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!

Tangled: Our Silly Putty Hair Solution

Silly Putty Hair, Silly Putty ClothesAs the gold medal slipped over my head and the opening notes of our national anthem filled the stadium, the crowd’s screams slowly dissolved into screams of despair. I reluctantly emerged from my delicious dream as my brain registered real life screams coming from our daughter Ava’s bedroom.

Now awake, my mental calculations began. Emergency or bad dream? Did our daughter’s screams qualify as a one- or two-parent alarm?

I rolled over to jab my husband awake.

“Is she being abducted?” I said.

“Doubtful. Fire?” Mike said.

Ava’s screams reached a crescendo.

“I don’t smell anything. You go. You have longer legs,” I said.

“There better be a wild animal in there,” Mike said as he jumped out of bed. “You owe me.”

Wishing I could reenter my Olympic dream, but too agitated to sleep, I glanced at the clock. 12:50 a.m.

I yelled to Mike to tell me what was happening.

“She’s bleeding from her head!” is what I heard.

Oh, god, not again, I thought as I sprang out of bed and clamored for my glasses, lost among the detritus on my nightstand.

As I ran to her side, I chided myself for ignoring her initial screams.

“How bad is she hurt? Where did she fall?” I said between pants.

“She has silly putty in her hair.”

Not registering Mike’s response, I peered at my daughter’s head.

Apparently she’d fallen asleep playing with silly putty and woken up with the puke pink-colored goo matted to hunks of her thick brown curls. I’d never seen anything like it.

Although I assured Ava we wouldn’t have to cut off her hair, the matting was so severe I feared she’d soon be sporting a one-sided mullet.  Not a great look for a fashion-conscious fourth grader. And not a haircut this mom was willing to live through.

I turned to my trusted friend Google for advice.

Apparently, since time immemorial, silly putty and kids’ hair have attracted each other like fingers and electric sockets. Fortunately, parents around the globe have tried countless remedies ranging from peanut butter to WD40 and documented their success with each on the internet.

We decided on olive oil for our triage in the beauty ER and massaged half a bottle into Ava’s matted web of curls. I couldn’t help giggling as Mike combed out the now liquefied goo with the studied precision of a brain surgeon.

Ava, however, did not appreciate my punch drunk humor and berated me for being insensitive, which launched another fit of giggles, especially as I realized we now had to get all that olive oil out of her hair.

As the clock struck 1:45 a.m., Mike and I finished our task, hugged Ava and settled down enough to sleep, grateful for our parenting success. My only regret?  Not photographing Ava’s head before and after. And she refused to put more silly putty in her hair for the sake of this blog. That’s the thanks I get.

This mom had the presence of mind to photograph her daughter's silly putty debacle! Bless her!

Unlike me, this mom had the presence of mind to photograph her daughter’s silly putty debacle!  Photo courtesy of http://www.sarcasta-mom.blogspot.com.

Why I Should Be “Mother of the Year”

Unlike my dear blog friends Ilene from The Fierce Diva Guide to Life and Chris from The Mom Cafe, I have not been officially designated “Mother of the Year” by any governing body or election committee, nor have I earned a congratulatory badge to display on my blog.

What I do have, however, is photographic proof that I should be considered for next year’s contest (or at least receive an honorable mention for best decorations) for pulling off what has heretofore been an impossible feat for mothers around the globe me – a drama-lite, at-home birthday party for our newly-minted five-year old daughter and 15 of her closest friends.

After ignoring the warnings of several more experienced mom friends (“You’re having how many five year olds in your house?”), I honored Rhys’s wish for a birthday tea party and invited all the girls from her preschool class. Impossibly, everyone said yes, and several moms inquired about bringing siblings. What the hell, I thought! Bring ’em all! I’m nothing if not a “yes” person! Gulp.

Fortunately, we encountered nary a meltdown and zero very few fewer than expected mommy (meaning me) tantrums. Victory! Oh and Rhys had fun too …

Hanging those poofs and lanterns resulted in the biggest argument hubs and I have ever had. Worth it, no?!

Hanging those poofs and lanterns resulted in the biggest argument hubs and I have ever had. Definitely worth it, no?!

A dear friend and consumate party planner loaned me all the decorations for our tea party. Can you say eco-friendly? That should buy me extra points with the selection committee! Right?

A dear friend loaned me all the decorations for our tea party. Can you say eco-friendly? That should buy me extra points with the “Mom of the Year” people! Right?

I almost didn't mind when all the kids messed up my artfully displayed creation!

I almost didn’t mind when the kids arrived and messed up my perfectly arranged stuff!

I say, what's a tea party without a magician? The little one is my newly minted five year old!

What’s a tea party without a magician? The little one is my five year old!

I eagerly await the “Mother of the Year” nominating committee’s congratulatory email! Until then, happy birthday, Rhys! We love you!

Sisterhood Gifts

Author Unknown until now! If nobody else wants credit, I'll take it!

Author was unknown until now! If nobody else wants credit, I’ll take it!

I am blessed to have two wise and loving biological sisters and a group of beloved girlfriends whom I think of as my sisters. Together, these talented, intelligent, funny and generous women make up my posse. And while I possibly could make it through life without them, I hope I never have to.

My sisters mean the world to me – I’m a better person because of them. They laugh with me, cry with me, call me on my bullshit and cheer for me every step of the way. And they buy me great gifts. What more could a girl want? (Other than more gifts sisters …)

Speaking of gifts, I’m getting a big one today! I’m the featured blogger over at The SITS Girls, a sisterhood of more than 40,000 women connecting and learning the ins and outs of blogging and social media together.

If you’re visiting from SITS, welcome and thanks for stopping by! I started this blog just over a year ago to write about relationships – primarly those I have with my daughters, my husband and myself.

I hope you like what you see and will follow me herethere and everywhere. (You also can leave your gifts in the comments. Or send via Fed Ex.)

Those two glorious peanuts in the picture above are my daughters Rhys (5) and Ava (9). I hope they’ll stop fighting long enough to be blessed throughout their lives with the same rich, vital sister relationships I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy.  Here’s to the joys of sisterhood for all of us!

Let's hope these two always remember how much they love each other ...

Let’s hope these two always remember how much they love each other.
If not, let’s hope they find someone other than me to blame!

Smells Like the Old Country

Have you ever traveled home from Europe with a carry-on full of pungent, homemade cheese? No?

Ever flown cross country with a Tupperware full of homemade fish salad nestled between your thighs? Never?

Are you willing to find out what you’ve been missing? If so, you too can be part of my family’s unofficial culinary exchange program.

I come from a large Italian family. My father was born in Italy and immigrated to the United States in his early twenties. Several family members still live in the same port city in Italy’s Puglia region where he grew up.

Whenever a family member, distant relative or willing friend travels to Europe, he or she is asked to bring an extra suitcase full of items our relatives in Italy covet but don’t have easy access to. Our team of volunteer couriers has shuttled items ranging from aluminum foil to Ziploc bags and everything in between.

On the trip home things get really interesting. Those same suitcases are often returned full of our Italian relatives’ homemade culinary gifts, including such savory delicacies as dried salumi, blanched white almonds, grape must and aged ricotta cheese.

My family also dabbles in domestic food transactions. For years, every time I visited my sister on the East Coast I lugged a suitcase full of my mom’s delicious baked goods. Tins brimming with calzones, taralli, focaccia, biscotti – I’ve traveled with it all.

But I drew the line at schlepping fish salad after watching my mom navigate a flight carrying a large Tupperware of her delicious seafood stew. Without breaking a sweat or spilling a drop, my petite, plucky mother caught that container as it tumbled out of the overhead compartment and carried it between her legs the rest of the flight. My mom and her fish salad are the reasons flight attendants now remind passengers to use caution when removing items from overhead bins.

The latest Italian delicacy to traverse the globe is a ten pound package of homemade Italian cheese sent with love to my dad from his sister in Italy. After changing hands several times en route to Chicago, the aroma-challenged package now occupies my refrigerator awaiting its final destination.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

These culinary reminders of home fill my dad with joyful nostalgia and fill me with unease. I won’t eat anything that’s been out of a refrigerator for more than 37 seconds. My 83-year-old father prefers dairy products that have endured unrefrigerated transatlantic travel.

While many of you will no doubt see this food exchange as a charming, loving tradition, I’m beginning to wonder. Perhaps there is a good reason some of these food items are not readily available in the United States? Where are those pesky U.S. Customs officials when you need them?

Thankfully, our family’s gene pool has evolved to include iron-clad stomachs impervious to the foodborne illnesses known to level mere mortals. And, just in case, I’ve become an expert at dialing 9-1-1.