Monday, September 25, 2006

Big Box O' Clean!

Has this ever happened in your house? Paper, toys, and debris of unknown origin accumulating to the point that you're afraid to delve into the pile for fear of finding a rotting sandwich or small animal carcass?

Well, I'm about to let you in on a little secret -- a revolutionary way of cleaning your house or apartment that will save you HOURS of tedious housework.

Ten years of extensive testing by a real-life mother of two small children (me) has led to the development of an exciting new system that will change the way you clean FOREVER!

And now I'm offering it to the general public for the VERY FIRST TIME!

Introducing: the Cynco BIG BOX O' CLEAN!(TM) Home Cleaning System.

How many times do you find yourself frantically straightening up your home before company arrives? By the time your guests ring the doorbell you're so wiped you can barely offer them a crudites, let alone engage in witty repartee?

Never again! Not when all you have to do is say, "Honey, can you hand me a BIG BOX O' CLEAN?"

Simply place your BIG BOX(es) O' CLEAN!(TM) on the floor of the problem area.

Toss all loose items within reach into the box. Continue through the house until the box is filled.


In mere minutes, your home goes from trailer-trash clutter...

BEFORE a decorator's showroom!


You may even find a musical instrument you never knew you had!

You might ask, "Why can't I just use plastic containers from my local discounter to store my crap?"

I'm glad you asked! Ordinary plastic containers allow the user to see the items inside. With the items in sight, the user feels obligated to sort through the box - thereby wasting HOURS of time better spent watching brain-melting daytime TV.

But BIG BOX O' CLEAN!(TM) is made from revolutionary opaque fiber (patent pending). The durable material keeps the contents discretely out of sight and out of mind.

You see, that's the beauty of the BIG BOX O' CLEAN!(TM) Home System! You don't ever have to look in it again if you don't want to! Simply place in your basement or upstairs hallway and forget about it!

Or throw a towel over your BIG BOX O' CLEAN!(TM) and you've got yourself a durable end table or pet bed!

And they're stackable!

The BIG BOX O' CLEAN!(TM) comes in two convenient sizes:

Medium, for small items

Large, for your bigger messes.

How much would you pay to cut your clean-up time to a fraction of what it is today? $100? $200?

For a limited time, we're offering the Cynco BIG BOX O' CLEAN!(TM) Home Cleaning System for the low, low price of $39.95 (or two easy payments of 19.99!)

Imagine, just $19.99 (per month) for the entire system that includes two (2) large and (2) medium BIG BOX O' CLEAN!(TM).

For just an extra $5 you can chose our authentic-reproduction option for your Big Boxes of Clean(TM)... show off your internet savvy lifestyle.


If you order in the next 60 minutes, you'll receive a bonus BIG BAG O' CLEAN! (TM) - absolutely free!

The BIG BAG OF CLEAN! (TM) is lightweight, yet durable. Folds neatly when not in use.

DON'T MISS THIS CHANCE to experience the BIG CLEAN system for yourself!

Your life will never be the same!!!

*child not included

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Post-Traumatic Party Disorder

I wake up, heart racing. I'm sweating, even though the air around me is cool.

Blame it on trauma suffered the day before - indignities inflicted upon me along with the title of "party mom."

Yes, as heinous as it is to attend one of these events, it is far more damaging to my psyche to be the party responsible for the party.

Our latest gala was a bowling extravaganza for Little Miss Deep Thinker's 7th birthday.

Every year, I approach the party-planning process as I imagine Christie Brinkley has entered each of her four marriages -- optimistic that this time things will go better.

But, as sure as a 47-year-old architect needs a 19-year-old assistant, something always comes up.

Something spelled "R.S.V.P."

I know those French have a different word for everything, but does it take a linguist to figure that R.S.V.P. means you are actually supposed to respond?

Every time we've thrown one of these parties, I'd say at least 30% of the invitees don't bother to reply.

This year, with only a few days left before the cutoff, we hadn't heard from half the children. And only a handful replied, "Yes."

The party package had us paying for a minimum of eight, so I briefly considering rounding up a couple of vagrants to reach the required number. But I'd be afraid to open any gift they might present.

And so, a note to parents everywhere: It's the not-knowing that really screws me up. Honestly, I really don't care why your kid can't make it...just call and say the damn kid can't come. We'll get over it, really we will.

You don't even have to say your child has a "previous engagement." (Does it make me a bad person to admit I chuckled at the mom who stammered over that phrase in her phone message?)

At least she called.

Heck, I'm fine with an ambiguous, "We have other plans..." (Even knowing that when I use that one, my "other plan" is to do whatever it takes to avoid yet another kid party.)

However, a flurry of last-minute (including one day-before-the-event) yeses brought the total number of kiddies to an even dozen.

Still...I'm creating a master list of all the parents who didn't R.S.V.P. There will be retribution for the habitual non-responder. (I'm not sure exactly what kind of retribution, but I know the giant mechanical Chuck E. Cheese mouse will be involved. Maybe in bondage gear. I haven't quite worked through the kinks yet.)

And Now -- The Actual Event:

All went well with the bowling portion. No ball injuries or fist fights. And we managed to keep the children out of the adjoining bar.

But then I met my nemesis - the party room.

Three folding tables were arranged around the room like three sides of a square. The kids sat down to dine as the parents stood along the sidelines with nothing to do except watch me and my Esteemed Husband awkwardly tend to the children's pizza and chip needs.

I have the hostess skills of a...hmmm...I'm at a loss for an analogy. I was going to say crack whore, but I don't know, maybe a crack whore is a good hostess? At least while high she's probably pretty entertaining. And the whole whore reference seems inappropriate when we're talking about kiddies...

Okay then, let's just say we don't do a whole lot of entertaining. And I really hate to have people watch me while I'm fumbling around like an idiot.

I actually said to one group of kids, while putting Doritos on a plate for them: "Here kids, have some unnaturally-colored snack food!"

The Cake:

Pre-party photo -- I'm afraid that if I look at the pictures from the actual party I'll be back in the fetal position again. And it's really hard to type all curled up like that.

After "Happy Birthday" was sung (cha-cha-cha version) I brought the cake to the serving table and, with my back to the children, proceeded to dole it out onto paper plates as quickly as I could.

Evidently, my "quickly" was not fast enough for little darlings.

Suddenly all urchins began to chant in unison: Cake! Cake! Cake! they banged their fists on the table.

Cake! Cake! Cake!

Now, if this had happened with my children at home, I could have turned around, smiled a creepy half-smile and intoned, "You do realize I'm holding a very, very large knife..." And that would have been the end of the chanting.

However, in a suburban bowling alley, threatening 7-year-olds with butcher knives is discouraged.

And it pretty much guarantees no-one will ever R.S.V.P. again.

So I soldiered on, pretending not to hear:

Cake! Cake! Cake!

As their cries echoed through the room, the situation began to take on a decidedly surreal quality -- and I don't mean this in the good surreal way, like bizarre in a way that's interesting or humorous.

I mean surreal in an "Am I really here, or is just the most realistic nightmare of my life?" way.

At any moment I expected to find myself spinning, hurtling down the vortex of a black spiral.

Seriously, I was just one "Cake!" away from running out of the room and never returning.

It was all very Kafkaesque. Or Felliniesque? Or even Mel Brooks-esque? Some esque was involved, of that much I'm sure.

Everything after that is kinda a blur. I do know that there were no police involved, so I guess no humans or animals were harmed in the making of this party.

Actually, I do remember getting a good deal of praise from the adults about the cake. Evidently, it was pretty tasty, even though my anxiety during the chanting had reduced several pieces to crumbly rubble.

After it was all over, my husband noted that my cake-making skills could be our ticket to suburban assimilation. (Okay, he didn't use the word assimilation. But that's what he meant.)

It figures that my only way to connect with the natives would involve a pound of butter and a whole lot of empty calories.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Song for September 18th

Hey boys and girls! It's time for our annual Handel's Messiah sing-along!

Just follow the (imaginary) bouncing blackboard eraser!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!


Let us Rejoice, for Today is the First Day of School in our elementary school district.



Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Exposing One's Children to Art (and Vice Versa)

At ages 6 and 10, we figured our children were finally old enough to take to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Although the younger had no interest whatsoever until I mentioned there were suits of armor.

Things seemed to be off to a good start -- when we entered the first gallery, our Little Miss Deep Thinker peered up at this statue intently:

Aristide Maillol, French, 1861 - 1944

She circled around it, seemingly fascinated.

Then she waved me down to her level and whispered in my ear: "Mom, I see her b-u-t-t!"

(The Little Miss has just entered the room as I post the photo.
I say to her, "Remember this one?"
She replies "Oh yeah! Smells like licorice. Black licorice."
Me: "Licorice?"
She: "Yeah. The room did - black licorice."
Well...okay then.)

Soon afterwards, we came across The Thinker.

The Thinker
Made in France
Conceived 1880; cast by 1926
Auguste Rodin, French, 1840 - 1917.
Cast by the founder Alexis Rudier, Paris.

"I saw this one before!" the Elder Daughter exclaims. (I suspect via a SpongeBob parody.)

"It's called, The Thinker," I say, in my most teacherly voice.

To which the youngest quickly volleys, "But does he have to think NAKED?!" have an idea of how the afternoon went.

We went on a family tour, which Little Miss Deep Thinker punctuated with non-sequiturs. Example: raising her hand to tell the guide she had Yogos for a snack in the car.

There was much pulling aside and re-directing, but Little Miss continued to share non-relevant information with the group.

The Elder Daughter, on the other hand, remained focused and scholarly, save for the occasional rivalry-esque poke in her sibling's ribs in the rare moment when sibling was actually silent.

Afterwards, Elder Daughter told me that was her favorite part of our visit (the tour, not the poke -- although the poking was probably a close second.)

The girls also enjoyed the Energy yes! exhibition - particularly the two installations seen in the photo below:

Victor Grippo’s Analogía I (2da. version)

It's not totally apparent in the photo, but there was electrical wiring connected to the potatoes and hooked up to a voltmeter that shows the total amount of energy generated by the potatoes when the visitor presses a button.

A button that our little visitors pushed over and over and over again.

Surprisingly (since there was no nudity involved) the Little Miss was also fascinated by this wall full of globes:

Thomas Hirschhorn - Camo-Outgrowth (Winter)

Each globe had an area covered with camouflage tape, and on the shelves' edges hung photographs of people wearing camouflage.

Of all the visuals our children would see that day, this installation made me the most uncomfortable. I didn't particulary want to expose them to all these images of war.

I tried to rush them past, but they were transfixed. Drawn to the faces in the photos and eager to explore the geography covered by the tape -- even as they were blissfully unaware of the implications.

Or so I thought. Little Miss Deep Thinker told me the installation was her favorite thing in the museum. (Even more than the armor and the b-u-t-t-s!)

Why? "Because it showed how much war came," she answered.


I should end on that profundity and not mention how that night's bedtime ritual was peppered with genitalia questions raised by the artwork. In particular, one huge painting featuring a bevy of baby boys in birthday suits frolicking in a stream - celebrating purity or some other nonsense.

I found the painting particularly freaky (as did Little Miss Deep Thinker, evidently) but couldn't find the image online to show y'all.

Instead, I leave you with this:

Is it just me, or does this guy look like Conan O'Brien?

Portrait of Antonin Artaud, 1974
Thomas Chimes, American, born 1921
Oil on panel

Friday, September 08, 2006

What's Inside the Box?

My washing machine repair has been pushed back another week. My kids' first day of school has been pushed back another week-and-a-half.

Is is any surprise that I don't feel like leaving the house? Is it any surprise that this post is mostly photos?

Anyway, the convergence of the two factors in the first paragraph found me ordering my children's school supplies online Sunday night.

Two business days later, the Office Supply Fairy left three packages under my pillow, er, on our doorstep.

One large box, and two medium sized boxes.

I opened one of the smaller packages first.

There was one item inside:

Okay...well...maybe the other boxes were so completely jam-packed full of stuff (free shipping with $50 order!) that the (annoyingly-hard-to-find-so-I-had-to-buy-a-dozen-when-we-only-needed-four!) box of red pencils didn't fit in the other boxes.

I opened the other medium-sized box.

Perhaps there had been a mistake. The box appeared to be completely empty, save a packing slip and those air-filled plastic packing thingies.

Then I found it:

A 69-cent eraser. One entire box for a 69-cent eraser.

True, it is a pen/pencil eraser, but it's not all that special.

Maybe the packing experts were afraid of what would happen if they put the pencils and the eraser in the same box. Some sort of mayhem might have ensued?

It was sort of anti-climatic when I got to the big box. So much so that I didn't bother to take a photo of the contents. (Hey, you guys don't need to know all my business, do you?)

Suffice it to say that there was more than enough room inside the big box for both the red pencils and the eraser to have happily coexisted on their way to our residence.

The next day I was surprised when the Office Supply Fairy rang our doorbell again.

I had completely forgotten about these:

Of all the supplies that really could have used a box...the plastic bag was torn on one edge and the composition books just the slightest bit worn as a result of their unprotected journey.

No matter, after a week in the kids' backpacks they'll look like they've been run over by several dozen Easy Button delivery trucks anyway.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Creepiest Toy Ever

I rounded the corner towards our front hall...when something caught my eye that made me gasp (Aah!) audibly.

I simply didn't expect to see this tableau in our powder room:

Well, I guess even Barbie has to go sometimes.

Instinctively, I knew Daughter #2 was responsible. "What's Barbie doing on the toilet?" I asked. "Waiting for her nails to dry," replied D#2, matter of factly.

Oh. Of course.

While her proper name is "Barbie Primp & Polish (TM) Styling Head," I like to call her "The Creepiest Toy Ever" or "Barbie for Guys Who Can't Get a Date" (Although I suppose the last name might require the addition of an orifice of some kind...)

No matter where you leave this thing in the house, it always catches you by surprise. Even though it's not all that realistic, it gives enough of the impression of a disembodied head to consistently evoke a shudder when you come across it unexpectedly.

Somehow I imagine it's the kind of toy a serial killer might pick up at their local Toys R Us. You know, to keep him company when a real head isn't available to chat with.

For the first month or two after the Barbie Head showed up under our Christmas tree, I kept her on the dining room table. Figured it was some sort of theft deterrent -- either a potential thief would think Barbie was an actual human sitting at the table, or just be too freaked out to enter.

But, after getting startled by her Primp & Polish (TM) one too many times, I've relegated her to the basement, where she spends most of her days sitting quietly in her box.

When she's not on the potty, that is.

In some weird way, I revel in her creepiness. The Head of Barbie's presence gives me the same kick as the adrenaline rush I got as a kid when my siblings and I would hide in the coat closet and jump out to surprise each other.

Plus, it all kind of feeds into my mannequin thing, but that's another post altogether...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Because You Care About My Appliances...

Our friendly neighborhood (dispatched by could-be-anywhere-in-the-world Sears Service Center operator) repairman told us yesterday that both the motherboard and the drain motor/pump of our Calypso washing machine should be replaced.

So, I feel confident that he will be able to get the accursed washer back into operation....eventually.

Because we have to wait another week for the parts and actual repair.

The repair dude admitted that not only is the Calypso prone to break-downs (as in: we were lucky to have three good years with it) but it's also a bear to work on.

As suspected, this replacement of two major parts more than justifies the cost of our 2-year service agreement. The parts alone would have cost $230-ish and our Master agreement (which covers all repairs for two years) cost $260-ish.

I think $30 is worth having someone who theoretically knows what he's doing repair the machine, as opposed to my Esteemed Husband and I doing it ourselves (even with our superior brain power, I don't think we should be handling the motherboard of any appliance that could theoretically flood our house.)

In this era of expected incompetence and planned obsolescence, it's oddly comforting to know that our Master Protection Agreement buys us two years of not giving a flying f*** about how much it costs to get this lemon of a washer model performing up to standards.

In the meantime, I've begun a secret love affair with my mother-in-law's good old-fashioned knob-operated machine. In fact, we may run off together if this whole Calypso thing doesn't pan out.