Wednesday, July 25, 2012

And the Gold Medal for Meddling Goes To...

While I certainly wouldn't say I succumb to full-blown Olympic Fever, I usually do enjoy tuning in now and then to see those with phenomenal skills race against the clock to best each other. I'm also always curious what the Opening Ceremonies will feature (good luck topping Beijing's...ever). So instead of Olympic Fever, maybe I have something a bit milder, like Olympic Ear Infection. Olympic Sinusitis. Olympic Itchy Eyes and Runny Nose or Maybe It's Just Olympic Allergies.

Through years of watching the games, it has always struck me odd that there is no Olympic medal for people who, well, meddle...as in, stick their noses where they don't belong. Meddling takes lots of practice. Timing is crucial. I mean, just imagine all the things the evil villains on Scooby Doo would've gotten away with if it weren't for those meddling kids.

It takes years of intense training to perfect meddling. How do I know, you ask? Do I, myself, meddle? Hahahaa, of course not. Well, at least not much. But I have seen enough meddling in everyday life to learn what's involved.

I believe an Olympic play-by-play of meddling could make for some compelling TV:

Announcer Bill: It's a great day to meddle here in gray and dreary London. Who do we have up first, Bob?
Announcer Bob: Well Bill, it's our youngest competitor at just 11 years old. His 7 year-old brother has just started playing a video game alone in the family room. Let's watch.
Bill: Note how every other seat in the family room is unoccupied, yet Pesky Older Brother moves in and purposely sits right next to his younger sibling. He is clearly no amateur.
Bob: That's right, Bill. With the expert skill of a well-seasoned meddler, he's now offering what could even be construed as helpful gaming advice, as if he's actually rooting for the little tyke to do well.
Bill: A crucial part of meddling, Bob. Establishing trust first.
Bob: And he's off! He's telling his little brother to move the controller a different way. He's clapping and cheering for the opposing aliens! He's physically knocking on his sibling's skull, seemingly searching for brains. 
Bill: What's most impressive here, Bob, is his timing of pointing out how easy this game is for him, just as his little brother loses an alien life on the screen.  
Bob: Oh my gosh, he's performing a made-up song about how only babies could lose at this game! 
Bill: A shrewd move, Bob, quite possibly earning him bonus points for creativity.
Bob: He's demanding the opportunity to demonstrate the "real" way to play, Bill. He's wrestling the little guy for the controller, ignoring all shrieking requests for being left alone!
Bill: What's this I see, Bob? I believe the little brother might be starting to cry.
Bob: And now Pesky Older Brother is IMITATING the crying! He's mimicking word-for-word his little brother's request for him to stop it!  A double salchow!
Bill: This isn't firgure skating, Bob. You're not even in the correct Olympic season.
Bob:  The little one screams for his mom, making it a slick Triple-Axel!
Bill: Okay, now you're just throwing Olympic terminology around gratuitously.
Bob: Truly, this is an Olympic first. With only 53.6 seconds on the clock, Pesky Older Brother has succeeded in meddling in his younger sibling's video game enjoyment to the point of driving him to tears. And you saw it here live, folks.

We now go to a local Ladies' Room for the next meddling competition.

Bill: Set the scene for us, Bob.
Bob: Well Bill, this young woman has just had a spat with her husband, and Well Meaning Friend with Big Mouth is comforting her.
Bill: She'll have to be careful. The goal is to sound supportive while simultaneously interfering in their marriage.
Bob: I'd say there's a 4.8 level of difficulty here.
Bill: Okay, looks like she's already pointed out the obvious: that men often don't think before they speak. What will her next move be?
Bob: I have to admit I'm not sure, Bill. She might go in with what she would've said to her own husband in a similar situation or....Uh-oh! I can't believe it! She's talking trash about her friend's husband this early in the match. She mentioned his lack of gainful employment! I'm afraid that's going to cost her.
Bill: If it's one thing the judges want to see, Bob, it's passive-aggressive subtlety...not an outright character attack. Now she risks having the friend turn against her before any true meddling can be accomplished.
Bob: But wait! Well Meaning Friend with Big Mouth is right back in the game pointing out that she and her own husband always talk things out and never go to bed angry. She's adding how he always brings her flowers, how he recently surprised her with a diamond necklace and trip to Tahiti, and how he watches their kids every Saturday afternoon so she can relax at the spa!
Bill: It's working! Her friend is now questioning whether or not her own crappy marriage is worth fighting for at all! Total time elapsed is only 7.3 minutes!
Bob: And that's the way it's done, folks. That's the way it's done.

A hush grows over the crowd as the reigning Olympic Meddling Champion enters the suburban kitchen where the last round of competition takes place during the preparation for a family birthday gathering.

Bob: Tell us, Bill. How many years has Old Person with No Tolerance for How Things Are Done Today held the championship title?
Bill: Well, Bob, if she succeeds, this will be her twenty-seventh gold medal and her sixteenth consecutive year as reigning champion.
Bob: I see she's already scoffing at the bakery box on the counter. She's leading off by telling the hostess how in her day, she baked all birthday cakes from scratch. Next she's moves in with her signature combination, the My Fingertip Detects Dust and That's Not Where I'd Put that Vase blitz.
Bill: But the young mother of three isn't flustered, Bob. She's continuing to prepare appetizers without so much as a flinch.
Bob: Old Person with No Tolerance perseveres with unsolicited advice on the proper way to slice and dice. She's tossing the celery into the trash and telling her to do it over!
Bill:  The hostess' children have just barged through the door and tracked mud through the kitchen after ignoring their mother's request to take off their shoes first. This is about to get ugly, Bob!
Bob: Old Person with No T seizes the opportunity to lecture on how ridiculous it is that today's generation won't say "no" to their children, how there's no discipline, how she'd make them come back in and scrub the floor themselves right now, how there needs to be consequences. She's even suggesting....GASP....spanking!
Bill: I think we're going to have to get a judge's ruling on that, Bob. Violence is a no-no for the Olympiad.
Bob: The judges are.....letting her off with a warning! What a lucky break for Old Person with-blah-blah-blah.
Bill: Bob, you can't get lazy and keep butchering her name like that, c'mon, man.
Bob: Old P with No T has moved on to question the young mother's choice of summer activities for her children. She's offering mock concern about the lack of quality time spent with their mother due to her being constantly tethered to her iPhone. OP says back in her day, when a mother was with her children, she was truly "with" her children!
Bill: We're seeing signs of the victim beginning to crack, Bob. Her shoulders are starting to tense, and there's a hint of gritted teeth. How much more meddling can she take?
Bob: You know, Bill, a lesser athlete might mistakenly begin to let up, but Old P shows just what a seasoned pro she is by switching tactics to focus on how the young woman barely looked up when her husband walked in the door. She's bringing up how back in the day, you did everything for your man, greeted him with a smile and satisfied his every need without question. That's why he didn't leave you for the chippie down the street, Bill.
Bill: Now she's ripping apart her appearance, Bob. Oh my gosh, did she just say the money she's spending on the gym membership could apparently be put to better use elsewhere? She's holding up a mirror and asking her to take a good, long look at herself! The crowd goes wild, begging her not to do it!
Bob: But it's too late, Bill! The exhausted woman's already caught a glimpse of how weary and pathetic she looks with no make-up and yoga pants. OP is relentless, badgering her about why any man would want to stay married to that, and implying her spoiled, ungrateful children will grow up, move out, blame her for the divorce and never call her. The young mother collapses into a heap on the floor, while OP raises her cane to begin a victory lap around the granite island.
Bill: All that in the record time of only 9 minutes, 21 seconds! But is it enough to secure the gold, Bob? We'll find out after this word from our 573,005,021 sponsors.

RESULTS: 
Bronze Medal for Meddling: Well Meaning Friend with Big Mouth
Silver Medal for Meddling: Pesky Older Brother
And once again, for the sixteenth year in a row, the Gold Medal for Meddling goes to Old Person with Yada Yada Yada...

TALK TO ME:  Do you have any meddlers in your life? Please do vent about it here...I won't meddle, promise.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Scream, You Scream...It's All Your Fault, Ice Cream

There's nothing better than indulging in the bliss that is ice cream on a warm summer night. Well, it could be even more blissful if say, the house magically cleaned itself. Or if it rained $100 bills. Or if you ever finally got tickets to see Saturday Night Live, for which you've applied 10 summers in a row to no avail. Or better yet, getting to meet the cast of Saturday Night Live!  Can you imagine? Or...oh, sorry, back to the ice cream thing...

It's important to choose your ice cream place carefully. At minimum, the ice cream should be homemade on the premises (bonus if churned by Oompa Loompas) with many, many employees at the counter in anticipation of summer crowds. Extra points for an atmosphere befitting an old-fashioned ice cream parlor: Victorian gingerbread moldings, charming cafe tables, and pastel flavor/topping lists handwritten on chalkboards (Note to Self: Next time, order before obsessing over their chalkboards).

Given the rarity of such a place, there's a pretty good chance that everyone in your county and possibly your state has also discovered it.

Hello, long lines that stretch out the door and ziz-zag down the sidewalk.

Use this time to ask what everyone in your group wishes to order, although you know as soon as they peer into the tantalizing glass cases inside, they'll all change their minds. At least this is one locale where kids are pretty cooperative, so thrilled are they to procure a frozen treat. It's almost insane to now sugar them up with an icy cold concoction so close to bedtime. But hey, it's another chance to become their hero. You might even earn that Best Parent Ever trophy you missed out on last time.

There's just one obstacle in the way. Actually, several obstacles with legs, and they're all inevitably standing on line in front of you:

Perky Employee Girl (PEG):  Can I help you?

Just an Indecisive Moron (JIM):  Is the cherry vanilla made with real cherries?

PEG (still grinning cheerfully):  Yes, sir. We only use all natural ingredients in our homemade ice cream.

JIM:  Oh, I'm allergic to cherries. How about the vanilla? Is that real or imitation? 

PEG (smile fading slightly):  The real deal. We only use all natural ingredients in all of our ice cream. 

JIM:   I think I had vanilla last time though. How about the Reese's Dream? Does that have real peanut butter in it?

PEG (blood pressure rising):  Yes, we only use ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS IN EVERY SINGLE THING WE MAKE.

JIM (patting his huge gut):  I bet that has a lot of extra fat and calories. I don't know, let's see. I do like root beer floats. Did you know that root beer actually comes from a root?

PEG:  Yeah, um, would you like---

JIM:  Bet you don't know which tree. Guess. C'mon. Okay, I'll give you a hint. It starts with "S."

PEG (staring incredulously):  I'm sorry, we have a LOT of people waiting. Can I get---

JIM:  The sassafras tree. Sassafras. Isn't that a funny word?

PEG (reaching for arsenic):  Mmmhmmm...

JIM:  How big is the Large? How about the XL? Ya know what? I don't feel like soda. Let me think....cone or bowl, cone or bowl...

Next up is the TMI Couple that shares a little too much during the ordering process.

Mr. TMI:  I'll have three scoops of the Rocky Road in a waffle cone.

Mrs. TMI (with a huff):  Really?

Mr. TMI:  What? It's my favorite.

Mrs. TMI (exasperated):  You're lactose intolerant. Don't you remember the two days of diarrhea you had last time?

Mr. TMI:  It was your idea to go for ice cream. It's freakin' Lactose Lollapalooza here...what am I supposed to get?

Mrs. TMI:  There's Italian ice or fruit bars or slushies...

Mr. TMI (shaking his head):  Yuck, I don't want any of that sissy stuff.

Mrs. TMI:  Oh, I'm sorry.....I guess Tammi with an 'i' only goes for manly men who eat real ice cream?

Mr. TMI (shouting):  Her name is Toni, and I told you, we're just friends! She only grabbed my thigh because she lost her balance...

And then there's this crazy person:

Hey, do you guys do all that chalkboard lettering yourselves? You have someone come in and do it, huh? Can I ask you what they charge? Okay, I'll come back when the manager's here. But do you know if it's real chalk or chalkboard acrylic paint? Let me take a closer look. I'll be able to tell...Oh, only employees allowed behind the counter? Could I just---? No, no need to call Security. See, I have a blog, and I illustrate it with chalkboards, so...Is there any way you could find out what font that is?

When it's finally your family's turn, whoever is either the sloppiest and/or wearing the lightest color shirt will invariably order the bright, florescent blue Smurf flavor. The clumsiest will tip the cone so the entire scoop plops onto the sidewalk moments after stepping outside. And the finicky one will bemoan the ice cream place is sold out of her one-and-only request. 

But the long wait and other aggravation won't matter for long. You'll forget it all after that first spoonful of creamy goodness. You are SO coming back here tomorrow night.

Well played ice cream, well played.

Actual Time Spent Waiting on Line for Ice Cream:  25 minutes
Time Indecisive Moron Took to Order:  7 full minutes
Amount of Ice Cream Enjoyed:  Every last little drop
Fat and Caloric Intake:  Let's not even go there.
Number of Times You'd Be Willing to Do This Again:  How many summer nights are left? 47? Okay, 47 then.

TALK TO ME: What's your favorite ice cream? There are so many cool concoctions out there, but I can never go wrong with tried & true French Vanilla. I'm bland like that. Plus, it doesn't stain...because I'm clumsy like that, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

DOG: Best Friend or Master of Time Manipulation?

You've probably heard from someone somewhere that one human year is like seven years to a dog. I'm not sure what the dog hours vs. human hours per day breakdown is as I've stated before how math is not exactly my forte. One thing I do know? My dog's daily time management skills put me to shame.

Rest assured this is not one of those sappy posts about how we should take a cue from dogs and spend more time frolicking in the fresh air or all that other sunshine and rainbows stuff. I'm talking about my dog's uncanny ability to manipulate his family and environment to his liking, spend every minute doing whatever he pleases, make repeated mistakes and still be worshipped.

Nice work if you can get it, right?

I can only imagine starting my day with all of the kids (even the teenager) jumping up in excitement when I come downstairs. They'd race over to pet me and praise me...instead of, you know, only looking up from the Xbox long enough to demand waffles.

Bet you can't picture a son saying this amid a shower of hugs and kisses...or even in front of his friends: "Come here, Mom! Aw, what a good mom, such a good mom. And cute, too, yeah, look how cute you are! You're the best mom in the whole wide world. And I love you, yes I do."

But for our dog? Every. Single. Day.

The kids might even fight over who gets to pet me first. All of this just because I entered the room! Imagine if I did something actually involving work, like preparing their meals. Or doing their laundry. Or transporting them to and from their 5,000 activities, for which I have been thanked and/or appreciated -5,000 times currently...with not so much as a pat on the head.

And speaking of meals, if I'm a dog, I'm not cooking...nor do I have to clean up. That frees up eons of time right there. Someone will just set down a bowl of something I find delicious (which for my yellow Labrador, is pretty much everything including, but not limited to, hardwoods).  Plus, my dog can eat whatever he wants and never have to worry about fitting into a pair of jeans, or worse, a swimsuit.

There's also no getting dressed, nor struggling with hair or make-up or any daily beauty regimen in general. I'd just look fabulous and be forever comfortable in my own fur. Added Bonus: Even if I did happen upon my reflection in a mirror, I'd just think it was another dog.

I'd spend the day lounging around, napping wherever the sun patch relocates. I could plop down for 40 winks right on the floor whenever the mood struck, and it wouldn't bother me at all to be next to a dust bunny (ahem, not that we ever have those at our house, of course, cough, cough).

If the floor did need cleaning? I'd just play the I'm Terrified of the Vacuum card.

Since dog vision isn't the best, I also wouldn't be distracted by all the home improvement projects that need to be started (or in some cases, finished). And no more losing an hour getting sucked into HGTV.....I'd be basically colorblind, so those transformation shows probably wouldn't hold my interest (or envy).

As a dog, I could also mark my territory or use a simple bark or growl to say, "My iPad, MINE. Go play your video games on a different device. I need to check my Twitter feed." 

Even during errands, I could make better use of my time. If I need to reach something on a ridiculously high shelf at the store...there's no waiting for an employee's assistance. I could just jump and clumsily knock it (along with 15 other boxes of brownie mix) off the shelf. And if the shelf gets scratched up and damaged? So what? I'm a dog. I don't know any better, even if you did repeatedly reprimand me for the same thing on multiple occasions.

The couch my dog mistook for one of his eleventy billion chew toys? Filed under "oops," forgiven and forgotten.

Besides, if you choose to discipline me, all I have to do is look at you with my soulful, well-meaning doggie eyes. They'd be my greatest weapon. If I could master the expression my dog has when he begs, I'd need never nag again.

Kids' socks on the floor? One pathetic glance and all clothes go into the hamper and toys get put back where they belong. Throw in a cute little yawn, and the kids might even go straight upstairs, brush their teeth and get into bed on their own...the first time I ask. 

Not that I would care what time they got to bed if I were a dog. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't think or worry about much of anything. There would be no racing against the clock because I wouldn't know how to tell time....or look ahead to the future. I can honestly say my dog has never lost sleep over how he's going to put our kids through college (if only they did accept shed fur as tuition payment...the kids could all even go on to grad school). He's also not going to develop the ulcers or high blood pressure with which I'm probably destined to become afflicted.

You know what? The more I write this, the more annoyed I feel about how easy my dog has it....and how I'm clearly such a sucker for his nonsense. Now that I'm onto him, I need to stop playing the fool and giving into whatever he wants.

And I will.

Effective immediately.

Or maybe right after I throw this tennis ball....because you know, he just dropped it into my lap and tilted his head with those pleading eyes and that cute little wrinkle he gets across his brow.

TALK TO ME:  Do you ever find yourself allowing your pets to get away with something based on their Cuteness Factor alone?



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Firecracker, Firecracker, Sis, Boom, Blah-Blah-Blah

America is hosting its annual birthday party in the sky, and you're invited. Because who doesn't love watching things explode amid thunderous pandemonium? Well, your preschooler, and also, your dog, who has spent the past three nights frantically pacing and barking each time a neighborhood pyromaniac sets bottle rockets off between 12 and 4 AM.

But hey, the rest of the family seems eager to witness tonight's government-approved detonation of gunpowder. On any other day of the year, it's generally frowned upon to blow things up. Whereas tonight, you get to cheer while being simultaneously feasted upon by mosquitoes.


Begin the process of rounding up the offspring a good two hours before the fireworks start to allow travel time to the town 10 minutes away. Remind everyone to use the bathroom at home as there will only be bacteria-breeding booths of filth to relieve oneself at the field.

Locate the blanket, chairs, bug spray and other assorted items you need. Remind everyone to use the bathroom. Pack the car. Remind everyone to use the bathroom. Get into the car. Ask if everyone remembered to use the bathroom, and escort the one who forgot back into the house.

You're on your way. Sort of. If you count moving about one tenth of a mile per 15 minutes in traffic as making progress.

While you lug all of your stuff from the car to the field a mile away, wonder if you made the wrong choice having a dog as a pet. What you really should've adopted is a mule. The dog's currently at home relaxing in the A/C, whereas a mule could be here to transport your stuff and maybe even give the kids a ride through the muggy streets of suburbia. Wonder why more mules aren't being implemented for this purpose. Oh, that's right. Too big and smelly to fit in a minivan. Decide to put your billion-dollar Rent-a-Mule business plan on hold.

Pay the "optional" donation to enter the park. It's so crowded you can smell other people's bug repellent. Realize you left yours in the car. Hear the mosquitoes snicker with delight.

Recall how difficult it is to keep an eye on the kids outside during the day, and how now you get to attempt it in the dark. Justify the purchase of overpriced glow stick necklaces to help spot your children....you know, among the 517,298 other neon rings of light jumping around.

Sit and wait. Wait some more. It's almost 9, but not quite dark enough. You keep thinking you feel something crawling on you. As a result, you make sudden spastic swatting motions repeatedly. Your husband shakes his head.

Your son asks to play with a fireworks app. There's no point in going into your usual lecture about experiencing life for real instead of on a small screen, blah blah blah.  At least when he uses the app, he stays on the blanket where you can see him...or a shadowy form that resembles him anyway.

You can hear fireworks already going off in a nearby town. Watch everyone crane their necks to get a glimpse over the trees. It always seems the other towns are doing it better.

Finally, a single firework is launched where you are. Ooh. Ahh. A second and a third go up, separately of course, because this painfully slow, one-at-time thing will continue until the finale.

There's that tickle on your arm again. Smack it multiple times, but secretly hope you missed because the thought of smeared insect carcass on your skin freaks you out more than a possible bite.

After approximately four fireworks, there's a lackluster ground display. This one's a red, white and blue.......uh, flower? Patriotic pinwheel maybe? Uncle Sam's hat tumbling through the breeze? Rotating satellite dish atop an octopus?

People become obsessed with commentary over color and form. Suddenly, it's okay to publicly shout a preference for cascading comet tails that whistle. When a dud goes off, the crowd actually boos its disapproval....as if the people launching it care or will make a note for next year.

Within 15 minutes, the last twinkle of the anti-climatic finale dissipates, and you try to avoid getting trampled as you exit in the gunpowder-induced smog.

The mosquitoes recline on their chaise lounges, patting their bellies, full and fat.

Actual Time Spent Watching Fireworks: 15 minutes
Time Spent Traveling to and from Local Fireworks:  2 hours
Real Feel: 4 hours
Number of Mosquito Bites You Incurred:  47
Number of Mosquito Bites Your Husband Incurred:  .05 (He smacked it dead mid-bite).

TALK TO ME:  How's the fireworks show where you are? Do mosquitoes find you as delicious as they find me?

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