What Did You Say?

Of all the skills required to maintain healthy, happy, human relationships we are by far and away the worst at communication. Should be a simple concept. You talk I listen, I talk you listen. We both understand what the other needs and are motivated to cooperate. In reality you talk, my eyes glaze over. I talk, you worry about what’s for dinner. We all talk, no one listens, everyone is confused and distinctly not cooperating.

A week after Thanksgiving I came home with a pie I found on the markdown shelf. These people had been eating homemade pie for 7 days, but I couldn’t resist the bargain basement price of $.75. Joe’s frugality is rivaled only by his sweet tooth so he was duly impressed. His only question was why I didn’t take bigger advantage of the sale. I tried several times to explain but his Uzi like diatribe blew that part of the conversation out of the water. Just when I thought I couldn’t be anymore frustrated, Tessa, who was not only in the same room during the conversation, but with me at the store when I bought it and the one to carry it in from the car took advantage of his need to reload before I could and and piped in, “We have PIE?!”

Children are a gimme. We didn’t listen to our parents before it was too late and the children are certainly not going to listen to us. According to recent research this is due to a very real lack of brain development. I don’t care what anyone says I’m not buying that one. I am much more convinced it is due to the traditional and very potent curse, “I hope you have a child just like you!” I admit, I don’t know nothin’ from brain cells, but I remember the day I ignored my Mom putting that one on me. The children are aged 10 to 22 and I didn’t have to be paying attention for that sucker to stick.

Personally, I have a bad case of Someone Says…I Hear…Disease. I hear the words that are spoken but feel obligated to put my own interpretation on them. “We missed you at church last week.” Means “Heathen!” “Are you feeling OK” translates to “Wow you look like shit!” I can’t leave out “You look great!” The women out there all know this means we looked fat the last time they saw us. The worst is if Joe should ask me if I remembered to get something done. Jeez, what does he think? I am not stupid. It’s not my fault he mumbled when he asked for dental floss.

He and I suspect, most men are afflicted with I Heard You But Can’t Be Bothered to Retain It Disorder. I know, indeed, that he hears me on some level. He acknowledges and even comments on what we are discussing. We don’t see much of my parents. They live out of state. Joe loves my parents. He considers my Dad a comedy super-genius and thinks Mom is more than a little hot. Whenever I get the news that one, the other or both are coming for a visit it is what he calls “Big-E” news. He wants to know when they will be here, how long they can they stay, can he pick them up at the airport and what the occasion is. He has never failed to be pleasantly surprised when they show up.

Our remote controls have mute buttons, our earbuds drown out the world and voicemail makes short work of the people we can’t be bothered to even pretend to listen to. The whole thing makes you wonder whom we think we are kidding by wearing our cell phones around in our ears.


Beyond Bah Humbug

One week and half before Thanksgiving, Tessa and I were driving across town. Sighing deeply, the ten-year-old shook her head and informed me she was just about fed up with people jumping the gun with the decorative lights. Not that they aren’t pretty, but a brightly-lit nativity next door to a pumpkin display was more than she could take. In case you have never met one, a child coming up on Christmas is greedier than Wall Street. This one told me things are out of control. It’s official. The world has lost its mind.

First of all Christmas has become a badly behaved guest. Purporting to be “the most wonderful time of the year” you invite him for December and he shows up in October. He kicks Halloween out of the house and steamrolls poor Thanksgiving who is quietly hanging on trying to celebrate family and contentment. If the Fourth of July puts away the cannons we might as well give up and relocate to North Pole with the elves.

Then there are the parties. We have one annual commitment that makes us all crazy. It is the usual, not optional, predictable bad chain of events that everyone hates but is too intimidated to blow off. While all these events are less than entertaining, this one is special. The invitation arrives with the expected pot luck requests and an invoice. Required to attend please don’t forget your cash fee for party hall rental and Santa sack full of mandatory gifts. PS No cocktails allowed…ho…ho…ho.

How’s the shopping working for you? Don’t lie. You waste valuable family time in front of the fire, driving like a kamikaze and maneuvering the mall like an Army Ranger all for the privilege of buying a half-priced, over-priced, stinky candle for nutty Aunt Meg, who hates to dust and doesn’t want it anyway. Her contribution to the insanity is forgetting which stinky candle you gave her last year and wrapping it up before she gives it back. On second thought she may not be so nutty after all.

The psychology of this event is so pervasive even my nephews have been caught in the net and they’re Jewish. Poor Jesus. God sacrifices divinity to live as a man. Now that was a Christmas gift. Somewhere along the line we allowed that concept to be swallowed up by obnoxious decorations, ridiculous expectations and an obligation to spend money we don’t have. The spiritual message drowned in diamonds, cell phones and video games along time ago. Bummer dude. I wish I could make it up to Him for His birthday. Maybe we should all get together and get Him that brand new car.


Happy Birthday!

AJ BdayToday is my oldest child’s birthday. Adrian Joseph was the first of four miracles God trusted to me. When he arrived he introduced me to the enormity of a mother’s love. He is also the 6’4, 200 pound idiot in my banner picture.

We began our lives together with his utter disregard and lack of respect for the Pill. If that didn’t give me the heads up there was going to be trouble the instantaneous and crippling morning sickness should have. The only thing the child let me keep down was bbq corn chips and then only if I washed them down with grape juice. I lost 20 pounds during that pregnancy and only gained back 19 of it before he was born, weighing 8 pounds. Six of that was head. I was in labor for three, count them three days. The doctor told me I was still hours from delivery, it was time to think about the options and left the room. AJ was born 12 minutes later in a delivery the doctor said reminded him of catching a jet plane at exactly 7:47 PM. I remember that because it was the last appropriate thing he did for 20 years.

By the time he was nine months old he had mastered walking, getting out of his crib and turning a doorknob all with the stealth of an accomplished cat burglar. Out of desperation I installed a hook and eye on the outside of his bedroom door. At ten months he mastered the heretofore unheard of skill of popping said hook by propelling a Little Golden Book up the crack. Things went steadily downhill after that. At three he opened a window and went out taking his one-year-old sister with him. The two of them would still be running if the street weren’t there. They did not have permission to cross.

Meanwhile, he was in no way limited to the Houdini Routine. He was two the day I thought it was naptime. He thought it was time to completely disassemble his little sister’s crib using a dime as a screwdriver. He managed to do this in such a systematic way that I had no idea what he was up to until the entire thing crashed into a pile with a thud that shook the windows. I did a little crashing of my own, into their bedroom and fell into a panicked attempt to extricate her silent and decidedly missing body. Patting my shoulder he said, “Don’t worry, Mommy.” Crossed the room to an empty upside down toy barrel, lifted it and revealed her smiling, contented unsmashed face, making phone calls courtesy of Fisher-Price. No less a sign of things to come but I will save that story for her birthday.

I spent the rest of his childhood trying to convince him to use his powers for good. He concentrated on mastering evil. His resume includes, but is not limited to: demanding an explanation for the role of the penis in baby making at Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s house, using his first “real” tools only to take apart his first “real” toolbench, introducing me to internet porn and moving out before high school graduation because he couldn’t face the idea of ever washing another dish.

On the occasion of his twenty-second birthday, he is not only still alive and in one piece, but an actual contributing member of society. A parachute rigger in the United States Army, he frequently jumps out of airplanes, which is right up his alley. He has been twice decorated with the Army Achievement Medal and managed to convince a lovely, thoughtful, kind young woman to marry him. These days my only worries about that boy revolve around her. She is carrying my first grandchild and I did, after all, with malice and forethought curse him with the punishment of having to raise a child who was just like him. I am very, very sorry she had to get drug into this whole mess. When I said that I was to mad to remember there would have to be another woman involved to gestate that six pound head.

I miss you.

I love you, Adrian.


Clarification please

Twenty-three years ago, when I carried my first son, my doctor recommended a glass of wine when I had trouble sleeping. Two years later, the same doctor introduced me to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and made it clear, failure to comply was child abuse. This is typical of the fun the medical community likes to have with us.

Now they are at it again. Mammograms, no mammograms?! I have no idea what’s right. Just what does a person like me do when the doctors can’t agree? I know for sure that I am not giving up self-examination. The only reason I can imagine they would tell us that is unnecessary is because we are worth more money if we are sick. However there were those two very uncomfortable hours of my life I would like to get back if the no mammogram thing turns out to be valid.

When I was a child, “You’ll put an eye out!” pretty much covered it all. In a pinch, Mom would throw in, “Knock it off before you break something!” or maybe, “You’ll get pneumonia.” This warning was usually followed by a dose of baby aspirin. I was 14 when Mom heard that might kill us and she switched to Tylenol.

In 1993, I took my youngest son for a well baby check. His doctor found an ear infection. The child had no pain and no fever, but I was somehow at fault. After dutifully submitting to his lecture on diligence, I filled the prescription for antibiotics and did my penance, wearing the pink gooey stuff for ten days. I have spent 15 years feeling badly about that one. Then I heard that antibiotics are over prescribed especially for that malady and often lead to a resistance of the medication…yeah, you know who you are, Buddy, and you owe me an apology.

“The doctor said” has been the rule in our house since 1987. I just wish the doctor knew what he was preaching about. Even though “it didn’t kill me” constantly crosses my mind, I make sure the children do as I am told. No eggs over easy, low glycemic meals and no rare meat are a few of the rules that govern their lives. Brushing for three minutes, veggie scrubbing and stalking Ecoli in the kitchen are a family past time. Caffeine is a habit they will have to develop on their own time and the last time my son said “sugar” I washed his mouth out. Using anti bacterial soap of course.

The seventeen-year-old wants a car, but in addition to a vivid recollection of my driving habits in those years, there are published statistics about teenage drivers. The fourteen-year-old recently mugged a neighbor kid for a swig of his Mountain Dew, and 10-year-old Tessa would rather have West Nile and Lyme’s Disease than wear the DEET free repellant I bought. Their stepfather liked refined flour and is beginning to question the famine story I made up when I replaced his potatoes with squash.

My oldest swears I should have spent more time on “you’ll put your eye out”. Chasing his sister through a string of trees with a snowball, he almost did. Failing that (and I did) I have less and less confidence in the information I am relying on. I am no longer worried so much about their health as I am about mine. If I don’t start getting reliable information around here the swine flu may not kill me but my family definitely will.


More news on the economy

I want to make it clear that I adore my husband. He is my second one. I had to survive 13 years with a spectacularly crappy one to get to Joe and he was worth it. It was important to get that out there. You might doubt it when I mention that if the economy doesn’t pick up soon so he can get back to work Joe will be dead and my new address will be Leavenworth.

He has some pretty strong opinions, no volume control and a let’s say an “unique talent” for expressing himself. Don’t ever get him started on conspiracy theories. This is tougher than it sounds as he has plots implicating lawyers, oil companies, the FBI and CIA, maybe the Israelis, rich people in general and definitely Wayne Brady and the Let’s Make A Deal Show. Drew Carey and The Price is Right have not made the list but I have. After trick or treating for 2 hours in the freezing drizzle, I declined to make his supper. That night I could be crazy, I might be mean and I was undoubtedly going to starve him to death. By the way, watch out for those bloodsuckers at The American Red Cross. There’s no way somebody isn’t get rich out of that deal.

Then there are the medical conditions. Anal Glaucoma is when he can’t see his ass doing any work and is more contagious than the Swine Flu. An outbreak of this can and has taken out the entire family in less than thirty seconds. Boxer Bunch means there is no hope of peace until his current objective is achieved. These objectives range from finding the Gettysburg Address online to locating the receipt for a ten-year-old lawn tractor, but outbreaks that are not dealt with promptly result just as certainly in epidemic.

He frequently refers to our ten-year-old as a “butt tumor”. I do not deny that she can be high maintenance especially when the three of us are home alone, but Joe is the hands down winner of the Wearing My Ass as a Hat award. A very handy guy who handles all home repairs, all his projects are the same. He makes a plan, announces his intentions, heads to the job, goes to work for 45 seconds and bellows, “ALEX!” Even if I am up to my elbows executing open-heart surgery, I have been drafted and it’s time to fall in. No idea what a rheostat even is but he lost it and I found it. He built 3 sheds in the back yard. I roofed three sheds in the back yard. He shot and butchered a deer. I learned to make summer sausage. He cooks supper and makes me a cake every year for my birthday and I even have to assist on that one. I really can’t blame him though. I brought it on myself. Should have known better than to hide everything from him when I moved in.


Hit the mute button…PLEASE!

A law firm commercial wants to know if I am tired of being harassed by creditors. No, I am not. I AM tired of being harassed by that commercial. In fact I am tired of being harassed by commercials in general. I do my best to avoid this particular annoyance. I am the Queen of the Mute Button (Joe is too slow on the trigger) and these things are still putting me around the bend.

Pharmaceutical companies are an obvious issue. It seems there is a pill for everything that ails us and it is our right as consumers to hear this directly from them. I heard on the news the other day that our doctors aren’t so thrilled with the responses they get at the office and I don’t blame them. If a person is willing to risk blindness in the quest to grow better eyelashes, they might be better served with the increased risk of suicide that comes with taking the latest anti-depressant.

Car insurance companies had a conference and decided consumers can be swayed by irritating and ridiculous mascots. Joe has a theory that if they drive us batty enough we’ll buy just shut them up. At this point I am batty enough to think we should line up the discount lady, the lizard, Justin Case and the e-cartoons so The General can take them all out, right before we run him over with his own tank.

Then there is the brainiac who decided that women are in love with cleaning products. Probably the same guy who decided we would never notice if they shrunk the size of everything we buy. Really, I have yet to meet the Mom who smiles about using $1.57 worth of paper towels wiping up $3.00 worth of Kool-Aid. I know we are not dumb enough to believe that “moisturizing” dish soap is the best choice for skin care and that air freshener Mom never cleans anything she just lights candles, plugs in a doo-hickie and plays tennis. Where can I sign up for that gig? I do, in all fairness like my vacuum cleaner, but I bet my old mop and feather duster will be ringing my doorbell before I ever dance around the house with it.