What I Learned This Christmas

Don’t spend too much time wrapping kids’ presents – they will undo your perfection in less than 10 minutes.

Forget the expensive $15 toy for the dog – chewed to bits in minutes, all for the two balls inside.  Most expensive tennis balls, ever.

Beware grandparents carrying very large presents.

Don’t go cold turkey on medication 3 days before the big day.

Start the festivities off with a shot of good Tequila.

Never trust drunken relatives to take your dog out, and bring him back in.

Always be prepared for somebody to say something stupid.

Put cards containing money away before the wrapping paper starts flying.  Or, don’t put anything in the outside trash before everything is accounted for.

Feed the dog before sitting down to dinner.

Don’t let drunk people do your dishes.

Find a good hiding place.  For yourself.

Seek out the fun people.

Keep smiling.  Somebody, somewhere is having a worse day than you.

Next year will be even better.

Did She Really Say THAT??

Contains mature material, those offended by foul or vulgar language, stop here.

My daughter is a class act.  And if our children really are a reflection of ourselves, I think I’d better take a long look at myself in the mirror again.  And pray.

I have a tendency to be short-tempered; Ava has a reputation for being short-tempered.  My friend Chris summed it up perfectly – she calls her daughter “mini-me” with the comic sarcastic edge I have loved since we were freshmen.  And I totally get it.   My daughter IS mini-me, magnified by ten.  Whereas I have had 35 years or so to harness the temper I inherited from my mother (and her mother), Ava is still blissfully lost in rage when it hits her.  She has learned to yell when things – any things don’t suit her.

Being born just four days before my birthday also makes her a Gemini – a sure recipe for disaster most of the time.  She is as charming as she is naughty and, like her mother, has a penchant for mischief.  Her humor is fine-tuned to all that amuses a 5-year-old’s senses including, but certainly not limited to, the fine art of passing gas and all other toilet-related subjects.

She was born with an inconceivable store of flatulence – I worried over my newborn girl’s exclusive breastmilk diet, wondered if what I was eating was causing her this terrible ailment and, consequently,  went dubiously about removing all the typical offenders from my diet.  To no avail – the flatulence continued unabated, and accompanied by some impressive belching for such a tiny little package.  She happily released it all, with no apparent discomfort.

Today she proudly shares the joy of flatulence with us; she will rip them anytime, anywhere.  She will slip them out while lying in bed or – my personal favorite – bending over with her butt in my face, purposely squeezing out a big offender and laughing wickedly.  She recently attempted to fart in the dog’s face, after Owen’s friend said a dog will bite you where it counts if you do.  Our dog, by the way, just looked at me for some clue as to how to respond.

She not only delivers the goods, she takes equal pleasure in verbalizing it too.  Guess what?  she whispered to me earlier tonight.  I have a boyfriend.    Intrigued, considering her home-schooled status and limited exposure to her male peers, I took the bait.  You do? I whispered coyly back.  Yes, she said, his name is Jack Poopie.  And his butt smells like orange juice and tomato soup.  Wonderful.

She talks about poop, she talks about farts – she even engages her older brother in a sort of verbal ping-pong of insults.  And, soon enough, the insults turn personal and they are trading jokes about private parts.  We don’t use nicknames in this family – we get right down to business.  So one night after Owen had just stepped out of the shower Ava barges in, hands on her hips and declares, “Oh look at Owie’s little penis!”

But wait! That’s not all.  Oh no. That’s not all. The latest was also the most shocking of all.  And – let me preface by saying that I have absolutely NO idea where she came up with this zinger.  She said it one night before bed – and I was shocked nearly speechless, and then I explained to her that “we” don’t talk like that.  To anyone.  The next morning my husband came to me and says, “you’re not going to believe what she just said to me.”  Oh, I bet I would.  “She told me I have a big, hairy vagina.”  At this point I struggled to suppress the unsuppressable – my own laughter.  My shoulders started to shake and I looked away.  “Tara, this is not funny!”  Well, of course it wasn’t.  But, she said it to him.

And the colorful language continues.  A recent lesson covering the “-it” word family produced a string of “-it” words:  bit, fit, hit, kit, pit, sit and………………………………………….shit.  Owen just sat there laughing hysterically and Ava, like a comedian who needs only laughter like air to breathe, repeated the word no less than eight times. 

My mother warned me that she would be a challenging child.  At six months, I figured I’d begin mentally preparing myself for the prepubescent years we all know are turbulent at best.  Four and a half years later, I’m struggling not only with bad attitude and diabetes-induced mood swings, but also with how to curb her mischievous ways so they are less offensive to others, all without cracking up myself.  In truth, she does not behave this way outside of her family circle, so for that I am grateful.  So friends – who’s up for a play date?

My New Drug

So what else happens when we have that revelation of our true age?  Like Al Bundy reminiscing about his high school football days, many of us still remember all too well our glory days.  Football, baseball, wrestling, hockey, cheerleading… or just walking from the car to the front door.

My husband played the Big 33 in high school – a crowning achievement – as only 33 senior boys across the state of Pennsylvania are chosen each year to play against the top 33 boys from Ohio.  He’s still very proud of this.  He has always thought of himself as an athletic powerhouse, coaching youth league soccer and t-ball, but his wake up call would come.  Last summer he joined his company’s softball team, where he promptly tore his hamstring at the first practice and continued to have his ego beaten to a pulp every time one of the 20-something guys overachieved on the field.  I wanted to laugh, but he was there the day I attempted to impress my kids on the playground.

I don’t think of myself as sporty.  I didn’t play sports. I’m not competitive.  I was – however – a short-term gymnast.  When I was 6, I tumbled at the Y.  When I was 9 I joined a different group, where I quickly moved up levels until I was no longer with the girls I knew but with older girls who seemed to want nothing to do with me.  In retrospect, I think it wasn’t because they were unfriendly, they were just determined, driven, competitive.  All the things I wasn’t. The coaches told my mom what she wanted to hear –she’s built like a gymnast, she could go to the Olympics, blah, blah, blah.

So I got the coach who never quite did, but was determined to push me – either to the Olympics, or right back out the door.  So the day I fell off the balance beam onto my head, and after she told me to get back up there and try again, I went out the door and never looked back.

Nevertheless, I loved the uneven bars. I might have even excelled at those.  Light as a feather, I could easily move from the upper to the lower bar and back again.  So, when I got the chance to show the kids – thankfully on an empty playground – how I used to swing on the bars, my 40-year-old body gracefully whipped around like a sack of cement as I felt the tearing of shoulder tissue… and I landed a perfect dismount on my ass.  My proud husband said, wow.  What the HELL are you doing??

So, I’m not quite as flexible as I used to be.  Ava wanted to know how to do a split the other night.   Do I decline to demonstrate?  No, of course not.  I braced myself on the dresser (for I, too, have torn a hamstring many years ago) and slowly lowered my legs into a “v.”  I explained what it should look like, when it’s done right.  And my ego, whether too dumb or too proud to know better, is now thinking, “hey – with a little stretching I bet I can do it again.”  I’ll keep you posted.

It’s hard to remember my youthful self – particularly when she feels like a total stranger sometimes – the physical things I was once able to accomplish are now part of that mystical world of the impossible dream.  The years spent at the gym, circuit training, stairclimbing, rowing, jogging the indoor track…… what happened to the stamina?

Well, folks, it’s back.  There’s a new addiction.  I have recently learned, through a very good friend of mine who ought to get paid to recruit followers (and keep them motivated, for that matter) – that there’s a rather large contingency of women over 35 who are running.  Running for health, running for fun………………..Running for their lives??

So I finally jumped.  After several failed attempts through the spring and summer, I am now on a 30-minute run three days a week.  The goal?  To run for health, for fitness, for FUN and …. my first 5k.  I’ve hated running since high school, where the phys ed teachers put us ordinary kids through a sort of mandatory hell – running cross country for a specific distance in a limited time frame – up and down monstrous hills.  I barely made it.  So, as I told my friend the fitness pusher, “I don’t run.”  She insisted I would love it.  I balked, but decided to accept the challenge anyway.

The first few runs began with enthusiasm, followed by searing pain in my calves that – if I didn’t focus past it – would’ve sidelined me after the first five minutes.  But determined I was; I would be damned if I gave up that easily, especially after my Big 33 husband told me, “you can’t do that.”  So I ran through the burn… and it disappeared!  Miraculously replaced by this euphoric rush that took over and kept me going until an “emergency” call from home forced me to stop.  (Note to self:  leave cell phone at home.)  This amazing newfound euphoria is better than any drug – why all those crazy lonely mothers out there would rather have Meth is a mystery to me.  When life gets tough – run for your life!  It is liberating and exhilarating… out there, there’s no diabetes, fighting children, clogged toilets or bored dog chewing up carpets….. the moments are all mine. 

The ABC’s of J-O-Y

Awakening… to a new day. And Authority, to live life on my terms.

Beaches.  Sunlight or sunset, by the ocean, with the one I love.

Children… mine.  And, well, yours too.  Chocolate.

Dancing… anytime, anywhere.  (see M)

Exercise and physical fitness.  Easy-going people/attitudes.

Friends.  Good friends, great friends, old friends, new friends.

God.  A relationship with and respect for Him ensures it.

Humor.  Those without need not apply.  And Honor.

Ice cream.  Mint chocolate chip.

Justice.  We all need it.  Doesn’t it feel good when it’s served?


Love.  Is there anything better?

Music.  There’s a song for everything and an anthem for everyone.  A good beat makes happy feet.

Novels.  Reading a good one transports me to happy places.

Optimism.  Got it?  I do. 

Parents…  Without whom life would never be the same.  Passion… for living.

Quilt – or a really warm blanket to huddle under on a cold night.  Quiet.  ‘nough said.

Rosco – my golden retriever.  Running – my new feel-good hobby.

Summertime… warm air on my skin, playing outside with the kids.  Sex.  Really, really good sex.

Traveling.  Here, there, near and far.  OCMD, New York, California, Italy, Scotland.

Unconditional trust, love.  Understanding.

Vices.  We’ve all got them.  They can bring joy to the soul, as long as they’re not hurting anyone else.

Wine…. beer, margaritas, Stoli martinis.

X – traordinary moments.  Childbirth, a first kiss, realizing a dream, and the moment you know.

Yes.  It doesn’t always have to be “no.” 

Zeal.  Find something to be zealous about.  Zero tolerance for the bastards who try to bring you down!