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Brain Food? I Think Not

I am still seething from the contents of a letter I received a few weeks ago from the Department of Athletics at the very expensive college where son #2 (aka Genius) is currently enrolled. The letter was an updated version of another equally insulting version of the same solicitation that was mailed out last semester as exam time approached. The first letter implied that my student would be deeply hurt and his exam performance compromised if I did not spend circa $50 on a gift basket of " high energy success snacks" to keep him going through the imminent stressful period of exam taking. The sales pitch fell flat the minute I read the list of contents in the Support Basket which were classified as nutritious, tasty and wholesome but in fact were a collection of totally unhealthy items such as Strawberry Twizzlers, Gummy Buddy Bears, Kellogs Pop Tarts, CHEEZ-IT snack crackers and Dum Dum lollipops. There was a touching little preface story about two students who came to collect their care packages and discovered that one had a neglectful parent who had opted not to take part in the scheme prompting a tearful call home. I immediately called son # 2 and the conversation went like this:

Mad Mama (angry not crazy) "Hi darling, quick question.. will you be scarred for life if I don't send you a care package of processed garbage full of E numbers to get you through the exams?"

Genius "Don't be ridiculous why would I need you to send me that crap? I have a 7-Eleven full of the stuff two steps from my dorm room"

Mad Mama "OK just checking because I wouldn't want you to fail your exams because of my incompetence"


I had actually forgotten all about this incident until I opened the second letter and discovered that the last mailing had been a rip-roaring success so in addition to the Support Basket I could now purchase the Stress Buster (a delightful reusable plastic pail containing Play Doh, bubbles, an inflatable beach ball and a rainbow slinky.) I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!  Am I the only person who thinks this is completely insane? We are talking about COLLEGE STUDENTS not kids in kindergarden. If this is the level of pampering our young adults need to get them through exams how on earth are they going to function in the real world? I can see it now, Lawyer says to Judge "I'm sorry Your Honor I was not able to prepare the closing argument because my mother forgot to send my support basket and I was really hungry."

Call me old fashioned but I thought a nutritious snack was a piece of fruit and stress relief was lifting a few weights. No wonder obesity has reached epidemic proportions in this country if even a Head Coach of Women's Gymnastics is promoting Andy Capp Cheddar Fries and M&M's as high energy success snacks. I don't wish to tar the reputation of this excellent college because of the misguided actions of one individual but I am appalled. I thought it was common knowledge that one should avoid eating sugar before exams as it results in a spike of energy followed by a crash. It seems that in America a great number of people think a healthy breakfast is a Pop Tart and a soda and are shocked to discover they have diabetes at age 30.

I have great faith in my son's ability to overcome the monumental hurdle of studying for his exams AND remembering to feed himself. If he fails I guess I will have to eat my (healthy) words.


Thinking Outside The Flatpack

It's amazing what you learn about your kids at 3 am. If it wasn't for last nights shenanigans I wouldn't have known that Rockstar has a really serious problem; he is COMPLETELY incapable of walking away from a task he has started until it's finished. He is also incredibly stubborn so even when all the evidence points to an alternative course of action he is driven to continue on his chosen path until his mission is accomplished. This story actually starts two days ago when Rockstar decided to move into his brother's bedroom while brother was away at college. Genius had not been consulted or allocated a new bedroom because R's old bedroom was now a Music Mixing Room. Obviously with the summer holidays approaching that wasn't going to fly so I decided to give up the study as the new music room so that everyone would be happy. This set off an incredible chain of events which my limited imagination could not have foreseen. First of all the color of old study was UNACCEPTABLE so R touched one  button on his iphone and summoned his A-Team who then proceeded to paint the study faster than I have ever seen a room painted. I think it was about 45 minutes. Since there was now a real bed (that would take HOURS to dismantle) in Genius's room (as opposed to mattress on the floor) I despatched Rockstar and the A-Team to buy a new bed so that something positive could be salvaged from the chaos. There was a time when my house contained a collection of tasteful furniture and accessories from parts Eastern but that was before Ikea came into our lives. Over the past couple of years I have noticed things that are black and come in flatpacks (non of which have been purchased by me) gradually taking over. I think Rockstar's idea of the perfect date is a three hour meander round Ikea followed by a swedish meatball lunch. So I was not surprised when I got home from work yesterday to find the garage full of boxes and the upstairs landing looking like an obstacle course. I fully expected order to be restored by the time I went to bed but I was woken at 2 am by a wild eyed creature stealing my husbands prize tool kit from it's hiding place in our wardrobe. Mystified I got up to see what was going on. It wasn't pretty. Rockstar looked up at me with sheer desperation on his face and said " Mom I hate that store I am NEVER going back. I have been trying to put this one screw in for an hour and a half" I tried to point out that perhaps he was overtired and should continue in the morning but my seeds of advice fell on stony ground. I was informed that there was no point as he couldn't possibly sleep knowing the bed was not made (so to speak.) What choice did I have? I pitched in and discovered he had a bracket on upside down. Just over an hour later we were both able to retire but while Rockstar fell instantly into the deep sleep of the satisfied I lay awake for another hour writing this blog in my head. I KNEW it was stupid I KNEW I would be exhausted in the morning but once the thought was in my head I could not let it go and now as I am COMPLETELY incapable of jotting down a few notes but MUST finish this article I am going to be late for work.


How To Tame Your Dragon

I've had a slew of semi-amusing e-mails this week that all poke fun at women and imply that we are just such a pain to live with. In the ongoing battle of the sexes it seems that our husbands never tire of referring to us as:

The Old Battle-ax

Her Indoors

The Ball and Chain

She Who Shall Not Be Disobeyed

The Trouble and Strife

and other such 'affectionate' nicknames that all imply that we are no longer the playful sex kittens they married but a bunch of matronly harridans who exist solely to nag them and spoil their fun. Never mind that most of us have jobs that are just as demanding as theirs and yet we are still coming home to start job # 2 a never-ending mass of mindless household chores and cooking hot dinners. Is it any wonder that we are not overcome with desire after watching them sprawled on the sofa all weekend, beer in hand, screaming obscenities at the player who failed to make the winning touch-down? 

Mufasa knows better having graduated with honors from my Husband Retraining Program he is now officially a SNAG (Sensitive New-Age Guy.) He tidies up, does laundry, brings me flowers and he knows that nothing puts me in the mood like a man doing my dishes. The official term for this is Choreplay and I can highly recommend it to all you buffoons out there who need to GET A CLUE and change the error of your ways. Putting the meat on the grill once a week does NOT count as helping us and frankly the amount of praise most men expect for this simple task negates the miniscule pleasure of their minor assistance in providing one weekend meal. Modern women don't hanker after candle lit dinners what we want is DIY. Notice what needs doing and fix it (and here is the shocking bit) WITHOUT BEING ASKED! Yes amazing isn't it? If you just take the initiative the result is truly miraculous - no more nagging.

I have a great friend who makes no secret of the fact that she trades sexual favors for little jobs around the house. She has been married for over thirty years and has a very happy husband who simply can't wait to lay the new patio or change a few light bulbs.


Post Vacation Blues

The week after your vacation has to be the hardest week of the year. You come home to unpaid bills, mountains of laundry, an empty fridge and a huge backlog of work . Answering e-mails alone uses up the whole first day. By the time you get to day three all benefits of the relaxing holiday are gone. It usually takes me until the following weekend just to finish unpacking. We have to eat takeout every night because I am staying so late at the office to catch up on all the work I missed and haven't had a spare hour to do a supermarket run. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth going away? This week was crazy which is why you have not heard anything from me. When I got to the office on Monday I was informed that one of our clients, Dick Dastardly was flying in the next day along with a representatives from the furniture manufacturer and the hotel operator to review tons of drawings. Fortunately DD is one of our cooler clients so I didn't have a total meltdown and with the help of my wonderful coworker Twinkie Ho we got through the review in record time. By then it was Thursday and my plans to start my Lean Cuisine regime were in shreds. We had to order Jimmy Johns for the working lunches and then we took Dick out for dinner on Tuesday. I don't know why I am completely incapable of moderation, with me it's either feast or famine. I have never been to a restaurant and not ordered dessert and I just can't see the point of eating out if you are going to order chicken broth and a green salad with dressing on the side. So now after a nine day cruise and a work week of not dieting I find that yet again I have ten pounds to lose and of course Mufasa is thinner than ever. He actually now looks like an advert for the successful results of gastric bypass surgery. In a desperate attempt to level the playing field I have made a deal with him that I will lose ten pounds if he will gain ten. Of course I didn't believe for a minute that he would be able to gain an ounce as he has a disgustingly normal attitude to food ie. it is purely for nutritional purposes and does not need to be consumed because you are stressed, bored, miserable, or pre-menstrual and ready to throttle all the other (thinner) members of your family. When I jumped on the scale this morning and discovered that after skipping dinner last night I had actually dropped a pound I demanded that he weigh himself confident that he would be the same and the pressure would be off but the smug sod had actually gained two pounds! HA HA that's what happens the week after you have been away and you have no time to go to the gym.


A Day To Remember

Today would probably be best forgotten since on receiving an email from my eldest (the contents of which will remain a family secret) Mufasa and I had a huge fight about the 'good news' which actually turned out to be Rockstar's idea of an April Fools joke. Since we got it a day late and ended up ready to strangle each other I think you could say the prank was not a great success. Fortunately our arguments never last long as we can't bear not being friends so we still managed to fit in a few hours of sunbathing followed by Greg Gleesons Memory Seminar. Mufasa was ambivalent about attending this event, he seemed to like the idea of improving his own memory but I think he feared that if mine improved my inner bitch would dredge up every detail of his past misdemeanors. Anyway we decided to go and thanks to Greg we can now recite the alphabet backwards and remember peoples names by imagining ski slopes, slot machines and animals on their faces. We learned how to move things into our long term memories by making visual connections but within half an hour of leaving the seminar Denis forgot his glasses case in the coffee bar (he already left the first one at the theater two days ago) so I guess some things just cannot be improved even with peg links. To be honest the more I think about it I don't really want to improve my memory. I like it the way it is, selective, so I can choose to remember the fun stuff and forget all the trivial crap. Judging by the behavior of some of our fellow cruisers they obviously feel the same way. Why else would they be drinking themselves into oblivion night after night?
I admit it would be useful to be able to find our way back to the cabin without consulting the deck plan every time (we have been on the boat eight days and this is still a challenge) but I was not tempted to shell out $59.99 for Greg's 'Memorize It' DVD as the mounting cost of this vacation is something I am unlikely to forget at least until we have paid off the credit cards.

Elephants never forget


The Accidental Tour Missed

Bad day in Barbados. I wasn't going to write a blog entry today but now I need to vent. An inauspicious start as we disembarked and my husband suggested we hire a scooter! De local rum must have gone to his head if he could even consider trying to get his risk averse trouble and strife onto the back of a death bike. The wisdom of riding a scooter around Bridgetown is on a par with say, riding one round Athens. Add to that the fact that (it was ninety degrees) the last thing our red necks needed was four hours more exposure to the sun and you will understand why we didn't execute that stupid plan and instead went with MY stupid plan. Or should I say my stupid and VERY EXPENSIVE idea of hiring a taxi for a private tour of the island. Within minutes of setting off I had a bad feeling as our driver refused to take us to any of the fabulous locations described in my Frommer's guide, so we DID NOT see:
Gun Hill Signal Station
The Orchid Garden
St John's Church or
Harrison's Cave.
What we DID see were:
Three branches of KFC
The bus depot
Several car dealerships
Lots of low income housing areas
The hospital
Blackened areas of landscape destroyed by recent fires
(and least exciting of all)
The country club where Tiger Woods got married.

After two hours of this torture Mufasa and I realized that this Bajan's idea of 'The Highlights of Barbados Tour' were somewhat different from our own and we requested to be taken to the beach. I have no idea what we had done to upset this guy, after all we didn't haggle with him, just accepted his extortionate hourly rate. We smiled a lot and were polite and asked intelligent questions about local life; maybe he just didn't like our matching yellow t-shirts because not content with subjecting us to the tour from hell he then deposited us at the nastiest, noisiest, most crowded and least picturesque beach in Barbados and drove off, having secured the agreed fare PLUS tip (yes I really am that stupid) before we could express our horror. A quick dip in the sea was required to cool off our boiling skins and tempers and then we hightailed it back to the sanctity of our cabin. I have absolutely no idea if Barbados is a nice place or not but if we ever come back I will not be doing the Highlights Tour, I think we should bite the bullet and hire a scooter instead.

Bad beach in Barbados




The Big Sleep

Despite what may seem like a whirlwind agenda of island hopping, gym sessions, gourmet dinners and theatrical entertainment what we have undoubtedly done most of on this cruise is sleep. We are clocking up a good straight nine hours per night plus an afternoon nap. Sleeping on the boat is the best repose you will ever have; my theory is that the confined cabin conditions and the movement of the water make you feel like you are back in the womb and therefore you sleep like a baby. No thrice nightly trips to the bathroom, no horrible nightmares, no insomnia and therefore no lying awake irritated by partner's snoring. Nine hours of deep rejuvenating perfect sleep. In our normal lives Mufasa and I are on completely different schedules. I am up with the lark and have done half a day's work by nine a.m. which results in my engine running out of steam by early evening when you will find me in bed with a good book. Mufasa is a night owl and consequently rises later in the mornings. He also has a child's attitude to going to bed in that it must be resisted at all costs, so almost every night he falls asleep on the sofa in some contorted position that will ensure that he feels like Methuselah when he staggers up to bed at three in the morning waking me and then subjecting me to two hours of his nasal orchestra. At home the only time our sleep patterns are the same is when one of us is jet lagged. Of course women don't snore but apparently I do talk in my sleep (actually shout is more accurate.) In my waking hours I do not use bad language but according to my husband I regularly frighten the life out of him by thrashing around like a wild pig and screaming obscenities in the middle of the night. I would like to dispute this as nonsense but I can't since there have been times I've shouted so loudly that I woke MYSELF up.

I suppose you could say that our bedroom life is never dull and of course we NEVER go to sleep on an argument, Mufasa says it's far too risky as obviously my violent side is somehow connected to my REM cycle and he is afraid he will wake up (or not) with my hands around his throat or a pillow over his face.
However here on the cruise none of these things are issues, we both get up early, well rested after uneventful nights, ready to take on the day's whirlwind agenda.

Awake in Antiga


This Side of Paradise

Yesterday my husband and I fell head over heels in love (not with each other) with Tortola. Having discovered another possible retirement paradise we headed straight for the real estate agent where in short order our dreams were once again shattered as we learned that even an abandoned goat shed next to the local scrap yard would set us back half a mil. That accomplished we boarded the mini-bus for Cane Garden Bay, sat back and enjoyed looking at the scenery and the pretty pastel roofed houses we will never own. Strangely all the bus drivers in Tortola are called King (maybe if we break down they will ferry us to the beach by camel?)

After a hair raising drive on steep windy mountain roads we arrive at a postcard perfect beach and plant ourselves on beach chairs at the waters edge. This place is a little slice of paradise and for once the peaceful atmosphere is not marred by a local steel band playing their version of Exodus so loudly you can barely hear yourself drink. I am totally relaxed I have NOTHING to worry about. Well obviously that can't last long so I start fretting about the return journey to the port. Should we take the water taxi and risk drowning after being capsized by a tsunami wave? Or should we go back the way we came, in the dodgy brakes bus and risk plummeting thousands of feet over the cliff to our deaths? Can't decide so float on my back for half an hour keeping an eye out for dorsal fins. Mufasa (of course) doesn't waste a millisecond pondering any of these imminent dangers, his greatest concern is buying his next Corona and working out how he can get me to go to the beach bar for him instead. Four hours fly by and we need to get our red blistered bodies out of the sun so it's time to do a little shopping in Road Town.

The Three Kings are waiting by their rusty steeds and we are now faced with the dilemma of which one to travel with (trust our lives to.) #1 King who has AC in his bus seems like as good a choice as any and we head back on even steeper windier narrower roads. I am SO happy that we are not doing this trip in a Toyota. The bus drops us at a horrible touristy market and my spirits sink as we pass stall after stall of Rasta hats, junk jewelry, nasty t-shirts with stupid slogans and hideous copy watches with plastic straps (Denis is not impressed.) Finally we are directed to Main Street where we wile away the rest of the afternoon exploring quaint art galleries and cutesy gift shops. We struck gold when we stumbled upon a wine shop with an amazing selection of excellent South African wines at $7.50 a bottle! Back on the ship we hit the gym for what is now our regular 5 pm workout. It's probably a complete waste of time because I don't even burn enough calories to compensate for one of the FOUR bread rolls and butter that will have been demolished by the time my appetizer is served. Oh well, only five more days of this overindulgence by which time I will be carrying enough excess flesh to sink a ship.

A little slice of paradise