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Super Sabado: on cats, men, and bathroom fixtures

Filed under: and More,So Cal Living on Saturday, January 6, 2007

You know how it is with cats?

How you empty out their litter box so you can fill it with nice, clean sand, and even though the back door is wide open and the cats have the ENTIRE WORLD available for their toilet, they suddenly become so desperate to use that particular litter box that they try to jump in before you’ve finished filling it and you have to fight them off with the pooper scooper?

Well. That is EXACTLY how it is with men.

I am qualified to make this statement because I live in a house full of men AND I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s cleaning for our January 1st brunch—a task experts call Sisyphean, because the faster you clean, the faster your men mess everything up until the sissy within you runs screaming into the cul-de-sac.

Take our powder room: I cleaned it on Friday but by Saturday morning there was a ring in the sink and the hand towel lay crumpled on the floor—right next to the sports page, an empty coffee cup, and a copy of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into History.

Grimy fingerprints covered the light switch cover and the the area around the door knob, an empty roll hung in the toilet paper dispenser, and I won’t even begin to describe condition of the main fixture.

Even the cats got into act: Bucky shed his winter coat in there and Mooch upchucked his latest lizard tail. Several dust bunnies must’ve heard all that partying and rolled themselves in just in time to mate with the cat hair—but not the lizard tail. Which is a good thing, when you think about it.

This is why I find it best to clean a bathroom and then lock the door. Sure, I could tell our household males that the powder room is off limits because it’s CLEAN, but the moment I clean it they become desperate to run in and… well.

I’ve only got two options:

1. Hold them off with the pooper scooper, or…
2. Lock the door.

Yes, they do know how to unlock the door, but since they’re usually in a big hurry when they decide they need the bathroom, they just bypass the locked door and move on to the next available facilities.

Yup. Locking the door works great.

In fact, the only problem with it is that you have to remember to unlock the door just before company comes, otherwise your needy guests will ask a clueless household male where another restroom is, and rather than unlocking the door the clueless household male will direct said guest upstairs to the teenage male bathroom, and then said guest will run into the cul-de-sac, screaming.

I mean, even the CATS won’t even go in there without a fight. You don’t want to know exactly why, just trust me on this.

Today’s Super Sabado is (Read the rest of “Super Sabado: on cats, men, and bathroom fixtures”)

Let’s hear it for the swim team parents

Filed under: So Cal Living,Wren's Eye View on Thursday, January 4, 2007

Two swim team moms timing during a meet at the pool

Here’s a cell phone picture of two moms timing at a swim meet, an exciting job all of us are supposed to perform at least once per meet.

I say “supposed to” because it always seems like some parents get out of it, the slackers. As with every organization out there involving kids, it’s always the same group of parents doing most of the volunteering.

And I say “an exciting job” because timers are surrounded by electrical equipment and lots and lots of water flung about every which way. So far I’ve never heard of anybody getting zapped, but the mere possibility of it happening adds a bit of a thrill to the job.

Swimmers preparing to take off: note the cordsTiming is very serious business. Typically it’s set up so when swimmers finish a race, they hit a pad on the pool wall that’s connected to electronic timing equipment and their time is automatically calculated and sent to a big scoreboard.

But there are always two backup systems, probably so meet officials will be covered in case a parent volunteer gets zapped and shorts out the big scoreboard computer.

Backup System No. 1: Two parent volunteers stand at the edge of the pool and watch the finish as closely as we can. The instant we see the swimmer touch the wall, we hit a button on an electrical handheld timing device, thereby sending the swimmer’s time to another scoring computer.

Backup System No. 2: One parent holds a stopwatch and times the race while the other volunteer writes down the finish time on a timing sheet.

The timer with the stopwatch becomes kind of a two-fisted timing machine, holding the watch in one hand and the electrical handheld timing device in the other, a feat requiring a halfway decent combo of brain power and motor skills.

Swimmers preparing to take off: note the cordsThis is why I usually ask for the writing job, because more often than not I forget to press the stopwatch START button, or I press the little handheld END button instead.

Then I have to run over and pick up a stopwatch from the THIRD backup system: another parent volunteer whose job is to start 3 or 4 stopwatches every time the buzzer goes off, just in case doofuses like me mess up.

Swimmers preparing to take off: note the cordsEvery swim lane needs two timers, so for a meet where you might have, say, eight lanes, you’ll need 16 or so volunteers for every shift.

The morning shifts get taken fast by the smart parents who remember to sign up as soon as they get on the pool deck.

The rest of us get stuck with afternoon shifts, which everybody hates because some volunteers are more likely to quit and go home before doing their scheduled shifts—leaving those of us who DO show up stuck with timing for the rest of the day.

Of course, we use this time wisely, thinking all sorts of pleasant thoughts about the slacker parents, like how frizzy their hair will look after a major zapping.

On Thanksgiving, budding Hollywood, and disappearing potatoes

Filed under: Meet the Family,So Cal Living on Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ninja Squirt

SQUIRT: MOM! Push the button!

BONNIE: I did! You’re on. Do your thing!

SQUIRT: Arrrrgh! MOM! You’re ruining EVERYTHING.

(puts down the ninja sword, walks up to the camcorder, hits the PAUSE button)

BONNIE: What? There’s no such thing as editing? You don’t believe in blooper reels?

SQUIRT: (sighs heavily, runs back to his mark and gets into position)  Okay. NOW.

(Bonnie pushes button)

SQUIRT: HEH, HEH, HEH! HI YAH!   (lunges at neighbor kid Bob)

BOB, THE NEIGHBOR KID: ARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!

SQUIRT: (freezes in an attack position, looks over at his mom)   MOM! Push the button!

BONNIE: All right! Jeez. You know, you could just say “Cut!”

BOB: I screamed like a girl, just like you said. You want me to do it over?

SQUIRT: No. You were fine.   (looks pointedly at his mother)

BONNIE: What?

Meet Squirt, who is all set to be the next Steven Spielberg&#8212if his annoying camera crew doesn’t finish him off with an attack of Gross Exasperation.

He’s making this movie for his Japanese class. It’s about a burrito-loving ninja who hides behind trees and under the van and talks to a picture of Chuck Norris. The ninja also unexplicably turns into a pirate at one point before returning to ninja form to make gnarly burritoes in hyper-speed. Since it’s all in Japanese I’m a little unclear on the plot.

He’s editing it now. Meanwhile, back in the Wren Cocina, our turkey is in the oven. Twenty-four pounds! That should last us, what? Twenty minutes—unless the boys improve on their technique from last year.

Hubby and Tiger are out, buying more potatoes because the ones I bought a few days ago mysteriously disappeared. I was going to substitute with sweet potatoes but the outcry was so great you would’ve thought I was selling our national holiday out to Satanists, or something.

I’ve carefully examined Squirt’s movie footage (the stuff I didn’t take) for evidence of potato cannons, but the boy is clean.

So I’m taking this waiting-for-potatoes opportunity to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Be thankful, eat hearty, help clean the kitchen afterward, and at all times… keep an eye out for the ninjas. The ones with camcorders are especially dangerous.

Calling Erica Jong! Calling Erica Jong!

Filed under: and More,So Cal Living on Saturday, November 4, 2006

I have to fly early this morning and late tonight, and I am looking forward to it about as much as I look forward one day to traveling to a distant planet, getting a good face-sucking by an alien potted plant and then a few days later having a very sharp and pointy creature claw its way out of my chest.

So now you know something else about me: I hate to fly. I dislike it so much that there’ll be no Super Sabado today because I just spent 24 hours trying to make my last day on this earth a useful one.

I know it’s safer to fly than drive… I KNOW THIS. I’ve seen the statistics. But for some reason I’m still quivering, even though I’ve spent the last few months in the passenger seat of my van with my teenager at the wheel, and if that doesn’t squeeze all travel phobia out of my cranial matter, nothing ever will.

In fact, I think it made my phobia worse. The way I see it, I’ve stared Death in the face so often while riding shotgun with Tiger that Death now knows what I look like and is just waiting for an opportune moment to scoop me up… like when I’ll be hurtling through the friendly skies, my cushy derriere perched atop a tank of jet fuel.

So I’ve been stashing things away, filing, and tying up loose ends I’ve let go for months, and why?

Because when I go down in a flaming ball of fusilage, I don’t want Hubby complaining to the widower-chasers that his wife left everything a mess, even though if they looked in the closets they’d see that’s what I really did.

How to Fend off the Halloween Candy Bag and Save Your Bottom from Growing to Enormous Proportions

Filed under: Columns,So Cal Living on Friday, October 20, 2006

Picture of candy bags saying

The one eternal truth we moms have known ever since Eve candied her first apple is this: Halloween represents the start of our Annual Holiday Weight Gain. And we can blame it all on those bags of candy we’re supposedly buying for trick-or-treaters, but which we end up opening WAY before Halloween and …

Well.

You know the rest.

That’s why I offer you the following pointers—tips based on my many years of warfare with Halloween candy bags, which in my opinion are the biggest threat to face American hips, thighs and bottoms since those insidious little fruit and nut eggs got passed around last Easter.

Pay attention! The size of your bottom on New Year’s Day depends on it!

Tip No. 1: Buy Candy You Hate

If you buy stuff you like, you’re just asking for extra poundage. Minutes after you unload those groceries that candy will start singing its evil siren song: “You know you want me / come and get me / oooh wah / oooh wah.” And the next thing you know, you’ve got 62-inch hips.

Don’t let this happen to you! Only buy the stuff that disgusts you. (Like licorice. Bleah!)

Tip No. 2: Buy Cheap Candy

Expensive candy typically sings the most seductive siren song, whereas cheap candy has much weaker vocal cords.

If you still hear singing coming out of a bag of cheap candy, then you are in serious danger and must take steps to protect yourself immediately! (In fact, maybe you shouldn’t be in the possession of any candy bags at all. Proceed immediately to Tip No. 3.)

Tip No 3: If You Feel Yourself Weakening

TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION. The safest course is to sling ALL bags of candy into the direction of any nearby teenage males. Teenage males will quickly inhale even the cheapest candy and are unlikely to share it with you, even if you threaten to take away the Xbox.

Tip No. 4: If Teenage Males are Not Available

If you find yourself in the middle of an unexpected teenager shortage, throw the candy bags into the street and drive over them several times. Flat candy has never been known to sing very loudly.

Tip No. 5: Do Not Open Any Bags of Candy Prematurely!

Wait until the first trick-or-treater rings your doorbell! This tip can NOT be over overemphasized.

At first glance your unopened candy may appear as if it is only restrained by a cheap plastic bag, but that plastic bag has several protective properties, including a dampening effect that helps to muffle the sound of any singing candy.

Holes in the bag are worrisome, but only considered dangerous if they are larger than the smallest piece of candy.

Tip No. 6: Dealing With Surprise Attacks

If another member of your household has ambushed you with an open candy bag, do not panic. Yes, the surprise attack may be the hardest to defend against, but it is not impossible. Mental clarity is key.

Take a deep breath, grab the candy bag and fling it into your neighbor’s back yard. (This method is even more effective if the neighboring household has teenage males.)

Tip No. 7: Failure is Not an Option! However…

… if you have already succumbed to the Curse of the Halloween Candy Bag That Was Opened Too Soon and have already scarfed down a pound or two of candy—please, do not panic.

Years of experience with this situation has shown me the best way to handle it:

  1. Follow the emergency steps outlined in Tip No. 6.
  2. Hide the wrappers.
  3. Blame the dog.

Works every time.

New kids on the block

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific,So Cal Living on Thursday, September 14, 2006

When a neighbor suddenly looks thinner, you want to compliment her, right? Tell them how great she’s looking, ask her what diet she’s been on, or at the very least, make sure all is well in her life and she’s not sick or anything.

But what if the neighbor is one of those stand-offish types, you know, with eight legs?

Spider before, all plump and round Spider after, much thinner
BEFORE AFTER

You can really see a difference, can’t you? I mean, she’s practically svelte in the AFTER photo. (By the way, that cloudy stuff in the BEFORE picture is her web.)

So I wondered, what would cause a spider to lose so much weight all of a sudden?

BONNIE: My, you’re looking slim! What’s your secret?

ARGIOPE: If you were smaller, I’d paralyze you with my spider venom, wrap you up in silk, and suck you dry at my leisure.

BONNIE: Ultra low carb, then?

And then I noticed this, about six inches from her web:

Argiope Egg case

(Click on the picture to get a really big image, suitable for the ultimate gross-out!)

According to this site, the eggs inside will hatch this fall. They won’t leave their playpen, however, until the weather warms up in the spring.

And if any of you urge me to do some spider squishing, I’ll remind you that these spiders LOVE flying insects. And since Hubby and I hate flies, the bloodthirsty Mrs. Argiope and her children get to stay.

So there.

ARGIOPE: Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I could take you. Come a little closer.

BONNIE: Um, no.

,

Our new neighbor

Filed under: Decidedly Unscientific,Meet the Family,So Cal Living on Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Big yellow and black spider

BONNIE: Just a little closer…

TIGER: What, and take my life in my hands?

BONNIE: The ruler isn’t even in the picture!

TIGER: You want me to die just so you can get a ruler in the picture?

BONNIE: You won’t die! They aren’t poisonous.

TIGER: Easy for you to say! How about I hold the camera and YOU hold the ruler?

BONNIE: Um, no.

Big yellow and black spider

,

Okay, let’s talk about that snack bar

Filed under: Columns,So Cal Living on Friday, July 14, 2006

Here in North County San Diego, there are certain standards for hosting a swim meet, standards based on the oldest rule in the Good Book:

The Book of the Swim Meet, Chapter 1, Verse 1:

Thou shalt shew an excellent snack bar unto thy guests, otherwise thou wilt be known as “Losers” all the days of the swim calendar, and no one wilt ever cometh to thy meets again.

As you can imagine, running a snack bar is therefore considered to be a really important job. So why’d they pick someone like me to run it? I mean, I barely know what I’m making each night for dinner, much less what I should sell at a snack bar for a whole weekend.

And writing up menus and shopping lists is just the beginning! Snack bar managers have to make all sorts of important decisions that determine the success or failure of a food concession—important decisions I found difficult to make without several outside opinions…

BONNIE: On one hand, those mini Pringles cans sell really well. They may cost more, but then we can charge more. On the other hand, the little chip bags are cheaper and there’s less waste in the landfill. And there are more flavors, too, especially if we get those big variety packs.

GROCERY CHECKOUT CLERK: So… um… was that paper or plastic?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a total snack bar loser. I was just majorly stressed about the other half of the job I’d been recruited to do: a job called “Hospitality”.

The Book of the Swim Meet, Chapter 1, Verse 3:

Thou shalt provideth Hospitality for all thy coaches and volunteer officials for lo, they must stand in the sun all day. And Hospitality shall include nice breakfasts, lunches and dinners for them so none may say, “Nay, let’s not go there, they only ever giveth us burgers and dogs.”

Since burgers and dogs aren’t an option, and since we don’t have a kitchen at our pool, the team moms who did the snack bar before me always got all sorts of donated restaurant meals for Hospitality.

Even those ultra-busy moms, the ones who had full time jobs, five kids, sparkling clean homes, successful small business startups and several published novels under their belts… THEY always managed to get PLENTY of donated meals.

I was never one of those moms.

BONNIE: And your generous donation to our non-profit booster club— (fumbles with a folder) … uh… will allow us to spend our limited cash reserves on financial aid, sports equipment, and airfare to travel mee— (drops several papers) Oops! Sorry! Where was I?

RESTAURANT MANAGER: About to purchase three giant lasagnas?

BONNIE: Oh, yeah! Thanks! Where do I sign?

But wait, there’s more!

I not only had to buy meals for coaches and officials, I had to guess how many might show up, based on previous meets—because snack bar leaders just don’t know how many coaches and officials are going to show up until, oh, perhaps the day before the meet.

RESTAURANT MANAGER: You did say three lasagnas, didn’t you?

BONNIE: Yeah, but maybe I should get SIX, just in case. Uh, no! Make that THREE, because it’s probably best to have too little than too much. Yeah, THREE. No, wait! Let’s go with FOUR! No! FIVE!

This is why my snack bar will probably be known forever as “The Most Expensive Snack Bar Our Team Ever Had.” Actually, there are several more titles that would accurately describe my snack bar, including:

  • “The Snack Bar That Never Had Any Brewed Coffee So We Had to Walk to Starbucks”
  • “The Snack Bar That Advertised Nachos But Lied,” and my personal favorite,
  • “The Snack Bar That Served Four Giant Lasagnas Just as the Swim Meet Closed Two Hours Earlier Than Scheduled”

The Book of the Swim Meet, Chapter 1, Verse 6:

Thou shalt not ever thinketh of getting thee hence to hide out in Mexico, either, because swim team board members haveth ways of tracking thee down.

Pity the poor ice chest

Filed under: and More,So Cal Living on Thursday, July 6, 2006

6 am Snack Bar Prep:

Bonnie unwraps cases of sodas and posititions them neatly within ice chests, alternating with layers of ice.

12 pm Snack Bar Upkeep:

Bonnie rips open cases of sodas and lets them fall into the ice chests. If they can’t mix themselves up, they don’t deserve ice.

3 pm Snack Bar Upkeep:

Bonnie drops whole cases of soda into ice chests. When one lid won’t close, she sits on it. Then she stomps it.

5 pm Snack Bar Upkeep

When Bonnie walks past the ice chest, she kicks it. Hard.

Things will be sporadic from here until Sunday night, when the snack bar ends and Hubby drags my broken body home. This means… no Super Sabado on Saturday. Probably no Monday Morning Mojo, either.

We’ll see.

My no good, very bad day

Filed under: Columns,So Cal Living on Friday, June 30, 2006

6:20 am: Tiger and I are in our van, hurtling toward our carpool pickup spot. When I look into the rearview mirror I see that my hair has frizzed due to the high humidity. I look like I stuck my finger into a light socket, only less alert.

7:00 am: I drop off Tiger and meet Joanne at Starbucks to discuss the status of my upcoming swim meet snack bar.

As I wait for my grande, I imagine that Joanne will offer to take over the snack bar, giving me a much easier job to do for the team, like extracting impacted molars from giant crocodiles.

7:40 am: Our snack bar business has concluded and sadly, I’m still in charge of the snack bar.

8:00 to 10 am: I work on my snack bar shopping list. It’s hot and muggy and my t-shirt sticks to me.

I imagine working the snack bar on a hot and muggy day like today, but things are bad because I ordered hot chocolate instead of Gatorades and bottled water. Swim meet participants are dropping all over the pool deck from heatstroke!

That’s when a crew of parents attacks me with swim fins and snorkels for ruining their kids’ best chances for a Zone time, and I imagine trying to climb up the lifeguard’s chair to escape but the lifeguard beats me back down with a flotation device.

LIFEGUARD: My kid sister coulda had a ZONE TIME!

10:05 am: I leave to pick up Tiger from the carpool pickup point. Micki is late picking up her daughter so I call her. She’s stuck in traffic on the I-5. Just then a hit-and-run driver plows into Micki’s car. BAM!

She’s okay, but she’s going to be late. Joanne offers to hold on to Micki’s daughter and I race off with Tiger. We carpooling women are nothing if not flexible.

10:25 am: Tiger and I are late to his community service appointment. As we pull in to the parking lot the car makes a strange sound.

10:30 am: Tiger and I pick up coolers containing meals for homebound seniors. The odd car sound gets louder and turns into a grinding noise. It sounds like something evil is chewing up the car’s engine compartment.

I wonder if the car will die on me on the I-5. I imagine getting out and pulling up the hood, only to have something evil with wings fly out and attack me, but spit me out because I’m so sweaty and stinky.

EVIL THING WITH WINGS: And you never called back that sub sandwich place about donations, either!

10:40 am: I call the community service headquarters from the auto mechanic’s waiting area. I ask for a substitute driver.

I tell the auto mechanic receptionist all about the evil noise coming from my car. She writes: “check evil noise” on the estimate sheet. Hopefully they won’t charge extra for this.

11:00 am: Tiger just got off a 2-hour swim practice and is hungry. My brain turns off and I offer to walk him down to Alberto’s in downtown Encinitas. When we arrive at Alberto’s, I remember: I left the community service meal coolers in the mechanic’s waiting area!

Community Service Credo:

Never leave the meals behind!!!

I gallop past a storefront window on the way back to the auto mechanic. My reflection reveals a head of frizz; I look like an albino version of Foxy Cleopatra, only lots chubbier.

Foxy Cleopatra

11:10 am: Tiger catches up with a diet Coke for me, which I gulp down. The substitute driver arrives. He doesn’t know the route and asks us to go with him.

Tiger and I pile into this guy’s tiny car. He rolls up his window and tells us he never uses the air conditioner and he’s not even sure it works. He turns it on. Hot air blasts out.

11:15 am: It turns out he was pushing the heater button. My frizzy hair now reaches for the ceiling of his car interior. Soon, it may start lunging at strangers.

12:30 pm: The mechanic calls just as we finish our route. Our van needs new brakes and new rotors.

$800.

KA-CHING!

I resolve to make Hubby a really nice dinner tonight and tell him after he eats, but then I remember I won’t be able to get groceries today, so I resolve instead to make a really nice dinner out of leftovers.

12:45 pm: The substitute driver drops us off at our house. It smells funny inside and I see odd-looking splashes on the floor and walls, reminding me I forgot to put cleaning supplies on my snack bar shopping list.

I follow the trail of splashes as I imagine how my snack bar sends 50 people (maybe more!) to the hospital with food poisoning.

CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL: The woman responsible for this snack bar will be put behind bars!

The splashes lead me to Mojo, who’s in the middle of an impressive diarrhea attack.

12:46 pm: The day pretty much went downhill from there.

 
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