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The Six Stages of Other People's Children

Stage One (Age 22) OMG Kids are SO annoying I’m NEVER having them.


Stage Two (Age 26) OMG Babies ARE SO CUTE – I DESPERATELY want one!


Stage Three (Age 30) My kids are so cute and well behaved I can’t believe that they are going to grow up into those monstrous badly behaved teenagers I see everywhere.


Stage Four (Age 47) My teenagers are such fun, intelligent AND talented. I wish younger parents would learn to control their little brats; mine were NEVER so badly behaved when they were that age.


Stage Five (Age 52) I am over kids/Parenting in a BIG way = Dogs are far more rewarding and if that screaming baby is sitting next to me on this flight there will be hell to pay.


Stage Six (Age 57) OMG Babies are SO cute – I can’t wait to be a Grandma.


The Family Stone

I love that movie.

The ideal of our wonderful, quirky, unconventional, vibrant family members all returning to the rambling ancestral home for a Holiday full of shared memories, good food, chaos and an abundance of love is one we all aspire to.

Perhaps it is this concept that sustains me through the run up to Christmas and all the manic, frantic, stressful preparations that are necessary to preserve our own family traditions. This year I was adamant that Mufasa was going to be MORE involved and I extracted a promise that we would do everything TOGETHER to share the load (ie. lighten mine.)

We got off to a great start with a lovely romantic outing to purchase the Christmas tree but the minute we got it home and secured in the stand everything turned to S*@%.

As he stood back to admire the beauty of it’s shape, Mufasa glanced out of the back window and was reminded that he needed to cut down a bunch of overhanging branches that were threatening to cause damage to the exterior and that was that. Yet again I found myself ALONE doing the job I HATE more than any other on this earth  (untangling strings of tree lights) while Mufasa drove off gleefully to the job he LOVES more than any other on this earth (trawling the isles of Home Depot in search of the perfect tools for the job.) THREE HOURS LATER he returned with a broom and ten boxes of light bulbs???????????? and went on to spend the REST OF THE DAY massacring my beautiful trees and piling up branches down the side of the house (where they will no doubt remain until April when he will finally muster the energy to move them to the curb for collection.) If you detect a trace of bitterness in this blog you would be correct; I AM FURIOUS. But what sort of wife complains about her husband spending hours of his time battling overgrowth so that we don’t have to pay the gardener to do it? I just can’t help feeling that he deliberately chose to execute this task on the very day I needed his help with other stuff and WTF are all those light bulbs for?

When Rockstar & Genius arrived home last night I’m sure they were seriously impressed with us. The house was beautifully decorated and PACKED with a ton of our wonderful, vibrant, quirky and unconventional friends drinking mulled wine and eating my homemade mince pies (an English tradition that I had decided to resurrect after a ten year hiatus due to being too busy fighting with tree lights.) They didn’t notice that it’s now impossible to access the garden from the left as there is a ten-foot pile of branches blocking the way, nor did they notice that the outside lights are STILL not working. (AH HA! Perhaps that’s what the light bulbs are for, however they are still in plastic bags in the garage.)

After all the guests departed Rockstar looked lovingly at me and said “That was an absolutely FANTASTIC evening” but before I could bask in the glory of his praise he added, “So much fun and everyone left by Eight O’clock!” Which is hilarious because it is in fact my definition of the perfect social event.

The four of us then passed a delightful couple of hours reminiscing on Christmases past; Genius dredged up one of my old Christmas letters, which he claimed, was the best EVER; he retrieved it on his iPhone and read it aloud. We all fell about laughing when he got to the bit about Mufasa claiming that changing the light bulbs on the porch was “a big job” and then we all laughed even more when we realized that the letter was written in 2009 and it is now 2013 and those light bulbs have still not been changed.

I think I’m ready to let go of my bitterness and embrace ALL of the wonderful, quirky, unconventional foibles that make OUR holidays unique. This is my family and we are Set in Stone.


How to be the Perfect Mother-in-Law

Mother-in-Laws have a very bed rap. They are typically viewed as overbearing, interfering, harridans who are completely convinced that NO-ONE is good enough for their precious offspring.

This has not been my experience.

I will never forget the first time I met Betty. I had only been dating Denis for a couple of months. We headed North so that he could introduce me to ‘The Family” and I have to admit I was pretty nervous.

My trepidation was due in part to the fact that my new boyfriend was recently divorced, a LOT older than me AND a Catholic.

However my fears were unfounded: Betty did not seem to care that I was young, Jewish, and self-opinionated, but the minute we were left alone together she looked me straight in the eye and asked “Do you love Denis, Jude?”

After I had recovered from the shock of being asked such a direct question at a first meeting I was able to tell her that in fact I did love her son with ALL my heart. From there on it was plain sailing – I loved her son and I made him happy and nothing more was required.

Now whether that was because there had been others before me and the bar had subsequently been set rather low or whether it was because Betty was already close to seventy at that point and was displaying the wisdom of her years I am not entirely sure but in any case I was beyond grateful to be so easily accepted and so treasured.

Betty, I wish I could tell you that I am following your example and preparing to be just such an easy going and tolerant Mother-in-Law to my sons when they finally meet their soul mates but unfortunately to date I am failing miserably.

I’m an interfering, overbearing harridan, and although I AM convinced that there are women out there who ARE good enough for my boys I am concerned that my vetting process and judgments may be a lot harsher than my Mother-in-Law’s.

So Betty in honor of our unspoken agreement I will continue to love your son with all of my heart (until death do us part) and in your memory I sincerely promise when that when the time comes I will try much harder to be the Perfect Mother-in-Law.

RIP Betty you will be truly missed by all whose lives you touched.


Little Kippers

It was with some trepidation that I clicked the place your order button for my most recent purchase from Amazon. The book titled ‘Slouching Towards Adulthood- How to let go of your kids so they can grow up’ appeared to be a sort of self-help guide to stepping back from the helicopter style of parenting prevalent amongst my Baby Boomer generation.

As I’m fully aware that I have an UNCRONTROLABLE urge to help fix all my son's problems I decided that it was high time I faced the truth of my meddlesome, overprotective, worrywart ways and started dishing out some tough love to Rockstar and Genius before I destroy any hope of them becoming completely independent adults. However having finished the book I am more confused (and guilt ridden) than EVER.

First of all according to the author (Sally Koslow) we Baby Boomers have created an unholy mess on this planet for our young folk to deal with having foolishly raised them with a bunch of completely CRAZY ideas that everything they do, think and say is totally UNIQUE, AMAZING, and FABULOUS. Secondly (along with the help of a pitiful education system that discourages most types of punishment and awards everyone prizes so no-one feels left out) we send them off to the best colleges paid for out of our dwindling retirement funds CONVINCED that they will emerge and slot straight into the glamorous well-paid jobs of their dreams. Because God forbid they should suffer any hardship WHATSOEVER and certainly they should NOT be expected to do menial jobs for minimum wage after graduating from Ivy League schools with double majors.

Unfortunately while they were away getting a top class education (AKA having fun with their friends) we Boomers were doing a terrific job of DESTROYING the economy to the point that our Kippers (Kids in Parents Pockets) are graduating with very little chance of employment in ANY field.

It’s really not that bad though, because Mommy and Daddy are old school and so are still working themselves RAGGED at the dead end jobs they have been in most of their lives, determined to provide nice clothes, cars and vacations for the Kippers. We Boomers grew up with corporal punishment in schools and parents who really didn’t care if we were fulfilled in our careers as long as we were off their hands and financially independent by twenty one (or earlier if at all possible.) By contrast we’ve produced a generation of over-confident, self-entitled, dissatisfied twenty-somethings who don’t see any problem bumming around for a few years while they sort things out and if mom and dad are happy to help then so be it.

What is inspiring about this generation is that they are exactly what they NEED to be to survive in the chaos that’s been handed to them. They are self-motivated, flexible, multi-talented and with their mastery of all things technological, completely capable of getting the answers to everything they need to know WITHOUT our help. Most of what they know of true value is self-taught so the thousands of dollars we handed over to educational institutions was probably a COMPLETE waste. Yes they may job hop for a few years, travel the globe, move back in with us because they can’t afford rent but eventually they will figure it out and when they do – WOW. They think nothing of starting their own companies, finding funding to start entrepreneurial enterprises, moving halfway across the country and back again. Nothing fazes them. I truly believe that most of them WILL be successful and more importantly they will ultimately change the current status quo so radically that we will look back and wonder how we ever thought our way was better.

I wish I had an ounce of their DNA. I would love to give up my demanding job and stay home cuddling the dog and writing bestselling novels. But I don’t have the balls and besides I need my salary to help support MY little Kippers as they build their businesses, and launch their careers.

Little do they know that the shoe will soon be on the other foot. Having funded their enterprises, education and adventures we will be PENNILESS (and homeless) in our dotage and asking to move back in with THEM! In the meantime I’m thinking it might be nice to take them away for little family vacation. A break from the traumas of self-employment and/or job hunting. And here’s the rub……my little Kippers ARE the smartest, most unique, AMAZING and fabulous people, so Mufasa and I would rather spend time with them than anyone else we know.


Going Bananas

I have a love/hate relationship with bananas.

I don’t really like them and have to force myself to eat one but when I finally do, I realize that actually they are quite nice. I just can’t bear them when they start turning brown so I always buy them when they are slightly green and then spend days watching them turn brown before throwing them away. This was a weekly ritual until thanks to Pinterest I discovered an idiot-proof recipe for Banana Bread.

The recipe calls for you to store your BROWN bananas in the freezer so that they are always on hand to whip up an exquisite white chocolate chip & pine nut banana loaf. FANTASTIC - no more guilt over throwing away food but now I have a freezer FULL of brown bananas.

The problem with the banana bread solution is twofold. Sometimes it emerges from the oven perfect & delicious at which point I eat the ENTIRE loaf. The rest of the time it’s a dismal failure and so I look at it for a week before throwing it away. (More guilt over wasting food.) Note to self: Recipe not as idiot-proof as anticipated - don’t believe everything you read on Pinterest.

My freezer is CHOCK full of things I can’t bear to discard. Small containers with Thanksgiving leftovers are still there in April. Large containers with substandard casseroles, which no one really enjoyed so they didn’t get eaten. Why I think these will be MORE appealing three months later is a mystery to both me and the rest of the family.

Eventually I’m forced to clear out the freezer to make room for the next batch of small/large containers. So inevitably SOME food must be discarded. I can’t even feed it to the dog as he has a huge problem digesting any human food (details to follow in Dog Shame blog.)

What I need is a pot-bellied pig. Apart from the fact that they are totally adorable, I hear they have a real penchant for brown bananas.


Would You Rather................?

Genius just called. He knows me SO well therefore he prefaced his question with:

Mom this is just hypothetical OK? Don’t freak out.”

The Question was:

“Would you rather spend the rest of your life in prison with ABSOLUTELY no hope of parole or be dead?”

I didn’t hesitate:

“HA! Obviously I would go to prison OF COURSE I would go to prison and I would make the absolute BEST of it.”

But before I continued my response I couldn’t resist asking:

“But this IS hypothetical right? I mean you don’t have someone standing in front of you with a gun?”

Laughter from the CROWD! Whoops… I’m on speakerphone and this is a discussion group!

Well now that I have an audience let me elaborate.

“Much as I would prefer NOT to go to Jail, if it was that or death I would go there with bells on.  I would be the model inmate and everyone would love me. I would use the opportunity to better others and myself by taking and running Cookery, Painting, Gardening, and Meditation classes.

I would Get my Masters in creative writing and FINALLY write a book. A BESTSELLER

Martha would have nothing on me.”

A roof over my head and three meals a day for free? I would RELISH the opportunity to re-create myself and I am a firm believer in accepting your circumstances and making the best of them.

Also it seems that prisons these days are pretty decent environments. They even have Interior Designers for them so perhaps I could be the in-house Designer?

Everyone in the discussion group agreed with me. Well everyone EXCEPT Genius.

Genius would rather be DEAD than incarcerated.

I SINCERELY hope the question WAS hypothetical.


Sweet Baby James

I’ve just finished nursing Rockstar through a Tonsillectomy.

It was an experience I hope NEVER to repeat.

Fun Fact # 1: This is not an outpatient procedure for an adult EVER.

Fun Fact # 2: The reason you are being sent home is because your insurance doesn’t want to pay for overnight stay unless you are close to death.

Fun Fact # 3: Some doctors and hospital admin. staff have the bedside manner of Genghis Khan. Nurses however are truly wonderful. Bill at Boca Regional – THANK YOU – you probably won’t read this but YOU made a difference.

The night following the surgery was totally horrific. I think I’ve been scarred for life from twenty hours watching Rockstar suffer what would surely constitute torture if he was being held captive.

Fun Fact # 4: Your children are still your babies even when they are 23 and left home two years ago.

Fun Fact # 5: The reason I had to go to the doctor and speak for my son was because he’d had throat surgery and COULD NOT TALK or DRIVE not because I’m an overprotective mother DUH.

(Although of course I am.)

Fun Fact # 6: If you have an abnormally swollen throat after surgery which is preventing you swallowing even a SIP of water then you WILL need to be on an IV for at least a day or two as you will NOT be able to swallow pain medication – surprise surprise.

Fun Fact # 7: A private room at a hospital is $300 a night. This is comparable with a room at a decent hotel and is without doubt the BEST $300 we ever spent. The alternative was a shared room with a very sick man who was coughing, hacking and vomiting. Not really what Rockstar wanted to be listening to when he was already in ACUTE distress. On top of that the roommate had a seven family members around the bed all taking turns in the shared toilet (more unpleasant sound effects.) The private room gets you away from all of that but what it doesn’t do is get you away from the crazy person in the next room who spends the whole night SCREAMING at the top of his voice “SOMEBODY HELP ME.”

Fun Fact # 8: The guest recliner in the private room is a sort of pre-war contraption and after a night in it you will probably need to stay in the hospital yourself for back surgery. However it is still WAY more comfortable than the guest armchair so the second you vacate the recliner to use the restroom your Husband will hop right into it.

Fun Fact # 9: The Mama stays with the Bubba at the hospital overnight (‘sleeping’ in the pre-war recliner with a thin hospital blanket while the Papa gets to go home and take a lovely hot shower, sleep in a nice comfortable bed and return the next morning bright eyed and bushy tailed. So the Papa needs to be VERY careful not to upset the Mama or to assume that she is fine just because she SEEMS fine. She SEEMS fine because she doesn’t want the Bubba to see her crying. 

Fun Fact # 10: Just because your patient can’t eat doesn’t mean you will save money on food that week. I don’t think I have ever had such an enormous grocery bill due to my desperation to find something that Rockstar could eat without hurting his throat. He still lost fourteen pounds and I lost seven!

Not the first choice for a weight loss program but a small bonus for the week of hell spent nursing MY sweet baby James.


The Things We Do For Love

At 7 a.m every Sunday Morning and 7 p.m every Wednesday evening I am required to spend twenty minutes rolling a drumstick up and down the back of my husband's thighs. This is not some hideous perversion plucked from the pages of Fifty Shades (I don't read garbage) but apparently a bone fide prevention technique against hamstring injuries. These sessions are not exactly the highlight of my week. The stick rolling is actually a LOT more exhausting than one would imagine, but my complaints have fallen on stony ground as Mufasa claims it's the most exercise I've had all year (sadly this is true.)

I'm desperately trying to think of something I want in return for these weekly torture sessions because delivering them purely as an act of love is not working for me AT ALL. The little acts of love I prefer are the ones that require minimal effort like remembering to buy my husband's favorite salad dressing or collecting his shirts from the cleaners.

The other day I happened to be home after he had left for work as I had a late morning dental appointment. I was using the time to make important calls and had finally got past all the automated selections to a LIVE person when my cell phone started ringing and I saw my husband's number on the screen. I did not want to abandon the call I was on but became increasingly disturbed as he KEPT ringing and ringing and after four unsuccessful attempts to reach me on my cell started dialing the house phone which I ignored as I was still otherwise engaged. When he reverted to calling the cell AGAIN I panicked (deciding it must be a real emergency) and answered full of fear at the news I was no doubt about to receive:

Dishy " Hi Darling What's wrong?"

Mufasa " Thank Goodness you're still home"

Dishy " Why? What's happened?"

Mufasa "DISASTER!" 

Dishy (now very distressed) "What sort of disaster"

Mufasa " I just don't know how this happened but I'm wearing the wrong shoes."

Dishy " WHAT!!!!! The wrong shoes how? You mean you have one dress shoe and one sneaker on?" (thinking that maybe he has a brain tumor that's affecting his vision.)

Mufasa " No I'm wearing black trousers and I just noticed I put on brown shoes."

Dishy "................" ( speechless - I mean what does a loving wife say in these situations?)

Mufasa " Can you please bring my black shoes AS SOON AS POSSIBLE?"

Dishy " Of course darling, but I am actually on the way to the dentist do you think you can survive till I arrive at lunchtime?"

I hope that despite the sarcasm in my response , my husband will acknowledge the delivery of the shoes as another little demonstration of my affection. Maybe he will not be so crabby next time he notices I'm wearing his favorite socks to bed. Maybe he will finally get around to taking my car for an oil change. Maybe he will  remember to put the recycle bins out for collection this week without me having to nag.

After all in every relationship there is a never-ending list of The Things We do For Love.