Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Snack Races

It seems odd to have Son One lying around the house like the last sock in the dryer on Saturday mornings this fall; at19 it's time for the old man to retire his sports drink and shin guards. That's tough for a guy who's been playing the game where feet do most of the handiwork since the ball was bigger than his behind. Years ago he learned the important points of soccer: fruit at halftime, good stuff after the game. A cupcake in the hand beats a chip shot over the goalie’s head.

At our local soccer games, parents line the sides of the field like eight-year-olds at a boy-girl dance, rooting for their kid to be the next David Beckham or Mia Hamm. I have news for them. The only thing that kid is going to bend like Beckham is the rule governing sportsmanlike conduct. And ten minutes after the game, the one person who is going to remember the score is the parent whose kid kicked the ball in the wrong goal by mistake. As soon as that final whistle blows the all clear, all the grimy, sweat-stained players rush the cooler like fruit flies on a rotten orange. It’s snack time.

Losing a game is tough, but after a battle there’s nothing like artificially flavored crème filling to lift a warrior’s spirits. So support your child in whatever sport he decides to play. Encourage him to excel. But when the action is over and life clears the bench, don’t let him walk off that field without a Ho Ho in his hand.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

If I see one more women’s magazine exhorting me to walk myself thin, I think I’ll hurl a bucket of brownie mix. If walking made me thin, my weight would register in the negative numbers by now.

Today I walked to the car and back three times. When I made the first trip back to the house to get my car keys, I heard my husband humming and starting the water for a shower. Rounding the corner back into the kitchen, I spied a blue sleeve hanging from the top of the refrigerator (don’t ask), and grabbed the overshirt for my son to wear for “Blue for Spirit” day.

“Here’s you a blue shirt.” I chirped, sliding into the driver’s seat.

“Grunt,” he replied. Since I happen to know that a single syllable grunt is teenagerspeak for “Thanks Mom, without you I would be like a wireless game controller with dead batteries,” I was overcome with maternal love. Until I realized he had also forgotten his shoes.

Sending that boy back into the house is like watching an Infomercial for the Thighmaster and waiting for plot development.

I jogged up the hill and took the steps to the back door two at a time. It took me three laps down the hall, through his room, and around the kitchen table before I found two shoes that matched. I decided not to ask about the cross-trainer in the microwave. In the shower, Hubby was midway through "The House of the Rising Sun" with accompanying voice-produced instrumentals.

“Ready to go?” I asked wearily as I climbed into the car, sucking up some early morning effervescence from the caffeine-loaded diet soda I kept in the drink holder.


“I love you too, Sweetie,” I beamed and reached for the keys. The keys that were still in the house where I’d dropped them to get the Spirit Shirt. Shouldering open the car door, I trudged the winding trail to the kitchen door and snagged the keys.

Back in the car, I sank again into the driver’s seat. Sweat was battling hairspray for control of my ’do. “Let’s go. We’re late.”


“Do you really need your band instrument every day? Aren't the notes the same as yesterday?”

Raised eyebrow.

I opened the car door and looked up the steep, rock-strewn hill toward the house. Then I whipped out my cell phone. A musical, waterlogged voice answered.

Why should I reap all the benefits of walking? Last night over dessert, I noticed Hubby has some love handles that definitely could use some work.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Voting Booths & Troubled Youths

I can tell by the jungle of homemade signs germinating in my front yard that election time is just around the breaking news story. Either that or somebody at my house is having a yard sale.

Since by some quirk of government both my sons will be eligible to vote for the first time, I’ve taken it upon myself to teach them the basic jargon of our political system:

Liberal: Wearing lipstick and nail polish that doesn’t match. Or white shoes after Labor Day.

Conservative: Washing your hands in the restroom even when nobody’s looking. Listing your correct weight on your driver’s license.

Voting booth: The little room with the half curtain where you make your choices for leaders of the most powerful nation in the world. Not to be confused with the dressing room at the mall where the curtain is short enough to determine who wore clean underwear on the first day of bathing suit shopping season, at which time you also determine who will have their pool privileges restricted.

Electoral College: A special college that holds classes only once every four years and offers no grants, scholarships, or Bowl-worthy football team. Its mascot is the Mayfly.

Lobbyists: A group of people who hang around the lobby of government buildings handing out free samples and telling lawmakers what to do. Not to be confused with terrorists, but I’m not sure why.

Vice-President: The Vice-President is kind of like a kid brother for the president. He always hangs around listening to things that aren’t his business and threatening to tell. You’d think that would make him the Speaker of the House, but they hire somebody with special skills for that job. The special skills are a secret.

President: The individual who is the head of the Executive Branch of government who works in an Oval Office so that he or she can’t get backed into a corner.

My sons didn’t seem to appreciate my help. They wandered off, mumbling something about conscience and issues. But that’s okay. I’ve tagged all their video games. I’ll make enough at the yard sale to buy their vote.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Menopause & Milkshakes

Tonight when I went into the kitchen to start supper, my teenaged son followed me. I’m so far into menopause, my brain is made of damp cotton; I thought he was there to help.
“What a nice change,” I beamed. “You can help by putting away the dishes in the dishwasher.”
“I’m here for a snack,” he answered, collarbone deep in frozen foods. Can I have a milkshake?”
“I’m starting supper right now.”
“I know,” he answered,” testing a frozen breadstick with his teeth. “I just need a little something to hold me.”
“What constitutes a little something?”
“Got any roast beef?”
“If you can hold on a second, I’ll cut some prime sirloin from the herd.”
“Gee, Mom, that’d be great. Would you make fries?”
“I was kidding. If you need a snack while I’m cooking supper, you have to make it yourself.”
You would have thought I’d said Gameboys give you cooties. That kid left the kitchen so fast, the vacuum sucked three popsicles and a corn dog with freezer burn out of cold storage.
Mom was right. Wisdom does come with age.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Layla & Levi's

Now that the kids are old enough to leave at home without having to shell out the bucks for a SLED check on a babysitter, we’re able to go out more often. A year or two ago, the man who promised to love, honor, and make sure the dishwasher never quit sprang for tickets to an Eric Clapton concert.

You could tell by the crowd outside that it was going to be an interesting evening. A businesswoman in black heels and hose jostled for position next to a sixty year old hippie in a gauze tie-dyed shirt that looked like it had been stitched together from a box of Fruit Loops. I think he was her date. Worn Levi’s with the red tag far outnumbered designer jeans.

At the concert, I learned three things. Baby Boomers have wide and varied, by which I mean bad, taste in clothes, Baby Boomers think they can dance, and Baby Boomers automatically stand for Layla like a seven-ten split for a cross-eyed bowler.

But when the lights go down, we have one thing in common. We have the music in us. I saw three old men with tattoos where their biceps used to be, cover something in the vicinity of their Rock ’n Roll hearts with sun-basted hands when the opening chords of Layla split the speakers. And when “Beautiful Tonight” blasted romantically across the crowd, there wasn’t a woman among us that didn’t zip back through the Time Tunnel of Youth to the most romantic night of our lives. Couples locked eyes, lip-synched the lyrics, and fell in love all over again.

We may drive minivans, SUV's, and hybrids by day, but we still “get off on ’57 Chevies” at night.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chocolate Chips and Coffee Drips

I never warmed up to coffee. In my family, that’s like saying I’m iffy on newborn kittens or lukewarm on inheriting large amounts of money from distant relatives. When I was a kid, I loved the smell that wafted from my Daddy’s cracked stoneware mug and wrapped around me like an aromatic hug on cold mornings. I would put my little hands around the sides of the cup to warm my fingers. But I’d sooner drink kitty litter laced pine sap.

When I grew up I married Bill. That man goes through coffee like Rosie goes through Republicans. He would be perfectly comfortable installing a coffee-lick in the kitchen. So, with a sense of maturity and in the spirit of togetherness and shared experiences, I agreed to share a coffee moment with him. He poured a gallon of black, noxious liquid into his cup. I put a drop of coffee in mine. And added sugar. I kept adding sugar until the mixture in the cup reached the consistency of, say, low tide in your average quicksand bog. I braved a taste. Equally as appealing.

“It’s an acquired taste,” he said, licking a coffee dribble from the side of his mug.

“I’ve acquired things before,” I answered, wedging a spoon into my cup. “Cast off clothes from older sisters, stray dogs from the neighbors, expensive jewelry from. . .never mind that one. But I haven’t yet acquired a taste for bitter liquids that require a possum’s weight in sugar to make them fit for consumption.”

We shared a moment of silence.

“Starbucks?” he asked.

“Sure! Can I have a cookie?”

Coffee may be for grown-ups, but chocolate chips are forever.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Global Warming

When you’re four years old and heading off on important candy-gathering venture at Halloween, global warming seems like a pretty good idea. Global warming means you don’t have to wear an undershirt, six sweaters, and an overcoat with your costume. Outerwear is notoriously rough on angel’s wings and dampens the effect of a howling demon on passers by. Let’s face it. The Author of Death clad in a blue snowsuit and lambie mittens is just not as unsettling as initially intended.

So I never really had a problem with global warming until I reached a Responsible Age. Now I realize I probably caused the whole trouble myself. I produced two boys, gummily attractive in a no-teeth, drooly kind of way, who as babies seemed harmless enough sucking cereal from a spoon and wearing little diapers with cartoon characters printed in blue on the front. (How much trouble could a size zero hiney be, anyway? Of course now we have Paris Hilton, Allegra Versace, and pre-baby Nicole Ritchie to serve as benchmarks, but back then we just didn’t know.)

Anyway, I’ve read about the amount of methane produced by all the cows in the world, except the ones in India that are sacred, and I think my guys can beat that number without straining. The three teenaged boys in the backseat (we threw in an extra cousin just to make it interesting) on the way to the Fair this weekend cheekily counted the number of times the term “excuse me” came into play. We were nearing triple digits, which even allowing for exaggeration and downright bragging, is a pretty impressive number. I’ve decided I’m going to give up raising children and buy stock in a dairy farm. It’s easier on the environment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fair's Fair

I don’t have any common sense. What little sense I have left over after slogging along for almost two decades in the parenthood trenches is eligible for placement on the Endangered Species List. So it seemed like a good idea to take the kids to the Fair.

My main role at the Fair is Watcher/Waver, with a part-time career in Holding Stuff. It is my job as the female parent to juggle the load of half-finished corn dogs, plastic souvenir soda cups, and stuffed cartoon characters won at assorted games of chance, while watching with exaggerated animation as various family members spin past in a blur of lights, waving madly as I squint through cotton-candy glazed trifocals and hoping I’m not near-sightedly greeting the sugar-coated blonde from the fishing booth or warring gang members. It’s not like I’d ride, anyway. I get motion sick just stirring sugar into my coffee.

Next year, things are going to be different. If I’m looking to make changes, what better place than the Fair? So if you happen past a middle-aged woman downing motion sickness pills with a gulp from a plastic Family Guy cup just before tackling the pony rides, hang around and watch. My dismount is bound to be a doozy. I just hope I don't drop the corn dog.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mental Pause

At major malls and grocery stores, there should be special parking places between the handicapped spaces and the spots for car seat-carrying minivans for those of use who have successfully reached the point in life when our mind is so full of important information such as when Son Two's biology project is due and which store has the great sale on toilet paper, that we can't bother with trivia, like say, which entrance we used upon arriving or where we left the car. Nobody needs a front row space more than the poor soul who is squinting through a crooked pair of drug store reading glasses and wobbling about on knees that have been overdue for replacements since the year the phrase “Google It” ousted “Dial Information” in popular conversation. And how long have we had a red car, anyway? I distinctly remember driving a blue one to take the baby for his first checkup. The baby is now 17 years old and trying to decide how to turn a Nintendo hobby into a profitable career to support his trading card addiction. I figure he'll eventually serve two terms. But whether it'll be in the White House or the Big House is still in question.