why not?

The woman they used as their model was my age (there's no way to say this nicely) and needed a lot of help.  She had not had a haircut in 30 years, had no makeup on, wore palazzo pants (they are back in style), and the same Earth shoes she wore in college.  And, she definitely did not believe in the magic of hair color like I do.  You get the picture, right?  Of course, a few changes were going to yield big results.

But, what's the answer for people like me who already do 9 out of 10 steps and still need help?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Olympic Sport: Moms Judging Moms

I'm so Busy!
I was sitting in the chair at the Nail Salon when a 40-ish, petite, blonde-haired woman sat in the seat next to me.  She announced, for all to hear, "I'm too busy to be here, so please hurry."  I turned slightly toward her and gave her a polite smile, thinking to myself, "We're getting our nails painted in the middle of the day.  How busy could we really be?"

She apparently did not get the reaction she was looking for, so she went on to say, "Will you be done in 30 minutes because I have to pick my daughter up?"

"Sure. Sure," replied the nice woman doing her  nails.

She turned to me and asked, "How many kids do you have?"

"I have two children," I replied.  I did not ask her how many kids she had because I was not interested in engaging in a conversation with her.

"Wow.  Two kids.  That must be easy.  I have six kids," she declared.

"That's a lot," I replied.

"You have no idea."

"My sister has five kids, so I'm aware of some of the challenges."

"Do you work?" she inquired of me.


"Oh, what do you do all day?"

"I'm not really sure, but the days go by quickly."

"How old are your kids?" she asked.  I guess she wasn't finished making her point that she was far busier than me.

"I have a son who is a senior in college and a son who is a high school sophomore."

"Oh my God, you are practically an empty nester.  My kids are still young.  What will you do when your youngest goes to college?  I guess what you do now."

Yeah.  More of the same.  Nothing.

I've gone to the same Nail Salon for years, so everybody who works there knows me and (I think) likes me since I've been a friendly and steady customer.  The workers use limited English, although they appear to understand much of what is being said around them.  Over a ten-year period our exchanges have been limited to:

What you getting?
Pick a color.
How your family?
Wash your hands.
Eyebrows today?
You pay now.

The person doing my nails started speaking in Vietnamese to the person doing "Busy Blonde's" nails, and they nodded and winked at me as they spoke.

I swear one of these days I'm going to invest in Rosetta Stone and learn how to speak Vietnamese.

When "Busy Blonde" left the salon, my Nail Salon friends said to me, "She has three husbands and she used to be a stripper."  "Don't listen to what she says."  "She's crazy."

"What? Oh my God, how do you know that?" I exclaimed.

"Another Mom who comes here told us.  She's her neighbor and knows the whole story.  Only two of the six kids are hers."

"Oh, so she only has two kids, too."

Not so special anymore.

And a stripper?  Bitch.

Manicurists Judging Moms = 1
Moms Judging Moms = 0

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What's "Behind" Our Underwear Issues?

There's no reason for the quotes around "Behind."  I just didn't want you to miss the play on words.

My family has issues with underwear.  Tom can't have enough, Connor wears too many, Taylor doesn't wear enough, and Bella likes to eat them.  I started to type "Bella likes to eat dirty underwear" and then I tried the word "soiled," but decided against both because what would you think of us?  Charlie Brown does not have any issues with underwear, so "kudos" to Charlie since, as you know, he's got lots of issues.  Oh, and me, I have the benefit of being the writer, so no news here about my underwear.

So, what's the deal with my family and their underwear?  Let's see.

Tom: I have no idea where his obsession with "running out of clean underwear" originated, but it goes back as long as I've known him.  As he was packing recently for a three-day business trip he asked, "Did you do the wash?"  Well, that's not a question you need to ask me because I'm obsessed with doing laundry.  "Yes, the wash is done. Why? Don't you think 40 pairs of underwear is enough for three days?"  Maybe I'm exaggerating, but he definitely packs about 12 pairs for a three-day trip.

While I agree that packing a couple of extra pairs of undies is always prudent, I have no idea what he's doing with the rest of them.  If they did not come back clean, I would definitely be more worried, but I think I'll just consider "clean underwear" Tom's security blanket.

Connor: It's probably not unusual for a teenage boy who participates in sports to wear more than one pair of underwear a day.  I actually would worry if he only wore one pair, but I can't seem to reconcile how he manages to wear 3, 4 and sometimes 5 pairs, and that's in addition to the spandex pants he wears when he's not wearing underwear.

When I ask him why he changes his underwear so much, he says he doesn't.  Hmmm.  It's sort of like the towel situation in the house.  Everybody claims to use their towel more than once, but yet things don't add up with the laundry.  Maybe one of the dogs is showering and then putting on Connor's underwear.  I obviously need a dog cam.  

I'm going to just keep washing underwear everyday and not complain because as we all know there are worse things a 16 year old boy can be doing than changing his underwear.  Right?

Taylor: When Taylor comes home to visit he always brings a giant suitcase full of dirty laundry.  He'll actually say to me, "Look what I brought you?"  I told you I like to do the laundry and there is no better challenge than a suitcase full of clothes collected from the floor of a 22-year old's college apartment, which Tom and I have only entered one time.  Once was enough.

Although he denies it, I don't think he ever does laundry at college, and so if we assume laundry only gets done when he comes home, which isn't often, he must be: (A) Wearing underwear more than once, or (B) Going commando.  My money is on Option B.

He owns about 30 pairs of underwear, and about 10 pairs of spandex pants, so based on my estimation he goes without underwear at least every other day.  I'm not sure if he actually goes every other day without underwear, or wears it for 40 consecutive days and then goes without it for 40 consecutive days.  I'll need to ask him.

Oops! Did I miss an Option?  I know he wears his girlfriend's socks and I've occasionally found her sweatpants in his wash, but I think she draws the line at her underwear.  At least I hope she does.

Bella:  Like many dogs, Bella likes to seek out and munch on underwear that has been worn.  I know that is gross, but if you have a dog, you have likely had to chase them down to retrieve a pair of undies. Bella is always underfoot, so whenever she's not around and it's too quiet in the house I can usually find her lounging on a bed enjoying a pair of panties.  I'm smart enough to bury my undies at the bottom of the hamper, but the men in this house just fling their undies casually into their hampers and Little Ms. Bella uses her pointy nose to scoop them out.

When I catch Bella in the act, she immediately leaps off the bed and runs through the house with the underwear still clutched between her teeth.  This is when Charlie gets in on the act.  He likes to play the role of "Sheriff" and chase down Bella to get the underwear back for me, but in the process there is usually a tug-of-war and the undies get ripped.  Thanks, Charlie.

That's What's "Behind" Our Underwear Issues, "butt" I bet we're not alone with our hangups, and you've probably got some stories based on how you were "reared."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What are the Irish Comics?

Irish Comics
In honor of St. Patty's Day, my Irish heritage, and because I'm a Patti, I thought I'd share my obsession with the "Irish Comics."  Also known as, the "Irish Racing Form," and the "Irish Sports Page," but you probably know them as the "Obituaries."

I know it might seem a little creepy, but I read the obituaries daily, it's a habit, and one that most of my siblings also engage in.  My grandfather was an undertaker in South Philly, and my mom grew up in a house where viewings were held in her living room, so maybe that's the source of our fascination, and not our Irish roots.

"Not so," says Diarmuid O'Guillain, Professor of Irish Literature at Notre Dame who writes, "There is an Irish obsession with knowing who died."  Well we are Irish, and we are obsessed with knowing who died.

A typical exchange between my sister and I might go something like this:

Sis: Did you see that guy in today's paper?  (It does not need to be said that she's referring to the obituaries.  It's understood.  Or whom "that guy" is because that's also understood.)
Me: I did.  He was so young.  (We always focus on the young people.  It's more tragic.)
Sis: Where were donations directed?
Me: I don't think it said.  (It drives us crazy when we don't know what they died from.  Why do we care?  I have no idea.)
Sis: He was married, right?
Me: I think so, but I don't remember if he had kids.

So, we're obsessed, but we can't manage to remember any of the details.

Sometimes an exchange between my brother and I might go like this:

Bro: Did you see [Insert Name]'s mother died?
Me: Yeah, that was too bad.
Bro: Did they graduate with you or the year after you?
Me: The year after me.  (Why does any of that matter?  Don't ask me.)
Bro: She was sick awhile.
Me: I know.  It's sad.

My brother, who is a doctor, reads the local obituaries and is able to identify several people a day who were former patients.  We can't compete with him.

As I write this I realize how crazy my siblings and I might seem to you.  In fact, a psychologist would likely have a field day analyzing my family's interest in the deaths of total strangers, but it's probably no more complicated than we're just happy it's not us we're reading about, it is interesting reading, and we like to know who died.  We're Irish remember?

A recent Dear Abby response described obituaries as follows:

An obituary is more than a death announcement. It tells a story. It’s often the last memory loved ones have of someone cherished, and it’s the deceased’s introduction to a sea of strangers.  A well-done obituary is the final word on how a person is remembered.  
Does it make sense now?  We're in the "sea of strangers" meeting new people, sort of, and a well-written obituary is excellent reading.  I love learning about the old timers who left college to go to war and then returned to marry their sweethearts, finish college, have kids and grand kids.  It sounds so romantic.  I wish I knew them.
You do know the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral?

One less drunk!  
I almost managed to write a post about St. Patty's Day without ever mentioning the other habit for which the Irish are famously known.  
That is also a family habit.

Read more here: Irish funeral director observed, "The Irish see a good laugh and a good cry the way it ought to be seen."  And, you've most certainly heard the joke:  "What's the difference between and Irish wedding and an Irish funeral?  One less drunk."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Where's "the" Charger?

I don't know, but that's "my" charger!
I hear that question countless times during the day.  Sometimes it's the phone charger, other times it's the iPad, or laptop chargers.  My kids are not necessarily looking for their charger, any charger will do, and it's usually mine.

When I get any new device I promptly write my name in permanent marker on all of its accessories and anything that can be plugged in.  Of course, the boys think I'm ridiculous for doing this, but I can't begin to describe to you the joy I experience every time they try to convince me they don't have my charger and my name is written all over it.  Hee. Hee.

I charge my electronics at home, always in the same spot, when I am sleeping.  When I wake up my devices are ready for the day.  It seems so simple to me, yet my boys have not landed on a similar system, or any system for that matter.

Instead, they are always moving their charger around the house and taking it with them when they leave the house.  Then when they need their charger they can't find it.  They can't remember where they plugged it in, or they left it someplace, or someone "borrowed" it at school.  That's when they come looking for my stuff because they always know where to find it.

Where's the Charger?  I don't know, but that one's mine.  See there's my name?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Are Good Intentions Good Enough?

My Lenten sacrifices, plus no talking about the weather.
I gave up candy, ice cream and talking about the weather for Lent, which started last Wednesday.  Two days after the declaration of my Lenten sacrifices I had already blown it, on all counts.  And, on the first Friday in Lent, when you are supposed to abstain from eating meat, I had chicken tacos and dessert with ice cream.  Double fail.

I had good intentions, and I do not take my Lenten obligation lightly, it's just that I can't remember anything anymore.  Ask my tennis mates.  I forget I'm serving between points, and nobody ever counts on me to know the score.  I leave the grocery store, walk into the parking lot, and can't remember how I got there.  I should not worry about the slow start I've had with Lent, I should worry about my memory!

I never would have blown the "no eating meat on Friday" rule if Nan were alive because she always made shrimp salad served on a bed of lettuce, with tomatoes and hard boiled eggs, served with soggy french fries.  I'm lukewarm on shrimp salad, I don't like tomatoes or hard boiled eggs, but that traditional Friday in Lent dinner always tasted delicious to me.

Thank You notes are stacked on the left.
The photo above is a collection of the greeting cards that I purchased and never sent.  Another instance of my unfulfilled good intentions.  I think I also need to blame my shortcomings in this area on the absence of Nan, the "Hallmark Queen," who always reminded me of any upcoming events that required a card and pestered me until I actually mailed it.

My older sisters and sisters-in law are good with the cards, but my younger sister and I are always catching up, and it's not unusual for a cousin to receive their birthday card a month or two after the event.  What's the big deal?  It's a pleasant surprise.

As I looked through the pile of cards, there were lots of them for "DAD."  It seems the brats who expect perfection from us did not find the time to sign the cards that I bought for them to give to their Dad for a variety of holidays.  Ironically, whenever I need a card I look in my pile and I usually can't find what I need.

The question Are Good Intentions Good Enough is most relevant to me as it relates to parenting.  I try really hard to be a good parent and a good role model, but I'm not always successful.  Taylor was home from college on spring break and he and Connor were reminiscing about when they were younger.  Fortunately, I was there to defend myself.

Son 1: Remember when Mom locked herself in her bedroom?
Me (to them): I did not.
Me (to self): That seems vaguely familiar.

Son 2: Oh yeah, she did that a few times.

Me (to them): You're making that up.
Me (to self): It might have happened more than once, but definitely no more than three times.

Son 1: How about the time she threw me out of the car down the shore?  I was like 12 years old.

Me (to them): I promise you that never happened.
Me (to self): It absolutely happened, and I wanted to run him over too.

Son 2:  Mom threw you out of the car?  Was it running?
Me (to them): Are you kidding asking that question?
Me (to self): Okay, maybe it was not a complete stop, but he was athletic enough to jump out.

I should also add that this exchange took place in front of Taylor's girlfriend.  When I was a kid I would never have said a disparaging thing about my mother to anyone but my sisters, let alone tell stories like they were telling about me.  Things have changed.  Where's the loyalty?

All the good we do as parents and this is the kind of stuff they remember?  When we act like nuts?  Parents should get a club card, like you get at food stores, and accumulate points for all of the good things we do, and then when we do have that rare inappropriate outburst we lose a few points.  No big deal.  I am confident I would have a large surplus on my club card despite my transgressions.

I am generally a very easy going and level-headed person, but my kids know how to push my buttons, specifically, the "flip out" button.  Maybe it's genetic because my boys think my younger sister flips out the same way I do.  Oh well, I know she has good intention too.

Are Good Intentions Good Enough?  I hope so.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Confessions of a Science Fair Mom

The Effects of Light on Plants.  That's a new one!
When did Science Fair projects become a thing?  I went to elementary school in the '60's and '70's and I never did a Science Fair project.  When my oldest son was in grade school Science Fair projects became an annual "family" event in our house.

I was reminded of the annual Science Fair drill when my sister's son solicited my family to be study participants in his project.  He was conducting a study on the effects of sitting in a hot tub on a person's blood pressure.  We had to first sign permission forms, and then have our blood pressure recorded before and after immersing ourselves in a hot tub.

It did not appear as though it was my nephew's project, as my sister slapped her blood pressure cuff on the study participants, screamed the results at her son, and then double-checked what he wrote down.  It was a little tense.  Just saying.

My oldest son always did bogus projects, and always seemed to win a prize.  In fact, in 8th grade he and his best friend advanced to the county-level competition.  Their project attempted to determine the distance a football traveled at various weights.  About 30 minutes after they started the experiment I asked them if they needed a piece of paper and pencil to record their results.  "Oh, okay," was their response.  The boys spent several hours throwing the football, but it mostly looked like a catch.

I'm guessing most of the data was manufactured, which is probably no surprise to anyone who is a teacher, or a parent with science project experience.  Their display board was put together by my younger son, who was 7 years old at the time, whose OCD was put to perfect use lining up the letters on the poster board.  I was grateful for his help.

At our school, the Science Fair Open House was a big night for the kids, as they proudly stood next to their display boards and tried to answer questions about their project.  I remember walking around the Open House and observing some poster boards that looked as though they were put together by a middle schooler and thinking, "That's a shame they didn't have anyone to help them."  That's weird, a middle school project that looked like it was completed by a middle schooler!

Admit it, you helped your kids, and on the day the projects were judged, you asked, "How did WE do?"  Come on?  I know I'm not the only one, and I just told you about my sister.  (Remember, I've warned you before that this is not a blog where you'll find Good Parenting Tips.)

How did we end up getting so involved in our kids' school work?  I don't think my mother knew what grade I was in most years.  Don't be critical, she probably could get within +/- one year.  That's pretty good for 8 kids.  I, on the other hand, know everything about every teacher my kids have ever had.  Just kidding, a little.

I know there is no way my mother would have driven me to Michael's Craft Store to spend money on a display board and other supplies for a science project.  She would have said, "That's a ridiculous waste of time and money."  And, I think she might have been on to something.

Okay, I'm sure some kids are good at this kind of stuff, and maybe I'm just being sour grapes because we're not "science" people in our house.  Well, maybe I am a little, if you count studying the results of various wrinkle creams as science.

A possible solution to the Science Fair Project dilemma might be to hold an "optional" Science Fair for those kids who have an interest in all things science.  The rest of the kids can participate in a Dodge Ball Tournament.  My boys would have been all over that option.

Any Science teachers reading this, please don't get mad at me, I'm just making an observation about the cost/benefit analysis of the amount of time and money expended on Science Fair projects.  And, don't forget the energy spent on the family fighting that goes on in pursuit of a coveted 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place ribbon.  Honorable Mention ribbons don't count.  Just ask any kid that's ever gotten one.

As an aside, we went out to celebrate the Science Fair win.  Of course, there was a celebration.  My son wanted sushi and my husband who typically handles the ordering was not with us, so I ordered six sushi rolls.  My son wanted six pieces, but what I ordered was 36 pieces because I did not know that a sushi roll = six pieces of sushi.

I was hysterical laughing as the waiters brought out tray after tray of sushi to the table.  Apparently, I'm not a math person either.

Monday, March 3, 2014

If You're Not Happy, Get Happy

Get Happy!
"If You're Not Happy, Get Happy."

This was advice I overheard Nan giving to one of my siblings one day.  She went on to say, "Do you think I was happy when your father died and left me with all you kids?  Because I wasn't.  If You're Not Happy, Get Happy."  That wasn't the feedback they wanted to hear.

Growing up in a big family has its advantages.  There's too much going on to focus on any one person's issues, and as a consequence you learn how to get up after you fall down.  Nobody cares if you don't want to eat, you're disappointed, you're not happy, you're stressed out, you're depressed, etc.  Really, nobody cares.  And, as a result, most of the time you end up forgetting that you were any of those things.

We're not perfect parents, but we try to do our best.  Nan was not a perfect parent, but she tried her best, and her advice "If You're Not Happy, Get Happy" was her life strategy.  I've yet to meet another person like Nan.  She was the strongest person I know.  She renewed her passport after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and perplexed every medical professional with her fortitude.

Near the end of her life she was unable to speak and had to use a white board to communicate, sometimes we would write our responses too.  Her sense of humor was intact until the end, one whiteboard exchange went like this:

Nan:  Why don't I die?
Me:  I don't know.  Do you want me to help you?
Nan:  That's murder.
Me:  Do you want to do it?
Nan:  That's suicide.  We're stuck. (With a smile.)

She was totally in control of the situation.  She said goodbye to all of us and planned her funeral.  She picked her pall bearers, the readings at her mass, where donations should be directed, and she insisted we have a big blowout party. (Note to Nan: As you requested, several people were very drunk at the party.)

In control until the end.  In fact, she died at home because that's where she wanted to be.  The last six months were very hard and we finally arranged for hospice care to help us.  The first day the hospice nurse came to the house she ordered a hospital bed which was delivered that afternoon.

Always in control, Nan gave the men who delivered the bed a tip and then she gave them the love seat that was moved out of the way to make room for the bed.  I'm not kidding.

She died that night.

"If You're Not Happy, Get Happy."  Words to live by.