Saturday, August 29, 2015

Parental School Supply List

School is just around the corner and teachers are busy preparing their rooms for another creative and exciting year of learning for your wonderful children. This year will be chock full of homework that will be left to the last possible moment, tests to which you will assign too much significance, poster board projects which will not insure an early acceptance to Stanford, and standardized testing that will accurately predict exactly how well your child takes standardized tests. In order for your children to have a successful year please refer to this School Survival, ahem, Supply List for Parents to help you survive the next nine months reducing the likelihood of you suffering from teacher stalking, overcompensatory cupcake baking, excessive homework meddling, Parking lot mafia surveillance and massive meltdown by Columbus Day weekend.

Parent School Supply List

  • Tylenol PM for sleepless nights caused by Poster Board tampering in the form of "help"
  • Earbuds and Netflix for when Tylenol PM doesn't work
  • Membership in Wine of the Week Club; might be useful to register for the 'buy one get one' option.
  • Extra socks for everyone, as those dirty balled up wonders hide better than the cat in Alien.
  • Mindless magazine subscription, because the Winter Movie Preview issue may make or break your sanity
  • Getaway car.
  • Snacks. Of course they should be healthy, so...dark chocolate.
  • Extra pencils everywhere; in your purse/briefcase, in your pocket, in the car, in the bathroom, in the cupboard where you keep the dog food. Because quick production of said pencil could be the deciding factor in the ongoing Homework/Xbox Dilemma. 
  • A Happy Place: Figurative when you need to sidestep fruitless escalation of pointless argument about homework consistency; Literal when said argument was not successfully sidestepped.
  • A hobby, preferably portable, but any will do to remember you are more than just Mom or Dad
  • A stress ball, not to squeeze, but to throw at the wall, Steve McQueen-like, while plotting your next escape.
  • A sense of humor. If you do not have one, one can be cultivated by reading David Sedaris & Bill Bryson and watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein, WKRP in Cincinnati episodes, and the entire series of Parks & Recreation.
  • A watch with a date & time feature with two alarm settings: one set for the end of this academic year, another set for High School graduation.
Here's to another Great school year! 

(Actually, that might be overshooting a bit, putting unrealistic pressure on already stressed out students and assuming a predetermined sense of hope rather than letting the year unfold in a rolling-with-the-punches-don't-take-this-too-seriously-but-take-it-seriosuly-enough-to-appropriately-challenge-your kids-without-fomenting-anxiety-while-letting-them-fail-and-succeed-on-their-own-and-trusting-they-will-get-back-up-again-stronger-for-the-hardship-and-still-feeling-loved-and-supported kind of way.)

Here's to Another school year!

PS: Note to self, investigate existence of a Donut-A-Day club.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dear Sundance

Dear Sundance,

First off, let me just say that I'm flattered by all of your recent attention. Three catalogs in ten days?! What have I done to deserve such perseverant care. I daresay, little indeed. Yes, I did place that order during your "Extra 30% Off Sale Items Sale," but alas, that box will be returned next week since neither item fit well, but mostly since I got a recent gander at my bank account.

I will not lie though, your devotion to the chase has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Just the other day, as I sat comfortably in the bathroom, I browsed your artfully crafted pages, which strike just the right balance of repeat items from yesterday's catalog, and fresh additions to your collection. And can I just say, Bravo. Truly your publication, and, in fact, your entire existence, plays right into my particular fetish of lifestyle porn. How often have a imagined living in the Northwest in my artfully casual home strewn with your Kathmandu throw and a collection of your Driftwood bowls. Yes, that's it. Just strolling from kitchen to living room, Cambridge boots softly caressing the Desert Stripe Dhurrie Rug, as I flop down in my Azura Kilim chair brushing my tousled chestnut mane from my eyes as I finger my way through tomorrow's catalog. Mmmmmmhmmmmm. I'm not even aware that my L'Art de Vivre skirt and Mesa Sunset shirt accented by my echo belt and Denim's Best Pal earrings will provide a smooth transition from a day of work promoting my latest best selling novel about a plucky heroine who lives in Portland and stumbles onto a mystery to be solved which reveals both her depth of character as well as her modern Hepburn-esque wit to an evening out with friends on their ranch eating by the creekbed off of their Terra dinnerware collection. Oh Yeah! Then home to nestle into my Alpine Meadows bedding warmed by my Guddri Kantha quilt atop my cozy and quaint Empire Iron bed. Yes, Yes, YES!

Yes, that is the orgasmic lifestyle erotica in stark contrast to my current, cluttered and dust filled twin in Northwest Philadelphia decorated with sale sheets from Target and afghans from TJ Maxx.

Oh, Sundance, how you do turn my head with your Redfordian confidence. I fear, however, that your estimation of my worth is misguided as my annual salary amounts to that which Robert Redford makes in 87 seconds of working on a film set; or, roughly the equivalent of ordering five items from your glorious catalog. I am not strong enough, however, to break off this ongoing flirtation. Though we cannot be together now, that is no reason not to hope that "Someday" and it's perpetual promise of all that is satisfying is a lost cause. I am not ready to give up the thrill of opening the mailbox to your resplendence; and I promise that your efforts will not be ignored. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be next week, it may only be when you least expect it, or when you have your annual "40% Off Sale Items Sale," but I will buy those $20 Forever Charmed earrings, and will only bristle playfully at the $9.95 shipping charge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why Are There No Pictures of Me?

I have noticed when I am putting together photo albums, or when reviewing vacation photos to post on Facebook to communicate how joyful and normal my family is to the world, or when someone just needs a photo of me that I have a hard time finding one. The reason is simple: I am usually the one taking the pictures.

It doesn't occur to Husband to take pictures. I'm not sure if he has mastered how to take them on his IPad. I know he does not know how to take them on his office issued phone. That would require a level of engagement beyond his interests. If taking pictures promised a hastening to the start of Football season or came with a free donut, that would be a different story. Until that time, taking pictures happens only when strangers ask, or familial guilt is successfully dealt.

Teenagers 1 & 2 do take pictures, just not of family members. They take pictures of the dogs, screenshots of a final FIFA score on XBox One, a new pair of shoes, a cool car parked next to our shitty car, a Taco Bell Chalupa, and I'm sure things I do not want to know about. They do not take pictures of their parents as we are not Instagram-worthy. Their pictures are visual anecdotes.

So, there are very few pictures of me. Part of this is my fault as I have not mastered the art of the Selfie. I always look like a giant bobble head version of myself with more chins than I'd care to perpetuate. I am not sleeplessly bothered by the lack of photo documentation, but I am intrigued.

I know, someday, my kids will want a handful of pictures of me when I am long gone, unless of course I do something so hateful in the next few years that they will cut me out of the three pictures that do exist. Barring that potential offense though, they're going to want a picture of me in a CVS frame somewhere in their apartment or guest room of their house. If this is going to happen, it is incumbent upon me to make it happen. I must ask others to grapple with my phone to document my existence. I must make it happen because that is my role.

Every marriage or family has a balance of duties spoken and unspoken and this holds true for picture taking as well. There is the Chronicler and the Experiencer. It doesn't occur to Husband or Teenagers 1 & 2 to take photos because they are in the moment. They are doing it, whatever it is. They are too busy doing it to take the time to recognize that they will want to remember it. Of course the memory is forever theirs, the picture simply shuffles the memory to the top of their mental DVR. And that is as it should be. I'd rather they be doing than just watching.

I'm still not the greatest at taking pictures. I have gotten better over the years at filtering what kind of pictures we all want to look at, though I still take too many picture of the ocean. I don't mind being the Chronicler, though I really need a better title because that sounds like a small town newspaper from an Andy Hardy movie. Still, I don't mind it, because I catch my kids, every now and then, during a commercial leafing through a photo album to the point where they will actually pause their show and call me over and ask me if I remember that baseball game or that day at Universal Studios. They actually take a moment from the boredom, stress and uncertainty of their lives to review evidence of the big and small moments of awe, ahhh, and omg that have shaped who they are and who they continue to become.

So I will keep snapping away despite their protests and glares; and I will find ways to appear, Zelig like if I have to, in as many shots as I can beg off of strangers or my intrepid yet technically clueless husband. And until I think of a better name than Chronicler, I am making myself a cape, because a cape makes everything cooler.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Impractical Puppy

We're getting a puppy.

This makes no sense whatsoever.

We have a dog. Rocky. Though I always feel compelled to clarify that he wasn't named after the fictional boxer, but, much less interestingly, after a nickname my then young children had for a Pokemon character. Regardless of name derivation, he is awesome. He snores, he will lick my leg for ten minutes at a time, he drinks his water too fast and sometimes throws it back up, he likes pancakes, he considers skunks the ultimate nemesis, and he likes nothing more than to sit on your lap for hours. He is ten now and he has made us his pack and we love him beyond reason.

We live in two different places. As mentioned in a previous fascinating post, we live in two places so each son can go to the school that best suits them and helps us all maintain an unconventional and acceptable level of sanity. Logistically our lives are complicated. We are not getting a second dog for our second place, though that seems the logical answer. We'd have to pay more rent for that.

We have two teenage boys. They are like most children. They adore our dog, and will never willingly give up free time to do anything for the dog.

We have two working parents with no time for each other much less a second dog.

We cannot afford a second dog. Not because we buy designer dog food and frequent canine salons, but because we cannot afford anything right now.

The new puppy is a male, which leaves me even more outnumbered than before.

See what I mean? No sense whatsoever.

I'm picking up the puppy on Monday.

We've justified it in our minds by saying he will keep Rocky company. We've also gone the morose route believing new puppy will lessen the sadness when Rocky eventually goes to meet my childhood dog Scout in the great doggy park in the sky. These are the stories we tell the world to make the illogical seem perfectly sane.

There is nothing sane about getting a second dog. Not for us anyway. It will make our lives more insane and, let's face it, smelly; and yet I don't care. We need a little impracticality right now.

There's so much to do all the time. Got to get to work. Got to get to school. Got to do homework. Got to get to basketball practice. Got to get to rehearsal. Got to volunteer to help at basketball games and school plays. Got to go grocery shopping. Got to write that blog about the puppy. Got to visit colleges. Got to do college applications. Got to practice parallel parking. Got to finish summer reading. Got to become a better human being. Got to visit my mother. Got to check off all the things on this master list that the world and my own neuroses has prepared for me in order to have a happy and prosperous life.

Only there are so many got-to's to keep track of that there's no time or energy left to recognize happy and prosperous. Because of that the impractical is not frivolous it is vital. It is oxygen.

The impractical shifts focus, surprises us, makes us gasp with awe and laugh uncontrollably, it opens up never considered options, knocks us on our ass, scares us, makes life messy, makes life fun, and frequently gives us a fresh glimpse as to why we live in the first place. It puts the got-to's in perspective and reminds us why we are choosing that particular list of got-to's in the first place.

So here's to the impractical puppy, the illogical vacation, and breakfast for dinner. They bring peace and order to the chaos of got-to.

PS: We haven'f figure out what to name him yet, so suggest away.