Friday, March 30, 2012

Answers to the big questions

Like most kids, mine are full of questions, but sadly, my brain simply cannot retain information that isn't immediately useful to me for getting through the day. So the price I pay for my ability to remember that I'm working the school book fair at 1; Elizabeth needs to bring the special snack for the class on Monday; I need green onions for dinner; Caroline needs to wear her class shirt for the field trip on Thursday; I have a brief due on Tuesday; and Jacob has an orthodontist appointment at 3 is that I have no idea what Lithuania's chief export is. If I ever knew it I can tell you that it's gone, long gone. And so are countless bits of information just like that. David, on the other hand, has never encountered a factoid that his spongelike brain did not retain. It's one of the many reasons why he is great to have around.

- Mom, what country borders on Macedonia?
- Hmmm, I think that's one for Dad or an atlas.

- Mom, what flag has a blue stripe, white stripe, blue stripe, white stripe, blue stripe, white stripe, blue stripe with a sunshine in the corner?
- You know, Dad is really the flag identifier in the family. Why don't you ask him when he gets home?

- Mom, what is IN a black hole?
- Well, I always thought it was kind of nothing. Energy? Let's ask Dad.

Well, one night at the beach we were sitting in Fudpuckers , which, as I previously mentioned, was playing a generous assortment of Whitney Houston videos in between its modern country selections. Whitney's video for "I Have Nothing" was playing:

- Mom, what's that thing on her head?

The use of metallic costumery and Cleopatran imagery in early 1990s romantic thrillers? Ahhhh, finally a question for mom!

- Well son. That is a beaded metallic headdress. It emphasizes the regal, exotic, almost otherwordly air of Whitney, and presents a striking juxtaposition to the sensible, disciplined Frank. By bedazzling Whitney to this degree, it further emphasizes the contrast between their two worlds.

- David: She's a diva. That's what divas wear.

David's answer, while technically correct, does not go far enough, and is clearly the response of someone who has not seen The Bodyguard. Lisa, if only you could walk through that imaginary tunnel connecting our living rooms, I KNOW that you could help me out here!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

{lightly photographed} beach vacation

When we told the kids we were going to beach for spring break, they were really excited. The beach has been our go-to family vacation, but it's been a couple of years since we've gone. Jacob tried to remind Caroline how awesome the beach is: "And remember? We dress in white at night and go hunting for crabs on the beach!!"

Um, that dressing in white and crab hunting thing? That would be your mother manipulating you into being photographed on the beach during the Golden Hour. I decided that I'd give it a rest this time and let them wear whatever the heck they wanted and not have to deal with a camera in their face the entire time. It was actually quite liberating! I did snap some pix on my iPhone and broke out the big camera once, so here goes . . .

We have officially left behind the days of requiring an hour getting-ready time for every 10 minutes of actual beach time. And it is really really awesome. Not that the old days weren't awesome too. But after close to 10 years of raising babies and toddlers, we were very ready for this turn of events and were thrilled to meet our newer, easier beach-ready kids on this trip.

On a particularly windy day we decided to take a break from the beach to go play some miniature golf.

I find that my children's miniature golf personalities closely match their real life personalities (Jacob, after shooting a 7 on a hole: "Just put me down for a million, okay? That's pretty close." Elizabeth, after shooting a 42 on a hole: "Woo hoo!! Woo hoo!!")

Caroline has a unique swing that involves hitting the ball with the tip of her putter rather than the large flat side.

Not knowing or caring about the rules or the objective of the game definitely enhanced her enjoyment of it, I think.

Jacob taking a shot that he was almost certainly unhappy with:

But any lingering exasperation over the golf game disappeared once we got onto the bumper boats, which were, there is just no other way to put this, freaking cold. Part of the deal with the bumper boats is that you squirt other boaters with built-in water guns as you move to bump into them, which makes this an excellent July activity. Strangely, everyone but me seemed oblivious to this.

The girls warmed up on the kiddie ferris wheel:

We had some great dinners out while we were there (the most important part of a vacation). We usually try to hit this place even when we don't stay anywhere near Destin, so we took full advantage of staying so close to it this time:

The mandatory grouper sandwich:

But the most memorable meal had to be at Fudpucker's. Caroline had a hard time pronouncing "Fudpuckers" and kept leaving out the "dp" in the middle of the word -- that was awkward. Fudpuckers is really more of a total body experience than a restaurant. As you approach the building, you see a colorful party van sticking out of the wall. This place not only allows, but actively encourages, graffiti. There's a dance stage in the middle of the restaurant where 22 year old girls threaten to break into the Macarena at any moment, and a playground next to the dance floor. The restaurant walls are covered with TV screens playing the oddest assortment of music videos ever (mostly "young Nashville" - Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, but every fourth video was vintage Whitney Houston, and then just when you thought you'd figured out the pattern - Brad, Taylor, Carrie, Whitney, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Taylor, Whitney -- they'd swoop in and confuse you with Cee Lo). And then there are the baby gators they raise in the basement (which you could feed with fishing poles, or pose with for a photograph -- for a small fee, of course). As Elizabeth put it, "this is our kind of place." Oh yeah.

While we were there we had a plate full of fried alligator tail (tastes like chicken):

To the surprise of no one, Caroline passed on the baby alligator holding, but the big kids thought it was fun.

I said to the gator handler: "he's a trooper, isn't he?" and the guy said "oh, they get real agitated after a while. We've got three of them that we swap out when one of them has reached his limit." And it was then that I sensed that PETA would not approve of Gator Beach. Or maybe it was the tape on the mouth part. We tried to make amends (for eating and then agitating them) by feeding them:

That was one fun vacation.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's official . . .

We have the world's most incompetent tooth fairy working our route. Somehow she forgot to take the tooth, leave the cash AGAIN on Saturday. I THINK that she may have tried to come earlier in the evening, but found Elizabeth thrashing around, so she decided to move on to the next toothless kid until she could be sure that Elizabeth was actually asleep. And then she apparently forgot to come back. In any event, Elizabeth was very disappointed and confused when she woke up and the tooth was still there, money was not. I told her that I was almost positive that what happened is that because she chose to keep her last two teeth, she must have inadvertently been placed on the permanent "Keeps Teeth" list, and that she needed to write a letter to the Tooth Fairy to clear things up.

Sorry, blogger is flipping the picture and I can't figure out why, and well it just seems plain silly to spend a whole lot of time trying to troubleshoot this given the already-ridiculous nature of this post. Anyway,the note said:

Dear Tooth Fairy, I only want to keep a couple of my teeth because I think they are pretty cool. I do have a question. Are teeth considered bones? I want to give you this one, and I do not hope for extra money. Love, Elizabeth (that's a row of teeth on the bottom)

I guess the note cleared things up, because the Tooth Fairy DID come the following night, and left Elizabeth a whopping $5 to boot (we've always been a dollar-per-tooth family). I think that the tooth fairy is going to have to start calendaring this on Outlook along with everything else, because she's got a lot more teeth to go before she's through with this house.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What a difference a few years makes . . .

We once spent a whole beach vacation with this guy on the beach access walkway, because all he wanted to do was play with the hose that is provided to wash sand off your feet. And just look at him now!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Beach Book Packing in 5 easy steps!

There are so many things to think about while packing for vacation, especially with young kids, and it can get a little overwhelming. Thankfully, I streamline the process by following a few simple guidelines for determining whether a book is worthy of the prime real estate in my beach bag.

(1) Does the book jacket coordinate with the contents of a typical Easter basket?

If yes, then it can go in the bag. If no, then ask:

(2) Is the median age of the characters seventeen?

If yes, then it can go in the bag. If no, then ask:

(3) Does it take place on Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard?

If yes, then it can go in the bag. If no, then ask:

(4) Is it a homage to food and/or wine?

If yes, then it can go in the bag. If no, then ask:

(5) Does it involve paranormal romance?

If yes, then it can go in the bag.

My friend Andrea, who I can always count on for flawless book recommendations, suggested that last title to me the day before we left for the beach (thanks Andrea!!!). We had this conversation:

A: It a romance between a vampire and a witch, but the witch doesn't want to use her powers so she tries to get by without them.
C: Sounds interesting.
A: And it takes place at Oxford -- they are both professors -- so that is the backdrop.
C: {gasp}
A: And the vampire is this serious lover of food and wine.
C: You had me at "Oxford."
A: And he's French!
C: Oh my God.
A: I know, it just keeps getting better.

So there you have it -- a handy flow chart for scoping out stellar (and not too mentally taxing) beach reads!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sign you may be having a midlife crisis

You begin loading your iPod with early 2000s hip hop containing explicit lyrics advisories.

Sign your midlife crisis will be lame: You immediately search for the Kidz Bop version of the same song so that you can listen to the tune in the minivan with the kiddos.

Incidentally, I can probably only pick out about 25% of the objectionable content in these songs -- most of it is probably so bad that 39 year old suburban soccer moms can't even understand it. I mean, I know that "smoke an L in the back of a Benz-y" is bad, but what about "We three-wheelin in the fo' with the gold Ds?" Is that bad? I don't know. It definitely might be. The clean version of the song switches "smoke an L in the back of a Benz-y" to "ride in the back of a Benz-y" -- i.e., abject materialism rather than drugs, so it may be a marginal improvement but still probably still not a line I want Caroline serenading her preschool class with. So I guess I'll have to save Nelly for my headphones and stick with Adele for the car rides.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tree-filled Weekend

It was a gorgeous weekend here, and we had an unusually empty calendar -- and that combo is the recipe for a great weekend. We took the kids to see The Lorax on Saturday, and everybody enjoyed it. One complaint that we'd heard about the movie is that it shamelessly exposes kids to a liberal agenda -- so of course David and I were all for it!! (although we prefer "progressive"). :-) It did make me feel really guilty about the 9 trees that I want to cut down in our backyard.

The kids are all about the photo booths, so after the movie they piled into one in the movie theater lobby and hammed it up. Goofballs.

But back to the trees. On Sunday we hit a hiking trail near our house, and while I've completely burned out on photography (yet another hobby bites the dust due to my inability to maintain any sense of moderation -- my friend Wendy says that I'm a serial hobbyist, which I think is charitable way to look at it) I did have my trusty phone with me, so I got a few shots. The kids enjoyed all of their favorite landmarks, like this one, which they've named the Bouncing Tree of Awesomeness:

Ah, throwing rocks into a stream: one of life's most soul-nourishing activities:

Except when my kids do it -- then rocks seem to have a way of infiltrating each other's no-fly zones, and we need to quickly move on.

Jacob and Elizabeth were playing some game that required them to hold hands at times:

So that wasn't actually a genuine moment of sibling affection, but I'll take it anyway!

We found the waterfalls, and the kids took turns going out onto the rocks with David while I stood back and kept repeating "be careful . . . be careful . . ."

The end.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rock on!

Last weekend David and I went with some friends to see the Black Jacket Symphony cover Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced?. What the Black Jacket Symphony does is cover an entire classic album from start to finish, staying completely true to the album (i.e. no rogue guitar rifts or crazy vocal arrangements in a misguided effort to personalize the songs). Then in the second act, it performs assorted greatest hits by that artist. These guys are REALLY talented and were so fun to watch. They had such a rock 'n roll energy about them -- you'd never know that by day they push paper around desks just like the rest of us!! My only wish is that they would consider branching out from classic rock a bit (they tend to like to cover bands like The Doors, The Who, etc). In fact the next day I said to David "how awesome would it be if they covered something like Thriller?" He likes classic rock more than I do, but he agreed that it would indeed be awesome. They have covered the Joshua Tree and Abbey Road, so there is hope. It's not like I'm asking them to do Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy or anything {although how amazing would that be?} but the Foo Fighters or Pearl Jam shouldn't be too much to ask for, come on guys!

After the show, four of our friends decided to go out for a drink, but I ixnayed late night for us. I would be worried that this is a sign that I'm getting old, but then I remembered that I've been ixnaying late night with these same friends since my late 20s. I feel like I have some fun in me until about 10, maybe 10:30 p.m., and then I pretty much want to go to sleep. This is why my ideal social event is the Kentucky Derby -- you can start around 3:30 p.m. and then be done by 8 (and conversely, why New Year's Eve is my biggest nightmare -- especially because it's not usually good form to leave the party at 12:01 a.m.) But anyway. This was a really fun concert and I was in bed well before midnight, and in my book, that is a good night.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The day's 8 most exciting words

"Glee Planning Super Tribute Show to Whitney Houston."

Yes Perez, I will be tuning in.

Selective hearing

This was the conversation around the breakfast table this morning.

Elizabeth: MoooOOOOOOoooommmmmmm! Caroline won't give me my Elizabeeeeth {American Girl doll}
Me: I'm sorry. I don't understand whine.
Elizabeth (in flat monotone): Mommy? Caroline won't give me my Elizabeth.
Caroline: I'm a little sister. I don't hear so much.

Ah, the old "distract them with a non sequitur" trick. And it worked. I think Caroline still had the Elizabeth doll when Elizabeth left for school. I will need to restore justice this afternoon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Must be responsible, love children, and possess mad julienning skillz

We've started using an after school babysitter on occasion, and my kids adore her, not surprisingly, as she is young, cute, and energetic. I love her because she's mature, responsible, and naturally great with kids. The first few times she sat for us, she told me that I should leave a list for her of things that need to be done around the house and she'd be happy to tackle it while the kids were doing their homework. I kind of blew it off, but she was persistent. So eventually I started leaving her a list that looked something like this:

"Hey Courtney! IF you have time (but seriously, only if you have time) there are clean dishes in the dishwasher -- if you can put them away that would be great, but it is definitely not necessary so DO NOT worry about it if you can't get to it! Thanks!"

Well, despite the numerous outs that I attempted to give her, unloading the dishwasher proved to be no match for Courtney, so the next time she sat I left another note.

"Hi Courtney! Well, once again there are clean dishes in the dishwasher --go figure! -- so if you have time to unload, that would be awesome. Also, there is some clean laundry in a basket in the den that could stand to be folded -- but obviously, none of this is remotely essential so it is totally fine if there isn't time! Thanks! :-) Cathy"

Well, you guessed it, Courtney handled the children plus dishes plus laundry with aplomb. It was clearly time to see what she was really made of.

"Hi Courtney! I ran the dishwasher this morning so the dishes should be clean -- if you can put them away, that would be great. Thank you!! Also, there is some clean laundry in a basket in the den and some more in the dryer, if you have time (and you may well not!), would you mind folding? Also, I left a couple of sweet potatoes on the counter; I was going to make sweet potato fries to go with dinner tonight. Do you think you can peel the potatoes and cut them into kind of fry-like strips? Thank you SO much! Cathy"

And I came home to this:

Ohmygosh!! This must be what it's like to have a wife!! To come home at the end of a long day to an empty dishwasher, folded laundry and perfectly uniform sweet potato strips.

She graduates this spring and is moving back to Kentucky. I will weep.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Late to the party

Ever since I've had kids, I haven't really watched TV. Now, I find that frequently when people say "I don't watch TV" they intend it in a morally superior way, so let me clarify upfront that I actually mean that in the exact opposite way -- i.e., my act is so far from together that I just can't seem to figure out when shows are on, or on what channel -- or maybe I know that something is on "Fox," but I have no idea what channel Fox is on the television -- or what day it's on -- and for some reason figuring it all out just seems too overwhelming. So it's not like I'm eschewing television in favor of Chaucer and a cup of Earl Grey, no, I either fall asleep before 9 p.m., or I default to HGTV and its invariable prime time showing of House Hunters International. But as a pop culture enthusiast, Facebook account holder, and frequent reader of celebrity gossip publications, I am aware that certain shows are out there in the world that lots of normal people watch. Like Glee.

I kind of got the gist of Glee over the past few years from reading about it -- a band of high school misfits who break into song with alarming regularity -- and I figured I'd like it if I could ever figure out where/when it was on, since I kind of fit the profile of the kind of person who would like Glee. But ohmygosh. I had NO IDEA. I started streaming Glee through my Amazon account last Sunday, and I am proud to say that I've watched all twenty two 44 minute episodes of Season 1 in one week flat. Yes, it took focus, commitment and discipline, but I was up to the challenge. I switched my workouts from running to riding the stationary bike so that I could have more Glee time. I started watching Glee with my Kindle and headphones while putting Caroline to bed (which results in a lot of "Caroline, put your head on the pillow -- no Glee for you!") I watch Glee while getting ready in the morning and before bed at night. There are really no words for how much I love this show. If you watch it, you totally know what I mean. If you don't, I can't really explain its awesomeness to you. You just have to watch. But if Neil Patrick Harris singing "Daydream Believer" in a patchwork sweater and full-on 80s mullet sounds like your jam, then tune in. I still can't tell you what day or what channel it's on, but the old episodes are readily available from Amazon (and probably Netflix).