Thirty Things for Which I am Thankful

This is the time of year we count our blessings, of course. There’s a trend I didn’t see on Facebook this year of each day posting one thing for which we’re thankful. I’ve never done it there, and as it seemed to be “out” I decided I'd do something like that here instead, and present them all at once. In no particular order, here are 30 things for which I am thankful.

1.       Let’s get the sloppy stuff out of the way first, because I do sentimental very badly. Presence of husband and children in my life, health of aforementioned, health of self, presence of extended family and their health. Grateful: check.
2.       Friends. Without friends I’d be…well, friendless.
3.       Chocolate. Self-explanatory, I think.
4.       Office supplies. I love office supplies and could spend every penny I ever earned or ever will earn on notebooks and magnets and pens and Post It notes.
5.       Facebook. I get no end of pleasure out of Facebook. Oh, I have my gripes with it, but overall it’s fun.
6.       Wine
7.       Wine (I’m grateful for both red and white)
8.       Dishwashers and washing machines. Because if I had to do all my own dishes and hand wash all my own clothes, I would be starving and naked.
9.       Glassybabies. If you don’t know what these are, go here.
10.   Wood burning fireplaces. Especially on rainy or very cold days when I can con my husband into building me a fire and keeping it going all day.
11.   Sunglasses. They’re not so much an ocular aid as a hair accessory. Unless it’s dumping down rain, you will find me with a pair of shades on my head. Sometimes I wear them even when it’s dumping down rain.
12.   Enchilada sauce. I know that sounds weird, but it’s one of those products that really does taste as good as something you could get in a restaurant.
13.   That the concept of “X-treme” everything seems to have faded.
14.   Christmas earrings. At last count, I have enough to wear a pair from December 1 to December 24 without repeating once. Clearly I need one more pair.
15.   Sarcasm. I love sarcasm. You probably hadn't noticed.
16.   Fran Lebowitz, David Sedaris, Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, Bill Watterson, Bill Bryson, and Berkeley Breathed. Talented comic writers all, each of whom has made an impression on me.
17.   Bugs Bunny/Road Runner cartoons. There are none finer.
18.   That my kids genuinely like the pizza I make at home, second only to what we can get from the delivery place.
19.   Grammar, punctuation, and syntax. All three are invaluable. Without it, you're just an endless misplaced comma joke on the internet.
20.   That “Sam & Kat” has been cancelled. There is a just and merciful God in Heaven.
21.   That my kids no longer bring home artwork that involves glitter. That shit sheds off projects and it’s impossible to eradicate from one’s home.
22.   Those little clear plastic things you can wear to keep from losing earrings on french wires. Those things are genius.
23.   Purell. My kids apparently have a hand washing phobia, but they’ll use Purell after they use the bathroom, so this ensures they don’t get cholera.
24.   That I live in a time when life isn’t just a never ending camping trip. That we have indoor plumbing and vacuum cleaners and heat pumps and blow dryers.
25.   That I also have lived to see a time when I can buy just the song I like, without having to buy the whole album.
26.   Leave in conditioner.
27.   Profanity. I love to swear. Sometimes I do it more than others, and I try not to do it too much, but when swear words are the right word, they’re the right fucking word.
28.   That Silly Bandz and Pokemon are no longer a thing in my house. Hoping that Minecraft will follow close behind them.
29.   That I’ve been able to come up with almost 30 things without getting schmaltzy.
30.   And finally, blog readers. Yes, you! You right there with your finger on the down arrow button. If it weren’t for you, I’d be readerless and sad. So thanks for stopping by and come back again soon!

How to Humiliate Your Tween or Teen

Parents have been unintentionally humiliating their kids since the first time Cain said to Eve, “You’re not really going to wear that outside are you?” Sometimes, however, even the best parent feels an urge to take the opportunity to inflict a little of the searing shame they felt at their own parents’ behavior. I offer here some insight into the best way to do that.

As sensitive as kids are to what they label “weirdness,” just by being yourself you’re likely to succeed. But with very little extra effort, you can really knock it out of the park. This extra effort takes the form of perceived nonconformity. If your kid thinks you’re not like the other parents, it’s sufficient to cause him or her to want to dry up and blow away with embarrassment.

Here are a few steps that I promise will reap results:

Step 1: Acquire a tween or teen
This isn’t hard to do. The simplest (and by “simplest” I really mean “most common”) way is to have a baby and wait ten years.

Step 2: Expose yourself to their music and deem a couple of their songs “kinda catchy"
If it were up to your tween, you wouldn’t listen to any music. You would be someone who reached adulthood, and ceased to consume any form of melodic sound. Why? Because then you would have no opinion on what they’re listening to, nor would you have a bunch of weird old people stuff that you liked to listen to.
The music our kids listen to isn't that far removed from what we ourselves listened to (although I will say it sort of disgruntles me when a popular song starts off with the opening riff from "Tainted Love" but turns into a rap song), so it's not hard to find at least a couple of songs you like among theirs. Then, in spite of the fact that clearly every other parent likes Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," your kid will be mortified that you know the words and can sing along.
A car seat butt dance to any song is tween humiliation gold.
Step 3: Get dressed
There will come a time when nothing you put on your body will satisfy your teen. Everything you don will be deemed “weird.” Asking, “And just what do you want me to wear?” after you have changed three times to try to find something satisfactory to wear to an event with them will illicit only the very frustrating response, "Just, like, what all the other moms wear!” Pointing out that your wardrobe is almost identical to every other mother of every other eighth grader will be futile. You will need to stop trying to pacify, and use this as an opportunity to disgrace your child.
Obviously you don’t want to make a spectacle of yourself either, but picking a single thing—unusual earrings, a slightly wacky scarf, unconventional shoes—and wearing that with a simple pair of jeans and t-shirt will suffice. Your teen will be convinced that everyone in a two mile radius has noticed this aberration, and is tittering behind their hands about it with everyone else within the two mile radius. You win.

Step 4: Talk to them
It’s bad enough that you exist, but then you want to, like, communicate with them. And sometimes you try to use their vocabulary. Translate it into their native tongue, as it were. Remember how ghastly it was the first time your own mother declared herself “grossed out to the max”? 
So it is with your own teen or tween if you tell him or her you want to take a selfie to post on Facebook, end a sentence with “BOOM!” or use a “verbal hashtag” (ex. “I was singing along to ‘Shake It Off’ and my friend Jennifer said, ‘I totes love that song!’ and I was like ‘hashtag Swiftyrules’!”) they will be appalled and disgraced at your unseemly behavior. Kids are convinced that their language is unique and cool long after it’s become mainstream. The reason kids are constantly coming up with new slang terms is to try to keep grownups from using their vocabulary.

In closing I want to assure you that while it’s nice to make the effort to humiliate your child, you don’t really have to try that hard. As I said, parents have been unintentionally mortifying their children since the dawn of time, simply by having the audacity to exist. Sometimes your presence will be sufficiently awful for them that you may even find yourself feeling sorry for them. Those feelings are likely to evaporate as soon as they say, “Do you have to play those dorky ‘Purple Rain’ songs all the time?” so it’s always good to have a few retaliatory strategies in mind.

Not Picky

My oldest has started recording Minecraft videos. If you’re not familiar with the concept, this means he records himself playing the game for awhile, then puts the video on YouTube for the world to watch. I had no idea there was such a demand for videos of blocky graphics with a soundtrack of a pre-teen boy saying, “So…yeah,” every two and a half minutes.

He’s very excited about it, to the point that every other word out of his mouth is “record,” and every plan he relates to me of his future—ten minutes from now or ten years from now—includes a provision for “recording.”

During these conversations, I’m reminded of the wife of a former coworker, who almost got herself strangled for a similar transgression. I’m willing to put up with this  behavior in my kid, but in a relative stranger it was unforgivably aggravating.

Her husband and I were on a business trip together, and since he was staying for two weeks, she joined him for the second one. Our time overlapped by only one day, but it was a very long day.

We collected her at the airport, and on the drive to the hotel (approximately 30 minutes) she proved herself to be amazing: competent, efficient, and skilled. I know because she told me. Six times.

She was also apparently a horseback rider, and we were near an area that’s famous for its horses. She was planning to hit up a nearby stable and do a little riding. I know this because she told me. Fourteen thousand times.

“I was thinking of doing a little sightseeing. If I’m not riding, that is.”

“I’ll probably go shopping for presents for the kids on Thursday, unless I’m riding, of course.”

“I’m thinking of riding on Tuesday, so that might not be the best night to go out for a fancy dinner.”

But the best thing, the thing that made me want to shove her under a train, was that night when we went out to dinner.

There was an area where lots of restaurants were clustered together, so we went there. She assured me that she was not at all particular, and anything would do. We examined the first menu board. Her husband and I both said it looked fine. She pursed her lips.

“I don’t know…there’s not really anything here that strikes me…” We walked away to check out another restaurant while she breezily declared, “But you know, I’m easy—I’ll eat anything.”

Next restaurant.

“Well…I’m not really in the mood for Mexican.” Off we went.

“But I don’t care—anything is fine with me. I’m not a picky eater.”

Oh yeah? From what I can tell you’re actually what picky eating would be if picky eating were given human form and a superior attitude. But whatever.

Finally, on the recommendation of the maître’ d of another restaurant (Him: “What kind of food were you hoping for?” Her: “Oh, I’m not particular—I eat everything.” I rolled my eyes so hard it took 15 minutes to get them back in place after that exchange), we found someplace she would deign to sample. They served seafood. We ordered and our meals arrived. Because I was raised with manners, I asked how her entrée was. I didn’t actually care.

“Oh, well, you know, it’s okay, but this is a citrus sauce, and I sort of prefer a cream sauce.”

It took every ounce of self-control I had not to lose my shit. I wanted to say, “Then why did you not read the fucking menu, where it said that the dish you ordered was served with a citrus sauce and not a cream sauce, you self-involved, conceited, irritating twatwaffle?

You will understand when I say I was not disappointed in the least when she declared she was too tired for any further socializing after dinner. No chance for us to become lifelong friends? Darn.

I have no idea if she rode. I have no idea if she was able to find seafood with a cream sauce. I got on an airplane the next morning and left before the urge to shove her under a train became overwhelming. Or rather, became irresistibly overwhelming.

Have you ever wanted to shove someone under a train? Have you ever had someone who was clearly an exceptionally picky declare that they were not? Do you prefer cream sauce, or citrus sauce?

7 Things My Kids Refuse to Do

Kids are often reluctant to do things that to adults are very basic and instinctive—we hang up jackets, take glasses to the kitchen, and recycle cans. We’ve learned that these are things inanimate objects won’t do by themselves, and no one else will do for us. While kids haven’t yet learned that coats do not spontaneously find hooks from which to suspend themselves, they also have a high tolerance for crap on the floor. My kids would rather step over something a thousand times than pick it up. While this isn’t unique to my children, nor is it likely to be the lead story on the ten o’clock news, it did make me think about some other things my kids refuse to do, which completely baffle me.

Loosen their shoe laces
A couple of my boys wear high top sneakers fairly regularly. It’s not a carefully guarded secret that the easiest way to get one’s foot into a high top—or really, any sneaker—is to loosen the laces so that the opening is wide enough to accommodate more of the foot as it slides in. And yet, my children seem to see this as an irreversible act. They insist on trying to jam their foot in with the laces as tight as they were when the shoe was taken off the last time, then declare that there’s something wrong with the shoe, because they can’t get their foot in. News flash, boys: it’s not the shoe.

Keep their socks on
Seriously, if I have to ask, “Oh for god’s sake, who left their socks on the coffee table?” one more time, I will probably spontaneously combust.

Put on shirts or long pants
I’m the first to admit that my husband is a bit of a miser when it comes to the heat. He’s from New England, and all that stoically enduring hardships shit combined with the penny-saved-is-a-penny-earned Benjamin Franklin crap means that he likes to keep the house at a setting that feels a lot like “meat locker.”

My boys, for reasons that haven’t ever been explained, prefer to sleep in just pajama bottoms, in spite of the fact that all their pajamas are sets, and I have no problem with them sleeping in regular t-shirts. They get up and feel a slight chill, so they grab the blankets from their beds and wear them downstairs looking like the Duke of Linens & Things. This drives me to a point just beyond insane, because eventually they warm up, or go get dressed, but naturally they leave the blankets draped all over the living room furniture. Or on the floor of the mudroom (which is what happened this morning—true story).

Take things all the way upstairs
Although usually related to the blankets from their beds, this problem is not exclusively confined to that. I hand them something and say, “Take this upstairs.” Half an hour later I go up to find whatever it is on the floor, in the place they could reach when they were about five steps from the top.

Put shit in their backpacks so they don’t forget it in the morning
They will spend upwards of ten minutes finding a spot for something so they won’t forget it in the morning instead of just going to the mudroom, opening their backpack, and sticking whatever it is in there. They’ll move the item around three or four times, usually because I say, “You can’t leave that there—I’m going to have to make dinner on that part of the counter, and it will be in my way.”

Naturally they move it around so many times that the next morning they almost automatically forget to take it with them.

Dry their hair before bed
This one makes me physically uncomfortable. It’s so cold to go to bed with wet hair, and I tell them that. Occasionally the boys will let me dry theirs, but my daughter almost never will. The problem is that they wake up the next morning looking like they got the worst end of a deal involving a fork and an electrical outlet. And of course they won’t…

Let me brush their hair
You think this would be confined to my daughter, but my sons are just as bad about clutching their scalps and howling, “Nooooooooo!” when they see me pick up a hairbrush. Guys, it’s a hairbrush, not a cattle prod.

I know that my job as a parent is to raise them to be thoughtful, polite, disciplined adults (bonus points if they don’t use the word “apropos” as an abbreviation for “appropriate”). But honestly I’ll just consider myself a success if I can raise them to put their socks in the dirty clothes instead of leaving them in the living room.

Better Know a Blogger: ME! On One Funny Motha

You guys, I'm featured in Stacey from One Funny Motha's excellent series Better Know a Blogger. Every week she asks a blogger a bunch of questions, and posts their answers. (Spoiler: I got the one about grandpets wrong, even though I felt like my essay response was pretty strong. Oh well, can't win 'em all!).

Jump over and check it out! You won't be sorry. Stacey asks some really great questions. You can check back every Wednesday to see other great bloggers featured as well (or check her archives, because she's been doing this for several weeks now!)

I Probably Am Vicious and Cold Hearted

When I’m out walking around near my office, there’s something I see that always makes me think of my friend Cathy. Sorry, that kind of makes it sound like Cathy might be dead. She’s fine, in case you were worried. We live in the same city and like each other a lot, but I rarely see her. You know, sometimes you just have those friends. Anyway, there’s a sort of coffee shop thing that I pass every now and then, and I think of Cathy when I do. I almost always have to stifle my laughter so the people around me don’t think I’m a mental patient out on a day pass.

Cathy and I worked together a few years ago. Even after we both left that company, we remained friendly. When she got a new gig that brought her to an office building near mine, we’d meet for lunch occasionally.

One Spring day we wanted to get together but, for reasons that escape me, neither of us had time to sit down and eat. We agreed to meet and walk someplace to get lunch. The problem was we both wanted something different. I agreed to walk along with her where she wanted to go, then she’d walk with me, and we’d go back to our respective offices to eat. It was a pretty day, and we both wanted to get out.

First stop was the coffee shop in question that always sets me giggling. She bought a sandwich and a bottle of water. We recalibrated, and headed toward the offering of my choice. As we walked, she emoted about the gloriousness of the weather, some good news she’d gotten, several other topics, all accompanied by enthusiastic hand waving, and gesticulation with the sandwich bag and the water bottle.

Along the way, we met a woman who was a coworker of mine, who turned out to be a dear friend of Cathy’s. Cathy was delighted to see this friend—apparently they hadn’t spoken in some time—and there was more excited gesturing. As we continued on our way, Cathy expressed her pleasure at running into the friend, happily waving her sandwich and water to underscore her emotions.

We got to the deli where I wanted to buy my lunch. It wasn’t very crowded, but there were one or two people ahead of me. I got in line, and Cathy sat down to wait for me at one of the little tables they had set out. She put her sandwich bag on the table in front of her, and decided to open her water to have a drink.

She cracked the safety seal, and water spewed out in a fountain, fizzing everywhere. The geyser lasted whole seconds, sending water all over the table (although not on her sandwich) and the floor next to her. As the flood subsided, she sat there dumbfounded, staring at the puddles of water, I presume waiting for a dove with an olive branch. I confess, I started to laugh.

The woman who worked in the deli came out and mopped it up, and Cathy grabbed some napkins to clean up the table. I was still laughing when we left to walk back to our offices.

“Why is this so funny?” Cathy snapped (although to be honest, she wasn’t really angry).

“Because all the whole time we were walking, you were waving that bottle around like an overcaffeinated majorette in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Didn’t you know it was carbonated water?”

“No! I had no idea! And if you knew, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I didn’t know!” I said. “I assumed you knew what you were buying. How do I know what you bought?”

Mind you, I was still doubled over in hysterics and practically in tears. She finally dismissed me as vicious and cold hearted. I laughed all the way back to my office.

Cathy no longer works near me, so I am safe from exploding carbonated water bottles at her hands, but the memory can still make me laugh to this day. Maybe she’s right—maybe I am vicious and cold hearted.

Have you ever had a bottle of water explode all over you? Have you had someone laugh at something you did so hard that they cried? Have you ever been declared to be vicious and cold hearted?