Smarter than the Average Bear

We all know that proud, overly-sharing parent, the one who is amazed their child can do perfectly ordinary things.  “My daughter Marjorie can add up to ten!”  Your daughter Marjorie is in college, Karen.  “Look at little Timmy read this book!”  It’s a picture book, Barbara.

If you’re like me, you want to back-end every car sporting a “My Kid is an Honor Roll Student” bumper sticker, and you snicker at the “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Roll Student.”  I have a new bumper sticker:  My Super Smart Dog Bit Your Honor Roll Student.

If you ask me, there’s not enough focus on the truly smart animals in our lives.  Anyone who thinks animals can’t count has never tried to give three biscuits to a dog who is used to getting four at a time.  The internet abounds with videos of horses counting and even if it is a trick of clever training, the idea that a horse can be trained to appear to count is pretty freaking amazing.

Recently, a family member was gushing about her toddler who knew where the pretzels were kept in the house.  She even went so far as to surreptitiously record her child in this endeavor to share with the audience. This tiny human marvel could even open the pantry door and get the pretzel jar, but the act of unscrewing the tightly closed lid thwarted her adorably chubby little hands.

Awww, isn’t that cute.

My dog knows where the treats are.  He opens the kitchen cabinet, gets his treats, opens the box, and eats his fill. I will admit, he hasn’t quite grasped the idea that cleaning up after himself might be to his advantage. At the least, as I keep explaining to him, it would buy him some time before being found out. I had to put childproof locks on drawers and doors and everything in between to foil my cat, the ne’er-do-well, who is apparently a master locksmith and can open any barrier placed in front of her.  So long as she wants whatever is behind it, that is.  My friend shakes her head sadly when telling me about her German Shepherd who can unlock door handles, open the door, and go into any room she likes.  Baby gates? Pfftt. It’s like you’re not even trying. Cabinets and drawers and off-limit rooms are nothing to these animals, so while I think it’s adorable that your toddler can find the pretzels, I am holding my applause for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I know kids are smart.  Heck, I’ve had two kids raise and train me perfectly.  I just think it’s funny when over-effusive parents boast about ordinary milestones in a completely unironic way.  “Look, she’s only 144 months old and she can recite the alphabet!”

Yeah, Lois, very nice.  Can you hold the cat while I call the vet?  She opened my locked bedroom door, climbed a ladder, cracked my wall safe, and got into the treats that I thought were for sure out of reach this time.  And let me know if you’ve seen the dog, my car keys are missing, and I think he drove down the street to see that damn poodle. Again.

Don’t even get me started on that horse next door who keeps blowing the whistle on my trips to the refrigerator at night; I never should have gotten him binoculars for Christmas.

 

Anti-Social RVing

The other day, I was behind an RV on the freeway.  You know the kind, the super-duper shiny house-on-wheels, towing the family car behind it.  My first thought was, “That is a great way to travel for those who are too lazy to pack.”  My second thought was, “Don’t these stupid things have any speeds faster than 45 mph?”  My third thought was, “I could totally get behind this way of traveling, because hey, I’m too lazy to pack.”

My mind immediately wandered to joyous days on the highway, spent with my family and pets.  Oh, the places we would go!  The adventures we would have!  The people we would meet! Just me, my loved ones, and the open road. Especially with the weather we’ve been experiencing here … dismal, cold, and just enough snow to be annoying but not enough to be fun… it would be awesome to just pick up and go someplace warmer and sunny and much less work-y.

Then, I remembered.

I hate driving.  I hate wearing anything that doesn’t involve fuzzy slippers.  I hate people. I’m not fond of adventures.  If I’m not tuned in to social media at least hourly, I go certifiably insane.  I cannot parallel park my bicycle, much less one of these behemoths.  I hate driving in the rain or snow and at night; heck I hate driving on clear days, for that matter.  Not to mention, my loved ones and I would potentially hurt each other if we were confined to a large tuna can on wheels for hours at a time.

Now, I’m not saying this whole idea is out the window; it still seems more appealing than say, getting bamboo shoots through my eyeballs while gargling Spam juice and listening to Polka Hits as performed by Hip Hop artists.  Barely.

If I am going to be stuck in a rolling trashcan for hours and days, I fully expect some concessions.

I would need unlimited access to WiFi wherever I am.  New York to the desert and everywhere in between, I need a specialized WiFi connection.  I need all my bars, all the time, wherever I am.  My RV will be a rolling WiFi receiver.

Speaking of bars, yes, please.  A nice fully stocked bar to keep me sane on my journeys.  I can think of no better way to drive down the freeway than with a glass of wine in my cup-holder.  Oh.  Wait, that’s not right.  How about, I can think of no better way to ride down the freeway than with a glass of wine in my cup-holder and a chauffeur driving me?  Not just any chauffeur, but a chauffeur who knows better than to speak to me, look at me, make eye contact, or ask questions, lest my breathtakingly introverted awkwardness come to the fore. Maybe my special RV will have the driver’s seat fully encased in sound-proof steel.  Or, hey!  The cone of silence!

The chauffeur’s wife will be the RV maid.  For a ridiculously high sum (I mean, come on, I’m nothing if not generous), she gets to stay in a closet and come out when I am asleep, silently cleaning up behind me and making a fresh batch of waffles before joining her husband in the driver’s compartment cone of silence. She can double as the “polite one,” and engage in conversations with strangers at gas stations while I peep through the curtains and silently hate on everyone.

I would require all roadways to be clear of cars and traffic so that we can zip effortlessly through the landscapes with little to no interaction with civilized society at all.  My RV will be equipped with rocket launchers to ensure my path will always be clear … and fast.  No slow lanes for me.

The main thing keeping me from my Anti-Social RV road trip is money.  I mean, right? I can’t help but think a fully stocked bar, unlimited WiFi or Hotspot capabilities, a well-paid maid and chauffeur, and a rocket launcher might set me back a few dollars.  Suggestions on getting capital for my adventures are certainly welcome.

In the meantime, I will continue to make mean faces at the young child looking back at me through the frilly curtain in the back of this slow-moving RV. Hmmm. It seems I can be just as anti-social without the RV, after all.

 

 

 

Mommy, Look!

While chatting with a friend today, I reminisced a bit about my kids when they were younger, and the grey hairs they have so generously given me over the years. That conversation got me thinking of the different parenting scenarios I’ve survived experienced with my children.

When I was a mom with young kids, there were a few phrases I’d hear that would make my heart drop in my chest.  “Your credit card has been denied” was one of them, “I’m sorry, we’re out of that brand of wine” was another, and “I forgot to tell you, mom, I need…”  was an anxiety inducing sentence, no matter what they added to the end of it.

There’s one, though, that stands out from the rest.  Never will a mother ever hear anything more frightening than “Mommy, look!”  This is the child equivalent of “hold my beer.”

There is a direct relation between how many times the word “mommy” is used and how much time will be spent at the doctor’s office later.  “Mommy, look” usually can be fixed with a band-aid and a few kisses, but “mommy, mommy, mommy look” is probably going to end up in an emergency room visit.

Even more frightening is when they add words or phrases to the basic “mommy, look.”  Additional phrases can be “Look at me, mommy,” “look what I can do,” or even worse, “mommy, look what I learned in school today.”

Sometimes, the action is more embarrassing than dangerous.  “Mommy, guess what Uncle Fred taught me today?”  is a dangerous thing for a young kid to say in a crowded elevator.  Other times, a “mommy, look” can be inspired by a movie.  Even an innocent movie, like Mary Poppins, can have your kid teetering on the garage roof with an opened umbrella. Don’t ask me how I know this.

As moms, we picture our Facebook and social media pages as being full of sweet posts, adorable pictures, and heartfelt videos.  Instead, we get emergency room photos of smiling kids holding up arms in casts – all with one thing in common; the incidents probably all started with “Mommy, mommy, mommy, look what I can do!”   This is a real thing; doctors can now legally bill your insurance for “uh oh” and “mommy, look.”

Speaking of which, “uh oh” is another loaded toddler phrase, roughly equating to “I spilled my beer.”  The “uh oh” by itself can range from dropped food to “I drew with crayon on the Mona Lisa while you weren’t looking.”  It can be paired with “mommy, look” for added anxiety.  “Uh oh, mommy, look” is slightly less frightening than “mommy, look!  Uh oh.”  If you understand the difference, you are truly a mom.

Unfortunately for women, while little girls will eventually grow out of the “mommy, look” stage, their male counterparts never do.  They may exchange umbrellas for ladders, garage roofs for four-wheelers, and “mommy, look” for “here, hold my beer,” but the basic concept is the same.  Men’s “uh ohs” can be loosely translated to “look out!” or “damn, didn’t see that coming.”  Either translation will probably equate to an emergency room visit and stitches. Lots of stitches.

A mom can tell you, though, that on par with “mommy, look” is The Silence from the Other Room.  This is a much subtler approach for kids; it sneaks up on moms before they realize anything is even amiss.  Usually, it happens after the fourth load of laundry and right around the time the unsuspecting mom finally collapses into her favorite chair with a sigh and a glass of wine.  Then, it hits her…she hasn’t heard her children make a sound for over ten minutes.  The length of quiet time will generally translate into exact degrees of trouble the child has found.  A few minutes may only find a wall covered in lipstick, while ten minutes or more will most likely result in a child stuck upside down in the chimney.

Sadly, once the kids grow up, “mommy, look” is replaced by “mom, drop me off around the corner” and “uh oh” becomes “I know, I know” with an eye-roll chaser. The best advice for moms whose kids still want them to look?  Look, every time.  Before you know it, you aren’t cool enough to even be invited to see what they are doing anymore and, trust me, you’ll miss “uh oh” more than you can imagine.

Moving and Grooving … Not So Much

When I heard that moving and changing jobs were two of the items in the Most Stressful Life Events, I decided hey…I’ll do both at once.

To those of you who pull up roots and move across the country, kudos to you.  That seems like a lot of fun (said no one, ever).  Your accomplishment almost makes me feel badly for complaining about my semi-local move.

Almost.

Now, I decided in all of my wisdom to take the new job first, and commute back and forth while arranging my physical move.  Why not?  How can it possibly be bad to slide into my new position, over an hour away, while trying to arrange moving companies, downsize my belongings, and pack for the move?

First, let me say that I am moving from an area with high tourism this time of year.  Second, let me say, I hate tourists.  Thank you, young family in the mini-van, for playing something on your car DVD player that I could watch while stuck in the bumper to bumper traffic during my commute.  Thank you, as well, Mr.  Older Gentleman in the baseball cap for keeping me safe by refusing to drive at the speed limit.  And a special thanks to all those who somehow manage to crash their cars so perfectly that all travel lanes are blocked in all directions, at rush hour.

And did I mention that I live over a bridge? Not in the troll variety, but definitely in a pain-in-the-ass variety. As in a bridge that is the only way in and the only way out of my little piece of hell. Picture this, if you will, 10 to 12 toll lanes spread across an expansive highway, chock-full of vehicles as far as the eye can see, who, once through the toll lanes, ALL must merge down into two – count them, people, two! — tiny bridge lanes. It goes about as well as you would think. Fun and games, people, fun and games.

And let’s not forget the truckers … all of whom seem to travel at the same time (I mean, really!?) and all of whom, instead of coordinating their driving so that they all make their way through one end of the toll entrance or the other (I don’t care which, just pick one!) would rather spread out into numerous lanes across the vast sea of traffic and then, using their sheer size and apparent disregard for simple etiquette, squish whole lanes of vehicles into an untraversable funnel that keeps everyone involved from moving forward.  What did I say above? Fun and games. I honestly think that if people truly knew how to take turns AND if trucks could please, for the love of God, just follow each other through the toll lanes, that traffic could be eradicated on the Bridge I hate so much. As it is, it’s like trying to pour mud through a pinhole.

When I finally complete my hour long, now turned three hours long, trip to the House of Forgotten Boxes, I need to organize, scrutinize and itemize my belongings before stuffing them all in bags with sticky notes that say, “Dining room,” “Bedroom,” and “Who cares?  I should have tossed this out years ago.”  I believe my belongings multiply in direct proportion to how many hours I have spent driving. Seriously, it’s true.

It’s amazing the things you convince yourself to keep when you are moving. What should be a purge instead becomes a stroll down memory lane.  “Awww, the receipt from that one store I went to that one time somewhere I don’t quite remember, three years ago.  Better keep that, I may need to return whatever the hell this was.” “Look, it’s my Halloween costume from sixteen years ago.  I can use this again someday.”  “It’s my favorite Crocs!  Ummm…okay, never mind, I can throw these away.”

My new job is great, and the people are fantastic.  I feel a little lost when they discuss local adventures; I feel that I almost understand, but then they throw some twist in there that makes me do a Google Search later.   “Let’s get crabs at Dave’s after work, his lawn mower opened that chicken egg last Christmas.”  I nod and smile.  I may even try to act like I know.  “Ah, yes, Dave certainly did pick that oyster out of the chimney.” Blank stares follow, and they all talk about me over the water cooler at lunch.

I haven’t learned the shortcuts of my commute yet, either, and when people ask how I get to work they offer all sorts of useless advice.  “Oh, you should have turned at that snowball stand on the west corner of the dirt road.”  One day I’ll get it, but for now, I am lost in every way.  And that’s just the commute.

At work, in my new building, I am convinced that people randomly switch floor stickers in the elevator.  I find myself wandering around the rooftop looking for the printer, or down in the basement with the janitor, who, as it turns out, is a lovely person despite his overall serial killer-like vibe. He gave me a wonderful recipe for salmon fritters.

At home, I am surrounded by boxes that clog once familiar doorways, causing me to get lost in my own house, which is saying something considering the size of this house (have you seen my house? It’s small … as in tiny, like Jerry’s mouse-hole tiny).  I haven’t seen the kitchen in a week, but my daughter tells me it is still there.

Image result for jerry's mouse hole house

I have been on the phone for about three weeks trying to schedule my new cable in my new house, and I have been assured a cable worker will be at my new home sometime between now and December 23, 2022.  Somehow, my mail has been getting lost.  At least, that’s what I’ve been telling the bill collectors, but I’m not sure how much longer they will keep buying it.

As stressful as all this is, I know it will be worth it in the end to be settled in my new home and job.  But for now, I believe I may have crossed through the third gate of Hell.

And obviously, I can’t find my way back.

Dear Mom – Things They Don’t Teach in School

Yesterday. Whew. What a long day, for all of us.

Dad had the biopsy on his lungs yesterday.  To say I was nervous and afraid is an understatement.

I decided to tag along to keep you company.  You’re my mom, but you’re so much more.  My friend, my confidant, my rock.  And dad?  He has always, always been there for me, no matter what. So of course, I was going to be there for him.

While thinking of you both last night, after all was said and done, I took a moment to reflect on the differences that separate us, and also those that connect us, as they do in any family.  Politics?  Please.  Social issues?  Ugh, no way. I have no doubt that you feel the same. I mean, I got my attitude from somewhere, right? Yet, through it all, I love you.  More than you will ever know.  You’ve done so much over the years for me; I want to be there for you like you are always there for me.

This is not to toot my horn, so to speak. Instead, it’s meant to offer up a heartfelt apology.

Yeah, I choked.  Sure, I’m great at the lighthearted stuff.  I can gossip about the mailman and tell terrible jokes with the best of them in an attempt – perhaps, a misguided attempt – to keep your mind off things.  I can distract you from the bigger picture, if only for a little while, with any number of sarcastic and witty (in my own eyes, at least) observances. I can get super-charged and angry on your behalf; whether it’s at people or situations, I’ll gladly take it on to save you the stress or heartache.  But the serious stuff?  I’m at a loss.

They never taught this stuff in school.

Mom and dad, I wanted to say the right things.  I wanted to do the right things, to offer comfort, hope, and a bit of light in the darkness.  I just am so ridiculously backwards and awkward in serious situations that I don’t know what to say or do. It’s almost funny. Except, it’s not.

I’m sorry I’m not good at small talk or knowing what to say in a painful, frighteningly serious situation.  And I was scared.  Just like you were.  I’m sorry I’m not better at comforting you; I truly wish I knew how.

I hope you both know that I love you more than anything in this world.  I will always be there for you, no matter how awkward or backward I may be at the reassurances and encouragements and comforting phrases.

My heart feels it, oh boy does my heart feel it; if only my mouth could say it.