Friday, May 19, 2006

Mother of the Year

“Hi. I'm running for Mother of the Year, and I want your vote.”

That has been this week’s campaign message to my key constituents - all of who reside in my own home.

I hate to admit it, but in spite of the fact that I am the incumbent and am running uncontested, this year's race seems like it is going to be a tough one to win. Lately, I’ve baked batches of cookies with reckless abandon, memorized the magical powers of about a million Yu-Gi-Oh cards and even played some bi-partisan basketball in the yard in hopes of securing my seat- but still my children seem like they're on the fence.

My husband has been doing an excellent job as my campaign manager, pointing out all of the wonderful things that I've done for the family this past year - like keeping them generally well fed, well groomed and well stocked with batteries for all of their electronic gadgets and gizmos. However, even with my “More Playgrounds” platform, all three kids still consider themselves “swing voters”.

With Mother's Day this Sunday, I only have two days left to win over my decidedly “undecided” wards. I’ve been busy barnstorming with bribes of extended bedtimes and TV privileges. I’m hoping that they’ll overlook some of the empty campaign promises I’ve made before – such as the “I Will Try To Yell Less” plan I screamed about last year.

I'd like to share with you some of my credentials for this year’s crusade for the coveted award. I think that my children should select me as “Mother of the Year”, because:

… I let them have candy whenever they want - as long as they only want it on the weekends, after they've eaten a healthy dinner including all of their vegetables and they promise to brush their teeth as soon as they’re finished!

… I’m practically a Super Hero! I have eyes in the back of my head and special radar for rule-breakers! (How else would I know if they really brushed their teeth?)

… I have been known to, on occasion, pack a nutritional black-hole in their lunchboxes called an “Oscar Mayer Lunchable”. However…if I don’t win this year, I could always stock up on the alfalfa sprouts and tofu!

… I can make crafts with glitter and a glue gun that make Martha Stewart look like an apprentice!

… I've got adorable pictures of all three kids in droopy diapers and cowboy hats that, up till now at least, I’ve kept tucked away in a scrapbook.

… I've never missed my turn as snack mom for soccer. OK, it happened once - but it really wasn't my fault! I’m sure that someone had switched that day with me - although I have nothing in writing to prove it!!!

… When we come home from the mall, it's rare that any of the clothes in the shopping bags are for me - that is, of course, until they become laundry.

… I never complain about how my kids have drained my youthful beauty and how they’ve left me with a body racked with a road map of stretch marks. (What's that, Sweeties? You have heard me complain about that before? Many times? Oh.)

… I’m a benevolent dictator who politely orders them do their homework, use their manners and write thank you notes. (Trust me kiddos, you'll thank me later!)

… They’ve already told me – repeatedly – that I’m the “Meanest Mommy in the Whole World”, which is basically the “People’s Choice” award for “Mother of the Year” anyway.

But perhaps the most compelling reason my kids should crown me “Mother of the Year” at my house is because I'm the Mom & I say so, that's why.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Some Like It Hot!

I felt it was good karma showing me a sign. A small plastic one, in fact, outside a Bikram hot yoga studio reading “ 10 classes for $10”. Wow, with a deal like that I could reach all the way to Nirvana without stretching my wallet. I took a leap of faith and signed up.

I try to live by the motto, “Never let them see you sweat”, so when I arrived for my first class, I planned to play it cool. I'd obviously never taken hot yoga before. The room was heated hotter then Hades, somewhere north of 105 degrees. A few minutes of warm-up stretching, and I was already vaporizing. I tried to pass it off as my “aura”.

The instructor said that we'd start with some breathing. “Cool”, I thought. I've been doing that on my own for years! But as he clapped out a quick count for us to draw deep cleansing breaths in - while raising our elbows to our ears and pushing our chins back with our fists - I suddenly struggled to remember how to inhale and exhale.

At that point I should have read the Sanskrit writing on the wall. This wasn't going to be one of those relaxing yoga classes with rhythmic drumming and Yanni playing softly in the background. No, this was hot yoga from Hell and my chakras were in for a quite a shock.

We were told to gaze only at ourselves in the mirror. I tried to believe that the chubby red-faced reflection staring back at me was merely the result of an unfortunate combination of unflattering lighting and a “fat mirror”. However, from the corner of my eye, I noticed a lineup of lithe beauties effortlessly contorting their hot “yoga bodies” into positions that seemed to defy the laws of nature. You could have put a “1” in front of any of their dress sizes and mine would still be considerably larger. I was sweating - they were perspiring. I also noticed that the lighting and mirrors seemed to be working just fine for them.

“Aha”, I panted, as I spotted a more mature woman across the room. Perhaps a little “Sweatin' to the Oldies” would pry me from my personal pity party. But I could only watch in awe, as this svelte senior wrapped her left leg around her right, at least three times, while twisting her arms into some Escher inspired pose. With perfect balance, she lowered her self to the ground on the tip of one toe. Blessed with the flexibility of a Popsicle stick and the balance of a sack of kittens, I stood clutching the bar on the back wall for dear life, wobbling like Jell-o as I simply tried to stand on one foot.

It wasn't until we went into the “Wind Removing Pose”, meant to stimulate digestion and massage the colon, that I realized perhaps the big bowl of raisin bran was not the breakfast of choice before a yoga class.

As the session came to an end, it seemed that my kundalini hadn't risen, but rather melted into a puddle on the floor. However, I had gained a higher understanding of the term “sweat equity”. If the human body is comprised of 75% water, I estimated then that at least half of me was now being soaked up by the Tinkerbell towel covering my soggy mat. And yet, even with that impressive water weight loss, the darn mirror still made me look fat.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the classes and I felt great afterwards. However, next week I'm trying something new! I'm checking out a slenderizing body wrap spa that just opened up in town. They guarantee that I'll be at least 6 inches slimmer as I kick back and watch Dr. Phil on TV. Now that's a workout I can handle…no sweat!

A Few of My Favorite Things...

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and love is in the air! It's a time for romance, roses and great big boxes of chocolate. Recently a sugar rush, induced by a sneak peak into a Whitman's Sampler, got my blood pumping and my mind racing. I'm not the mushy type, but as I fingered over the cream-filleds, I started to think about some of the other things that can set my heart aflutter.

It's not sappy stuff like raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens. No, I tend to enjoy some of life's more guilty pleasures. I doubt you'll ever hear Julie Andrews singing about any of these in a “Sound of Music” sequel, but here's a list of a few of MY favorite things;

- Shopping in stores that use vanity sizing. There's one shop in North Raleigh where I can instantly go from a size extra-large down to a medium petite, without even breaking a sweat.

- Not picking the slowest checkout lane in the store. I'm usually in the line with a register that runs out of tape, runs out of change or suffers from Y2K flashbacks. You'll also find me stuck behind the slowpoke clutching a fistful of coupons, who pays by check and won't be rushed to make a snap decision on paper or plastic.

- When my kid's team finally beats your kid's team. Not that we're keeping score or anything, right?

- That silly sense of schadenfreude when the team's designated Snack Mom forgets her day or even worse…brings veggie sticks. It's so nice to see my kids rolling their eyes in disappointment at a mom - who isn't me!

- Being handed an excellent health report, even though I've been terrible about keeping in shape. My girlfriend swims an hour a day just to keep her cholesterol down. For me, it's all in the gene pool, baby!

- Grade-grubbing for my kid during a parent-teacher conference that actually works. (Of course, I'd never really do that…)

- Thinking of the perfect comeback, before the person walks away.

- Having a bad hair day, on the day I have an appointment to get it cut. My hair usually chooses that day - and that day only - to be on its best behavior. How does it know?

- Pouring over the latest photos in a tabloid exposé of stars without makeup. Even better, stars without makeup…at the beach. I just can't resist those close-ups of celebrity cellulite.

- Getting a short lived, and non-contagious stomach bug. I don't care if it is water weight - it's still 5 pounds!

But most of all, I love having friends, family and a husband that I adore, who's so kind and supportive that he thinks even my grocery shopping lists are cleverly written. Hey, maybe I am a little mushy after all! Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Thank Heaven For the Handyman

My Mother was over the other day when she answered the phone for me. A polite voice inquired, Hello, is Roger handy?.

Well, my Mom confided quickly, not as a rule, but he does the best he can.

While my Mom may have misinterpreted the caller's query regarding my husband's whereabouts, she had hit the nail on the head! Although he's helpful and hardworking, Roger's just not well, handy!

Unfortunately for him, this is the time of year when the pressure to prove oneself proficient with power tools really starts to build. Following weeks of feverishly running around town merrily giving and receiving, the cold air of January brings us back indoors to quietly reflect, recover - and redecorate.

It doesn't take long for the tryptophan-induced tranquility from the holiday turkey to wear off and restlessness to set in. Only a few lazy days of lounging and remotely clicking away the time watching shows like Trading Spaces and Mission Organization, even Yankee Workshop, and you start to look around and think, Holy pit, this old house could sure use some work too!. Your thoughts take flight and then there's an almost uncontrollable urge to fly back out the door and start re-feathering the 'ole nest.

After all, home improvement can be a much quicker fix then self-improvement, and you don't have to give up carbs.

This month, you'll find swarms of Bob Vila wannabees buzzing in and out hardware stores across North Raleigh. Each one lumbering by, pushing carts packed with optimism and promise in the shape of assorted hardware. Their eyes glazed over in heads filled with dreams and hopes that all will go as planned.

But for the handy-capped, like Rog, there's plenty of room for improvement in that department.

Lucky for him, I come from a long line of handy folk, so help is just a humbling call away. Someone is usually around to talk him through a tough spot via speakerphone. The installation of our new thermostat sounded an awful lot like a bomb squad defusing an explosive. It's just too bad that he didn't dial for a lifeline when I was out and he tried to change a faucet. It ended up looking like a monkey went ape in the toolbox and we needed a canoe to paddle around our kitchen island.

My grandfather had honed his mechanical skills making fetching frames and display cases for my grandmother's handicraft masterpieces in ceramic and puff paint. On weekends, my Uncle John effortlessly peels away at Aunt Jeanne's ever-growing honey do list, while Uncle Irwin whittles in his own woodshop - making crafts for Aunt Ruth from his leftover Chateau Lafite Rothschild wine crates.

My Dad and brother are also crack plumbers. One morning they decided to build a new bathroom and by nightfall they were playing rock-paper-scissors to see who got to take the first bubble bath! Even my Mom can run rings around Rosie the Riveter. Oh, and the by the way - that Makita drill in the garage is actually mine.

Yes, the rest of my family could rebuild a fallen empire with some duct tape, epoxy glue, and a length of string.

But as I greet my defeated looking husband upon the return of his fourth trip to our local
do it yourself store in his attempt to install a dimmer switch, I'm reminded, once again, that not everyone is wired with the skills to actually do it themselves. Thank heaven for the local Handyman!

Riding In On A Dinosaur

During a recent visit, my kids asked their sprightly Grammy how old she was. Oh kids, she answered coyly, I rode in on the dinosaurs.

Although I hate to admit that I'm much like my mother-in-law, I immediately realized that she had just unearthed some common ground! I too, ride a dinosaur, everyday!

You see, I drive an un-evolved, oversized and dying species that, in today's economic climate, most certainly seems headed toward extinction. Yes, I'm the owner of an SUV. Scientifically, I believe that my gas-guzzling giant is known as an Expeditonsaurus Rex - the Rex, being short for Really EXpensive to fill up! It has an insatiable appetite for the premium-priced fossil fuel that courses most expeditiously through its enormous bright red frame.

I feel like a real Dodo, doomed with gas prices recently spiking higher than a triceratop's tips and an odometer ticking faster than the national debt clock. Sure I can load up my vehicle with the entire contents of my house, but at this point, I'm convinced that the only place that I can afford to drive it all is straight to Hades!

It seems the higher the petroleum prices peak, the lower my gas mileage gets! I'm thinking of going metric and having my control panel re-calibrated to compute in meters per gallon, because in miles per gallon, it just doesn't add up. My newfangled navigation system could be replaced with an old fashioned abacus. I'd use it to figure out just how much it's really costing me to drive around town - lost - in a desperate search for cheaper gas.

In my big red SUV, I used to feel like I owned the road. Now it just feels like I'm paying for it over and over again, each time I swipe my well-worn credit card at the pump. I remember when it was sheer exhilaration to take that running start toward my running boards and climb high into my comfy Corinthian leather-clad captains chairs. I'd barely notice the strata of fossilized chicken nuggets and other treasures layered in the deep abyss of my cavernous cabin.

I would ride with pride, and perhaps a touch of altitude sickness, so high above the fray. I'd look down my nose at all those other pedestrian drivers well below me in their small sedans, station wagons, but most of all, those diminutive Minivans.

In fact, I believe that the rivalry between the drivers of SUVs and Minivans is akin to the most ruthless rage on the road. It's a riff of almost biblical proportions, fueled with as much competition and animosity as Cain and Abel.

But here's the honest truth; while I may not covet thy neighbor's husband - I have to admit, I'm more than little jealous of her Minivan!

I've learned that you should not be fooled by that "Mini" moniker. Believe me, Minivan owners are living large. Their impressive cup-holder counts notwithstanding, today's Minivans are totally tricked out. I've heard that they've got lazy-susans and seats so foldable that they can shame a La-z-boy. And for those who aren't the least bit lazy, I hear that some Minivans are even equipped with workout rooms and walkout daylight basements.

With Minivans, of course, becoming a superior Soccer Mom and the ability to bake better cookies are features that always come standard.

Yes I want those sleek automatic side doors that swooosh open at the touch of a button. I'm sick of having to pull out a slide rule to work out a complicated physics problem every time I want to pull into a spot at the mall. I'm tired of the dirty looks and hearing the phrase door ding sneered by every car owner forced to park next to me in a lot.

Some people think that a car says a lot about its driver. I think that they also speak for themselves. SUV's are large lumbering loners, while Minivans are friendly and have got spunk! - I swear I heard one yell out, Hey Girlfriend, cute capris! as I walked by.

However, there can be one little drawback to the family Minivan; at some point, your male partner may be forced into the driver's seat.

Now, please don't think I'm a female-chauvinist. I maintain that a man only enhances his masculinity when he's toting a tot in a baby Snugli, when he's picking up puppy poop at the park, or even when he's running out to the market at midnight to bring home some emergency feminine supplies. But when he peels out of the parking lot from behind the wheel of a Minivan - well I've got to be frank here it can make the most manly man look a little bit less macho. I suspect this may be why a concerned Arnold Schwarzenegger drives a Hummer.

Although my friends have heard me proclaim that I'd only drive a Minivan when Hell freezes over, the Ice Age is rapidly approaching and I'm afraid that my dear red dinosaur's days are numbered! If I can find a caveman, I mean buyer, for my SUV, I'm thinking of picking up a new Minivan from a dealer my mother-in-law told me about in Jurassic Park.

So, do any of you Minivan Moms out there have a good chocolate chip cookie recipe to share? I can hardly wait to start baking some for the soccer team!

Stringing the Bikini

With just a few weeks to go, this is the time of year when we break into a sprint in our mad dash back to January. No doubt, Father Time will win this race once again. So, I guess its time to throw in the towel and admit defeat. Its official. The deadline for my weighty New Years resolution to shed thirty pounds by this years end has come and gone...and yet it still remains very much unresolved. And to think, 2005 was to be The Year of the Bikini.

Hey, holding out with hope for 12 months is a long time. Most people would have given up much sooner, usually by the first month in. But not me Ill always root for the underdog, even if she is thirty pounds overweight. I consider myself a fighter but unfortunately, this year I just wasnt much of a contender when it came to the heavyweight battle of the bulge.

I had overlooked the amount of actual work it would take to haul my haunches to the gym for a weight-shedding workout. Although, I did manage to watch several Pilates tapes at home in fast-forward while eating a Lean Cuisine okay, ice cream and maybe topped with a little fudge. I suppose that I had grossly miscalculated just how much Id miss munching on handfuls of M&Ms, both plain and peanut, not to mention the more-than-occasional Big Mac.

I guess I had drastically underestimated the tenacious bond between my body fat and me; one that seemed to render us inseparable.

So now, as I do just about every year at this time, Ive come to the conclusion that my ample thighs and doughy middle are joined at the hip like an old married couple. Theyve been together so long they cant seem to remember life without each other, and theyre just too darned tired to even try.

I've come to see that wishful thinking and a wardrobe of black will only take you so far, and that deducting 10 pounds from the scale for a hair scrunchy is ultimately self-defeating. It is also now clear to me that, pound for pound, broken cookies do, in fact, have the same calorie count as those un-crumbled, even when eaten over the sink.

But this end-of-year epiphany about my jiggle wont shake my resolve. Just because this year I didnt feel comfortable hanging out in a string bikini, I shouldnt have to feel completely strung out, like Ive been dangling helplessly from a thread. Theres always hope even when you think that you are at the bitter end of your rope!

Heres the skinny -- Im just a hop, skip and a jump away from making next years resolutions! Im already looking forward to a chance to face new goals with a fresh start. Maybe I should cut myself some slack this time and stop stringing this bikini thingy along. In fact, I may well deem 2006 as The Year of Modestly Cut Black One Piece Maillot, With Full Fanny Coverage & A Tightly-Tied Sarong!

Perhaps the best resolution would be to never underestimate the doggedness of the underdog -- even if she is a little over her fighting weight! Yes, with a resolution like that, this time next year, I shall surely be taking my victory lap!

Losing My Cool...

The other night, I was trying to explain to my seven year old twin boys, Jared & Jasper, what an oxymoron is. It's you when have a combination of contradictory words that just don't seem to go together. I tried to illustrate with some examples like, jumbo shrimp, awfully nice and pretty ugly. Oh, chimed in my ten year old daughter, Sydney, without missing a beat - You mean like 'cool mom'?

Hmmmm. Surely, I thought, she'd simply misunderstood the light-hearted literary form that we were discussing. However, that hands-on-hips, twisted lips and look of general disgust on her face told me otherwise.

I was just about to really lose my cool and send her to her room for that sassy sentiment, when I realized that she might, in fact, be right! Can you keep your cool once you have kids or do you immediately go from being a happening It Girl to a washed up Was Woman as soon as you give birth?

I suppose one could argue that you can't exactly lose something that you never had in the first place. Maybe I wasn't all that cool to start with. But before kids I had lived in NYC in the 80's. I had big hair and boulder-sized shoulder pads in my dolman sleeved Norma Komali sweatshirts. My mullet maned mates & I even managed to get past the red velvet ropes at some of the city's hottest clubs, on occasion. But, judging by my daughters gagging reflex from my scrapbook photos of this dance down memory lane I can see now, that even then, I was more than six degrees away from anything remotely registering as cool!

I guess today I'm getting even colder to cool. The only thing that I've purchased recently that says Juicy, comes in a 6 oz. square box and has very little to do with Couture.

Reality aside, at least Sydney used to think that I was a cool mom. Cool was as clincher when all it took was a song and dance with her and her little buddies to one of Barney's brain boring songs. I've learned the hard way, that this tactic no longer cuts it. Today, if I'm caught humming or moving rhythmically in anyway to her ever-blasting boom box when her friends are around, she shoots me a panic-stricken look, as if I were convulsing with a grand mal seizure. Syd used to play dress up for hours and hours, trying on all of my clothes and shoes. Now however, according to a recent inspection, she insists that everything in my closet must immediately be burned or buried. Those matching mother-daughter outfits at the mall are a thing of the past. Even admitting that we're mother-daughter at the mall is a thing of the past.

In my own defense, growing up I thought my mom was most un-cool too. Shirley Partridge & Carol Brady were my only real cool mom role models. This may, in part, explain the quandary that I find myself in right now! But today's Hollywood moms make it look so easy. I wonder if Jamie Lee Curtis, Teri Hatcher and Madonna are ever be forced to follow a detailed doctrine of approved talking points when conversing their kid's cliques, like me. Heck, it seems that Demi Moore's daughters not only let her hang out with their friends, they even let her marry one!

Certainly, I pleaded with Sydney, you can think of one mom who has held on and can still qualify as a 'cool'? That's easy, she said pointing to my very own mother across the room, Grandma! I put my hands-on-hips, twisted my lips and, with a look of general disgust, replied, Mark my words, my darling daughter, one day you may have children and become an oxymoron of your own - and guess who will be the cool Grandma then? She about lost it. That was cool!

Competitive Coffee; Sipping & Social Climbing in the Suburbs

A light-hearted look at ladies and latte...

If you want to watch the big game, don't follow the team bus to the ball field. Just keep your eyes on those mini vans and SUVs each morning after school drop off, and you can catch caravans of competitors rolling into their favorite stomping grounds. Pop into your local coffee shop and youll find teems of suburban moms, driven and ready to rumble. Steer clear as they gear up for their daily grind and a shot for a spot in the hotly contested sport of Competitive Coffee.

In most sports the game is clear - or at the very least, you know when you're playing it. With Competitive Coffee, it gets a bit muddy. While an invitation for a cup-a-joe might seem friendly enough -- trust me-- the challenge of that cup of cappucino runs dark and deep. That cheery call to meet is merely the coin toss. Sure that double skinny machiatto latte is delicious but what makes it taste even sweeter is the unquenchable thirst of social success. You see, in the Starbucks World Cup, its not really about what you're drinking in that venti vessel with the protective cardboard cozy, but rather whos french-manicured fingers have got the strongest grip on the french roast.

In this game, there are no scorecards, but everyone knows the score: And all contenders are NOT created equal. Example: Coffee with the annoying new next door neighbor might get you those critical quantity points, but java with the plastic surgeons pretty wife that ends with an officially scheduled playdate virtually guarantees your cup will runneth over. Sack some juicy gossip? You've just earned the extra point! Like many other sports, the refereeing here can sometimes be questionable. While instant replays are not officially condoned, have no doubt that every detail of play will be hashed over, repeatedly, by Monday-morning-mocha quarterbacks.

In this game, there are no official rules, but every player seems to know them: You need to invite and be invited to attend as many coffees as possible. Advanced players also master the subtle and subversive strategy of "the bragging blitz". With this indispensable manuver, you casually mention your past pairings at your current coffee - or the car pool line - and you can virutally double your score. Match-ups have been medaled on this move alone. There are no standardized team uniforms, but tennis skirts or capris are always cute. In this highly caffeinated, cut-throat competition, its every mom for herself (although Survivor-like alliances are often formed to lure new contenders into the quest for the Cup and a major cafe coup d'etat).

In these games, youve got to keep your schedule percolating: Your date book is your play book. Coffee is one powerful sports drink, and you've got to make every cup count. Its that perfect combination of caffeine and camaraderie that can pump you up with the jittery thrill of victory or leave you sitting home alone, steeping bitterly in the agony of defeat!

Its coffee, tea or meow The right coffee partner is worth fighting for and only the strong will survive. She who drinks the most coffee with the most people winsand thats a fact. At the end of the day, its all about the buzz: Youre either popular, or youre not.

As for me, I dont drink coffee. In fact, Ive never even tasted it. Id like to think that is why I often sit warming the bench - a real second string sipper. But put me in, Coach, 'cause I'm pumped & I know the score... So, would you like to meet for coffee sometime? Game on