February 26, 2009

Theory of Relativity

Or something like that. About our dog, who is named Einstein.

Einstein, the Misnamed Dog

Our adventure to dog ownership began quite innocently. My children and I took a wrong turn returning from the West Side Outdoor Market one summer afternoon, when I saw a sign for the city kennel, and said, let’s just go “look”. My affinity for homeless strays is probably a little over romanticized by 1000 viewings of Lady and the Tramp, but I still held a glimmer of hope.

The City Kennel is not Fluffy Pet Store at the Mall by any stretch of the imagination. There are no petting rooms or cute chew toys or adoption certificates. Instead, there is cage after cage of rounded up mongrels from city dumps, abandoned buildings and other unsavory places that wild dogs gather. They were emaciated, frightened, and LOUD. As I took my 7 and 9 year old through the kennel, the dogs snarled and barked and leaped against the cage doors, terrifying them. Only to spy a sign for a section of quarantined DANGEROUS animals, out of our sight. These were the TAME ones.

After this Kennel incident, I’m certain my husband would have been thrilled that I had traumatized my children to the point of never wanting a dog. But taking the shaking, trembling little girls out of the city kennel, I knew I had to make amends. Thinking on my feet, I announced, “Obviously this is the wrong building. I thought we were going to the Animal Protective League, not Dog Prison.” Driving a few more blocks, we arrived at the pristine APL building, our oasis from the Snarling Wild Dog preview a few minutes earlier.

As I reminded my children, “We’re just here to look and pet a few animals”, they tentatively walked into the building with me. After a preliminary sign in, we were permitted in the kennel part.

There we met Moe, a 5 year old beagle mix. With his sad loving brown eyes, we read Moe’s dossier, which suggested Moe was at the APL because he chased cats and birds. In amazement that he was given away for acting as any self respecting dog would, my heart strings tugged. This was the sort of dog I wanted. A mellow, smaller, mature dog with a bit of spunk… I thought, how can I sneak this boy home?

The girls and I were completely smitten, but knew Dad’s resistance to hermit crabs, let alone a dog. So we tore ourselves away and conspired to find a plan to bring a dog home sometime SOON. My chief co-conspirator was my then 7 year old. From that day forward, she would study the APL website every day, copying pictures of homeless dogs, their description and why they would be a perfect pet. They all had names and her file grew like a deck of Old Maid cards. We were specifically looking for an adult dog (not a chewing unhousebroken puppy), and a dog small enough to snuggle on our lap.

Summer vacations and activities kept us from doing much besides watching and studying the dogs, but we knew we were building a solid case to rescue an animal. The day of reckoning arrived, when one day we noticed that the APL inventory went from 20 to 45 dogs overnight. We saw a Basset Hound mix named Riley, who seemed to fit our bill. Armed with a new toy and leash, we convinced Dad to drive down with us.

We walked up to the desk and said, we want to meet Riley, the Basset Hound. Apparently Riley had heard through the grapevine that she had company coming, because the minute we arrived at her cage, she jumped up on the door and let out a howl that can only be described as wounded animal. I think she was trying to impress us with her operatic stylings, but I cringed and immediately said, wrong animal for our calm quiet home. Let’s look around some more.

Around the corner, were two more possibilities. Winston, a yellow lab with a stump tail and a weight problem. Winston was mellow, and kind, but at 8 years old, we could foresee nothing but health issues. And at 80 lbs, I also saw outrageous dog food bills and very little lap time. Not to mention the yard bombs to pick up from a dog that size.

Then the antithesis of everything I thought I wanted was in the cage across the way. A 4 month old male puppy, breed undetermined, but possibly a Sharpei mix in the body of a lab. Short wrinkly tan skin, sweet eyes and boundless energy. The children melted and I reluctantly said, “Let’s get to know this guy better.”

Well, this little guy apparently knew how to market himself. He sat with as much restraint as a puppy can muster, his tail whipping back and forth impatiently, and looked at us wistfully with his furrowed wrinkled forehead. At this point, I said, he looks like he’s a deep thinker. My older daughter said; let’s call him Einstein if we can take him home. As if on cue, we all looked at my husband and with a perfected “please” look, and stared him down.

Unable to resist the pressure of four sets of eyes (three human, and one canine), my husband said, “He is a handsome dog.”

He trembled in fear the whole time home, apparently from motion sickness. Once we arrived home, he took in his environment with joy, discovering a house with two dogs out our back window for his viewing pleasure. To this day, nearly two years later, he lets us know anytime they are outside, or any member of their family. He has become their personal stalker, guarding their house from afar.

The first time I took him to the vet; he apparently thought if he drove that would solve the problem of car sickness. I was quite the sight driving with a 30 lb. puppy on my lap quivering.

The honeymoon quickly came to an end when Einstein thought anything left on the floor was his personal chew toy. We had several single shoes, a dining room chair leg, Bratz dolls and countless socks lost to the cause of Einstein’s teething.

As Einstein grew, and his wrinkles diminished, it became clear he was not the Sharpei the APL had guessed. We began to study books and finally determined that he is probably mostly Rhodesian Ridgeback, an African hunting dog. This theory has been backed up by his dislike of cold weather and his amazing speed when he is loose. Much to his joy, he discovered that high snow drifts rendered his invisible fence useless and he took off through the neighborhood, beckoning the other dogs to join him. Gallivanting around with glee, they relished the opportunity to frolic and smell each other. Finally all the dogs were gathered and properly restrained. Einstein just smiled, panted and then scratched his ear, short term memory failing him to the point of having no idea or recollection of his adventure.

There was another time he found a large teddy bear in one of the kid’s rooms; it was dressed in a pink ballerina tutu. He attempted to walk by my bedroom nonchalantly, like he had nothing in his mouth, but he was foiled by his own sideways glance, not to mention the big pink fluff on the side of his face. Thank goodness he doesn’t play poker.

He also has an attachment to towels and washcloths. Most towels that are not hung up immediately have been discovered with holes chewed in them, to the point where some of our towels have begun to resemble Swiss cheese. Recently, he found a pile of clean folded washcloths sitting on the coffee table which is his height. The holy grail of fun things for him. Of course, he has figured out that he must be sneaky, so after somehow pulling the pile of washcloths onto the floor, he casually laid his body over them apparently to hide his crime. His guilty face gave away his momentary joy. I noticed multicolored pieces of terrycloth sticking out from under his torso as he attempted to lie perfectly still over his treasure and I was able to rescue the washcloths from becoming matched with the towels.

Einstein has also discovered a fondness for chicken. One day, as 8 cooked chicken breasts cooled in the sink drainer to be diced for other meals, I came back to the kitchen to find the colander on the floor, the chicken vanished and a contented smirk on Einstein’s face with nary a trace of chicken to be found. But his innocent act didn’t fool me, especially when he didn’t eat for three days the chicken incident. I called the vet and inquired if the chicken was more dangerous to him than my thoughts of killing him.

His name has proven to be a bit of an embarrassment, especially when we need to yell for him and he ignores us. The implication of genius is just too much pressure for him and we call him “Stupid Dog” for short. But he’s our stupid dog and we wouldn’t trade him for the world.

February 25, 2009

Swimming in a Wading Pool


I have had a bit of dialogue with a few friends lately about the lack of quality journalism. The lazy habits of not just the readers, but also the writers. Last week, my local paper had the wrong name of the editor. They called him Tony, not Todd. One day, it had a photo caption about six people, except, there were seven in the photo. Misspellings and grammar errors are everyday occurances. Either nobody is paying attention, or nobody cares. I'm not sure which it is.
Huxley wrote of a Brave New World as his vision of the future. A world where the focus of life is pleasure and simplicity. Everyone is shiny, happy, and perpetually amused. Style is chosen over substance and nobody has to work for anything. Life is spoon fed from the day of incubation to the day of expiration.

We've slipped even more. Electronic media is increasing in popularity. Texting can destroy a teen's allowance with 15¢/per LOL or Wassup. Yet, very little is truly being said in these pricey exchanges.

I liken this phenomenon to trying to swim in a wading pool. It simply cannot happen. Imagine the wading pool at Boston Commons. The water is 6 inches deep; refreshing for hot tired feet at best. There is no opportunity to exercise or practice the backstroke. Swimming holes dry up, and fear of lawsuits has cities closing pools. Nobody really wants to get mud on their feet or dive from the high dive, anyway. It may be dangerous. We don't know how to tread water and our brains atrophy. We realize that we could drown even in six inches of water if we lay face down and never move. The wading pool fills with unmoving brains and bodies, completely lacking skills for any amount of depth.

We have forgotten how to swim. We are not prepared with lifesaving skills. We splash in the wading pool and feel refreshed, but not truly cleansed. Huxley's vision doesn't seem so futuristic. Perhaps the future is today, and suddenly, I'm not feeling quite so Brave.

February 19, 2009

The Unsinkables

I recently caught the end of The Titanic.

Quite possibly... The Worst. Movie. Ever. Really.

It is ridiculously overblown, melodramatic, and unrealistic. I don't know why it irks me so much. I suppose I'm far too practical to get swept up in the unlikelihood of a street boy (Jack) knowing how to thwart every possible snafu when on a sinking cruise ship as if that were his full time career. I cannot believe Rose gets off a lifeboat. I cannot believe Old Woman Rose drops the necklace in the water. She really is senile. I cannot believe she had 87 photos of her life on a exploration ship. I love musical theater because it is SUPPOSED to be cheesy. This movie took itself way too seriously.

I got to thinking how much more campy and fun the movie COULD have been. Suppose the cast from The Love Boat was on-board the Titanic. Can you see Julie passing out squirt guns for a water fight? Or perhaps teaching an ice carving workshop? Doc swearing that if that woman takes off her heavy coat and gown she'll float much better? He'd throw in a personal exam, too. Isaac mixing up a few hot toddies to take the chill off. Gopher... what, what did Gopher do again? Oh Gopher would be campaigning for the Senate. And of course Capt. Stubing, I think he would have had a romance with Molly Brown. I can see Kathy Bates and Gavin McLeod dining at the Captain's table followed by a quick whirl around the dance floor.

I think it would be so much more poignant to have a thwarted romance with the Captain, as he must go down with the ship. Can't ya just see it? The Love Boat would NOT be complete without a guest appearance by Charro. How could the henchman who kept trying to keep Rose and Jack apart take himself seriously with a half dressed Charro coochiecooching him? Then I would be laughing not screaming at the movie. I could accept every implausibility and suspend my disbelief.

The potential for a sequel would be so much more promising.

Gilligan's Iceberg, anyone?

My Favorite Teacher

My 5th grader has a favorite teacher. There isn't a day of the week she doesn't come home with a story that starts with, Mr. E said... She could write this teacher's biography and be president of his fan club. He inspires her and she learns more in the 45 minutes a day she is with him than the entire rest of her day, because she is engaged. It's thrilling.

Since becoming a parent, I have seen both good and bad teachers, but I resist mightily to be one of "those parents". Even with the bad teachers, I tell the kids, someday you may have a bad boss. You have to learn how to deal with both good and bad authority figures. That's a life lesson, too.

Sometimes, a teacher just knows how to grab into the very soul of a student and bring out their very best. The most special kind of teacher. I had a teacher in 8th grade, Mrs. P. She was my English teacher, and she was who I wanted to grow up to be. She was classy, elegant, and had a sense of irony and humor that didn't go over my head. I can still see her chic wardrobe and mirthful smile. Oh more than anything, I wanted to be her.

We had an assignment to write about encountering a lion. To write about it as descriptively as possible. I wanted to impress her. I wanted to prove I was worthy of carrying on her legacy. I labored over that assignment. I poured every ounce of creativity I could into that paper. She handed them back. I was baffled by my grade. She marked it with... a ... "P".

If my eyes had been a magnifying glass, I probably would have burned a hole in the paper, as I tried to see if it was a sloppy B, or the A missing a tail. Heaven forbid, I prayed it wasn't a messy F. But, there was no question about it, it was a P. Could that be a code for her last name? A "P"? What the HECK sort of grade is a P? I was confused and fought back the tears. It wasn't an A, was all I knew. I must not have impressed her as I hoped.

I tried to pay attention in class but I was mentally rehearsing how to gather my courage to approach her after class and ask, "what does this "P" mean?" As much as I worshipped her, I was also terribly intimidated by this amazing woman. I stumbled over how to approach her. With a combination of relief and trepidation, I shyly walked up to her desk after the bell rang. Mrs. P? I don't understand my grade. What is a "P"?

She looked up from her gradebook and made direct eye contact with me as the dimples on the side of her face deepened.

"P is for Promising."

That was all she said. But it was all she needed to say. Her words were the first time I believed I would write, and I've tried to keep that promise.

She was my favorite teacher, ever.

February 18, 2009

Finding Hope

In our early 20s, when my husband and I were newlyweds, we went shopping for our first house. We had quite a list of what we wanted in a home, but we also were getting started in life. We opted for a neighborhood in the city proper versus the suburbs. We found a lovely old Tudor style home, with all sorts of charming details like built-in china cabinets, an eat-in kitchen, double oven, arched doorways, and hardwood floors. Even better was the two car garage.  Everything a young couple could want. The owners seemed especially eager to sell. They were a few years older than us, with one baby and another one on the way. It was the sort of home that in the past, people raised families in, but that somehow along the path of the American dream, bigger indeed became better. They were extremely happy to negotiate with us.

It should have been a warning sign when we asked what the neighbors were like, and the wife stammered; oh they are pretty nice and talked about someone 5 doors down incessantly. We were blinded by the home, the deal, and our good fortune and brushed aside her evasiveness. We moved in. We worked opposite shifts, so our door was constantly revolving. We kept to ourselves and began to make a tidy life for ourselves. We noticed some odd activity next door, but really were never home and outside at the same time often enough to pay much attention. Then one day, a neighbor walking by stopped and introduced herself. We stood on the sidewalk gabbing and she kept glancing nervously at the house next door. She dropped her voice and whispered, "So have you had any problems with...", as rolled her eyes towards the home next door. I had noticed kids crossing the street when they rode by pointing at that house, but other than that, I said, I hadn't really noticed anything unusual. She clammed up and said, "That's good." She refused to elaborate.

Later that afternoon, I struck up a conversation with the neighbor on the other side, trying to dig a bit. He says, "B & R (the couple who sold the house to us), had a lot of problems with Hope. “Hope?" I asked. "Yes, the woman on the other side. You haven't met Hope yet?"

"No, but I've seen a woman from time to time." The mystery deepened.

"Well," the neighbor said, "Hope is a bit crazy and the threatened to kill B & R's baby."

My heart started to race with terror as I tried to keep a calm fa├žade.  Instead I went to the Animal Protective League and adopted a dog. A German Shepherd mix. I figured if I was going to be alone at night with a potential murderer next door, I would at least have some protection.

The next day at work, I was lamenting to a lady I worked with, Annie. Annie was a widow, and very devoutly religious. I was practically in tears at having bought our first home, next to a murderer. Hysterical with fear, Annie grasped my trembling hand and said, "Just be kind to her."

I don't know why her words made such sense nor had such a calming effect, but I thought, what could it hurt? At the risk of sounding crazier than my neighbor, I believe her words to me were some sort of divine intervention. Being kind was the last thing on my mind. When I got home that afternoon, I took the dog out for a walk, and she came outside. I paid more attention to her than I ever had, and actually walked over to her yard, and introduced myself.

Up close, she probably was in her mid-40s, and lived with her diabetic father, who was in his 70s. Hope appeared to have gone to the Joan Crawford School of beauty, and was plastered with thick lipstick and war paint blush and bright blue eye shadow and matted hair. Clearly, the neighborhood crazy lady. But crazy is not dangerous, I kept mentally saying as a mantra. Crazy is ill. I introduced her to my "I swear she will be fierce someday" puppy.

I prayed that Hope would notice my newly acquired guard dog, who was licking her hands and wagging her tail enthusiastically. Hope said wait here, and walked robotically back into the house. She returned a moment later with a milk bone treat for my dog. I stood there and talked to Hope for about 15 minutes while my puppy rolled and played on the grass, and kept nipping at me for that walk. I asked Hope if she wanted to join us and she declined, but also smiled.

We lived in that house for seven wonderful years. We became good friends with her and her father. He was missing half of one of his feet from diabetes so we would shovel their walk in the winter and help mow the postage stamp sized lawn. He would be outside on nice summer days listening to either jazz music or the Indians on his radio, tending his deceased wife's rose garden.

I came to worry if I didn't hear that on a summer day. Hope had her good days and bad. I think the good days were the days she took her medicine and then put on her makeup. She would walk robotically up to the store for a soda and back and people would avoid her and point at her. She would always stop and ask if I wanted anything from the store before she left. She had her quirks, but she never came close to threatening us.

We learned from the "really terrific neighbor" that she was the neighborhood joke and that someone once turned a garden hose on her during one of her rants. The people who owned our house before would antagonize her regularly. How immature and cruel. I'm glad we got that house for a song. But even more, I am glad I listened to Annie.

Be Kind. Just Be Kind To Her. I wonder how many opportunities we pass in life when we are too quick to judge and too hasty to be cruel.

I will always remember Annie's words. They brought me... Hope.

Tony and Tina's Baby

This is a riff on the off Broadway sensation of the past 20 years or so, Tony 'n Tina's wedding. I've accidentally seen part of it once, and intentionally seen the whole thing once. It's an interactive theater experience, where Tony 'n Tina are a couple of Brooklyn Italian young lovers and the theater goers are guests at their wedding. I was walking the streets of NYC in the late 80s and found myself swept up in the rice throwing and just married station wagon with the bride and groom driving along. Anyway, it's a spoof on big Italian weddings, and it really is a hoot.

When I gave birth to the first Mini Fresh, it was in the early days of immense cost cutting measures by the insurance companies. Births were given 24 hours, drive by labor. I was lucky, I started my labor early, in a store while shopping, when my water broke. I thought I had a bladder accident, but it didn't stop. I wasn't due for another 5 weeks, so I really got an early start. We arrive at the hospital, did the birth thing, but that isn't the point of the story.

The point was I was up all night, my first child, I was exhausted, exhilarated and yes, more than a little terrified. The baby was still in one of those incubator things, she was a preemie and having trouble breathing. I really was trying to get whatever rest I could before they kicked me out of the hospital to try to figure out how to take care of that mini-person.

Alas, there was an empty bed on the other half of my room. Not for long. Private rooms were not part of the insurance package. Just as I was about to drift off to sleep, 25 loud boisterous Italians barge into the room, as they wheel the mom over to the empty bed. The blinding glare from the gold chains was almost as noxious as the cigars being passed around until the nurse told them there was no smoking inside the hospital. I will call the proud papa Tony and the proud momma Tina. I don't remember their real names, to be honest. But Tony offered Mr. Fresh a cigar and a discount on hair replacements, which was his line of work. Apparently, Tony figured that he was having sex with Tina the same time Mr. Fresh and I were conceiving and that was discount worthy. They had a girl also, so he must have felt a special bond as a fellow X chromosome donor. I didn't have the heart to tell him our baby was a preemie, and jeopardize the potential price reduction on a toupee.

The celebratory cigars were extinguished with a few expletives and the family started snapping pictures of everything in the room. I pulled a sheet over my head, praying to wake up and have them gone. Mr. Fresh squeezed my hand and said, he needed to go back to the house and let the dog out. Chickenshit. So I was alone with Tony, Tina, and their extended family.

Little by little, the family tapered off and the two proud parents had the room to themselves. I was invisible on the other side of the curtain, I guess. Tony asked Tina if the doctor really said they had to wait 6 weeks to have sex again, because he'd gone without for a few weeks already. She cursed at him and said, let's at least name this baby before we start another one. Then she complained that she really needed to smoke, she had waited 9 months for a cigarette, so hurry up and name the kid. Tony grumbled and whipped out the baby name book.

Call me over-prepared, but we knew for the past 8 months that we were having a child and that our baby would need a name. We had narrowed our choices down to one girl name and one boy name. Tony and Tina apparently just realized they would have to name the baby. Allison, Amy? Annie? no no no. She doesn't look like those names. None of the A names fit their precious little child. Barbara, what the f* are you thinking? Remember that slut Barbara who tried to feel you up at Cousin Vinny's wedding? F* no, no Barbaras! Nor was Brittany a good choice. ON it went. I was so relieved they settled on Carly with a C. I don't think I could have handled the rest of the alphabet.

Finally, Tony had to go make more hair replacements or something and it was just Tina and I. I was trying to make a little small talk, do some new mom bonding, then get some rest. No, it wasn't her first baby, she had two children from other men, but they were teenagers. This was her first baby with Tony and his first baby. Then she asked me if I knew where she could go outside to have a smoke. I didn't know. She started to head off, cigarettes in hand, hospital gown waving in the wind, but, apparently the nurse said she couldn't leave in her gown. She improvised and smoked in our shared bathroom instead.

Tina watched infomercials all night. Rolling the stations, periodically getting up for a smoke, and telling the nurse she didn't want her baby, this was her last shot at peace and quiet, she had months of feeding and changing ahead of her. I remember thinking how I wished they would let me hold my baby, but she was still under observation. I've come to believe that Tina was an underground operative for the 24 hour baby birthing lobby.

I couldn't get out of there fast enough and never complained about only having 24 hours. It was about 23 too long.

February 16, 2009

Loving Joseph

I have a crush, again.

He is 11, I’m sure he is completely unaware of my crush and I’m not concerned about any sort of Mrs. Robinson inappropriate behavior. The object of my crush is an autistic boy that I get to spend an hour a week with. His idiosyncrasies charm me.

He is in my Sunday school class, and usually, with the exception of my own brilliant and talented Mini, the only student. But he’s reliable. Every week, he is there early and waiting when I arrive. I am positive that his father relishes the break, which is part of the reason Joseph has perfect attendance. Every week he has a story for me about either Super Mario or Indiana Jones, the only two things that seem to matter in his life. He arrives with a crooked smile, his dark brown impenetrable eyes, and another hour of quirkiness.

I rarely manage to finish a lesson plan as I continue to be interrupted with enthusiastic tales of Mario or Indy. My daughter told me last year, their teacher was very impatient and mean to him and that he is probably why nobody comes to class anymore. Everyone blamed Joseph for the teacher’s outbursts.

My heart broke. Joseph has an older brother the same age as my oldest Mini. His brother and my daughter are on the academic excellence circuit and frequently see each other at various competitions. His brother is as poised and mature as Joseph is awkward and goofy. They worship each other. When Joseph doesn’t talk about Mario or Indy, he mentions his big brother. When his big brother picks him up, he ruffles the Little Wild Man’s hair.

Over Christmas, Joseph informed me weekly that if he had to sing at the pageant, he surely would die. Of course he coupled his announcement with video game sound effects that simulate Game Over. I told him I was sure he wouldn’t die, but that I would sit up near the front, just in case. He told me that he would consider being a shepherd if he could carry a sheep stuffed animal. I promised he could. The morning of the pageant, we draped him in sheets and wrapped a cord around his waist and handed him a stuffed animal. He was the shepherd. His brother was the narrator. Joseph stood out of place and sang loud and off key. The contrast between the two brothers couldn’t be starker. I wonder about a universe that gave everything to the older brother, and left the younger one grasping for simple connections.

Except Joseph isn’t grasping, we are. He is one of the happiest children I know. He always has a smile and a story. It rarely has anything to do with anything we’re discussing, but I look over and see his smile and his ministrations, and I smile back.

Yesterday, Joseph was exceptionally wild. His father and I talked for a few minutes before class and he explained that during the week, Joseph has to take medication for ADD. That he gives him a break on the weekends from the constant zone of chemical numbing. I respect that choice. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to not see that spark of mischief in Joseph’s eyes. But he was a handful yesterday. I gently corrected him and said, “Joseph, do we need to talk to your father about this when class is over?” He stopped for a moment and said, “What should we tell him?” I said, “What do you think I will tell him?” He looked at me very earnestly and said, “The truth.”

It was the only thing in my entire lesson he absorbed. Or maybe I was the one getting the lesson, not him. He gave me a big hug when I was done and said, “I’m going to go tell my father what a wild baboon I was today, I’ll see you next week.”

February 6, 2009

You know you've never been outside the USA if....

(I wrote this in response to my friend who has lived everywhere... and knew she was a Third Culture Kid)... Feel free to add to the list!

Where are you from? means Which subdivision?
You still think Hawaii is a foreign country.
You can spell, but your kids cannot, since they have spell-check.
You can swear or toast in a foreign language.
But you cannot read, speak or understand it if you were to travel there.
When you write fancy things, you try to use a diacritic, but probably put it in the wrong place. You had to look it up online so you didn't just say accent mark and used the proper term.
You don't know why anyone ever worried about that metric nonsense.
You think Paris is that blonde heiress and Venice is a city in California.
You have a friend who traveled to Italy and was shocked that there were no Pizza Huts.
You get frustrated when a store clerk speaks with an accent and you cannot understand them. You take cruises in the Caribbean to soak in foreign cultures, in 5 hour increments during port calls.
You cannot believe you now need a passport to take a cruise.
You believe Epcot truly is a World Showcase.
You don't know where to go for Mexican food now that Chi-chi's closed.
You have watched Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and now know everything you need to know about NYC.
Your kids have a shirt that says "Someone in Florida Loves Me."
You can never remember if it's Russia or USSR, but you know it's filled with Communists. Packing for a vacation means loading the SUV or Minivan. Full. With a rooftop carrier.
The idea of staying somewhere without a private bathroom or air conditioning is ridiculous.
You think the capital of Mexico is Cancun.
You get mad when your cell phone loses reception, even if just for a mile.
You give directions in terms of how many blocks.
You have lived in a town with a gazebo.
You have shopped at the Gap.
You own clothing that has stars and stripes on it, and proudly sport it on the 4th of July.

February 2, 2009

This. Is. Extreme. Home. Idol.

A new type of reality show. The other night, as I was watching another episode of my guilty pleasure, American Idol, I had to listen to the repeated groans of the Fresh family. I'm sure they don't really hate the show, but they do like to give me a hard time about how much I enjoy it. I remind them that I have put up with a lot of their programs, from Pokemon to Blues Clues.

A few years ago, the Minis favorite show was Extreme Home Makeover. The premise of the show is that a hard luck family sends in an application video why they deserve a new home and why they cannot fix what they have. There have been some true heartbreaking stories on there, I admit. Veterans are a favorite cause, as are kids with diseases, and single parents. They give the family a mansion that they build in a week, working around the clock. The Minis would play EHM with their dolls and blocks, taking particular glee in the demolition part. They would decorate their doll house and yes, they *moved that bus* to show the dolls the new home. They laughed uproariously at Ty and his antics. And (for real) made a Michael doll and dressed him in princess clothes. (He's a very effeminate man on the show). I watched the show with them, but truly, it became so sappy and predictable and I had to rein in my snide remarks. I kept thinking they would have a family that had a child who was just a head in a jar and they'd put a bowling alley in the house.

The cynic in me apparently became contagious, as the Minis now prefer the Simpsons to EHM. Last night, I reminded them of all the times I endured Extreme Home Makeover, so be nice to Mom with her Idol obsession. We got to laughing and wondered if the two shows were combined? Suppose everyone had to audition for a new home with a song and dance number. And if you got voted off you had to work on the crew for the winning team, and you didn't get a house unless you won.

Think about it. Wouldn't the quest for a new home be more entertaining if instead of sobs the applicants entertained us?
What if Ty and Simon had to sit at the same table and determine worthiness as well as talent? Trying to juxtapose Ty's hyper-kinetic screaming with Simon's calm arrogance is hilarious. If you think Paula irritates him, imagine Ty. Paige could convince Randy that real dawgs wear pink. Paula and Ty could NOT carpool, under any circumstances.
Hello, DUI with a bus? Egads!

So now I ask, what should the audition songs be?
If I had a Hammer?
Brick House?

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