We have some work to do here

Last spring, I became acquainted with the current production of Matilda the Musical (I say “became acquainted with” because, in the span of one week, at least five different people sent me, or posted to Facebook, links to various songs from the London Matilda production. Universe, I heard you: sometimes, you do, indeed, have to be a little bit naughty). In my continued quest to bring culture to the girls’ lives (shall we see how many hyper-links I can include in one paragraph?), and in keeping with their love of Broadway (that’s four!), I showed Ella and Annie the above clips from Matilda, as well as every other clip available on YouTube.

Small children with British accents get me every time.

We agreed to make it our goal to see Matilda the next time we’re in NYC, but in the meantime, the girls rented the movie Matilda from the library. I haven’t seen it yet, but given that it features that adorable little girl from Mrs. Doubtfire, my fingers are crossed that it’s good – even if she doesn’t have a British accent.

We were quite busy this past weekend, out and about and not taking the time to watch the movie (maybe because we were too preoccupied seeing Monsters University in the theatre; that’s just a hunch), and I was feeling slightly nervous that we wouldn’t find time to watch it before it’s due back at the library later this week. (I could try to renew it, or even just keep it past its due date and willingly pay the fine… but, given that we’re already purposely holding onto an overdue library book because the girls are totally into it but we’re not done with it yet and there aren’t other copies available but we’ve already renewed it as many times as we can, I figure I can only toy with karma so much.)

When the courtesy call came two days ago reminding me that I had a haircut appointment scheduled for this week, I was initially frustrated because I knew I’d have to bring Annie and Ella with me. I then realized that this was the solution to our problem: the girls could watch Matilda on my laptop while I got my hair cut. This would both a) ensure that the movie was actually viewed prior to its return date, and b) thwart attempts by my children to open the styling products for sale by the checkout counter.

It took me a good 20 minutes to locate the headphone jack splitter (because I’d rather have my offspring pour volumizing gel all over themselves than turn the sound up on an electronic device – while out in public – without headphones; why do people not understand this premise?!?!), but I finally found it and we were ready to go.

On the way to the salon, the girls peppered me with questions about the movie… and it was then that I finally realized just how “cultured” our daughters really are.

“Are the same songs in this that are on Broadway?”

No, sweetie. It’s just a movie.

“But which songs are there?”

There aren’t any. It’s just a regular movie.

“They made a movie of the Broadway show? Like that one with the lady* in Peter Pan?”
(*the Mary Martin stage version)

No. The movie came first.

“It did?”

Actually, the book came first. There’s a book – Matilda. By Roald Dahl.


Not really, it’s… never mind. Anyway, he wrote the book Matilda. We should read it; I think you’d like it.

“His name is ROLLED DOLL?”

And enough kids liked the book that they turned it into a movie.

“Is the movie happening right now?”

When you say ‘happening right now,’ what do you mean?

“The movie. Is it still happening? Right now?”


Matilda the movie! Are they doing it now??”

Do you mean is the movie being filmed right now, today? As in, are the actors acting their parts and are they making the movie today?


Well, aside from the fact that you’re holding the DVD, so that would be some kind of weird voodoo magic, no, the movie was made a long time ago.

“How long ago?”

I don’t know. At least fifteen years.

“Wow. That’s SO LONG ago. Is the little girl still alive?”

Uh, I think so? ‘Cause she’d only be, like, twenty-five?

“Oh, good. And what songs does she sing?”

We’re still talking about this? She doesn’t sing anything.

“Why not?”

Because it’s not a musical. It’s just a movie.


There’s no singing. It’s just a regular movie.

“But Cinderella sings.”

Yes, I know, but…

“And Tiana sings.”

I understand that, but those are Disney cartoon movies. This is a movie with real people.

“They sing songs in the movie Annie.”

True, but that’s a movie musical, so…

“And in The Sound of Music.”

Which makes sense, because it’s also…

“And Mary Poppins. And Enchanted.”

Wait a minute. Is it possible that the only movies we’ve shown are ones with singing in them??

“Ummmm…. We just saw Monsters University! That didn’t have singing!”

Okay, right…

“And Despicable Me 2! They don’t sing in that!”

So… movies with singing and cartoons. That’s where we stand? This is all we’ve shown you?

“But those are good movies, Mommy!”

That may be, but it’s kind of horrifying that we haven’t introduced you to any other kinds of movies.

“WAIT!! I know!!”


“We’ve seen The Princess Bride! A lot of times!”

YES! A real movie! THANK GOD. We have not completely failed you.

“Oh! And Indiana Jones! We saw ALL of those!”

A questionable move on our part, but still, yes. Indy definitely doesn’t sing.

“And there are all those snakes! And that guy’s face melts off!”

Again, questionable parenting. But I did show you Big. That didn’t have any singing in it.

“He ate the baby corn! And they played the piano with their feet!”

Yep, I remember. You’re still playing “Heart and Soul”, like, 186 times a day.
So… Cartoons, Disney movies, musicals, and 80s classics. It’s a start.

“I’m going to play ‘Heart and Soul’ as soon as we get home!”

That’ll be fun. Speaking of 80s classics, do you remember The Goonies?


I know, right??

“See, Mommy. You’ve shown us lots of movies.”

Thanks, baby. We’ve totally broadened your horizons. I feel much better about myself now.


I think we’d better stop while we’re ahead.

Bitten by the theater bug

For two weeks, Eleanor and Annabelle attended a local Annie Kids theater camp. I’d envisioned a small, revue-type of performance, but it turns out they’d actually be putting on a real production — fully staged and costumed, with each child auditioning for, and being assigned, a part. Ella boldly chose to audition for the role of Annie, whereas Annabelle, on the other hand, auditioned for Molly, one of the orphans – ’cause, truly, what she wanted most of all was to be an orphan.

And, really, who could blame her? Orphans are so chic. Despite the fact that, as a kid, all of the fictional orphans with whom I was familiar wore filthy little rag outfits and were fed unappetizing things like gruel, my friends and I totally envied them – and not just because they didn’t have parents to make them take baths or prevent them from consuming seventeen hotdogs in one sitting. Little Orphan Annie was tough and got to pal around with Sandy. Harry received mail by owl, had a rockin’ scar, and got to wear an invisibility cloak. Barefooted, broom-weilding Cosette eventually landed the only surviving (and handsome!) member of the short-lived revolution. Dorothy acid-tripped through Oz wearing an incredible pair of shoes. Batman had a double-identity and drove one of the coolest vehicles in existence. Tarzan subsisted on bananas and loincloths and eschewed Batmobiles in favor of vines.
And do we even have to discuss the amazingness that was Punky Brewster?

Little orphan envy. I totally get you, Annabelle.

The girls had been given an Annie Kids CD, which they were instructed to listen to “so many times, their parents would go crazy.” Ever the rule followers, they dutifully requested that we pop the CD into the car as we drove home from camp. Rather than actually sit back and enjoy each track, however, we only listened to the first 8-10 bars of each song before skipping to the next one, making it feel like we were frantically scanning an Annie-only radio channel. (It seems they’d only learned that much at rehearsal the first day — enough with which to audition — and they didn’t want to get ahead of themselves.) Thankfully, this fast-forward mania meant we were spared the recorded version of “Tomorrow”, which seemed to feature odd growling noises interspersed with Annie’s cherub-like melody. I chalked it up to a flaw in the CD and gratefully skipped to the first eight bars of the next song.

While they prepared for the auditions, Nick and I did everything we could to help the girls understand that it was highly unlikely that they’d be chosen for the roles they wanted. Partly, this was because there were at least 35 camp participants – but also, realistically, the directors just might decide that other children were better-suited to play Molly and Annie – and that was okay. Not okay as in, Oh well, who cares?, but okay because, sometimes, things just don’t work out as you planned… but life goes on anyway. You don’t get the part. Your team doesn’t always win. It sucks and it’s difficult (and, as an adult, that’s where Starbucks, Godiva, and whiskey come in handy), but this disappointment thing? A pretty consistent part of life.

Still, we gave the pep talk, reaffirming that whatever person they were assigned, it would surely be fun, and they’d ultimately have a great time.
We didn’t anticipate that one of our daughters might not be cast as a person at all.

The cast list was quite late in coming because the director had decided to add another song into the show to accommodate the large number of – in his words – talented singers who’d auditioned… and Ella was given one of the newly-added roles! A solo at that! True, it wasn’t the part of Annie, so she couldn’t sport a curly wig and dress in adorably ratty orphan duds, but it was a great role nonetheless, and I was very happy for her.

I then scanned the email for Annabelle’s name…. and discovered that she would not be playing the part of Molly. Nor an orphan. Nor a servant.
No, Annie had been assigned the role of… Sandy. The dog.


(At least it explained the odd growling during our speed-listen of “Tomorrow”.

Through all of our careful preparations, Nick and I had never considered that the part Annie got might not even be human.

Annie took the news as I’d expected: she cried. A lot. We tried to do all of the “right” things to ease her heartache (including a surprise Bruegger’s breakfast run), and to persuade her that this would still be a great experience. She could still learn and sing and dance and act and have a wonderful time. Plus, Sandy is important! Sandy steals scenes! Annabelle could be the cutest, best damn Sandy ever.

But still… The ball was in her court. Only she could decide if she’d run with it or throw it at someone.

(BTW, these moments – when your big-hearted, sensitive kiddo is cast as a dog instead of an orphan – these are so not in the parenting manual. REFUND, please.)

Annie managed to pull herself together, and the first week of rehearsals passed by with little further mention of playing Sandy. In fact, driving home after each rehearsal, both girls barely stopped talking about what they’d learned and how great the other cast members were. As a bonus, by now, we were listening to the full versions of all the songs (which was both better and worse than our first manic experience), so even I felt that I knew the music backward and forward. Three performances were scheduled for the following weekend, and – not wanting Annie and Ella to look out into the audience and find only unfamiliar faces staring back – I dutifully bought tickets to all three shows.

annie spotlight

As the second week began and they started getting into costume, I noticed that Annie’s spirits seemed to lift. When it was announced that a fourth performance would be added because the first three had sold out so quickly, I asked if maybe I could skip that one, since I’d already be seeing the three original shows… but, no, oh no, the show was fantastic and my presence was definitely needed at every single performance.

Heck, I knew the songs already by heart. Might as well learn the staging and choreography, too.

At last, performance day arrived, and Ella and Annie raced into camp. (“It’s butterflies, right?” What, sweetie? “That’s what’s in my stomach. Butterflies, right?”) I’d planned to spend the hour between drop-off and the performance doing a little window shopping, perhaps grabbing a coffee… But when I noticed that other parents were already staking out spots 55 minutes in advance (damn stage moms), I rummaged through my purse for a stale mint and took a seat myself.

Turns out, the director really knew his stuff (and had some awesome assistants and apprentices), because, after only eight days of three-hour rehearsals, these kindergarten through third-graders managed to put on a mighty fine show.

annie outfits
A Warbucks servant and Sandy (looking rather like a sheep), ready to go…

Unlike the growly groans on the CD, Annabelle’s “ruffing” toward the end of “Tomorrow” was pretty freakin’ adorable.

annie sandy2 blur
annie sandy blur
Real dogs don’t smile. Very professional of her.

In addition to singing a solo, Ella also got to wear the brand-new, hand-me-down high heels that had arrived only a week or so ago. Mighty smug about that, she was.

annie bert3 blur
Ella as Bert Healy, beginning “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”.      

annie bert1 blur
“It’s what you wear from ear to ear, and not from head to toe, that matters!”

After the first performance, as the girls ate their lunch, I asked what their favorite part of the show was. Ella told me it was the song “Little Girls”, but Annie replied, “DUH. All of the attention I’m getting!” Not exactly what I was going for, but she definitely took that Sandy ball and sprinted with it.

In fact, Annie not only embraced her role as Sandy but also as a member of the chorus (where she ditched her furry headpiece and actually got to sing and dance, human style). Ella got into character, to be sure, but Annie took things to a whole other level…

annie, taken seriously blur
(Click to enlarge)
Why just sing the song when you can passionately feel it?

Really, all four performances were delightful, and even Nick had to agree that the two shows he saw with me were pretty freakin’ adorable. Nevertheless, after driving to and from the camp for two weeks and then spending six straight hours at the theater two days in a row, I was happy to leave the place behind for a while.

As the girls were packing up their costume boxes, I mentioned that I didn’t think they had everything – a water bottle, a few pairs of pants, and a couple of shirts seemed to be missing. They insisted that they’d brought them home earlier in the week, and – conceding that perhaps the nonstop Annie Kids CD marathon had, indeed, made me batty – I gave up my protests.

Upon arriving home, however, the missing items were nowhere in sight. Five days later, they still couldn’t be found…

And so, less than a week after leaving, we found ourselves back at the theater. Again.

Stage parents are crazy, yo.

annie ending2 blur
“Smile, darn ya, smile!”


Throwback Thursday: Fresh

When we moved into our house in the summer of 2007, we knew that we were inheriting an amazing collection of flower gardens.

new house pose
July 2007. GAH, those grins!

There were black-eyed susans, daisies, purple cone flowers, three varieties of roses, countless lilies in every shade, gladiolas (my favorite), hyacinth, and oodles of other flowers whose names I still have yet to learn. Thinking that perhaps the gardens were limited to flowers, we thrilled to discover the five edible apple trees, a strawberry patch, and a bunch of raspberry bushes in the side yard.

pick 'em
Raspberry in three year-old fingers.

In 2009, we expanded the gardens ourselves, planting a small vegetable garden just outside of the garage. I had no idea what I was doing, but, even at four and two, the girls seemed to enjoy it… especially when we actually got around to eating what had been planted months ago.

7.22 first carrots
I do believe these are the only successful carrots we’ve ever harvested.

7.30 our own corn!
Growing your own corn makes you feel exceptionally awesome.

Every year since then, the garden has grown; this year, I even dug out a large area of grass to make more room (a process akin to approximately 438 hours of hardcore working out; I do not recommend it), ultimately tripling our planting space. I still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, neither with the flowers nor the food — anything that successfully grows (and can actually be eaten, holla!), I attribute to dumb luck and ADHD-induced midnight watering — and the puppy got behind the fence and ate all of our cantaloupe plants last week (stinker!), but it’s oddly satisfying to step out into the yard and come in with a gorgeous bouquet, a bowlful of berries, or veggies to cook for dinner.

Especially when one has a penchant for thinking the necessary mealtime items were purchased and then discovering, during dinner prep, when the children are ravenous and I’m pouring more wine into my mouth than the pot, that they’re nowhere in sight.
Fresh baseball-bat sized zucchini, anyone?

new house




Last week, we took our first (of what is supposed to be five) family golf lessons. I realize that, to many folks, this will likely sound like a specially designed form of torture (believe me, I realize this), but after listening to Nick talk it up for several weeks, I decided that maybe it could be – at the very least – tolerable.

My father and stepmother are both avid golfers (seeing Grand Meg’s name on the big ol’ plaque as the club champion many years running has given Ella and Annie a huge kick – which is good, because my name is surely not appearing on any golf trophies soon), and Nick’s dad has been known to swing a mighty fine set of clubs, so you might say we come by the game naturally. In reality, while Nick really likes golfing, he only hits the links a handful of times each year (and, as such, could use a few pointers), and I have only golfed a full round once in my life (that is, if you count hitting the ball 20 yards, becoming annoyed with the lie, picking the ball up and walking it closer to the hole, accidentally chipping onto the green, declaring it a “gimme” and pocketing the ball, hole after hole, as a full round of golf).

Still, Nick found a course close to home with a highly-recommended pro who agreed to teach all four of us at a very reasonable price. Rather than purchase full kiddie sets of clubs that the girls might never use again, he wisely borrowed two sets from a friend (I believe he called them “adorable,” a term generally reserved for wide-eyed baby animals, dancing children on Ellen, and, occasionally, my stepmother-in-law). Given that the only golfing the girls have done previously is of the miniature variety (and even then, they’d become bored after about the 11th hole and proceed to try to stop the windmills from spinning or use their putters as swords), I was skeptical that they’d be interested in learning the ins and outs of “real” golf. Yet again proving my that my parental instinct isn’t worth diddly, Annie and Ella were ecstatic at the prospect of lessons – and, although I couldn’t quite ascertain why, I figured — inexpensive lessons; free clubs; nice instructor… What could go wrong?

Pre-lesson and looking spiffy. What, you don’t golf in a tutu skirt?

As luck/Mother Nature would have it, our first lesson fell on the hottest day in the history of the earth. Okay, technically we didn’t set any records in western New York, but it was hot. Ungodly hot. Melt-your-face-off, “No, kids, it’s too hot to play outside today”, get-sweaty-by-just-thinking-of-being-outdoors, how is it even possible for people to survive without central air? hot. Plus, there’s the whole humidity thing, where the air feels thick, almost tangible, like you’re wearing a damp, full-body invisible sweater. While standing on the equator.

In other words: the perfect day for spending an hour in the middle of an open field facing directly into the sun that was shining its menacing little sunbeams straight at you.

As the girls helped gather up their gear, I began to understand why they’d been so ecstatic about these lessons: accessories. Shiny, bright white golf balls. Bags of cute, day-glo tees. And, best of all, brand new golf gloves. If I’d known this family adventure would bring about shopping, I would have agreed to it a long time ago.

After a little coaxing (and some instruction on how to carry awkward bags that are nearly as large as they are), they even agreed to carry their own clubs to the driving range.

Our adorable little sherpas.

Within only a few steps, however, it became clear that the heat was getting to them. Nick tried to snap a shot of the girls jauntily carrying their bags to the course, but instead got this gem, wherein they look like maybe they’re marching to their own deaths:IMG_4429
Yay! Family golf lessons!!

At that exact moment, when it became clear that even one more step might result in heat exhaustion, the golf pro turned up and offered them a ride to the driving range on the cart with him. The girls accepted with the same enthusiasm they’d shown when we first took them on Splash Mountain in Disney World, and I then understood the second reason they’d been ecstatic for the lessons: riding in tiny motorized vehicles is badass, hella fun. Point one for our instructor.

Once we arrived at the range and the girls responded with rabid enthusiasm when he asked us if we’d like to hit a few balls, the biggest reason for their ecstasy became clear: they were being permitted to smack a ball with a stick. Deliberately. As far and as hard as they could. Being totally aggressive and using this metal object to whack one of our shiny, bright white balls out onto that expanse of green (while wearing a brand spanking new golf glove), and we don’t even need to pick them up when we’re done?? SIGN. ME. UP.

It was pretty much uphill from there, as the pro walked Nick and me through the basics of our swings and showed us tiny corrections we could make to our posture, hand grip, etc. He stated things clearly and was extremely friendly, although I admit that I didn’t exactly hear all of what he was saying because I was too busy feeling like a cast-member from A Time To Kill, a movie where not even the gorgeous Ashley Judd and delicious Matthew McConaughey can distract me from the fact that they are sweating out the equivalent of their body weight in every scene. When the sun disappeared behind tiny puffs of cloud, or when the warm wind kicked up, it was surprisingly tolerable, but when the air was completely still and the sun beat down incessantly upon us, I found myself sweating so profusely and being so aware of the perspiration cascading down my torso, I wondered aloud if I might actually die before the lesson ended. So I might not have used my best listening ears.

The girls, however, were having a dandy time, swinging away with all their power, shouting at us to watch them every single time they set up next to the ball (“Watch me, Mommy!” “Look at this, Daddy!” “No, watch me again!” “Watch me this time, Mommy!” “Daddy, make sure you keep looking!”), hanging from the golf cart roof, camping out in the shade of the trees behind us, positively chugging the ice water that the pro had kindly provided for us (point two!), and wiping their brows with an ice-water-drenched towel. About halfway through the lesson, as I walked over to get a sip of water and revive myself, Annie whispered to me, “This is awesome already!”

Nick, who did not seem to be suffering from the heat as strongly as I, followed the pro’s instructions and almost immediately began hitting better shots. Despite sweating so much I could hardly open my eyes, I did actually manage to internalize some of the tips the instructor was giving me, and was pleasantly surprised that my own swing was improving; perhaps this would, in fact, be just as awesome as Annie had declared (three points!).

Then, as she stepped up to hit another ball, she motioned me over, obviously distressed. I had opened my mouth to ask her to please stop whining when she held up her un-gloved hand and showed me one of the gnarliest blisters I’ve seen in a long time.

Thankfully, it doesn’t look so bad here, but trust me, it was icky.

Naturally, being a stellar, always-prepared parent, I had no band-aids on me, nor anything else to cover her open wound. Hence, she couldn’t swing the club again (the pro had warned her that doing so would seriously irritate her already-very-sore finger), and that, combined with the stinging pain, sent her into a crying tailspin. “But I was just having fun and now I have to stop!”

Ella, meanwhile, had been cheerfully dousing herself with ice water – pouring it down her back (“Check it out – my shirt is ALL WET!”), dumping it on her head, and dragging the freezing water towel across her forehead. Because it was so absurdly hot — and, in what is, again, a stellar parenting move — Nick and I somehow didn’t put two and two together to realize that covering oneself in ice water + no antihistamine medication = hives, when your child is allergic to the cold. At first, I just thought that Ella’s rosy cheeks were due to the heat, but when she began to complain that she was itchy everywhere, it finally dawned on me that she was having a full-on allergic reaction.

Weird allergies are a blast.

We limped back to our car (actually, our super pro took pity on us, so we all — all five of us — piled onto the single-seat golf cart, like some sort of golfing clown car; point one million!), one child wailing about her mangled finger, one scratching furiously and moaning that every single part of her was itchy, and we adults — who had shied away from dousing ourselves with water — looking as though we’d walked through a car wash.

In spite of the heat, the blister, and the hives, however, we all agreed that – somehow – it had been really fun. If I were to play another round of golf this week, I’m confident that I’d still pick up my ball and walk it down the fairway, but, to my surprise, I enjoyed myself greatly and am very much looking forward to the other four lessons.

Next time, we’ll make sure Ella is properly medicated. And Annie already has a golf glove for her right hand. I’ll bring band-aids and towels, so the sweat won’t be in my eyes. We’ll be prepared, by gosh.

And then, what could possibly go wrong?


Several days ago, Ella asked me if we could please go to the dollar store. She’s requested this before – usually when she’s been given money by a grandparent or perhaps found some loose change lying around – and always seems truly thrilled to be able to shop for whatever she wants in what is, clearly, The Greatest Store Of All Time.

“Mom! Everything is only a dollar! EVERY. SINGLE. THING!!!!”

I’ve tried to impress upon her that whole you get what you pay for adage, but still, the dollar store is her Target. Or, given that it now carries a hefty selection of frozen and canned foods, maybe even a Super Target. Eight year-old shopping nirvana.

I’d protested that I didn’t want to spend money on junk lovely trinkets that might break within five minutes of purchasing them, but then she reminded me that both she and Annie have their own allowance. When she also reminded me (after pulling out her official allowance ledger) that Nick and I hadn’t actually paid either of them their allowance since last October – so we were just a teensy bit overdue – I felt the guilt take over and agreed to make a dollar store pilgrimage.

Ella was positively gleeful – and her glee even rubbed off on Annie, who had decided against joining us on our previous dollar store visits. The two of them rummaged through their ledgers and each chose a crisp $20 bill. After running a few other errands, we were ready to go. I checked my watch; we’d been gone for only 30 minutes, and so between what would undoubtedly be a quick jaunt into the dollar store, followed by pre-lunch-hour grocery shopping, I estimated we’d be home within an hour and a half. Perfect.

The instant we entered heaven The Greatest Store Of All Time, Annie made a beeline for the school supplies, saying she wanted items to create a “play school” at home. Prior to going in, the girls had settled on buying nineteen items apiece, so that their now-wadded-up twenties could safely cover everything (because, as Ella sagely noted to Annie, “They always add some extra cents onto the twenty dollars”).

Within five minutes of bursting through those pearly gates — I kid you not, FIVE MINUTES — Annie had accounted for all nineteen of her items (after reluctantly putting back the party pack of clip-on earrings, because I’d informed her that they’d break after only one wearing), and then proceeded to roam the store trading things in and out of her basket to maintain her under-twenty status. I encouraged her to be a bit more careful — to maybe check out the other aisles before blowing everything on the first display she encountered — but she held fast to the incredible marvels she’d already collected.

When not roaming, she used the super-skinny squirt gun as a walking cane. Or a tape measure. Or a magician’s wand. Or, really, anything at all, so long as it involved swinging it around madly and nearly decapitating other customers.

Ella, on the other hand… Ella was far more discerning. By the time Annie had found her nineteen treasures, Ella had managed to put three items in her basket. She walked up and down every single aisle a minimum of five times. She’d remove the merchandise, examine it as if holding a holy relic or perhaps looking for crime scene evidence, and then carefully put it back, saying it wasn’t exactly what she wanted.

Never mind that she has no cell phone to put inside this exquisite dollar store case…

Socks were pored over. Which size? Which color? Would they itch? Did they match her clothes at home? Perhaps she wanted some hair accessories. Should she get a pack of glow sticks? If so, how many? After the 287th time of cheerfully saying, “Whatever you want, sweetie!”, I remarked to her that she seemed to be having a very difficult time with these decisions, to which she replied, “I know I am, Mommy. I need to get every one right. It’s just the way I’m made, I guess.”


After thirty minutes of “shopping,” I texted Nick and told him to send help. Twelve minutes later, I asked him please say some prayers for me. Under other circumstances, I would have hurried Ella’s butt right on out of there… but I’d just read this blog post last week, and although I’m often sick and tired of being told to slow down and savor the minutes (because, really, dollar store minutes are not the ones I’m going to be fondly recalling over the Mai Tais Nick and I will be sipping in Hawaii after Annie heads to college), I tried, just this once, to let Ella do her thing. Truthfully, we had no other plans. The grocery store could wait. There was no reason to rush her. Patience, mama. Patience.

As our “brief” excursion neared the hour mark, however, and as Annie began threatening to put the filthy squirt gun in her mouth, I started trying to encourage Ella to maybe speed it up a bit. Not actually hurry, mind you… No. Smell those roses, baby. Examine that sunglasses case for the fourth time. No rush; I love spending the morning in the dollar store. Patience is my thing. But perhaps – just perhaps – if you haven’t found anything you want by now, after having spent so much time in here, the Royal Baby may well have been born, left the hospital, been christened, and started teething… perhaps you don’t actually like what’s available here, so you don’t need to spend all twenty of your dollars.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, so very wrong.
Those dollars did need to be spent, every last one, on essential, important, glorious items. She just didn’t know which ones yet.

At long, long, looooooong last, Ella completed her shopping. By now, of course, the previously-empty checkout register had four other shoppers in it. And, of course, we three shoppers (I’d managed to pick up a few things, too, if only as a sanity-saving measure) could not just lump our treasures on the conveyor belt and pay together. No, no, each girl needed to have her loot rung up separately, reverently forking over her $20 bill as though it were the Dead Sea Scrolls, and then I could place my items on the belt.

By the time we finally exited the pearly gates, I glanced at my phone to see if we’d make it back home anywhere near my original 90-minute mark and discovered that we had spent an hour and six minutes inside. AN HOUR AND SIX MINUTES. IN THE DOLLAR STORE. SIXTY-SIX MINUTES. Sixty-six minutes that I will never get back, but which Ella will remember gratefully and lovingly, forever. She can even put it on my tombstone: Beloved wife and mother; patiently sacrificed her sanity so I could enjoy the dollar store.

After getting home and carrying in the groceries, the girls put off eating lunch to spread out their newly-acquired bounty across the dining room table and adoringly describe each purchase to me. Ella’s scrupulous shopping had resulted in a relatively coherent collection: hair accessories, sunglasses and case, plastic cup and cup holder, and a couple of assorted toys.

dollar store loot2
Those socks? The ones she agonized over? Wrong size.
But the “really super bouncy ball that can bounce, like, to the ceiling” does, in fact, bounce all the way to the ceiling – and can almost take out the chandelier with it. Dollar store, FTW!

Annie’s purchases, on the other hand, while supposedly all “play school” related (save for the squirt gun, although she did say she could use it as a white board pointer), had a distinct Mardi Gras flavor to them – and not just because she bought a plastic string of gold and purple comedy/tragedy beads. There were pens and pencils and drawing supplies, sure, but also coins (to practice counting), jewels and other trinkets (for the mystery kid prize box), and lots of gigantic play money. Plus, most importantly, her favorite item: a glittery pink wand “that won’t break like those cheap earrings.”

dollar store loot1
Except? The wand? Look closely… Bejeweled 15 in the middle of the heart…
Yep. Annie just purchased herself a quinceañera wand.
It’s now officially my favorite purchase of the day, too. ¡Muy bueno!

They both took a good five minutes describing every last one of their nineteen hard-won items, after which we had lunch… and then they gathered their booty, took it upstairs, and – presumably – set up the school. Or maybe they’re hanging out of their windows and throwing their beads at imaginary Mardi Gras floats. They’re not hanging on me happy, and that’s what really matters.

When Nick got home, he took the girls to get new golf gloves, and then announced that the three of them were heading over to the elementary school to hit golf balls, and did I want to come? I told him maybe later, because, as enticing as that sounds, I’m a terrible golfer, and hitting golf balls requires a lot of concentration. And coordination.
And patience. Lots of patience.

And, right now, mama is fresh out of patience.

Culture Club

My sister-and-law, Emily (yes, I have a sister-in-law who shares my name; we both totally rock it) and her best friend, Molly, visited us last week. As always when Emi is in town, we had an amazing time, laughing more often than should probably be legal; Molly’s joining her only added to the general merriment and hilarity.

Due to the extreme heatwave that so much of the country has been experiencing (and also because I am all for supporting our daughters’ cultural betterment), we all agreed that the best option for afternoon fun would be taking the girls to see Despicable Me 2.

movie despicable
Gratuitous too-dark theater shot.

They’d eschewed dessert in order to partake in the kiddie movie snack box (some popcorn, an appropriately sized drink, and some fruit snacks), and as Emi and I made our way to the seats while balancing both snack boxes, another popcorn tub, three additional beverages, and three boxes of candy, I muttered to her that we should take bets on who would be the first person to spill.

Because it was a Monday afternoon, a 2:20 showing, I’d assumed that the theater would be relatively empty – but, shockingly, we weren’t the only people who’d thought that sitting in quiet, un-sunny, below-100-degree, air-conditioned splendor was a good idea.

crowded theater
Crowded theater but no one in front of us. Score!

We settled in, shuffling seats only once and going to the bathroom only twice (yay, us!) before the showing began. As the final preview flickered, and after tearing away at the packaging like a foraging squirrel, Annie asked if I could help open her fruit snacks. Seeking to quiet the rustling, I quickly reached over to take the bag from her… and promptly spilled my popcorn all over the floor. Before the movie even began. I WIN.

Seeing kid movies is always an excellent experience, because kids don’t hesitate to say what they think – during the movie, and loudly. Nick and I still talk about the time years ago when we went to see Shrek, pre-parenthood, and as we were leaving the theater, a father was admonishing his maybe three year-old son, “Just because you don’t think something is funny doesn’t mean you have to call out ‘That’s not funny!’ every time.”

This showing did not disappoint. There were shouts of, “Don’t do it!” and giggles loud enough to shake the seats. At one point, as the heroes were confronted by an enemy… chicken… one child yelled with disapproval, “What??! It’s a chicken???” It was right around then that Molly shifted slightly in her seat… and spilled her popcorn. Alas, having done so after me, she could not claim victory, but it was a valiant effort nonetheless.

popcorn down
We picked up as much as we could, but still… After us, the ushers could definitely use a raise.

I was very much enjoying myself, chuckling at what a cute movie it was, what delightful culture we were soaking up when, minutes before the end, one of the main characters surprised me and I found myself tearing up. Eyes welling with tears! At Despicable Me 2! Not cool, Universal Studios. Thankfully, the one- and two-eyed minions broke the mood by launching into a wordless version of “YMCA” and so I was spared the embarrassment of the tears actually falling. Not that it’s unusual for me to cry at animated movies, but I do try to save myself for Up, where I’m guaranteed to dissolve into a puddle at least three separate times.

After the show, we needed to run to the grocery store, which normally would have elicited angry protests from my girls, but was instead met with gleeful cheers because air conditioning. It wasn’t until we were already inside the store that I noticed Annie was wearing elbow-length white gloves.

flower girl
What? Isn’t this what you typically throw on to visit the grocery store?
Note also: Ella’s first-ever successful bunny ears. We teach maturity early.

Because of the heat, I’d elected to wear a light, sleeveless dress, and everyone else had followed suit. Apparently, Annie thought it necessary to complete her look with some costume gloves from the playroom. At first, she simply swirled around the flower section, deliberately making “glamorous” poses. But as we finished our shopping, she ran ahead a little bit… and we rounded the corner to find her like this:

flower girl2
It’s not at all embarrassing to discover your child posing in white gloves on stacks of toilet paper.

Ah, well. You can never have too much culture.
And, if all else fails, she’ll have a lovely future as a toilet paper model.

ladies who lunch   Ladies who lunch. Or, in this case, ladies who spill popcorn and pose on packages of bath tissue. But not at the same time… yet.

Throwback Thursday: Graffiti, Grammar, and Giggles

Yesterday’s post about my experience during my LEAP summer got me thinking about the many other stories that came out of those two months – some poignant, some sad, others tremendously funny. I then remembered one of my favorite photos from those days in the housing project, and decided it was too fantastic not to share.

If memory serves, the apartment complex consisted of three residential buildings with one “common” area as well. Living there* was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. There was shouting at all moments of the day and occasional gunshots at night. A distinct, unpleasant odor permeated the indoor public areas. The elevators had buckets in the corner, because it’s better to have urine in a container than on the floor. Graffiti lined every wall. We put duct tape facing outward on our bed frames to catch the roaches before they skittered up and into our sheets; more than once, I awoke to find one stuck, legs still kicking.

(*I am talking about the physical space, not what it was like, emotionally, living there, nor what it was like to live so near my beloved campers. Just the buildings themselves. And the smell.)

Right outside of our apartment door, which was on a fairly high floor — the 9th, maybe? — was the door to the trash chute. Every time we threw away our garbage, or really, every time we entered our apartment, we came face to face with this scribbled missive:

raymond aint

Okay. I could have found it depressing – the graffiti and all. Or maybe threatening, considering that  Raymond was so directly “targeted.” Or some sort of commentary on life in the projects.

But, come on – there’s graffiti everywhere, even at my daughters’ elementary school (although probably not quite like this). And really? I just find it hilarious.

Firstly, it amuses me that Raymond – who, I assume, is male – is insulted using derogatory terms typically aimed at females. I also chuckle at the capital B; clearly, the message writer meant business. (See also: the three exclamation points at the end. I MEAN IT!!!)

Secondly, the grammar nut in me is tickled that Raymond is identified as a gardening tool. I imagine that the insulter intended to refer to him as a slut… but perhaps I’m wrong. (I also recognize the irony of me grammatically analyzing the use of slang, but my awkward geekiness just makes it funnier, no?)

And finally – speaking of grammar – the misspelling of ain’t makes me laugh out loud. Well, maybe I giggle rather than laugh outright, but still… Whoever wrote this was DETERMINED to use the word ain’t (clearly, isn’t or is not would not have sufficed), but somehow knew it just didn’t look right.

anit… No, that’s not it…

an’t… Damn it, I know there’s an apostrophe in here, but this is still not right!


If you can’t find humor after riding up a urine-filled elevator to your roach-filled apartment, where can you find it?