Souvenirs For Everyone

imagesI fanned my neck with the Shedd Aquarium map and searched the signs overhead for the entrance to the dolphin show, oblivious to the dangers lurking behind me on row upon row of overstuffed, expertly lit shelves. Only when my daughters dry humped my legs, their squeals of excitement echoing through the crowd, did I turn toward the source of their frenzy.

The museum gift shop.

Specifically, the stuffed, near life-sized beluga whale display.

I gripped my purse strap tight to my body, as if that simple act would protect me from the onslaught of their impending souvenir attack, and searched for a distraction. Sharks! There’s nothing like sharp teeth and beady eyes to distract frenzied, pint-sized consumers.

Without comment, I quickened my pace and headed toward the Wild Reef exhibit.

“Mom, come back! These beluga whales are only $4.99! Can I get one? Can I?” Ava said.

I should have used my well-honed selective hearing and kept walking. Instead I looked at the price tag – $49.99.  Whaaaat? Did my kid need glasses? Or a remedial math lesson?

“Can I get one too?” Rhys said.

Baby beluga, how did I not see that coming? stuffed beluga whale

“No. These whales are expensive. Let’s go watch the dolphin show.”

“But Mom, you can get it for my birthday next week,” Ava said.

“Me, too.” Rhys said, forgetting her birthday was in May.

Unwilling to be the bad guy yet, I said, “I’ll think about it. Let’s go see the dolphins.”

As the dolphins flipped and splashed, Ava elbowed me every three minutes to ask, “Did you think about it yet?” I cursed the gift shop and myself for my rookie delay tactic.

My children aren’t easily dissuaded. Like Great Whites eyeing a shiny appendage, they smell my discomfort with saying no, then circle, strike and clamp on for the kill.

If I didn’t handle this firmly and decisively, my daughters would badger me incessantly, like feral birds nipping at Tippy Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film.

“Girls, we’re not buying souvenirs today. Our gift is coming to this museum.”

And then we held hands and skipped off together to fondle the live stingrays.

Yeah, right.

Thankfully, the hallway outside the gift shop was filled with moans and wails from other kids whose parents refused to buy another stuffed anything.

I wanted to tantrum too. But first I needed a snack.

As we ate our popcorn amid exaggerated silence and pouts, I wondered how fun mommy had quickly morphed into tired and pissed off mommy. Screw that. I decided to have fun even if my daughters were disappointed and sullen.

Once I made that decision, I ignored my kids’ exasperated sighs and complaints and enjoyed the rest of our oceanic outing, especially the playful beluga whales. I may buy myself a stuffed one. Just for fun.

Hey, Stacy Keibler – I Call Dibs on Your Brain

I’m in awe of Stacy Keibler. Rather than curl up in the time-honored, traditional post-breakup fetal position, George Clooney’s ex-girlfriend has been making the rounds of entertainment news shows, charming reporters with quotes like, “I’m someone that’s always lived the present moment. I always look at the positive on everything.”

Photo via flickr.com

Photo via flickr.com

Whaaaaat? Long legs, two years with George Clooney AND a brain that focuses on the positive? A genetic trifecta! So not fair.

Others can envy her long limbs and romantic conquests, I covet her positive brain. Where do I get one?

Who do I have to f* - I mean - What do I have to do to get a brain like Keibler's?

What do I have to do to get a brain like Keibler’s?

For nearly half my life I’ve worked to transform my negativity-seeking brain into a affirmation-infused positive one. Although I was dropped on my head a number of times as a child, I’m not convinced that accounts for the way my brain processes life, especially incoming information.

Perhaps something more sinister is at work. Undiagnosed brain tumor? Incompetent therapist? Not enough sex? You decide:

A recent conversation with my husband:

Me:  Honey, I’m not sure I like these white jeans on me. What do you think?

Him:  They look good, but, you know, they’re white jeans. I don’t think anyone looks great in white jeans. I like blue jeans better.

What a normal brain hears:  Don’t love them. Blue jeans are more my thing.

What my brain hears:  Whoa, when did you gain all that weight? Don’t you dare wear those jeans out of this house! 

A recent email exchange with a magazine editor:

Her:  Thanks for submitting.  Please review the attached editorial calendar and let me know where to place your essay for consideration.  

What a normal brain hears:   Your essay caught my eye, but I’m not sure where it fits in. Here’s our editorial calendar. Keep trying.

What My Brain Hears:  Listen, loser, get your head out of your a** and read our editorial calendar. Don’t bother me again til you do.

A recent interaction with my 21-year-old niece:

Her:  I love your blog, Auntie. I read everything you write. I’ve also been enjoying reading your friend’s blog. I read more parenting blogs than any other non-mom on the planet!

What a normal brain hears:  I love you Auntie, and I like keeping in touch with you through your blog!

What my brain hears:  Your writing is ok, Auntie, but your friend’s writing – wow! She’s amazingly talented!

If only negative thinking were a marketable skill. (Then I could afford the lobotomy that’s medically indicated.)

At times, I can laugh at how determined my brain is to find something negative in everyday interactions, no matter how neutral or innocuous. Other times, I need to be talked off the ledge by my über supportive friends (and one professional therapist who, thanks to my brain’s shenanigans, can afford long vacations in La Jolla. Maybe with Stacy Keibler).

Until brain transplants are perfected, I appear to be stuck with the one I have. But I’m ready for a change. Maybe Stacy Keibler can be my new therapist?

Falling In Love With Boys

I haven’t spent much time with little boys. As one of three sisters with two nieces and two daughters, I’ve never even changed a boy’s diaper. So when I volunteered at my daughter’s preschool for Water Day, and the teachers assigned me to the boys’ group, I had no idea what to expect.

I have never seen so many penises in one place.

As I walked into the classroom, ten naked little boys jumped, whirled and rocketed across the colorful alphabet carpet like firecrackers exploding inside a box of Cracker Jack.

I didn’t know where to put my eyes.

Is it wrong to look at their little penises? I wondered, feeling as uncomfortable as if I’d wandered into a secret fraternity ritual.

I pretended to search for lip balm in my purse, digging like it was an oversized diaper bag instead of an envelope-sized clutch.

“Mary,” the teacher said. “Mary?”

I turned and registered the slight smirk on her face. “Just grab one and help him get his clothes on,” she said. Why was I waiting for her to add “Keep your eyes to yourself, perv?”

So I looked. Nine circumcised, one not.

What the hell is wrong with me? I wondered. First I don’t want to look at their penises, now I’m cataloging them for future reference. Talk about pervy!

But instead of feeling depraved, once I looked, I fell in love. Little boys are freaking adorable! Here were ten exuberant little people, so proud of their nakedness. So unwilling to get dressed. The glee and unfettered energy in that room could have powered the Northern Hemisphere for a week.

As I kneeled on the faded carpet, eye level with the sea of nakedness, a quiet, brown-eyed boy handed me his underwear in a plastic baggie marked “Henry” as two boys nearby danced a jig, their knees and naked bits keeping time with their giggles.

I held Henry’s tiny tightie-whities as he carefully stepped in, one foot then the other, his small hand resting on my head for balance. His and mine.

“I love water day,” one boy shouted, setting off a chorus of “I love” everything from popsicles to lightsabers.

“I love my penis!” a boy yelled, galloping around the room like a cowboy on crack.  The room devolved into happy chaos as I stared in awe, grateful I wasn’t in charge because all I could think to say was “May the force be with you.”

I could have sat there all day soaking up their contagious energy. Instead, I packed up the wet towels and swimsuits, feeling grateful for this glimpse inside a boy’s world.

That night, as I watched my husband undress for bed, I wondered what he must have been like as a little boy and if he ever wishes we could add a boy to our brood. I know I do.

Nine Clues that I’m Angry (Or Will Be Soon)

Anger. It’s an emotion at least as American as Fourth of July parades, cookouts and flag burnings. While some people are attuned to the twitches in their bodies that alert them to angry feelings, I need more concrete notifications. As a public service to my loved ones, I offer the following clues that Mr. Hyde is on the loose and should be avoided at all costs.

  1. Anyone other than me is whining.
  2. I’m rushing. And no one else is.
  3. My eyes are open. Moments earlier they were closed and enjoying a sexy dream starring me and Jason Bateman, but now a certain little person’s stuffed lamb fell off her bed and MUST be rescued immediately as evidenced by the screams emanating from her bedroom.
  4. The playroom that took two hours to clean and organize stayed neat for seven minutes instead of the usual 22.
  5. My shopping cart contains five pints of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby instead of the usual one. You know, for my husband.
  6. I need toilet paper stat and there’s none in the bathroom and no one home to blame.
  7. I can’t find the sales receipt for the oh so cute, oh so slightly expensive sandals I bought that fit at Macy’s but pinch like a horny Italian the minute I wear them outside.
  8. The tone of my voice is calm yet tight as I form the words, “Fine. Go. Have fun,” when my husband is invited to yet another last-minute sporting event.
  9. Our kitchen floor is clean. (The only time our kitchen floor gets washed is when I’m angry, so if you visit us and our floor is spotless, you’ll know my mood going in.)

Each of my nine “tells” belongs in the category of “sweating the small stuff.” They also guarantee that I will a) lose my shit within moments or b) act as if everything is fine, but silently seethe, shooting daggers at anyone within ten yards, including the lovely woman at the dentist’s office who didn’t say thank you when my five year old held the door open for her or the kind gentleman at the grocery store who advised me to “smile” as we passed each other. (Should any of my readers have access to the surveillance videos at either of these fine establishments, please note that I regret resorting to stealth middle finger salutes in both cases. I know. I know. Speaking up would have been classier, but the bird can be strangely satisfying.)

While I do save some of my anger for the serious social injustices in the world, mostly I’m angry when I don’t speak up for myself or don’t let others know what I want and need. And when I’m extra surly, mostly what I need is a hug, especially when I’m too stubborn or too far gone to ask for one.

Anger (640x483)

I’m participating in Yeah Write’s 31 Days to a Better Blog program. We started yesterday, but it’s not too late to join in! Today’s assignment is to write a List Post. And, yes, I’m open to feedback!

Yesterday’s assignment was to write an “elevator speech” to describe your blog. Check out what I came up with and let me know your thoughts. Thanks!