Paul Bunyan Redux

It’s Friday the 13th and to many, that means a day of bad luck. As for me, it’s one my favorite days of the year. The love of my life is *cough cough* years old today. And I remember him learning how to walk as if it was yesterday.

You see, a carnival mystic once told me that the love of my life would be tall, dark, and handsome.  Somehow, she failed to mention he would arrive on the waves of excruciating labor pains.  Now, my son towers over me and resembles Paul Bunyan… and I could not be more proud. Still, whenever we talk, I oftentimes offer unsolicited advice.  No, really, I do. Other mothers do this too, right?  Right??  Well of course Jake’s response is usually one borne of frustration because, according to him, I’ve not kept up with his birthdays all these years and therefore don’t know just how old he is, and as such, could do without the mother hen flapping around.

My response is one he will never understand until he has kids of his own – he’s always my baby regardless of how old he may be.  Or how tall.  Or how thick a beard he decides to grow for his Paul Bunyan impersonation (I mean really, you do own a razor after all Jake!).

Yes, I do know he’s “all grown up.” But when I look at him, I still see that wide-eyed, precocious boy who stole my heart the day he was born. I still see the same little boy who went out to play with me in the snow when we had a freak midnight storm when he was four, the master Lego architect who could build the most complicated structures using just his mind’s eye, the small child whose laugh was forever a bright spot in my day. He still is and always will be the bright spot in my day – our conversations are always, but always, interesting and spirited with amazingly broad topics. He keeps me on my toes.

Of course, I take credit for his love of Marvel Comics and the MCU even though he knows more about the subject than I do. He has a strong work ethic, integrity, a desire to stand up for the oppressed, and a good heart. In other words, everything a mother could hope for… and more. I could go on and on — but the point is very simple. I love my son. He makes my world a better place just by existing in it.

 

My Wish for You This Christmas

Many of us will return to our childhood homes to celebrate the holidays or at the least will be surrounded by aunts, uncles, grandparents, and countless cousins — some of whom we haven’t seen since last Christmas, or if we’re lucky, back before the pandemic took hold.  I always envision these gatherings as being somewhat reminiscent of the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, a disparate group of individuals thrown together through a random gene pool and forced to celebrate holidays for life.

Of course, if you’re like many families, you always have to keep a sharp eye out for flare-ups throughout the evening due to in-fighting; made worse by close quarters, chit-chat with other family members, and the old reliable: alcohol. Cousin Elle isn’t speaking to Aunt Ida because of something that went down 20 years ago but no-one quite remembers what happened except it had something to do with a silver set or perhaps a dog or maybe it was a chicken.

Uncle Bill, oh good grief, don’t even get him started on the JFK conspiracy (the original conspiracy, that is, not the most recent nonsense) because he’ll never shut up, and he gets quite irate at no one in particular so therefore, everyone. You’d think that something like that just wouldn’t come up in conversation but somehow it always does. It’s uncanny really.

Then of course you have Aunt Joan who lets her children do everything (the word no doesn’t seem to be in her vocabulary) and her polar opposite, Cousin Bette, who doesn’t let her child do anything. Poor Cousin Bette ends up heavy sighing a lot (very dramatically I might add, she should get herself an agent) as Aunt Joan’s children run mad circles around the house in full-on manic mode. I have to give Bette credit though, the “Sweetie, you shouldn’t do that,” she uses to correct Joan’s children as they’re climbing the bookcase with the cat is a lot nicer than the admonishment that would be falling off the tip of my tongue.

Uncle Larry? Well, he knows everything, so if you want to know something, just ask. Or don’t. He’ll probably tell you anyway. Really loudly. More than once. He likes to repeat things. In case you didn’t get it the first time.

Ahhh… family. Just because you’re family doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get along. I think in some respects family can drive us crazier than anyone else. They’re talented like that. Especially during the holidays.

So. Here’s hoping we all survive our holiday get-togethers with our families…. or at the very least let there be copious amounts of alcohol to help us through with a sense of humor. Or bail money. That’ll work too.

Never Lonely

Who’s watching
Tell me who’s watching
Who’s watching me
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
And I have no privacy 
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
Tell me is it just a dream
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
And I have no privacy
I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me
Who’s playing tricks on me? 
 
 
 
*song lyrics: Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell
 
 
 
 
 

Hacked… Like a Hairball

I don’t want to incriminate myself, but as someone of the feline persuasion, I can’t help but brag that this human is only here by the grace of… well, me. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she was thiisss close to, ahem, you know. But if she weren’t here, who would open the cans of tuna I so dearly love for snack time? Damn it all to hell. I tell you what though… as soon as I figure out the can opener, this servant is history. Hisssstory, I tell you!

 

Games and Thangs

As we continue to wallow in the joys of sheltering-in-place, many are turning to board games and the like to keep boredom at bay. Board games are a fantastic, usually low-tech solution to keeping us on our toes while having a little fun. Which got me thinking about board games past and present and in the end, I decided I had some thoughts to add to my previous Game Night. So here we are… lucky you.

Chemistry sets nowadays are cool, there’s no two ways about it. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a kid around who wouldn’t be stoked to receive a chemistry set for their birthday or as another holiday surprise. Even if it wasn’t their cup of tea, a rainy day a few months down the road would inevitably end up with the child popping open the box and seeing what crazy experiments await them. Even to this day, chemistry sets are a very unique gift. There is even one that you can purchase a subscription for, where you receive a package every month that comes with a variety of different experiments. It’s marketed to kids, but if I had the money, I’d totally be down for getting one for myself!

But if we’re talking phenomenal ways to maybe lose an eye… or a layer of skin, let’s discuss the chemistry sets that were around when I was a kid. Those were awesome, hands down.  Looking back, we just didn’t realize it at the time. No safety standards, protective eyewear, or warning labels in sight. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some plutonium, lithium, or uranium in there. But hey, you’re 10, No problem!  Here you go, just do your best to not set the house on fire or blow up the neighborhood please!

While on the topic of chemistry sets, I also remember an edible chemistry lab. My kids at one time or another have had this set. Probably not of their own devices, but as gifts. I believe it was called something like Dr. Dreadful’s lab. It was set up like the other, more traditional science experiment stations, but instead gave kids the means to mix weird fizzy green-color drinks and other gooey confections, that were 100% edible. Needless to say, speaking as an adult, the ingredients were incredibly disgusting, and if I remember correctly, the kids weren’t all that impressed either.

Now, Battleship was a game my brother and I played often. I’m not saying he cheated, but he did win an inordinate amount of times. We… I mean, he, cause it was his game and don’t you forget it, had the original game that came with two separate gaming stations that stored all of the respective pieces when they were closed. No computer to keep score, no electronics to add to the thrill, just us, the honor system (ha!), and our own special effects. I understand that the electronic version calls out, “You Sank My Battleship!” and it’s all fun and games.  All I had was my brother yelling: “I sank your battleship! Again! AGAIN! That’s the five hundredth time in a row now! Battleship… SUNK!” Oh yeah. Fun and games.

While both of my kids were living at home, we loved to play the card game UNO, and it was always a blast. We had (still have, in fact) the version that includes a machine that spits out a random number of cards – or none at all – when it’s your turn to push the button. It added to the heat of the game. I mean, you’d think you were just about to win and wham! Now you suddenly have 50 cards in your hand.

Like with most of our games, we never really played UNO by the rules, but instead we adopted our own series of house rules that we’d use.  Although technically you’re supposed to keep score over several sets of play, our style would be playing a hand and that was a game. Whoever went out first was the winner. It made it more exciting and fun, and boy did we have fun. There’s a running joke in our house about my son winning a game in under a minute via skips, reverses, draw fours, and the like, that he laid down on my daughter and me, but mostly me. That’s why I refuse to sit beside him when we play the game, but it’s tough because there’s only the three of us.  I sure do miss those days.

Games like Monopoly, checkers, hearts, rummy and others, were always a staple for game night growing up before smart phones took over. Even back when video game consoles first hit their stride, there was still a healthy mix of board gamers and video gamers. Hell, I remember when Dungeons and Dragons came out…  yes, I’m that old.  It combined the familiar board game platform with the rich backstories reminiscent of video games to attract a new audience. D & D came out like gangbusters and just like that, a whole new genre of board games was born.  It’s garnered renewed interest in recent years, and I can understand why.  It’s a thinking person’s board game and those who believe it’s just for “nerds,” have obviously never played. Sure, nerds just happen to be better at it, but you shouldn’t be underestimating nerds in the first place. So there.

I’d be curious to hear about what kinds of games you remember playing as a kid, or which ones you still play today. Maybe with your kids or grandkids. Or hell, maybe just for fun. Spill the beans!  (Ha! See what I did there? Cause, Don’t Spill the Beans is a game too. But I turned it around as a way to get you to tell me what games you play… get it?  Oh, never mind.)

In My Mother’s Voice

In a discussion with friends the other day, a question was asked as a sort of “prompt” to get a philosophical conversation flowing. I can’t remember it word for word now, but it was basically, “have you ever said something that sounds just like your mother, and what did you think about that?” Most of us in this particular group are mothers ourselves and so many of the examples given had to do with disciplining a child or frustration at a child. There were a few offerings of phrases most often uttered when life throws a curve ball or in the alternative, when something fantastic happens.

It was an interesting mental and emotional exercise in many ways.

Shockingly – or perhaps not – the thing that popped up immediately in my mind was, are you hungry? have you eaten today?”  I could hear it in my mother’s voice as I thought it, but not just hers. I heard it in my grandmother’s voice, my aunts’ voices, my great-aunt’s voice, and other women in my family … a conglomeration of concerned motherhood was echoing in my brain.

Afterwards, I got to thinking, what a wonderful thing to write about! And you know what? It is. I went back through my past work and lo and behold! I had already put pen to paper on this subject.

Sometimes love isn’t simply “I love you.”  Sometimes it’s “are you hungry? have you eaten today?”

Feed Me (Originally Written in April 2014)

The overwrought parent. It’s an ageless and timeless trope that has been milked for easy jokes on dozens if not hundreds of sitcoms for decades now. The kids come home from college and the mom immediately rushes up to her son or daughter, clawing at their clothing while wailing about how they’re nothing but skin and bones. The mom then makes it her duty to whip up a hearty dinner of meat stew and potatoes to try to fatten her kids up before sending them back off to that barren wasteland known as University.

How many times have I rolled my eyes whenever I saw a mother portrayed that way? I’d think to myself, The kids are fine. Settle down. They’re 20 years old; they know how to find food for the love of God! Little did I know that I was bound for the same fate; my course having been set even before I was born, and now I have finally arrived at that echelon of motherhood teeming with irrational anxiety that for some reason my kids have lost any ability to live independently and will die without my assistance.  Whew. Okay. Breathe.

My grandmother used to always push food on us like we had been locked in the Oliver Twist orphanage for decades on end. The funny thing is that she didn’t do this to us when we were kids, only when we were full-fledged grown-ups coming to visit. I guess that as a child she figured my mom would ensure we were fed. Maybe she thought the older I got, the less likely I would be lucky enough to find someone willing to give me food (because for some reason I don’t have the ability to do it myself). So, me as an adult, I’d come by to say hello and she’d cook (always) and even insist that I take food with me for the road trip home.

I remember she did the same thing to my mother after our visits in the summer. A sandwich for the road… biscuits for later… a piece of that fine ham she had for dinner. It was simply impossible to leave the house without something wrapped in foil or stuffed in Tupperware.

Her sister, my great-aunt Bunny, was the same way. I guess that should come as no surprise, since they were raised by the same woman, Grandma Mooney of the Vinegar Valentines, who also had an obsession with making sure people were fed. Back when I was a kid, we’d visit my Aunt Bunny every Sunday and sure enough, we always left with something in hand.

Then it was my mom’s turn. I don’t know when exactly it happened, but she hit a certain age and boom, she fell right in step. Sometimes when I leave her house after a visit it’s like I was just at the Whole Foods store. Balanced in my arms are loaves of bread, canned goods, sweets, and frozen meat (yes, frozen meat). Bless her heart.

Ridiculous, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.  But the virus has taken over my brain too! My poor son. He’s 22 — a man in the eyes of the law and the world — and has moved into his own place, but he’s still in that “new adult” stage; scraping for cash, trying to get on his own two feet. When he comes to visit I feel that it is my maternal obligation to fill his belly with as much food as I can. I constantly tell him to ransack the place, rummage through the cupboards, take anything. I’m pushing food on him like the generations of mad women before me.

Except now I understand that it’s not that we don’t have faith that our kids can live on their own…it’s just that if we know they’re fed…if we can do that one small thing for them… then we figure they can handle the rest of life on their own. And really, money does play a part in it. I would rather my son ransack my cabinets than live on only Ramen for the week. I know my mom feels the same way about me and that’s why she lets me grocery shop in her cupboards.

We can’t solve all of their problems and we can’t “fix” everything no matter how much we want to. But we can feed them. We can make sure that one primary need is filled. So we can worry about them a little less. Knowing that makes me feel a little less crazy. A little.

Rise of the Javaholics

We all have our vices. For some of us, it’s cigarettes. Others nail-biting. Gambling. Speeding. Teen Mom. We’re all addicted to something that we maybe shouldn’t. Raise your hands if that thing is coffee. If I were to follow my own instructions I’d be typing with one hand right now, because the other would be emphatically waving up in the air.

Yes, coffee has a grip on my soul that nothing but sweet death will give me release from (and even then I’d probably be a pretty happy ghost if you put a Keurig in the casket with me).

big coffee cup

wish I had a cup this big

Along with these vices comes temptation. Otherwise, without the fun of being lured back into the darkness, what power would these vices hold over us? Coffee doesn’t make any sort of attempt to even give us addicts a fighting chance. The options and ease of getting that delicious caffeine into the bloodstream is getting ridiculous.

I mean, I already have a tough enough time passing up a Starbucks, but now some of their stores even have a drive-thru. I don’t even have to bother with parking and walking anymore, two of the things I hate most about going to get coffee. I often war with myself over whether it’s worth getting out of the car if 1) it’s simply too early in the morning or 2) it’s raining or 3) various other sub-optimal weather conditions or 4) I just don’t feel like it.

Every time I crave a coffee-shop coffee, I have the angel and devil on my shoulders. The angel, bright-eyed and secure in its control over stimulating substances would say, “Oh Wendy, it’s way too cold out. Do you really need to don a scarf and gloves just for 12 ounces of coffee?”

The devil, much more alert and awake than the angel will ever be, says, “Oh, you know what you want. You go get it. You’re an adult and you make the rules, not Mother Nature.”

With the drive-thru, the angel doesn’t even stand a chance. Hell, most of the time he doesn’t even show up to the game anymore.  Starbucks has found an even better way to get $4 out of me with as little resistance as possible.

starbucks drivethru

sign of my downfall

Oh, and for the record — I blame my friends and family for my continued crippling debilitation.  It’s not all me… being weak willed and such. They know I love Starbucks and so they shower me with gift cards for Christmas and on my birthday and every other holiday where gifts are expected.  Damn enablers. (Psst… hey… hey you… if you’re reading this, I didn’t mean it… I still want those cards for Christmas!)

Don’t worry, I’m not one of those uppity coffee drinkers. I don’t splurge for the grande skinny mocha soy latte extra hot extra shot extra pump add whip cream instead of foam. I mean, come on! It takes some people a full five minutes to just spit out their custom blend order to the 12-year-old barista behind the bar. Just order off the menu and be done with it already.

You may be saying to yourself, “Well Wendy, if you hate the dilemma Starbucks puts you in so much, why don’t you just make your own coffee?” Duh! You think I haven’t bought the special coffee before? I’ve even gone so far as to get the unique Starbucks syrup and the cute little rinky-dinky cups that make me feel like I’m sitting on a patio in Paris and turns my kitchen into a miniature barista paradise. But, it just never tastes the same.  It. Never. Tastes. The. Same.

My theory? Starbucks must be “enriching” their beans. They’re dropping something special in their brew making it extra addictive. Or maybe their cups are laced with a little something extra. I have to believe this. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually, possibly even years from now, that a headline will read “Starbucks coffee contains addictive substance,” or “Revealed: Starbucks additive found to be highly addictive.”  I have to believe that because why the hell would any sane person continue to return time and time again to pay for overpriced coffee and be happy doing so?

Maybe it’s the start of a New World Order; the gradual world domination by the mysterious Starbucks under dark mocha skies using their (not-so-secret) weapon… addictive, delicious, wonderful, fantastic, amazing coffee that no one can seem to resist.

starbucks beans

just what exactly is in those beans!?

Fountain of Youth

I came across an article not too long ago that claimed that owning pets relieves stress. This isn’t a new idea – lots of experts have said the same thing. Some studies show that pets can decrease blood pressure, help maintain good mental health, and even extend life expectancy in many cases.  According to South Boston Animal Hospital, among others, pets can actually increase your confidence and self-esteem, which seems like a tall order for a labradoodle, but okay.

Having had a pet in my home since, oh, I don’t know, forever, I feel like something of an authority on the subject or at least well-informed, we’ll say.  And I just have to ask … have any of these pet experts ever actually owned pets? I wonder.

As most of you know, I have four pets currently: two dogs and two cats, all rescues. We’ve had three of them since they were mere babies (6 to 8 weeks old) with the youngest being about 9 years old now. The “new” addition to our home, Petra, was adopted as an older dog and we’ve had her a little over 4 years. Time does fly, as they say. 

As an adult, I’ve never been without a dog and/or cat or two or three or five even, and as a kid growing up, there was always … but always … at least one dog in our family. My point is, I “get” the whole owning a pet thing. I wouldn’t give mine up for the world. They’re family.

It’s not that I don’t love the little assholes dears, it´s just that I wonder about this universally accepted claim that they relieve stress and extend one’s life. I mean, I’ve got one dog that has the bladder the size of a bean who requires a walk every freakin’ five minutes and another who, I swear, takes having a bowel movement as a competition and strives every day to hit the top score. Spoiler: he wins. Every day.

Life is not exactly restful in my house as I don’t actually get to rest for long in between all of these trips to the tree down the street. But hey, at least it’s at the tree down the street and not in the living room that I routinely traverse in the dark in my bare feet. I realize, things could be worse. I’m reminded of the story of the Roomba running over a pile of dog poop in the living room and carrying it all over the house. I’m sure you can imagine how low that pet owner’s blood pressure was when they walked in the door to that wonderful sight. I bet they set a record.

Did I mention that one of my dogs barks at random times at … nothing. Or at least, I think it’s nothing. I hope it’s nothing. These unexpected, sharp — and loud — staccato yaps ring out first thing in the morning, the afternoon, the middle of the night, she doesn’t care. If she gets the urge to bark, she barks. And boy, does she get the urge. A lot.  I can’t let it go, I mean, I have to look to see if it’s something actually worth worrying about. Is it an intruder? Is it a leaf blowing down the street two blocks over? Is it the cat on the shelf where she doesn’t belong (and someone is tattling)? Is it a ghost? By the time I’ve done a quick reconnaissance, Petra is back in her bed, under her blanket, content with herself and the world. It doesn’t relieve my stress at 2:00 a.m., I can tell you that much.

Rufus, to his credit, rarely barks unless there is something to bark at, like the mail carrier, the neighbor leaving his house or coming home to his house or looking out of his window, or the cat across the street. Or me, coming home from work. However, he does like to eat things he shouldn’t. He takes that 5-second rule seriously and sometimes he doesn’t even wait for things to hit the ground, he seeks them out and steals them taste-tests them for you.

Finding out that your dog has eaten the 2-pound bag of cat food you neglected to lock in the pantry to keep just this sort of thing from happening or your strawberry-flavored Chapstick that was buried in the depths of your purse because you forgot your dog loves strawberries and can smell them from a mile away AND he knows where your purse is kept and now needs to be rushed to the vet for almost $500 worth of stomach meds and emergency care is exactly like having a spa day. If the spa was on fire and you are also on fire. And then someone hands you your wallet which promptly bursts into flames.

Cats are no better. At least, mine aren’t. They’re just more inconspicuous about the whole “let’s relieve mom’s stress and make her live longer” scheme. In fact, they’re so cool and subtle about it, you’d almost think there was some complicated reverse psychology experiment going on.

Let’s be honest. Owning a cat is basically ensuring that no glass of water will ever be safe. In fact, knickknacks, coffee cups, bottles of all kinds, and even expensive foundation make-up — which creates such a lovely design on the floor when it shatters, by the way — will never be safe again.

Oh, the middle-of-the-night races are jarringly raucous and create quite the jump-scare when a small, fluffy, homicidal packet of cute jumps on your chest while you’re fast asleep, but you learn to adapt … it’s the yodeling contests at 3:00 a.m. that get to you.

Frankly, who can live stress-free when there is a continual plot against your life? Extending my life, indeed. Ha! The ne’er-do-well (aka Holly) has had it out for me ever since I put a baby lock on the cat treat cabinet, thereby successfully foiling her ongoing thievery … I can’t imagine her having any intention whatsoever of extending my life.

On the other hand, Shaylee, the older matriarch-cat of our four-legged family, is sweet as pie, when she isn’t tormenting Petra or biting the hand that feeds her or looking at Rufus which in turn apparently offends him to no end eliciting the need “to teach her a lesson” not remembering that she outweighs him and really doesn’t like him either (hence the look to begin with) and pure chaos ensues. Ah, yes. Fun and games.

Don’t be fooled, multiple pets, like siblings, will often torment each other just for kicks and giggles. A cat might tickle its tail in front of a dog’s nose just to irritate it. Or as is the case in my house, they will swat that dog right on the top of the head and then escape to a high shelf, far out of reach, tormenting the dog with its own failure. Cats, or at least my cats, don’t understand the concept of holding a grudge it would seem, and are quite surprised when, hours later, they descend from their haughty throne only to be met with a hostile canine hiding the shiv he made while he was awaiting their return to ground level. You can’t tell me being witness to these kinds of interactions are stress relieving in any way.

Oh, hey, I just remembered. I shut my finger in the door today. Hard. How on earth is that even relevant, Wendy, you may ask! Well, let me explain. You see, my dogs are nothing if not well fed. They eat three times a day with treats in between. Yet, Rufus acts as though he’s starved to death. He’s so put upon, really, just ask him. Poor thing. Still in the dark?  Stay with me, it will become clear.

Anyway, Rufus eats his food quickly because he has it in his cute little head that he will go and steal Petra’s food when he’s done. He is never allowed to do this, but it doesn’t stop him from trying, God bless him. Petra, because she is the slowest eater I have ever seen in my entire life, eats in the bedroom of solitude behind closed doors so she can have her meal in peace without threat of invaders.  As I was walking out of the bedroom – before doggy dinner time had concluded, Rufus tried to race through the minuscule opening I had created (I swear, it was impressive, it was like Road Runner took lessons from a cheetah to better outwit Wile E. Coyote).

Let me interject here, some of you may recall that Petra was abused before she came to live with us and noises, especially abrupt noises … like miniature Road Runner-Cheetah hybrids hurtling full speed across wood floors … still make her nervous.

So, as I was reassuring Petra that no, the apocalypse had not started and simultaneously doing my best to not step on Rufus who was now completely under my feet and somehow keep him out of the bedroom and not catch him in the door, I shut the door on my finger. Did I mention, hard?

Oh yeah. I’m going to live forever with these jerks sweet little fluffballs around. They certainly inspire a colorful vocabulary though, I’ll give them that.

 

Gaming Grandma

Once upon a time, kids played innocent video games that had, as their selling point, learning and teachable moments embedded in the fun.  LeapFrog was one of these; a creative, book-oriented electronic game whose only purpose was to teach our kids how to count, how to read, and how to sing very annoying songs. My kids were no exception.  We leaped with the best frogs.

Next came computer games, like Club Penguin, Toontown, and Jumpstart.  These were adorable games where the kids learned to chat in controlled phrases, and they began to experience their first taste of competition.  The next logical step was Pokémon and Naruto, where competition, chatting, and teamwork became part of everyday life.

From there, my kids jumped into League of Legends, where the sole purpose of the game was to annihilate other players.  Yay, progress.

When my son was living at home, I would hear the muffled thuds, the not-so-muffled thuds, the cursing, the banging, and occasionally the overturned chair coming from the sanctity of his room.  I wondered, but no way was I going into a teenage boy’s room alone; God only knows what science projects he had brewing under his bed or in his dirty laundry hamper.   It was hard to tell if he needed a new hobby, more practice, or better friends.  My daughter wasn’t much better, only her game frustrations were much quieter and spilled out to the dinner table in the form of dirty looks and grumbling.

I went through the usual parental worrying.  Do they spend too much time online?  Are they secretly chatting with some 60-year-old pervert in a pink tutu in this multi-player game?  Do they need to get out and socialize with the real world?  And most importantly, will they end up living in my basement into their forties?

Obviously, my kids got their video chops from their cool mom, right?  Yeah, not so much.  I don’t like video games, they make me anxious and I get stressed when I play.  I blame Milton Bradley’s Perfection. While not a video game, it was a battery-operated panic attack. Besides, life is like a video game, with adventures to be found at the grocery store, the freeway, and, occasionally, the kitchen when I try a new recipe.

So, if not me, where did they get this video game aptitude from?  Well, look one generation back, and there it is.  Thanks, mom.

Oh yes, you read that right.  My mom, sweetest lady, butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, the picture of innocence.  My mom was a pro gamer before gaming was cool.

First it was Atari. That was too easy for her. Asteroids, tennis, and pong?   It was like shooting fish in a barrel for my mother. Come to think of it, she had that game too.

The next level of her addiction came with new heroes, courtesy of Sega Genesis.  Round, prickly ones named Sonic.  Sonic ushered in some of his closest friends, including Zelda, who rode in on the wave that was Super Nintendo.  The original Zelda, thank you very much. Kids think they know Zelda, but you’ve never played Zelda until you’ve played it on the original gaming platform, in full glorious side-scrolling wonder with its tinny music and recycled backgrounds.

Then, hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen … along came Mario Brothers.  My mother immediately forgot everything else in the world as she threw herself into mastering this game.  My family frequently went without eating for days at a time, no clean clothes, up to our ankles in our own game, “Chase the Dust Bunnies.”

Of course, that’s not true, but she was completely obsessed with the game.  I still remember when she hit the high score or won the game, whichever the goal was.  She left the game on the entire day as proof and if I recall correctly, she took a picture of the tv screen for good measure because she was afraid no one would believe her. I like to think that the birth of my brother and me were the happiest days of her life, but I tell you, I’m not so sure.

Once she conquered the world of supersonic mammals, Italian plumbers, and valiant quests, she went for a more maternal distraction because, apparently, a real family wasn’t enough stress. She went full on geek and got herself a Tamagotchi critter, which I think was a dog.  She even took it camping and on vacation, so it wouldn’t die.  I have no idea how long it survived, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was years. Hell, she may still have it in a closet somewhere, secretly feeding it and dutifully cleaning up its little digital poops.

I often wonder, does my complete inability to play video games reflect poorly on her?  Or did her gaming ability soar straight through my DNA without passing GO and hit my kids squarely in the controllers, picking up power as it went?  If that’s the case, then my great-grandchildren will be amazingly gifted… prodigies even.

As for me, I’m still playing the fun video game, “set my car clock for daylight savings time.”  It’s been going on for days now. Fall back indeed. Just what the hell did I do with that owner’s manual?