Wednesday, June 27, 2012

10 Things That Take Longer Than They Should

You might think if someone often blogs about her frustration in dealing with aspects of time, she's probably not the most patient person in the world either. And you would be right. Here's further validation of just how right you are with the following list of small things that end up taking a big chunk of time, but shouldn't:

1. TOY PACKAGING
The U.S. Department of Defense should take pointers from toy packaging engineers. The wires, the tabs, the tie wraps, and most recently, the tiniest of screws. Don't they understand the miniature screwdrivers in my house are rarely returned to the proper drawer? And why does Barbie's hair need to be STITCHED to the cardboard? I promise I won't run off with her golden locks and make a really bad wig for a Bratz doll, honest.



2. MEDICAL TEST RESULTS
As if it isn't enough I've been poked or prodded or forced to squeeze very sensitive parts of myself into an evil medical device (I swear it smiled as I winced)...I then have to wait two full weeks to find out whether or not there's a life-threatening disease lurking in my insides. I jump every time the phone rings, and then my husband's stuck repairing the dents I make in the ceiling. 

3. EXERCISE 
If it only took me 5 minutes to eat the dessert, it should only take me 5 minutes of vigorous (or better yet, not-so-vigorous) exercise to work off the fat and calories....not a week's worth of intensive cardio.  

4. REBATES 
Isn't the receipt enough proof we bought your stupid brand of contact lenses? I have to create an online ID, research the date of last office exam, answer dozens of questions, and decipher a captcha to prove I'm human (you know, because so many spambot computers wear contact lenses). Then I have to cut out UPC squares, tape (never staple) them to the printed form and mail. It's almost as if you don't want to give us back the money you promised, but I'm sure that just couldn't be the reason it's such a hassle, right? 

5. QUICK & EASY DINNER RECIPES
It always sounds so simple. Start with chicken, add some fresh veggies and rice and voila, it's a healthy meal in 10 minutes! Except they leave out the time it takes to slice and grill the chicken, rinse and dice the vegetables, cook the rice and wash my hands five times because raw chicken is Just. That. Slimy. So yeah, 45 minutes is more like it.

6. IN-PERSON REGISTRATION
Even my 94 year-old grandmother knows everything is done via computer these days (she also plays Wii...I swear). Yet every now and then, I still have to rise before dawn to go wait on a physical line....two hours before registration even starts....because it's the only way to get my kid signed up for Class That Everyone Wants But Will Never Live Up to the Hype. No online registration option? What is this, 2005?

7. CANDY WRAPPERS
It may be easy to steal candy from a baby, but said baby would enjoy a good laugh while the thief tries in vain to tear open the wrapper. I want to immediately partake of the chocolaty goodness, not have to walk all the way across the room to get scissors. I also hate mourning the loss of the two dozen M & M's that end up ricocheting off the walls when the bag rips down the center (may they rest in pieces...I mean, peace). 

8. NEW SEASONS OF MAD MEN
After keeping us in suspense for nearly 2 years, you breeze in and out with only 13 episodes. By the time we get to travel back to 1967 again next year (or the year after), I'll have to study IMDB's episode guide to recall where the heck you left off. I already miss the Sterling Cooper Draper Minus Pryce gang (and Megan's killer wardrobe) so much, I could almost tolerate smarmy Pete Campbell's smug face. Almost.

9. APPLYING SUNBLOCK
I can't take the pressure. If I miss a couple of spots during application, someone could be in a LOT of pain and a possible candidate for skin cancer....as well as having a back that reads like a map of North and South Red Splotchia and the Deep White Sea.

10. WRITING THIS POST
It's just a blog entry. No matter how much time I spend, it's never going to be Nora Ephron witty (RIP, inimitable writer....may you enjoy every M & M lost above), so just be done writing this already. And how hard is it to draw a picture on a chalkboard? My kindergartener could probably do it in about 7 seconds...

TALK TO ME:  What else takes way longer than it should?


Thursday, June 21, 2012

You Want McStress with That?

You've simply run out of quick healthy dinner ideas. It happens. Late afternoon consisted of whisking your kids from playdates to orthodontist, a pitstop home to lace up cleats, and then off to the ballfield for the fourth night in a row. You've got nothing left (both figuratively and literally) to grill, nor do you have the willpower to try to scrounge something together from what may or not have spoiled in the fridge.

Once the voices in your head stop cackling about what a horrible mother it would make you, berated and broken, you cave to the kids' incessant begging. You agree to go Golden Arches.



The queasy wave of parental guilt attempting to completely engulf you is staved off by the fact the kids are thrilled. Even your teenager gives you a rare hug. In their eyes, you are now Best. Parent. Ever.

You've been warned it's best to walk into the restaurant (the term "restaurant" meaning "building where fattening chemicals are deep-fried"). If you order inside, you can then supervise the order's assembly for accuracy.

However, the person who came up with that modicum of advice clearly does not have kids. Going in will make this whole three ring circus take five times as long. It will involve the younger ones climbing the playgym...the place where germs give birth to new germs, construct germ houses and even feed their microscopic germ dogs. (We met one of their dogs once. His name was Pox).

No, you've already eliminated all hope for nutrition, so you at least want to reap the benefits of purported warp speed and easy clean-up. You steer toward the drive thru, although you can't exactly drive thru just yet because it's crowded. Marvel that while most of America agrees fast food is artery-clogging poison, there's still a line at 8:00 at night.

When it's finally your turn to pause in front of the high-quality speaker system, sit there waiting for staff to notice you. There's plenty of time to imagine where on your mantel the kids can put your Best Parent Ever trophy. It'll probably go right next to the one your husband got last week, when he let them consume an entire family-size bag of cheese doodles and play video games for three consecutive hours while you were shopping.

At last, the employee speaks. "Wompclompa, wai  wyyy woomp yah wrorraah?"

You've been magically transported to a Snoopy cartoon where the adults portrayed have vocal clarity issues. Just assume it was some version of "May I take your order?"

This part is crucial. You have the fussiest kids on earth. One can't deal with onions. One can't stand pickles or cheese. None of them want the standard issue value meals as advertised, and mistakes will guarantee tears.

Because you can't understand the Voice-in-a-Box, you find yourself shouting your entire order slowly and deliberately, as if it can't hear you either. Place extra emphasis on the specifics of the boy-to-girl toy ratio. Your youngest son has never gotten over receiving a mermaid doll with 6 inches of flowing pink hair and sparkle gems while his brothers received Hot Wheels vehicles.

The unintelligible box asks what you believe to be a question since the indecipherable utterances went up in pitch at the end. "Yeew wompoa haaanr ohfaaana?"
 
Repeat your entire order to clarify, hoping you hit upon whatever point she was questioning.  Voice-in-a-Box replies with another inquiry about wanting to add anything else/supersize/try a dessert, etc.

Deliberately answer in gibberish and drive ahead, so for a change it will be her wondering what the heck you just said. Your kids crack up. You are so getting that trophy.

Too bad the people in front of you haven't received their orders yet, so your car has only advanced about one yard. When drinks are handed to you in a tray contraption sure to tip over, instead place each into one of the minivan's 22 built-in cup holders. It only seats 7 and the miles-per-gallon sucks, but by golly, the genius engineers made sure everyone could transport about 3 drinks each at any given time.

You know you should pull over and double-check your order but again, there's that whole too late and too tired thing, plus the kids are completely famished beyond hysterical by this time of night. Elect to drive home. 

In the kitchen, your fries gets cold while you scrape melted cheese and flick diced onions off burgers, promise one crying child you will go buy a toy to replace the included one she just broke, and defend you definitely requested BBQ sauce for the chicken nuggets although said sauce is nowhere to be found. Try to ignore it when child slams his bedroom door. 

Your trophy must have gotten thrown in the McTrash.

Actual Time Spent at Fast Food Drive-Thru: 12 minutes
Real Feel:  25 minutes
Time Fast Food Saved as Opposed to You Cooking:  20 minutes
Amount of Aggravation and Indigestion Caused:  Enough to render it not worth it.

TALK TO ME:  What do you say when your kids beg you for fast food? Unless you have the kind that never ask at all....in which case maybe YOU deserve a parenting trophy.



Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer's Little Shop of Horrors

With each step you take, your heart thumps against your rib cage. Fear and dread knot together at the back of your throat. Your legs start to wobble, yet you must forge ahead. What awaits behind the next turn is so horrifying, it chills you to the core. You swallow hard, exhale and sigh. You've reached the Swimsuit Department, and it is not for the weak.

To the left, there are racks and racks of string bikinis. Pass. On your right, skirted one-pieces even your grandmother would find matronly. No thank you. Continue onward, searching for the section with swimsuits befitting a woman such as yourself...somewhere between I'm No Longer 29 and I Survived the Stock Market Crash of 29.

Keep walking. Walk some more. It must be here somewhere. Surely, you're almost there. You're...wait a minute, how did you wind up near the cosmetic counters? What happened to the swimsuit section for people who aren't 20, but aren't 90 yet either?

Oh, that's right...there ISN'T one.



Yet you must persevere because the remaining swimsuits you own have stretched out in some areas and shrunk in others. Once beloved, they're no longer flattering. You're unsure how this happened as it couldn't be your own body has changed. Or gained any weight. Or redistributed weight you already had just because you've gotten a little bit older and gravity, she is mean and ornery. Whatever the reason, you need the maximum lift and support power only virgin spandex can provide.

Vow not to leave the store without at least one new swimsuit (lest you have to go through this experience again....it's the only thing worse than shopping for jeans).

Pilfer through rack after rack of tangled straps. There's a lot of black, and with good reason.  You're rather sick of black though. You crave a floral, a print, something different, something modern, something that doesn't make you look like a beached balloon animal.

Spy a beautiful tankini halter top, but darn it, the coordinating bottoms have "SEXY" written across the behind. You love comedy, but not when it would cause people to laugh at you instead of with you. Unfortunately, most designers make it impossible for you to mix and match the top of one swimsuit with the bottom from another.

Just as you're about to resign yourself to searching out swimsuits online or in catalogs (again), you find some at least worth trying. Select duplicates in various sizes since manufacturers can't seem to agree on universal measurements. 

This brings you to the most horrifying part of the swimsuit shopping experience: Not only will you have to see how bad they look, you'll have to see it in a 3 X 3 cubicle with the worst possible lighting. 

Search for a fitting room that doesn't already have 400 rejected swimsuits covering the bench and obscuring all hanger hooks inside. When that doesn't exist, clear a hook by shoving the preexisting stack of discarded suits into the room next to you. Hang yours with your favorite choice in the back to try on last....because if that doesn't fit, you will immediately lose all willpower to continue this horror show:

ACT 1:  The floral that's supposed to say Exotic Island Woman Sipping Mai Tai
YOU LOOK LIKE:  A loaf of bread wrapped in a tablecloth & cinched with twist-ties
HORROR MOVIE EQUIVALENT:  Psycho

ACT 4:  A soft green sure to flatter
YOU LOOK LIKE:  a rubber-banded tennis ball
HORROR MOVIE EQUIVALENT:  The Thing

ACT 7:  Cute polka-dot tankini
YOU LOOK LIKE:  a wrinkled 6 year-old
HORROR MOVIE EQUIVALENT:  Child's Play

ACT 12:  Basic black classic
YOU LOOK LIKE:  Every other female in an ill-fitted bathing suit at the pool
HORROR MOVIE EQUIVALENT:   A Nightmare on Elm Street

ACT 16:  Fun mid-century modern print
YOU LOOK LIKE:  An older, frumpier Jan Brady
HORROR MOVIE EQUIVALENT:  Showgirls (Okay, technically not a horror movie, but the fact this sorry Elizabeth Berkley flick was ever released is positively terrifying).

Everything you want held in? Squeezed and spilling out. Anything you might want to accentuate? Flattened and obscured. All that you need lifted and supported? Epic fail. There's too much fabric in all the wrong places, and then not enough fabric where there ought to be some.

Finally, you're down to one last suit. As you stretch it over all that sags on your person, a miracle occurs. It fits! It's not too young for you, nor too old....Why, you can even exhale without enduring physical pain or seeing visual pouch!  

Search for the label. You have to learn who the designer of such a fabulous garment is. She must truly understand women's body shapes. She must toil night and day to perfect the proper proportions. 

She must be crazy if she thinks you're paying $200 for a swimsuit.

Go home and search through the mail for the latest swimsuit catalog. Too bad it's already June, so they're all Christmas catalogs instead.

Actual Time Spent Swimsuit Shopping:  3 hours
Real Feel:  Do they even have clocks in Hell?
Chance You Will Return to Consider Purchasing the Pricey Suit:  95%
Chance Someone Else Already Bought the Last One in Your Size:  100%

TALK TO ME:  What do you hate most about swimsuits?



Friday, June 8, 2012

A Guide to the Adult-Kid Time Continuum

One of the reasons there's such a discrepancy between Actual Time and the Real Feel is that it's all about perspective. Who you are, where you are, and what you're doing help define time. But age is another factor, resulting in further discrepancies between how adults and kids measure time.

For example, you may have found yourself in a scenario where you asked kids to wait five minutes for you to get off the phone to read a book to them. When five minutes was up and they came back to remind you, it seemed like only five seconds to you. To them, it seemed like five hours.


Maybe there ought to be an Adult-Kid Time Continuum reference book where you could find viewpoint clarifications for common time-related words and phrases like these: 

TIME [tayhm]
ADULT: The hour and minutes displayed on your watch, phone or other time-keeping device. Wow, the time is 5:12 already?
KID: The hour and minutes you ask about so frequently that said adult's watch hasn't even changed since you last asked. What time is the movie going to start? Is it almost time? How about now? Is it time yet? Now is it time?

SECOND [sek*uhnd]
ADULT: A quick pause. Please hold on just a second...I'll be right back.
KID: How long it takes to scrape knee, get full of mud or break something while adult's back is turned. I was only going to look at it for a second, but then it spilled by accident. I didn't know it would stain the rug.

MINUTE [min*it]
ADULT:  The time between dropping your kid off somewhere and having to pick said kid up. What was that basketball practice, like, a minute long?
KID:  How long he's been playing Xbox. What do you mean turn it off?  I've only been playing for like a minute.    

ONE TIME [wuhn*tayhm]
ADULT:  A singular occurrence and how often you wish you had to say something in order to yield results. I should only have to tell you one time to go do your homework.
KID: Oft-repeated introductory phrase for communicating what happened previously. Usually involves creative embellishment. One time, my friend said he was eating pizza, and one time he burned his mouth really bad, so like one time, it was so bad, it made his eyeballs pop out, and one time, they had to go to the emergency room to glue them back in, and then one time...

A THOUSAND TIMES [a thou*zuhnd tayhms]
ADULT:  The number of times you've repeated yourself. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times...no jumping on the couch.
KID: The number of times he's had to say your name to get your attention. I just yelled "Mom" from my room like a thousand times, but you still didn't bring me a drink of water. 

50 MILLION TIMES [fif*tee mil*yuhn tayhms]
Adult: Number of times you've found a tween's clothes on the floor. It's ridiculous I've had to pick your clothes up 50 million times when you should be doing it yourself.
Kid: How many cool things your friends get to do that you don't. Why can't we go to the beach today? My friends have been there like 50 million times already this summer. 

FOREVER [fawr*ev*er]
ADULT:  The amount of time it takes for a kid to get into pajamas and brush teeth. Why does it take forever for you to get into bed on a school night when we all have to get up so early?
KID:  How much time remains before food is ready. Although I just had a snack 10 minutes ago, I'm starving. You're taking forever to cook dinner!

LAST TIME [lah*st tahym]
ADULT: The point where you refuse to repeat yourself again. I'm telling you for the last time...turn off the TV.
KID: The time before today, back when things were allegedly done more to her liking. But last time you let us stay up past midnight.

BEDTIME [bed tahym]
ADULT: Extremely short period to attempt to recharge oneself before getting up to do everything all over again. Thank goodness it's the kids' bedtime so I can get things done uninterrupted, and if I'm lucky, get maybe six hours of sleep myself.
KID: An unnecessary obstacle to having more fun. Why do we have to go to bed? I'm not tired. My friend's bedtime is way later than mine. Why do we even need sleep anyway?

So when you next use time-related terminology, just keep in mind your definition and a kid's interpretation of the very same words may be completely different.

TALK TO ME:  Do you have any time-related terms you'd like to add to the Adult-Kid Time Continuum Guide?


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Take Me Out to the Ballgame...But Maybe Not Every Single Night, Okay?


Because it's late spring and either a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday, one of your offspring has a Little League game. You like baseball. If there were a torture chamber where you were forced to watch six consecutive hours of any sport, you'd pick baseball. You just don't necessarily like it 599 nights in a row when you have to simultaneously balance it with other after school activities, homework and dinner.

You're not surprised when your slugger summons you to his room while attempting to get into uniform. This is because whatever company designs baseball uniform belts has apparently never checked in with the company who designs the pants. Trying to feed the belt through the belt loops is the equivalent of trying to push a freight train through a row of shower curtain rings still attached to the rod.  The belt gets caught on every single loop and must be painstakingly jiggled and wiggled at odd angles to move one inch forward. You often wonder if Derek Jeter's mom started out like this.

Meanwhile, your youngest announces she really doesn't feel like going to another ballgame. This is understandable, as she has been dragged to more than she can count, and she can count all the way to 100. Help her fill a tote with assorted Barbies, coloring books, stickers and puzzles so she has something to do. Pack a cooler with drinks (because you refuse to pay $2.00 for bottled water at the concession stand when you can buy a 24 pack for $3.99 at the supermarket). 

Unfortunately, there's only one snack pack of goldfish crackers left and all remaining siblings want to bring it. They're suddenly very tired of the fun-shaped pretzel packs they begged you to buy a few days ago. Arguing over this almost muffles out the complaining coming from your ballplayer who's struggling to get into his cleats. The belt design people must be pals with the cleat design people. It's the only explanation for why each lace must be loosened one-by-one at every single grommet hole in order for your child to be able to squeeze his foot inside.  

He finally appears in the doorway ready to go. Point out he forgot his cap. And glove. And gear bag.

Because this is a travel game, you're not familiar with the ballpark location. As you drive, silently hope it's an updated complex with modern bleachers and a working scoreboard, not a dilapidated one sitting in an untended swamp hole that screams Ticks, Come Infect My Kids.

While your son joins his team on the field, the rest of you settle onto the rattling, lopsided bleachers. Within seven minutes, your daughter has already rummaged through every item in the tote bag and deemed them all too boring. She wants to play with your phone instead. She asks when the game is going to be over. Soon, you say, just as the first pitch is thrown. Wonder if Jeter's mom told such fibs to his little sister.

You can't help but notice the loud-mouth moms in the opposing team's stands. They're compelled to yell comments after every single pitch. They also shout and whoop excessively every time one of your team's players fails, even if he's already in tears. You wish you could hold up a sign reminding them of the players' young ages and how it's supposed to be about having fun. Think of some less family-friendly signs as well.

Your daughter asks when Daddy will be there. After work, you say. She asks if she can have something from the concession stand. Present the goldfish she fought so hard for, but apparently no longer wants. Her brother offers to eat them, snatching the package from her hands. She tries to yank it back. He pulls harder and soon there are tiny orange fish swimming in the dirt underneath the bleachers. You can almost hear the ants high-fiving each other.

Relent and take the kids to the concession stand. Your daughter stomps the whole way insisting now she doesn't WANT anything from there because she really, really wanted her goldfish and how she has the worst brother EVER. Buy her a big pretzel, rationalizing she may at least be temporarily occupied flaking the salt crystals off one by one.

When you return, one of the other parents reports your son just got a nice hit....because it's always during your trip to the concession stand that your son seems to bat. Feel terrible. Tell his siblings to stop squabbling because you all came here to watch their brother, and that's exactly what you're going to do from this point forward. 

Except now your younger son has to use the bathroom. The whole restroom area looks remote enough to conceal lurking child molesters, but he's too old to go into the Ladies' Room with you. Ask if he can wait until his dad arrives. Of course, he can't. When you return, learn your ballplayer made an amazing catch in your absence.

Besides the disgusting restrooms, this complex features another aspect you wish to avoid: the playgym. It's the kind with lots of open spaces between bars at the top where you're convinced anyone under the age of six could slip through. It requires constant supervision. You also can't see the game from said playgym, but by the end of the third inning, there you are.

A teammate's little brother now joins your kids. He swings from the bars multiple times and takes three trips down the slide before he mentions how he'd seen your baseball player get hurt. Quickly corral your kids back to the game. As you walk past the other team's bleachers, the loud-mouth moms are muttering about what kind of mother doesn't watch her own kid's game and isn't there for him when he gets hurt.

Your son is fortunately fine sitting in the dugout with an ice pack the coach says was purely a precautionary measure. As you examine your son's minor swelling, try to ignore the new infield dirt stains on the pants. You just know that shade of orange is going to be impossible to remove.

Your husband arrives in time for the last inning. Finally, some help with the younger kids so you can watch. Too bad your son remains on the bench. But that's okay, tomorrow night you'll get to do this all over again.

Wonder if Jeter's mom ever prayed for rain.

Actual Length of Baseball Game:  2 1/2 hours
Length Including Getting Ready & Traveling to and from Game:  4 hours
Real Feel:  5 1/2 hours
Time Spent Watching Son Play:  30 minutes total, comprised of sporadic 3 minute intervals only
Chance Your Kid Is the Next Derek Jeter:  0.0000000000001

TALK TO ME:  What's your favorite (or least favorite) part of Little League games? Tips for removing field stains from pants are welcomed & encouraged!


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