Monday, August 28, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: My New Alarm Clock

In 1988, 18 long and arduous years ago, I bought an alarm clock at J.J. Newberry's. I think it was $7 or $8. This clock and I had a love-hate relationship, but at the bottom of that was a true understanding of one another. For several years now, some of the buttons haven't been connected quite right and in order to set or change the time, I had to resort to odd contortions: turning the clock upside-down and twisting my hands around at odd angles to get enough leverage to make the buttons connect enough to actually work in any way. So, its death this week was neither sudden nor unexpected.

I could have--should have, probably--replaced it years ago, but as I've mentioned, I'm extremely resistant to change--even if that change is what most people would call "progress" or, at the very least, an improvement over the sad, old status quo. But instead I waited and put it off and did contortions. Friday night, even the contortions no longer worked--not even after twenty pathetic minutes of whining, twisting, and turning--and I knew it was time.

We've had an extra alarm clock sitting in a corner in our room this whole time--one that Hubby bought during a time when he was away from home a lot. It's fancy. It has two alarms instead of only one, it has a forward and a reverse for setting the time (shoot, it even has a fast forward for those impatient sorts), the display can be adjusted for brightness (or, as is much more likely around here, dimness). In short, it is altogether a much better clock than my poor, old J.J. Newberry special.

I hate it.

For one thing, the snooze alarm goes off every 7 minutes instead of every 9. Now, maybe I've been out of the loop (I have, after all, had the same alarm clock since 1988, but I did have a few different clocks in my teen years and I've occasionally stayed in hotels or at someone's house who had alarm clocks radically different than mine), but I've never even heard of a 7-minute snooze. It's just insanely wrong and forces me to recalculate my entire morning. Thanks to this alarm I've had to learn an entirely new set of mathematical formulas. Needless to say, I've got limited resources, especially anytime before, say, noon and I can really think of more important things to use them for--like being sure I have the right amount of clothing on before I wander out the door, just for example.

The shortened snooze is only the beginning--the noise this clock makes is not merely annoying (after all, any alarm clock that's doing its job pretty much has to be annoying), it is shockingly, horrifyingly, frighteningly, torturously cruel. It makes this little warning click about a half-second before the alarm goes off, but even though I know it's coming, I am still startled every, single time. So startled that I actually jump in the way that you jump at a particularly surprising scene in a scary movie. It goes: "Wah! Wah! [pause] Wah! Wah! [pause]..." and, first, I look as though I've been electrocuted and then I flail toward the damn snooze button, which I can't yet find on the first try so "Wah! Wah!" I have to listen to the clock for another round. Then, seven incredibly short minutes later, it happens all over again.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Pleh.*

*I don't remember how "pleh" came into my vocabulary--I think it was over a late night game of cards or something involving Hubby, Youngest Sister and I--but it's an incredibly useful (non) word.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I Got A Million of 'Em

The scene: in the car with Daughter-Only and my two youngest nieces (ages 6 & 9--damn does time fly or what?!). It's been a busy afternoon and I decide to take advantage of the McDonald's Dollar Menu to feed not only the three in the backseat but the five at home (including Hubby and Baby Brother). Wanting to skip any unnecessary whining, I warn them as we pull up to the drive-thru that I'm just getting double cheeseburgers for everyone.

Youngest Niece: But I want a Happy Meal.

Masked Mom: Well, we're not getting Happy Meals today so you're just gonna have to be happy with the meal you get.

So much for my reputation as the "nice aunt."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

That's All It Takes?

Lots of experts will tell you that trying to impress or befriend your children should take a backseat to consistent authoritative parenting. Lots of experts are way more secure in their adulthood and authority than I am. Lots of experts have never lived with a bunch of teenage boys who, for days on end, will mock literally everything you do.

Whether or not you think impressing your children (especially those tough customers--the teenagers) is a worthy goal, you may someday find yourself delighted to have (even accidentally) made them laugh sincerely or better yet, to have stunned them out of mock-mode with your knowledge of (to them) incredibly obscure pop culture.

One of my boys' friends, G, is obsessed--insanely, hard-core, totally obsessed--with Dr. Pepper. He drinks gallons a day and has T-shirts and a can collection--truly, truly obsessed. Recently, he found the "I'm A Pepper" commercial (from the '70s) on the Internet and was sharing it with one or more of my sons over the phone and online.

Over at his house, his mom walked into the room and began singing along with the commercial.

He yelled, in a voice bordering on awe, "Dude! My mom knows this song!"

Dude, if all it takes is being able to sing along with commercials from the '70s, I'm set for life.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: World Trade Center

As I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before, I read a lot--magazines, books, blogs, etc. So a lot of times before a movie comes out, I've heard/read a whole lot about it--enough to enter the theater with a popcorn bucketful of preconceived notions and preliminary judgments. Most movies are the opposite of a box of chocolates: you always know what you're gonna get. World Trade Center was not like that for me. I hadn't heard anything about it until I saw the previews about a week before Cranky Boss Lady asked me if I wanted to go with her.

My gut reaction after I'd seen the previews was that it was not a movie I wanted to see--mostly because 9/11 is too close in the hearts and minds of so many for it to really be bearable to watch. I didn't see United 93 for the same reason. I think, at the very least, it's too soon.

But Cranky Boss Lady saw Joel Siegel's review on Good Morning, America and needed no further convincing. She asked me if I would go with her and I didn't want her to have to go alone (actually, more to the point, I didn't want to be around her while she pouted about having to go alone), so I saw the movie--with CBL who brought a box of tissues (Joel told her to--and you know, what Joel says goes).

If this were any other movie, I would call it predictable and manipulative and unnecessarily drawn out. Because it's a movie about a very dark day in America's recent history, it seems almost unpatriotic not to mention just plain mean to say those things about it and for me, that's a big part of my problem with the film. To mix the attacks of 9/11 up in any way with "entertainment" feels incredibly wrong--distasteful, opportunistic, and just plain wrong--to me.

After I saw the movie, I came across interviews with Nicholas Cage, who plays John McLaughlin, and Oliver Stone, who directed the movie. (I was so out of the loop going into this movie that it wasn't until the end credits that I realized Oliver Stone directed it.) They both said all the right things about wanting to tell a story about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of enormous tragedy and I have no doubt that their hearts are mostly in the right place where this movie is concerned, but the bottom line is that this movie was packaged and sold as entertainment exactly the same way any other movie would be. In our local two-screen theater, it played (and is still playing, as a matter of fact) opposite Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby--I doubt I could explain why that's so offensive to me to anyone who isn't equally offended, but it's a revulsion I feel on an almost physical level.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Wrong.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Highlight Reel

So I spent last weekend at my father's house--camping on the cold, cold ground two nights in a row, with lots of other people, who were also camping on the cold, cold ground or sleeping in their cars, or totally cheating and driving into town to the (warm, warm) hotel. This is a family/friends gathering where Jell-o shots (with whipped cream!) have been considered a legitimate dish-to-pass in previous years.

There was so very much blog-worthy material, but lazy slug that I am, I failed to blog about any of it and most of it has evaporated into the ether between my ears--except for the following two things--one of which has already been repeated so many times, if I ever forget it, I'm sure I'll hear it again and the other of which was burned permanently into my brain so traumatic was it and the only way I'll ever forget it is with copious amounts of expensive electroshock therapy.

First, the tent, the first night. Son-One, Daughter-Only and I had long since gone to bed and were in various states of sleep when I heard Son-Three unzipping the tent. A second later, in a voice both panicked and annoyed he says to Son-One, "Cut it out! Cut it out!"

And Son-One mumbles, "Why? Why?"

And Son-Three yells, "Because you're scaring the f#$% out of me!"

Apparently, Son-One was sleepwalking (he doesn't do it often, but when he does it, he does it well) with his big black blanket draped over his shoulders and sort of lumbering right toward Son-Three who was reasonably certain Son-One had been zombified and was about to take a swing at him.

Added bonus? We were surrounded by tents containing family and friends, all of whom no doubt heard Fouly McFoulmouth* screaming at his brother. Ironically,** Son-One slept through the whole exchange and only woke up (back in his rightful corner of the tent) when the dogs in the next tent reached sheer hysteria brought on by my uncontrollable (and completely exhausted) laughter. (Anyone remember the cartoon Jabber Jaw? With the shark that had the weird-ass laugh that sounded more like a fat woman in anaphylactic shock than an appropriate way to express amusement? Yeah, that's how I was laughing, in a tent, in the dark at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night--of course the dogs thought some horrible crime was taking place. Speaking of dogs (not that you asked), but the puppies were so tired, they slept through the whole thing--and all the other various (loud) things that happened throughout the night.)

And now, for the second highlight--the electroshock therapy worthy thing. Along with a vast array of people (there were always at least 20 people there and in the middle of the afternoon Saturday, the number was closer to 80), there were at least fifteen dogs running around. Some of the kids decided to put name tags on the dogs, which seemed kind of goofy at first but turned out to be a stroke of genius because it allowed you to yell at a specific dog, by name, and then, the dog could take great delight in knowing it was ignoring someone who actually knew its name.

During the volleyball games (kill or be killed volleyball, as usual, and I'll take this completely inappropriate moment to further interrupt myself by saying that my team was--and remains--undefeated!!!! The greatest backyard volleyball team EVER!!), the specific dog being the most annoying was Abby, a middle-aged and highly neurotic yellow lab. Abby's person was on my volleyball team and struggling nobly to ignore Abby who kept bringing balls, frisbees and assorted other throwable objects to her, usually in the middle of yet another Olympic-style volley. Many members of the audience also tried to help distract Abby by throwing stuff for her--Abby would bring it back to the thrower three or four times and then spot her person again and wander back on to the court.

Everyone on both sides of the net was getting very frustrated with Abby and her person assured us that if we all ignored her and just went on playing she would eventually get bored or stepped on and go away.

We tried to ignore her, but she didn't go away. She did get mighty quiet, though, and, between points I glanced over at her and she was standing over the biggest, most frightening pile of dog puke I've ever, ever seen. (Not that I'm a dog puke connoisseur, by the way, and no need to send me any photos of dog puke that you think might rival this dog puke because I'm telling you, if there's something out there grosser than this, I sure as hell don't want to know about it.)

The pile was the size of Abby's (very large) head. It was grayish and lumpy with pokey things clumped together near the top and, perhaps most alarming, what looked like a sock entangled in it. People on the other team were groaning and yelling, "What is it? Dear God, what is it?"

One of my teammates (a teenage boy, but for once, not one of my own teenage boys) said, "It looks like oatmeal and a dead bird***!"

And I said, "There's a sock in it! A sock and oatmeal and a dead bird!"

Then trying to keep the situation from getting farther out of control, I said, "Son-Two go grab a hammer!"

I meant a shovel, but in an instant a very clear image of Son-Two pounding this pile of puke with a hammer was in my brain (and out my mouth--of course, out my mouth), and I actually laughed so hard I ended up on the ground (six merciful feet from the Puke Pile), much to the amusement of the other team. I'll bet they thought I'd be too distracted to continue kicking their asses, but no such luck.

This whole episode has really been on my mind ever since. The most disturbing aspect was not the sight of the gigantic pile, nor was it the fact that Abby had somehow spewed a pile that size without a sound and without any outward distress, but the fact that all of that--the oatmeal, the dead-bird looking clump of grass, the sock****--had been inside Abby the whole time.

*When my sister and I were in our teens, swearing up a storm, my father once ended a lecture on our foul language with the line, "I don't know where you kids picked up that shit!" And then was stunned and confused by our giggles. Unlike my dad, I know exactly where my kids picked up that shit-- from their grandfather, of course.

**Or not, I've been kind of paranoid about using "ironic" since Alanis Morrissette's song by that name, when language sticklers everywhere criticized her for not knowing what ironic really means and then I got all paranoid thinking maybe I've never really known what "ironic" meant either--so maybe it's ironic, maybe it's just funny.

***No birds were harmed in the making of this blog. Turns out, the "bird" was actually a clump of grass that Abby had probably eaten in a futile attempt to help digest the rather large article of clothing she had swallowed.

****Can you believe there was a debate over whether it was actually a sock or a washcloth?! Of course you can believe it, you're reading a blog about dog puke.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Skechers

Granted, Skechers are not media, they're shoes, but the Masked Mom had a very long weekend with a very lot of family and friends and a little too much sleeping on the ground with the temperature in the 30s so Skechers will have to do.

I was given a pair of Skechers--it was like a gift from the gods. Little Sister had made the tragic error of buying them for her youngest daughter, who, of course, rejected them on the grounds that they were not "cool" enough or whatever the word for cool is now enough--the problem being mainly that mom picked them out while she was shopping without daughter.

Anyway, they're the best damn pair of sneakers I've ever owned--and I hate shoes--which I think is a well-established fact. So my passion for these shoes should not be taken lightly.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Perfection.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Apparently A Sister-In-Law's Work Is Also Never Done

I'm pulling out of the driveway Sunday evening when Daughter-Only shouts to me, "Where are you going?"

"To go help your aunt open a coconut!"

Truly, the fun never ends.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: August Books of the Month

I'm not sure I've mentioned this before*, but I'm a book geek. Ever since I figured out how to tinker (a little) with my blog template, I've had a "Book of the Month" there in the sidebar. I've chosen it by looking over what I read the previous month (I keep a list--of course, I keep a list) and picking the one book that I felt really moved me in some way. (Even if, as in the case of Love and Other Near-Death Experiences by Mil Millington, that movement was almost entirely hysterical giggles.) This month, I didn't get a lot of reading done, but of the five books I did read, two really stood out, and I was having a hard time narrowing it down.

On the surface, Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott's Which Brings Me To You and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love have very little in common. The first is a novel about a man and a woman who meet at a wedding and rather than give in to the temptation of a one-night stand, decide instead to "confess" to one another, by mail (real mail--with paper and envelopes and stamps and everything) the stories of all their previous romantic relationships and decide where to go from there. The second is a memoir by a woman on a spiritual quest--a woman who has been devastated by a divorce, among other things, who feels lost in the world--who travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia in her search for herself and for a greater sense of meaning.

Though seemingly very different, both books really stuck with me. In the end, they are both about the ways in which our experiences inform and shape who we are--and also, how who we are shapes and informs our experiences. I'm glad I read both of them and I couldn't decide which one I wanted there in the sidebar or which I would recommend more to friends. So there it is--read one, read them both. They both definitely have something to offer.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Searching.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Signs Your Husband Is Feeling Neglected

Sign #1: You're in bed, asleep, when he comes to bed and cuddles in and then he starts rubbing. You make a whiny, growly sort of protest noise because the heat index is off the charts and has been for a week and for the weeks before that a variety of stresses--some everyday and some out of the ordinary--have sucked the life out of you and really you are beyond not interested. He laughs and continues rubbing. You say, "Listen, I love you, but if you don't stop that I'm really going to have no choice but to punch you."

He says, "Well, at least then I'd be getting some attention from you."

Sign #2 You and the Hubby are on an excursion to buy new collars for the puppies (one--or two--of the aforementioned stresses are the puppies, but you struggle mightily not to throw that in his face--even though he made a unilateral decision to bring two additional living things into the home without fully considering the effect or consulting with any of the other members of the family). As you walk into Tractor Supply (which carries better made and less expensive pet supplies than either pet store in town) with its concrete floors and farm machinery parts and practical, no-nonsense atmosphere, Hubby reaches over to give you a squeeze (it's almost innocent, but a little too much boob-grab in it to be completely chaste), and says, "I can't believe I've got you to myself for all of ten minutes!"*

Poor guy.

*Before you feel too bad for him, please note that just before he made this remark he had been criticizing my parking/driving skills--so when he said this, I did feel a little bad for him for having neglected him so much lately, but then I said, "Yeah, you've got me for ten minutes and you want to spend it all telling me what a bad driver I am."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

An Aunt's Work Is Never Done

We're at the local swimming hole (sounds like something out of a Kenny Chesney song, but there's definitely no better description), I'm sitting on the retaining wall, ten feet above the water when I hear my nine-year-old niece, waist deep in the water below, calling my name. I lean over and say, "What?"

She says, "Can you come here a minute? I need your help." Now, clearly, she's not in dire need of help--she's only waist-deep, she's not struggling to breathe, she's in no obvious distress.

I say, "What do you need, honey?"

"I need your help, can you come down here?"

"Um, why?"

"Will you come pick my wedgie?"

I was hoping to wrap this post up with some clever comeback or punchline, but really, I think that line speaks for itself.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Vicarious Virtual Vacationing: Perfect Post For July

Summer is a pretty quiet time on most of the blogs I read and it seems like the few posts that do get put up are all about fabulous vacations that I'm insanely jealous over. Instead of stewing in my jealousy, I decided to start enjoying other people's vacations--I mean, why not? It's cheaper, more convenient, and the risks of sunburn, bug bites, and encounters with annoying fellow travelers (not to mention in-laws) are significantly reduced if you never actually leave your house.

Hence, my perfect post award for this month goes to Cary at ellipsis ellipsis ellipsis... for her post Whooohooo....., a post which I only just now realized was actually written in the end of June. Ah, well, it's perfect anyway, even if I'm not.

So, here's my button--

A Perfect Post
And, Cary, it's all yours!

PS--Cary, e-mail me for the code, if ya' want! :)
PPS--Other winners can be found at Petroville & Suburban Turmoil