Car Show Mania

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Every year in October we go to the car show. This is an important event on our calendar, and we take attendance very seriously. In fact, few know this but our vow “in sickness and in health” actually applies to the car show. When I was 4 months pregnant with Elizabeth and still getting emergency IV fluids, I ditched the IV to go sit in some brand new SUVs. Elizabeth can be glad her middle name isn’t Explorer or Durango.

Today was the day. The car show runs from Thursday to Sunday, and we always go on Sunday. We also make sure to arrive first thing in the morning, before the crowds descend. While others are sleeping in, we’re riding around the Camp Jeep obstacle course in Wranglers and Grand Cherokees until all four of us are car sick. This really is something to look forward to. Besides, not only is the car show cheaper than Disneyland (kids get in free), but you can also load up on free crap you don’t need and won’t ever use.

The freebies were sparse in past years, but if we use this year’s car show as a barometer, the Great Recession is clearly a thing of the past. Not only did we receive quite a few neat gadgets from Kia, but Jeep has clearly upped the quality of the cloth shopping bags they pass out to obstacle course riders. Admittedly, Jeep’s quality upgrade may have nothing to do with the ending of the recession and may instead be due to the number of nauseous participants who needed a thicker bag in hand in case their breakfast made a reappearance.

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This year at Camp Jeep I even got to learn about technology. For instance, to take the required picture of the barcode on your wristband with the tablet at the sign-up booth, you must place the barcode in front of the camera on the side of the tablet. Waving the barcode back and forth in front of the tablet’s screen is something only old people do. The kid who had to save me from my incompetence could barely contain his disgust.

After Camp Jeep, we moved on to test driving vehicles. This is a great opportunity, because not only is there no sales pressure, but the test drive is longer than what you get when you are actually going to drop thousands of dollars on the car…go figure.

Last year we learned an important lesson when our test drive strategy backfired. Since my SUV was significantly older than my husband’s sedan, our focus was only on SUVs. This seemed like a reasonable approach. However, as fate would have it, a texting teenager totaled Thomas’s car the week after the car show, leaving him with an immediate need for a new car (and me with an immediate need to punch that kid’s lights out…but that would have been illegal). Since we hadn’t as much as looked at a sedan, let alone driven one[1], we decided we needed to take a more balanced approach at this year’s car show.

This year, in keeping with this new approach idea, we test drove both a sedan and an SUV. The sedan drive with Marco, the product representative, was fun. We drove around singing along to hits on the stereo system, while Marco told us all about the car’s features and even managed to remember our names.

Driving the SUV, on the other hand, proved to be a little disturbing. The vehicle, a Kia Sorento, was great and is definitely one we will consider when the time comes, but the Kia product lady left something to be desired. She was not only snippy with us, but her behavior was erratic, and she barked mysterious orders during the test drive that I was unable to decipher. At one point she wanted me to “get in the center lane and turn left”. Depending on the width and design of the street, this could be possible. However, given that this particular street only had 2 lanes, I was slightly confused. Did that mean I was supposed to drive in between the two lanes and then make a left? I was afraid to ask.

The closer we got to the upcoming left turn, the more agitated she became. I was fairly certain at some point she was either going to grab the steering wheel from me or kick me out of the car and run me over. When the time came, I maneuvered steadily into the intersection, made a left turn and used my peripheral vision to determine if I was going to need to block an incoming punch.

Luckily, she seemed satisfied and backed off. Driving back onto the car show lot, I breathed a sigh of relief. Though Kia made us take a breathalyzer test before getting into the car, it was obvious they didn’t apply this standard to their employees. I wondered if I should make this suggestion when I took the post-drive survey.

All in all, we came out ahead of the game. We managed not to throw up in the Jeeps, didn’t get beat up at Kia and even got a few free stylus pens to boot. Thomas has already marked the calendar for next year…

[1] This isn’t completely true, since I test drove a Fiat 500 for kicks. However, since Thomas can’t even fit in one let alone drive one, I’m not counting it for purposes of this argument.

Cowpunk is a Real Word

Social D

For my birthday recently, I went to my first cowpunk concert. This was a shock to me on many levels, starting with the word cowpunk. Much to my surprise, cowpunk is a real word and not something my husband made up. You can’t really blame me for accusing him of inventing words in English since his family invents all kinds of words in their native German. German not being my native language, I innocently use these words with the general German-speaking population. As a result, approximately 74% of German speakers I’ve encountered since meeting my husband over 15 years ago think I’m completely nuts.

With the concert around the corner, I was determined to do some fact checking before dropping the word cowpunk in an effort to sound relatable….only to show up at work the next day with a broken nose and fewer teeth. Lo and behold, according to Dictionary.com, cowpunk derives from the term cowboy-punk and is “a musical style combining country-and-western with punk rock.” Wikipedia goes on to describe cowpunk as “a subgenre of punk rock that began in the UK and California in the late 1970s and early 1980s.” Imagine what Johnny Cash would sound like on Speed, and you’ll get the general idea.

So how does one end up at a cowpunk concert? In my case it is completely related to my age. For some strange reason the older I get, the crazier my taste in music gets. I used to listen to only mainstream Top 40 music in high school and college. Sometime in my 30’s I switched over to alternative music and by my 40’s I found myself secretly head banging in traffic to really disgruntled people. (Clearly I have anger issues.) Along the way I also discovered Social Distortion (or “Social D”, as the fans say). For those unfamiliar with Social D, it is a punk band from Southern California that was formed in the late 1970’s and is still irate and going strong.

As my birthday approached, I looked for ways to distract myself from the reality of aging. I’m not debating that turning a year older is better than the alternative, but getting older is hard to swallow. These days my birthday is just another reminder that I probably shouldn’t have thrown out that Botox discount coupon.

I started looking for local events taking place on my birthday weekend. Last year we went to a comedy festival, which really helped take the edge off.  A few minutes into my search, I discovered that Social D was playing on my birthday at a small, local venue. Going to this band’s concert would certainly have a dual benefit. Not only would I fit in with all the outraged people (they were angry about social injustice and I was angry about wrinkles), but unlike a pop music concert, I wouldn’t be the youngest in the room. How can you feel bad about your age when the lead singer has 10 years on you? My birthday was starting to look up.

My husband was quickly on board with my suggestion. He was only vaguely familiar with Social D but likes alternative folk and country music. It was during this discussion, that he dropped the aforementioned cowpunk word on me. Apparently this is the more precise definition of the punk genre the band represented.

As we drove to the concert, I found myself increasingly curious about this cowpunk movement. For example, what do cowpunk fans look like? As I found out there are four categories of cowpunk concert-goers:

  1. Middle aged people wearing jeans and t-shirts, obviously hiding the fact that they like cowpunk (me)
  2. Young, retro, rockabilly girls who drink too much and pass out on your husband’s feet before the concert even begins
  3. Gray-haired, aging punkers with faded tats and reading glasses
  4. Random guy blasted back from the 80’s with a blue Mohawk and combat boots. Probably doesn’t deserve his own bullet point, but he was too entertaining not to mention.

Most interesting, however, was the band itself, who looked like they had just broken out of prison to play the concert. Despite the impressive neck and face tattoos, the 53-year-old lead singer is actually a vegetarian who skateboards and likes cats.

I had a great time at the concert and have been listening nonstop ever since to Social D on the way to my office job at a financial institution. In fact, I’m even considering getting a few neck tattoos so I can intimidate IT into providing me with better quality data for my PowerPoint presentations.

Survival of the Fittest – Elizabeth’s Revenge

Lady Justice

At my kids’ school each child in the classroom is given a “job”. It might be manning the pencil sharpener or keeping the supplies orderly. My first grader, Corinne, is the Light Monitor for her class; as the Light Monitor it is her responsibility to turn the lights on and off at the appropriate time.

On a side note, I have been seriously considering submitting a request to our Human Resources Department that we hire a light monitor at my company, since we never seem to have enough lights on and/or working in our offices. I think this may actually be the job of the Facilities Department, but since they’re busy trying to help the mailman figure out how to get us our mail without having access to our part of the building, they don’t have time to worry about things like lighting. (Now that I think about it, we also could use a “coffee monitor” to check bacteria levels in the coffee pots, which have survived several office moves and a few mergers without ever having seen soap.)

For the older kids, like Elizabeth, you have to “apply” for the job you want. You submit several applications and the teacher assigns you the role she feels you are most qualified for. Elizabeth was hoping to get an exciting job, like the classroom phone operator. While she didn’t get the phone gig, she ended up with something much better suited to her personality. She came home last week elated; she had been selected to be the class Tally Monitor.

A “tally” is our school’s word for a negative mark. For example, if you talk out of turn or lick your neighbor’s eraser, you get a tally. There are consequences based on the number of tallies one receives in a given day or week.

To understand the reason for Elizabeth’s delight at being selected Tally Monitor, you need a little background. In school, Elizabeth is a quiet kid, who listens to the teacher, does what she is told and tries to live a peaceful existence. When she entered public school in first grade, having gone to a private pre-school and kindergarten, her class size increased from 7 kids to 32 kids. She quickly found that her goals were in conflict with everyone else’s.

Public school, like life, is a jungle and social Darwinism is alive and well. Only the fittest survive and, as she observed, the fittest roll around on the classroom floor, eat their pencils and stomp on others’ lunch boxes.

Poor Elizabeth spent most of the year in shock, while we tried to teach her to eat pencils to ensure she made it to second grade. We worried constantly. She too had to push and cut in line like everyone else at lunchtime, or she’d always be the last one to be served the cafeteria mystery meat and would never have a chance to finish it before the bell rang.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth refused to conform to such behavior, and we finally gave up trying to teach it to her. By second grade, her shock turned to annoyance and by third grade she was indignant.

But now, in fifth grade, she has finally been given her chance to nail those brats, fair and square. As Tally Monitor you are the policeman, the judge and the jury. You give tallies and dole out punishment to the classroom miscreants. As you can imagine, it is a job which requires a deep understanding of classroom law and a true commitment to justice, both of which are ingrained in Elizabeth.

  • Talking during the morning announcements? Tally for you!
  • What, you have two tallies? Sit at the table during recess and write sentences! (Followed by evil laugh.)

Every day, she comes home and gives us her Tally Monitor “Smackdown Report”. Slowly but surely, every kid that frustrated her over the past 4 years is being brought to justice.

It looks like this will be a good year. Elizabeth has found a way to ensure her survival in the jungle. Maybe she can even convince the teacher to make the kid with the most tallies this month drink coffee from my company’s coffee pots…

College Admissions: Saved by Kenny G

Kenny G

I was recently talking to Elizabeth’s future mother-in-law, Joy, about the beginning of the school year. (If you’re wondering about my 10 year old’s engagement, see my earlier post “80’s Wedding”). We were brimming with excitement, because our kids were both entering fifth grade this year.

Fifth grade is pivotal in our school district, because it is the year in which our kids can finally receive free instruction on a musical instrument. The hope is that with only 7 more years until the college admissions process, your child will quickly stand out as a prodigy and, without any actual financial investment on your part, will excel to the point of being admitted to the college of your dreams (who cares what they want, kids don’t know anything).

Joy and I, like all fifth grade parents, were anxiously chatting about the instruments our children were considering. Elizabeth was dead set on the flute. Having tried some free violin lessons during summer school, she felt that holding the violin and the bow at the same time with two different hands was too complicated.

I respected her reasoning, since it was the same logic I used when I gave up skiing for snowboarding. I’m actually terrible at both, but I found that much more can go wrong with two skis controlled by two different feet. I came to this conclusion after a series of embarrassing mishaps, including falling off a rope tow into a ditch on a mountain somewhere in the Swiss Alps.

While I was fairly certain the violin would not send Elizabeth rolling down a snowy incline, I could image several hazardous scenarios involving her bow and some unsuspecting kid’s eyeball. Definitely too much liability.

Unfortunately for Joy, her son Dominic was seriously considering the eyeball-poking violin. Joy expressed concerned with this choice. Aside from the above-stated liability, there is an abundance of kids who play the violin these days and, let’s be honest, from a college admissions perspective, it’s hard to stand out a violinist. The path of least resistance was to take up a less popular instrument. The flute was a pretty standard instrument too. I wondered if I could get Elizabeth to play the french horn.

Joy broke it down for me: the easiest way to get a scholarship was with the saxophone. Forget the french horn. We quickly brainstormed on how to convince our kids that the sax was cool. I threw in my input. We could tell them they could become the next Kenny G. Not bad in theory, but Kenny G is dated these days. Or was he? Enter Corinne to the rescue.

Corinne had been eavesdropping, her favorite pastime, and quickly informed us that Kenny G is Katy Perry’s “Uncle Kenny” in the video “Last Friday Night” and, in fact, plays a mean saxophone on the roof of the house during the wild teenage party depicted in the video. She advised us to check out the video on YouTube. Anxiously, we complied.

Sure enough, Corinne was right. Kenny G was still making the sax look cool! We had what we needed to convince the kids and ensure their college admissions. Joy and I breathed a sigh of relief.

About 2 minutes into my relief, it slowly occurred to me that there might be another problem. Why was my six-year-old watching inappropriate Katy Perry videos on YouTube?! On the other hand, she was using YouTube to problem solve…

Hmm, maybe it was a draw. I can’t hide from the fact that I’m a bad parent, but at least my first grader is learning to resolve true crisis situations. If I focus on the positive, I might be able to sleep at night…at least until Elizabeth starts playing the saxophone on the roof.

First Day of School – My Epic Fail

 

The beginning of a new school year is full of unknowns. For instance:

  • How much homework will my child get? In other words, at what time do I have to start nagging in order for the homework to be completed by bedtime?
  • Will my child still be obsessed with becoming the Olympic tetherball gold medalist and resume begging me twice a day to install a tetherball court in the backyard? Everyone knows you can’t downplay the importance of home training for future Olympians.
  • Will the class bully give my kid the finger as a “back to school” greeting? Yes, this actually does happen. Just ask Elizabeth’s buddy Dominic who was the recipient of one such middle finger.

Yet, as I found out this year, the biggest and scariest unknown is whether I will be taken down by my own mental decrepitude on the primary school playground…and drag an unsuspecting first grader with me.

My kids were brimming with excitement yesterday, the first day of school. It was their opportunity to finally see all the friends with whom I had miserably failed to organize play dates during the summer. Furthermore, since they are still young enough to like to be seen with me, they love the fact that on this day and this day only, parents are allowed to accompany their children onto campus.

After the first day, of course, things resume to normal, which usually means pushing the kids out of the car without coming to a complete stop in order to make my 8:30 am meeting. This is the real reason I bought them helmets and knee pads a few years back; the scooters were just a cover.

Upon arriving on campus the first day, the protocol is to go with your child to his/her assigned teacher’s spot on the playground and line up in an orderly fashion. The teachers then make their way down their respective lines and introduce themselves personally to each child. I love this and find it to be a very warm and welcoming touch. This is, in fact, much better treatment than you generally receive when you start a new job in the corporate world, where it is not uncommon to spend the first two weeks spinning your wheels in a futile attempt to:

  1. locate the bathroom
  2. find a chair that’s not broken
  3. determine how to effectively gag the person who whistles loudly outside your door all day long
  4. obtain access to a computer so that you can meet the deadlines you know you’ll have if you can ever figure out who you report to

Because Elizabeth had to go to the upper grade playground for her meet and greet and Corinne had to go to the primary grade playground for hers, Thomas and I decided to divide and conquer. He took Elizabeth, and I took Corinne. Taking Corinne’s hand, we made our way to the appropriate line and took our places. Soon after, I saw a familiar face approach and take the place in line behind us. I turned and gave Connor a big smile and warm greeting.

Now, Connor is a shy boy who cried every day last year when his mom dropped him off at kindergarten. Since it appeared that his mom had ditched him this morning to accompany his little brother to pre-K, my maternal instincts took over. I peppered him with compliments, telling him how brave he was and commenting on how much he had grown over the summer. When it was clear that I had managed to coax Connor out of his shell in a matter of minutes, which was record time for this kid, I beamed with pride.

It was right at this point, where Connor and I had established a true rapport and were ready to face the day united, that I heard Corinne shout out excitedly in the other direction, “Hi Connor!” I turned my head and, sure enough, the real Connor had arrived.

I looked back at Fake Connor. Fake Connor looked at me. We both took another look at Real Connor. It had all become clear to me. Halfway through my conversation with “Connor”, Corinne had asked me who the kid was that I was talking to. I brushed off her silly question, because it was obvious that she had suffered summer amnesia and forgotten what her classmate looked like. But it was I, not Corinne, with the brain decay.

Once the truth had set in, I bowed down in utter defeat and asked Fake Connor to identify himself, for his sake and mine. He shook his head in true, first-grader pity and told me his name was Cody, and he was new to the school.

As Karma would have it, I ran into Real Connor’s mom a few minutes later. She had in fact ditched her son to take his brother to pre-K. After a quick tallying of pros and cons, I decided to reveal the morning’s prior events to her before someone else ratted me out. After all, I could not be certain how many witnesses there were to my mental downfall, or if Cody was inclined to keep this little misunderstanding to himself. Besides, I was also fairly certain that Corinne could not be trusted with such sensitive information.

As I gave Real Connor’s mom the play-by-play, she laughed sympathetically. However, I could tell she was simultaneously wracking her brain to figure out which medication she should suggest to me.

I think I would have preferred it if she would have just given me the finger.

A Facebook Carol

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my friend Jayne, when she asked me a question that stopped me dead in my tracks. We were sitting on the beach watching our kids play in the sand, as we recovered from a morning of educational tide pools, lunch-ordering mishaps, spectacular multi-child throw-up and general drama (let’s not forget I have 2 girls – we bring drama wherever we go). Having reached that part of the day where the kids had settled down and we could have somewhat normal, semi-uninterrupted, adult conversation, she threw out this zinger, “What’s the point of Facebook?” This was followed by the reason she doesn‘t have a Facebook account, “I just don’t get it.”

I’m from Generation X. I grew up playing Pac Man, which I sucked at, and typing on an electric typewriter, which I also sucked at, though I was and still am a better typist than Pac Man player. Jayne is also from Generation X, and while I can’t comment on her Pac Man playing or typing skills, I am fairly certain that if I tell her the point of Facebook is to post pictures of your food before you eat it, she will give up on humanity and head for the hills.

Since I like Jayne and did not want her to run away screaming, I instead looked at her dumbly and said “Good question. I dunno.” Clearly this was not an impressive answer, but I was at a loss.

As I lay in bed that night I found myself haunted by her question. Here I had a Facebook account and should have been able to provide a thoughtful, well-rounded answer. Yet, one escaped me. Even worse, an ugly truth lingered in the air. I wondered if Facebook was just a meaningless vortex of dinner selfies, sarcastic cartoons and ads for Walmart which existed for the pure purpose of helping me ignore my parenting responsibilities. After all, why go to the effort of cooking when we could just look at a picture of somebody’s spaghetti alla carbonara, salivate appropriately, and then throw a Lean Cuisine in the microwave?

This was not looking good. I was pretty sure I was turning into a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge and could soon expect a visit from the Ghost of Facebook Past. No wonder I couldn’t sleep. I could hear the chains of Facebook users no longer with us, dragging on the floor.

Curling myself into a ball in my bed, my mind raced to find bonafide reasons for spending time on Facebook and not with my kids. Suddenly, I had one. Birthdays! As I’m past the age of looking forward to getting older, all the birthday wishes from my Facebook friends help me get past the trauma of looking like crap. I racked my brain further. Another good one! Facebook can help you keep track of important events you didn’t even know existed, like National Dog Day. Jayne had both a birthday and a dog, so this could be some valuable insight for her too. I made a mental note to fill her in.

However, if I was going to stave off a visit from the Facebook Ghosts tonight, I needed real, substantive answers. It was time to consult the Oracle of Facebook, my cousin Wayne. Wayne has an exponential number of Facebook friends, and these people are loyal. Several years back he mused about what it would theoretically be like to have a lemur living in his garage. Within hours there were 457 comments pertaining to this theoretical lemur. If that had happened today, the lemur would have its own Twitter account.

It was 11pm when I instant messaged the Oracle for help with my debacle. His response came back a few hours later and was full of the wisdom he is known for. To paraphrase: while social media is great for sharing pictures of your lemur with grandma and reconnecting with people from elementary school you never liked or can’t remember, it’s especially important for networking and promoting your product or business. Suddenly I felt instant relief wash over my body. I was justified in my use of Facebook; after all, I have a blog to promote here. It’s a crappy blog with about 2 followers, but quality was not one of his criteria.

As for Jayne, the Oracle continued, if she doesn’t like lemurs, doesn’t have anything to promote and is content with good old fashioned e-mail and text, then she’s probably not missing much.

I could finally get some sleep. I was safe from the Facebook Ghosts and Jayne was safe from the Facebook Vortex. Neither of us was safe from the sunburns we got, but that’s another story.

Soggy Anniversary

This year for our anniversary we got tickets to see Willie Nelson who was playing at the local fair. Because, in all honesty, there’s really no more romantic way to celebrate your commitment to each other than by eating deep-fried Twinkies alongside aging ladies in cowboy boots.

Admittedly this may not be everyone’s dream date, but it was actually a huge improvement over our first anniversary years ago, which we spent cleaning our guest bathroom.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that we preferred scrubbing toilets to the more romantic notion of looking lovingly into each other’s eyes over free tortilla chips at El Torito, but the next night was our turn to host the monthly Homeowners’ Association meeting, and we didn’t want anyone on the HOA Board comparing us to the “rat” lady several doors down. In retrospect this was probably not very logical, since I doubt anyone could even find the rat lady’s bathroom. We did find her refrigerator, though. It was in the middle of the patio.

Since we didn’t have anyone to pawn off the kids on this year, we were forced to bring them along. This was one parental decision they actually agreed with. Granted, not all youth would see the value of such a concert, but Thomas has been brainwashing…I mean, schooling, our youngsters in classic folk and country music for several years now.[1]

The prospect of combining a steel guitar with junk food and vertigo-inducing, spinning rides was almost more anticipation than any of us could handle. We all anxiously counted down the days.

Now, not only does it generally not rain in California between the months of May and October, but the state is in a serious drought. So, it was a shock to all, particularly those who’d been at the fair all day, when the skies opened up and poured water down upon the fairgrounds a few hours before concert time. Because we had not gone to the fair early in the day (in an effort to keep Twinkie consumption down to an acceptable level), we managed to avoid arriving at the venue unprepared.

The rain started shortly before we were set to leave the house. Once my brain processed the fact that actual water was coming down from the sky, my amazement turned to joy. A few more of these downpours might turn our grass back to green, which in turn meant we wouldn’t have to worry about replacing everything in sight with succulents in order to have enough water to flush the toilet. I don’t have anything against succulents, but the idea of turning the pool into a huge cactus pot was a little depressing. Besides, Larry the Pool Guy is ex-military, and I feel safer just having him around. You never can be too careful.

When we recovered from the excitement, we scurried around the house in a mad panic trying to remember where and in which year we’d last seen the umbrellas and rain slickers. Was it before or after the infamous toilet scrubbing? Had the kids already been born?

Once we’d successfully dug them up, we hopped in the car and psychologically prepared ourselves for the ride to come…Californians are notoriously incapable of driving without incident in any weather other than sunshine. As it turned out, luck was on our side that day; we managed to make it to the fair unscathed.

As we entered the grounds with our protective rain gear, it was clear to us that the folks who had been there all day and were forced to contend with the elements unprotected, were having a slightly different experience than we were. Many had completely given up trying to stay dry and had decided to embrace nature, which was primarily achieved by taking off their flip-flops and treading barefoot through the puddles of water inhabited by half-eaten, mushy fries and remnants of mysterious items wrapped in bacon. This didn’t seem like a very sanitary idea, but with my umbrella in hand and close-toed shoes, I didn’t think my opinion would be appreciated.

We’d really worked up an appetite dealing with all that water and immediately headed for the concession stands. Eating, however, proved challenging, since there were no covered areas except the bathrooms. We were understandably less than thrilled with the idea of spending another anniversary huddled around a toilet, and instead opted for Plan B, which consisted of alternately holding umbrellas for each other and shoving food into our mouths.

As we were finishing up the last of our dinner, the rain started to let up, allowing the rides to re-open and paving the way for extensive negotiations with the kids in an effort to keep the cost of the evening within reason. At $6 per ride per kid, Disneyland was cheaper…not to mention less grimy, less rickety and, generally speaking, less dubious. Snow White didn’t usually have a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. After heavy haggling and a few tears (mine, not the kids’), we settled on two rides each and no more Twinkies.

Once the rides were behind us, we were ready to walk over to the concert area. Right about this time it started to rain again. We had proven that we could handle this water stuff and expertly pulled out our umbrellas for the second time that day (and this decade), as we made our way over to see Willie.

Arriving at our seats, we made a roof with our umbrellas and hunkered down while we took obnoxious selfies and waited for the concert to begin. It began to rain harder and harder.

Studying the stage it dawned on us that there might be a problem. It wasn’t just the audience and the doobies that were getting wet. The instruments on the stage were all covered in plastic, which appeared to be dripping and closer inspection revealed the floor was flooding. Our eyes moved slowly to the roof over the stage…uh, where was the roof?

Apparently the builders had consulted the historical weather charts and found it rained so little in California on concert days that it was more cost-effective to ditch the roof on the outdoor stage. I wondered if Willie was going to play his guitar wearing waders and a giant Hefty bag. As it turned out, Willie was not feeling like embracing nature (and probable electrocution) and opted to stay in his trailer.

No concert for us. Maybe cleaning the bathroom really wouldn’t have been so bad. At least our bathroom has a roof.

[1] While I had generally been supportive of this educational experience, I heavily considered putting the brakes on his efforts when the kids started obsessively playing Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart” album. Bob Dylan lending his voice to songs meant to soothe your nerves and put you in the holiday spirit is already bad enough during the actual holiday season, but the fact that the kids were listening to this in mid-July made it nearly unbearable.

Heteroskedasticity

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As every parent knows, you have 2 careers: one career as a parent and then a second career doing whatever you do when  you’re not parenting, or as I call it, “yelling at your kids.”

I happen to work outside the home and for the most part really enjoy it. I get to create PowerPoint documents, lead meetings on topics I don’t understand and learn exclusive vocabulary that will confuse and annoy everyone outside of my workplace.

As I have found that I am not particularly good at keeping work-speak in the office, there is a strong possibility that I will slip up and use some of this language in one of my postings. Therefore, I am providing these official translations to help you decipher my ramblings.

Fire drill – this term is only used in the literal sense about once a year, and only following a notice from the Facilities Department. The rest of the time this means someone, somewhere did not do what they were supposed to do, causing it to end up in your lap with minutes to spare before the deadline. You would love to pull out the extinguisher and spray the person who needlessly started this fire, but there is no time to waste.

I had to stop using this term with my parents, because they couldn’t understand how in the world our fire drills lasted an entire week and why I wanted to spray people.

Dropping the ball – an action (or lack thereof) that causes a fire drill. During the Fall this is often the result of too much discussion regarding the department NFL pool.

Landing the plane – finally finishing a project that you should have finished a week earlier but were too busy watching YouTube.

Sanity check – validating with someone of equal or higher authority that your idea is completely reasonable, even though nobody agrees with you.

Heteroskedasticity – this is a term bandied about by the statistical team. I have no idea what it means, but after 5 years, I have finally learned to pronounce it and now use it to sound smart. Since I don’t happen to know any statisticians outside of work, this is a safe strategy for impressing my friends and family.

The extended team – the people left off the meeting invite.

Coach someone – to yell at an employee for dropping the ball and or not landing the plane. This has nothing to do with heteroskedasticity.

Align – ensure you have “buy in.”

Get buy-in – align.

Execute – to get something done / complete. This has nothing to do with the death penalty… unless you DON’T execute, in which case you had better watch your back.

Socialize (a document) – take your PowerPoint to a party so it can make friends with other PowerPoints.

It can also mean to make sure everybody you don’t want to tick off approves of the document.

Wheelhouse – your area of expertise / responsibility. This is a stupid term and anyone caught using it should be subjected to a lecture on heteroskedasticity.

80’s Wedding

imageThis summer my 10 year old and her best guy friend officially declared their undying love for each other. Well, she did…at which point he ran upstairs and hid under a table…certainly not an uncommon reaction in these types of situations.

While Dominic laid low, literally, Elizabeth detailed out for her future mother-in-law and me the type of wedding she wanted. Most importantly, it needed to be 80’s themed. In fact, she was ready to forgo a traditional wedding dress in favor of a jeans miniskirt. (During subsequent planning discussions, her best friend pleaded with her to go with a dress, but Elizabeth was not to be influenced.) 

She didn’t fully elaborate on what she would force the wedding party to wear, but I could see where this was going. Odds were everyone was going to end up with crimped hair, including the groom. I silently pleaded with Dominic to stay under the table…for the next 20 years.

When Elizabeth went to go find her man, Corinne decided this was a prime opportunity to get into the picture. This was, after all, the duty of every little sister. She sidled up to Dom’s mother and me and loudly whispered “This is bad but I like Dominic a little too.” The love triangle was on! This was definitely Shakespearean. As Corinne ran upstairs to help pull Dominic out from under the table, I wondered if it was too late to send the poor kid into the witness protection program. He needed a new identity and quickly. 

Once the kids were out of the room, Dom’s mom and I talked business. She pointed out that it was a good thing we had just sold our condo, since we would have to pay for the wedding. I agreed this would be good use of any remaining equity we could squeeze out of that dump. As the negotiation continued, I offered to hunt down the mystery animal next door for the dowry. Although there has been no confirmed sighting of the animal, from the bizarre squealing it makes, we suspect it is something from the boar/pig/hog family – definitely appropriate for a dowry. While I had always parked in the street when bringing the girls over to visit, Dom’s mom noted that I should feel free to start parking in the driveway. After all, we’re family now.

Preparation for Parenthood

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There seems to be a general consensus that having pets is a precursor to parenthood and somehow prepares you for the experience. While I admit there is some validity to this concept, in my experience it is not completely true.

Yes, like kids, pets do steal your food and trash your house beyond recognition. However, unlike your offspring, your tween pets don’t usually talk back to you when you say something they find offensive or stomp their feet and slam the door to express their frustration at the fact that you don’t believe they’ve really brushed their teeth.

I actually found my wedding to be better preparation for parenthood. This might not be an obvious connection but hear me out.

Much like parenthood, a wedding is full of surprises. For both of these pivotal life events, you plan for a year and yet, despite your efforts to coordinate everything perfectly, you quickly learn that nothing actually turns out the way you had anticipated.

Here are some detailed comparisons to illustrate my point:

Wedding: Drunk “professional” photographer takes goofy, off-center pictures.

Parenthood: Kids figure out how to bypass your phone security to take inappropriate pictures of you in the dressing room at TJ Maxx.

Wedding: The insulation at the church is so poor that you and the entire wedding party have sweat running down your faces, leaving you with expensive pictures that are off-center (see above point) and unattractive. Even Photoshop can’t save them.

Parenthood: You can’t post selfies without people asking if you’re feeling ok.

Wedding: Pastor realizes there is not enough bread for Communion and secretly sends the Best Man to the grocery store in the middle of the ceremony.

Parenthood: When tucking her in, your child informs you that she is assigned to bring the caramel topping to the class ice cream party the next day. You drag your husband out of bed and send him to the grocery store.

Wedding: You keep getting whisked away during dinner and miss out on the delicious buffet you paid to enjoy.

Parenthood: You come from work starving. As you approach the second hour of helping your child prepare for her math test, you start wondering if they sell edible flash cards.

Wedding: Wedding cake mix-up has you and hubby sharing carrot cake rather than your specially-selected favorite marble cake.

Parenthood: Lean Cuisine on Saturday night sounds good; no actual cooking is required! If you buy 4 microwaves, you can have everyone’s dinner ready at the same time.

Wedding: Wedding coordinator forgets to have you throw the bouquet, ensuring no single people at the reception will ever tie the knot.

Parenthood: Two-year old daughter throws epic tantrum at Hometown Buffet, ensuring no single patrons will ever have children.

Wedding: Evening ends with a trip to the local bar.

Parenthood: Evening ends with a trip to the local bar.

So, clearly my wedding prepared me better for parenthood than did my pet rabbits. That said, the rabbits did teach me some helpful parenthood coping strategies. Next time Elizabeth exclaims loudly “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND”, I won’t freak out. Instead, I’ll stare at her blankly for a moment, and then I’ll hop past her haughtily on my way to chew on the sofa.