Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011- The Longest Damn Holiday of My Life

I was putting my son to sleep on Thursday October 27th, and he couldn’t settle himself down. I asked him what the problem was and he said, “Mom, Halloween starts tomorrow and I am so excited that I can’t sleep!” I reminded him that Halloween was four days away and he better get some sleep. As I kissed him goodnight, he just said “Mom, you don’t know what you are talking about.” Truer words have never been more spoken.

Looking back, it seems like it was months ago that we were first putting on those plastic Target costumes and getting ready for the school parties. I can’t remember when I last ate something that was green or not wrapped in cellophane paper. My memory of this holiday is just one big blur of a Twix/Snickers/Fat Tire/Tantrums/Candy Corn/Tantrums/Football/Tantrums extravaganza.

Today, the day after Halloween, I don’t feel right. For the past four days, water, vegetables, and sleep have been forsaken. Because of all the sugar my kids have ingested, their mood swings have been unbearable. They have gone from depression to elation and back again like a never-ending roller coaster.

To begin…we started last week with a party at the preschool on Thursday, which was then repeated again on Friday. Because my daughter is nothing like me (fashion has never been my strength), she wanted to have a different look for each party…Cinderella on Thursday, Southern Belle on Friday. I barely managed to remember the $5 for the Thursday party, the Pin the Tail on the Cat game for the Friday party, the individually wrapped candy for my son’s after school party, and the video camera for the Spooky Song Fest. At the last minute I remembered to bring the required copy of my TB test to the school so I could help out with the parties. Who knew you have to prove you are not a carrier of some communicable disease in order to hand out orange and black frosted cupcakes. It was never ending.

We had Preschool parties, Kindergarten parties, Costume Parties, Halloween Block parties, Chili + Costume Parties, and a 3 hour Trick or Treat Marathon Party. We ate, we drank, and we carved pumpkins that did not turn out that well. When we weren’t eating or putting on costumes, we were taking Halloween pictures. My kids wore their costumes for so many days that I am afraid to wash them...I am confident the slightest bit of water will cause them to disintegrate. We took photos of every moment, every parade and every party…at this time, I now have over seven hundred pictures of my kids in the Exact. Same. Outfits.

Looking back, I am amazed at the intensity and effort that goes into Halloween. The only thing that amazes me more is the amount of pictures people have uploaded onto Facebook in the last five days. The fact that the website has not crashed over the last 96 hours is a miracle. Was Facebook really prepared for a Halloween that fell on a Monday? Did they know that for five straight days, millions of people, all across America, would literally lose control and upload pictures by the thousands? Every costume imaginable and every pumpkin patch in the country is somehow represented on my News Feed. The comments are endless…“Aw, cute costume!”…“OMG, precious!”… “I can’t believe how BIG they are!” I am just waiting for someone to say to a woman who made her children’s costumes by hand, “Is that all you got?”

When I somehow find the one picture where I look relaxed, rested and young, I too will change my profile picture. It may take awhile…

I just don’t remember it being like this when I was a kid. All I know is that my dad got home from work, took off his tie, and poured himself a tall stiff scotch while yelling at us to get ready. My brother and I would quickly slip on our costumes and head out the door. We always made our own costumes from what we had in the house. They weren’t homemade in a “cool creative” way…it was more like the “you are on your own” way. For a couple of years, I was a cockroach (black garbage bag covering my body plus foil attached to a headband) and I was happy. Normally, once we were ready, my mom would take ONE picture of my brother and I in front of the house and have it developed in the next two to three years. You never realized how ridiculous you looked until many years later.

As my dad followed behind us, with his red solo cup and flashlight, we would knock on doors, get some candy, and go home. Once home, my mom would tell us that she hoped we had fun but that we were not allowed to eat any of the candy until she inspected it. Growing up she had many fears…from satellites falling from the sky to having an amoeba swim up our nose and eat our brains away. Yet one of her biggest fears was having us be poisoned by our Halloween candy. Once home, that woman became an FBI agent. She left no Starburst unturned, no Snickers unopened. Nothing makes Halloween scarier than a deep embedded fear that one wrong Tootsie Roll could end your life.

I remember dumping the candy on the floor and getting to choose the ten pieces I wanted to keep. Back then there was no such thing as the “Candy Fairy” that allowed you to trade your candy for a special toy. Instead we had the “Parent Fairy”, which was a little different. Basically when you weren’t looking, your parents would grab all your candy and throw it away…no toy, just a promise that they knew what was best.

Last night, as my husband and son were walking home after literally canvassing the neighborhood, my husband said “Son, I am getting pretty tired. I think we need to be done.” My son looked at his father and shook his head in disappointment. He walked up to his dad and said “Come on Dad, be strong. You are better than that…we are not done yet.” And so they kept walking, and the holiday kept going, and the longest Halloween of my life continued on.

This morning my son woke up with the attitude of a sullen teenage boy. He wouldn’t talk, smile or say good morning. He didn’t want cereal or a bagel for breakfast, and he said he wasn’t going to school. I asked him what the problem was and he just rolled his eyes at me. As he walked away he turned around and said “Mom, this was the worst Halloween ever! I didn’t even get to hand out any candy BECAUSE YOU took me trick or treating for too long!!!!”


Next year my kids are going to be roaches and I am going to have a water bottle filled with scotch…

Monday, October 10, 2011

Too old to go so low - Why Girl's Weekends are Required

This weekend I headed back to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to meet up with my girlfriends from college. It had been a couple of years since we have all been together and I was very excited about the trip. Although it would be much cooler to say I didn’t care what I looked like for the weekend…that what I wore, how much I weighed or how dark my roots were didn’t matter…that would be a lie. The truth is I did care. It wasn’t about impressing my friends or trying to look better than them...it was simply about showing some improvement.

I love the emails that start about three weeks prior to these trips. One girl will say, “Hey ladies! What’s the plan?” Someone will email back “Plan? I PLAN on getting drunk from the time I am there until the time I land back home! I SO need a break!” Another friend might say, “You know it! The old girl is back so WATCH OUT! HOLLER!” And so on and so on. It is important to note that most of these emails are most likely sent while these women are driving minivans, packing lunches, and unloading the dishwasher. Good to remember when you are setting expectations.

Everything was going as planned until two weeks prior to the trip when I received the following email:

“Kelsey, bad news…no good on childcare for girls weekend. Husband is going to be out of town, looks like we are going to have to bring baby Carson with us…grandma will pick her up when we arrive… Lsorry”

Normally that news wouldn’t have been a big deal. But when your flight consists of completely sold out, 6-hour red-eye from LAX to RDU, this becomes a problem. In one quick email, my hopes of an ambien + wine + kid free start to my weekend were over.

There is not much to say about the flight except that it was close to unbearable. That sweet child who we all love so much on Earth became a demon while 40,000 feet in the air. From the moment we went through security, until about 2 hours into the flight, she screamed as if she was being tortured. She wiggled, banged, screeched, and spilled until eventually, as her mother held her in a hog wrestling rodeo hold, she finally fell asleep. The fact that we didn’t have a ticket for her made it even more fun. For the remaining 2 ½ hours, we sat frozen, afraid to move and overwhelmed with fear. At point during the flight, my girlfriend and I looked at each other and said, “This was a bad idea. We should have just stayed home and organized our linen closet.”

Somehow we made it, handed a naked and exhausted one-year old to her grandma, and headed into Chapel Hill. When I saw all my friends, they strangely recognized me right away. I could barely believe it because I was certain all my highlighting, self-tanning, crunching, and shopping would have made me unrecognizable. Not so much. We all hugged each other and spent a good thirty minutes telling one another how good we looked, how much fun we are going to have, and how great it was to be back. We checked our phones one last time and then committed to the next 48 hours.

With no sleep, a time change, and deep desire to relive our past, we met for cocktails at the hotel bar. We started the evening with adult drinks like Cosmos and beer…we ended the evening with not so adult drinks like Irish car bombs and Goldshalger shots. We went to every bar on Franklin Street, both old and new, and relived each minute of our four years in college. Eventually we found an Irish bar that played Hip Hop, Katy Perry, and JLo…we had found our home and things were looking up.

Throughout the night, I brought out dance moves that I haven’t used in over 10 years. At one point, I fell down on the dance floor. My friends may say it was because of the drinks, but in my heart, I know it was simply because I took it too low for my legs to handle. Later in the night, a few of us decided it would be a good idea to buy some cigarettes. There is nothing cooler than watching a bunch of moms who have never really smoked before, pick up the habit around 2am in a college town. Slowly, over a span of 5 hours, we had become those thirty something women I used to feel sorry for. Why did we think dancing in a circle holding hands was a good idea? Is requesting “Get on the Floor” at age 34 really appropriate? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

I am not sure when we all knew it was time to go, but the signal was given, and we eventually got into a cab. The price of the cab ride was $30…the distance we traveled…3 blocks. Some things never change. We got back to our hotel room, threw on our pajamas and listened to old school rap. We laughed, we made fun of each other, and we ordered pizza to our room.

The following day we took it down a notch. We all walked to the football game, bought UNC gear for our kids, and had dinner together. And this is what I realized…getting away these days takes a lot of work. There is a lot scheduling, organizing, and planning that has to take place. Lists have to be made and car pools have to be set up. But in the end, no matter how much we have to do to make them happen, they are a necessity. They remind us who we were before life got complicated. They make us laugh, and in the end, they give us a reason to take off our sweats, throw on self-tanner, and show everyone that we have made some improvement.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten…Almost

Is there anything more exciting than the first day of Kindergarten? Is there anything more important than getting your child ready, organized, and prepared for their first day of school? What is more exciting than packing up their new lunch box, combing their hair, and then watching them walk into their new school for the first time, with their whole lives ahead of them? In terms of parenting moments, the first day of Kindergarten is up there at the top.

This is not a day you want to screw up …

Yesterday, my precious little boy was starting Kindergarten. I had marked it down on the family calendar with lots of smiley faces, stars, and big hearts. We talked about who his teacher would be and what kids he knew in his class. We packed a special lunch and picked out a new T-shirt at Target. When he woke up that morning, he had run into my bathroom with messy hair and sleepy grin and said, “Mommy, today I am starting Kindergarten!”

It was a lovely morning…no rushing and no stress. We had breakfast together, nobody fought, and we even left the house ten minutes early. When we got outside, I got a little teary eyed. I took hundreds of pictures of him to remember the day. He was all dressed up, his hair was combed perfectly and he even remembered to brush his teeth. After I finished, I texted the best pictures to my family and friends with the following caption, “Today is a big day. My sweet Jack starts Kindergarten!”

I had taken the morning off from work…I didn’t want anything to get in the way of this momentous occasion. Because it was a special day, I decided we would walk to school as a family. At one point, while crossing the street holding hands, my kids began to sing “Wheels on the Bus.” That just might be one of my top ten parenting moments, and at the time, I could barely contain my joy. I looked at them both, squeezed their little hands, and said, “Kids, it’s going to be a great year!” As we walked to school, my son looked so old, so proud and so excited.

While we were walking, a friend of ours pulled up beside us and said, “Hey, what are you all doing?” I smiled and put my arm around Jack and said, “We are heading to Kindergarten! Today is Jack’s first day!” We both beamed proudly. Our friend looked at us with concern. “I think school starts tomorrow,” he said slowly. I looked at him with compassion and said, ‘No, it starts today…Sorry you got confused”. At that moment, the word ‘Wednesday’ did jump in my head, but I ignored it and moved on. I had marked this day, Tuesday the 6th, on my calendar and so far, my dry erase board had never let me down. As we walked away, my son looked at me and said with a grin, “Can you believe it? That dad doesn’t even know when school starts!” We laughed together (poor dad), held hands again, and skipped the rest of the way to school.

When we arrived, it was quite calm for the first day. I couldn’t believe all the kids were already in their classroom. As we got a little closer, I saw a friend of mine coming out of the office. She looked at us strangely and said under her breath, “What are you doing here?” I didn’t understand why people kept asking me this question. Wasn’t it obvious, we were going to school? As I began to answer, she slowly started to move her head side to side and quietly mouthed the word “tomorrow”. At that moment, my son looked down at the ground and began to shake his head. When his little face looked up, he had tiny tears in his eyes. He reached for my hand and said softly, “Mom, you have got to be kidding me…”

I couldn’t believe this could happen. I was so close to receiving the “Mom of the Year” award, and now, in one second, it was quickly swiped from my grasp. We went from the perfect day to the ultimate let down and I couldn't have felt worse.

I wanted to blame someone for this mistake, the principal, my dry erase board, or possibly my husband. But in the end, I knew it was my fault. I apologized to my son a hundred times and tried to tell him how great it was that we had a ‘dry run’. Eventually he started to calm down as I continued to berate myself. I kept whispering under my breath "How did this happen? I am an organized person. I am a good mom. How do you screw this up???" Eventually my son stopped me and put his little arm around me. He turned and grabbed my face and said, “Mom, it’s okay. We all make mistakes sometimes. We’ll just try again tomorrow”. I couldn’t have loved that little boy more.

Today Wednesday the 7th, we tried again. Unfortunately, this time, our morning didn’t go as smoothly. There was a lot more rushing, yelling, and arguing than yesterday. My work phone kept ringing and my daughter didn’t want to put on any clothes. The lunch we packed wasn’t special and the shirt he wore had stains on it. I was late for a meeting and couldn't find my computer. As we got in the car (because we didn’t have time to walk) my son looked at me and said, “This isn’t a dry run is it?” I told him it wasn’t and that today school started for real. As he buckled up his seat belt and sat down in his chair, he smiled at me. "Mom, I am really glad we didn't have to walk today. Today felt much more normal than yesterday. I think this is going to be a great year!"

Starting Kindergarten really is a big deal…

(Many people have asked me if this really happened. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Everything I write about on this blog is true...because honestly, you can't make this stuff up.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Korean Spa

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through my underwear drawer and found a gift certificate from my mother-in-law for the Korean Spa in downtown L.A. It was perfect timing because I needed to get away, do something different, and take a little time for myself. I asked her if she would watch the kids and called to set up an appointment for the "Pure Bliss" experience. Little did I know then, but the Korean spa would end up changing my life.

In the past, the spas I have visited smelled like tea tree oil, lavender and mint. They were filled with women in white robes silently being ushered into dark massage rooms where ocean sounds play through small IPod docks. I knew the Korean spa would be a little different…mostly because my mother and mother-in-law (who are both unique individuals and avid fans) kept telling me, “Now remember Kelsey, everyone is NAKED, completely NAKED. It is so WONDERFUL that women can be so NAKED. Our generation was NEVER comfortable with our bodies. It is SO liberating. Stay the WHOLE day, you will LOVE IT!”

It had been a rough week and I was determined to relax; not talk to anyone and enjoy my time there. Both the relaxing and not talking (are 4,000 cell phone minutes each month a lot?) are very uncomfortable for me. The relaxing required me not to worry about the following important items that kept running through my head “What if my daughter gets sunscreen in her eyes? Should I have sprayed for roaches so close to the kitchen cabinet? Why does my downstairs couch smell like a dog, even though we don’t have one? Does my minivan make me look fat?” All of these questions, along with hundreds of others, bombarded my brain as I checked in at the front desk.

At this point, it is important to note that I grew up in locker rooms. Most of my life was spent alternating between being in a pool and a locker room...I am used to women changing, showering, and walking around naked. Therefore, I didn’t think twice about the ‘naked’ requirement of the Korean spa...I was sure it wouldn’t affect me. I checked in with this nice Korean woman whose English was as good as my Korean. She did her best to give me a tour, but unfortunately, I got sidetracked. When we first walked in I looked over at the famous jade floor and froze. There, in the center of the floor, was a large, naked 300lb elderly Korean woman lying on her back. She was asleep, peacefully snoring, covered with only the invisible air around her. My tour guide noticed my distraction and grabbed my arm. She turned and said in a loud whisper, “Pay ttention! Follo Me!” Never had a spa trip been filled with so much pressure.

Inside, the spa was filled with pools…hot, cold, freezing, tea filled, and normal. There are also saunas, showers, oxygen and steam rooms. In the middle of the room is what appears to be a trough or little "creek" of water. The creek is important because this is where women of all shapes and sizes, ethnicities and age, sit NAKED on stools and hand wash themselves while rinsing with big buckets that sit next to the ‘creek’. I kept staring and couldn’t look away. It was as if I had been transported to Africa or the countryside of Asia…without the wild animals or change in climate. I did my best to look unaffected and concentrated on acting like this was no big deal.

Because I hadn’t been listening to my tour guide, I wasn’t really clear on how to best utilize the facility. Because I have always been an overachiever, I was determined to get the most out of my cultural experience. I began to go from hot pool, to normal pool, to freezing pool as fast as I could. Who needs to relax when there is so much water to explore? At one point, I thought I was having a panic attack because my heart was racing so fast. As I got out of the freezing cold pool I began to feel lightheaded and needed to lean against a wall. Suddenly one of the spa people came up to me and said in a whisper, “Be CAFUL, you get dizzy, feel no good, heart beat too fast, relax!”

After an hour of using every pool, room and shower, I knew there was no way I going to be able to keep this up until my appointment, which was still an hour away. I decided I should just lie down on the jade floor, next to the naked woman and try to rest. By the looks of it, I really didn’t think there was anything special about this floor. I had been warned about its Ambien drug inducing powers... but I wasn’t buying it. I got a blanket and laid down on my back while my current ‘to do’ list ran through my head and then... good night sweetheart! The next thing I remember was hearing a woman yelling “Numbr Theerty, Number Theerty!” It was similar to being at a deli and having your number called to pick up your sliced meat. I jumped up and headed into the treatment room.

To call it a treatment room is pushing it. There were no walls or doors and everyone could see what was happening inside. I laid down on one of the four massage tables that were lined up in a row. No need to take off my clothes because I was already completely naked…how convenient! Three other naked ladies were already being plucked, scrubbed and massaged by old Korean women in black bras and panties…I was the last one to join the party. Each table was covered in a plastic fabric that looked like a picnic tablecloth. It was waterproof, which worked out well because the first ten minutes consisted of my lady tossing buckets of water over my entire body while yelling commands like “Head down! Turn! Side! Eyes closed!” For the next hour and 45 minutes I was plucked, scrubbed, rubbed, massaged, kneaded and rinsed like a chicken on a farm.

And then, at some point during this experience, I realized a miracle had happened…I was relaxed!

Not only was I relaxed, but something had happened to me. I was a different person. As I dipped in and out of pools and washed myself by the creek, I was moving as if underwater. I had no where to go and nothing to accomplish. I suddenly began to fantazise that I lived inside this little building, with all these naked women, and the magical jade floor. I sat alone and realized in this place, no one wanted me to get them another chicken nugget. No one needed me to wipe their bottoms, tie their shoes, or shave their backs. I reveled in the fact that it was silent…no football games or Yo Gabba Gabba played in the background. I almost cried I loved it so much.

Every now and then I would remember that eventually I would have to leave. At some point they would turn off the pools and the saunas and ask all of my naked friends to go home. It was scary because I wasn’t ready. Did they know it had taken me almost 8 hours of silence and a small home cooked Korean meal to feel normal again? How could they send me back out into the real world…with all those demands, chores, and people wearing clothes? What if I wanted to be surrounded by naked old ladies for the rest of my life? I kept asking the lady what time it closed and after a while she kindly said, “Don wory, you stay long as need.”

Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t sleep by the creek. There was no way around it…I had to go home. As I sat in my minivan on the 405, happily stuck in traffic, I realized I didn’t need much to make me happy. I realized one day alone in complete silence without any kids, husband, boss, or blackberry was much needed for my soul.

And most importantly, I realized that no matter what people think, not everyone in Los Angeles believes in Brazilian bikini waxes…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Love is in the Air

This was a big week for me. On Monday I had a birthday and on Wednesday, I celebrated 9 years of marriage. Because this birthday fell on a Monday, I already had super low expectations. The high point of the day was when I woke up to the sounds of an off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday” being sung by two cute kids with morning breath and their father who took off his sleep apnea mask just in time for the chorus. The truth is that I believe all birthdays after you turn 21 are anti-climatic. If my plans don’t include flashing my new driver’s license to some bouncer, followed by taking 21 shots of Goldschlager while my best friends drag me on to the dance floor to “It’s Getting Hot in Here”, then really, what’s the point?

The big event for me this week was my anniversary. I mean nine years…how is that possible??? How can it be that I have slept next to the same man, shared a last name, and made little human beings with the same guy I met over 13 years ago at an “X-Files” party?

I remember everything about night I knew he was the one for me. It was 1998 and we were having drinks at a bar in Chapel Hill on Franklin Street. At the time, he was a svelte, 6’3, 302lbs, Defensive Lineman. I myself was a knock-out sex kitten, who at 5’2, 145lbs, decided that flip-flops, khakis pants, and a blue v-neck from Express was a hot outfit to wear.

At some point in the night, a slow song came on and he asked me to dance. As I rested my head on his hip-bone, we swayed together for a bit and then he headed off to use the restroom. After he left, some of the guys at the bar came up and said “Hey Kelsey, you know what you two look like…Beauty and the Beast.” I was really upset. When he came back I said angrily, “Do you know what those guys just said about us?” He shook his head No and I answered, “They said we looked like Beauty and the Beast.” At that moment, I was certain he was going to go beat someone up, but instead, he took my face in his hands and quietly whispered, “Kelsey, don’t you ever let anybody call you Beast again.” From that point on, he has been the man of my dreams.

Celebrating my anniversary is always a big deal. It means that we made it another year without killing each other. It means that my husband didn’t text pictures of his privates to any random strangers. It means that he didn’t father a child with our nanny or leave me for some IHOP waitress. It means that although he says at times the sound of my voice makes him want to run away, I have found a way not to take that personally. It means that although our sex life isn’t the hottest thing on Earth, we still try to do it regularly (our individual definition of ‘regular’ continues to widen.) Mostly, it means we are both still in the game.

In terms of our anniversary gifts, I have never expected much. Sure, I would have loved a little piece of jewelry, maybe a tennis bracelet or a new wedding band, but it’s not something I needed. The truth is, I would be happy with a simple dinner at Olive Garden. But this year, he just went overboard. As we sat on the couch one night he said, “Hey Honey, we’re good with gifts, right? I mean, we just got the security gate for the driveway…I know how much you love the kids to be safe (insert big smile where he mocks my OCD personality). Can we just consider the gate our anniversary presents to one another, you know call it even?” Of course we can sweetheart, how kind of you. What girl wouldn’t be happy with a pet/security fence to honor her marriage? So this year, instead of gifts or a loving card, I am left with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that no basketball, animal or toddler will ever accidently roll or run into my street. I get chills just thinking about what next year’s gift will be.

In terms of going somewhere for our anniversary...not so much. I guess we could have gone to Europe or the Caribbean, but what fun is that? Instead we spent our anniversary evening at the neighborhood recreation park, playing in our 8:45 game of Co-ed Softball. I didn’t need a fancy dress for the occasion…yoga pants and a white t-shirt with the team name “Swingers” on the back was more than sufficient. We started at a Mexican restaurant, indulged in tacos and fried chimichangas, and headed down to the game. It’s a good thing I don’t like champagne, because I spent this special night sipping on cans of Bud Light in the Dugout while hoping to get a base hit.

After the game, which we won in a nail biter, we headed to the local tavern with our teammates and took shots in our honor. There was a "Happy Anniversary" balloon and cake on the table with our names written on it…I have never felt so much love. When we got home and climbed into bed, my husband rolled over and said it was the best anniversary he has ever had. I had a great time too...but next year, I am hoping for Positano...

Friday, June 3, 2011

OMG vs. Meet The Press

Growing old sneaks up on you. One day you are in Vegas dancing on the table in a g-string…the next day you find yourself cleaning your toliets while wearing cotton panties from Walgreens. Life is funny that way, and if you aren’t careful, you can be caught off guard.

Almost 5 months ago, my husband came home and said "Hey Baby, I got the best present for you!" “What is it?" I asked, secretly hoping it was the new bedspread from Pottery Barn I had been coveting. He said, “Babe, I got us USHER tickets for this summer!” Usher? Really? Wow…who knew??? I have always liked Usher, loved a few of his songs, and thought he was pretty cute…but the truth is I am not really the concert going type. Growing up, I watched as my brother toured the country following Phish, The Grateful Dead, and String Cheese. I, on the other hand, only attended two concerts as a kid…one was Milli Vanilli and the other was MC Hammer. Once you have seen talent like that, anything else is bound to be a let down.

From the start, I knew we were in over our heads. As I watched my husband carefully place our portable drink cooler into our 3 year old’s car seat, I knew we had made a mistake. I couldn’t remember, do people tailgate at concerts or not? The fact that we were driving to an Usher concert in a gold colored Toyota Sienna with tinted windows made me uncomfortable. We were white, we were in a minivan, and we were going to Usher on a school night. It was risky, out of character, and in general, a bad idea…but we had something to prove and nothing was going to stop us.

As we got into the car, I literally fought the urge to jump out, run inside, and climb into bed for a four-hour HGTV marathon. Instead, I did what I do best, I filled the air with meaningless conversation and brilliant rationalization.

Me: “This is so great, it is going to be Awesome!”

Husband: “Yeah.”

Me: “I love Usher, we should have made a CD to play in the car. It’s so nice to be together. This is so great, it is going to be Awesome!”

Husband: “Yeah.”

Me: “I can’t wait to see where our seats are…concerts are fun…this is wild, we really are fun. I am SO not tired. This is great.”

Husband: “Yeah.”

I was so happy to see he was just as excited as I was…

On the ride to the concert, we talked and tried to reconnect. Earlier in the day we had found out that a tornado watch was issued in my mother-in-law’s town. So, for most of the ride to Usher, my husband was on the phone with his mom…who was currently holed up in her basement in Boston. She was hiding under some piece of furniture with no electricity and doing her best to stay calm. I kept hearing him say things like “Yes Mom, I wish you had an emergency kit also…Of course drinking water in the basement would have been smart…Do you hear anything that sounds like a train coming?” If that conversation doesn’t get you in the mood for a night out on the town, what does? (she was safe...thank goodness).

As we pulled into the parking lot, while listening to NPR, we did our best to fit in. We pulled out our cocktails and tried to relax. We drank our drinks out of plastic reusable bottles, because not only were we a cool couple, we are also friends of the enviroment. After I chugged an entire bottle of Skinny Margarita (Bethany Frankel…genius!) we headed in to the concert.

We missed the opening act and got to our seats around 9:30pm. When Usher came on, he was lifted to the top of the Staples Center on some type of floating device. As he stood there with his arms wide open, he would intermittently make the sound, “EWWWHHHHHH!” as the crowd went wild. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to enjoy it because I couldn't stop worrying about Usher's safety. “HONEY, DO YOU THINK HE IS SAFE UP THERE? IT IS SO HIGH!" Finally my husband looked over at me and said, “Please stop…you have problems.”

Eventually the concert began and everyone was on their feet...for a really long time. Finally we sat down, but the couple in front of us did not. They were younger, cooler, and having way more fun. As I watched in horror, my husband reached forward and said “Excuse me, can you guys please sit down?” From that point on, I was certain we were going to get stabbed in the parking lot.

For the rest of the concert, we said things like “GOSH IT IS SO LOUD IN HERE!”, “I DON’T KNOW THIS SONG?”, “WHAT TIME IS IT?” “MY CONTACT HAS DRIED OUT FROM ALL THE MARAJUNA SMOKE!”. At one point, Usher invited a young woman from the audience to come on stage with him. He had her lay down on a lounge chair and pretended to have sex with her while singing in her ear. Although my husband was smiling for the first time all night, I was resisting the urge to run down there and tell her, “He is using you! It’s all an act. Go to college, get a degree, don’t let this define your life!”

Throughout the concert, Usher lifted his white tank top up at least 136 times. I have never seen someone’s abs more in my life. Around midnight, we both agreed it was time to go. As we were walking out, someone said, “You can’t leave, he hasn’t even played OMG yet?!?!” On that note, we knew the night had come to an end.

The following night, while wearing my cotton panties and reading my kindle as my husband watched Meet the Press, we smiled and realized...this is about as cool as we get.

Getting older is never easy...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Love and Clorox: Why having a Cleaning Lady is Risky Business

Poor Maria Shriver…she was all I could think about this week. As I watched her on Oprah’s finale, trying to smile and act like everything was OK, I thought about how devastated she must be. First she had to watch him run for Governor, then she has to stand by him while he got caught groping women, and then, to top it all off, he goes and has a love child with their cleaning lady…not a fun week to be Mrs. Schwarzenegger.

She has a right to be really, really mad. Think of all the time she spent getting Botox, plastic surgery, hair extensions, acrylic nails and not to mention starving herself, only to find out NONE of it mattered. She probably used to say things like, “I would love to have a margarita, but they have SO many calories, Arnold likes women that are in shape.” No Maria, sadly he doesn’t. As a matter of fact, you could have let it rip. You could have gone ahead and eaten some chips, had a bowl of ice cream, or hell, funneled a Pina Colada, it didn’t matter. He was banging the cleaning lady…and I know why.

A few years ago, I came home from work exhausted and tired. It had been an unusually rough day. As I slowly opened the door and took a deep breath, I was overwhelmed by the scent of what I imagine heaven smells like. As I took another long inhale, my lungs were filled with the intoxicating smell of Pine Sol and Clorox. As I looked around my house, a warm feeling began to fill my heart. With shiny eyes and joy in my soul, I cherished the fact that my house was clean, spotless, and free of dust bunnies. The best part was, I didn’t make that way, a woman named Claudia did. In that moment, I fell in love with my cleaning lady. Arnold I feel your pain.

My cleaning lady has been with me for over six years. You might think the feelings would have dimmed, but no, the love affair has only gotten more intense. It seems as if every year, my love for her grows deeper and deeper. Hiding these feeling from everyone has been exhausting, but I knew I couldn’t let my family know how I felt about her. Would they think I didn’t like to clean, couldn’t clean, or didn’t know how to clean? If so, what kind of woman does that make me? I was afraid it would wreck everything. Arnold, I understand your fear.

Luckily for me, unlike Arnold, she isn’t in my home everyday. I don’t know if I could have handled that. But every other Monday, around 4pm, I find myself happier than I ever thought I could be. A few weeks ago, right after she left, I had to get something out of my closet. When I opened it up and saw all of my fitted sheets, the ones with those stretchy corners, folded into perfectly neat squares, stacked one on top of the other, I could barely contain my joy. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “She is so AMAZING! How does she do it? How can I get her to be in my home more often? What did I do to deserve this?” These questions still keep me up at night. Arnold, I understand how she changed your life.

In terms of us seeing each other, it varies from week to week. There are times when I get home before she leaves and times when I am just left with her memory…a clean refrigerator door, clothes hung perfectly on hangers, or shoes lined up in neat little rows. At those moment, happiness fills my heart and the love I have for her takes my breathe away. When she hasn’t been around for a week or so, I get nervous. I start counting down the days until I will see her again. My life begins to be about when she will be back, what she will do, and how good it will feel when it is done. As I think about these things, I realized that Arnold and I have a lot in common. I assume he also thought he couldn’t live without his cleaning lady. It is not easy to love two people so deeply. Arnold, I understand how you feel.

A few weeks ago, I walked into my bedroom and the smell of Pledge nearly brought me to my knees. Is there any better smell on Earth? That smell, along with the fact that she had wiped down ALL of my refrigerator shelves and organized my canned food by height, left me practically speechless. I wanted to find this woman, kiss her, hug her and tell her to never go away. If she were to have walked in that room, I might have physically assaulted her. I might have grabbed her and said the things Arnold said to his cleaning lady, “I love you. I can’t live without you. You are my everything.” Arnold, I don’t know if I would have gone as far as wanting to have a baby with her, but you obviously just got carried away.

I am grateful that my cleaning lady is female…I think it is safer for me that way. If I had to watch a man clean my baseboards, we might have some infidelity on our hands. The way she is able to take my dirty, messy house, and turn it into a hotel room, with tight sheets, mopped floors, and lined up shampoo bottles is a gift that I will never tire of receiving. Arnold obviously felt the same way.

The truth is everyone loves the people in their lives that make their world run smoother. Whether it’s the gardener, the maid, the nanny, the secretary, or the UPS man. Nothing is sexier than having someone help you do something you couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do yourself. The days I love my husband the most are days he has done some type of manual labor I could never do on my own. Nothing turns me on more than watching him lift something heavy or hoist a large storage box into the garage. I can’t help myself...I fall in love all over again. The other day, as I watched him fill a hole with dirt and carry a pile of old tree branches to a trashcan, I screamed out the window, “I have never wanted you more than right now!” To that he replied, “You are one sick woman.”

The truth is I believe if I ever ended up homeless, I would still find someone to clean my shopping cart. So Arnold, you made a big mistake and what you did was wrong. But I want you to know, we understand how it started...everyone loves their cleaning lady.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Brother's Wedding

There are times in life when everything just seems to fall into place. When you look around, smile, and say “thank you God.” For me that moment came at age 33, as I stood up on an old wooden deck, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, watching my brother and his beautiful fiancĂ© take their vows. As I watched the tears fall from my brother’s face, I felt so much love and peace inside. This weekend wasn’t just about my brother getting married, it was about so much more, and the details are as heartwarming as they are hysterical.

Thursday night: We land in Ft. Lauderdale and my aunt, uncle, and grandmother pull up in their 1990 white Conversion van. To entertain the kids, my aunt turns on the VHS machine (which in 1990 was included for a small extra cost) and we begin to watch a video titled “Wild America.” The sound of a lion eating a cheetah barely drowns out my daughter screaming. I realize we need to feed the kids quickly, and by something I consider the opposite of a miracle, we end up at a Chili’s. We order a round of appetizers that totals at least 15,000 calories and 750 grams of fat. The restaurant was full of large women in jean shorts and old men in tank tops…it was so good to be home! We wait almost two hours for our food to be delivered and the waiter finally says, “Sorry, we just got slammed. Tonight, is a school fundraiser…each time someone order potatoes skins or nachos, 10% of their bill goes to a charity.” Who am I to complain?

We check into our hotel, the kids jump on the beds, and my daughter almost flies through one of the sliding glass doors. My dad comes to help us with the kids, takes them for a walk, loses them on the beach, tries to whistle to get them back (like he does with his golden retriever), and eventually locates his grandchildren. He is exhausted and brings them back to our hotel room…approximately ten minutes after they had first left. They go to bed at 1:30am...awesome.

Friday: For some scientific reason, the kids stay on West Coast time at night and East Coast time in the morning. One of the lovely things they don’t tell you about in all those parenting books. We swim in the pool, we swim in the ocean, and we have great family fun. I try to do all of this while not getting my hair wet. We go through the rehearsal, everybody does great, and then unfortunatley, my daughter starts to cry. She can’t understand why she isn’t wearing her fancy flower girl dress and quickly begins to meltdown. In order to keep things under control, I start to give her candy and treats every time she does something right…just like you would for a dog.

After the rehearsal, we board a party bus with 60 people. When we get on, the bus has air conditioning. After thirty guys in suits sit down, hip-hop music gets played, and four cases of Michelob Ultra get drunk, the air conditioning doesn’t work so well. For the next hour, we resemble a reality T.V show…imagine Big Brother + MTV Road Trip (with no air condition) + Survivor (the water went quickly). We head to Buccan, the best restaurant ever, and eat the greatest meal of my life. My dad makes a nice toast and my husband asks for a doggy bag. I wasn’t sure about the etiquette on the last one, but I was in a happy mood and let it go. Can you say team player?

We get back on the bus and ride home. We dance to different songs, take lots of pictures, and enjoy ourselves. I loved every minute. We get back to the hotel and everyone discusses where to go next. I say, “Hey I am going to run upstairs, change, go to the bathroom, and come back down.” I run upstairs, change, go to the bathroom…and crawl into bed. The good news is, no one noticed I was gone. The bad news is, no one noticed that I was gone.

Saturday: I wake up after a 5 glorious hours of sleep, only 6 hours short of what I needed, and head down to the pool with my kids. I spray my kids and myself with as much sunscreen as possible. Then I spray my husband and really focus on his head, which has recently become a ‘highly exposed’ spot. We are greased up, glowing white, and ready to enjoy the day. We go in the ocean and jump around as a family…if you didn’t know better you might have thought we were Midwestern tourists filming a commercial for a Sandals Resort or Carnival Cruise Line.

After getting my hair and make-up done, I go back to the resort to get the kids ready. When I see my daughter, I notice she has terrible sunburn. I ask my husband what happened and he says, “You never told me I needed to reapply sunscreen…how was I supposed to know?” I want to say terrible and mean things to him, but I hold back. I remind myself this day is about new beginnings and love. Eventually we are dressed and ready to go. Because we are all dressed up, and in a beautiful location, I force my family to take a million pictures. My great hope is that at least one will turn out well. I scream at them, they scream at me, and eventually we are done. As we speak, my favorite picture is being blown up at Walgreens…the only downside is that my husband's head is cut off above his eyebrows. At this point, I don’t really give a damn.

The wedding is beautiful, the kids do their thing, and the bride and the groom are glowing. After the dances, my brother grabs the mic, and serenades his new wife with “I Love You” by Climax Blues Band. The song is passionate, amazing, and slightly off key. It makes me cry and cheer and laugh. The party begins, the band is awesome, and someone breaks out the worm. Around 11pm, the bride and groom surprise the guests with a touch of the Islands. As we stare outside, we watch as a steel marching band, made up of twelve African Americans in full costume and headdresses, begin to march into the country club. All of the extremely white guests rise to their feet and dance with such passion and rhythm that I believe many may have surprised themselves. As I watch this amazing event I think to myself, “Why is it that white people always include African American bands when they want to have fun, yet it doesn’t work the other way?” I have yet to meet a young African American couple that said, “Hey Honey, you know what our wedding needs? A little spirit and fun! Why don’t we invite a white band to come and play some Billy Joel, you know, liven up the place?” Nothing against Billy Joel, but white people still have so much work to do…

The groom makes his 3rd toast to his wife, and tells her again he would be nothing without her. I ask my husband if he feels the same way and he says “Of course.” I'm pretty sure he’s lying, but because I've have had 10 vodka sodas and only one mushroom cap, I accept it and move on. We party all night, go to bed at 6am, and wake up with the kids at 7:30am. I have lost both contacts, can barely walk, and feel like I might die without more sleep…

But at that moment, nothing really matters. Life is good, my brother is married, and I have a sister. I stumble into my bathing suit and put sunscreen on the kids. I will sleep another day…

Clegg and Kelli…thanks for an amazing weekend and an inspiring love affair…

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Livin' in L.A

Now that I have lived in L.A. for almost 10 years, I am even more certain that everyone needs to spend time living on the East Coast. The East Coast is where you can get a real education, make life long friends, and learn that life, nor the weather, is always 70 degrees and sunny. The East Coast builds character, gives you confidence, and teaches you how to be normal. There is so much I miss about it…normal girls, size A breasts and most importantly, Chick-Filet. But despite all of this, I love living in LA.

To help you understand where I started, you need to know the girl I used to be. For most of my life, my “look” consisted of my hair in a high bun, grey XL sweatpants, and Old Navy flip-flops. My only make-up was maroon lipstick (exact shade - Revlon ‘Wine with Everything’), which I first picked up in 7th grade at Rite Aid. I never really cared about how I looked and believed life was about competing, winning, and getting ahead. I am the type of girl who needed a few years in LA…just like the girls from Orange County need a summer at Dartmouth or Brown. Sometimes you just need to stretch yourself.

Ten years into my life in L.A., everything has changed. I no longer find it strange that my friends take their trash out (here we call it recycling) while wearing a push up bra, fake eyelashes, and 6-inch wedge sandals. To be honest, the garbage men out here expect it and nobody wants to let them down. When I first moved here, I was appalled by the fact that so many women had fake, size C, Barbie doll boobs. Now after two kids, numerous La Leche League meetings, and the fact that I have recently begun to turn myself off during sex, I have started to consider my options. Getting your boobs done in Southern California is just like getting braces in the South…it's the thing to do. The truth is that I would be under the knife right now if I wasn’t afraid of two things:

1. That I could die during surgery and leave my kids motherless…simply because I wanted to fill out the top of my new Target bathing suit.

2. My husband would want to have more sex with me.

Number two is the one that keeps me up at night. If you don’t know my husband, let me explain. He is a very special man…he always tells me he loves me and makes me feel beautiful each day. The other night I asked him, “Hey Honey, do you think I should get my boobs done?” He looked me right in the eyes and said, “No baby, you are beautiful just the way you are.” I felt so loved. I gave him a hug and started to walk out the room. As I was about to close the door, he gently touched my arm and quickly said “But if YOU want to do it, I ABSOLUTELY understand. I think what is most important is that I am completely supportive of you. Do you need me to wire the money or should I just write you a check?”

At this point we are at a stand still with that surgery…but it hasn’t stopped me from looking into other shallow, unnecessary procedures. After recently looking at my face in the mirror, (which is highly encouraged in LA… self obsession is considered healthy here) I realized the years of baking in the Florida sun while spraying Sun-in on my hair have caused some problems. So I talked to my friend, who sell lasers to dermatologists, and asked him what I could do. He told me he thought I could benefit from an IPL laser treatment. When I asked whom I should go see he said, “Why would you pay a dermatologist $1200 for the treatments? I can just do it for you in our garage.” The other benefit of living in L.A. is that everyone is in sales, and whatever they are selling, they are happy to share. So I put aside the fact he had been selling sofas and Ottomans’ a year ago, and trusted that his two week training (where he was most likely drunk for 80% of the time) would give him the skills he needed to make me beautiful.

Let me begin by saying that I do not have a high pain tolerance, especially when it comes to beauty procedures. I can barely stand to have my eyebrows waxed and once left a Brazilian Bikini wax with only one side completed. But I tried to be brave and trust that the pain wouldn’t last forever.

So last Wednesday night, with Scotty McCreery singing in the background, I walked into their garage, stepped over some wet laundry and took a seat on a hard, paint-splattered wooden chair. They charged up the laser, handed me some eye protectors, and rubbed cold gel on my face. After twenty minutes of experiencing what can only be described as intermittently holding a July 4th sparkler to your face, they were finished. I looked in the mirror and my face was still there, my skin wasn’t burned, and the dark spots I had been noticing where lightening. My friend and his wife looked over their work, studied my face, and didn’t say a word. Eventually they smiled at one another, looked at me and said, “Okay, not bad. I’m pretty sure those settings were right. Don’t worry we’ll know more in a few days.” Some people just know how to make you feel safe...

So it’s official, for good or for bad, I am starting to become an L.A. girl…a bit shallow, self-consumed, and now totally (and thankfully) aware of the fact that sun damage is bad, blonde is good, and wearing Khakis is a crime. And even though I miss the East Coast terribly, it seems like L.A is home. I have so many great friends, we love our community, and there's a rumor that they may be building a Chick-Filet nearby very soon...somedays life just can't get any better.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sports: The Silent Killer

When the Super Bowl ended last February, I found myself crying, feeling deeply emotional at the end of the game. Some people shed tears of joy because the Packers brought the Super Bowl Trophy home, while others shed tears because the people of Pittsburg were once again left disappointed. Yet my tears came from another place, and I believe those same tears were shed in homes all over America. My tears weren’t about a team winning or losing, who won the Fantasy Football league, or the fact that Christina Aguilera butchered the lines to God Bless America. Instead my tears were tears of relief…relief that I had somehow survived another football season without killing my husband.

At the time, I was sure the worst was over. Yet now, as the Final Four tournament comes to a close, I realize it may never end. I am filled with false hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. That one day soon, I might have my husband back. But then I remember, the Yankees season is about to start, and with 162 games ahead of me…things are not looking up.

Here’s the thing…I used to enjoy sports. In college, I loved putting on my best Old Navy jeans, a Carolina Blue t-shirt, and heading to the game with two airplane bottles of Jack Daniels stuffed in my bra. I loved the feel of the stadium, the roar of the crowd, and the cheesy music the band always played. After college, and even when we were first married, I loved watching sports, drinking Bloody Mary’s, and spending time with friends. But now that has all changed and there are a few things my friends and I need to understand.

Let’s title this section “Is it Okay?”

1. Is it okay to for a man to sit on a couch for 6 hours on a beautiful, sunny day, and watch grown men chase a ball while his wife cleans, cooks (not saying I cook but just in case there are women that do) and cares for his children…just like she did the other 5 days that week?

2. Is it okay for the T.V. volume in your home to be SO LOUD that you think your children may need to wear earphones in order to protect their ears from permanent and lasting damage?

3. Is it okay for your husband to go into a deep depression and be in a bad mood all week simply because his favorite team lost or his favorite wide receiver got injured during a game? (Remember: Husband’s ankle is fine...guy he has never met who makes 20 million a year, simply has a sprain.)

4. Is it okay that I feel guilty for taking a 30-minute walk by myself on a Saturday but husband feels fine about leaving for 6 hours because “This game is really important.” (What does really important mean? And just a reminder, you don’t watch only the championship games, you watch them all.)

5. Is it okay for a husband, who is now in trouble for not being with the kids, to say the following…“Hey Honey, why don’t you take a break, relax a little. I am going to take the kids (ages 3 and 5) to a bar to watch the game. Don’t worry, it’s early in the day and people won’t be wasted yet.” (Nate Chittick, March 26th 2011 – UNC vs. Kentucky)

6. Is it okay for a man to turn on multiple T.V.s at 9am (living on the west coast is great, waking up to football analysis each morning…not so great) and say the reason he needs to watch is because it looks like he could win $300 in his Fantasy League? (Let’s be clear, he had a chance at winning $300 in the beginning...but after the $287 he spent in trades this season, his total possible earnings are more like $13).

7. Is it okay to watch an entire game which has been recorded, rewinded, and reviewed the whole time, and then WATCH ANOTHER FOUR HOURS OF SPORTS CENTER WHILE THEY DISCUSS THE EXACT SAME GAME YOU JUST WATCHED?

And the last and final question I have is the one I believe is most important:

8. Is it okay if I told my husband that The Bachelor was going to be on EVERY weekend from August to April. Each of those weekends, my friends were going to come over, drink cosmos, and squeal from 10 am to 7pm. I would tell him that each week is EXTREMELY important because you never know who is going to stay and who is going to go, it’s totally up in the air this year. Plus, we have a Fantasy Bachelor pool where each of us puts in $100 and bets on who we think will end up staying the longest (Obviously we also have a teaser worth over $500 if he actually proposes to your girl.) After each show, we will call, text, and Facebook each other about what happened on the show. There is so much to discuss...who kissed who, what they were wearing, and what crazy thing could happen next. Unfortunately when our girl doesn’t get picked or doesn’t get a date, we are not going to be able to have sex, clean, or do the laundry…only because we are terribly sad and depressed. Hopefully he will understand, because like his teams, we really love these girls and have been fans of theirs for a long time. Although we love our kids, we can’t really take care of them when the show is on because every date and rose ceremony is critical. If he wouldn’t mind taking the children outside or at least keeping them quiet so we could concentrate, it would be greatly appreciated. Lastly, when The Bachelor is over and he thinks I am done watching this craziness, I hope he remembers…The Bachelorette starts in 2 weeks and it will all begin again.

DISCLAIMER: (he makes me do this part) This blog is not JUST about my husband. There were other wives who had questions that needed answers. After reading this blog, my husband wants it to be clear, and I quote, "That other than taking the kids to the bar to watch our Alma Mater, where I graduated with honors, I will not accept responsibility for the character that has been painted. I love sports but I love my family more. Also, I would never make trades that cost me that much profit, I am a better business man than that." (Nate Chittick, April 4 2011 - Returning home at 11pm after watching the Final Four)