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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Bedtime Story = Nightmare for Mommy

Bedtime Story = Nightmare for Mommy

Once upon a time, there was a mommy of three boys, Tyler, Michael and Julius. Every day the mommy happily wrote all sorts of stories on her computer, and every night the same thing happened.

“Mommy! Tell us a story!” The three little boys would plead.

The mommy never knew what to do. She would fake a coughing fit or excuse herself to go potty. She distracted (anyone want chocolate?) and demurred. She pleaded exhaustion or a headache. She simply couldn’t tell anyone the truth. She was a terrible storyteller. “Howard!” She would call to her husband. “The boys want a story.” So Howard would trudge into the room with a contrived, heavy sigh, “Another story?”

Tyler, Michael and Julius would nod feverishly, and Howard would pluck a tale from the trees or out of the sky or from a lifetime ago. A man completely incapable of reading a book or communicating a feeling could somehow spin a yarn with a cast of characters, intriguing and funny, getting themselves into all sorts of mischief. He even managed to end with some kind of moral.

Night after night, his stories entranced the boys, their mouths hanging open, glee in their eyes. The mommy listened, equally impressed. How did he do it? She wondered. It made her all the more insecure.

Generally, by the time Howard was finished, all that was required of her was some back tickling and kisses. Easy stuff she loved. But some nights, not often, but some nights, the children would persist in hearing one of her tales. They pitied her and gave her prompts to work with, “Tell us about when you were little?” Tyler would ask. But the mommy had blocked out most of her childhood and could not recall or imagine any of the funny antics that Howard could. “Tell us about a cat, a lizard and a fly?” Julius suggested.

“A cat, lizard and fly…” She pondered a moment. She had it! “There was an old lady who swallowed a cat.” She looked around at their eager faces. “She swallowed the cat to catch the lizard…” Their faces dropped.

“Mom!” They interrupted her, mid brainstorm. “That’s a nursery rhyme,” Michael scolded. “Not a story.”

Defeated.

“I don’t know boys. I have a headache.”

They shook their heads, not accepting it for a minute.

“I’m tired.”

They were enjoying the game and shook their heads again smiling.

“Who wants a drink?”

“No!”

“A snack?”

“NO!”

“Can I read you a story?”

“NO!” They happily shouted.

Wait! What’s that?” The mommy put a hand to her ear. “It’s the phone. Sorry, boys.”

“The phone isn’t ringing!” Tyler said.

“Come on.” Michael demanded. “Just do it!”

“Okay fine.” She finally conceded. “But it’s going to stink.”

“We don’t care.” Tyler encouraged.

“Okay. Here goes…” But nothing would come. “Uh…”

Eye squinting. Deep thinking. Nothing.

“Mom!” They stared at her. Her brain hurt. The pressure was too much.

“Okay, okay.” She began. There once was a mommy of three boys… uh, let’s call them Myler, Jichael and Zulius.”

At that, the boys giggled and the mommy perked a bit. “And this mommy just couldn’t think of a bed time story.”

“Oh no!” The boys said simultaneously.

“Wait. It’s good. So, she pretended to have a headache. The mommy held her head. Ow. Ow. Owwwwwwww.”

They giggled some more.

“And then she pretended to be so tired. YAWN!”

She fell over on the bed. “Zzzzzzzzz!”

“Mommy” Julius said, “Wake up!”

“Oh sorry. Okay, then she decided they needed snacks so she left to go get them apple slices.” She zoomed from the room. “Huffing and puffing, she put the apples on the bed. Then she decided they needed drinks. She ran down to get water.”

Giggles followed her out.

“Huffing and puffing, balancing three cups of water, she tried to be funny. But she was so tired coming back up that she walked right into the wall. The water spilled all over her. She was now wet. Oh man!”

The boys cracked up.

“So of course she had to run back down to get more water. Out the mommy ran, down the stairs and up with three new cups, but when she got back up the floor was still slippery and she fell, water cups flying in the air. She lay on the floor.”

Hysterical laughter filled the room.

Howard walked past, and offered a hand to help her up. “Show off.” He smirked.

She was soaked and may have broken a hip, but the boys were still laughing.

“Okay boys. Time for bed.”

“You didn’t finish!” They protested.

“Oh sorry.” She said as she tucked them in. “Then the mommy had to be taken to the doctor and the boys had to clean up the floor. They got so tired from working, they fell asleep.”

“That was a good story mommy.”

She smiled and kissed their happy, sleepy faces. “Good night, babies. I love you.”

The End.

Done.

Done.

 

Draw the Shades, Honey.*

Draw the Shades, Honey.*

Danielle wished he would look her way. She had been eyeing him from across the boardroom table, hoping to catch his attention, but he was so involved in his presentation he didn’t even notice her. It was hard not to notice him. He stood center of the room, gesticulating wildly. His strong features, animated in defending his work, brought out a palpable energy. His hair, a mass of curls as unruly as his temperament, bounced around as he did. Dan Steel was on fire and the whole room stood at attention, but none so much as his assistant, Danielle.

She had worked for him for over a year now and knew what he was going through. These idiots around the table wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit them in the face, possibly because the only things going into their faces were mouthfuls of muffin. She had worked side by side with Mr. Steel to make sure that every “i” was dotted and every “t” crossed. The campaign was brilliant, why couldn’t they see that? It seemed they were all against him. It made him all the more attractive.

A smarmy, know-it-all, who had the nerve to grip Danielle’s arm before the meeting, look down her blouse and ask for a cup of coffee, started speaking, “Mr. Steel, while I appreciate your efforts here, I don’t believe what you’re suggesting is a right fit for our target.”

Danielle stifled an audible puff of absurdity. The whole boardroom turned toward her. She really had to work on those stifling skills.

Smarmy man raised a brow, “Excuse me, miss? Did you have something to say?”

Danielle flushed deeply at the attention, bringing a gorgeous rose to her high cheeks, and brushed a thick curling wave of hair away from her face. She hesitated, but spoke forward, “I was just thinking that as the demographic you’re seeking to reach, I for one, really respond to this campaign. It speaks to my generation honestly, without pretense or being condescending. Maybe you’d consider an informal focus group of my peers before making any conclusions?”

There was an extended moment of silence while they considered her and her words.
“I like it,” said the figure closest to Mr. Steel. It was John Blake, president of Blake Industries, the company they were pitching the marketing and advertising strategy to.

Commotion and coordination ensued as the teams worked to come up with a plan to test the ideas. As they shuffled from the room, Mr. Blake briefly rested a hand on Danielle’s shoulder. “Nice job, little lady. Hey Dan,” He called out, “give this one a raise. I’m sure you’re not paying her enough.” He winked at Danielle who glowed, happy that she helped, and didn’t make a fool of herself. “Thank you, Mr. Blake. I really like your new product-line.”

“Do you now?” The older magnate said. “Yep, this one’s a keeper, Dan.” He affirmed as he walked out.

The last two left in the room, Dan Steel looked down at Danielle with an unreadable expression. “Yes sir, she is.” He agreed. His eyes bore into her, penetrating her skin, setting fire to her clothes, igniting her from within.

She was naked before him. Bending down, he breathed low and gruff in her ear “That was risky. Don’t take risks with my company.”

Danielle lowered her eyes, focusing on the hard yellow of her high heels to keep steady. “Okay.” She whispered, still unable to meet his gaze. The intensity of his nearness made her light-headed.

“Okay what?” He challenged, his breath like a hot caress.

“Okay, Mr. Steel.”

“I’ll deal with you later in my office.” He bit her lightly on her ear lobe.

She almost melted into the floor.

She couldn’t wait.

*This is a response to write in the style of a writer who influenced you. I chose Danielle Steel because from the age of 17-22 years-old, I couldn’t put her books down. At the time, she inspired me so much that I tried my hand at my own romance novel. It still sits waiting, yearning for someone’s touch under my smoldering, hot bed. Come on, you know you want it.

 

Set Them Free

“Okay boys, time to go.”

My boys continued staring at the television, transfixed by a sponge wearing pants.

“Hello? Boys?”

Nothing.

I sighed, but wasn’t surprised. I was used to talking to myself. It seemed I could speak directly to my children, literally in their faces, but if the TV was on, their brains were off, and they could completely block me out. It’s both amazing and extremely annoying.

Outside Howard was beeping the car horn like he had every answer on quick-fire jeopardy.  We were going upstate to visit the grandparents and to return the salamanders we captured there over a month ago to their natural habitat; but first I had to get my children out of the house. It’s an everyday battle.

“Michael, let’s go bike ride.”
“I want to stay inside!  Call Noah to come over.”

“Tyler let’s go play ball.”
“NOOOOOOoooooo….” Return to blank TV stare.

“Julius, how ‘bout a walk around the block?”
Foot stamping, arm folding, “I don’t wannna! I wanna play Gold Fish!”

I may be partly to blame for their homey natures, but I prefer to blame society. When I was growing up, I had the run of my neighborhood; while at 10, Tyler isn’t even allowed to walk down the block to his friend. It’s the culture of the day to keep them close, protected. So while I do push them out on the lawn (where I keep watch), and have friends over (where I keep watch), and have them involved in many sport activities (where I drive, Howard coaches and I, you got it,  keep watch), they are now creatures of habit and home. It’s just not the same world anymore.

We make it to the bungalows. The boys are like panting pups, ready to race outside to run wild, but Howard grabs the salamander container. “We’re going to release these guys first.”

Groans.

“Can’t we do it later?” Michael whines.

“We want to go by the paddle courts.” Tyler moans.

Julius stands in between his big brothers, looking supportively whiny.

Howard shakes his head. “Release first, play after.”

We traipse through the woods behind the bungalows. Howard lugs the heavy Tupperware filled with the salamanders who had ‘summered’ in our backyard on Long Island.

After being coaxed, a.k.a. tortured thru whining, into taking them home, Howard and I had every expectation of soon burying them. There seemed no way for these guys to survive so far from their natural habitat. Regardless, Howard and Julius created a salamander wonderland filled with moss, sticks and a big rock. It was very damp with ‘pools’ of water. Howard constructed a special mesh cover for better ventilation. We had no idea what to feed them, so Julius and Howard packed the container with bug filled mud and we hoped for the best.

As it turned out, it was even better. The salamanders fed on some kind of larva that seemed to mysteriously grow in the water. They lounged on the rock. On many occasions, I saw them tucked neatly into a moss cave, one on top of the other, two little orange heads, almost unnoticeable. We did nothing but look at them every few days, and then not even that.

Looking now at these luxury accommodations, our Tupperware penthouse seemed damp and homey; the perfect place for two little, orange creatures to happily lounge the day away, while the woods seemed vast and dangerous. I had a moment of regret. Maybe we just should have left them in our yard.

Didn’t matter now; we were here and it was time to set them free. We placed the Tupperware near a tree and added a thick branch so they could walk out on their own. We watched for a while, but the salamanders made no attempt toward escape. Howard placed them higher on the branch to show them their surroundings. The salamanders turned and crawled back into the Tupperware.  After repeated attempts to ‘guide’ the salamanders to their freedom, we ultimately had to physically place them into the woods.

We left them there, looking so small and lost. I felt guilty, which was ridiculous. This was where they belonged. Right?

Our boys quickly forgot about them and ran from the woods back toward the bungalows. “Release the hounds,” I mocked as they galloped past, tongues lagging. They were so happy here, despite the morning difficulties getting them out. The bungalows had always been a cocoon of sorts, filled with family, friends of family, grass and freedom. Here, kids can be kids, like the old days.

“We’re going to find grandpa.” Tyler announced, using his upstate independent voice.

“I think he’s down by Sandy’s bungalow playing cards.”

“We’re going to find him.” He reiterated confidently.

“Okay, watch your brothers.”

They headed away from us, each walking with a little swagger, down toward some bungalows about 100 feet away, but out of my vision. Howard and I smiled at one another and I almost welled with tears. Letting them go was scary, but they were good. Howard would follow them shortly, just to make sure.

I still wonder about the salamanders.

His Name was Puppy

Today she had a done a bad thing. She knew she wasn’t supposed to open the door but her father was calling to her from the other side, cajoling her into acquiescence. “Come on, sweetheart, open the door for daddy.” Her mother shouting from behind her, “Don’t you do it! Don’t you open that door!”

She stood in the middle. Turning both ways, conflicted, afraid, overwhelmed. She couldn’t take it anymore, the pleading, the yelling… it was too much. So against her mother’s wishes she had opened the door, and then flew out of it, away from her mother, right past her father. Running. Running. Out of the house, around the block, until finally, panting, she rested against a tree. She took a few deep breaths, lingered a bit to pick at the bark of the tree and then walked slowly back to the house. Where else was there to go, really.

When she returned, her parents were sitting there in the yellow kitchen, waiting. “I’m sorry ‘bout that, doll-face.” said her father, tussling her hair and grinning sheepishly.
Her mother knelt before her, grabbing her arms with her hands, “I shouldn’t have done that to you. It’s okay that you opened the door. I’m not mad.” Her mom gave a comforting little smile, “Okay?”

She shrugged. She could take it. She could take it all. It was no big deal. “Sure. Okay.”

Her parents exchanged a strained glance, and sent her off to play in her room.

She sat there now on her bed with Puppy, her favorite stuffed animal since she was a baby, and “A Wrinkle in Time,” one of her favorite books, semi-listening to the angry voices billowing up the stairs. The voices were loud and full of hurtful accusations. At 10 years-old, she was well aware her parents were divorcing, but it didn’t make her cry or anything. In fact, unless the fighting was particularly hateful, she could block it out completely.

Years later, her grandmother would relate a story about how she walked into the enraged house to find the little girl coloring a picture on the floor, her parent’s screaming all around. The grandmother bent down and asked, “What’s all that fighting about, pussycat?”
The little girl answered, “I don’t hear anyone fighting, grandma.”

The little girl listened for just a moment, hugged her worn, torn, well-loved Puppy a little closer and returned to her reading. It was no big deal. No big deal at all.

Puppy lived till the ripe, old age of 17, when all the thread in the world couldn’t put Puppy together again.

He is lovingly remembered.

How to Look Good While you get your Ass Kicked

Everyone around me jumped up and down in Lululemon workout gear, while I sported the very latest in ratty maternity wear circa 2005. Not that I just had a baby or anything as frightening as that. It’s just that all my comfy, old maternity clothes wound up as pajamas which at times double as gym clothes. So you see, I’m not only incredibly fashionable, I’m practical too.

In truth, the ladies weren’t all wearing Lulu. There were some Hard Tails thrown in, one girl brazenly sported Nike and two girls were wearing outfits that I couldn’t determine the brand. I tried to get a close-up look, but it got a little weird. I guess I should have waited till they were done with their squats.

I concentrated on the fashion parade to distract myself from what I was supposed to be doing – exercising in skinny, sadistic Stacy’s boot camp class.

“25 Burpees!” She yells; slim as a string bean with two little peas for boobs and a butt. The biggest thing about her is her mouth.

We hurry to comply and commence with quick jumping squats that plank. Again. Again. Now, I’m no exercise novice but Burpees are something that you can only effectively do if you’re in your 20’s, are super, super fit or are a frog. I am none of the above. When I do a Burpee, it looks more like a Throwupee. I’m a mess, a splatter of limbs on the floor, and I can never keep the pace.

“This is your hour!” Skinny, sadistic Stacy screams. Damn, I think. This is my hour. I look at the clock. Is it almost over? I want another hour, one which involves someone massaging my back and me sighing deeply instead of panting in pain. Why is this my damn hour?

“Squats!” She yells. “Stick out your butt, Ladies! Lower! Again! Again!” She sticks her peas out to demonstrate.

She is the exercise Nazi. You didn’t squat low enough! No breathing for you!

“Run!” She screams, her voice hot on my back. “RUN!!!” She is scary. And loud. I wish there were a skinny, scary, sadist Stacy mute button.

“It’s your hour!!! PICK IT UPPPPPP!” We all run faster. I’m closing in on one of the women whose clothing brand I can’t determine. If I can just get a little closer…

“Jumping JACKS!!! GO!”

She stops short to jump and I crash into her. It’s not pretty, but we both brush it off. There’s no time for injury or conversation in Stacy’s class. I’m jumping. And sweating. And I may have peed in my pants a little. Just a little. My body feels old, but I keep jumping, because SSS Stacy is on my ass. I think I feel my knee give a little. I may fall down. That would be embarrassing. I slow my Jacks, and just do the hands-up part and hope no-one notices. My friend across from me gives me a wink. Of course she notices. She does kick-ass Burpees too.

Finally, thank God, “my hour” is over. I’m putting away my weights, dragging my sorry, sweaty, old maternity clothes mess to the exit. I glance in the mirror as one of the Lulu’s pass. She’s perspiring, but her outfit is cute and fitted. She looks good and healthy. I’m sweating like a pig and my clothes hang from me, dampened, like I picked them out of my grandmother’s dirty laundry.

As I hobble out and try to convince my friend to go waste lots of money with me at Lululemon, somehow Stacy overhears. She obviously works her ear muscles as well. She beckons me to her and I’m afraid she’s going to make me drop and do 20, but instead she says, “It’s not the clothes that make you look good or even the body. It’s up here.” She points to her head.

Go figure. Crazy Stacy’s not so crazy.  I don’t need new clothes, I need a new attitude. Now, there’s something I can work on. No sweat. On second thought, I think I’ll still go shopping. Certainly couldn’t hurt.

Gym Minx

Gym Rat