Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Girl, Interrupted

Today was quite a leisurely day - one of the advantages (and constant reminders) of unemployment. Anyway, I did some work in the morning, did a quick workout, met Hayley's boyfriend's stepmom for a 2.5 hour lunch (!!!), then started to head home. Got a phone call that sick Hannah was feeling well enough to attend rehearsal, so I picked her up and drove back to the high school. Thinking I had to pick up Arlie soon, I decided to "kill time" by picking up a coffee and checking my email at Tully's. Ordered a lovely pumpkin spice tea latte and an almond croissant, picked a chair in the sun and settled in to check email, make lists and just take a break. Then my phone rang:

Arlie: "Where are you??" (said in panic stricken voice)
Me: "Uh, running errands." (ok this was a lie but if there was an emergency I certainly didn't want to increase my guilt by admitting I was having a coffee break.)
Arlie: "The dogs are barking and screaming and howling and freaking out and I don't want to be here alone!" (dogs can scream?)
Me: "They do that all the time. Just tell them to shut up!"
Arlie: "Oh, ok."

So, since my reverie was interrupted, I decided to head to Walgreen's to run a real errand. I had to wait for a prescription so I wandered the aisles and enjoyed a moment to just "window shop". Then my phone rang.

Hayley: "Uh, yeah, mommy? I'm having a little PROBLEM with my car."
Me: "What kind of problem?"
Hayley: "Well, it's smoking. A lot. Like tons of smoke came out of my hood."
Me: "Are you driving now?"
Hayley: "No, I'm in the school parking lot. Our rehearsal got out early."
Me: "So, where DID you drive?"
Hayley: "To Taco Bell."
Me: "Why did you go to Taco Bell? We're going to have dinner soon!"
Hayley: "To get something for Austin."
Me: "So you drove Austin?"
Hayley: "Uh, yeah. So, there's smoke coming from like the radiator or something."
Me: "Did you check the fluids?"
Hayley: "I don't remember how to do that."
Me: (explains how to check radiator fluid. Confirm it's low. Don't know the answer to "can I just put water in it?" when it says "coolant goes here" so call husband. Many phone calls go back and forth.)
Me: "Can you tell where the smoke is coming from?"
Hayley: "Yeah, it's like this cannister or cylinder thingy. You know and it goes all the way to the back?"
Me: "Back of what?"
Hayley: "Back of that cavern thing that the engine is in. It's like as big as if you put my two hands around it, and it's black and it goes all the way back."
Me: "Can you have someone start the car while you look under the hood to see where the smoke is coming from?"
Hayley (does as instructed) "Yeah, there's a big rip or tear or crack or something in that hose. I think that's my radiator hose."
Me: (Calls husband. Calls ex-husband. Determine this is out of my expertise and involves things like duct tape. Let the guys deal with it)

So, I go home. And by this time Harrison and  Arlie have been home alone for a couple of hours. I find Arlie sitting at the computer where a bowl of a cornstarch/water mixture is perched dangerously close to the keyboard. I point at it and Arlie says "Harrison." I yell at Harrison to get it out of the office and discover he's watching TV and has not done his chores or homework. Yell at Harrison for not obeying the rules when I'm gone and tell him I'm going to hire a babysitter for him. Check the "pulled pork" in the crock pot that has become dangerously close to becoming something I like to call "burned beyond recognition", then head upstairs to unload drugstore items and switch laundry around.

Check email, Facebook, blog. Then my phone rings.

Hannah: "Ok, so our car is stupid. There's like this crack in the radiator and we were at school, and these guys......"
Me: "I already know the story."
Hannah: "Ok, well this is going to take FOREVER and I have a headache and I just want to come home."
Me: "I am not driving down there to pick you up just because you're bored. I'm home making dinner and it's a waste of gas. Just suck it up, hang tight, and you'll be home within the hour."

Now, I'm off to finish dinner and fold the mountain of towels on my bed before making pumpkin bars, carving pumpkins, making sure the broken car gets fixed, and trying to finish all the other things I didn't get to today because I was busy "relaxing". I could really go for another pumpkin spice tea latte right about now! Or a Valium/Tequila cocktail.

October Picture Blitz

Hayley - Homecoming 2010

Homecoming 2010
Beautiful girls!

Max and Hayley - Homecoming 2010

Jeff tiled our bathroom floor! 

Jeff's new "business" photo
Mission Impossible!

Hayley scores money from mom!

Shade enjoys some ice cream!

Hannah and Dannie - Bothell Blackout Game

Jasmine, Hayley, Brie
Arlie takes care of her little brother Isaac

On a field trip
Fun with foamy paint!

Halloween potluck with neighbors

Harrison tries out his Halloween costume!
Pumpkin patch outing!

Pumpkin patch with the neighbors

Indiana Jones!

Hayley, Max, Harrison, Elizabeth, Grace, Hannah, Arlie, Abbie

Beautiful sunny fall day!




Monday, October 18, 2010

Plastic way, Jose!

I took Hayley to the dermatologist today. I asked our family doctor for a referral to a "regular" dermatologist, one who didn't see dollar signs on your flawed skin as soon as you walked through the door. Let's just say she failed miserably! My first clue came when I received a confirmation email from an "aesthetic and surgery center" and thought, WTF? I did not make an appointment at any such place. However, I recognized the doctor's name so I called to clarify. "Oh yes!" the receptionist assured me "Dr. V is a dermatologist who also specializes in aesthetic procedures." Hmmm........well, ok, if you say so.

We arrived on time to the swanky, glass and marble "office" in a trendy nearby town and began filling out forms. I spotted a photo album labeled "before and after" on the (probably imported tropical wood) waiting room table, and began to open it just as the "nurse" led us back to the examining room. The room was outfitted with a leather reclining examination chair, a "bar" of sorts with two stools facing a huge mirror, and many attractive displays of lotions and potions designed, I'm guessing, to take years off one's skin. While we waited for Dr. V I decided to leaf through the "before and after" book. Oh. My. God. First of all, it was porn, pure and simple...naked photos of boob jobs, butt jobs, and everything in between. And they were not attractive. Not even the after photos. Each photo explained what procedure had been done. Some photos were hard to distinguish between "before" and "after". Some were not so hard - like the boob enhancement of saggy, stretch-marked boobs that were augmented to be not-so-saggy, large, stretch-marked boobs. Some faces had been treated to some type of procedure that was photographed in stages. Day 3 was horrifying. These people looked like the crypt keeper - skin literally peeling off their faces. In fact, it appeared their entire face was peeling off. Disgusting!

I paid particular attention to the liposuction photos. Because what woman, really, has not fantasized about having a giant surgical vacuum suck all their fat off, leaving them with the flat belly and taut thighs of a seventeen year old supermodel? Well, I'm here to tell you it's not that glamorous. Where women once had large bellies or cottage cheese thighs, there remained the exact same appearance only a tiny bit smaller. All I could think of was how much these procedures must have cost. For thousands of dollars, people will allow an "aesthetic" surgeon to suck fat, inject collagen, lift brows, and end up looking like.........well, pretty much the same person. Sure, a few pounds of fat sucked off might make your jeans fit better, but I've seen the photos, honey, and naked you still look like crap!

Which brings me to my point. Why? Why manipulate your body in such a manner? It's surgery and it's not pretty. Smooth, taut skin and a flawless complexion are gifts bestowed upon very few lucky humans and no amount of plastic surgery can replicate it. So, why even bother?

Now, I'm 5 feet, two inches and I wear a size 16. I'm not small by any means, and I could certainly lose 20 or 50 or 75 pounds and make myself smaller. And I do try to eat healthy and exercise and I want to be a healthy weight because, well, it's healthier! I want my cholesterol to be in the normal range and my blood sugar to be steady and all those good things. My skin is not flawless. There's a little redness I'd like to have zapped away, and maybe a few age spots I'd like to disappear. But not bad enough to watch my  face peel off in layers for days. Not enough to remove one "flaw" on my body and be left with another flaw in the shape of a scar. I have stretch marks on my belly - because I had babies! I have back fat and cankles and what I affectionately call "elephant knees" but I cannot imagine going "under the knife", as it were, to change those things. I'm not all that excited about walking a bazillion miles or doing countless hours of yoga to reshape my body and "fix" my flaws, but at least I'll get the heart-healthy cardio benefits and be flexible - two things the aesthetic surgeon cannot gift me through surgery.

Like any woman, I have a love/hate relationship with my body and I spend many hours loathing and bemoaning the state of my being. But I know that all the bumps and ridges and marks and imperfections on my body are a roadmap of my life. From the chicken pox scars to the post-surgical laproscopic incision scars,  from the cottage cheese thighs to the adult acne, I'm as flawed as the next person. But I'd rather take my family on a vacation to Disneyland or frolic on the beaches of Hawaii than spend thousands of dollars plumping my lips or sucking the fat under my chin. The procedure in the "before" and "after" book that seemed to get the most coverage was the "brow lift". It made the recipients look permanently surprised. Or maybe that was just the look on their faces when they got the bill.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What's for dinner?

Last night my sister and I were having a conversation about making dinner. Ok, it was more about how we hate to cook and making dinner for ungrateful people day in and day out is a pain in the ass and don't you tell me otherwise. But I digress. The point is, she brought up an idea for a dinner delivery service and then we started talking about those places that are cropping up all over now, where for the price of one month's mortgage, you and twelve of your closest friends can go and stand around in a commercial kitchen for an evening, churning out a dozen or so "dinners" that you can pop in your freezer and take out conveniently on any given evening so that your family enjoys a piping hot, "homemade" meal instead of the usual slop you normally serve. Oh the joys! And you can drink wine while doing it, which means that come about recipe number five, you're reading the ingredient list and "1 cup cheese" turns into "1 fuck sheesh" and you end up dumping the whole bucket in. Because, hey, cheese is good! And so is this wine. Anyway.

The thing is, you create these dinners that you "just" have to add salad and bread to make a complete meal. JUST? Do you know how freakin' time consuming it is to make a salad? I love it when people say "Oh, I'll just throw together a salad and call it dinner". Whatever! You have to wash and tear the lettuce, probably breaking at least one nail on your turbo charged salad spinner, wash, chop and add other brightly colored veggies, and then toss it all with a wee bit of low cal dressing. And, hello, that's WORK and isn't the point of have prepackaged meals supposed to be cutting down on the work that is making dinner?

Then, there's the whole freezer thing. These dinner places suggest you take your meal out the day before so it can properly and safely thaw in the fridge while you go about your business. HELLO? More work, and if I could remember to take anything out of the freezer, we'd have food ready to cook every night and I've have no need for the stupid prepackaged meal service in the first place! Who remembers to thaw their meal two days before? I don't even know what I'm having for lunch at breakfast time. I can't plan that far ahead!!!

Dinner is the biggest meal of the day, prepared at the end of the day, when people are at their worst. We're tired, starving and some kid just got on our last nerve. The last thing I want to do is realize my stupid dinner is stuck in the freezer. I want to eat NOW! Never mind that the ravenous pack of kids around me can't wait one single minute and thus are chewing and slobbering their way through snacks so that by the time I've prepared a meal, they've already eaten a meal of crappy snacks. And I'm supposed to feel guilty now because  I didn't provide a nutritionally balanced dinner? Because it was stuck in the freezer and I'm so tired that even tearing a piece of lettuce requires a muscle set I'm sure has been exhausted by noon that day? Uh-uh!

So, I say, be warned, my friends! Do not be fooled by the wine and the "girls' night out" at those make-your-own-dinner places. Sure, you'll have fun assembling ingredients and chatting it up with your friends. You will exclaim over adding oregano to a chicken recipe like you just found the freaking holy grail, and a little light will go on inside you saying "oh, I could totally make this at home". But do not be fooled! You will go home with twelve large-sized ziploc bags full of delicious meals for four (except there's six people in your family, stupid) and those meals will mock you in the freezer for months until, one day, very far in the future, you will pull out a mysterious rectangular lump completely encased in ice and say "what the hell is this?" and dump it in the trash. Dinner's Ready? No it fucking isn't! Just open a can of Spaghetti-o's for the kids and take that bottle of wine into the bathtub with you. You'll save money AND feed your family and what's not to love about that?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shish kabob - a pretentious food........

First off, I'm not even sure that's how you spell it. Spell check told me it is, so, much like the reliable source, Wikipedia, I'm choosing to believe it. Today I passed an "Indian food" restaurant called Kabob House. And I started to think about shish kabob. I mean, what a stupid idea. Let's take a piece of meat, cut it into tiny pieces of meat, and put it on a stick with a bunch of veggies. Why? Seriously. Why? It takes a ton of time to create all those skewers of meat and veggies when you could just slap it all on the grill and forgo the sticks. And the really ridiculous part? You take the food OFF the stick before you eat it!! So, what is the stick for? It's simply a tool to hold the ingredients together on the grill. Well, guess what? A steak doesn't slip through the grates and they make veggie baskets. So, pony up for a new grill accessory and lose the sticks already! Shish kabob indeed! Speaking of which, what is "shish"? I mean,  I get the kabob part (kabob n: food on a stick) but shish? Unless that's a version of a word you might say when you stab yourself in the finger trying to remove the food from the skewer, I am in the dark. What IS shish kabob? 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grizzly Adams......

I do believe my husband is a modern-day Grizzly Adams. Remember the iconic character from the 80's, the grizzled man who lived in a cabin in the woods and had all sorts of adventures with his pet grizzly bear, Ben? He was a simple man - didn't need much - just a roof over his head, a sharp stick to pick his teeth with, and a cast iron skillet. And that's where my husband comes in.

As of late, Jeff enjoys making himself an egg in the morning for breakfast. But he doesn't "make" an egg. He "sets an egg to fryin'" (his words) in his long-forgotten but newly rediscovered cast iron skillet. While his egg is sizzling, he does his morning routine of feeding the dogs. By the time he returns to the kitchen, his egg is perfecly fried and he consumes it with gusto. But then.........then he leaves the cast iron skillet on the stove, still greasy and speckled with salt and pepper. Because any good mountain man knows you never wash your cast iron skillet. Why, all that leftover grease and grime just adds "flavor" to the next meal cooked in it!

I believe my husband does this because he truly wants to be a mountain man. He's a simple guy, with a love for all things outdoors. In fact, when indoors, he often forgets he's NOT outdoors and behaves as such. Wipe off the counter? We don't do that while camping. Leave a pheasant pelt hanging up to dry on the side of the house? Why not? Well, because we live in suburbia. But Jeff likes to forget that.

I wonder sometimes if I can truly provide the happiness and companionship he needs as a suburban housewife. I mean, Grizzly Adams didn't even have a girlfriend, and seemed perfectly content to cuddle up to his giant bear. We may live in the suburbs, but Jeff's heart is in the wild. He asks me to subscribe him to "The Reel News" and "Outdoor Life". There's a turkey call on my dresser. The bookshelf is filled with Patrick McManus novels praising all things outdoors.

So, what's a woman to do? I happily accompany him fishing, camping, crabbing and clamming (silently thanking God that Jeff decided to splurge on a pop-up camper a few years back, thus saving me from tent camping in the pouring rain). I've yet to accompany him hunting because - well - slogging through a grassy marsh while holding a firearm for the sole purpose of filling a small pheasant full of lead shot just doesn't rank up there with, say, getting a pedicure.

Still. I really think Jeff could be happy growing a beard, not showering for days, eating off  the land and holing up in a dank cabin with a bear. But I'm glad that, for now, he's keeping up his other persona of buttoned-up businessman. Well, perhaps not so buttoned up. He's more of a top button opened, t-shirt showing, slightly wrinkly businessman. But I love him just the same, especially when I hear him knocking around the kitchen, settin' his egg to fryin' before he heads off to the hang with the suits - perhaps with a pheasant feather stuck to his shoe.......

Friday, October 8, 2010

When I was your age.......

Jeff and I had an interesting and animated conversation this morning about the things we did to make money when we were kids. Jeff, at age 11, decided he wanted to buy a horse. His mom said "no horse" but encouraged him to save up the money himself if he really wanted a horse that badly. So he did. Among the many odd jobs he had was janitor at a daycare center and buying used dryers out of the classified ads in the paper, cleaning them up and reselling them for a profit! Soon enough he had money for his horse! A pretty big goal to accomplish at such a young age.

When I was 15, I walked into a brand new daycare center that opened up not far from my house. I told them  I was a sophomore (true) so they assumed I was 16 and old enough to work there (not true). But I got hired anyway, and was thrilled to be making $3 an hour. I started in September and worked every day after school 3-6 p.m. taking care of two year olds. In December I got a raise to $3.35. That month I got my biggest paycheck (for working a few extra days on the weekends when the center opened up for "holiday shopping" daycare) and it was $181. I was so happy! Over the course of that year, I saved up $1300 and treated myself to a trip to Ohio to visit my cousin and a week in NY with my dad. From the point I started working I never asked my parents for extra money - I had my own money and when it was gone, it was gone!

Jeff and I have a lot in common in that we both started working at a young age (I started babysitting at age 9), and we both continued to work and make money through adulthood. We both worked our way through college and at times, held multiple jobs to make ends meet.

So, it's a bit discouraging to see kids now not taking jobs or working at all until they're out of high school. Sure, there are still a lot of high school kids who work, but the majority of my kids' peers (my kids included) do not have jobs, and therefore, their "spending money" is all from the bank of mom and dad. My kids argue that they don't have "time" for a job because they are involved in after school activities. I disagree. Evenings, weekends, days off school - all good opportunities to make money!

My son came up with a wonderful business idea the other day (ok, I helped a little) - scooping dog poop in other people's yards for money. Who wants that gross job? I'd pay a kid to do it (except mine does it for free! LOL). He was so motivated by the possibility of making enough money to buy an iPod touch, that he came up with a pricing program, designed a flyer......and then did nothing. He had a garage sale where he made a little over $100 and then decided he didn't really want to pick up poop. Besides, he had just figured out how many yards he'd need to scoop to earn the money, and had no intention of continuing the "business" after he made his haul. I explained he should keep doing it to generate regular income and he just looked at me like I had two heads.

When my girls get paid for a babysitting job, the money burns a hole in their pockets. It's all about spend, spend, spend and no saving. Sure there's always a few bucks for Starbucks or a Frosty at Wendy's on the way home from school, but no budget for gas or car insurance. Hm.

Of course, the natural consequences of this is that mom and dad don't finance their frivolities and they go without. Car runs out of gas? Take the bus! No money for the game tonight? Too bad. But that's not the point. What I'm trying to figure out is what motivates kids. What makes them WANT to work hard and earn money? What ever happened to the satisfaction of working hard for something and finally being rewarded with the actual object or activity?

I know that once I started making my own money, I NEVER wanted to "be without". I was always game for a way to make extra money too. At one point in college, I had my regular job, was babysitting for a few select families and also cleaned three different houses in order to bring in extra cash. And I still had time to have fun! Imagine that!

I think kids are also pretty choosy when thinking about working. Everyone wants a glamorous job, but there are far more unglamorous jobs out there just waiting for a worker bee. I knew as a high schooler that I had no desire to work in food service. So, I set my sights on daycare and it worked out wonderfully. I had a job I enjoyed and I had extra money.

When I started babysitting I made 50 cents an hour! I was thrilled to make a couple of dollars an hour when I got older. I never made more than $3-4 an hour but my kids make upwards of $10 an hour to do the exact same job. Sure, I'll allow for inflation, but babysitting is a lucrative business! When my girls come home with $60 in their pocket after a few hours of making chicken nuggets and watching TV, I don't think that's anything to turn your nose up at.

I believe part of the problem is that kids don't value money like they used to. We live in affluent suburbs where no one thinks twice about a child wearing designer clothes, taking several after school classes at hundreds of dollars a month, or playing club sports at thousands of dollars a year, that the almighty dollar is but a pittance. I've heard my kids say "it's only $10" or "wow! $50 is cheap!" and I think, $50 buys groceries for a few days at least! I admire "saving up" for a goal, such as the coveted iPod touch, but when I think about all the other things we need to spend $300 on, it seems so trivial - $300 for a music player with a webcam and WiFi? Big deal. And that's why kids need to make their own money and purchase these things themselves. Because when they work their butts off for months or years to make the $300 they need to purchase this coveted item and then accidentally leave it on the bus, or get it stolen or drop it and break it, they might realize the value of a dollar - or three hundred dollars - and think twice about what's really important. And how hard they're willing to work to get those things.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The hindrance of help.............

I did something so totally out of character yesterday it made me question myself! And in questioning myself, I realized just what a conflict we have when it comes to lending a helping hand and guarding our personal safety. Here's what happened. I was driving home from work. At a stoplight the car in front of me "waved" me on, to go around them, as they were stopped at the intersection. I pulled up alongside and saw a man, a bit older than me, alone, and asked him if he was ok (I  also noticed a handicapped placard on the rearview mirror). He said he had just run out of gas, so I  asked him if he needed some help and he said "I might!" I waited for him to pull his car over and pulled up behind him. He walked back to my car and I noticed a distinct limp when he walked. I asked if he wanted help to push his car further off the road but he said he couldn't because he had a "bum leg" from being hit by a car less than a year ago. We talked about his situation. My first thought was just to offer to run and get him some gas at a local station, but then he said he had a gas can at home, it wasn't far, and would I be willing to give him a ride? He was hesitant when he asked - obviously we both sized up the situation - nobody wants to allow a stranger in their car, right? And neither did I. I'm not even sure why I said yes, but I did and he got in the car. I honestly thought, well, here we go, this is how it ends! I could NOT believe how stupid I was to allow a total stranger in my car. Yet, there I was driving this guy to his house, then the gas station, then back to his car, all the while chatting it up like we had known each other forever. Turns out he had been hit by a car while working with a landscaping business. The driver never stopped. He spent eight months in the hospital getting his leg and face reconstructed. Eight surgeries in eight months. He hasn't worked since and is still recovering. And he just settled a lawsuit for a sum that will change his life forever. He said before the accident he just went about his life without giving much thought to anyone else. He said he'd have never stopped to help someone who ran out of gas. But he said "I believe in karma, and this accident changed my priorities. People like you, doing a good deed, that's how I'm living my life now." He also mentioned that his mother had died exactly one year previous to his accident. She had told him, on her deathbed, that she was going to be his guardian angel (she had always loved angels and collected figurines of angels). And he believed she was his guardian angel that day, because being hit at 45 mph and left for dead, he was not expected to survive. But he did. And for some reason, our paths crossed yesterday and he told me his story. Yeah, I took a gamble picking up and helping a total stranger. But I heard a great story of perserverance and hope. Read more about the accident here:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cheese, please!

I love cheese. That's why I got all excited when my husband read an article online saying cheese is good for you! YAY! I mean, we all know it's a dairy product and so it has SOME redeeming qualities, but all that cholesteral is bad for the arteries, right? Well, this article boldly states that you can consume cheese regularly and still reap health benefits! Oh. But. The amount? One ounce. Per day. Which  is basically the equivalent of a piece of cheese the size of your toenail. Sigh. Still, if you're going to eat cheese, you might as well make sure the cheese you eat is deliciously decadent. Which means, stay FAR away from that nasty, curdled, crumbled crap they call "cheese" - you know what I'm talking about - "blue cheese" (or "bleu cheese" if you want to get all French about it), gorgonzola, feta. That crap is NOT cheese. That is crumbly, rancid-tasting white stuff that smells like feet. Now, I don't know about you, but I do NOT want to have a dirty foot scent wafting from my salad. Which is why you should also leave cheese off salad, period. Cheese, that beautiful, creamy, delicious substance that should come in a brick form unless it's cream cheese or Laughing Cow in those little triangle-y packages, is a beautiful accompaniment to many foods. Hamburgers with melty cheddar - yum! Crackers and Dubliner cheese - what a treat! Cream cheese on a bagel - delightful! I love cheese with grapes, cheese with apples, cheese sticks with....something! But here's the cardinal rule. NEVER eat cheese alone. I mean, you can eat cheese when YOU are alone, but never eat cheese without an accompanying food. Because that's just gross. Cheese is not a stand-alone food. It begs to be paired with fruit or crackers or melted on top of something grilled. Unless it's the cheese that spills out of food and spreads out on a baking pan or in a skillet. Then it's "burned cheese" and it's the best thing in the world and MUST be eaten alone, without accompaniment. Preferably right out of the pan while no one is looking! Ah, cheese!