Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ode to Diet Coke

Back in 1998 when I attended my first Exponent Retreat, I hid from the woman organizing the talent show. I am not saying I am a talent less loser, but my talents are not so easily showcased. I am one of the only Mormon women on the planet who does not sing and/or play a musical instrument. Other people CLAIM they don't play piano, but what they really mean is "I took piano for 3 years but I'm not comfortable playing in public." When I say it I mean it. No Heart and Soul. No Chopsticks. I can't even read music.

But the Exponent talent show was not what I imagined. One woman read funny poems. Another belly danced. Sure there was traditional singing, but there was also Lou with her guitar playing a Reba McEntire version of "Let us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each Other" that had me in stitches. So at the end when Cheryl asked if anyone else wanted to share a talent, I got up and sang my Mormon version of the Brady Bunch theme:

It's a story, of a special Lady,
Who was bringing up 3 very special girls.
All of them read the Book of Mormon like their mother,
The D&C, and The Pearl.

It's a story, of a Bishop named Hansen
who was bringing up 3 righteous Eagle Scouts
All of them were up by 5 to go to seminary
and do their paper routes.

Til at the Storehouse when this sister met this bishop,
and the Holy Ghost gave them a little hunch,
That in Zion they'd become an eternal family.
That's the way they all became the Hansen Bunch...

It started an annual tradition for me of making up wacky lyrics and then cajoling my buddies into making fools of themselves with me.

This last August while at Girls Camp, I came up with an ode to Diet Coke. I've always loved my brown beverages. My Uncle George gave me my first taste of Dr. Pepper when I was 4 and I spent a better part of the 80's chugging Big Gulps of Dr. P or Coke to get thru high school and college. But I never fully appreciate the magical healing properties of my fizzy drinks until I had kids. After kid #2 I started calling Diet Coke "Nap in a Can." There are days when I'm running on 4 hours of rest and as Frost said, "have miles to go before I sleep." I pop open a can and just that sound alone starts my synapses firing. Dave is a much bigger Diet Coke junkie than I am. While I wonder from Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper (aka "triple threat") and Coke Zero, he is absolute in his devotion to plain old Diet Coke. Do not buy him a citrus "this-tastes-like-lemon-Pledge" variety. Do not put a shot of regular Coke in his cup at Costco. And do not run out. No no. Bad. Very bad.

And if you are one of those people who swear that Diet Coke from the fountain tastes different from the bottled stuff, you are not crazy. When it's on tap they add our old friend saccharine to the mix. It helps stabilize it. In our town, White Hen Pantry is the one place to get fountain cokes. And I swear the Mormon Mommies are the most frequent customers. I pop in there once a week (while we have no year supply of wheat or powdered milk, we do have a mountain of 12 packs in our garage. People randomly stop by for a drink. Sometimes they stay and chat, sometimes not. It's all good.). Every time I go in I see a Honda Odyssey in the lot and know one of my sistas is getting her Diet Coke fix. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Our performance was awesome. 2 of us wore Diet Coke t-shirts that we had randomly packed. And we had cut the bottoms off 20 oz bottles and placed battery operated candles inside. We dimmed the lights and walked out with our sodas aglow. So on behalf of all us lovers of brown elixer, sing the following to the tune of "O Tannenbaum." And do it with reverence.

O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
How Fizzy are thy bubbles.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
You take away my troubles.
Straight from the can or over ice
When I am tired you make me nice.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
How Fizzy are they bubbles.

O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
I cannot live without you.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
I love everything about you.
You are the juice this mommy craves
I love to ride your caffeine waves.
O Diet Coke O Diet Coke
I cannot live without you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekend Update

I thought I'd post some recent pix and give a quick update on our Hobo Clan. I took the following shots outside our church on Saturday evening. It was Calvin B.'s baptism and so I had an excuse to get the kids looking civilized.

Jonah: His hair is not greasy but wet since I forced him into his weekly shower a day early. He reminds me of Mikey (Dave's youngest bro) who at this age would brag about his pungent foot odor. We also battle brushing teeth. He went to this week and afterwards complained that his teeth felt "naked without their plaque sweaters on." I am so sicked out by that. Dave was gone all week (more on that later) so Joe was my faux adult company much of the time. We rented "Son of Rambow" together and loved it. We also love "Psych." The highlight of his week was going to a Halloween store on Saturday. He's been making lists of gear needed for pranks and saving money. He got a fake rat, gorilla hands, and a retractable knife. He and Dave have started a fitness routine which involves a daily bike ride and then a million push ups. (Note to self: buy Jonah deodorant.)

The absolute highlight of Georgia's week was on Thursday when we rented her violin. The school starts string instruments in 3rd grade and she is elated. (Millie is green with envy, stamping her foot and shouting, "I've GOT to get an instrument!") She came home and serenaded us in the backyard as I mowed and the kids ran around. She slept with the case. The hard thing with Georgia right now is that she gets migraines. If she's too hot, hungry, tired, any extreme can trigger a bad headache. It breaks my heart to see my little bird suffer.
Millie was very worried about going to school all day but is doing great. She is my lifesaver with Bea. She is so kind to her and will spend lots of time playing with her. As a result, "Mowee" is Bea's favorite sibling and every time Bea hears a bus she says, "Is that my Miller? Let's go get her!" The girls begged me to take the bunks apart so now their beds are side by side and for whatever reason that makes Millie feel more grown up. She lost another tooth this week and I had to have two different people promise to call me after 10pm to make sure there was $ under her pillow. Dave does tooth fairy duty so I was terrified I'd forget and have to use my cousin MaryAnn's story about the tooth fairy being a single mom who can't always find a sitter to watch her kids while she takes care of lost teeth.
Bea is such a crack up right now. She has no intention of being potty trained and is always trying to get us to carry her. With a four year gap, she is definitely the baby and mostly loves it. She loves her friends, going to nursery, chocolate milk, and her new obsession is to dress up in G & M's old ballet clothes.
Here is Georgia with her dear friend Ellie in their matchy matchy dresses.

As for Dave being gone all week, for his 40th birthday I sent him off to tracker school in the woods of NJ. As most of you know, over a year ago Dave embraced his inner Hobo and when traveling for clients, instead of staying at the Marriott he'd pitch a tent in the forest and cook over a stove made out of a Coke can. So he decided he wanted to really go primitive and convinced his buddy Jim to go with him on this New Jersey "walkabout." After months of prep (ie buying gear gear and more gear--in fact, I'm convinced it all about the gear), they took off last Sunday and returned 7 days later smelly and hairy and happy as clams. They carved bows out of wood and then make fires from them; they built shelters; distilled water; tracked animals; foraged for edible roots; ate deer one of them "harvested" ("hunt & kill" are not part of the eco-mother earth vocabulary apparently). And no phone calls the whole time. Honestly, I don't know when I've seen Dave so pumped by an experience. I awoke this morning to find Dave in the backyard, everyone but Bea with a knife in hand, carving fire-making tools. I'm married to a nerd version of Grizzly flippin Adams.

And me, well, I'm getting ready for Dave to take off for another week and to come home just in time for me to leave for the Exponent Retreat on Friday. That will mean going 2 weeks with only one day overlapping. At least when he's gone on business he won't be radio silent and I won't worry that he'll be attacked by a rabid raccoon. While he's been gone I've painted the side entry, done endless loads of laundry, drunk lots of Diet Coke, taken a friend's senior portraits, relied on the kindness of Lindy, and highlighted my own hair. This week is filled with 2 Back to School Nights, dentist & ortho appointments, soccer, birthday party, apple picking. Just the usual manic stuff that comes with mothering. As long as the weather holds their is no flooding in my house, we'll all be fine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Confessions of a Barbie Lover

Kids, like adults, cycle through their toys. My son phased through dinosaurs, superheros, Star Wars. And though he won’t admit it, he still loves his bin of Legos and his glow-in-the dark light saber (ah, boys and their swords…). My girls had Little Pony and Polly Pocket obsessions. One flirted with American Girls but it never went anywhere. But the thing my daughters keep cycling back to over and over is Barbie.

I know, I know. I’m a feminist. I should HATE Barbie. I have lots of friends who loathe her waspish waist, her platinum blond cornsilk hair, not to mention her slutty little shoes and micro mini clothes. And I can see why lots of moms might want to banish Barbie and her "Made in Taiwan" bootie from their daughters’ toy chest. These friends feel Barbie sends a terrible message to girls: beauty=skinny and big chested, happiness=clothes and Ken. I admit they have a point. She is a freakish Glamazon with her 36-18-33 figure. In recent years Mattel has attempted to make her more of role model by creating "Astronaut Barbie," "Dr. Barbie," "Teacher Barbie" and a host of other career themed dolls. They even gave her plastic surgery in 1997, widening her waist to make her more “real.” Even so her very name still conjures images of a blandly attractive and vacuous woman.

Why, then, do I LOVE Barbie? I still walk down that Flamingo Pink aisle of Toys R Us with a strange combination of desire and reverence. Part of it is nostalgia. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a Barbie. One of our first ones was a hand-me-down from a much older cousin. She had short reddish brown hair, plastic protruding eyelashes, and no smile whatsoever. My older sister and I agreed she looked just like Lucille Ball when Lucy was mad at Ricky for not letting her sing at the Copa Cabana. Since then I’ve had dozens of Barbies and played with them long after it was "cool" to play with dolls. My favorites were the non-traditional Barbies: Christy with her Foxy Brown hair; my Hawaiian Barbie in her sassy hula skirt; and Donny and Marie in their shimmery purple unitards.

I just don’t see Barbie as the anti-Christ in stilettos (that would be Brat Dolls who look just like some prostitutes from Vadivostok I once saw—I know, I’m a hypocrite). Mostly I like Barbie because she could be whatever I projected onto her. My Barbies were Superheros, adventurers, detectives, Olympic athletes. Okay, so I never pretended they were nuclear physicists or Rhodes scholars; that doesn’t mean I didn’t create fun and intelligent imaginary worlds that may or may not have contributed to my current status as a pretty good person (hey, I may not have written the great American novel, but I have read all of Shakespeare thank you very much). And as for Ken, Barbie’s life does not revolve around that 12" dude with a washboard belly and a plastic coif. Mattel even had them “break up” a few years back. For every Ken doll, we had at least 4 Barbies–and no, never once did we play "Brigham Young Era Barbie" where Barbie, Midge and Skipper were sister wives to polygamist Ken. On the contrary, Ken was an accessory, like her white go-go boots or the little sombrero my aunt brought me back from Tijuana.

Growing up Mormon, I always wanted children but didn't spend a lot of time playing "little mother." And though you could buy tiny plastic babies, my friends and I never made Barbie the Mom. Was it that she seemed too young (we could have played "Teen Pregnancy Barbie" but that wouldn’t have been fun)? Was it that the Magenta Corvette had no room for a carseat? Certainly I was too ignorant to know that of course Barbie has never had kids because even if she managed to maintain that itty bitty waist, no one’s chest could stay THAT perky post childbearing. Barbie was not about caretaking. She was her own woman, defined neither by men nor children, changing careers like she changed those trampy shoes, free to explore and create her world. Is that really so wrong?

I’ve watched my girls play Barbies, and sometimes wonder if I am encouraging materialism, immodesty, selfishness. But mostly their play makes me happy. This summer Barbie did lots of skydiving from our tree house with plastic supermarket bags as parachutes. Millie has had Barbie catching and training wild mustangs. Currently, Georgia spends hours designing dresses out of baby wipes and rubber bands. Honestly? Some of her designs rock. And Bea likes to make her swim in the tub. So while Barbie may not be an ideal role model, as long as she fuels little girls’ imaginations, she’ll always have a place in my heart.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Nanny v. Britney

How I long for the good old days of my childhood when one had to go looking for porn. Sure, when you were babysitting and flipping thru channels maybe you came across a racy show on Z-Channel, but it's not the same as today when one wrong click of the mouse can pull up images that would make Hugh Heffner blush.

This first happened to me several years ago when we were going apple picking. I couldn't remember how to get there and thought I'd Google the farm, Honey Pot Hill. You can just imagine the smut that flooded my screen. Dave had the same problem when Jonah went thru a superhero phase and wanted to find some "X-Men" games. Don't search for "X" and "Men" together. Bad bad stuff my friends. So to help weed out the smut, Dave installed some Larry Flint recommended software called "Safe Eyes." And it worked pretty well. So well that I became complacent.

Last week, right after I went to Girl's Camp, I decided I needed to share a funny story on a friend's blog. I'd had a conversation with two women from Revere who were talking about their oldest girls heading off to college. "Things sure have changed," said one. "Yeah," replied the other, "when we were that age only the easy, slutty girls went to college." I am still smiling about that one. Anyhow, I write the post and go to add a picture, imagining a shot of Britney Spears in her skimpy school girl attire. So I, being the overly confident idiot that I am, Google the words "slutty college girls" and hit return. OH. MY. GOSH. I burned my corneas as image after graphic image popped up. And because I was simultaneously burning pictures onto a disk, when I tried to close out the page it took forever as I'm sitting there with my hands over my eyes like the monkey desperate to see no evil.

When Dave returned from his business trip, I told him what had happened and we shuttered at what could happen with the wrong stroke of the keys. He spent the evening loading new software onto the computers. [Side note: as he is doing this and I am doing dishes, the A/C in the attic breaks and water floods it, seeping into the floor and then to Jonah's room. Jonah goes in there to find it literally raining. I'd been in there an hour earlier, before the water had started to drip, noticed a foul smell and berated Jonah for being a stinky 11 year old who needed to find whatever awful thing he'd left in his room to rot. In my defense, this is the boy who will leave a soaking towl in a duffel for weeks or put a ham sandwich in a drawer.]

But the new software is a little paranoid. Two nights ago I was window shopping on line and the Net Nanny refuses to let me go to a shoe website because it contains "intimate apparel." I try all our regular passwords to override it but none work. I give up and go to check my email and find I have 226 messages in my Spam. Obviously I hate Spam becuase it's useless junk, but I mostly hate it because it is the easiest way for slutty college girls to get in my computer. But when I go to trash them all, the Nanny pops up and accuses me of trying to access inappropriate material and refuses to let me by so that I can dump that crap. How dare she! But then I calm down. Nanny is just doing her job. She is trying to keep me and my family safe from nude co-eds.

The next morning Dave gives me the password ("Oh THAT password. Duh!") and I have a little chat with Nanny about allowing me to expurgate my Spam. [Meanwhile, our fridge dies. I discover this when I crab at Millie about not finishing her milk and she tells me that it tastes funny. I smell it. Ew. I open the fridge and it's 54 degrees in there, the same temperature as certain people's houses--you know who you are Lindy!]

Tonite I decide to check out Landsend and see if I can get a long sleeved rash guard on clearance for Georgia who always gets burned the first hot week of the year (And I admite I have a swimsuit addiction, for me and my kids. That's another story). Guess what Nanny did? She REFUSED to let me get onto Landsend. LANDSEND for heaven sake, not Victoria Secret. Fine fine. I enter the password, but is that good enough for Nanny? Noooooo. She has to shove her "access denied, request override" message in my face everytime I try to look at a long sleeved rashguard, which is basically a swimsuit for Hutterites and the Taliban. Every time the white box pops up I can see her dour face and haughty stare, accusing me to lasciviousness. "Don't you judge me you Damn Nanny!" I shout at the screen.

I'm calm now. But I am torn. I do not want anyone in our house to access sleaze on the internet, intentionally or otherwise. But I cannot support Nanny's behavior. I need to be able to shop with impunity. I shop therefore I am. So if anyone can recommend an anti-porn software that's slightly more enlightened than Church Lady, let me know.
P.S. After writing this post I tried to access my blog to proofread it and guess what Nanny did? Yep, tried to deny me access to my very own blog. That's crossing a line and I'm, well, I'm just so hurt.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Summer is officially over and I am greatly relieved as I've run out of sunscreen, juiceboxes, goggles, and patience. All in all it's been great: no lice, airports, trips to Urgent Care. I've actually really enjoyed my pack this summer. Jonah is really funny and babysits from time to time. Georgia and Millie are wicked cute and fun to hang out with. But it's the one who should be the most trouble that has been the best. So in honor of the Olympics, I need to give out a gold metal to Bea for being the best 2 year old ever (bronzes for the rest of 'em).

Beautiful Scarlet Terry
(as if Sue could make anything NOT beautiful)

Take last week for example. Since Dave was off in Indiana & California (he got to see Sue's new baby), I decided to head down to New Jersey for one last summer fling with Steph & Co. The biggest motivator for my kids to drive for 5 hours? Milo, their cat. How pet deprived are my kids that they'll gladly endure half a day on the New Jersey Turnpike just to pet a kitty. On Wednesday we took all 7 kids (her 2, my 4 plus Beka) to 6 Flags. Bea was a super trooper. She went on every ride she was tall enough for and actually enjoyed herself. Even on the roller coaster that a certain 6 year old begged to go on only to cry hysterically and back out after she was strapped in. She was the only kid under 11 who didn't have a meltdown. As for the two 11 year olds, we hardly saw them. They just showed up periodically to get more $ and brag about having ridden Kingda Ka, the tallest, fastest roller coaster in the world.

On Saturday Uncle Jeff tapped into his Southern Utah roots and took us all tubing down the Deleware River. Heck, if George Washington can cross it in a boat, I can cross it on laytex. Bea is a bit like a cat around water (a normal cat, not Milo who tried to join her in the bath--see above) and so I expected her to ride in the raft w/ Steph and some of the girls. Instead, she spent most of her time straddling my tube, dangling her toes in the river and just being cute (when Georgia splashed her she shouted: "Hey! Stop getting my water wet!"). As a side note, if you are ever in NJ you really should go tubing on that river as half way during the 3 hour ride, you park your tubes on the shore of "Hot Dog Island" and have lunch. Yup. Hot Dog Island, a little bump in the river where you trade your wristband in for 2 hot dogs, soda, chips and candy. It was a tiny slice of white trash heaven and I loved every minute of it.

This picture is from our Cape Cod trip. Rachel & I took the kids on a ride every evening. Noelle & Bea were perfectly content as long as the bikes were in motion. Bea never complained. Even when certain people who were supposed to be holding my bike didn't and the whole thing smacked onto the pavement. Not a whimper. When I asked her later what her favorite part of camping was, she said, "I love bike and tent." Lest I'm painting a perfect picture of Bea, let me add that she, Noelle & Buddah popped my new airmattress the first nite in a jumping contest where I was the loser. Below is a shot of Buddah, her other partner in crime, giving her a boat ride at Nickerson.

This last shot was taken today. She came upon some ghetto-licious fake teeth and popped them in and started hamming it up for us all. She reminded me of that Jaws character from the Roger Moore James Bond days. Yesterday she was trying to get into our hard to open our fridge, pulling with all her might shouting "I can't do it! I can't do it!" and then boom, the door opens and she screamed, "I DID it, I'm Superman!!!"

I'm sure soon enough we'll hit the skids again when I decide to potty train her or she decides that she needs to be velcroed to me and I have to seek a restraining order. But for now, I'm loving my Bea.