Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Friday, December 19, 2014

It's Beginning to Feel a lot Like Christmas (Ouch!)

As memories of Christmesses past drift through my brain, I can’t help but compare the pain levels associated with each passing year. No doubt, the holidays are definitely getting less painful as the kids get older. For those of you who are horrified that I would use the words “painful” and “holidays” in the same sentence, you win the prize for Biggest Yuletide Liar.

Before writing this, I re-read my blog posts from past Christmas seasons. Ouch. As much as I’d love to see those munchkins running through the house in their footed jammies, dancing around the room on Christmas morning, I must say that four teenagers (including three girls!) are much easier to shop for. There are far fewer meltdowns and mini-dramas during shopping excursions to crowded malls. I’ve only had to be escorted out by security twice this year.

I think the season is made easier because of lists. My scientific poll of three of my closest friends indicates that normal parents everywhere welcome a wish list from their children in the weeks leading up to the holiday season. Personally, our goal at Christmas is to supply the kids with the things they really want, or at least get as close as we possibly can. Some people I’ve mentioned this to think it’s terrible not to surprise one’s kids on Christmas morning. One parent who overheard me talking to a friend about Christmas shopping even had the nerve to say to me, “But where’s your Christmas spirit? That’s no fun! You’ve got to surprise them…let them think they might not get anything if they aren’t good!”

I actually got a cramp in my eyebrow from furrowing so hard when I heard those words. Because I was at a cocktail party, enjoying a cocktail, I zipped it. But my interior voice was speaking loudly and clearly: My kids are not four years old; they know the score. Plus, they might hurt me. They’re strong. Hey, the Santa era was fun while it lasted (not really), but let’s face it: all good things must come to an end, and by “good” I mean “punishing.” The convos about gifts and giving and receiving have transitioned from, “What are you hoping Santa brings you this year?” to “Gimme your Christmas lists. Everyone’s on my ass about getting their shopping done.”

On my side of the family, even adults exchange lists. Our lists don’t have open ended suggestions, like “kitchen stuff” or “tools.” We’re too practical. Our lists include links to the exact item, including color, size and number of batteries required. All the giver needs to do is click, and buy. This year I got an email notification on December 12th that my gift, a $100 gift certificate to _____________, would be arriving soon. Hmmm. That actually was a new one, but not far off the mark. One year, I was told what was in the box as it was set in my lap, before I could get it unwrapped.

Sometimes, we reverse engineer our lists, and just tell each other what not to buy, like this year, when my brother gave my mother strict instructions not to buy him clothes. He even went out of his way to tell me to make sure our mom doesn’t buy him clothes. So what did we do? My mom and I went shopping together and bought my brother clothes. We opened presents early to account for the fact that we all wouldn’t be together on Christmas, which led to another holiday tradition in my family: handing over receipts because we just don’t listen.

Just in case anyone is interested, here’s my Christmas wish list, in no particular order:

1. Subscription renewal to tranquilizer of the month club
2. Stock in feminine hygiene products manufacturer 
3. Gift cards to DMV
4. Gift cards to Matich-Vukovich Insurance
5. A milk cow
6. Gift cards to BGs
7. Gift cards to local taxi service
8. More coffee
9. Some ibuprofen
10. A little ice water, please

Don’t forget: Let me know what you get me so that I can update my list periodically to keep it fresh for others who ask for it.

Wishing you and yours a painless holiday season! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving: No Pressure

For as long as I’ve known my husband, which is 11 years, I’ve known that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. I know this because our souls are deeply, almost cosmically connected, and because every year about this time, I overhear him tell someone, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.”

I’ve always just assumed it was because of the food. But this year, I decided to find out what was so special about it (to him) that it causes the year-on-year giddiness. I finally asked the other day, when he got home from work (school) and said this:

“I told my class today that my favorite holiday was almost here and they wanted to know why.”

“So do I. Why is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday?”

“Because there’s no pressure.”

I immediately performed a mental inventory of high-pressure holidays. I came up with one: Christmas. For me, Christmas is wrapped in an enormous amount of pressure: satisfying the children’s wish lists; visiting relatives; obeying the budget; pretending that I like to bake cookies; dodging the Jesus bullet. As I broke out in a cold sweat just thinking about the Polar Express bearing down on me in one month, my husband expanded on his answer. I should have known it would include his favorite F-words.

“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because all you have to do is show up, watch football and eat food.”

That made sense. I didn’t have to ask him about Christmas—the multi-chambered vortex of yuletide pressure is just too obvious, with one exception: Baking cookies is his thing.

So then I started wondering what sort of pressure load the other holidays might be bearing on him.

“The 4th of July?”

“It’s a lot of pressure to find a red, white and blue shirt! And sometimes I forget to get the flag out.”

I realized he had spent a considerable amount of time thinking this through. I delved further.


“Doorbell…Barking dog…Calories!”

“Valentine’s Day?”

“Expensive Hallmark card, planning the perfect date.”

“St. Patrick’s Day?”

“Getting to the pub at 6 a.m. for green beer!”

“When is the last time you felt compelled to do that?”


“Anything else? What about New Year’s Eve?”

“New Year’s Eve! Tons of pressure! What party am I going to? Who is going to drive me? How am I going to stay awake until midnight?”

“We usually just stay home with the children on New Year’s Eve.”

“Exactly! Why don’t I get invited to any parties?!”

With that, I decided that 2015 would be the year of no-pressure holidays for our household. I thought I’d get a running start by cancelling Christmas, 2014, and instead plan a trip to Disneyland. After a quick visit to, I realized that the Most Expensive Place on Earth is no place to relieve any pressure whatsoever. Determined to get started with my “No Pressure in 2015” plan, I told all four kids they could invite a friend over on New Year’s Eve. With four teenagers, life has become all about ticking one more opportunity for disaster off the list, one day at a time, and New Year’s Eve is a big tick! Keep ‘em home and keep track of them is what I say.

Moving on, Valentine’s Day will be easy: I’ll just pick a fight with my husband the day before and we’ll call it good. St. Patrick’s Day: It’s on a Tuesday in 2015. Who drinks on a Tuesday? Don’t answer that.

Just when I thought I had spring in the bag, a sickening feeling crept into my gut: Easter. Every year, my moral stance (and normal habit) of only buying organic eggs in protest of commercial poultry farming practices dissolves in the face of buying four dozen of those expensive suckers all at once. But those poor Foster Farms chickens! Which brings us to Mother’s Day. Brunch or Dinner? In-laws or immediate family only? Is it OK to actually let one’s mother pick up the check on Mother’s Day? What if she insists? My husband is right!

I have to give it to my husband on this one: Thanksgiving is where it’s at, if for no other reason that what it doesn’t bring to the table: pressure. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thank You, Teenagers (This is not a paid advertisement.)

So far this November, I’m thankful that Facebook (at least on my newsfeed) hasn’t been deluged with that tiresome habit of people posting one new thing every day that they are thankful for. My eyes were sore from rolling them last year. I finally stopped reading when I saw, “I’m thankful for the love of my turtle.” Say what? Your turtle loves you? But even the obvious thank-you posts, like “I’m thankful for the love of my children” or “I’m thankful for clean air to breathe” get a little old.

I’m not suggesting that we should not be grateful for things like love and breathable oxygen, I’m just saying this: Can’t we dig a little deeper? Not in importance, because what is more important than love and air? (Well, perhaps an unwatched episode of Real Housewives of Beverley Hills on our DVR.) I mean, not even one nod to Facebook? Not once have I ever seen an honest Facebook appreciation  post, like, “I’m thankful for the opportunity to be friends with people I actually thought were dead” or “I’m thankful for having an outlet to broadcast passive-aggressive insults thinly disguised as compliments.”

So I’m borrowing a page from late-night show host Jimmy Fallon, the man who has single-handedly resurrected the lost art of thank-you note writing, and dedicating this pre-Thanksgiving column to my four teenagers. It’s not in cursive, on a notecard, but it still counts. Here we go:

Thank you, teenagers, for standing in the kitchen and saying, “Can I make…” and not “Will you make me…” I don’t even care it it’s healthy; I only care that I’m not being asked to do it for you. For the record, if you were to say, “Can we make deep-fried hot dogs for an afterschool snack?” I’d say yes. And then if you said, “But can we make deep-fried hot dogs using our dog?” you’d still get a yes as long as you can do it without my assistance.

Thank you, teenagers, for being old enough to wash the car, pick up your shoes, socks, backpack and the dog’s poop. You are physically capable, and so I’ll let you, just like I let you use the ladder to get to the top of the playground slide once you were able to do that. Doing it yourself made us both happy then, and it makes us both happy now.

Thank you, teenagers, for occasionally not being able to stand the sight of me, or hear the sound of my voice. The feeling is mutual. I realize this is a natural stage of adolescence, and the level of disgust you feel just being in my general vicinity is evidence of your emerging sense of independence and vital to your survival and successful navigation of the world you’ll be slogging through by yourself in just a few short years. Feel the urge to storm out of the room in a huff? I’m especially thankful for that. Knock over my wine, and you’re dead.

Thank you, teenagers, for each smelling uniquely different, which allows me to identify the owner of random articles of clothing I find around the house. If it’s a sweatshirt smelling of strawberry fields deodorant wrapped in peach blossom bodyspray, cloaked in honeysuckle-rose room freshener, I know exactly who it belongs to. We’ll leave it at that.

Thank you, teenagers, for being old enough to form your own opinions and follow your heart. But the day I catch you watching Fox news or dating a guy with giant fake bull testicles hanging from his bumper, we will be having a talk.

Thank you, teenagers, for not a single one of you insisting I go to 6th grade science camp. It may have been because you knew I wasn’t sciency, or it may have been your emerging sense of independence. Whatever the reason, thank you for not making me prove to your dad that I could go four days without wine.

Happy Thanksgiving, teenagers, for giving me so many things to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ironic Reactions and Ravioli Season

I’ve noticed lately that when I read certain stories in the news, my first reaction isn’t always…typical. In fact, I guess it could be called ironic. Like, for instance, the other day I read a story about a dad who kidnapped his 9-year old son in Seattle instead of returning him to his ex-wife, and then sailed away for a tiny atoll off the coast of New Zealand.

As I read the story, I thought, “Some people get all the luck.” (Note: The kid was eventually found unharmed and having a great time.)

That story reminded me of another ironic-ish reaction I had recently. My ex-husband told me that he wanted to get passports made for our kids. Later, I mentioned it to a friend.

“My ex wants to get passports made for the kids.”

“Oh, ok. How come?”

It then occurred to me that I hadn’t asked my ex what his intentions were.

“Not sure. Hopefully he’ll kidnap them.”

T-minus 12 Days to T-Day
My yard is full of turkeys this time of year. I keep telling my kids to come in and get out of the cold, but they never listen. They’re teenagers. My yard also has hens now, thanks to four little ladies we adopted recently. We are all waiting patiently for eggs (well, except for my husband, who was against the idea of having chickens for years, until the moment we got them, when he began calling them “my chickens”). He can’t wait for the day he can fetch an egg and cook it up for his breakfast. On the bright side, at least I’ve finally figured out the answer to the age old question, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Speaking of turkeys, we’re at my parents’ house for Thanksgiveit this year, which means the day will be steeped in tradition, including setting the table three days prior, and homemade ravioli with Italian gravy the day of. Other traditions include unsuccessfully avoiding political discussions and never, ever running out of wine.

My mom makes hundreds of ravioli this time of year and freezes them, to get the family through ravioli season. We’ll also have pumpkin pie made from my Great-grandmother Boitano’s recipe, with its super-secret ingredient (brandy). I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie. To me, it tastes like brandy-laced baby food, and I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that to brandy. I also don’t care for turkey, no matter how perfectly it’s cooked. I typically eat just a few bites strictly for its protein properties, drench it in gravy, and load up on my favorites: potatoes, stuffing, and ravs. Oh, another tradition: certain family members judging other family members for the amount of food on their plate. Before you assume that we shame fat people at our table, kindly recall one important detail: We’re Italian. At our dinner table, if you don’t sit down with a mountain range of food on your plate, or god forbid pass on a second helping the size of a Volkswagen, or shun dessert, you will be treated to a delightful interrogation game I like to call, “Whatsa matter with you?” It goes like this, and it happens as the offender tries to slide into his or her seat at the dinner table, unnoticed:

“Is that all you’re eating?”

“Um, yeah.”

“How come? You on a diet?”

“No. Because that’s how much fits in my stomach.”


Then, fifteen minutes later, it’s the Lightning Round:

“I guess you’re done eating.”


“What’s the matter? You afraid you’ll get fat?”


“Boy, wish I had your willpower.”

“It has nothing to do with willpower. I stop eating when I’m full.”

The stare I get back is so blank, so devoid of any understanding of what I’ve just said, it’s as if I’ve suggested that we engage in a new Thanksgiving tradition consisting of spraying gravy and whipped cream around the room and throwing the plates in the garbage instead of washing them.

At the end of a nice evening, we all end up disgustingly full of something, whether it’s food, wine, dessert or hot air, which, after all, is the American way. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Little Self-Awareness Never Hurt Anyone

It’s not every single day, or maybe it is, when a moment presents itself to us that just stinks of importance. That is, if one is interested in taking their human experience to the next level. It is in these moments that people could benefit greatly from a little reflection, and time to allow the words, “I think I could use a little adjustment here” to bubble up.

For all you lovers of remaining exactly the way you are, consider this: Unless you are seriously deranged, you are not the same person with the same beliefs that you were at the age of six; you no longer want to marry your mommy, or have an imaginary friend. These ideas have been discarded and replaced because you’ve spent time really thinking about them: You’re actually not that attracted to your mom and/or you could probably do better, and imaginary friends don’t have private parts.

Why should it be any different when one is 40, 50, 60, or even 70, for that matter? There is no magic age that we get to when the universe suddenly makes complete sense and as a result, so do all of our thoughts and actions. One has to be willing to shed old beliefs and make room for new ones that help society. And by society, I mean me.

By practicing a little self-awareness, we can achieve new levels of understanding, about ourselves and others. What better place for a person to start than with grammar.

Specifically, I’m referring to pronoun usage.  

As a refresher, pronouns take the place of (rename) nouns: I, me, he, she, it, that, this, etc. Overuse of pronouns, a.k.a., pronounarrhea, results in vague sentences that require even more talking.  And if there is one thing the world doesn’t need more of, it’s talking. The irony of this statement is not lost on me.

Allow me to illustrate. Recently, my husband and I were carrying a high-backed loveseat down our staircase. Halfway down, our stairs split and go in two directions toward the first floor; there is a small, 4 x 5 foot landing at the split, where one can go left, toward the front entryway, or right, toward the family room. So there we were, on either side of the cumbersome couch, which prevented the sharing of non-verbal clues of any kind. And then, this happened:

Husband: Okay, you can lower it a little and go this way.

Wife: Which way?

Husband: THIS way, THIS way!

Need I say more?

The relative pronoun, “THIS,” even in its all-capped glory, really didn’t tell me a friggin’ thing. So I guessed left. Turns out, I was correct, which is why I said this:

Wife: Just a note for future reference: it’s ok to be specific and say, “my left” or “your right.”

Husband:  (silence)

Had I guessed wrong, and zigged when he zagged, we’d have probably dropped it, which would have resulted in this long-winded conversation:

Husband: I said THIS way!

Wife: This staircase has two THIS ways, Einstein!

Parking lots are another location where one can experience messy bouts of pronounarrhea.

“There! That one!”



Now I ask you: Would it be so hard to say, “to the right,” or “on the left?”  I mean, I see frantic pointing going on out of my peripheral vision, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to glance over and see exactly where my passengers are pointing. I don’t know about you, but when I have an important decision to make, for example, whether to take my eyes off the road while I’m driving, I think ahead to when I might have to explain my decision to another human being who is not in a coma.

“Well, the reason I just rolled into your car going 15 mph is because despite the fact that the State of California has allowed me to possess a valid driver’s license for thirty years, I was unable to find an open parking space without the help of my co-pilot(s), who are fond of pronouns. Can I go now?”

Have a crazy grammar story of your own to share? Email it to me at