Saturday, December 12, 2015

All I want for Christmas

Dear Santa,

You probably don't remember me, but I'm the one who keeps threatening that you won't come if my kids don't stop trying to kill each other. Yeah, I know. Me and every other parent. Doesn't really work, either -- they seem to have an unstoppable magnetic force that makes them shove each other into furniture. Oh and they've already written you pages full of stuff they want. Spoiler alert: there's a lot of Pokemon this year. Sorry elves, those cards look like a real pain -- what the hell is a Charzon anyway?

If you've got a second, I've written in a few requests of my own. I think I've been mostly good this year -- and by "mostly" I mean not exactly bad. Like I'm not a saint or anything, but I'm not ISIS. (PS -- those guys are your naughty list. Period. I just saved you an entire season of wasting your time watching billions of kids. You're welcome).

So these are totally just suggestions, but I thought maybe if you're looking to jazz up your repertoire, you could take a crack at one or two ...

1. A new job for our Elf on the Shelf. He was cute for like a week. But lately he just doesn't want to move and he never turned in one of those cute "doctor notes" so my kids expect something exciting! And New! Every! Day! Some people's elves are really, really good at it - you know who I mean, they're hilarious yet whimsical, like magical fairies spun from irony and Pinterest. Alex, our elf, is more chill. He likes to hang out in the living room, reading. And contrary to what I had hoped, his choice in reading material did not, in fact, spark my children's interest in Harry Potter. I feel like Alex is ready for new challenges -- maybe next year Alex joins the Peace Corps or goes to find himself in Tibet. I hear Brad Pitt took seven years -- and I'm cool with that.

2. A magical glass that gives every sip of wine the nutritional equivalent of zero-calorie vitamin water. Before you laugh, hear me out. The ability to turn anything into water is a genius idea with life-saving potential. I mean, if you could make booze as healthy as water, you could change the world, one wine glass at a time. The fact that it will greatly reduce the impact of my cheezit-chardonnay consumption on the fit of my jeans is just an added bonus. Also, Santa? I hear someone else who's big this time of year could turn water into wine. I don't know you tight you are with JC, but can you say Best.Prank.Ever???

3. My car cleaned. And I mean really cleaned. Not like Car Spa clean, where they're always like, yeah lady we can get your car detailed and then they start looking at all the milk shake stains and the crushed Cheetos and three hours later they are still laughing at me. I want elf-magic clean. I want the seats to actually repel the crackers and the Gatorade back into my kids' hands. I want the smell of old french fries banished, to be replaced by the soft scent of lavender, primeval pine and unrealized dreams. Think Enya meets Pitbull meets Jo Malone.

4. About three more years worth of sleep. Real sleep, not the kind where a six-year-old is kicking your back. Sleep in a bed without children. Or the dog scratching or walking around, sighing - and what does a golden retriever even have to sigh about, anyway? Is she regretting the entire steak she devoured raw off the kitchen counter? Somehow, I doubt it.

5. Also along those lines, could you fix my phone which on some mornings wakes me at 4:45 am even though I deleted that alarm from my phone like three times? Really, if you look at my phone settings, that alarm does not exist. And yet. Every Monday, some Tuesdays, most Wednesdays and the occasional Thursday - there it is. Maybe it was set by ghosts. In which case -- well played, malicious spirits. But seriously, knock it off.

6. Magic laundry fairies. I'm good at getting the laundry into the washing machine. My husband is good at getting it into the dryer. Where we both are lacking is in the folding and -- especially -- putting away of the kids' clothes part. Yeah, I know, I should have trained my children to put away their own clothing by now. It's just that when I try that, I notice those clothes mostly end up shoved in their closet, which leads to 7:30 am meltdowns because I CAN'T FIND MY SHORTS MOM. NO NOT THAT PAIR, THE OTHER ONES! NO OF COURSE I CAN'T WEAR ANY OTHER PAIR! THERE IS ONLY ONE PAIR IN THE ENTIRE WORLD THAT MATCHES MY ORANGE UNDER ARMOR SHIRT AND I NEEEEEEEEEED IT NOOOOOOWWWW!!!! So just saying, a little laundry help would be much appreciated.

7. This last one is not just for me -- it's for all the ladies in my office. We want the name of that guy at work who looks like Prince Harry so we can prove to everyone who hasn't seen him that he really exists. Really, the resemblance is uncanny. And when he gets into an elevator all the women dissolve into giggles. Now I realize this is all sounding ridiculous, but Santa, have you ever been in a corporate office building? It's ... well, not the most exciting environment. So when something -- anything -- causes a group of otherwise rational women to act like we're twelve again -- well, it is greatness. But here's the thing -- there are other women we work with who have never, ever seen him. He's like a unicorn, Santa, and only those who have seen him believe. If we could just pin down his name, we could pass it around to all the other ladies in my office so they could org-chart stalk him.

This is such a tiny thing, but it would bring joy to so many. And really, isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

(Not) Good at Math

I'm tired of third grade math. I just am. I'm tired of attempting to decipher the questions my son doesn't understand (or, doesn't care to try to understand). Tired of alternating a "tough approach" (hey, pal, you got it wrong, redo it. No, neatly. No, still wrong) with an "encouraging" approach (fake smile + wine = Mommy is going to act like this math is FUN). Tired of looking at a diagram with numbers and words that bear no resemblance to any math I've had to do or would actually need to do ... like EVER. I'm tired of trying to explain concepts that I don't really get.

But mostly, I'm tired of having to say again and again, "No, you're not bad at math." This one really wears me out for two reasons. One is that math used to be easy for him, and if the drawings he does of elaborate football plays are any indication, he seems to have a pretty good grasp of numbers.

But the second reason is that every time he says "I'm not good at math," I remember second grade.

When I was in second grade, we had "tracked" classes. Meaning, you didn't just study all your subjects with your homeroom - you studied with kids of similar academic abilities. The kids in our grade were divided into three groups - for fun, the teachers suggested we pick soda names. The 7-Ups, the Sprites and the Mello-Yellos. But we knew what they really meant.

For the first week of school, much to my relief, I was a 7-Up in reading and math.The second week, I was in 7-Up math, when the teacher abruptly told me I was in the wrong class. I was confused, but she said to return my math book to the pile at the front of the class. Then she walked me and another kid across the hall.

To the Sprite math class.

I was horrified. A month away from turning seven and already I was mediocre. Taking my new seat, I was too embarrassed to concentrate on anything the teacher said. The real kicker was that up until then, I'd actually thought I was smart. But clearly I wasn't. I mean, the teacher herself said I was in the wrong class. She was the teacher, for God's sake. She knew.

Then I wondered if my friends, all of whom were 7-Ups, would even want to be friends with me anymore. After all, they were smart and apparently I was not. All these awful thoughts swirled in my brain, and when the new teacher called on me, I didn't have an answer. I didn't even know what the question was. He made some sarcastic remark and somebody snickered. I'd heard that noise before -- well, directed at me in PE, but mostly at other kids during reading. The kids who stumbled over syllables and paused in the wrong places. The kids I'd always felt sorry for when somebody laughed. And now? That was me.

It only got worse from there. I remember the teacher holding up a clock, and calling on students to tell time, which even now, when I think of it, makes me sweat. The first time he did this, I watched as another kid counted fives to come up with the correct answer. The teacher said, "good idea" and I thought hey, I can do this. I know my fives. So when it was my turn, I studied the clock and carefully began, "five, ten, fifteen, twenty ..." but I didn't know when to stop. So I just kept going till I reached the twelve, hoping the right answer would magically pop out of my mouth. It didn't. Another sarcastic crack from the teacher and mercifully, he moved on to someone else.

God, I thought, no wonder I'm in Sprite math. Any minute now, it's Mello-Yelloville. That fear did not come true; I stayed in Sprite math the rest of the year. I don't remember learning anything, except that telling time by counting fives only worked if you actually understood how to read a clock. Mostly I sat in the back and drew pictures, prompting the teacher to constantly call me out for messy work. I didn't care -- I mean, at least I was good at drawing, which was more than I could say for math.

From that point forward, I was not good in math. I don't mean my actual grades -- I was paranoid about grades early on and if I didn't understand something, by God, I'd memorize it. But in my head, I was bad at math. Every grade and new math concept I approached with dread, assuming I wouldn't do well.

Algebra came as a surprise in 9th grade. It actually made sense. I assumed this was some sort of mistake. Because, again, not smart in math.

10th grade - geometry, yup, not real smart. In 11th grade I moved out of state, to a giant school where I didn't know anyone. Math was much harder there, but, I realized, even the kids I could clearly tell were "math-smart" struggled. So I studied harder. And harder.

The next year, when I moved back home again, math was suddenly easy. The teacher complimented me. But, deep down I knew I wasn't really good -- it's just that a lot of what we covered I'd already learned the year before. When she gave me the advanced math medal at the senior award ceremony, I felt a little bit like a fraud.

In college, I tested out of the basic math requirement. Which means = I never had to take math again. And I've managed to survive fairly well on that high school knowledge. Somehow, without crazy tables and place value diagrams, I've been able to balance checkbooks and pay bills. So until recently, I was kinda thinking maybe I'm OK at math.

Then this third grade nonsense hit. With crazy word problems and splitting numbers into bars and questions like "what is the relationship between these two numbers?" I told my son, I don't know, maybe they're dating?

The teacher tells me she thinks he just isn't interested. I think -- why would he be? It's hard to get and it's easy to give up. (And, I must confess, I think things like: who the hell needs to know this stuff? Maybe he won't need this crazy math. Maybe he'll be a writer and will later laugh when he thinks of this math hell).

I also email the teacher to let her know when he's struggling - not that I have to, she can tell. But she's told me to tell her if he clearly doesn't understand the homework and I do. A couple weeks ago I started my note with, "I have to be honest, I didn't understand this" -- and then I hesitated. Why tell her that? It would just make me sound stupid. She already knows he's having problems, and I pictured her reading my email and thinking, "well the apple doesn't fall far from that tree."

But thing is, I can't be afraid to ask questions that make me look dumb because how does that help my son? So I sent the email. Since then, he's tanked another test. I made him redo the wrong answers. It was painful. But amid the yelling (from both of us) because he didn't want to do it, I told him it was important to redo the answers he got wrong.

He shook his head."Why does it even matter?"

Because, I said. You can do this.

You're good at math.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

All I ever needed to know about business I learned from a Billy Idol concert

Spoiler alert: the headline is somewhat of an exaggeration. I’m sure I learned something about business in college. Except that I majored in art, which is more about learning to starve. Or, I could credit the advertising world with what little business savvy I have. But that would be an entirely different article, probably inappropriate for this venue. Instead, I’m taking my cues from a recent night at the House of Blues. Because the same tactics that work at the office are on full display at a Billy Idol concert. Take away the incense and it’s practically Marketing 101.

1. Always Leave ‘Em with White Wedding – AKA, know your audience

That Billy is no fool. The house was packed. There were overpriced t-shirts and tote bags printed with his face. (Because if there’s one thing that marks your fan base as suburban parents, it’s tote bags). Clearly, he knows his way around the soccer mom crowd. The set actually started on time. He knew what we wanted to hear, but he saved it for the encore. He played new songs first, capitalizing on the enthusiasm of middle-aged people who were, frankly, just excited to be out of the house. By 9 p.m., he was playing all the classics, and by 10, he’d played “White Wedding” and was out the door. Pretty genius when half your audience has to get home in time to pay the sitter.

Bottom line: if you give the people what they want – they will gladly shell out $50 for a ticket and $30 for a tote bag. Which is totally carrying juice boxes to three soccer games next weekend.

2. You Don’t Need a Gun – AKA, be polite and persistent to get what you want

Sometimes you need to get people on your side to get things done. Sure, you can try to bully or bribe, but that’s sort of frowned on nowadays, and it’s a lot of work. Call me old-fashioned or lazy, but I’ve found that if you’re just polite and persistent, you can often persuade people to do all kinds of things. This works whether you are trying to tame a tricky client, or get the hosts in the Foundation Room to seat you at a “reserved” table, which for some silly reason they are saving for “members only” (note to House of Blues: you’re a bar, not a country club).

Bottom line: you can accomplish a lot with moxie and manners.

3. All of us were once Sweet Sixteen – AKA, nostalgia sells

They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a lot more than that to get me out of the house after 8. Why stand for hours in a crowd when I could sit at home and watch Downton Abbey, where the couch is comfy and the wine is free?

I’ll tell you why.

Because the first chords of Eyes Without a Face take me back in junior high, rushing off the school bus to meet my best friend, who was bringing her special picture disc single, imported from England. You may not remember picture discs, but they were records (yes, actual records) that had a picture imprinted on them and you had to special order them from an actual record store (Because? The internet? Did not exist?). Once you had it, you could only play it a limited number of times or it would warp or the picture would fade away or something would explode, IDK. What I do know is that we raced into the house, took out the record and stared at it reverentially for maybe ten minutes. And then, finally, she put it on the turntable and we turned the volume knob as loud as it would go until the old German lady across the street asked us to please turn that down. Which we did (politely, of course – see #2). And then we put the record away. Because you could only listen to once.

And Rebel Yell takes me back to the first Christmas after my parents divorced. It was awkward and quiet and didn’t really feel like Christmas. Until we opened presents and I got my very own Sony Walkman with the Rebel Yell cassette tape. After that, nothing else mattered. The uncomfortable silence was filled by the sounds of Billy Idol, in my ears. All.Day.Long. Seriously, I don’t think the headphones came off until dinner.

You can’t download those memories from Netflix. But you can sell me a ticket to see someone who loomed larger than life at a time when I needed it the most.

Bottom line: you can’t go wrong selling people their childhood.

4. Don’t be afraid to Dance with yourself – aka, don’t worry about looking like an idiot

Lots of perfectly good ideas start out sounding ridiculous and stupid to someone (hello, talking pictures?). You can’t be afraid to suggest them, just because you’re afraid someone in a meeting will think you’re an idiot. If they do, they’re the idiot. Tell them Billy said so.

In the same vein, don’t be afraid to jump and down and scream because OMG! He? Just? Came? Out? OnStage!!! Even if one of your friends is using her phone to capture the moment on video. And then puts it on Facebook. And you sound like you’re singing while simultaneously being strangled and having an asthma attack. Who cares? If you get hit by a bus, are you going to regret all the stupid stuff you tried? Of course not. Unless, of course, one of them was playing chicken with a bus. Which is definitely a stupid idea, so don’t try that one – you don’t want to look like an idiot.

Bottom line: don’t worry so much about what other people think of your ideas that you never voice them.

5. Remember, we’re all in this Rat Race together – aka, keep a sense of perspective

Sometimes new ideas are great, sometimes not so much. The Chevy Nova comes to mind, although my mom had one and honestly, it drove just fine. But the point is that in business, as in life, some things will succeed and some will fail. Sometimes it seems like the world just ended because a brochure is late. It hasn’t. The world’s still going, with or without your marketing collateral. Of course, try to do your best, but a sense of perspective goes a long way to preserving your sanity. It’s not rocket science. Unless you work for NASA, in which case, don’t you have more important things to do than read this post?

Let’s say, for example, you go to a concert and have a wonderful time. And after that concert, you’re woken up at 3 am by your dog barking at the life-size mummy on your front porch because your family is way into Halloween. And then you try to calm down the dog, but the wind sets off the motion detectors on the cackling witch, and the googly eyes start flashing in the bushes. Pretty soon you’re stumbling around in the dark trying to find the “off” switches because your entire front yard is like the Spirit Halloween store and the dog is freaking out. Do you lose your mind and declare the entire evening a disaster?

No. You slip the dog salami, go back to bed and wake up two hours later for work. Where you’ll juggle meetings and articles, and something will probably slip through the cracks, despite your best (sleep-deprived) intentions.

Bottom line: we’re all in this together. Do your best, and don’t freak out. Unless, of course, there’s a life-sized mummy on your front porch. Or Billy Idol. In which case?

Call me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Spy Who Snacked with Me. AKA, Royale with Cheez-its

At 6:15 this morning, I thought of James Bond. Actually, I was swimming in our pool (and freezing), and then the giant inflatable dolphin scared me so I had to toss it from the pool. Which made me think of that one James Bond movie where he swims underwater and there's some scene with a diver and maybe someone gets stabbed? IDK. But anyway, that led me to wondering who would play the next Bond. There's been a lot of debate over that, at least according to Yahoo News. And Twitter. So you know, it's legit.

And I got to thinking. What if the new 007 had a new secretary? A sort of flakier, think-she's-still-youngish-but-isn't-really, doesn't-quite-have-her-s***t-together Moneypenney. Let's call her NickelSlots.

And they have a thing -- because of course they do. He's a super cool spy, she's a hot mess. It's a Moonlighting meets Remington Steele meets Bridget Jonesian sort of thing.

And then, naturally, I had to play out the scene in my head.

Scene I:

JB (Strides into room, flicks invisible fleck of dust from impeccably tailored suit and perches on desk). Addresses secretary: NickelSlots,you ravishing creature, did you miss me?

NS (looks up, stashes magazine surreptitiously in trash can): "What? Oh, hey 7. S'up?"

JB: NickelSlots, I asked if you missed me!

NS: Um, yeah! Of course. I mean, obviously I missed you. Wait, did you go somewhere?

JB (to himself): It's like why did I even come back? Yes, I went somewhere. A little place called the Middle East.

NS: Did you have a good trip?

JB: A good trip? I fought ISIS, NickelSlots.

NS: Oh right. So, not good then?

JB: NickelSlots, don't be such a tease. Fetch me a drink. You know the way I like it, shaken, not stirred.

NS: Oh. So about that. The vodka's gone.

JB: What do you mean? Where did it go?

NS: I took it to book club.

JB: You took vodka to a book club?

NS: Duh.

JB: Why do you drink at a book club?

NS: Why would you NOT drink at a book club?

JB (sighs): NickelSlots, do you have anything to drink?

NS: Yeah. Hold on. Want some wine? (Holds up bottle of Yellow Tail Chardonnay).

JB (disgustedly): Oh. Fine. Do you have anything to eat with that?

NS: Goldfish?

JB: Nickel, really. Haven't you any Cheez-its, at least?

NS: Please. You know Cheez-its go straight to my hips.

JB: Oh, yes, let's talk about your hips.

NS: Let's not. Actually, let's talk about your expense report.

JB: Uh...

NS (fiddles with drawer, brings out receipt): So says here you wrecked an Asto-something?

JB: An Aston Martin, NickelSlots. A very nice car.

NS: Yeah, well I don't care if it was Ashton Kutchner, this bill's like $200 grand. What the hell?

JB: Let me explain.

NS: Hold up, hold up, I'ma let you finish. But first? Explain this (holds up photo of attractive blonde).

JB. Oh. That.

NS: Uh-huh.

JB: That's Svetlana Oblisky. KGB.

NS: KGB my ass. Svetlana rides the pole at Babydolls, doesn't she?

JB (leering): when am I going to ride your pole, NickelSlots?

NS: Soon as you pay me back all the singles from petty cash. I make $50K and you get your salary in, like, gold bars or something.

JB: NickelSlots, you know I'll always take care of you.

NS: Take care of your s*** . The rest of us have to pay for stuff, you know. Even the queen pays taxes.

JB: Royal family stalking again, are we?

NS: I don't know what you're talking about.

JB: What's that magazine you're trying to hide in the dustbin, Nickels?

NS: What magazine? There's no magazine.

JB: Prince Harry's on the cover of OK! again, isn't he?

NS: Shut up. No. I don't even read that. Also? Prince Harry was on the cover last week.

JB: Aha. I know you too well, NickelSlots. When are we going to do this?

NS: Do what?

JB: Us. You and me. Man and woman. The beast with two backs.

NS: British guys are so polite. It's like you can't even be crude without quoting a 16th century playwright.

JB: Oh, you slay me. Answer me, Nicks. When are we going to face the inevitable and give in to our baser natures?

NS: Right now.

JB: Seriously?

NS: Seriously.

JB (loosens tie): Oh NickelSlots.

NS: Nice tie. Is that gray?

JB: Fifty shades of it, darling.

NS: I love it when you street talk me, 007. Open my desk drawer.

JB: Oooh, yes. What's in here? Toys? Whips?

NS: Better.

JB: Now you've aroused my curiosity. What could be better? Handcuffs? (Peers in drawer)

NS: You'll see.

JB: Oh, NickelSlots.

NS: Oh, James.

JB: Are those what I think they are?

NS: Yes they are.

JN: I love it when you're naughty, Nicks.

NS: Bust out the Cheez-its, 007. I snack hardcore.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Juicing a la Snoop Dog

Day 3 of this awful experiment known as #juiceapalooza.

After only managing to consumer 2 1/3 bottles of the wretched stuff (Foul green, Too-gingery orange and Aloe Vera Surprise), I returned home to find what can only be described as a total dinner fail. The pork in the crock pot, ostensibly barbecue, had a smell and a texture that absolutely no one in their right mind would consume.

I chalk this up to making dinner early yesterday morning while foaming at the mouth in a juice famine frenzy. (Slow cooker meals + juice fast = really terrible food).

Fortunately, I had actually eaten a few lettuce leaves yesterday, and I credit the salad dressing with giving me enough fat to fuel my brain cells. Sometimes, you just gotta admit defeat and call papajohns.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was pizza time. Call me bastardizing a classic, but I bet Charles Dickens never tried slow cooker pork bbq while juicing (A Tale of Two Collards?)

Lucky for me, the pizza arrived before the kids realized how close they came to eating pork mush. Unlucky for me, pizza didn't stop them from trying to drown each other in the pool. And because I am THE WORST MOM EVER, I made them come inside. I know, I'm such a witch - it's just this thing I have? Where I don't like my kids to kill each other?

Towels were flung, there was a lot of smacking and a last-minute showdown with Nerf guns (there is a special place in Hell for you, Nerf). I barely made it through the drama unscathed, and honestly, I had to eat the rest of my son's pizza before I totally lost my s*** and went all Mommy Dearest on the little scamps.

Eventually, people went to bed. Only to get up about 5 times. Because there is a ghost that lives in my son's closet. I mean, duh. Everyone knows that.

What seemed like days later, I found myself wandering into the kitchen and reaching for an open bottle of Chardonnay. And before you judge, let me point out that wine comes from grapes.

Which are fruit.
Fruit liquefied = juice.
And there you go.

This is my last day. I have 2 juices at work. I am ignoring them. I hope a magic fairy sneaks into my cube and devours them. (Also? If that magic fairy could turn my office into a cute balcony in the French Quarter, I'd be down with that, too)

So here, in summary, are the top ten things I've learned from this nutritional fiasco:

1. I said it before, I will say it again. Collards + bacon = yes. Collards in a glass = no. It's that simple.

2. Satan, thy name is beets. In fact I'm pretty sure in Hell, every meal is beets. Except on Tuesdays when they serve meatloaf.

3. Never trust a green drink unless you're on a balcony with Pierce Brosnan. In which case, don't hate being a foregone conclusion. Hate that your breakfast is compost instead of a croissant.

4. If God intended us to drink aloe vera, He would not have made it so effective as a sunburn treatment.

5. Things that go on the outside of your body don't belong inside. I don't care what you think 9 1/2 weeks taught you, or what chichi restaurant is serving lavender ice cream. Just say no to #lotionfood.

6. Did I mention that beets are evil? I can't emphasize this enough. Really, really bad.

7. I am not a very nice person when I'm hungry.

8. I am slightly more pleasant after a slice of pizza.

9. I am WAY nicer after a glass of wine.

10. As God is my witness, I will never juice again. Unless, of course, the juice in question comes with a side of gin, or in a glass bottle.

With a cork.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Beets are the devil

Day 2 of Juiceapalooza, AKA, another ridiculous idea I vow not to repeat

After one day of juicing (which I hope NEVER to use as a verb again), I can report the following:

1. Collards belong in bacon, not my glass

2. Beets are the devil. They are evil, and should only be permitted to exist in pickled form, nestled next to a bratwurst and potato salad or nowhere on this planet.

3. Drinking raw fruits and vegetables is not making me crave more "real" foods. It is, in fact, having the opposite effect. I came home last night never wanting to face another green thing again. I wanted bread, pasta, cheese and Cheez-its. (Now here's an idea: a Cheez-its and Chardonnay fast. Who's with me?)

4. I did not feel energized, I felt hungry. Also? Making meatballs for my family while contemplating another bottle of green sludge did not make me appreciate my newfound health. It made me mad.

5. I grabbed an apple late last night, and I noticed something. It tasted pretty good, except I kept thinking it would be so much better if it didn't taste like apple juice. Which made me realize: I don't actually like juice. I never drink it. I sort of like grapefruit juice. And I like OJ in a Mimosa. But unless I'm mistaken, and there is actually a juice fast in which everything gets mixed with Champagne, I may have picked the wrong diet.

But -- once again quoting Scarlett O'Hara, tomorrow is another day. And it's today. I woke up ... well, hungry, but I did manage to walk the dog and swim. And then, when I was getting dressed, I noticed one ear piercing is lower than the other, causing one earring to look longer than the other. Is this the "new mental clarity" the juicing gurus spoke of?

To make this morning's green monster more palatable, I dumped it in the blender with a few strawberries and half a banana. It was better. Not good. But more like strawberry-banana grass, instead of apple grass, which is an improvement in my book.

But three hours later, I was still extremely hungry. I could have totally gone medieval on some waffles. But I ate 2 boiled eggs instead. Because that's a party. And because I was so annoyed by the raw food philosophy of the juice company, I had to eat something cooked just out of spite.

What lunatic decided cooking was bad, anyway? No, please, don't tell me. I don't care. I just know it's wrong. Some things are just better with a little heat. Collards, for one. That's right, juicing people, you have now made me hate collard greens. I'm from Kentucky, for God's sake, why don't you just take away every piece of my culinary cultura heritage, piece by piece?

What's next, RAW CHICKEN?

Day 2, juice 3: I'm skipping juice #2, because it was that orange-gingery thing that's OK. But juice #3 I couldn't deal with yesterday, so this is my first taste.

BLECH. First, never trust anything with a label that reads, "Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium + Love."

I'm pretty sure if love has a taste, it's not cucumber juice.

Second, aloe vera? I'm not into drinking lotion. That's just me.

Third, pineapple juice. Why couldn't we just lead with that? It's listed first as an ingredient, which gave me hope. But it's not the dominant flavor. Cucumber and aloe vera are stealing the show here, so basically this juice tastes like something I should be plastering on my face, not ingesting. So maybe I should go home and dump this in the tub, turn on some Enya and call this a spa bath.

Or ... maybe I'll just dump it in the trash.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's not easy being green.

School has started this week! And I am kicking off the year with yet another good idea gone bad. Kaboomtown was a warmup. Great Wolf Lodge? Please, that was one night. This week, I'm taking on 3 days of well-intentioned torture.

I'm doing a juice fast.

A. My house and the people in it were sick all summer long. And this is the first week of school, aka, germs'r'us. I need an immunity boost.

B. I don't take vitamins. Not for any particular reason, I just don't remember to take them. Like ever. I cannot tell you how many bottles of vitamins have come into my medicine cabinet only to die a slow death by expiration. Surely 3 days of juice made from fresh veggies and fruits will be like a year of vitamins, right?

C. After the summer of sickness and lethargy, my motivation to get up at 4:45 am to work out is, shall we say, lacking. Maybe this will get my groove back. (Sadly, not the kind Stella had, which I doubt comes from blended kale).

I ordered premade, frozen juices so I wouldn't have to make them myself. Because if I'm buying a case of produce, I'm cooking it, probably with olive oil, parmesan and pasta - I'm not throwing it into the blender. Having spent the money, I'm committed, for three days at least. Finally, if all else fails --I'm counting on this blog to keep me on track. If I write it down, I have to do it.

Day 1, Drink 1: I pull out of the carpool lane and pop open the first juice. It's green. I've never drank anything green in my entire life, unless you count an overzealously sour-mixed frozen margarita. This juice is not a margarita.

First sip: tastes like apple-flavored grass, with a lot of sugar. Like someone took lawn mower clippings and whipped them up with Mott's. The look? Remember that evil green concoction Rene Russo drinks in The Thomas Crown Affair? When she's sitting on a balcony with Pierce Brosnan the morning after, and as his servant delivers her drink, she says, "I hate being a forgone conclusion."

You know what I hate? This juice. Also, I'd be in a much better mood if I were sipping this on a balcony with Pierce Brosnan. Forcing myself to gulp it down while driving to work? Not the same.

I read the label: apple juice, lemon juice, kale juice, carrot juice, collard juice. Collard juice? Why is that a thing? I like collards, but I eat them with bacon, onions and hot pepper vinegar. The way God intended. Not in a juice. Just. No. Also, how does this juice have 26 grams of sugar? I start calculating all the different foods I could have eaten for that much sugar. Not a good idea, as it just makes me simultaneously hungry and nauseated.

I finish as much of the sludge as I can, leaving an inch of weirdly grainy, chunky stuff in the bottom and head into the office. An hour later, my head hurts and I could kill someone for a cracker.

Day 1, Drink 2: this one's orange, which at least is an actual color of something drinkable. I set it on my desk. I try to make myself open it. No can do. I start bargaining with myself. I'll drink this one after I write an article. And open job numbers for new fact sheets, which is a task I avoid like the plague (which came to Yosemite this year, you know. But I won't get it because I'll be all healthy from this horrible juice. Maybe the plague would be better).

Finally, I've procrastinated as much as I can (juice-crastinate? I think I just invented a word) and I unscrew the lid. Smells like orange. Tastes like orange. With a LOT of ginger. Why? Never mind, I'm sure there's some health reason for ruining what could be a decent glass of OJ, but still. It's WAY better than the green one. It's slightly frozen in the center, but apart from that and the excessive ginger, it's pretty palatable.

One can only hope that juice #3 will be similarly not-awful. I peek at the bottle. Oh dear. Beets. Stay tuned...

UPDATE Day 1, Juice 3. I could not face it at lunch. I bought a teeny container of carrots and hummus. Which is basically juice, unliquified, right? (Juice. Unliquified. Sounds like a movie starring Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder. In the 90s. Sorry, hunger is making me stupid).

So this one is beets. I take a sip. SWEET JESUS that is awful! I mean. Really bad. It's the color purple. Think of Oprah, I tell myself, holding my nose. She faced discrimination and prison time in that movie. Surely I can drink one bottle of beet juice.

4 sips later ... and no. I just can't do it. It is literally the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth. Even if I hold my nose, as soon as I swallow, I taste ... dark, damp dirt. And not like the kind you brush off a fresh peach, but like the dirt from an ummarked grave. I taste evil. That's it; beets are evil. How did I not know this?

I think beet juice just knocked liver out of the top spot on my Most Hated Foods list, and those are not words I use lightly. I'm thinking of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, and yes, I realize that was a turnip, but you know what scene I'm talking about.

"As God is my witness, I'll never drink beet juice again."

Glass half full: this is my only beet juice for the day.
Glass half empty: there are 3 juices left.
And they're all green.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who's Afraid of Great Wolf Lodge?

We came, we saw, we howled.

I'm not quoting hipster beat poetry. I'm talking about Sunday night at Great Wolf Lodge.

Yes, we did it. Because we are either: clinically insane, suspiciously self-punishing, or just not very good at remembering how poorly we sleep in a hotel room with children.

Our last whirlwind trip, 4th of July, was somewhat of a bust. We still don't speak of "Kaboom Town" in my house, and the mere mention of Addison, Texas, causes us to recoil and squeal "Voldemort" while retreating under the covers with bug spray and wine.

Okay, possibly that's just me. But my point is this: our first "fun family adventure" was heavy on the 'adventure' part, light on the fun. And, as previously mentioned, I had decided to forgo an extended family trip this year in favor of Fridays off and more time with the kids. Clearly I forgot that I actually meant my kids, not 5,000 other random kids I don't know.

And their parents.
And everyone else.
In the world.

Sunday morning started out ... not really well, to be honest. I had promised the boys we'd wake up early and go on a pre-dawn bike ride, which is something we like to do because ... I'm an idiot and we did it once and then I bought these bike lights and was all "yeah, we're gonna do this every weekend." And the boys were all excited (okay, the youngest was excited, the other was like, "so what, I hate everything!" because he's in training for puberty).

I overslept. So no early dawn bike ride with glimpses of woodland creatures (on Saturday we saw a bunny! and a rat!) Lucky for me, my youngest was so excited about Great Wolf Lodge, he woke me up at 6:45 am to ask if it was already light outside (it was).

And what time are we leaving for Great Wolf Lodge? (noon)

And what year were you born, Mommy? (none of your business)

When I answered this question, he scrunched up his face and asked, "But wouldn't that make you, like, 85?" And then he cackled hysterically and left the room to pack.

Within ten minutes, he was sporting a matching ensemble, including footwear and showing me that "of course I packed two swimsuits, matching swim shirts and extra underwear!" His brother told me he packed his own bag, too, but I checked it and found a swimsuit, one flip flop and three stuffed alligators.

Two loads of laundry, one wet dog and an angry meltdown later (rage, thy name is 3rd grade), we were on the road. Oh, and a quick stop at Steak and Shake, where my youngest SWORE he liked the hot dogs, and then it came and it was sliced down the middle and he said, "Oh. I changed my mind. I'm not hungry" at which point, his brother seized the opportunity and piped up with a breakout monologue about how much he loved his burger. Because with two boys?
A Competition.

40 minutes later (when are we going to get there? Can I play on your Kindle? Is this Grapevine yet? Are we going on an airplane? Is there a gift shop?) we rolled into the parking lot. In spite of myself, I was a little excited, I mean, there was a giant wolf statue. That's kind of cool, right?

Then I hit the registration line. You know when you go to an amusement park and the lines are all zig-zaggy because they make you snake your way through an obstacle course before getting on a roller coaster? This was kind of the same, only instead of making me throw up by flinging me upside down, they just flashed a bunch of numbers and forms that made me dizzy and suddenly buying the optional add-on "wolf pack" passes for my kids made perfect sense.

They're very clever, those wolves. I suspect coyotes are working behind the scenes. Anyway, we finally got our passes and our wristbands and our room was ready. The kids could barely contain themselves. They raced down the hall (joke was on them, though, because guess whose wristband opened the door?)

And it was everything they dreamed of.

Bunk bed? Check
"Wolf den" sign? Check
Their own TV? Oh yeah, check.

Seriously, we could have spent the first hour watching FIFA soccer because so they were drunk with the power of their own television, I think they might have forgotten about the water park. Silly us, we told them to turn off the TV.

You know what I like about water parks? I don't.

I like swimming, but not with 10,000 new friends. And the "lazy river" was more of a "hey, don't scrape your knees as the waves pound you into the belly of a perfect stranger" river.

So we moved onto the wave pool, which was kind of fun, if your idea of fun is hoping your kids don't drown. I say "hope" because you can't actually see them anymore, so you have no choice but to adopt a Blanche DuBois attitude about the whole thing. "Ah have always depended on the kindness of strangers ... to save mah kids."

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the water slides beckoned.

Alas, the youngest was too short to ride the "Tornado," so he and I headed for the kiddie slide. It was was pretty crowded so I hung out below and tried to find him in line. I didn't notice other people, bigger kids and grown men, coming to stand near me. Didn't notice when a sound like a train whistle came from above. I figured that was part of the water slide.

Didn't notice anything, as a matter of fact, until 50,000 gallons of water crashed down on my head.

Because yeah, I'm the dummy standing under the giant water bucket. Spying another adult similarly soaked, I said (thinking I was commiserating) "I did not see that coming."

"Really?" He asked, before shooting a pointed glance up at the bucket and then back down at me. And then I realized all the other guys were standing there to get smacked by water on purpose.

Dudes, the Atlantic Ocean will do that to you for free.

Apres le deluge, moi. And after the waterslide, we found my husband. He had just taken our oldest on the Tornado.

Remember the scene in Death at a Funeral where Alan scoots across the room with an awful smile of fear, trying to pretend there is not a possibly-dead Peter in the study?

If you haven't seen it, stop reading this and go watch it right now. Then picture that face on a man who has just gone down a water slide with his 8-year-old.

"Hey," I asked, trying to be peppy. "How was the tornado?"

My son surprised me by grinning and saying, "Really, really scary! Like, really scary! And I want do it again!"

After he swam away, I asked my husband, "So ... how was it?"

"It was really, really scary," he mumbled through gritted teeth. "And, I don't want to do it again. I just want to sit in this pee-filled pool and try to forget that ever happened."

Since he was clearly suffering from Tornado-induced PTSD, I volunteered for "let's buy a bunch of crap we don't need because Mommy's a sucker and bought the wolf pass" duty.

Swim goggles I could have bought at Target? Check
Glitter tattoos? Check
Magic wands, along with a clue book and instructions I didn't understand for playing MagicQuest? Check

Then we hit the Creation Station/aka build-a-wolf. I was on such a roll, I thought this would be easy. But there was unepxected confusion on my kids' part as they looked at the limp, unstuffed bodies and thought they were getting screwed out of an actual stuffed animal. Finally, one of them said, "Oh, we get to pick any one of these AND it's going to be a real toy? That we can keep? FOR FREE?"

The 20-something kid manning the cash register cracked a jaded smile. "Yeah, that's right, kids," he said making air quotes as he said, "it's free, right, Mom?"

I think someone might have spent too many hours in the build-a-wolf booth.

But the kids didn't notice, they were too busy pumping the pedal on the creepy stuffing machine (because nothing's more adorable than kids pretending to work in a sweat shop).

And yes, I got suckered further into purchasing the "optional" clothing for the critters. Naked wolves? Not on my watch, pal -- this is a family trip.

I didn't even care that I just spent $18 on clothing for toys. Because it was only 5:30 and we'd knocked out half the Wolf Pass list. Then my youngest took off running up the stairs to some treehouse, bent down and promptly lost his brand-new ball cap and wolf ears. In all of 2 seconds.

We raced back down to the first level, I looked everywhere & was starting to sweat when my son found his hat. On some other kid's head.

Confession: I wasn't 100% sure it was his hat. To be honest, I barely remembered the hat, except that it was new and it was Under Armour, which is a big deal among the K-3 crowd.

I take no credit for this - my 6 year old walked over to the kid, started talking and soon a small crowd had formed. Then he walked back to me smiling and wearing his hat. I'm not sure what he said, but I think he may have a bright future in the legal field someday.

Then we limped up to the lobby, where they made him howl for a second pair of wolf ears. I'm not kidding and yes, he did it. I told you -- future lawyer.

The rest of the evening was a blur.

Dinner - check!
3-D family portraits - check!
Personalized leather bracelets they've already lost - check!

Goth girls sporting wolf ears, magic wands, and too much makeup - check! (Because nothing spells dark and edgy like staying at a theme park hotel. With your parents).

Youth and black eyeliner are so wasted on the young.

Story time in the lobby with a very peppy guy named Jonathan who led the kids in games and stories and then told all the kids there was a dance party at 9:30 pm and they could stay up ALL NIGHT and wouldn't that be AWESOME - check!

Angry trek to elevators with 2 kids who wanted to swim and dance ALL NIGHT - check!

Cue montage of wrestling kids, semi-dressed build-a-wolves and TV volume turned up WAY HIGHER THAN ANYONE SHOULD EVER LISTEN TO A SOCCER GAME, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Somehow by 10:30ish, both kids were asleep. My husband, playing the role previously established by me in "Kaboom town" had come down with a tubucular cough. That, and the dulcet tones of snoring, lulled us to a few restless hours of sleep.

The good news for me? I had to work the next day, and I left the Lodge at 7 am.

The bad news for my husband? See above.

They rolled into the house around 2:30, still clutching build-a-wolves, sticky cups of soda, and for some reason, rubber sharks, peppering everything with "Next time we go to Great Wolf Lodge..."

When they'd taken their wolfen booty up the stairs, I took my husband aside. "Did you tell them when the 'next time' we'd go to Great Wolf Lodge might be?"

"Sure," he said, coughing. "When they have kids of their own."


So yeah, who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Not us.

And 2 weeks from now, my husband is taking our oldest to NYC -- maybe I'll get HIM to write a post for that trip,. Me, I'll just be hanging at home with the 6-year-old. Maybe catching up on Cupcake Wars. Or maybe we'll have a sleepover. That'll be super calm and relaxing.

But, guess what book I just pre-ordered? Birnbaum's Guide to Disney 2016.

Because yes.

We're going to Disneyland.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kaboom Town: A terrifying tale of fireworks, fire ants and rollaway beds

A family battles oppressive heat, terrifying crowds and cruel stinging beasts only to lose their youngest child in a freak elevator accident. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a horror movie, right?

That was last weekend.

4th of July. America's birthday. Or, as I now think of it,

The Worst. Holiday. Ever.

It all started out, as many bad ideas do, with a trip to Sea World. Every summer, my husband and I debate where to take the kids (2 boys, 8 and 6) on vacation. Every year, he suggests trying someplace new and every year I lobby for Naples, Florida. What can I say? I know what I like. Uncrowded beaches, Cuban food, and, it must be said, the best tacos in the world. We live in Texas. We don't joke about things like tacos.

This year was no different. He wanted DC and New York. I didn't want to spend precious vacation time chasing a six year old through Manhattan. He wanted East Coast, I wanted the Gulf Coast. He suggested North Carolina, but the sharks beat us there. Finally, I had a vision (panic attack). This was our first summer living in a house with our very own pool, why go anywhere? Instead of cramming family time into one frenzied week, why not take off Fridays, chill chez nous and enjoy long weekends all summer? I pictured poolside playdates with popicles and sangria. Channeling Karen Blixen, I thought:

I had a pool. In Texas.

Knowing, of course, that my husband would think this plan sucked, I proposed we kick it off with a road trip somewhere we'd never been. And that place was Sea World, San Antonio. Clearly, I'm a masochist. No one with any real sense of self-preservation would propose a trip to Sea World over the biggest holiday weekend of the summer. But I know my husband. Go big or go home is his M.O. And you can't get bigger than Shamu. So I booked it. We were set. We told the kids, they were happy, and all was good.

Then I got sick. Sinus infection, bronchitis. 3 miserable weeks, and suddenly it was time for Sea World and I was still coughing up a lung or two. So, plan B. (really, more like plan Z at this point, but who's counting?). We offered my sons a choice: go to San Antonio with Dad and I would stay home and rest or - EVEN BETTER KIDS - see the biggest fireworks display in Texas, a mere 15 minutes away in Addison. Even typhoid moi could hack that. So it all came down to Orcas or Mommy. They chose me. But then, Shamu's not paying their allowance.

I booked a hotel to avoid traffic and to make it an ADVENTURE. On Friday, July 3rd, we dropped off the dog, packed our bags, and headed down the road toward the Hotel Intercontinental. What would we do first? Swim in the pool? Jump on the bed? Hit the Kaboom Town fair, reported to be chock full of carnival rides, corny dogs and a daredevil air show? Life seemed so full of possibilities.

And then I checked us in. The line at the front desk should have been my first clue. Families everywhere, clutching tote bags, toddlers, pool toys and cases of beer. But, hey - that was us, minus the beer (ok, fine: mini boxed wine had been stashed in the cooler bag in case of emergency). When I finally made it to the front and learned we were in a room with one king bed, for the four of us, I tried not to get upset. I asked for a rollaway bed. After all, we were here for fun and fireworks, not hanging out in the room. Plus, my husband was sure there was a couch.

Ten minutes later, after waiting for an overheated elevator, we entered our room. If by "couch" they meant a small chair with smaller ottoman, tucked into a corner next to the "we're calling it a king" sized bed, then sure, there was a couch. There was also a phone that did not work, not enough towels and the room was too hot. I'll admit it, I was frustrated by the accommodations, but as my spouse so gallantly reminded me: "Hey, this was your idea, I went along with it, so let's have fun." Wise words from someone who had already spied the pool scene on his way in from the parking garage, and opted to stay in the room and wait for the rollaway bed while I took the boys swimming.

Because yeah, the pool. Picture a small L-shaped pool with a wooden deck. Now picture 200 people in that pool, about 30 of whom had squeezed into the hot tub, most of them under 5. Because nothing goes with hot tubs like toddlers and swim diapers.

My kids were loving it. Or at least from what I could see, since they ditched me the moment we hit the pool and disappeared into a sea of swimsuits and beer cozies. I found my youngest, frolicking in the e-Coli-warmed waters of the hot tub. "Come in, Mommy!" he urged. But alas, I couldn't see a spare inch of cement and also? I was already hot. And I'm talking body temperature. I did not have nearly enough self confidence or tattoos to pull off the swimwear some other braver (drunker) ladies than I were sporting. To them, I say bravo. To me, I say stick with the tankini.

After 30 minutes of constant head-swiveling to make sure my kids weren't drowning, alternated with tubercular coughing that earned me more than a few stink-eyes from the other moms, I called it. "Come on, kids," I said with all the bravado I could muster, "let's dry off and go to Kaboom Town!"

We left the pool and walked back toward the elevators. I noticed quite a few people in traditional Indian dress milling around tables laden with brochures and merchandise. According to a nearby sign, there was a conference going on. A meditation conference.

Yeah. Let that sink in.

One gentleman sported a sign around his neck saying "silence." I had to wonder who planned this and was it someone's idea of a joke? "Y'all should totally have your quiet meditation conference in Texas over 4th of July! It'll be AWESOME!" I hoped they already knew how to meditate, because judging from the now block-long line of folks waiting for check-in, it was gonna take a lot o' deep breathing to keep it karmic in this mess.

We left our plucky Hindu neighbors behind and entered the belly of the beast, AKA, Kaboom Town. I was picturing a few rides, maybe a bounce house, and some food vendors. What I was not picturing was a mini state fair, complete with long admission lines, purse searches and total chaos. Thickly crowded already at 5, when the gates had just opened. Shoving past food lines, the kids spotted the Midway and before I knew what was happening, I was abandoned with the blanket to "save our spot" while the hubby and kiddos headed for the tilt-a-whirl. I hunkered down to do more coughing and watch the family next to me plop what looked like a three month old baby on a pillow (aren't those, like, illegal for babies?), while some dude in a suit juggled nearby.

What seemed like hours later, my own family returned, sweating and red, hungry and thirsty. I took the kids on a quest for corny dogs, as they whimpered about how tired they were, and I tried not to lose them in a surge of patriotic tank tops. We made it through 2 foot-long corn dogs before accepting the reality that yes, Virginia, there is a hell. And it is called Kaboom Town.

The escape route is a blur, but I'm sure we traveled miles to get out of that park. I vaguely recall a vendor hawking plastic swords. I may have bought one. At that point, arming the six-year-old seemed like a good idea. Stumbling free of the melee, we spotted an ice cream truck, standing like a mirage in a bank parking lot. We stopped. There was a line. And then, a lovely line of parachutes floated into view. As we watched, I became aware of a strange stinging sensation. "I think something bit me," I said.

My husband, wearing the angry expression of someone waiting on a dozen people to buy rocket pops with debit cards, asked impatiently, "Well, what are you standing on?" I looked down.

An ant hill.

I was standing on a fire ant hill.

I jumped off, foraged through my bag for water bottles, which I emptied onto my burning toes. A couple young men lounging nearby elbowed each other. "Oooh, girl. That's gonna swell." Yep. Pretty much.

I hopped up and down on my toes till the damn popsicles were purchased. Also? The air show started. Zooming planes, death rolls, blah, blah, blah. I could have cared less. All I knew was that my @#$% feet were on @#$$% fire.

We limped back to the hotel. My youngest wanted to swim again. Why not? At least my feet would be cool. So we suited up and headed for the elevators. One opened, but I noticed it was going up. "Wrong one," I pointed out as my youngest stepped inside. "Come back out!" He froze.

And then? The doors started to close. I stuck out my hand, thinking the motion would stop the doors. I thought wrong.

Seeing no slowing down in the door motion, I yanked back my hand just in time as the doors closed ... almost. There was a half-inch gap left, through which I could see my son put his hands to his face as he let out one quick scream.

"Don't worry!" I shouted. "Hit door open! Hit door close!" Nothing worked. We called downstairs. One engineer came. Then two more. They wrestled with the doors. They muttered words like "fire department" and "malfunctioning." They called 911. I tried to cheer up my son by telling him he might get rescued by firemen! (Maybe that was more for me). Glass half full: all this adrenaline was doing wonders for my cough.

Finally, the three of them yanked open the doors enough for him to slip through. I hugged him. We fled to our room, where I declared, "Enough! This ends now, we're going home."

"I'm already ahead of you," my husband replied. "We're all packed."

"We're going?" my youngest asked. "But I wanted to go swimming!" he wailed.

"We HAVE a pool. You can swim at home!" My husband offered.

"But I wanted to swim here! It's more fun!" He continued to cry, "And I wanted ... I wanted to sleep in the rollaway bed!"

My oldest son and I exchanged glances. I looked at my husband. "He's the one who got stuck," I said, sighing. "If he wants to stay..."

So we went BACK to the elevators, a bit more cautiously this time. Well, I was more cautious, Mr. Invincible just skipped merrily onto the next elevator without a care. Ah, to be six. This time, the hot tub was closed and marked with yellow caution tape. I suspect the swim diapers.

An hour later, I had pried them back out of the pool again and we were sitting in lawn chairs on the top of the hotel parking garage with our cooler, stocked with juice boxes, bottled water and oh yes, the emergency wine.

Which I promptly broke out.

The fireworks were spectacular.

And when they were done, my youngest happily crawled into the rollaway bed and went immediately to sleep. My husband, our 8 year old, and I all squashed into the bed. I think my pillow might have been made out of a sand bag, because I woke up with a stabbing pain in my neck.

By 6:30 am, we were mostly awake, packed and ready to go. "I want out of here," my husband said. "I don't want to shower here, I don't want to eat here, I just want to leave." I had to agree. All that was left was to wake up my other son.

"Five more minutes," he mumbled.

"C'mon, bud," I said, "it's time to go."

"Aww, do we have to leave?"

"Yeah," I said as I urged him out of bed. "We're kind of done here. We want to go home."

He cast one mournful look around the room before we left, saying, "I wish we could stay longer, this is the best hotel ever."

"Really?" his older brother asked. "You got stuck in the elevator!"

My youngest just shrugged his skinny little shoulders and said, "Yeah, but I sure did like that rollaway bed."


So yes, we survived Kaboom Town.

We made it home in one piece, blistered toes and all.

On our windshield, incidentally, was a meditation brochure, which I totally meant to read .. but the dog ate it before I had a chance.

As God is my witness, I will never go to Kaboom Town again.

I will sit by my pool, sipping something while calmly, peacefully watching the boys swim.

Don't worry, though, I haven't ruled out family fun.

Because next month?

The kids want to go to Great Wolf Lodge.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Life is like an cable series

I'm usually too tired to watch TV, which is a shame because I hear there's some real good stuff out there. But you know, with 2 boys and a dog, I kind of feel like I already live the plots of most programs anyway.

Relentless violence? Check.
Unruly animals? Check.
Conniving family members squabbling/scrambling for control/attention/the last ice cream sandwich? Yep.

So it got me thinking -- what if TV dramas were recast in real life? Flipping through the DVR, I see more than a few titles I could imagine filmed chez moi:

Game of Playstation
Scheming family members fight each other and a ferocious beast to gain control of the video game remote. Will the father finally get to play Madden 2015 alone? Will the youngest brother ever get to pick the team in MLB Baseball? Or will the overweight golden retriever end clan warfare forever by eating through the remote charger wires?

House of Cards ... that no one can ever find the entire deck to play a #$$% game with
Move over Kevin Spacey, there's a new Machiavelli in town. He's six, he's cute and he'll do anything to keep his older brother from winning at Go Fish ... or any game, for that matter.
Got a 3?
Got a Jack?
Got an entire bag of Cheetos stashed under your bed?
Go fish, brother. Go fish.

Truly Annoyed Detective: A grisly crime scene involving fossilized pizza and a melted popsicle haunts a mother bent on assigning blame. After days of grueling interrogation, guilt is finally pinned on the family dog, but the case is flimsy and based purely on circumstantial evidence involving a chewed-up popsicle stick. Days turn into nights as Mom drowns her frustrations in grocery store Chardonnay and speculates about what might have happened. Eventually the mystery drives her mad. She carjacks a minivan and goes on a cross-country crime spree, robbing convenient stores of Clorox wipes and Red Bull. Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn guest star. Because I want them to. Ok? STOP ASKING ME SO MANY QUESTIONS!

The Originals: Snack Food Wars
Mayhem and murder result when a mom attempts to pass off store-brand snack food as the real thing. Not unlike its namesake Vampire Diaries spinoff, this show features ravenous young men who quickly turn to rage and destruction when denied the food that sustains them. Warning: graphic violence and disturbing imagery. The "Target Goldfish" episode may be shocking to sensitive viewers

NCIS: Your Brother's Room
A suburban home is turned upside down when the entire contents of a dresser drawer are found on the floor of an eight-year-old boy. Tensions flare as he is unable to find the ONE soccer jersey that he wants to wear today. You know? That one? It's red? No, not that one, Mom! WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN TO ME? I HATE THIS FAMILY! What? It's in my brother's room? WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS STEALING MY STUFF? I HATE YOUUUUUU!

Survivor Suburbia
Two boys are left to fend for themselves in the wilds of suburban Dallas. The rules of society quickly break down (like, in the first ten minutes) as they squabble over a game of Twister and half a Twizzlers package. Bed sheets are torn apart and turned into tribal flags, a barter system is quickly established using juice boxes and Rice Krispy treats, and political dominance is established through physical prowess and really, really loud screaming. A must-watch for the elementary set, Season 1 ends with a cliffhanger when Mom comes home from work and finds out Dad took a nap.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reality TV Shows of my dreams

I'm not hugely into reality shows, because if I watch TV, it's because I've run out of things to read and I am heading AWAY from reality, not toward it. But if I do, I don't want to watch another episode of The Bachelorette or any show where people eat scorpions or yell at each other. I'd like something new, something fun - something I could really enjoy while downing a glass (or three) of wine.

So in case anyone's asking, here's a few ideas for new reality tv shows:

1. The Real Tired Moms of Every County. Follow the exciting lives of working moms and SAHMs as they fight to stay conscious while entertaining kids/working on power point presentations and making dinner nobody eats. Like ever. All while secretly wishing every day was a national holiday devoted to drinking margaritas and flirting with cabana boys.

2. 2 kids and counting... till happy hour! I don't think this needs explaining. If so, I got a couple "energetic" boys you could borrow for the day. You'll get it.

3. Master Chef: Family Meltdown. Gordon Ramsay visits your home and yells at everyone to come to the #$%^ table and eat this @#$% dinner you bloody well #$$^ just cooked. Bonus? Your kids finally @#$$ eat.

4. Extreme Mom Makeover: a team of experts sweeps into town, gives an unsuspecting mom fabulous hair and a new wardrobe from somewhere that does not also sell milk and dog food, plies her with wine, redoes her house and send the entire family to group therapy while Mom hits the club. With the cabana boy.

5. The Getaway Girls New Orleans Reality Show: yes, shameless book plug but hear me out. Let loose 4 grown women in the Big Easy, hide a pile of money and clues all over town, add lots of booze, a dash of voodoo and possibly strippers. Think Survivor meets Twilight meets The Big Easy meets The Amazing Race meets ... well ... strippers. It's got sex, mojitos and great hair.

Now who wouldn't want to see that?


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

God is in the cupcakes

You wouldn't think cupcakes could lead to a religious rant. But if you've ever planned a 6 year old's birthday party, you know some cursing is involved, so hear me out.

Last weekend, I visited my neighborhood Tom Thumb to order cupcakes for my son's birthday party. Having already been told by him that he wanted Paw Patrol themed goodies, and having ordered enough cakes in my time to know how impossible that would be, I came prepared. This was not my first rodeo. I remember only too well last year's fruitless quest for a Power Rangers cake. This year I planned ahead.

So I strolled up to the bakery counter, confident in my ability to score the perfect treat. I had a secret weapon. Cupcake rings. For those of you outside of the elementary party circuit, these are little plastic rings used to decorate cupcakes. Throw one atop an ordinary mild-mannered frosted cake and voila! A Nick TV-themed delight. Basically, cupcake rings are the stripper boot of children's baked goods; cheap, plastic and easy.

So I order the cupcakes, I hand over the rings ... and there's a problem. My Tom Thumb has a kosher bakery, and appparently kosher laws prohibit bringing outside ingredients. So they will make my cupcakes, and I can put the rings on myself after I have taken them outside the store. But they cannot on put my fresh-from-Amazon plastic puppy-adorned rings inside the bakery.

On one hand, no big deal. I can put on the stupid rings myself. But ... I'm kind of annoyed. Not because I'm having to stick by kosher rules at a Tom Thumb when I'm not even Jewish. I figure everyone has to deal with someone else's traditions at some point, so I'm not gonna get bent out of shape over that.

What I'm annoyed with is the idea that someone actually thinks cupcake rings are a threat. Like doesn't God have enough stuff to worry about, he cares whether your challah bread (which is delicious, by the way) was cooked in a kitchen next to my cupcake rings? I try to respect other people's beliefs, but I don't see why He cares that much about anyone's kitchen. If you don't want to eat shrimp or pork or meat, or whatever, go for it. But when you chalk up your eating habits to God, I question that. I just can't believe He really give a hoot if you eat a shrimp. I'm betting He's more worried about the folks who don't have anything to eat at all.

In any religion, there are "can'ts" and many of them make sense. Do not murder, for instance -- that was a good one. But the prohibition on pork? I'm thinking those Old Testament guys just never had bacon. Again, if you don't want to eat it, don't. But how exactly does God figure into not eating a bacon cheeseburger?

I don't get how He has time, amid the many other problems of the world, to fret about how you dress, either. Whether it's head scarves or burkhas or those long Pentecostal denim skirts that - let's be honest - flatter no one, do you really believe Jesus or Mohammed or any of those guys could have had that much interest in fashion to run around telling everyone what not to wear? (Although if they did, can you imagine the HGTV special? "Mary Magdalene, honey, you need a new robe like yesterday!")

I believe people came up with those rules. People. Ordinary people. And there were undoubtedly reasons they concocted these rules, but that doesn't necessarily make them right. It's not that I don't believe in God. I just don't believe His biggest concern is food or fashion.

Other things I doubt are big on His radar? Blood transfusions. You know -- the kind that save a life, except if you're a Christian Scientist or Jehovah Witness. In which case, I guess death is preferable to the kindness of a stranger enabling you to live? Because yeah. Jesus would so not be into that.

I guess it's pretty presumptuous of me to talk about what a higher power wants. It's just that I've noticed when there is something to be restricted, people are quick to point out how that pleases God. I think it just pleases other people.

Seems to me like we could all accomplish a lot more by focusing on what we can do, instead of what we can't. And maybe trying to think for ourselves on the small stuff, that maybe .. just maybe ... is up for debate.

Because they say God is in the details.

But I don't think they meant cupcake rings.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Life: it's more like The Middle meets The Office

It's Monday.

And I think that's all I need to say.

This morning, it's much harder to envision a vacation from my life as an episode of a TV mashup of anything involving British castles or vampires. Today feels much more like an episode of a sitcom gone wrong. Very wrong. Spilled cereal, clothes scattered everywhere (and not in a suggestive scene in which delicate lace things are tossed coyly atop furniture. I mean Despicable Me pajamas and five rejected soccer jerseys left in a heap on the floor because they were all NOT THE RIGHT SHIRT AT ALL MOM). And an overweight, depressed-looking dog lying anywhere I might plan on walking.

I seem to be channeling a vibe straight from The Middle, as I look around the kitchen. Counter strewn with cereal boxes, dog medication, and some plastic toy which I swear I keep tossing in the trash but it always comes back the next morning. #mcdonaldstoysarepossessed.

Then I power up my laptop. I work from home Monday, which is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it means I get to "sleep in" till 630 and wear yoga pants instead of heels. A curse because my internet connection at home makes me bat @#$$ crazy and I loathe taking conference calls on my cell phone while the dog freaks out because there's a squirrel outside.

S I'm reading through the fifteen emails I missed since Friday evening, half of which are invitations to networking events, which ... please. Between work, fifteen thousand sports events and laundry, I count myself lucky to get to the grocery store. You think if I have a free evening, I'm networking? Unless that's what we're calling "binge reading murder mysteries while eating Cheez-its" or "drinking in the one room left in the house that isn't littered with soccer balls," I don't think so.

After I sift through the network spam and start responding to the emails that actually require me to do something, my phone starts making this horrible bleating noise, waking the dog. Of course. She gives me a reproachful glance, as if to say, "why can't you figure out how to turn down the damn phone?" But the truth is, no matter how many times I turn down the volume or switch the sounds, it keeps making the same noise. #mcdonaldstoyshavetakenovermyphone.

This is when I could really use some office banter from Jim and Pam to keep me sane. Hell, even Dwayne would be an improvement over my evil "smarter than me" phone. But, alas, The Office is no longer on the air. Why do the good ones go so young?

And there it is. The dreaded lunch time meeting appears on my calendar like a looming zombie apocalypse. I know it's coming, and there's nothing I can do -- but every Monday, I pretend it's not really there. I'm pretty sure that's exactly how humans dealing with zombies feel. Frankly, enough conference calls and anyone could turn zombie. The drone of someone reciting rules and procedures can turn a mind into mush faster than a mosquito bites. There's a fine line between Webex and flesh-eating, and I can't promise I won't cross it.

But -- salvation appears in snarky instant messages from co-workers similarly bemoaning our Monday fate. We will fight the good fight together, armed with sarcasm and caffeine. With a little luck, I may even sneak in a shower in between meetings. Because I can deal with zombifying conference calls and deadlines.

But not dirty hair.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Life: It's like Downton Abbey meets The Vampire Diaries

This week has been a mess. Not life-altering, not tragic - but the kind of week that just beats you down. The kind of week where work and home mash together in an endless pool of obligations that you barely tread water to avoid drowning in. The kind of week where you notice the basket of unpaid bills (because you're too tired to sit down and pay them) and the unsent photo Christmas cards (unless I'm planning an ironic "Christmas in July" theme, that's $70 down the drain)and you just sigh. The kind of week where you learn your kids need superhero costumes for Field day (why?) and they're supposed to be created by the kids themselves and when your son asks you to Google Wolf Spider Mask, guess what comes up in the search results?

A ball gag.

That kind of week.

And it got me to thinking: wouldn't life be simpler if you could switch out your reality for a TV show? Even just for a week. I don't know that any one show in particular would solve all my problems, but maybe a combo -- Downton Abbey meets The Vampire Diairies. Like, I would much rather be sitting having tea with the Dowager than filling out a spreadsheet. I mean, who wouldnt? Scones, amazing (itchy) clothing and oolong-laced gossip ... yes please!

And I bet I could find the makings of a "Wolf Spider Mask - Spider Vill" super hero costume in the wardrobe dept of VD. Yes, that is the actual costume one of my sons is designing, and his drawing is fabulous ... but I fear the motherly execution is going to be disappointingly less so. My sewing skills are rudimentary and I banned myself from glue guns after an unfortunate incident in the "make your own advent ornament" fair a few years ago. Surely one of those hybrid dopplegangeryly folks would have something I could borrow instead. Or if they didn't, probably they could be "compelled" to go make one. Or hunt one. I'm not picky, I just need a damn costume. (Side note: suddenly realizing why son suggested we look for his water bottle at "the damn house." Another reason to channel TV. Less cursing on PBS. More so on the CW, but I haven't heard the "f" word yet. The same cannot be said of a certain six-year-old).

Also? The food. Instead of eating lunch at my desk, I could dine at a formal table with cocktails and servants. Multiple courses and ruby-colored wine in a crystal glass. Sure, you always hear English food's not so hot, but it can't be worse than corporate cafeteria fare.

Or I could take my meal in front of a raging fire with gloomy vampires as dining companions. Sounds downright cozy. Granted, they never seem to eat much, which is probably why they're all skinny and cute. (Or that could be the whole diet of blood thing they've got going on). Whatever. So they're more of a drink-your-lunch crowd -- that's OK, it's Friday, and as I mentioned, it's been a long week.

A liquid lunch would be just fine.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Confessions of a burned out soccer mom

The older I get, the more I seem to like writing about scary things. Flesh-eating scavengers and vampires, or a soul-stealing spirit. I never liked horror movies, and even now my monsters tend to have senses of humor, albeit dark ones. I was thinking about this in the shower, and something struck me (not the shampoo, thank God, which was one of those gigantic bottles they trick you into buying at Beauty Brands).

Imaginary monsters can be evil, bloodthirsty and cruel. But they can be vanquished, killed, burnt, destroyed in a few hundred pages. And then they're gone. There's something very satisfying about concocting an evil character and then controlling his fate. Control being the operative word - because let's face it, there's not nearly enough of that in this world, is there? I'm an adult and I still don't feel in control of my own life, but at least within the lines of text I can shape how things happen.

Children have very little control. We all might complain about how our kids dictate our lives and how we spend our weekends shuttling from one sports event to the next, but really? That's all us. Children don't map out multiple games and activities and teams and practices, each one ostensibly to teach them about sportsmanship and competition, and promoting healthy bodies and minds. And they often start out that way. But, just like a monster crawling quietly from the pages of a book, they turn into something else entirely.

I love that my kids enjoy sports and (unlike me!) are actually good at them. Is it just me, though, or do you ever stop and wonder why we're the ones prodding them to get up on a Saturday morning after a long week of school (which, FYI, is way the hell harder when when we went) and hustling around as though these events are somehow a reflection of our own parental organization? Which, let's face it, they are. But surely it doesn't always have to be that way. I mean, recreational sports are for fun, right? Ha. If you have a kid over the age of 2, you already know how silly and naive that question is. Because you know what ruins kids' sports? Parents. And I include myself in that group.

Before my own son's game the other day, I sat in the bleachers watching the previous game that was running late. I didn't know any of the parents from this team, and I don't pretend to know anything about their lives or their kids. But I know they had very healthy lungs. They were screaming, cheering, yelling with everything they had. Some of it was encouraging. Some of it was not. And I sat there thinking smugly, not me. I don't yell like that. But I was fooling myself. When my son's game started and he caught a ball in his glove, I jumped up and down, screeching like he'd just won an Oscar. Not to put down his accomplishment, but it was his, after all. Not mine.

Incidentally, he didn't even want to be at the game. He wanted to play in a soccer game, as part of his end of season tournament. But we'd made a commitment for him to be at this other event (notice, "we" made the commitment. Not him, the one actually playing) so I took him to baseball. He complained of leg pains, but knowing there weren't enough extra boys on the team to allow him to sit out without forfeiting the game for the team, what did I do? I bribed him with one of those silly baseball necklaces and a forbidden Dr Pepper to "tough it out" and play. I tried to rationalize it, remembering myself as a ten-year-old being given black coffee to keep me awake past my bedtime to sing at a music festival. Except that didn't happen weekly, and I thought it was exotic and cool. If I'd been told I "had" to do it, it would have lost some of its charm, much like the violin lessons I was told I had to stick with for two years, and passive aggressively refused to learn anything but "Love me Tender" (which, incidentally, sounds horrible on the violin).

But at that moment at the ball park, I pretended that Dr Pepper wasn't really bribery. He'll be fine, I said. Because that's what we do. We get ourselves and our kids into these hamster wheels of activities and then the only thing we can to do is finish them out. But they never end. And come next season, we do it again.

Or it doesn't even have to be next season. The day after I told my son he had to play or the baseball team would forfeit the game, I found myself yelling at his younger brother, "if you don't stop changing clothes we will be late for your brother's soccer tournament and we have the game roster, and if it doesn't get there on time, they'll forfeit the game!" Way to go, Mom. Blame the outcome of a soccer season on a five year old who just wanted to be dressed in a soccer uniform like big brother. Sometimes I think I'm so lucky to have such wonderful children, and then I wonder why I'm so cavalier with their feelings as I scramble through too many things that really, in the end, are not that important.

As parents of babies, we start out with all these lovely intentions - we speak in soft tones, tell them about each and every tiny triumph. But then something happens as they get older, and we get busier and more exhausted by a multitude of obligations we've somehow all agreed we must shoulder. The soft tones turn into shrill yells of "Hurry up!" and "Why can't you get ready?" "What's wrong with you?" Or maybe if we're really tapped out, "I bet ___'s mom doesn't have to yell at him to get his shoes tied!" Once the game starts, the screaming really ramps up. And some parents are purely positive in their shouts, which is great. Others are not so much, and I can't help but wonder what it would feel like to have my parent yelling at me, "that was yours, you lost it!" My son's friend recently said in amazement that the coach "actually" said something good to him after a game. "Usually he just yells at me," the boy said. "I can't seem to do anything right."

I'm not saying every word that comes out of our mouths should be sunshine and rainbows, but I assume the kids already know when they make a mistake. I remember being 8. I didn't need to be told when I screwed up, I knew. Having your mom or dad holler it at you in front of everyone probably doesn't help. And you don't even have to yell. You can send them a message without raising a voice. When you sign them up for multiple teams and practices and activities, when your whole weekend revolves around a chaotic race from one field to the next, you're teaching them a valuable lesson. That making sure you aren't missing out is the most important thing of all. That family time or just free time without somebody telling you what to do & how to do it aren't really necessary. Don't think for yourself about what you really want to do, we essentially tell them, we'll do it for you.

I'll never forget my son's first foray into team sports. He was maybe three and a half, and loved kicking balls. We signed him up for a YMCA small fry team. One little boy lay down in the grass in the middle of the game, refusing to play. I figured that was pretty normal for this age, but after the game when I approached him offering the post-game snack, his mother refused. "Snacks are for boys who play. Maybe next time he'll get out there and then he can have a snack." I was appalled. And again, feeling a little smug. My son, after all, had wanted to be "out there" the entire time. And I was being positive and encouraging, unlike this other mom. But after the game, when I asked my son "Did you have fun?" he just shook his head.

"I didn't do good," he told me. "I didn't score a goal." Just as quickly as the game had ended, so had his little moment of happiness. Who put that idea in his head, I wondered. Not me, I hoped. But I wasn't feeling so smug anymore.

Kids' sports can be good, even great for kids. Playing on a team can teach valuable lessons and build confidence - and sports team can be fun ... if we let them. But we steal that fun when we turn sports into such a highly regulated and pressurized activity that our kids are really just players in a game that we're controlling. We drive them to game after game, yell at them if they are tired or don't want to play, yell with glee or disappointment, depending on their performance ... and then we're somehow surprised at their sullen glances. The rec team turns into the club or select team and the practices get longer, and then homework becomes this annoying obligation that must somehow fit into their after-school activities.

Every activity is an opportunity for them to learn more skills and become better, and isn't that important to teach them? Sure, in theory -- but if your kid plays on multiple teams and has practices or games every school night, where exactly is the opportunity and what is it for? There's a fine line between healthy competition and too much s&** to do -- not just for kids, but for parents. I don't know about you, but as a long day at work turns into a night of juggling kids' schedules, my patience and energy flag. As for the famed family dinner around the table? Please. It's more of an urban myth than a nightly routine.

Sometimes I fantasize about taking the kids and moving to another country. Or Vermont. Someplace where (in my imagination, at least) the boys would just run outside with their soccer balls or their mitts and strike up a game without any adults. No coach telling them what to do, just kids being kids. And then I remember how my boys act on their own, and I estimate it'd be all of ten minutes before a fight broke out and a grownup (possibly me)would stomp outside and try to enforce rules to keep them from smacking each other in the head with a baseball bat. The reality is that no matter where you live, elementary-aged kids can't drive and they can't always walk down the block to just see if the neighbors want to play a pickup game, as much as we'd all like that to be true. Obviously parents or adults are going to be part of sports for children, at least of a certain age. But surely we can balance that a little more sanely?

Wouldn't it be nice to let the kids do the coaching for a change? We could bench the grownups and let the kids pick one of their own to lead the game. I know, I know. Even if our kids went along with it, some other teams' parents might not, and then we'd all stress that our kids would be crushed by the competition. Who would be more upset, though -- us or them?

I don't have the answers. Writing about imaginary monsters and scary things that go bump in the night -- it's so much simpler. Bad things are scary and may try to kill you, so you should avoid them. The world of competitive kids' sports is infinitely more complicated, and it's not always easy to know what's the right decision for your kid. I think you have to pick your battles in life. School is not negotiable -- and for that matter, neither is work. But I don't think I'm completely crazy for not wanting all weekends to be consumed by sports, and so structured and scheduled there's barely enough time for kids to eat lunch, let alone play an imaginary game, or just shoot hoops without anyone telling them how they're doing it wrong.

Am I?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Missing Mardi Gras

It's another blindingly sunny day in Dallas, and while the weather is fine ... I can't help but think of another place I'd rather be. Since I can't join in the Mardi Gras frenzy, I'll pretend and fantasize about where I'd hang in New Orleans right now.

Caveat: I'm not hip. This is not going to be the list of the coolest, latest places to be seen. This is just a list of things I'd do or see, if I could wave a magic wand and fly to the Crescent City on a moment's notice. Sigh.

1. It's 9:30 as I write this, so might as well start with a Mimosa at The Carousel bar at the Hotel Montelone. I'd watch the scene on Royal Street through the windows, remembering this gorgeous diamond ring I spotted in the window of an antique shop. It was one of those "by appointment only" places and I wasn't in the market for jewelry at the time, so I never made it past the window. I'll sip my Mimosa and imagine where that ring might have gone...

2. Next I'll pick up a cafe au lait to go and stroll over to Jackson Square. I'll sit on one of the benches around the monument and read a book, the trees a soft curtain between me and the noise of the street performers. (Truth be told, despite my Mardi Gras reference, I'm not such a fan of crowds. Hence the book). I might consider getting my palm read after I've finished my book, although every time I get sucked in, it's a waste of $30. Ah well. I like to believe in a little of the unbelievable, so I'll probably do it again.

3. If I'm hungry, I'll walk over to Napoleon House for a muffaletta (hot) and a Pimm's cup (cold). It's my favorite spot for that sandwich, and I love the idea of a cocktail with cucumbers. Like salad in a cup, except not a Bloody Mary which always tastes like something I should dip tortilla chips into instead of drinking.

4. Maybe I'll walk down Decatur Street and see if I can peek inside a gallery or shop selling funky artwork I wouldn't find anywhere else. Once I bought a Haitian bottle that was supposedly made by a powerful voodoo priest. Or maybe it's just a wine bottle lavishly decorated with sequins and the Virgin Mary, but I'm pretty convinced there's some magic in there somewhere.

5. Speaking of magic, channeling my inner Tennessee Williams (STELLA!) I'll take a ride on a streetcar. I don't care how touristy that is, it's also magical. How many cities still have that? Ok, technically Dallas does have one on McKinney Avenue, and it still thrills me to ride it as much as it does my kids. But the McKinney Ave trolley doesn't hold a candle to the St Charles streetcar. Stepping aboard makes me feel like I might be just riding down to the Garden District, or I might be embarking on an amazing adventure from which I will never return. Unlike my heroines in The Getaway Girls, I hope not to be pursued by ravenous monsters as I feel every bump in the road. But who knows?

6. I'll need some dinner. Or lunch. Whatever. I'll eat something amazing, no matter the meal. My favorite dinners have been at Palace Cafe (could marry their crawfish cheesecake), Bayona and Praline Connection. Either way, it's pretty tough to get a bad meal in this city. Maybe I'll pay tribute to Ignatius P Reilly with a Lucky Dog. Which I happen to love. It's a foot of tasty mustard-coating nitrates.

7. Regardless of where I eat, or whether I go listen to music at The Spotted Cat, I'll end the evening on the porch of the Columns Hotel. It's a place for ending the night, see, because you can't sit on that porch and then want to go somewhere else. That porch was meant for sitting for hours, sipping cocktails and looking out at the trees and the twinkling of car lights. Or, if you're a character in my book, it's the perfect place to get hit on by flesh-eating scavengers and narrowly avert a gruesome death.

But hopefully, that won't happen to me.