I did it. Epic parenting fail this week. I left my child. Just left. Forgot she was with me and got home, flopped on the sofa, talked to the hub. Then I asked, “so where’s the Princess, I promised her a book tonight?” The Man of the House looked at me as if I’d lost my mind and said, “you had her.”


That was all I could say as I raced to the car, coatless and panic-filled. I said it 74 more times as I drove the handful of blocks to our church.

Well, 74 is a good estimate.

Luckily, my singing group had gotten out early that night and when I arrived, the Princess was just finishing up and heading out to look for me. If I hadn’t parked crazily by the door as I sprinted into the church saying a little prayer that all was well, she might never have gotten a confession out of me.

And despite the fact that I got “busted,” all was well. If you’re going to screw up and leave your kid somewhere on accident, church is probably the best place to do it. I would trust the women who run the evening program for kids the same age as the Princess with her life, to be perfectly honest. They are spectacular moms. If I had forgotten her completely, the worst thing that would have happened would be that I caught some hell from them. I suppose they would tease me every time they saw me until roughly the end of time. As it is, I hesitated to post this as I suspect my minister is already compiling some zingers at my expense as he reads it – a hazard of becoming friends with the holy ones in charge, especially if they are particularly ornery.

But, it made me think: WHY did I forget her? It is simple. My routine changed. The Princess hadn’t attended the evening activities for some months, I was used to motoring to and from rehearsal solo. A simple change of routine. And that can be deadly.

A quick Google showed me that, on average, 40 kids die each year when their parents accidentally leave them in the car – mostly due to heatstroke. That’s a big number for deaths and, just as bad, 40 families each year who will never recover from the accident. I’ve tried to imagine how I would handle the guilt and utter despair those parents must live with for the rest of their lives. I don’t know if I could survive it – I’m not that strong.

When the girls were tiny, strapped solidly into car seats and vulnerable to that type of disaster, I always placed my purse beneath their feet in the back of the car. I forced myself to get in the habit while pregnant. I figured I wasn’t going anywhere without my purse and that I had decades of experience remembering it, but not much time to adjust to having a newborn or toddler. In just about every news report about children left in sweltering cars there was one common thread – a change in routine. Mom had to pick up doughnuts for a meeting at work and then, in work mode, headed off to the office. Dad usually doesn’t take the little one to daycare, so he got into his morning routine on the highway into town and forgot his child was sleeping soundly in the backseat. Routines change and we’re creatures of habit after all, so that’s when things can turn bad.

When Doodlebug was little, the Man of the House would take her to my mom’s for daycare. We called it the House of Spoils Daycare. A decade later, yep, still spoiled. But, one day he was home ill with the flu. I called and told my boss I’d be in late. Got all packed up for me, for Doodlebug and set the Man of the House up with soup, tissues and some good drugs. I felt energized, organized, like I had just accomplished something as a wife and mother. I was ready to tackle my day at the office – and as I pulled into the parking garage I hear “ooooooo!” from the backseat. Doodlebug, at about eight-months-old, had never been in a tunnel or parking garage before. She was impressed. I was distressed. I had completely forgotten to take her to my mother’s house. Now, I had put my purse in the floorboards beneath her feet, so I believe I would have discovered her in moments. But, the panic that flooded me of what might have been? Pretty hard core.

That’s the same way I felt last week. Hard core guilt. Thank goodness she was at church, surrounded by people that I’ve known for almost 20 years and that have literally known her since birth. She was safe. And lives to tease me about it. And still loves me. She also thinks I’m a good mom, so I’m going to carry that in my heart. But somehow I still feel like I should wear a scarlet hashtag on my forehead for all to see…


Yep, I’m from Kansas. Bite me.

As I gear up and plan for another international trip, I began to  think about our place in the world. Not me, not my family, per se, but Kansas. My larger family. I’m consistently surprised at the misconceptions people have about our state.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things they get right:
We’re hard workers.
Generally warm and gentle folks.
We are welcoming to strangers within our midst.
Family is important to Kansans.
We love the wide-open spaces our lovely state provides. No claustrophobic and crowded cityscapes for us. Even our cities have enough room to breathe and view that expansive, blue sky.

But there is a lot they get wrong about us. And I hear it. Every. Freaking. Time I leave the state.

Tornadoes. No, a tornado doesn’t touch down every day in Kansas. And when it happens, we band together like the strong Midwesterners we are and get that shit cleaned up and our towns rebuilt. It doesn’t take us long. We’re resiliant. Oh, and tornadoes never pick up houses and sit them down gently elsewhere. Sorry, the Wizard of Oz isn’t real. Get over it and stop romanticizing tornadoes. They are powerful and destructive forces of nature – we can attest to that because we stand on our front porches and rooftops to watch them go by, if they aren’t too close, that is. (If they are close, we do head for shelter, we’re not stupid.)

Dorothy. Let me start this section by stating that I love the Wizard of Oz. I’ve loved it since I was a tiny girl, hiding under a blanket every time the green-hued witch came on the screen. Now, as an adult, I enjoy sharing it with my girls and watching the wonder in their eyes as the story unfolds. Even at my age, the original Oz movie still has the power to enchant me. Judy Garland … well, she was just perfect. However, since I’ve actually left the state a time or two in my life, I can guarantee with certainty that I have HEARD EVERY WIZARD OF OZ JOKE THAT IS IN EXISTENCE. Sorry. You’re not funny. My dog is named after a Beatle, not Toto, and I cannot skip my flight and simply click my damn shoes together to get home.

We’re a bunch of hicks. Oh, I love this one. Let me make this clear. I’m not married to my cousin. Surprise! We live on a city street and we have sidewalks and running water and electricity. There’s a tiny kitchen garden out back, but no sign of wheat anywhere on my property. I don’t hunt varmints nor do I eat squirrel, although I do know some folks in Oklahoma that do (ugh). I do own a pair of shitkickers (that’s cowboy boots to those of you who can’t two-step) but they’ve never seen any shit – just sawdust on the dance floor of a country music bar. And while we’re on the subject of country music, Garth Brooks lives happily beside Jay-Z and Metallica on my iPod. We’re well-rounded and just as in-tune with the rest of the world as anyone else.

Beef. In addition to growing wheat, Kansas is also cattle country. We harvest locally and eat it locally. Tofu sucks. We like beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Deal with it.

Clothes. Wichita was recently ranked as the worst dressed city in America.  Yee-haw. It’s true. At the airport, you can always tell which gate has a flight leaving for Wichita because that is most casually-dressed bunch in the whole airport. We don’t dress up for silly things like running to the grocery store or to Home Depot. You’re lucky if we put on our good Wichita State Shockers tee-shirt and clean jeans to go to church or the theatre – in fact, I’ve seen my own minister deliver a sermon in a WSU tee. We are a relaxed, comfortable, laid-back kinda folk who don’t need designer clothes and $500 pairs of shoes to make us happy. Not to say that some of us don’t have those for the office or hanging in our closets (guilty) but, for the most part – if we’re not working, we’re dressed for comfort.

No Sports. We don’t have a bucketload of professional sports and athletes here in Kansas. A couple of soccer teams, some lower-level baseball teams, sure. What we do have is college sports. And, in general, they consistently do well. And I know that ticks off fans of bigger conferences, say the SEC, when a team from “lowly” Kansas kicks their ass. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll know that Wichita State is currently the top basketball team out of Kansas. I could spend another 1500 words here, heckling our friends from KU and K-State, but I won’t. I’ll just say Go SHOX! #playangry

The Kansas City Chiefs are ours, too. They may officially play on the Missouri side of the border, but we don’t hold that against them. Every fall, we trot out our Chiefs sweatshirts and ballcaps, tune in and faithfully watch them tank yet another promising start or blow a barely-grasped wild card playoff berth. The Chiefs are the reason my two children know all the good swear words and can properly use them.

Flyover state, my ass. Personally, I think Kansas is just as beautiful as any other state in the Union. And other countries, too. I remember taking a train north of London a year or so ago and thinking that the rolling hills looked a lot like the Flint Hills in the spring. Except they have sheep and not cattle. And they spray-paint them, which our cattle would not stand for. But my point is, if you can’t stand in the Flint Hills in the green of spring or on the plains of Western Kansas when the wheat is golden and reflects the sun – and appreciate a sky that goes on forever and the most beautiful sunsets on earth? Well, you don’t deserve the beauty that is Kansas. Go away.

To all the foods I’ve loved before…

I’m on a diet.

No, scratch that, not a diet. I’ve changed my lifestyle.

Shit. That sounds worse. As if I’ve deserted my children and taken up residence in some hippy-dippy commune where we eat nothing but lentils and couscous and spend our hours doing Bikram yoga and chanting praise in honor of the Flying Spaghetti Monster…

…ooooh, spaghetti! I miss spaghetti. Large portions of it smothered in something cheesy. With mushrooms. And cheese.

But, I eat very little pasta anymore. Very little of anything, if you ask me. For Christmas dinner, I prepared a beautiful Lobster Bisque, with lots of cream, nearly-caramelized sweet Vidalia onions and huge chunks of lobster tail. A tiny bit of French sea salt cut some of the sweetness and it was topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a pinch of nutmeg.

I got about a teaspoon full.

And the turkey? It turned out beautifully this year, all juicy and tender, with a brilliant rub that made the skin crisp and fragrant. I ate a mouthful. No crispy skin. And the mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and cream cheese smashed into them were a masterpiece, I tell you. Not that I ate much of them. I think I have a cavity that is larger than the portion of them I took.

Oh, and don’t forget New Year’s Eve! Gin and tonic is a lovely drink and I really, really like to imbibe them. They are especially lovely when combined with a nice Valium on a flight to London, I’ve discovered. But, Gin and diet tonic? Well, it tastes so bad that I really didn’t need a second one. Or to finish the first, for that matter. I did discover that black-eyed peas, those most iconic of luck-bringing legumes, weren’t too bad for the weight-loss plan. However, the leftover ham and broth that I simmered them in shot that right in the foot. I got a tablespoon or so of them. Skipped the cheesecake and ate a handful of blackberries instead. Happy New Year!

And forget hours sitting on my big ol’ bum watching television. Except for the obsessive viewing of my Alma Mater’s basketball games (we’re in the Top 10!!), I haven’t seen much television since I embarked on this little endeavor. (Okay, I did take a time-out for the season three premiere of Sherlock, so sue me.) After dinner, I trek upstairs to the playroom/exercise room and either put an old scratched Britney Spears CD in, sneak Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz away from the teenager, or I drag in the computer and find an old movie to watch. I spend so much time on the exercise bike that the lady parts no longer get sore from the hard, unforgiving seat. In fact, I think I might be having some kind of illegal, immoral relationship with that bike at this point. At least it’s probably illegal in Kansas. That notwithstanding, I’ve discovered James Bond flicks starring Daniel Craig to be especially uplifting for my workouts. I don’t know if it’s his rugged good looks and ripped abs or the frenetic pace of the movies, to be honest. I have confessed before that I love movies where shit blows up, so, 007 does it for me. Star Trek films are the old standby – and I’m showing what a dinosaur I am by admitting that I still have most of them on VHS. So, it’s either First Contact or Into Darkness on DVD when I tire of Bond. Seriously, I must go buy Wrath of Khan on DVD soon.

As one of my friends recently said: “Khan > all other Star Trek movies.”

Yep. And I think Khan’s …um… fit physique would be inspirational. His pecs in that film are larger than my own breasts…

But I digress. Don’t let me talk about things like Star Trek and Doctor Who – you know better, dear friends! This post is about the journey I’m on. A new life I’m attempting to form. A new, healthier body and mind and soul.

Aw, fuck it. Truth is, I want to wear skinny jeans again. With stilettos. And a shirt that isn’t crafted to disguise a muffin top from the world. Or, maybe even a mini skirt for my next birthday. What can I say? I’m shallow. I know my blood pressure, cholesterol and all that other stuff will be better when I’m thinner. I damn well know that I’ll feel better when I have to climb more than a flight of stairs at a time, if I lose some weight. I’ll be able to keep up with the girls more. Maybe go two-steppin’ again with the Man of the House. Maybe even develop the stamina to learn yoga – a goal of mine for some time.

But it all pales in the shining light reflecting off those size four Hudson skinny jeans hanging on the closet door. They are beautiful. Oh, yes, I bought them. At 180 pounds, they seemed to taunt me and were very cruel. Going to bed was like being back in junior high, only it was a pair of jeans doing the bullying.

Today, after losing more than 30 pounds during the holiday season (yes, applaud all you like, thank you, thank you, despite all the chocolate and the cookies in my home, thank you, thank you!), they taunt a little less and seem to be saying “go ahead! Buy the shoes! You’re gonna make it!”

So, 30 pounds down, 20 to go.

As I said. I sure miss food. But I like what I see in the mirror even more than Lobster, steak, or a good Chicken Curry. So, I’ll carry on with the bird portions for now and continue my almost-intimate relationship with the exercise bike. Because for some reason, this time, it’s working. And working well. And crazily fast, too.

So, if you’ll excuse me. I need to do some online shopping. There’s a pair of jeans in my bedroom that must have some stilettos to go with them.

I wonder if Zappos has rush orders?

Pondering sensuality vs. sex

Sometimes I look at the younger generation – yes, the college-aged ones I teach – and I ponder things a bit. I ponder where imagination has gone in this era of instant-entertainment gratification, of youtube, iTunes and Netflix. I ponder where the line is for shock, for indignation when it comes to language on the foul end of the scale. Don’t get me wrong, I have a sailor’s mouth myself, but when Britney casually throws around “You better work, bitch” and Jay-Z tosses out the n-word, I ponder whether we’ve lost the potential impact of those words by frequency and flippancy of use.

And I ponder, will these kids ever really grasp what is truly sexy? I’m not talking sex here, I’m talking sexy. Something that builds desire, inspires the imagination, draws from deep within. Take sexy in the movies, for example. Not naked. Not graphic. No full-on porn someone downloaded from the Internets.

No, no, no … I’m talking about breathtakingly sexy. Sensuality versus sex. The kind of sensuality that leaves your lungs empty and your mind ready to implode with the possibilities. Those of you who, like me, are racing towards middle age (and older) understand what I mean. Sex in film isn’t all bad, don’t label me a prude – we’ve all seen Body Heat and 9 1/2 Weeks. And, um, liked it. And we know the difference between erotica and porn by now. But, in this age when so much that was taboo is becoming part of the everyday, I ponder what is being missed by those coming of age now.

Do they recognize sensuality and desire and what is truly sexy? Especially in film, those subtly sexy scenes or moments that need no nudity and no graphic sex to deliver. I think they are missing it, in the world of easily-downloadable porn and R-rated flicks. I fear their impressions of sensuality come straight from Fifty Shades of Grey and its ilk. And that’s a bit breathtaking all on it’s own. And not in a good way.

So, let’s talk sexy, shall we? Can we begin with Ghost? There is a reason that people still talk about the scene with the pottery wheel. We can’t get it out of our minds, years later. Pottery throwing turned foreplay? You betcha.

Who needs full-frontal? The Age of Innocence, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer, examines the story of would-be lovers in late-19th-century New York. If you think a ladies wrist can’t be erotic, watch the scene where the pining gentleman unbuttons Pfeiffer’s character’s glove and kisses her wrist. Holy hell, ladies, it will leave you surfing the Internet looking for gloves with buttons. And Daniel Day-Lewis pictures on Pinterest.

And there’s a touch of nudity in Titanic, but think about it: Do you remember Kate Winslet’s assets or do you remember the steamy car window with the sweaty hand print? I thought so.

But, for me, the ultimate sexy scene in film is well, pretty tame. It’s what made me ponder gratuitous sex in film a bit this holiday seaon. It’s part of a film you’ve all seen. Over and over and over and over.

And over.

It’s a Wonderful Life is a holiday classic that most Americans love, but one scene simply takes my breath away every time. In a good way, too. Most of the ladies reading this know exactly what scene I’m talking about while most men are currently staring at their screens, confused – yep, girls, the phone scene. Watching Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed’s characters slowly draw closer and closer to each other while they desperately try to focus their attention on a shared phone conversation with their friend – with Stewart’s lips in her hair, you can just feel his need to kiss her radiating off the screen until finally he can stand it no longer. He simply must kiss her. It’s damn tangible.

Sigh. Now that’s sexy.

And not an R-rating or naked breast in sight.


View it for yourself and decide if it rates for you in the sensuality vs sex face-off.

Of panic, parenting and puke

It’s 2 a.m., do you know where your children are?

I do. My youngest is sleeping fitfully next to me, slightly feverish and flushed, little hands folded beneath still toddler-chubby cheeks, and the hair on her forehead still damp from the cool washcloth that I just took to the bathroom and exchanged for one that smells a bit less like vomit.

Ah, the joys of parenthood.

When you’re thinking about becoming a parent, talking excitedly about it with your spouse, dreaming of the possibilities – 2 a.m. feedings with snuggly newborns that still smell fresh from their evening baths are generally the trials that come to mind. The late nights spent with toddlers, school-aged children and even adult children when they are ill never seem to plague our thoughts. Perhaps it’s for the best that we picture the rosy-cheeked infant, crying for a feeding, instead of the panic, self-doubt and indecision that goes along with caring for a sick child.

The Princess, or as we’ve also come to call her “The Vomit Comet,” was a beautiful baby. The kind of pretty little thing whose infant and toddler pictures could rival Liz Taylor’s. But, I swear the child can hork with the best of them. She was a baby prone to spitting up. My former coworkers from my advertising creative days can tell you of many times I came to work with unnoticed spit-up on my suits and dresses. By the age of two, she had so much practice puking she could accurately hit a trash can or the loo from yard’s distance, while running and yelling “MOM!” Now, the Princess is six-years-old. We’ve been at it since about 11 p.m. Her face, even in repose, is weary. I can see a faint redness ringing her eyes, shadowed by those eyelashes that go on forever. Her legs, positioned as if to be instantly ready for the next round, have kicked off the covers. She is hot but would likely only throw up any medicine I give her, so I stick to the old methods such as damp washcloths tonight. Every movement catches my eye and every whimper earns a cool hand on her forehead.

Just to check. Again.

It’s a simple thing, tonight. It’s not always so simple. Some nights, you hear THAT cough, and it won’t stop. You medicate, you crush ice for crunching, you make cups of hot broth for sipping – all to no avail. You wonder and doubt and think and debate and then you finally cart yourself and your child to the Emergency Room, where, after waiting for two hours the cough has subsided and the little darling has fallen into an exhausted sleep. Heavy in your tired arms, but finally resting. “Just Croup, Mom,” says the doctor. “Don’t worry, it’s not Whooping Cough or worse. Go home.” So you go, you tuck your child in the “big bed” between your spouse and you – just so you can keep an eye on them – and snuggle up close to doze, badly, until dawn.

Dawn. That is the time I dream of, strive to reach, on nights like this. I’m sure there is a scientific reason for it, but every mom knows the fact: Fevers peak at night, children become more ill and every ear infection is at its worst during the darkest of hours. I dread the night when a child is ill. I look forward to dawn so we can both, finally, get some sleep as the rest of the household begins its day.

My eldest has reached the age that I’m not as needed when she’s ill. Teens seem to have less issues with the vomit thing, but when she has a sore throat or cold, she really just wants quiet, her own bed, some popcorn and the password so she can rent movies to watch. I hesitate to hover, though I’m sure she would say that I still do. I can’t help it. I know someday, I may wish I could pick up one of my daughters, tuck her into the big bed and snuggle her into good health again. I’ve realized recently that this job is never finished. This mom, this caregiver gig that I so casually fell into with no real caution, without an appropriate maturity level and definitely without a clue, I will live it until I die. Just like the mother of a high school friend of mine who has cancer. I love his entire family and I can’t help but pray for his mother as fervently as I am praying for his healing. I imagine she is in a panic beyond anything of which I could ever dream. I’m certain it is difficult to stand back and allow his wife to tend to him – that is her baby, after all. I also imagine she wishes she could simply scoop him up, make the pain and the sickness brought on by chemo go away for just a few minutes, tuck him into her big bed and make everything better. Just for those few minutes. I bet she’d exchange her own life for those few minutes of peace for her child.

I know I would.

It’s one of those things they don’t really warn you about when you’re about to become a parent. Oh, sure, people talk about spit-up, they talk about late nights, how kids are germ factories and so on. I even had one brilliant bit of advice from one of my sisters, Michelle, who said when your little one is going to throw up and you’re somewhere that can’t be easily cleaned, turn them and let them puke all over your shirt. Smart one she is, that tidbit of advice has saved my sofa several times over, while the chunk-and-slime residue on the shirt went neatly down the drain of the washer. But, even that handy piece of advice didn’t give me a clue. There are few things in life that make my blood run cold. A sick child is one of them. Am I handling this right? Did I give her the right medicine or did I give her enough? When do I call the doctor? Should we go to the ER? Good God, what if it is something like meningitis? All those thoughts – and worse – plague a parent when their child is ill.

The Princess has turned over onto her back now. Sleeping deeply, breathing more normally. Her face is no longer bright red. The virus must be near its end. Tonight at least, I made the right choices as a parent. Tomorrow, I will keep her out of school, just in case. She’ll spend the day wrapped up in extra blankets in the big bed, watching Stawberry Shortcake or Sofia the First to her heart’s content. I’ll get a few things done, maybe work a bit more on that big project I’m writing, maybe do some laundry to eradicate all the vomit-scented items. But, for the most part, I plan to snuggle up with the Princess.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even sneak in a nap. Just in case, when the sun goes down again, we need to fight this bug yet again. But, for the moment, I’m turning the television off, logging off my computer, and settling down under the sheets that smell vaguely of last night’s dinner and puke. I’m sure I’ll spend the next hour or two staring at her. I’ll check her forehead a dozen more times. And, I’ll leave the light on, too.

Just in case. Just in case.

A little May-December eye candy can’t hurt. Right?

Ladies, ladies, ladies.

Please, someone tell me. When did I reach the age where suddenly all the movie hunks are younger than I am?

When the hell did that happen? I remember Alan Rickman (67) in Die Hard and Sense and Sensibility. Hello. What a voice. I’d pay to hear him read a phone book from Tokyo while he has a cold. He’s quite a bit older than I am. Harrison Ford (71? Wow.), for example, is also older than I am – a hunky Han Solo and lovely Indiana Jones – and an exception to my preference for English men. As a young girl, I happily giggled over him and his physique and that ornery grin. Richard Chamberlain (Father Ralph is almost 80!) had that charisma, whether I was watching him in The Thorn Birds or onstage about a decade ago in The Sound of Music on Broadway. All old enough to be my father, but it was okay. Not a big deal. Didn’t seem gross at all. It IS, however, a big deal when I catch myself glancing – okay, more than glancing – at Taylor Lautner (21) when my kids are watching Abduction or the Twilight series. Even my 80-year-old mother was inspired by those rock-hard abs and blazing smile to state: “Wow, if I were only 60 years younger!” I happily agree, feeling a bit less guilty as I pop in one of the Twilight movies once again (hey, I can have my shallow pursuits). But, then generally at some inopportune moment like when he’s flexing some muscles or finally stealing a searingly-romantic kiss, it strikes me – ugh, I could be his mother.

*insert a shudder here*

And, while I am at it, how the hell did Hermione Granger wind up being selected the sexiest female movie star on earth recently by Empire Magazine readers? Isn’t she still about twelve? (See via the link: Empire article.) Oh, and let’s not forget her costar for years, Dan Radcliffe. As a fan of the Beat poets (especially Jack Kerouac), I was thrilled to hear Dan was playing Allen Ginsberg as a college student in his upcoming movie Kill Your Darlings. Yep, until I discovered the supposedly-graphic sex scene he’s filmed in it. YIPES! Dude, I’m a Potterhead of the first order, I love JK Rowling. It’s hard enough seeing Emma and Dan as adults when their 12-year-old selves still regularly grace the television screens in my kids’ rooms. I’m not sure I’m ready to see Harry having sex, as seeing Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson who, for the record, does NOT make my socks roll up and down) bang Kristin Stewart was shudder-worthy, and not in a good way. Link: is here.

Although, back to the original topic of this column … For example, Daniel Radcliffe is a dapper and handsome young man who is developing an amazeballs range of acting props and a solid resume of independent and big-budget films. But wait, did I say handsome? Whoa. How the heck did that happen? And it completely squicks me out to think that, I might add, much less write it. Um, ew. And, no, I did not make it to see Equus on-stage, despite the fact that I love the play and the playwright. I think I’m glad, I’m not sure I would have ever recovered from seeing Harry Potter’s dangly bits.

*insert another shudder here*

It’s not just the 20-somethings that give me a serious case of the squicks – despite the fact that I recognize the quality eye candy. And sometimes acting ability, I’m not completely shallow after all. For example, the thirty-three-year-old, new Captain Kirk Chris Pine, he’s so smokin’ hot that even my six-year-old admits to liking his smile and his “toy-koise” (translation: turqoise) eyes. Even dual sexiest men of the year, Adam Levine (34 – U.S.) and Benedict Cumberbatch (37 – U.K. along with Emma Watson) are younger than me, although, bless Cumberbatch, he is running head-first into middle age right behind me. And, thank goodness for Danial Craig,as the 007 stud clocks in older than me at 45 years-of-age.

Moral of this blog? I’m not sure there is one. Just a look at one of the little idiosyncrasies of life, of aging, (strangely) of parenting, and – I suppose – sex. There is a definite taboo that exists in regards to older women and younger men that doesn’t exist in the opposite. Look at the aforementioned Harrison Ford, who is married to Calista Flockhart, an excellent actress who is also 23-years his junior. But to think of trolling a college campus (um, ew, again. Or my own students, oh ew, those are my kids!) looking for love? Hitting a frat party to see if I can “pull?” Did I say “um, ew” yet? Perhaps it’s a maternal instinct that is far deeper ingrained than the paternal one? Something hormonal that makes me want to pat Daniel Radcliffe on the head rather than run my fingers through his hair?

*insert yet another shudder here*

So, what’s a *mumble*mumble*-year-old girl to do? I suppose I’ll keep an eye on Craig and other excellent actors (and, admittedly, eye candy) such as Matthew McConaughey and Brad Pitt. Give peripheral glances at the young pups as they explode on the scene with their perfect, veneered smiles and trainer-induced abs and “man-dents.” And those of us who are already a bit “mature,” well, we’ll just have to grow old together.

I’ll buy the popcorn, boys.

Teens, music and the curse of the earworm

If you happen to see me sitting in the parking lot of my eldest daughter’s school, reading and not-so-patiently waiting for her to sprint out of classes, you might be surprised to hear the music that is seeping out through my cracked window.

Justin Timberlake. Lorde. Lady Gaga. Imagine Dragons. Ahem…One Direction.

It’s not my fault. Doodlebug is thirteen. You remember what those early teen years were like, right? Full of music that stirred previously unknown emotions, soothed the pain of unrequited first crushes, fueled the angst raging in the cage for unfair parents, and, frankly, helped distract from all of the awkwardness that is puberty. Ugh, I still cringe in memory. But, I gotta admit, some sweet tunes from Michael Jackson, Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Bryan Adams and Air Supply made it a little bit easier.

So, when her iPod iHome gets a bit louder than I truly appreciate while I’m attempting to sound intellectual in a paper for some part of the dissertation process, I try to remember how miserable I was as a young teen and let it slide. (For the record, however, Doodlebug seems to be the type of happy, well-adjusted kid that I always aspired to be – but only seem destined to parent.) The problem is, in my attempt to be a cool mom, I am slowly losing my dignity.

You see, as I’ve aged, I’ve matured in my musical tastes. I never really gave up on pop music, but I did grow to love country music in my 20s and since then have discovered classical music and, in particular, choral music. I have added music from the Rat Pack era to my collection and even some jazz – I thought I was getting all grown up.

Not so fast, mom.

I’m ashamed to admit that my new iPod is populated with music mostly stolen from my children. Some of which, I admit, are seriously addictive earworms that are currently ruling my workouts.

Katy Perry. Girl can sing, no doubt, but she also gives a good workout. I especially appreciate her angry songs, such as Circle the Drain and Roar. Her cute little figure is inspirational, too. Darn her. Biggest earworm: California Gurls with Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion now?)

Lady Gaga. While I’m not a big fan of Applause, her latest, I have to confess that the Madonna of the Milennials is pretty kick-ass. She’s got the same showmanship as our Madonna, but this girl’s got the pipes, too. Throw in a few too many trips to the New York Fringe Theatre Festival in her youth and I really think this is one performance artist that has staying power. Biggest earworm: Black Jesus.

One Edition, er, New Direction, er, New Direction on the Block? Oh, yeah, One Direction. If Doodlebug compares New Direction to my Beloved Beatles one more time, I wll be forced to retract this particular statement, but these kids aren’t bad. They are cute. I can vouch for that because they populate the door of my daughter’s closet. I hear they play soccer, which brings them up a notch in my estimation. And I didn’t have to decide between the explicit or edited versions of their CDs because, well, these kids are the definition of clean-cut. I don’t have any of their music downloaded, but I have been known to sing along when they are on the radio. Yep. Guilty. Biggest earwom: What Makes You Beautiful.

Speaking of explicit CDs. Sigh.

Miley Cyrus. Miley, Miley, Miley. Girl is laughing all the way to the bank, I think. But, in the interim, she’s making it hard for a mom to support her daughter’s lifelong Miley Cyrus habit. Say goodbye to the sweet days of Hannah Montana and even “Party in the U.S.A” and hello to the foam finger. I squinted and tried to look past the antics and listened to the music from her new album Bangerz, then ground my teeth a few times and hunted it down for the last birthday. When the salesman at Barnes and Noble showed both the clean and the “parental advisory” versions to me, I only hesitated a moment before grabbing the latter – prompting an unsolicited “you are the coolest mom, ever!” from the aforementioned salesman. Doodlebug concurred. Subsequent time with the CD proved my instincts were correct, it’s not that bad. Thanks for making me cool, Miley. By the way, love Wrecking Ball, babe. Biggest earworm, however: Kicking and Screaming.

Royals by Lorde. I must confess, the first time I heard this song was at my daughter’s school, during a talent show for middle schoolers. Yeah, the trio that sang it there was actually better than Lorde, although lacking in the worldliness ingrained in her slightly-older voice. Not only an earworm, this one is a singer harmony-worm, I can’t stop singing along.

The most-played song during my workouts? The brilliant Holy Grail by Jay-Z, featuring Justin Timberlake. Mostly embarassed that her mom knows every word, I think she is secretly pleased I like to rock out to this particular song, as it’s her favorite right now. Me? I’m just secretly pleased she hasn’t figured out what the lyrics “sippin’ from your cup ’til it runneth over” means.

Until she figures that out or I die from the horror of explaining that particular …ahem…pleasure of life to her, if you see me tooling around town and hear that “thumpa-thumpa” generally associated with a car driven by a teenager? Don’t be surprised, I’m just being a cool mom.

Things my husband should never know…

My mother is beautiful. Oh, yes, inside she’s beautiful – kind, generous, all of that. The kind of mom that makes you chocolate chip cookies just because when you’re little. The kind of grandma who has infinite time to spend with grand kids, coloring for hours and patiently watching the Disney Channel. But she’s also physically beautiful. Short and petite, a fashionista of the first rank during her day, still immaculately groomed at all times. In the 1960s, when Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra was so popular, she copied the look to great effect. In fact, she looked just like the beautiful Liz Taylor.

So, of course, lucky me? I look just like my dad. A little more like if Johnny Cash and John Wayne had an offspring together and a little less Liz.

To be completely honest with you, dear reader, as I make my mad dash toward middle age, I find I am not doing it gracefully. I fret, I dye, I tease, I wax, I work out, I eat rabbit food. And I still look increasingly like someone’s Great-Aunt Myrtle. Gee, thanks, Dad!

The maintenance is absolutely astounding. Can I get a “Hell, yeah?” from my sisters? Not quite so old that sky-high stilettos have stopped calling to me from the shops (yeah, I’m talking to you, my beautiful patent-leather Kate Spades, you just wait until the after-Christmas sale, darlings) but I’m not so young that I can just forget to work out for a week, or God forbid, skip a month coloring my hair. I look at peers such as Jennifer Aniston or Victoria Beckham and wonder, how do they look so good?

Oh, yeah, right. They get paid to look that good. And have a team. But I would bet my next pedicure on the fact that even with the aforementioned team, they are appalled at the maintence required as they progress to middle age. And I guarantee that they are not interested in letting their partners know exactly what it takes to get them red-carpet ready. Hell, I don’t want the Man of the House to know exactly what it takes to get me…er…Red Lobster and a movie ready. So, here it is ladies, the things our husbands really do NOT need to know. Because seriously, even after nearly 20 years of marriage, the truth behind the maintenance just spoils the fantasy. Or what little fantasy is left.

1. Lotions and Potions. Let’s start with the basics, in case any gentlemen are reading. No darlings, we were not born with silky-smooth skin. That 15 minutes your wife spends in the bathroom, post-shower? She’s slathering on half a bottle of the latest in a line of disappointing gels, creams and lotions that promise to make her skin as soft as a baby’s butt. She’ll try another one next month when this one proves to be just as useless as the last two dozen she’s attempted.

2. Waxing. After a few years of marriage, your husband knows and complains during your wintertime “Sasquatch months” sans-razor or waxing, but it does take some time to maintain our legs. I’m trying to visualize my husband, in attendance as I receive my “spring cleaning” of leg and bikini waxes. He’s frankly a little horrified at the aggression with which I push back my cuticles, so I’m not sure he would actually survive such a violent appointment with me. I am quite certain it would ruin any future movies he may watch with hot-wax sex scenes for him. Not that we can manage to wrest the telly away from the kids and the drone of the Disney Channel, but, hey a girl can dream about watching rated-R movies with her husband, right?

3. Layers and layers. I carry this clunky Laura Mercier compact with heavy-coverage powder in my handbag and there is a twin in my makeup drawer. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s all he thinks there is to the process. Well, I have adult acne (dammit!) so he is aware of the miracle of concealer. But, I’m not sure he realizes the extent to which the war paint goes. First, of course, the face primer to keep those pores unclogged. Next, a mattifier to reduce that nasty shine. Now, a tinted primer in light green to reduce redness. Then eyelid primer. NOW I’m ready to start with foundation, concealer and loose powder. That’s all before I start on any color – i.e. eyes, cheeks and lips. He’s generally in-and-out of the master bathroom while I’m getting ready, so he misses most of the process. I’m glad. I’m especially glad he has no idea how much all of this crap costs.

4. No, that’s to clean my face with, it’s not a vibrator. Speaking of costs, how much I paid for my Clarisonic is on a need-to-know basis. And the Man of the House does not. need. to. know. However, if I get one more joke, smirk or sophomoric giggle about the little buzzing sound it makes as I desperately try to eradicate the zits before the wrinkles set in while taking a shower, I might just have to tell him. (Although I do fear it might be the last thing I ever say to him.)

5. Nose hair exists. Sorry. Gross topic, eh? Well, we all have to take care of this little matter. And while the Man of the House has no problem whipping out his little grooming tool (which, now that I think of it, buzzes quite loudly itself) and letting me see him, er, trim things. Personally, I like to keep this process a mystery.

6. My workouts. I’m not athletic. I’m not even that coordinated. When I workout, I look a bit like a drunken ostrich doing a mating dance on hot lava. It’s not pretty. To be perfectly truthful, I cover the mirrors in our bedroom and I even lock the cat and dog out when it’s that time of the day. I swear the cat was laughing last time he caught a glimpse. As far as the Man of the House goes, he can just appreciate the fact that I no longer weigh more than he does. Without getting a visual.

7. And lastly, SPANX. Sadly, the cover-up about these fat and jiggle cover-uppers is over at our humble home. The more fat you try to squeeze into Spanx the harder it is, and dear friends, I admit I needed help so I could get into a dress a full size smaller than was I. Nothing is more humiliating than having the love of your life yanking and pulling the stretchy stuff to its limits before helping you shoehorn into a dress and then attempt to zip it for you. And he had the fortitude to kiss me on the forehead and tell me how much he loved me, afterwards.

So, perhaps, ladies, I am wrong. Perhaps if he can create a wife-sized, human sausage with Spanx and still love the squished creature within, he can handle the truth of the rest of it.

And maybe he can’t. But, I think I’d still like to keep the mystery. As long as I can manage to hold “Great-Aunt Myrtle” off for just a few years more.

Force fields, chaos and family

In BountifulChaos-land there are many mysteries. Time manages to pass too quickly. Weeks zip by and suddenly it’s the weekend again. Children grow into young women, dogs suddenly have gray around their noses. Mom magically has a tummy and realizes she will never be called young, or cute, ever again. The Man of the House somehow watches more football than he plays in the backyard.

The days of homework, housework, holidays, everydays, school and rehearsals, church and work, hours volunteered, school lunches packed daily and dinners as a family – all vibrate together in a pulsating hum of living, of chaos.
It’s the same hum, I think, as the one generated by the invisible force field surrounding all the toilets –or loos for my Brit friends – in my home.

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

Some of you may recognize the hum – it surrounds areas of your otherwise pleasant and cozy home that are only accessible to Moms. Like the aforementioned toilets. And toilet paper roll holders. And all towel racks and hooks. And laundry.

In my home, a very special force field has developed around all three toilets. When we bought our 100-year-old home, I thought I was oh-so-fortunate to have found a remodeled and upgraded gem with three bathrooms for our growing family. At the time, I rejoiced. Now, I realize that three toilets and two children equals constant maintenance – not the scrubbing and swabbing kind, oh no – I’m talking about breaking through the force field for the big stuff. Unflushed number twos. Exactly why pee is easier to flush, I’m uncertain. This force field, I’ve discovered, is particularly stubborn and prone to leaving skid marks on the porcelain. I have yet to take this force field down, but its ravages are easily remedied with big, stinky, blue tablets – they stain your fingers, stain the inside of your toilet tank and blessedly, cover all manner of ills.

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

Then, there’s the big one – the replacing of the toilet paper rolls. I’ve explained it, demonstrated the process, left sticky notes with instructions and extra rolls nearby. There have even been family meetings called in the name of the loo roll. I currently have an animated PowerPoint Presentation in progress in fact, but I despair that anyone in my humble abode will ever replace an empty roll with a crisp, cotton-smelling new one. Ever.

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

While I have capitulated to the TP, I may never stop trying to eliminate the force field around all things laundry-like. Clean laundry, smelling strongly of Purex and bleach, can languish at the foot of a child’s bed for days on end. I’ve made my midnight “mommy rounds” and discovered one of my little darlings curled up into a tight ball on their pillow – carefully avoiding the clean laundry, stacked and sorted for them and lovingly placed at the foot of the bed. I believe my youngest, the Princess, holds the record for this laundry avoidance tactic at two weeks. Of course, she is also the shortest member of the family, so her prowess at laundry co-sleeping might have more to do with size than skill.

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

My eldest, Doodlebug, is the queen of mating clean laundry with a dirty carpet. Purex-scented crystals and their saturating fury be damned. Her filing system is all her own, no one else can decipher which of the pieces strewn across the Berber expanse is clean or dirty. And, while the youngest has great aim at hitting the old laundry basket – thinking dirty undies in particular are nasty – the eldest suspiciously wears the same school logo tee over and over. Ad nauseam. I’m not sure I’ve washed it yet this school year, to be honest. I’m actually waiting for the shirt to walk out of her school on its own one day, leaving Doodlebug behind. I am not entirely positive she knows where the laundry basket is, either. Perhaps a second PowerPoint Presentation is in order?

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

There is another force field at play in our cozy American foursquare. It is a movable feast of cotton, gallons of bleach and the constant, nose-burning smell of mildew. I can see some of you nodding as you read this, yes, the force field is in existence for me, too – I call it the wet towel conundrum. I have yet to understand this one fully, as the towels are apparently unprotected by the field when hung on towel racks and dry. Then, and only then, may children actually touch a towel. At some point, however, I believe the towel reaches a certain saturation level that triggers the force field and causes any child using it to abruptly stop and drop it to a heap on the floor. Preferably in a bedroom with a carpeted floor instead of a tiled bathroom, just so the mildew has a chance at greater purchase. Left unattended, these same towels somehow multiply, creating slightly smelly loads requiring copious amounts of eye-burning bleach. Back to the towel bar they go, minus the force field, just to start the cycle all over again.

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

There are many more force fields in the house, some that even target the darling Man of the House. For example, Q-Tips never manage to travel from his ears to the trash can, only to the bathroom counter. The dogs are under the governance of yet another field outdoors, as they steer clear of their designated potty area and head instead, of course, to the river rock decoratively surrounding our newly-restored deck. That’s one heck of a force field. So far, though, there is no field too strong to defeat mom. Armed with a powerful attitude and the ability to both berate and bribe small people in a single sentence, this mom is ready to tackle any force field, big or small. So, it’s with a light heart I leave you, dear readers. Tonight, I must finish tackling the laundry. And at least two force fields await me and my “mountain fresh” laundry as we fight the good fight. Wish us luck.

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

wub-wub. wub-wub. wub-wub.

O. M. G. Check out my friend Sandra’s amazing dessert table

Did I say HOLY COW yet?

Did I say HOLY COW yet?

Holy cow, check out the dessert table my friend put together for another friend’s wedding. Sandra Denneler did Rachel Farha’s big day right. She has set the bar and I now fear the girls will expect something as good for their Barbie and sleepover parties in the coming months… Sandra, come help!

http://www.projectdenneler.com/2011/06/you-are-sweet-to-my-salty. html is the link!