Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there reading this!

I’m the rare, lucky person who gets a second chance at having a dad and being a daughter. I was adopted at 2 weeks of age, and the dad who raised me passed a few years ago, sadly, from cancer. But, with my unwavering bff Marovich at my side, I was fortunate enough to meet my entire bio-family (3 full-blooded siblings, and both parents) the day after I turned 40 in Albuquerque, NM, so today I’ll be celebrating later with my bio-dad and my brother Vince.

From my bio-dad, I inherited:

  • My laid back, easy-going attitude
  • My affinity for talking easily with anyone in any walk of life, and making lasting friends wherever I go
  • My unhesitating willingness to give a total stranger the shirt off my back, if asked. (Hopefully, if that occurs, I’m wearing a sports bra and we’re not in a public setting.)
  • A low tolerance for elitists

And since it’s Father’s Day, below my bio-dad Tom Turner’s pic, I must post my all-time favorite picture of Dave and Jack. It was a tender moment taken unbeknownst to them at Mike Ensley’s show, PensaCon, by my photographer friend, Fred Turnbow, whom I first met when I formed the still-active Production Services Association of Northwest Florida. (Fred and his family joined us and film commissioner friend Tom Roush for an unforgettable dinner one night with Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon.) Without further adieu, pics!

Me, Dad (Tom Turner) and My Brother Vince June 2017

Dave & Jack at PensaCon 4 years ago. Photo by Fred Turnbow. Sitting next to the Space Ghost Coast to Coast Voice Actor.

Advertisements

How Little League Could Improve the “User Experience”: 12 Tips

Someday when my son is lying on his shrink’s couch recounting the many ways I’ve screwed up his parenting, I will point to this blog as proof positive that I actually attended some of his Little League games. How else would I have snapped this photo? Attending these games is typically Dave’s duty, but since he’s out of town, I’m stepping up to the plate (see what I did there?). I pray this Little League season ends before his San Antonio trip next weekend!

75, partly sunny, and a mild breeze– the only perfect weather Little League game of this season.

All of you User Experience (UX) experts out there, please apply your mad skills to improving Little League for the parents. The Sister Wives crack up at my total lack of interest in children’s sporting and performance events (but if Jack were playing indoor tennis or volleyball, this would be different) but as of today, my sports ennui is bordering on sheer hatred.

This morning’s Chicagoland shit show–a Little League game in 48-degree weather with pouring rain–was the final nail in my sports attendee coffin. There is no good reason, in my mind, to make parents and their children suffer like that. For those of us with hypothyroidism, that is, the majority of us living in the “goiter belt,” recovering from being over-chilled takes forever.

As I sat there fuming–for the 10 minutes I lasted on the cold, aluminum bleacher bench before retreating to the car and watching the game through binoculars–ach, who am I kidding? I don’t own binoculars. Anyhow, as I sat there fuming and attempting to text my displeasure to the Sister Wives and my friend Lisa with my 1 bar of AT&T signal, I began compiling a list of ways we could all improve the UX, from my perspective. Your results may vary. Soccer and lacrosse parents, feel free to borrow.

  1. Games should only occur on days when it is partially sunny and 75 with a slight breeze, and never on Mother’s Day or other holidays. And they should be scheduled for after 10 a.m., within 5 minutes of home.
  2. The concession stand should have indoor seating–aesthetically pleasing–and be sponsored by Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee, or some hot beverage company of that ilk.
  3. The bleachers should have a clear, protective roof that doesn’t attract heat (this would also protect against the liability of being hit in the head by a foul ball, while I’m busily reading my phone and not watching the game)
  4. Cushioned seating with a back rest would be even better than aluminum bleachers.
  5. Even better? A cabana I could share with friends, like the ones in Las Vegas surrounding the pool, that would perhaps have a fire pit in the middle for making s’mores as we “watch” the game.
  6. There should be an app developed to vibrate and nudge me when my child is actually doing something interesting on the field.
  7. A wait staff taking orders from the parents would be a nice improvement – sort of like the local iPic movie theater in South Barrington I so adore with the gourmet sliders.
  8. Cocktails. Bloody Marys for the morning games, Leinenkugel Grapefruit Shandies for the evening games.
  9. A covered pathway back to my vehicle would be great–my clothing from this a.m.’s total drenching is still in the dryer.
  10. A televised game I could watch from the comfort of my warm bed and never leave the house would also be a nice option.
  11. Joining a league with Matthew McConaughey or Peter Dinklage’s children, so I could steal more surreptitious glances than Jack steals home plate…that could make me not mind it all so much.
  12. To add insult to this morning’s injury, Jack’s dirt-caked uniform from his slide into 3rd base–right as the game was being called due to rain–stained the powder-gray cloth upholstery in the car. So…this got me thinking an on-site car detailing service might not be a bad idea. Also, a baseball uniform cleaning service, delivered to my front door, would be much appreciated (the domestic goddess that I am not placed a panicked call to Sister Wife Maura for advice on getting the dirt stains out of Jack’s uniform).

P.S. After the game, we drove through that same McDonald’s I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. The Arby’s subterfuge agent was no longer working the drive’ thru’ window.

If you have any ideas to add to this groundbreaking list, feel free to add your comments!

 

Is It Bad Parenting If I Post a Negative YELP Review on My 11-Year-Old’s New Cleaning Business?

I’ll admit it. I hate vacuuming. I love the end result, but it’s the journey I object to. I don’t even care if it’s done in the diamond-shaped pattern. I just love it clean. Enter, stage left, my enterprising son Jack, now on summer break.  I hate vacuuming enough to pay him $5 a week to do it for me. He even includes the stairs!

Yesterday, the enterprising Master Jack launched his latest get-rich-quick scheme. He’s trying to earn money for his new paintball gun, which I have deemed a “non-essential item” (cue up the voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons when you say that in your head) not covered on my list of parental obligatory expenses. An Azodin Kaos, to be exact. So Jack decided he’s now in the housecleaning business. He offered to mop my wooden floors. It was a mere $2.00 up charge. SOLD! He created his business name and a sell sheet, which he proudly posted on our refrigerator (I hate stainless steel refrigerators; I need mine magnetic since I use it as this hectic household’s visual command center).

Jack’s logo choice alone should have been my first of many red flags…

This logo screams "Pest Control," no?

This logo screams “Pest Control,” no?

But in the midst of his Swiffer slopping, er, mopping efforts, he pivoted, ceasing further progress. He grabbed a Sharpie, raced over to the refrigerator, took down his ransom note-like sell sheet and raised his pricing to $5! He more than doubled it! The cajones on that kid!

Because...INFLATION?

Because…INFLATION?!?

With righteous indignation, he announced he was “finished” with the kitchen. It took no white glove inspection to discover that many areas were completely neglected. Ignored might be the better term. Corners, the perimeters, huge swaths of flooring, and then the entire area beneath the kitchen table bypassed the purview of his Swiffer. One would almost have to try to be that bad at mopping.

That sell sheet is taking up a lot of real estate better used by my magnet collection.

That sell sheet is taking up a lot of real estate better served by my magnet menagerie.

At that precise moment, my BFF Marovich called. She suggested a bad YELP review might get him in line. I agreed. I added Angie’s List and HomeImprovement.com. Perhaps a Better Business Bureau complaint while I’m at it.  The cherry on top.

But two can play this game. I’m compiling my own list of fees. Trips to the orthodontist because he lost his bands again? $10. Trips to his friends’ houses? $15 (round trip, naturally–I’m not totally heartless). Every squeeze of toothpaste? .50 cents. In no time, I will have recouped my housekeeping fees. Maybe then I can afford to hire a real professional again. (Our house misses you, Judy!) I hate to dash Jack’s little entrepreneurial spirit, but didn’t Thomas Edison once say something about learning from one’s failures? Cloud, meet silver lining. One down, many careers to go.

 

 

A FlashJack

That is, a “Jack Flashback.” My close friend in Florida Angie Druetta sent me this photo in my email this morning, and it melted my heart. My parents, God love ’em, suffered through my stork delivery nearly as much as I did. I went in at 9 a.m. on November 2nd with Pitocin and ended up with a c-section at 4:42 a.m. the next morning. I never went into labor. The kid was already 2+ weeks late. My due date was October 18th. I was hoping for a Libra, but I got a Scorpio kid. It’s worked out well so far. My parents never left my side, so it was only right that they held Jack more than I did in the first few hours of his young life.

Mom and Dad, who was just minutes old. Pensacola, FL, 2003.

Mom and Dad, with Jack, who was just minutes old. Pensacola, FL, Sacred Heart Hospital, 2003.

This almost softens my heart to the fact that before British Soccer Camp yesterday, I came downstairs first thing in the morning to discover that Jack removed a white sheet from his bed to cut up with scissors and turn into a North Korean flag. Unbeknownst to me, this was an assignment from his soccer camp instructor. I walked into my creme-colored, carpeted front room to find a giant, thick, RED Sharpie and 3 of my blue Papermate flair pens strewn across the floor, next to Jack’s new “flag.” He colored his white bed sheet on my carpet (so he could “spread out,” he insisted) while lying on his belly. The thought of doing this on the large kitchen table never occurred to him. Good thing his team won the “World Cup” at British Soccer Camp yesterday. That redeemed him a little

Jack gets a congratulatory "high-five" from British Soccer Camp Coach Tom.

Jack gets a congratulatory “high-five” from British Soccer Camp Coach Tom.

Elfred, Our Elf on the Shelf: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

It all began innocently enough. The other kids in school all had elves on their shelves, and Jack was starting to feel unloved by Santa. So we caved. I remember saying to myself at the time, “This is ONLY until Christmas. This one time.”

Jack named him “Elfred.”

Elfred, Jack's BFF for 3 years.

Elfred, Jack’s BFF for 3 years. Styrofoam cup crown, Magic Loom (TM) belt and bracelet designed by Jack. Dried, unidentifiable dairy product on left sleeve also fashioned by Jack. 

We were diligent about moving Elfred to different spots in the house every morning before Jack got up. Elfred was really active. I refused to give into the staged mini-marshmallow snowball fights, and the flour sprinkled on the countertops and the floor to mimic all manner of after-hours elf naughtiness. Those shenanigans were best left to those overachieving mother-of-the-year types. (Okay, so some empty wine bottles may have been blamed on Elfred, now that I think back on it.)

On Christmas three years ago, Santa gave Jack an iTouch, with a special engraving on the back from Elfred, telling Jack that he was Elfred’s “best friend.” Jack beamed with Christmas joy. Unfortunately, “Santa Dave” didn’t consult with me first before accompanying this gift with a beautiful, calligraphy fonted letter from Elfred on linen paper, announcing that as of this Christmas, Elfred would be living with us year-’round.

The thought balloon above my head replayed Ralphie in that flat tire scene from A Christmas Story: “Oh…FUDGE…” My spirited chat with Santa Dave later that evening teed me up for a five-course meal of Life Buoy soap.

So this Elfred charade went on for three excruciatingly long years. Like any busy adults, we got careless. It happens. We’d forget to move Elfred for days–even weeks–on end. Jack was getting increasingly upset by Elfred’s lethargy, convinced his little elven buddy was dying. One morning, in my attempt to explain it away, I blurted out, “Well, he gets his magic from the North Pole, right? We just need to put him in the fridge to regain his magic!” Jack was satisfied with that answer. Problem solved. But every time I opened the fridge, I would startle, not expecting to see that creepy little elf face staring me down. Elfred became dieting MAGIC.

This past fall at nearly age 10, Jack finally looked me squarely in the eye one day and asked me to tell him the truth about Santa. Dave would have kept it going until Jack was in his senior year of college, but I established early on in our relationship that if Jack wanted to know the truth about something, I was the go-to parent. (Naturally, this has created many awkward moments when Jack has asked me for definitions to certain words. When I answer him truthfully, I usually get an “Oh, Mama, I’m sick to my stomach…I have to go lie down,” but I have remained steadfast in this role.)

If those of you reading this have children who are asking if YOU are Santa, one of my more mother-of-the-year-type friends shared this well-written explanation she found on Pinterest, which she just gave to her own daughter:

 

Dear (Insert Child’s Name Here),

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.

Mama

P.S. As for Elfred, the last I heard, he joined a motorcycle gang out of Albuquerque. If you cross him, you’ll know him by that tell-tale stain on his left sleeve.

Note to Self: Reschedule Parent-Teacher Conferences When I’m Not There to Defend Myself

Me, after the Parent-Teacher Conference

Me, after yesterday’s Parent-Teacher Conference

It’s been a rough week. I learned my non-smoking friend Meryl with two daughters 5 and under has Stage 4 lung cancer. And in lesser news, a nasty virus and high fever kept me down for the count. In my vulnerable state, I should have rescheduled that Parent-Teacher conference, but my fever-induced brain led me to believe it a good idea to let the appointment stand without me present. Which is how I got thrown under the bus. By my very own fertilized ovum.  And by Dave.

All is well in Jack Land – his grades are good, he’s smart, he’s creative, but he tends to not double-check his homework in his rush to go socialize (a trait from my side of the gene pool, admittedly). He was present with Dave during the teacher’s discussion of Jack’s depeche mode for managing his school work. And that was the moment when 9-year-old Master Jack made the damning statement: “I need to not have Mama in the room with me when I do my homework. She’s too much of a distraction.” And Dave agreed!

Wow. That was an eye opener. Without solicitation, Jack elaborated further: “Mama is too silly…she makes me laugh too much.”

I guess there are worse things that could be said about me, but lest you think I’m this household’s Disney parent, it was I who banned Jack from all electronics this past week until he proved he could recite his multiplication table. The whole enchilada, not just one line of it. And it was Dave who lifted the ban just long enough to play Diablo as Jack’s reward for reciting just one line of it.

If that teacher ever wants to go party, I’m guessing I’ll be the one who gets that phone call.

But back to my friend Meryl. If you are interested in helping Meryl, here is a link to our online fundraiser. Believe me–every dollar helps. Thank you for anything you can do. I hate cancer.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/meryldine-s-miracle/249989

Meet the Newest Member of Our Family: JONESY, the Hairless Cat

Jonesy, the Sphynx (Hairless) Cat

Jonesy, our new Sphynx (Hairless) Cat

This is our new male kitten, Jonesy. I know, I know, so ugly he’s cute, right? RIGHT?!? Jonesy is joining our family sometime in mid November. Yes, sci-fi fans, you’ve caught the reference. Jonesy is named for Ellen Ripley’s cat in ALIEN. Had Jonesy been a girl, Jack waffled between christening her Ripley or Lumpy Space Princess (an Adventure Time reference).

This is my first rodeo with a hairless cat. From what I’m reading online, there will be many adjustments:

  • Weekly baths (which they resist, just like any normal cat)
  • Weekly nail trimmings (this detail makes me nervous–I accidentally snipped a nail pad on my Himalayan cat years ago and my white bathroom resembled a mafia crime scene)
  • More laundry for me to do

I am told Jonesy will need some little outfits to stay warm, since Dave likes to keep our house temperature set somewhere between, say, “I-think-I-can-see-my-own-breath” and Rocky Balboa’s meat locker. One of our friends already gifted Jonesy with his very own Superman costume. If any of you following me have Sphynx cat experience, I’m open to your words of wisdom.

I’m a firm believer every child should grow up with a pet–it teaches kids empathy and responsibility. (And if there’s ever a concern over whether or not a child is a sociopath, it becomes readily apparent in how they treat animals. And no, I’m not worried about Jack, the pied piper of strays.)

I grew up with a menagerie of pets on a parcel of land from my great grandparents’ farm. Some of my stranger indoor pets included my ginger and white pet mouse Algernon, a crawdad I brought in from the creek that ran on our property, and the salamander I “rescued” one fall, which required weekly trips to the pet store for meal worms. I also had pet rabbits in a hutch outside. Given Jack’s allergies to pet hair, and my absolute phobia of snakes and birds, the Sphynx cat seemed our best starter pet for the new menagerie. Did I say menagerie aloud? Don’t tell Dave, but my close friend–another Denise–is breeding her Standard Poodle next week, so…

Tobuscus Saves the Day

If you’re the parent of children of a certain age, then the name TOBUSCUS is likely familiar to you. For our son Jack, this was probably the worst #SDCC2014 ever.  After an hour of wearing the morph suit–you know, the suit that nearly cost us our life’s savings? Yeah. That suit. Well, Jack discovered it was too hot and uncomfortable. Total wearing time: 1 hour.

Today Jack returned back to the hotel room around lunchtime. He was experiencing the first sinus headache of his young life, and I felt so bad for him. We snuggled together in the comfy bed and watched “DIVERGENT” together. During the plot peak, I knew they lost him. He started chattering on about how his friend’s mom has a shower that tells him the exact temperature of the water, and did I know that his perfect water temperature was 101 degrees? I felt guilty about it, but I gave him 1 adult Motrin. I worried for his little 9-year-old liver.

Dave returned to the hotel at 7 p.m. and it turns out, one of the girls who exhibited across from us is Tobuscus’ girlfriend. So Dave asked him to cheer up Jack, and this happened:

Jack's Internet Idol, Tobuscus.

Jack’s Internet Idol, Tobuscus.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/l86mg8bmjx21m0q/IMG_3782.MOV

Every so often, we’re in the right place at exactly the right time. This was one of those times.

 

The Value of the Pinkie Swear

The Pinkie Swear

You’re a Witness: Jack’s Pinkie Swear

Today I reveal yet another of my many #parentingfails. The sobering truth is that our 9-year-old is showing zero respect for the pinkie swear. To me, breaking a pinkie swear is like someone swearing on a stack of Bibles before telling an outright lie. That’s a solid 9.0 on the pucker factor scale. I fully anticipate lightning striking that person.

After Jack listened to several unsuccessful lectures from our family dentist about how to brush and how long to brush his teeth and which $50 electric toothbrush from Costco would really do the trick, I decided it was time to escalate Jack’s empty toothbrushing promises to the pinkie swear. We did it. And it worked. For two days.

If Jack can’t grasp the solemnity of the pinkie swear, just imagine how laissez-faire he will be over the double-dog and triple-dog dare. This is serious business on the playground. He needs to get this right.

Tonight we pack for #SDCC2014 and I can guaran-damn-tee you Jack will forget to pack his toothbrush as he does for every sleepover (and of course, none of his friends’ parents ever have spare toothbrushes, in The World According to Jack).

Jack’s big plan for Comic-Con this year is to wear a white head-to-toe costume that people can autograph. I’m told it’s a Daft Punk thing, but in my mind’s eye, all I can see is this and I’m totally grossed out:

1960s Cosplay

1960s-style Cosplay

Every day for the last 2 weeks, Jack has begged Dave to order this silly cosplay suit. Every day, Dave has blown it off in the hopes that Jack would forget, but now it’s to the point that the manufacturer will have to ship it directly to our hotel in San Diego to get it to us in time. This morning, Dave absolutely promised Jack he’d buy it online. I should have had Dave pinkie swear. 

Dave Dorman: Assistant Football Coach

Yesterday, against the backdrop of Chicago Bears 1985 Super Bowl champion quarterback Jim McMahon discussing his early onset dementia from playing football (he’s in the class action suit v. the NFL) Dave Dorman not just insisted, but demanded that we spend the $500 to sign Jack up for football. Fireworks erupted over the Dorman household yesterday morning as I was scrambling to get out the door to chef Ina Pinkney’s cooking demonstration and book signing.

Dave Dorman assistant coaching Jack's team 2 years ago.

Dave Dorman assistant coaching Jack’s team 2 years ago.

Football is a sport I not only vehemently dislike because of the potential for lifelong lasting injury, I don’t understand it at all, and I have zero interest in ever understanding it. It’s boring to watch (unless it’s 1985 and The Fridge is making a touchdown), and given my penchant for personal comfort, the last thing you’ll find me doing at 8 a.m. on a Saturday is sitting on a hard, cold aluminum bleacher seat and freezing my ass off to watch a sport I despise.

Add to this the practices Jack is required to attend three times a week from 6 to 8 p.m. until November, and the games every Saturday, and this is really starting to destroy any semblance of a sane family schedule. As Jack enters fourth grade, homework will only increase in magnitude and difficulty. I’d prefer he get his college scholarships from his 95% percentile grades (which are sure to dip from this stupid practice schedule) than from a volatile sport where an injury could sideline him in a flash and end his college money. Why can’t he just be a nerd? Nerds don’t need organized sports to do well in life.

While Dave never watches professional sports – an attribute I love – he did win the first Maryland state championship for high school football–and scrimmaged against the team from Remember the Titans–so he remembers his glory days, choosing to ignore the physical and emotional pain of his torn-up knee during the Homecoming game his senior year, which ended his college scholarships.

Clearly, testosterone was behind inventing football, wrestling, boxing, licking toads, The Three Stooges, the way Michael Hutchence died, eggs Danny Thomas-style, and other stupidities in which people engage. Here’s how I imagine it went down:

Football inventor: “Hey, let’s invent a sport where we go beat the shit out of each other!”

Football inventor’s yes man: “Yes! Let’s do that!”

Someone with actual balanced thinking–probably a left-handed person–invented TENNIS. TENNIS requires skill. Finesse. Strategy. And TENNIS is the only sport for which I’d sit on a hard, cold aluminum bleacher seat at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and freeze my ass off to watch our son partake in it.