Thursday, October 20, 2011

20 Things I've Never Done

I'm taking Mama Kat's challenge this week. She's asked us to follow the lead of The Pioneer Woman who posted a list of Things I've Never Done Before. I loves makin' lists, so here are Things I've Never Done Before.

I'm 37.75 years old and I have never:

1. Visited a continent on the opposite side of the hemisphere.

2. Had my tongue pierced.

3. Had a nervous break down.

4. Had a "boy" haircut.

5. Swam with sharks and dolphins (not at the same time).

6. Eaten goat roti--and loved it.

7. Wished I could unsay something I just said.

8. Met Jennifer Lopez. And Robert DeNiro. And George Clooney.

9. Danced in a mud bath with strangers on a Caribbean island (Jouvert, Trinidad Carnival).

10. Had newts as pets. . .

. . . Hold up, hold up. Is this not like the college drinking game version of "I Never" where you actually HAVE done the things you say "you never" did? No? Whoops! Then let me start over--'cause all of the above are true. I seriously, honestly have never done the following things...

1. Had a one night stand. 

2. Seen Casablanca or--on the total opposite end of the spectrum--an episode of Jersey Shore.

3. Enjoyed any food with mayonnaise in it or near it.

4. Hosted the Oscars.

5. Birthed triplets.

6. Published a book.

7. Owned a pony.

8. Slow danced with a midget. Sorry, "little person."

9. Met Ryan Reynolds. Or Clint Eastwood. Or Ellen Degeneres.

10. Met a cheese I didn't like.

Care to share some of your "I never"s? Please comment!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

MOM FAIL #2: My Term as a Single Mother a.k.a. The President

On the average day I am a happily married wife and mother, but for the past 17 days I have been a not-too-ecstatic single mother of two. My husband has been out of the country on business, and in that time I have learned some very valuable parenting lessons--the main one being I AM NOT SINGLE MOTHER MATERIAL.

Being a working single mom rivals the Presidency in job stress and logistics, except that the President has a team of agents to help him (not to mention a First Lady!). During my brief but painful 17-day Single Mother term, I would have put the following Presidential agencies to work:

In two brief weeks my younger child's class had two consecutive lice outbreaks, the most recent of which plagued our home. What did this mean for me as a single mother? It meant that one afternoon I had to cancel work (read: lose income) and pick up my kids from school midday. What followed was an insurgent, military-level attack:
  • $50 in de-lousing shampoos and home sprays
  • 3 hours--literally--of nit picking my son who was, thankfully, lice-free, and my daughter, who was not so lucky
  • 5 loads of sheet/towel laundry
  • 6 leaf bags full of throw pillows and stuffed animals left out in the sun to suffocate lice
  • 8 hair brushes and combs soaked in a bleach/scalding water mix
  • 2 leather couches scrubbed
  • 2 carpets vacuumed
  • 10 area rugs taken outside and shaken, then vacuumed as well 
  • 1 car upholstery sprayed
  • 4 beds re-made before bedtime
  • 1 margarita

Mornings are hectic regardless of whether my husband is around not, mainly because my 6-year-old daughter is a dreamer. She can spend 20 minutes putting on one sock, lost in her own thoughts. This would be cute if I wasn't in a hurry.

A few days ago, my amazing children woke up before me and got themselves 100% dressed (including socks and shoes!), with hair and teeth brushed and breakfast eaten, all before mommy even woke up at 6:30 a.m. It was a gift from the gods. And certainly a gift from my children. I was literally choked up I was so touched by their efforts. To reward them, I told them they could do whatever they wanted while I got ready.

My son picked up the family iPad to watch Zack & Cody. My daughter brought out her favorite pink nail polish and shook the bottle to get started... only the lid wasn't on tightly and when she shook it, it flew out of her hand onto the tile floor and shattered, spraying hot pink nail polish all over the kitchen cabinets, walls, baseboards, tile floor and grout.

There went my perfect morning.

I wanted to scream obscenities, but my daughter began crying and saying how sorry she was. I was in a pickle. It was clearly an accident; an accident that was the result of her very good behavior. How could I be mad? My son--seeing the look on my face--grabbed the paper towels and, god bless him, got to work wiping. I grabbed the nail polish remover to see if that would help, but to no avail.

So, until my husband gets home, our kitchen bar area looks like this:

Hence, why I need Cabinet Affairs. Someone's gotta handle that crime scene.

I wish that I could be a martyr. But it's not in my DNA. So when my poor husband dutifully Skypes in to see how his beloved family is doing, instead of seeing my smiling face, all he sees is a furrowed brow of despair and exhaustion.

I wish I had a Communications Department that could speak on my behalf and tell him how much I love him and miss him and hope his business meetings are going well... instead of my real mouth which only seems to complain and tattle-tell on the children for their deviant behavior.

I would also have my Communications Department properly parlay my regret for not meeting my last deadline to my critique buddy. I am lucky to have gotten this little blog post out, sister. Forget my 1,500 words!

My husband's business trip coincided with my half marathon training. Since I work full time and am a mother full time, the only time I can run is at 5:30 a.m. before the sun (or my family) gets up. But when you're a temporary single mother, how is this possible?

Here is where it would be nice to have a Domestic Policy Council--to council me in such matters of acceptable Domestic Policies. I can't stop training for three weeks. Nor can I leave my sleeping children locked safely in the house while I run for 40 minutes in the wee morning hours. Or can I? Even WikiLeaks cannot reveal final my decision on this domestic policy.

The President's schedule has got nothing on my 6- and 8-year-olds'. The logistics involved with remembering which days at school are dress down days for Scouting or pajama day or don't-forget-your-damned-library-book day in conjunction with having permission slips signed and money packed for field trip snacks and gift shops are mind blowing. Worse? Remembering when to bring $1 for "Hat Day" or "Ice Cream Day" or whatever "Suck-The-Change-Out-Of-Your-Wallet Day" it is. Remembering which kid has a test which day or, more accurately, forgetting this which led to my son's first D on a test. Not my proudest parenting moment.

Who has a play date and where? Do I pick them up or are they being dropped off? Who has a birthday party to attend at which kid-friendly venue? Do we have something we can re-gift? There's a Grade 3 Parent Social and I've been signed up to bring sushi and plastic cups? Great. It's the Principal's birthday and I'm supposed to send my kids to school with flowers for her? Fan-freaking-tastic. I have time to get those. Parent-teacher conferences while hubby is out of town? No probs!

I am like Russell Crow in A Beautiful Mind with a swarm of numbers, dates and worthless data buzzing about in my head. I am also like this character in that I might be going crazy and I'm thinking of moving out to live in the shed. Maybe it will all come together correctly in the end. Or maybe I'll drop my kid off at the wrong Chuck E. Cheese with $1 and a hat.

I was lamenting my single mother failures to a SAHD friend (that's Stay-at-home-Dad), beating myself up for not being able to handle it all. I'm an organizer! I teach time management to my clients all the time! Surely I can handle my own kids for three weeks! I know plenty of SAHMs and SAHDs whose spouses travel all the time and they manage on their own just fine. But how?

My SAHD friend reminded me, "Yes, but you work all day. While my kids are at school I can do the grocery shopping, prep the dinner, clean the house, get my exercise in and even get a massage if I want. You work an 8-hour day, THEN come home and empty the dishwasher and get dinner ready and all that other stuff. It's a little tougher."

That made me feel better. Still, I've charged the National Economic Council with figuring out how to make it so single moms DON'T HAVE TO WORK! Being a mom is a hard enough job on it's own. No need to add in additional employment.

I would employ Air Force One simply to fly my husband the hell home. Sixteen days sooner. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mother/Daughter Trip: Banff/Lake Louise... the good stuff


It's been three days since our fifth annual mother/daughter trip. I've had time to digest, reflect and calm down so, as promised, I'd like to report on some of the good exchanges I shared with my mom over the last six days lest you all think I'm a total Bitter Betty because of my last blog post:
1. I got to spend six full days in the most beautiful place I've ever been, all expenses paid. Can't shake a stick at that. In fact, many of the locales I've been lucky enough to visit in my life were made possible because my mom took me there. Without her, I never would have taken a covered wagon horseback trek through the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or gone dog sledding and snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park. I never would have skied at Killington, Vermont, or Vail, Colorado. I never would have ridden a bicycle around the entire island of Bora Bora or taken a Jeep excursion through the rain forests of Tahiti. I never would have attended the Kentucky Derby or seen half the Broadway shows I've seen in New York (and there are many!). I never would have seen tennis played at Wimbledon in London (twice) or taken a 24-hour flight to Sydney, Australia, to cheer at a rugby match and watch the surfers on Bondi Beach. I do not take these experiences for granted, I assure you. And I thank her for the blessing of every one.

2. On the plane ride over, mom and I had a great conversation where she asked me about myself (this doesn't happen often) and listened when I replied (which also doesn't happen often). Silly how simple it was to make me feel loved... just to be heard. To the man sitting next to us on the plane, it probably seemed like just another conversation between family members. But to me, it was a great step forward.

3. Rather than letting me endure seven sleepless nights with her (snoring), she offered to pay for me to have my own room, an expense she did not need to incur. She could have just said, "suck it up, chick." But she didn't. 

4. We agreed on our last day in Banff to not go anywhere and instead to sit by the pool in the cool breeze with the sun shining and the mountains surrounding us. It was--by all accounts--idyllic. We shared funny passages from the books we were reading and laughed until tears streamed down our faces like I have only ever done with my sorority sisters and best friends. (this, I don't think, has ever happened before)

5. This same day by the pool, I was able to open up to her about something she had done the day before (which was not included in my previous post) that had really irked me, and she listened... then laughed. It was great to know that she--like me--is able to laugh at herself and acknowledge the ridiculousness of her neurosis--much of which, unfortunately, I am starting to realize is hereditary.

6. On the way to Lake Louise, we stopped at Johnston Canyon to hike. It as a rough morning, to say the least. She called me an a**hole at one point, let's just leave it at that. Perhaps I was being one, or perhaps she was. Either way, we were able to calm ourselves down in the car. Once we started the hike, I think the majesty of what we were seeing was enough to put our earlier argument into perspective and both our grudges fell away like the fall leaves. Who really cares how to read a map? We GOT HERE and the stillness of the forest and the sound of our own breath as we hiked uphill was nature's Prozac. Just look at these waterfalls and tide pools with the most exquisite colors: 

7. One evening over a cocktail in Chateau Lake Louise, she asked me to help her improve. She said, "Tell me the things that really bother you about me, and I'll make a goal to work on a few each year. Make a list." I made a face instead, to which she said, "How many things are there?" I tell her three off the bat, and though I could keep going, I stop because I am proud of her for even asking the question. I really feel like she is dedicated to us getting better at being "us." It took five years of trips, but we're breaking through.

8. And on the 7th day, it rained. Not in Canada, but in New York. Nonstop. Which meant that the U.S. Open came to a standstill. No matches were being played and so there was no scheduling of our activities around the tennis. I told her it was God's way of telling her to get out of the damned hotel room and go exploring on the mountain with her daughter. She reluctantly agreed and because of this, we were able to see this together:

9. Our last activity on our last day at Lake Louise was a canoe ride across the lake. I laugh now at the symbolism in that ride--each of us paddling in different directions, with different strength and speed, each thinking we are right and the other is wrong. . .getting nowhere.
Finally, she agrees to let me paddle out, and she will paddle back. And that's kind of how it went the whole trip. We have to remember this simple ride on next year's trip. Sometimes she will have to depend on me and sometimes I will have to depend on her. Life is so much simpler when we both let go of our egos and our stubborn independence and remember that.

We'll be OK. And if not, you'll all have more fodder to read about next year. . .or when I get my book published, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mother/Daughter Trip: Banff

I am now four days into a six-day trip with my mother; our annual mother/daughter-relationship-repairing-voyage. This year we traveled to Banff and Lake Louise in Canada. The scenery so far has exceeded my expectations, as has the kindness of the Canadians. But I simply cannot ignore some choice statements so. . .

Four Things My Mother Actually Said on This Trip
1. As we stood in line to board our plane to Calgary, the gate attendant called "Group 1" over the loud speaker. We were Group 4. The Group 1'ers loaded on. Then the gate attendant called "Group 2," and more people boarded. My mom, standing near the ticket scanner, looks nervously at me and shouts (because I am standing 10' away), "I think we missed our call. I think she already called our group. We're not going to get on this plane."

OK, I have to break this one down:
A) My mom is a world traveler. She has been since she was a very young child and her father was in the army. Further, she has homes in two states and spends more time in airports and on planes than most people do taking a poo. She should know better.

B) My mom has a law degree. She's a smart cookie. She has to know that numbers can go 1, 2, 3, 4 or 4, 3, 2, 1. But rarely, if ever, in any situation, do numbers go in a 4, 1, 2, 3 or in a 3, 4, 1, 2 sequence as would have to be the case for us to have heard the gate attendant call 1 then 2, but missed our Group 4. Using that logic (and this is assuming my mom is logical which. . .well. . .) there is no way in hell we "missed our call."

C) Even IF on this one day at this one gate, the attendant drank a martini before her shift and decided to call the groups out of order to see if anyone noticed (my mom would!), the likelihood that she would close the gate in our faces as we stood there with our boarding passes and say, "I'm sorry ladies, I already called your Group 4. It's too late now," is highly improbable.

2. {upon reading the Canadian customs entry card on the plane} "It says here you can't bring any fruit or nuts into the country. Dammit! I bet they make me throw out those Corn Nuts I bought in Dallas. I haven't even opened the bag yet. {dramatic, frustrated exhale} What a waste."

Let me repeat: my mom is a world traveler. She just got back from living in another country for the summer. She actually went through international Customs less than a week ago. Does she really think the Canadian Mounted Police are concerned about foreign diseases she's bringing into the country with her Corn Nuts (which aren't even really nuts, let me point out)?! And if they did snatch them, would it be so costly to buy another bag?

3. The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is gorgeous and huge...

and, not surprisingly, booked solid on a 3-day weekend with four different weddings. No doubt a result of wedding room blocks, our assigned room was in the added-on wing of the hotel, not the main building. Though the Stanley Thompson wing is connected to the main building via a skywalk, and though the rooms in the Stanley Thompson wing are newer and larger than the ones in the main building, when my mother found out where our room was she demanded to be moved. The only remaining room in the main building was smaller and had a worse view, but mom didn't care because, "I paid to be in this hotel." And so we moved.
SHE: "You know why they put us in that other wing?"
ME: "Because all the other rooms were booked?"
SHE: "NO! It's because I'm a woman. They wouldn't have tried that crap if I was a man."
ME: "Really?? So all the women and ethnic and religious minorities are relegated to the Stanley Thompson wing then? Is that how it works in Canada?"

4. Two-and-a-half hours into a three-hour horseback ride through one of the most scenic mountainsides god created, my mother insists her legs are in unbearable pain. She dismounts the horse near a convenient break in the trail, saying "I cannot go on. I'm afraid I won't be able to walk tomorrow if I continue this ride. My tennis knees are in too much pain. I'll just walk the rest of the way back." Who does this? Who pays for a horseback ride and GETS OFF the horse before it's over?

In doing so she missed riding the horses through this river with her daughter:

One Unrelated Canadian Stereotype I Must Share
Canadians are so polite, I have twice missed an elevator because the people in front of me have said, "You go ahead," "No, you first," "No, I think you were in line before me,". . . ~ elevator door closes ~ 
I grew up in Miami where people will knock over a pregnant woman to get there first, wherever "there" is. The kindness in this country is alarmingly refreshing.

I promise to be more positive in reporting as our journey continues. . .

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mother/Daughter Trip #5... it's almost here!

Since this blog is newish, I haven't yet had the occasion to write about my famed--make that infamous--annual mother/daughter trips. But trip #5 is a'coming next week so... get ready, people.

BACKSTORY (Cliff's Notes Version):
My mother and I have always had a strained relationship. I can't go into details as to why, because I'm saving it all for my brilliant and humorous memoir about these trips. Basically, five years ago my mother suggested (or rather, her therapist suggested) we start taking a trip alone together once a year so that she and I would have forced time together to work on our relationship. Forced being the key word. The carrot she dangled to get me to agree to said trips was this: "You can pick the place. We can go anywhere or do anything you like within reason."

Now, I loves to travel, and I have a pretty big bucket list of to-be-seens. Conversely, I have a pretty small travel fund so... I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth (what does that mean, anyway? hope I used it correctly. it sounded like it should make sense there).

The past 4 years have been quite a journey--a journey I plan to exploit by writing that memoir I mentioned. The whole thing is a bit like a country line dance or a lame Paula Abdul song, a series of two steps forward, one step back.

TRIP #1 - World's Longest Yard Sale.
If you don't know about this, click the link. It runs through four states and is insanely fun if you like flea marketing, the thrill of the hunt and southern drawls. Taxidermy'd beavers and old tin toy collections abound. Two steps forward.

TRIP #2 - Night in Old San Antonio.
I was born in a VERY small town just southwest of San Antonio, TX. This trip was my first visit back to the neighborhood/home in which I lived for the first six years of my life. Unfortunately, due to a grossly uncomfortable scene at Lake Austin Spa, one step back.

TRIP #3 - Southern Cooking School at The Mansion Forsyth in Savannah, GA
Cooking. Eating. Strolling a beautiful city. A teary breakthrough and a long-overdue hug. Two giant steps forward.

TRIP #4 - The Kentucky Derby.
Exhilarating and visually stimulating. Just not with mom. No amount of mint juleps could dull the pain. Three giant steps backward.

and now.... TRIP #5 (drumroll, please....) Banff and Lake Louise, Canada.
Canada has been on my bucket list for some time. I have always heard great things, and I do love their exports:  maple syrup, Michael Buble and Ryan Reynolds. I am hopeful this trip will put us forward a few steps. Or at least back to where we started.

That said, I am wary for this reason:  my brother lives in Seattle. My mom offered to fly both him and his girlfriend out to stay with us in Banff for two days--all expenses paid--so we could all spend some time together. I haven't seen my brother in two years, and I don't know when I would again, since neither he nor I can afford to fly across the country (Seattle >< Florida).  And what did my financially-challenged, untraveled brother say to this free vacation to a beautiful place with his girlfriend, sister and mother? "No thanks, I'm good."

Hmmm. Troublesome. Does he have some crystal ball for what awaits me in Banff? Sweet cheeses, I hope not. We'll all know soon enough. I leave for Canada on Friday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

MOM FAIL #1: Notes from a Gas Station

I'm writing this post based on a prompt from Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop.
One of the 5 writing prompts she provided this week asked for a mom fail moment. I have the perfect one. It starts with a few notes to self...

NOTE TO SELF: Never let a seven-year-old pump gas, even if he claims to know how to do it. Even if he tells you "Gram let me do it before." He is not trying to be a gentleman or a "good little helper." He is lying. Believe him, let him do it, and you will end up with a kid soaked head to toe in petrol.

2nd NOTE TO SELF: A seven-year-old boy is unpredictable. He may, without warning, pull a pump out of the gas tank while still squeezing down the handle, then wave it around—eyes wide with surprise—as gas showers upon himself, his mother and their car in a Zoolander-esque "gas fight" montage.

3rd NOTE TO SELF: Do NOT scream at your son to get him to stop spraying said gas. You will frighten him enough to drop the pump, but then he will only start crying and reach to rub his eyes, and you will be forced to scream again, even louder, attracting unwelcome attention, “NO! DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES! You’ll BURN them!”

4th NOTE TO SELF: When you get home, do NOT attempt to wash gas-soaked clothing in washing machine. It makes your washing machine (and all future loads) smell like gas.

5th NOTE TO SELF: Do NOT put just-washed-but-still-gas-soaked clothing in the dryer. This may start a small fire.

6th NOTE TO SELF: When you Google "how to get gas smell out of washing machine" and it tells you to put a vinegar and baking soda mixture into the wash, use caution when adding the baking soda. It will cause a chemical reaction of foam to shoot up rapidly into face--burning eyes, and peppering the ceiling and floor with Eau de F'ing Vinegar.

7th NOTE TO SELF: Give up and open bottle of wine to block out home and child that smells of gas and vinegar.

True story.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Six Lessons I Learned in Europe: Back in London, Day 16

Back in London, it was great to see the kids again. We wanted desperately to take them to Hyde Park today to enjoy our last day on a lawn eating Walkers shortbread and throwing a tennis ball. Unfortunately, our last day would be a typical rainy London day, and the park was a muddy mess.  Took the tube back to Wimbledon Park (one stop from our Wimbledon stop) and got off there, as the rain had subsided by then. Did get a little play time here, but still muddy, and Vacation Heather was gone already as I heard myself telling the kids to "don't run too fast, you'll slip," "don't sit there, you'll get wet/muddy." Crackers.


You can take the children to all the touristy places and spend a small fortune on entrance fees (especially if you let your mother book you on the London Eye). But it's true what they say, "the best things in life are free." No matter what country you visit, all the kids really want to do is throw rocks on the beach (click arrow to watch video--that's for you, Dad, because I know you wouldn't figure it out otherwise):

chase pigeons in the park (yes, in this park the pigeons were so tame you could actually catch them and pick them up--ew),

 tour a "haunted" cemetery
ride a see-saw at a London playground with mom and dad

enjoy nature and "booby trees" at grassy, Green Park,

 and make goofy faces in front of cultural landmarks.

After several days in London, my son cautiously asked, "Mom, how come all the ladies here wear those hoodies?" He was referring to the hijab head covering and modesty clothing of all the Muslim women in London. Hoodies... love the innocence.

The TV in the house we stayed in in London only had a few channels, one of which had constant re-runs of the 1990's hit show Friends. My son fell in love with the show (despite all the sexual innuendo that he hopefully did not pick up on) and went on a Friends bender, if you will, parking himself on the couch for hours to learn all about Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler and Monica.

What do kids of all ages love? No, not the circus--GERMS! That's right. Children (or at least, my children) are powerless against the mystery and romance of hand railings, public benches, subway poles, loo doorknobs and floors in general. Something about the germiness calls them, and they must rub their hands across them as they pass, grab them and swing from them, and in some cases, press their lips against them. Immediately afterward they desire to hold your hand and/or wipe their hand on a face (yours or their own). The only saving grace here is "hanitizer" (as my daughter calls it). Lots and lots of hanitizer.

I worried that when I got back to real life all the calmness that I had embodied in Barcelona would dissipate. But I am happy to report that so far, I have not let the little things at home get to me. I actually left a basket full of clean laundry sit for two days without folding it (or nagging hubby to fold it). I have not rushed to read emails right away. I have truly not given a rats ass about the tumbleweeds of dog hair that blow wistfully through my hallways.  OK, it may be the lethargy of jet lag at play, but for now, I'm giving myself credit for having learned a valuable lesson in Europe.

I love the way Europeans dress (minus the Germans--sorry). The men and the women--they have no concern for matching. It's all about layers, comfort, and mixed patterns and textures, yet somehow they still look chic. They're not concerned about what's in style (or so it seems), and they're not afraid to take a chance and try something av-ant guard. They make their own style and I'm envious of their closet creativity. I am inspired--now back at home--to go through my own closet and purge the Ann Taylor, the JCrew and the Old Navy; the fashion equivalent of Corn Flakes. I don't want to wear Corn Flakes. I want to wear Tapas. Who needs Vogue? Just spend an afternoon on La Rambla in Barcelona or walking Oxford Circus or Portobello Road in London and you'll have all the fashion inspiration you need. Or check out my favorite blog The Sartorialist for examples of European fashion bravery.