Thursday, March 28, 2013


I could tell you about our spring break.

I could tell you that Whit’s father and his wife, with whom we spend very little time, begged us to allow them to take us on an "all expenses paid" cruise.

I could tell you I hate cruises.

I could tell you they forgot to mention the Ft. Lauderdale hotel. If I say the nicest thing about it was the iceberg lettuce at the all-you-can-eat buffet, will you catch my drift?

I could tell you that "Jack, please don’t play with the hotel room safe, as it contains our passports, your birth certificates, our wallets and my jewelry” turned into Caroline screaming at us that “He made a MISTAKE! So he forgot the combination! Big deal! You’re making him feel bad!"

I could tell you that it’s hard to find a reputable locksmith by looking through the yellow pages.

I could tell you that we were the tourists who went to "Butterfly World," where we were told to cover all moles and freckles because the birds think they’re seeds and peck at them. (Yes. We did spend some time on this memorable vacation dodging carnivorous birds. And we paid $22 a person to do it.)

I could tell you that the cruise was free for our hosts, paid for in a mere four and a half agonizing hours of our family being dragged around Florida by a Botoxed blonde who tried to sell us a time share.

I could tell you Caroline tried to buy a time share. And that a full two hours of our time was spent with the blonde attached to Caroline’s side, as if my daughter had $28,000 in her piggy bank.

I could tell you that once we got on the ship, it became apparent that I’d have fit in better if I had gotten heavily tattooed, gained forty pounds or enjoyed licking Whit’s tonsils while balancing a 15” margarita and a lit cigarette.

I could reiterate that I hate cruises. Oh, and sketchy hotels. And all-you-can-eat buffets. And most of Florida. And...never mind. I'd better not name names.

I could tell you the cruise tried to leave the harbor and ran aground. I could tell you it takes four tugboats to unstick a cruise ship.

I could tell you I do not know how to do the Cupid Shuffle, and I do not care to learn. But many, many people take those moves very seriously.

I could tell you my 76 year old father-in-law beat the pants off a room of teens in a ping-pong tournament.

I could tell you Caroline won $65 in cash bingo.

I could tell you that ping pong and bingo were the highlights of the entertainment on the ship. Oh, except for the guy who climbed into a balloon after making highly inappropriate lubrication jokes that my kids still want me to explain.

I could tell you our hosts don’t drink and don’t like anyone around them to drink. As a corollary point, I could tell you that Whit became good friends with the bartender who could keep his mouth shut.

I could tell you the boat rocked so violently that the kids and I are still seasick. One night, I literally kept sliding to the bottom of my bed and then back to the top.

I could reiterate that I really, really hate cruises. And the rest of it.

But I won’t. Because that's so negative and boring.

Instead, I will tell you that I love tropical islands.

Even if there are dead lizards, cooked by the sun, in our hotel room.

Because we got this:

And this:

And this:

And, in the end, it was all almost worth it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Birthday Boy

When my mom was alive, she and my dad would celebrate their birthdays in a very refined, elegant way. There was a beautiful place they’d go to dinner; it always had a live band and tuxedoed waiters. After dessert, the ceiling would be rolled back and they would dance under the stars.

Fast forward almost seven years and my dad lives with me. My ceilings don’t move and the only live music is Caroline practicing her recorder.

Yesterday my dad turned 78. I think he’d be the first to agree he’s not that thrilled to be celebrating yet another birthday. He seems perfectly happy, but he’s not a particularly young 78 and I think life, at this point, is tedious for him.

However, he’s got five kids. And we’ve all got kids. And we were going to celebrate his birthday, damnit, whether he liked it or not.

I tried to think of a dinner that would feed a ton of kids and adults, and I settled on spaghetti and meatballs. Which is fine, but I have a pathological fear of running out of food when I entertain, so I made 15 dozen meatballs. It took me all day. (Now, before my undiagnosed OCD gets blamed for me counting the meatballs, I only know how many there were because I lined them up in rows of 12 as I made them. Then I counted the rows. Yeah, maybe that’s a little OCD. Never mind.)

Mid-afternoon, I got a text from my dad.

"What’s the dress code for tonight?"

Oh, Dad. Dude, I’m making meatballs. Wear a smock.

Late afternoon, my brothers and sister and their families started showing up. It was instant chaos. Whit was trying to take business calls and kids were hiding under his desk in a game of hide and seek. The dog was barking, we temporarily lost a three year old, Nerf darts were flying past my father’s head. It was, to say the least, a far cry from the serenity of his birthdays past.

After dinner my father asked me for a finger bowl. I nearly choked on my wine.

(I hope he was kidding.)

Once dinner had been cleared (and by "cleared," I mean all the kids put their plates on the floor and let the dog lick them clean) (and yes, there’s a sanitizing feature to my dishwasher), we brought out the cake. My older brother had brought it, and he thought it would be really funny to put 78 candles on it.

So he did.

Without realizing my dad has ADVANCED LUNG DISEASE.

Clearly my father didn’t think it was a good idea, either.

So over my shouts of, "He has COPD! My house is going to burn down!" all the kids gathered around Grumpy and, with spit flying, blew out all 78 damn candles.

"Fire department’s here," called my husband.

(I hope he was kidding.)

Since copious amounts of wine are always involved in our family dinners (don’t judge; we’re Irish), another brother escorted my dad back down to his apartment (that was the blind leading the blind but I was looking for the three year old so I let it go).

Later that night, after my sister made everyone leave together so all the toddler meltdowns would occur at exactly the same time and no one would be able to whisper about her kids’ behavior, I got a text from my dad.

"Thanks for making my birthday so nice."

I know he meant, "But don’t you dare do it again next year."

Happy birthday, Dad.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Help wanted? Don't ask me.

So recently I started looking for a job. Not a capital-J job, with nice clothes and bonuses and vacation time and a hefty paycheck. I mean a little-j job, in that I want to sit in my office, in my house, and write. Which is what I already do, but I kind of wanted to see if I could get paid for it. So I hung out my shingle as a freelance writer.

At first it was fun. Wine dinners with fellow writer friends who gave me encouragement and advice. Emails to old colleagues who were excited to hear from me. One post on Facebook that got me in touch with an old sorority sister and a guy who went to my school’s brother school in high school (say that five times fast).

Then someone asked me for my corporate résumé.

Um, okay.

I looked at my résumé, which was last updated when my wardrobe was last updated, which was when I needed a wardrobe for a job.

Which was 11 years ago. Trust me, look in my closet and you’ll see.

So, while back then I could stand behind my prowess as a Director of Corporate Communications who regularly jetted places and could offhandedly say with authority, "The bond offering is totally on track" or "This merger is a done deal" and could tell the CEO I had him scheduled for a Time Magazine photo shoot, I’ve become a little different over the past 11 years.

And I didn’t know that my most recent job would fit in with my impressive, yet thoroughly outdated, corporate résumé.

Well, fine, I thought, undaunted. I’ll do what I always did when adding a new job: I’ll think of the position I held, and of the unique skills and knowledge I had gained. Easy peasy. Lemon squeezy.

Mom (March 2002 to present)

Very good at finding the source of a poop smell, whether it’s from the dog, a diaper, or an unflushed toilet on another floor.

Excellent writer of MOMS Club agendas, snarky passed notes during PTA meetings, school excuse notes and a sometimes inappropriate and/or sporadic blog.

Pure genius at sneaking fruits and vegetables into the diets of unsuspecting diners.

Able to diagnose strep throat with a flashlight, appendicitis with some jumping jacks and a fever with a kiss on the forehead.

Fabulous at making a single income stretch...and stretch...and stretch...but never quite break.

Consistently able to prove the existence of the infamous "eyes in the back of my head."

Demonstrates unending patience when faced with children who want to sing a song/show a dance/read a book/tell a story…over and over and over.

Possesses amazing internal clock that instinctively knows when screen time is up.

Gifted at calming irrational fears, turning bad moods around and healing injuries on the spot (particularly when the right graphic band-aids are available).

Able to spontaneously join a soccer game, jump on a trampoline or play hopscotch, even when unprepared and not wearing a sports bra.

Adept at most household tasks, including snaking a toilet, fixing a garbage disposal and installing a doorbell. Not capable of any tasks involving rodents or spiders.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

I’ve got nothin’.

I didn’t have a résumé to send.

But, on the bright side, I’ve got happy, well-loved kids.

And a husband who will agree we both married pretty darn well.

And fully snaked toilets.

So what did I do about the guy interested in the corporate me?


I made him brownies, checked him for a fever, and came home to get back to my blog.

After all, this is where I can fully utilize all the skills that really matter, like how to stay sane all the way up until cocktail hour.