Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'm Too Old for This @!#%

Between Christmas and the New Year, I decided to treat myself and subscribe to In Style magazine for a year. I like clothes and makeup and all things girly, so it seemed like a fun thing to look forward to receiving in the mail every month. And it is. But I have some complaints, and I think they have more to do with ME than the magazine.

WHO?! : In my teens and 20's, if you named a celebrity--a singer, actor or anyone famous for anything--I'd have been able to pull up a mental image and a list of things they were famous for. Today, I flip open the pages of my magazine, see an actual picture of a celebrity with their name printed underneath, and I STILL have no idea who the hell I'm looking at! Kristen sounds this someone I went to high school with?! Judging from her youthful photos, I'm guessing not. At least HALF the people featured in this magazine elicit this response from me now. Apparently, I really need to get with the program.

A Little Modesty, For Crying Out Loud! : Jennifer Lopez is older than me. Granted, she's in far better shape, but should a woman at this stage in life still need to walk around with her boobs all but exposed, or her butt barely covered? 10 years ago, my motto was "if you've got it, flaunt it." Now, my motto is "for goodness sake, cover it up!" I can almost understand it in the younger starlets. I just don't want to see it.

Where Does the Fashion Industry Get Off?! : Okay, middle-aged friends, answer me this. You've had a few kids. Your bladder is not what it used to be. You really, really need to pee. What are the odds of you not having an accident if you're wearing some crazy one-piece jumpsuit you have to completely remove every time you need the bathroom? Or how about the Gap? In my youth, I'd have run out to buy their trendy jeans with the strategically-placed rips and tears. Now, I am incensed as a consumer that they have the gall to charge me full-price for a pair of ripped jeans! They should be giving me a discount!! Also, harem pants went out of style the first time for a reason. I know this because I'm old enough to remember it.

I think it's time to face facts. I'm turning into a cranky old lady.

I can pretend the grey hair doesn't exist by spending $8 on a box of colour. I can buy jeans that are designed to cover up my middle-aged spread and fool myself into thinking it isn't an issue. I can even occasionally decide I like some new song I hear on the radio. But the fact remains that I'm getting older. Not that that has to be a bad thing. I certainly know myself, and my style, and all my preferences, much better than I did even 10 years ago. I'm more comfortable in my own skin, and I'm far less likely these days to make a stupid clothing purchase. Getting older has its advantages. But when I find myself yelling at these youngsters in the magazines to behave themselves and dress with some dignity, it shocks me into missing that part of myself that was more willing to throw caution to the wind. And I wonder how long it's going to be before I'm wearing shapeless cardigans over shapeless floral dresses and dropping my teeth into a cup every night before bed.

So today, I will find my balance. Ripped jeans aren't my thing anymore, and head-to-toe trendy has lost its appeal. But there are a few things in my closet that can keep me from disappearing into the background altogether. I will keep my mind open to new things, even if they ultimately just aren't for me.

I may be a cranky old lady, but I'm not going down without a fight.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Miscellany

Spring is upon us! How do I know? I walked around my soggy, melting backyard today and picked up six (6) gallon-sized buckets of dog poop! Next lifetime, I get goldfish. And a mansion. And staff.

Rosemary's Baby has discovered a fun new game. He sneaks into the boiler room in the basement, climbs up onto the water heater and turns off the tap. When I go to turn on the hot water in the kitchen and nothing comes out, I panic for a few seconds, thinking the well's dried up. Then I trudge down to the basement to turn it back on again for the umpteenth time. Honestly, it's like living with Curious George. It's no wonder that monkey's roommate dressed like an escaped mental patient.

In other news, I have figured out something wonderful! Last week I returned my new Tassimo machine. After months of wanting one, I finally just decided I deserved a treat and bought it for myself. But it took approximately two minutes for me to realize that each coffee comes with a side order of guilt, in the form of the disposable t-disc. My options were as follows: toss the t-disc and spend all day worrying about the environmental impact, or slice open the t-disc, scoop the grounds into the compost bucket, clean out the packaging and recycle it, which completely ruins the convenience aspect of the whole product. In the end, I felt a huge surge of relief after I'd just boxed it back up and gotten my money back. But now I was missing that nice, easy cappuccino.

The Captain has a "restaurant-grade" (you'll want to put on a snooty nasal voice when you read that) cappuccino machine, but it takes half a day to warm the thing up, and it's kind of messy to use, so I just prefer to stick with my simple, no-fuss automatic coffee maker. But the coffee maker obviously doesn't make delicious cappuccino. I'm really not picky in this area though--a little coffee with some hot milk and foam is really all I'm looking for here, so I set about figuring out the easiest way to heat up my milk, get it all foamy and combine it with a regular cup of joe to make a pretty decent version of a cappuccino. My brilliant solution involves these everyday items (please ignore the hard water stains on the measuring jug):

I haven't used that manual egg beater since the Captain put it in my Christmas stocking about ten years ago (in the Captain's defense, I had made quite a production beforehand of talking about how my mother had one and how it was my favourite toy as a kid). But it turns out that when you plop that thing into a jug of microwaved skim milk and give the crank a few quick turns, you get some AMAZING foam! Check this out (and again, ignore the stains on my mug):

Who knew?! So now the egg beater and jug sit permanently on my counter right next to the coffee maker, and I'm lounging around every morning, faux-cappuccino in hand, congratulating myself on saving hundreds of dollars on the Tassimo AND not having to heat up the Captain's fancy kitchen equipment. I really should have my own show on cable.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Get With the Program!

I am a fossil.

I knew I was a little behind the times when I was the only person in town without satellite TV or a game system, but I just put it down to being frugal and a little on the hippie-dippie side. But after visiting my siblings and seeing how much my kids loved the video games, I decided I was going to finally get with the program and go get them a Wii. So off I trotted to Zellers. When I had trouble locating the Wii console, I asked the lady behind the counter to point me in the right direction. She looked at me like I had horns growing out of my head and said they didn't have any. So I went to Wal Mart. Same thing happened there. And then again at Future Shop. It was at about this point that it occurred to me that everyone in town must be sold out, so I went home to order one online. To no avail. Apparently this Wii shortage has been a very public problem for some time. I had absolutely no idea. I probably should've just stuck with a nice, safe jigsaw puzzle. That's more my speed.

Here are the last of my favourite vacation shots:

All I could think of when I saw this shot later was Marty McFly saying "Better get used to these bars, kid..."

"Hey there, baby. What's your sign?"

I *think* I took this in Georgia somewhere. The Captain thought it looked cool. Seeing the photo now, I'm inclined to agree.

After slamming our worst hotel, I thought it might be fair to tell you about our best one. This was the very next night at a Days Inn in a place called Llano, Texas. They gave us a first-floor room, right on the end and with no one in the adjoining room. The place had a sort of rustic decor, but with two TV's, so the kids could watch Sesame Street in the sitting room area and we could, for once, watch something a little more adult-oriented on the other side. And no, I don't mean porn. We watched CSI:Miami, which is certainly as boring as porn, but David Caruso taking off his sunglasses never fails to make us howl with laughter, so it was all good. We got burgers from the local place across the street (delicious!), and all-in-all had a fabulously relaxing night. The staff were friendly, and the waffles at breakfast were shaped like Texas. I kid you not. So, despite my previous rant, customer service is not entirely dead in the hotel industry. I'd recommend this place to a friend, and I'd stay there again in a heartbeat.

My brother took us to see the Tent Rocks in New Mexico. The kids wouldn't really let us do the full hike, but the scenery was amazing nonetheless.

I promise to get back to visiting you all again in the next day or so. It's taken almost a week to return to normal here, but I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things. Now, if I could just find that Wii...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My Vacation Slideshow

Remember back in the 70's when your neighbours came home from vacation and invited you over to see their slides? You'd have to either say you were busy and then sit in your living room all night with the lights off and curtains closed, or you'd have to go over there and look at 378 pictures of them in Bermuda shorts, all the while pretending to be interested. Thank heavens for the age of the internet! Now you can be bored stiff in the comfort of your own home!

A few of you have asked how the vacation went. My stock answer is that it was both awesome and exhausting. I'm glad we went, but I'm also glad to be home again. Oh, and for all you kind folks from the tri-state area who warned me not to get excited because North Carolina was freezing in the winter, you are cordially invited to come visit me here in Manitoba next January!

Hotels and airports were the definite downside of travelling with kids, especially when one kid has special needs. Rosemary's Baby was extremely displeased at the prospect of taking off his coat and shoes at airport security. And then they took away his blankie too. How we didn't end up getting wrestled to the ground and tasered, I will never know.

The Captain, after successfully spending more than 13 years on the cigarette bandwagon, came back to North America with a pack-a-day habit and a box of patches. He'd made some headway by the time we sent him back to Afghanistan, so my hope is that he will come home having kicked the habit for good. Returning safely from war kind of loses its happy glow if you have emphysema.
I packed way too much in hopes of keeping the kids occupied, and the next time I fly, I know that I only need 3 things in my carry-on bag: a small ziploc bag of lego, a portable dvd player (no screens on ANY of our 4 flights--nightmare!!) and enough snacks to feed an army. The gravol was nice too.

Onto the slideshow:
While having my husband back is always the best gift, it's also nice when he arrives home with a souvenir for me. I finally own REAL pearls! And they didn't even come from the dollar store like my last string!
We started out in North Carolina visiting Sister #4. Firstborn started enjoying himself really quickly, for reasons that are about to become abundantly clear.
I'd like to thank my sister for getting my kids interested in the Wii...
...and my brother for getting them interested in the drums. Sigh...
Brother #2 took us to this great place in Northern Florida called Wakulla Springs where we took a boat ride and saw some local wildlife. Look how smiley the 'gators are. I wanted to wade out and give them a hug!
Does this palm tree make me look fat?
The kids hangin' with my little brother in Tallahassee. I remember the day he was born. Now he's smarter than me. It's the circle of life...
I'm not generally one to use my blog to trash anyone. But my biggest complaint from this trip involves the hotels. Out of the SIX we stayed in, only TWO honoured our request for a first-floor room. We weren't trying to be difficult. Our autistic kid makes a lot of running-across-the-floor noise when he stims. He can't help it, we can't control it, and we wanted to be respectful of other guests. It made every second-floor stay very stressful. Our worst experience was at a Super 8 in Texas. After refusing to give us a room on the first floor on a Monday night when the place was really not that busy, they then called our room at 8:30 PM to ask us to keep the kids on the beds for the duration of our stay because the running was disturbing the person below us. Would they have put us on the first floor if our kid had been visibly disabled? My guess is yes. So, to punish them, I took a picture of the shower in our room. Is that supposed to look like marble? Because to me it looks like one of Rosemary's Baby's poop murals. TAKE THAT, Super 8!
One of the best things about the Captain is his ability to plan a trip around the local food. We did not eat at McD's once. We had some amazing, memorable meals on this trip, and when we crossed the state line into New Mexico, we stopped here. It was loud and busy, the walls were electric teal, there was Mexican memorabilia everywhere, neither of the two clocks worked, you could buy any candy bar imaginable at the cash register, and the waitresses had the biggest hair you've ever seen. When I bit into my tostada, I had an out-of-body experience.
For all their trouble at hotels and airports, my kids were great travellers. I never thought I'd be saying this, but I'm thinking about taking a warm-weather vacation every winter now!

The original spawn of satan (AKA Brother #1) teaching the next generation of evil how to ruin the local foliage.

This is probably the best family picture we will ever get. And we're sitting on a lizard.

So there you have it--my vacation in a nutshell. It was so wonderful to escape the snow, see my siblings, and be a family again for a couple of weeks!
Don't forget to spring forward!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Back when I was a journalism student, I had a photography teacher who was an absolute nazi about us taking photos with signs of any sort in them. She said writing would draw the reader's attention away from the focus of the picture. And she'd dock us marks if we handed anything in with a sign in it. Stephen Shore, on the other hand, captured the essence of the American experience in his iconic images of road signs.

Community college instructor who was late getting our final marks in because she couldn't tear herself away from Doom, or master photographer who pioneered the use of colour in his art? Hmmm...who do I trust?

So, I decided on this road trip that I was going to capture as many interesting, funny and frightening signs as I could. The Captain was a real party-pooper about it, refusing to stop every fifty feet so I could get out of the car and get a proper shot. As a result, some of these images are VERY blurry. Thank goodness Stephen Shore doesn't read my blog. I'd simply die.

Here are a few of my favourites:

This is why I don't bother playing the lottery. Here in Canada, on very rare occasions, the jackpot might reach $30 million. Whoop-dee-doo. If you're not winning enough to outfit 50 of your closest friends with their own mansions, hyperbaric oxygen chambers and exotic petting zoos, then really, what on earth is the point?

How many people do you think have walked out of court really ticked off that they didn't have an actual gorilla representing them? Lawyers, of all people, should know better.

When I was a kid, this is the kind of road sign that would've sent my dad veering across three lanes to make the exit. And he still would've lied about how many kids were in the car and snuck in air mattresses for us to sleep on.

Do you think after they finish regaling you with super hits like "Can't Fight This Feeling" and "Take It On The Run", that blonde guy in the middle gives you a psychic reading? Because that's a show I really need to see.

This was posted at an IHOP in Georgia. To me, it kind of suggests that they might be accepting cheques in the future. Does anyone even write cheques in restaurants anymore? If they do, I'm pretty sure it's not something that's going to get more popular as time goes on.

This one sure gave me pause for thought. I still haven't figured out which show I'd like to see less.

I KNEW it!!

And if you're trying to figure out which university to attend, may I suggest forgetting the school's reputation, programs, sports teams or location, and instead take a look at it's distinguished alumni? Case in point:

This was on the bathroom counter at a Comfort Inn. How much do you think they'll be charging us for the full-length mirror Rosemary's Baby managed to pry off the wall and smash? No, I'm not joking...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Need a Vacation From My Vacation

I'm back! And I have enough blog fodder to keep me going for weeks!

I'll try not to bore you all senseless with tales and photos of my family holiday, but be warned that this kind of thing only happens to me once every five years, so it's very feasible I'll still be talking about Vacation 2010 well into April.

For the moment, I will just tell you that I have a theory about why the Minneapolis airport is actually called the "Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport". It's because when you have a tight connection to make with two small, tired, cranky children in tow, you get off at a gate in Minneapolis and have to walk, then ride the walkway (three times), then take a tram, then walk some more, until you get to your gate in St. Paul! After 14 minutes of brisk walking, Firstborn and Rosemary's Baby very nearly staged a mutiny right in front of a crowded TGI Fridays.

It's interesting how vacations work. When my plane took off this morning and I watched Albuquerque get smaller and smaller, I was sniffling and dabbing my eyes with a tissue. To be fair, I'd also just kissed the Captain goodbye and sent him back overseas. But I fell in love with the American South and by the end of my trip I never wanted to leave. And yet, now that I'm home, in the house that half-assery built, looking at all the unfinished work that still needs to be done, I feel the same about this place. I guess there really is no place like home.

I promise to be back into the swing of things when my brain has had a few hours to recover. For now, I'm off to get a good night's sleep. In my own bed.