Monday, November 24, 2008

Rage Against the Machine

Packaging nightmare

What's every parent's Christmas nightmare? We've all been there. We've got our Santa clothes on and finally have the kids secure in their beds. We unload the items from the attic and bring them down to the living room to begin the assembly process. Some of us drink a few cocktails and watch It's A Wonderful Life, trying to savor every minute of it. Until the minutes become hours. Why? Because of the ridiculous measures that toy manufacturers take to securely fasten the toys to the packaging so that they are displayed to utter perfection on the store shelves, catching the eye of young passer-bys. These days the displays involve all manner of torture devices from plastic wrapped wire to strategically placed rubber bands, screws and industrial staples. It all adds up to a frustration filled Christmas Eve when Santa hats become sweat bands and holiday cheer turns into yuletide rage.

Time allotted for assembly of the Littlest Pet Shop Fitness Center: 5 minutes.

Actual time required: 47 minutes

Cost: your mental health

After five or six of these episodes, you are tired, frazzled, angry and half drunk and the pile of trash that has accumulated in the corner is beginning to resemble the debris of a demolished building.

The purpose of this post is not to wallow in this misery but to let parents in on a genius little secret: THIS CAN ALL BE AVOIDED!

In a move that can only be classified as genius, has partnered with Mattel and other manufacturers to provide its customers with "Frustration Free Packaging." What this means for me is that the Barbie Cruise Ship (no, my daughter is not into age-appropriate toys) that I ordered yesterday will arrive on my doorstep in a big cardboard box with zero packaging. They'll be no clear plastic viewing window, no attempt at aesthetic shelf appeal, just a toy in a box, a big, glorious toy in a box. This brings me great joy and hope for humanity and, coupled with the free shipping offered on many products and their low prices, gives me almost no motivation to shop elsewhere.

So, get out there and rage against the department store machine and do your holiday shopping at Maybe toy manufacturers will take the hint and do a little good for our collective mental health and the environment and get rid of the ridiculous over-packaging that has taken over store shelves of late.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Urine Going to Enjoy This One

Pretty sure that's my second time using a play on words with the word, "urine." What's wrong with me?

Urine Collection Jug

So, I've been peeing into a biohazard jug all day. Fun fun! I lost the
hat (white plastic thing that goes into the toilet to collect the pee)
so have been forced to improvise. Despite my husband's genius
suggestion that I use a plastic fire hat that one of the kids brought
home from school, I have been using a large glass measuring cup. If any
of you would like me to provide your family with baked goods in the
near future, please let me know. The list is long.

As a result of my forced confinement, I have morphed into a happy homemaker. I cooked a whole chicken to prepare for Thursday's Teacher's Soup Lunch at my son's school which was, incidentally, postponed until Dec. 3rd this afternoon. I also baked, frosted and decorated 48 cupcakes (fret not, I've got more than one measuring cup) for my son's upcoming 6th birthday.

For the record, I am astounded by how easy it is to find photos of urine collection products on the internet. Who knew?

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Tribute

Last night I lost my Grandma. She was 94 years old
and had been living without her husband for over seven years. She was ready to
go. She’d been ready for a while and she left this world peacefully. These
memories are dedicated to my Grandma and Grandpa who are together at long last.

Tip and Jack, this one’s for you:

What I remember most about Grandma, aside from her
spunk and sense of humor, is the adoring eyes of Grandpa and how much he loved
her. I remember a visit they made to my house during my senior year of high
school. Grandpa wanted to get Grandma a nice gift and asked me to take him to
the store. In the car on the way to the local department store he revealed that
he wanted to buy her a nightgown. A deep admirer of the aesthetics of a
woman all of his life, Grandpa was very specific about his nightgown choice. He
wanted something that would flatter her figure. Between the driving "lessons" he would give me while we cruised through town (he was never much of a passenger in his life), he proceeded to tout the
virtues of Grandma's then-80-year-old body to me saying things like, “You know, your
Grandma has a really nice figure. Always has.” At that moment, although
admittedly embarrassed, I saw my 80-year-old Grandma through her husband’s eyes
and I saw her as I never had before. She was beautiful in a timeless way that
few can ever hope to achieve, a loving, devoted wife and mother and the object
of one incredible man’s undying affection. I helped Grandpa pick out a
nightgown befitting royalty for Grandma, the apple of his eye.

Grandma was a fairly peaceful woman. She got along
with most, had a pleasant disposition and a dry sense of humor that I’d like to
think I inherited, at least partially, from her. She did have a running
dispute, her own personal vendetta against one marvel of modern technology: the
television. I don’t know if my memories are amplified because I so desperately
wanted to watch Guiding Light at age
10 at the beach instead of splashing around in the ocean or flying a kite with
my cousins or any number of things that kids “should be doing.” But I felt
constantly persecuted by her insistence that I “turn that infernal thing off!” An
avoider of conflict all of my life, I usually complied and ended up swimming in
the bay with my cousins, riding the waves in the ocean, or chatting with my
family on rocking chairs on the porch. No matter what the alternative activity
was, it was always more enriching and memorable than any episode of Guiding Light so I guess Grandma knew
something I didn’t. While these moments felt like persecution at the time, I
learned a deep appreciation for quality time with family from my Grandmother
and, as a result of her and my Grandpa’s efforts, I know my five cousins as
well as many families know their own siblings. Our dedication to carry on
Grandma and Grandpa’s legacy has led to many recent family reunions. To this
day, every time the television is turned on in the presence of my extended
family, I feel some residual guilt. Mission accomplished Grandma.

After I turned 12 or so, our beach vacations ceased
and we switched to the Western half of the country. We started a new tradition
of meeting at Keystone ski resort in Colorado for a week each spring. Grandma
and Grandpa had always rented the beach houses and they continued to give us
this great gift by renting a ski bungalow every year. By the time our ski week
tradition started, neither Grandma nor Grandpa were able to ski but they
participated none-the-less. They came to the ski lodge with our picnic lunches
every day and we all hopped off the slopes for an hour or so of conversation
and nourishment. They listened intently as we all spoke of our skiing
adventures and mishaps of the morning. Lunch was always a lively occasion and
attendance was mandatory. After our thawing and belly-filling was complete, we’d
gear up and head out. A couple times during each week, Grandma and Grandpa
would hop on the Gondola to watch us collectively come down the mountain
directly under them while the Gondola cruised to it’s destination. This mass
ski required some logistics and many of the more skilled skiers in our group
were forced to wait for the rest of us but we all participated without
complaint for the sake of Grandma and Grandpa. We’d wait until we saw Grandpa’s
hands hanging out the window of the gondola and all start skiing. We’d stop,
look up, and wave to Grandma and Grandpa who waived, smiling and laughing
enthusiastically in return. They may have longed to be hitting the slopes
themselves but we never knew it. They seemed perfectly content to watch us
glide down the mountain as a group, THEIR group, THEIR family, the creation of
the two of them and their love for each other.

And that is how I think of them
now: together at long last, hand in hand, looking down on our growing family,
content with the legacy they left behind.





Monday, November 10, 2008

Wary Googlers

A friend of mine is starting a blog and I was helping her with it today (it was a paid service so I did my best to be professional). I used my own blog as an example and showed her the stats section where I can check where the visits to my blog are coming from. I clicked on the first search engine hit to illustrate the nifty feature that allows you to see what people are searching to arrive at your blog. What were the search words you ask? In the past I've had such gems as Bret Michael's hair, Furries, and many others. This one, though, takes the cake: Hugh Hefner STD. Thank goodness she is a friend or I would have been mortified. We both had a hearty laugh about that and moved on. Just remember, if the urge to uncover Hef's seedy medical history strikes you, have no fear. Just do a google search and Another Gray Hair will be the 9th entry. I'm here to please and provide massive amounts of useless information.

Since my post about Hef did not actually answer the question as to whether or not he has an STD, I thought I should address that now for wary Googlers looking for answers. According to the ever-reputable Wiki Answers, yes, Hef did have an STD, syphilis, in 1991 from an unknown partner. We can all rest easy tonight knowing that this question is answered and that Hef has recovered from syphilis to live a long happy life full of pure American debauchery. Go Hef!

In completely unrelated news the Wii has become a major source of contention in my home. I feel like we should be interviewed for the next E! "Curse of the Lottery" special where we could serve as a cautionary tale for families who win small household luxuries in Bingo games. Sure, you think you're lucky now. Just wait! WAIT! Ever since I purchased the Legos Star Wars game for $19.99 (that's the only reason I bought it!), my son has become completely obsessed with it. He dreams about it, talks about it, and collapses into a ball of desperation when I deny him the privilege. This week is not going well for him. Due to his unpleasant attitude when asked to complete simple household chores (I insist that my kids do these things with a "willing spirit"—think that's a bit of a stretch?), he has lost his Wii privileges for two days. His response to this punishment was similar to that of a rabid, Ferrell cat trapped in a small space. I confined him in his room and shut the door but I never, ever want to hear those noises again.

To add insult to injury, my husband, who knows that my son's Wii privileges have been revoked is, at this very moment, attached to the Wii remote giving Darth Vader a run for his Lego money. He's got the volume down to conceal his illicit game play from my son. What a gent.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


No matter which candidate you were rooting for, I think we can all breath a collective sigh of relief that the election is over. The madness is through. I may go into a little CNN Ticker withdrawal but I'll be alright. And you will too.

Santa Mall

Moving on. Let's talk about Christmas, shall we? My good friend Jacquelyn and her lovely troop of Daisy Girl Scouts are participating in a Christmas parade. The parade takes place in the perimeter of the local mall and is meant to welcome Santa Claus and his elves to the celebratory world of consumerism. What's the big deal, you ask? Why does this event even qualify for blog fodder? Well, the answer to this question has much less to do with the event itself than it does with the date of the event. The parade, you know, the one to welcome Santa Claus into his cardboard house in the climate controlled "North Pole" of the mall, is tomorrow night. Tomorrow is NOV. 6, a full 50 days before Christmas! That's 7 weeks people! Absurd.

Maybe I'm a closeted Ebenezer Scrooge but I feel like this tradition is ridiculous and should be changed. Maybe they can replace Santa and his sleigh with a perfectly prepared turkey dinner or some pilgrims, something, anything that represents a holiday within a reasonable proximity to November 6. Jacquelyn and the Daisy Girl Scouts of Troop 507, I love you all dearly but I must, on sheer principle, boycott this parade and all it stands for. Have fun ushering a fake Santa into consumer hell tomorrow night. I'll be thinking about you while I make my lowly assistant shovel coal into the wood burning stove.