I am the Cracken!

This past week-end was rainy and so all the tennis matches, baseball games, whoseewhatsits were cancelled.  What’s a family of four to do with their found time?  Indoor laser tag, natch.

But first, in order to play, you have to choose an alias.  Hubby was The Dominator (and yes, the 50 Shades of Grey reference was totally accidental), Sonny was Eclipse (Once upon a time I was falling in love, but now I’m only falling apart.  There’s nothing I can do…a total eclipse of the heart.  Hey, Bright Eyes!  Turn around and tell me who yer Daddy is.  That’s right – ME!  Because Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was released in 1983 which means there IS an 80’s song for every moment in life.  Including those moments when you’re playing LASER TAG!)

My name?  Was Bright Eyes.  Ha, ha, ha.  Kidding.  Bright Eyes would’ve been weird.  My name was actually Ana Steele.  Ha, ha, ha.  Still kidding because unless you READ the 50 Shades of Grey nonsense, that name makes no sense and is even weirder than Bright Eyes.  No, my name was actually Queen E (as in, replace the ‘B’ in Queen B with an ‘E’ while making a sign language ‘E’ to the woman entering the alias in the computer).  The Alias Enterer just rolled her eyes at me because I guess she must see a lot of 40-something-year-old moms who flash pseudo gang signs at her.

And Sissy?  Was Floppy Dolphin.  Which made it sound like she left her endoskeleton at the beach.  But, quite frankly, that name was an improvement because originally, she was going to be POOPY Dolphin.  And THAT made it sound like there was going to be an explosive diarrhea throw-down.

We didn’t realize until the first round of laser tag was over that they PUBLISH your aliases, scores and rankings on the monitors stationed throughout the place.  Nor did we realize that they were going to be shouting OUT your alias name when they handed you your score sheet.

But once we realized that, Sissy changed her name to something way less floppy, but still from the ocean.  Something that implied danger from the depths had arrived: The CRACKEN!  Release The CRACKEN!!!

Except when we got back out of Round 2, it turns out the woman entering the new alias had made a spelling error.  And instead of ‘The Cracken’ on the monitors, Sissy was listed as ‘The Cracker’.

“Cracker?  The Cracker??  You got fourth place this round.  Here’s your score sheet.”

Oopsie.  That’s awkward.

Let’s try again: I am the CRACKER!  Release the CRACKER!!!  Ew, nope.  Still no.


Did you ever play that game called Telephone?  Where one person whispers something and it’s passed down the line until the last person has to say the now-mangled message out loud?  Then everyone laughs HA HA HA at how far the message had strayed from the original.

Well this blog isn’t about that game, so I’m not sure why you’re even talking about that game in the first place.

This blog is about how I can’t tell my kids apart on the telephone.  Every phone call with my kids goes something like this:

Ring, ring.  Ring, ring.

An 11 or 12 year old boy or girl answers the phone: Hello?

Me: Hi…….there.  How are you?

S/he: Good.

Me:  Oh, that’s good.  Are you doing your homework?

S/he: Yep.

Me:  Ohhhhkay.  Is your…….sibling doing….their homework?

S/he: Uh-huh. You wanna talk to my….sibling?

Me:  Yes, yes I do.

-The…..child pulls the phone away from……their ear and goes to hunt down……the other child.  At which point I can hear the following conversation:

Thing 1: It’s Mom.  She wants to talk to my….sibling.  Which means she doesn’t know who we are again.  Don’t tell her, ok?

Thing 2:  Ok.

-Whereupon Thing 2 grabs the phone and says,

S/he: Hi, Mom.

Me:  Hi……You.  Did I ever tell you how much you sound like your….sibling on the phone?

S/he: Yeah, I know. You’ve said that before.

Me:  Well, did I also ever tell you I put a camera above where you’re standing and I’m looking at the monitor right now and I can see it’s YOU!

S/he: Mom.  Stop.

BAM!  It’s Sissy!!  Sonny would’ve said, “Come on, Mom.”

See?  I AM a good mother.  I’m not sure why you’re even talking about me not being a good mother in the first place.  You need to stop talking about stuff no one wants to talk about.

The Car from the Future

Originally this blog was going to be about how, oddly enough, I look forward to my annual mammogram.  Well, “look forward to” is a strong phrase.  Maybe it’s more along the lines of “I don’t dread it that much” and that’s really only because the check-in gals and I do this comedy routine about my kids.  Their paperwork has me down for twenty-one kids; I really only have the two…which FEELS like twenty-one kids sometimes.  Ba-dum-bump.  Then we all harharharharrarrararar and they promise to change the paperwork for next year.  But next year comes and I’m right back to having twenty-one kids again.  Old Woman in the Shoe much?  Harharharharrarrararar!  See?  Nothing to dread there; I love me some shtick.

But this year, it struck me how many women do fear this appointment.  Perhaps this annual visit will change them forever.  Perhaps they’ll receive a verdict they never expected and a sentence to do hard time will be passed into their lives.  This year, in the calm and quiet of the mammography waiting room, I spent my time thinking of my college roommate, Sidney*.  She has breast cancer.

And every time I think of Sidney, I always think of one particular story.  I’m not sure why I think of this story – perhaps it’s because this is how I picture us in my mind: frozen in time, young and carefree, no responsibilities, really, and certainly no breast cancer.  We’re in our early 20’s with amazing hair, riding around in futuristic car, on the run from a religious sect.

Let me ‘splain…

It was the late 80’s (thus the “amazing hair” part of the story because, really, what’s NOT amazing about perms-on-top-of-already-curly-hair?!) and Sidney and I were driving home from college in my mom’s burnt-sienna colored Chrysler LeBaron with a bizarre sparkly finish.  It had a digital display dashboard and robotic female voice that yammered on about nonsensical stuff like the whereabouts of your key and the status of your door.  Hey Fembot, when is your door not a door?  When…your…door…is…a…jar.  It also had a turbo blaster engine and the merest press of your foot on the gas pedal would G-force you back into your seat while making the white pinpricks of light elongate into lines as you achieved hyper drive.

So there we are: Central Pennsylvania, deserted rural road, 40 MPH speed limit, car-from-the-future.  Perfect opportunity to test out how fast things REALLY could go.  Brilliant idea proposed by me.  Brilliant idea agreed to by Sidney.  I would shout out how fast we were warp-speeding and she would keep an eye out for unsuspecting rural items to avoid.

(Hi, Mom and Dad.  Did I ever tell you this story?!  No??  Huh.  Well, if not, maybe you shouldn’t read any further then.)

So I stomped on the gas pedal and the car leapt forward.  I commenced shouting out the speed, “…Forty-five…Fifty…Fifty-five…,” As we headed into a curve in the road, I yelled out “SIXTY!!!” Sidney simultaneously yelled, “COPS!!!!!

^*%$#@!@#$%^&*&**&^%$#@@!!! I slammed on the brakes and we were thrown forward in our seats (please…fasten…your…seatbelts).  My heart was in my throat and I veered in behind the cop car almost crashing in to the back bumper but figuring that they can’t catch me speeding if I don’t actually PASS them while speeding.

Whose STUPID idea was this?!?  Guhguhguhhhh!  I’m gonna get in BIG trouble if I get a speeding ticket in my MOM’S CAR.  CapcrapcrapcrapCRAPPPP!!!  Just act casual.  JUST ACT CASUAL!  Nothing to see here OFFICER!!!  Sidney and I are shouting all sorts of nonsense at each other while trying to act like we always come blasting up the road, slam on the breaks then duck hard right behind a cop car.  Yep, always doin’ that.  No big thang.  Guhguhguhhhh! 

But while all this drama is playing out in OUR car, the cops haven’t made a single move yet.  No one’s reaching for the lights and sirens.  They’re just toodling along acting like they didn’t even SEE us.  Like they don’t even CARE.  Like they’re not even COPS.

Wanting, needing to figure out what’s going on, I’m casually-while-trying-not-to-chum-in-my-mouth peering into the big, boxy, coplike car when I notice that there’s no chrome anywhere on it.  All the shiny bits are painted over in flat black.  Hmmm, puzzling.  There’s a guy with a broad brimmed sheriff’s type hat sitting in the front seat wearing dark clothes.  There’s also a guy in the front passenger’s seat wearing all the same stuff, hat included.  In the back seat is a woman with her hair in a bun covered by a WHITE MESH BONNET!


Ohhhhh, so young and so fun.  And while we’re still fun, we’re older now and no one’s hair is as big as it once was.  We’ve faced things the car-from-the-future never told us we’d face.  Sidney, I’m sorry for your diagnosis, your pain and this current road you and your family are traveling.  Please know I’m thinking about you and you’re in my prayers daily.  I’m sending every funny memory your way because laughter has its place in healing and recovery.

And please, please, please continue to keep an eye out for Mennonites.  As I mentioned earlier, we’re older now and we can’t let them sneak up on us like they used to.


*For those of you who are worried I’m violating HIPAA regulations, I’m not.  Sidney isn’t her real name.  I’m only calling her Sidney because that was her fake name in college.  Everyone has a fake name in college, right?  Firmly established via roundtable discussion at that restaurant during Spring Break Junior year in the Bahamas??  While you were consuming enough rum drinks and calamari to put you off rum drinks (and calamari) for the rest of your life?!?  No??  Just me on this one?  Perhaps.  Because I happen to know Sidney is still partial to rum and Coke.  Not sure about calamari though.

Butt Gloves

I got a nifty new hand sanitizer giveaway thingy the other day.  And since Sissy loves hand sanitizer almost as much as I do, I let her do the honors of being the first to use it.

She went to town!  Acted like she was scrubbing in for surgery or something – rubbed big liquid-y handfuls of sanitizer all over both hands and up her forearms.  We’re sitting in the front seat of the car at this point, she with her arms bent at the elbows and her hands raised in the air in reverse surrender, me driving, when a really terrible smell hits us both.

Sissy looks over at me, her Littlest Petshop eyes huge in her face and says, “Mom?  MOM?!?  Is this a JOKE???”

The smell of someone’s unwashed backside was shimmering like a heat mirage off her hands.

“Oh, BOY, Babe!   I think the hand sanitizer must be skunked.  I’m pretty sure hand sanitizer shouldn’t smell like dirty bee-hind.”

The rest of the car ride was filled with no talking; only retching noises, and when we got home Sissy bolted to the sink and washed her hands-up-to-the-elbows.  Repeatedly.  (And no, we didn’t pitch the hand sanitizer.  Because that’s gonna be a funny joke on some unsuspecting dirty-handed boy we know.  After we send him off to a field by himself to clean up.  Ha ha ha.)

But you know what all of that reminded me of?!  The time I bought a pair of gloves in Paris.

Huh?!  How so?  Glad you asked.  Let me explain.

I was a young and lovely Jersey-haired ingénue in Paris.  It was November and I was setting out for a hiking holiday in Switzerland.  This naturally meant that I needed to purchase a last minute pair of gorgeous pink gloves from a street vendor.  I then proceeded to wear them through the miles and miles of the Paris Metro while touching various subway handrails, escalators, seat backs before finally getting to the train station where I met my friends and we boarded a train bound for Geneva.  It was right about the time we were settling into our compartment that I lifted my backpack up to its resting place above my head and discovered as my gloves were moving past my nose that they smelled…bad.  Really.  Really.  Bad.  Like butt if we’re being honest.  Either I had inadvertently PURCHASED butt gloves from the street vendor, or I had inadvertently made them INTO butt gloves by touching every filthy surface on the Paris metro.

Acck!  Knowing I had to wear these stank thangs the whole trip, I tried everything I could to get them smelling better, starting with peeling an orange on the train while wearing the gloves.  And?  Nothin’ doin’.  Still smelled like butt with an overlay of orange scent.

When we got to the hostel run by nuns where we stayed the first night, I washed the gloves out in the shared bathroom sink.  A little known fact here is that butt gloves, much like dogs, smell WORSE when wet.  And all hope of a light orange scent flees from the vengeful glove gods.

This went on the whole trip.  I washed those gloves at night in every sink I came to, scrubbed them with dry soap leaves, sprayed them with perfume in a department store, held a fir tree for fifteen minutes (that just got weird glops of sap on them and they STILL smelled) and rubbed deodorant on my hands before inserting them into the gloves.  Nothin’ doin’.  Butt per usual.  AND because they were rode hard and put up wet every night, they faded to a weird flesh color.  At which point I was giving the impression I had thickset putrid hands so I just had to throw the gloves away.

That’s it.  Just wanted to tell you how smelly hands accidentally run in the family.  No ifs, ands, or butts heh, heh, heh about it.

The Theory of Everything

Ok.  Maybe not the theory of EVERYTHING…just the theory of Peeps.  MY theory of Peeps.  But ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!  Made ya look, made ya look, stole your mother’s pocketbook.  Kicked it in, kicked it out, kicked it in the sauerkraut!

Just like sauerkraut, Peeps are very polarizing.  There’s no middle ground.  Ask anyone their opinion about sauerkraut and they’ll either act like we’re discussing their most precious, warmest, fuzziest thumb-suckin’ blankie thingie from toddlerhood or they’ll visibly recoil like you’ve just presented them with a severed head.  Ask anyone and you’ll get either a “love it” or “hate it” response.

Peeps.  You know, Peeps.  Those little florescent-colored marshmallow chicks that you see at Easter.*  Just like sauerkraut, people fall into two camps here – the ones who love ‘em and the ones who hate ‘em.  Except in the case of Peeps, people who say they love ‘em are LIARS!!!

They LIE!!!  They LIE like a ROOMFUL OF RUGS!

Because NO ONE can like Peeps.

They taste like nothing and have the texture of beach sand.  What would be the point of something like that?!?

And I don’t care that there are Peeps RECIPES and NEW FLAVORS and more SHAPES and an entire raging debate about “stale vs. fresh,” it’s just a smokescreen to cover up the fact that everyone hates Peeps.

Hates ‘em.  Just like severed heads.  Oh I LOVE severed heads.  See?  No.  No one says that.  EVER.

And if you write in and say you do actually love Peeps, or that you’re going to report me to the Peeps peeps, then we’ll all know that’s code for how much you hate Peeps.  And it’s further code for how the Peeps peeps should be arrested and made to play in a sandbox when they’re hungry so they can see what it tastes like.

Now, please, not another PEEP out of you.


*Happy Easter by the way.  You know what I especially love about Easter?!  Unlike Christmas, where Santa’s arrival is super chancy due to the whole flawed human interpretation of “good” and “bad,” Jesus always comes again at Easter.  Always.  Yep, love that.  But you know what I DON’T love??  Peeps.


When my daughter was little, she was overly intrigued with computers.  But since she spoke like a Russian Émigré from the ages of one through three, the word came out as, “pew-ter,” like she was visiting Paul Revere’s smithyworks from the Motherland for the first time and was in awe of all his artsy platters and such.


Clearly this girl knows a little sumthin’ sumthin’ ‘bout computers and that early fascination hasn’t gone away; She remains interested in technology – lately, the role of technology in my life when I was her age.  “What was YOUR technology class like when you were my age, Mom?”

Uhhh…my technology class was reading through the instruction book to figure out how to play tic-tac-toe on Merlin, the Electronic Wizard, when I was your age, Sweetie.

Technology, in the form of computers, didn’t come into my life on a regular basis until the late 80’s and I was at the tail end of my college career.

You know what’s funny about that?  I just received a mailing about my college reunion…and guess what was on the front of the mailing?  A picture of my college computer class circa 1989!  The students are all wearing their gigantor tortoise-shell glasses which take up the majority of their faces.  Not to be outdone in size, the computers are the approximate dimensions of a dog house and are perched on wooden planks laid over sawhorses.  Ha, ha, kidding about the sawhorse set-up, they’re on banquet tables clearly pulled from the student dining hall.

Anyway, what’s particularly enjoyable about the picture is that there are THREE students for every ONE computer, like computers were so precious you couldn’t have just ONE student per computer or anything.  And the computers themselves were those yellowing-from-the-heat-or-too-many-students-clustered-around-breathing-on-them DOS Prompt thingamajigs.  The whole thing was precious!

So I turned it over to ‘Pewter Princess for a look-see.  Her response?  “Yikes.”

Uh-huh.  Yikes indeed, My Dear.  Yikes, indeed.

P.S. I had a college roommate who was a Computer Science major.  Beep boop.  Every time I say “Computer Science” beep boop I have to say beep boop because the name alone makes me think of automatons and/or Joshua from War Games.  Would you like to play a game, Professor?   Anyway, for her work-release program, this roommate had to assist students in the Computer Science Lab beep boop which I recall being housed in the windowless basement of the Business Management building.  And?  It may have been work-study, not work-release.  And??  There may have been windows, they were just painted black and the students would scratch “send help” messages on the windows with their fingernails.  See?  It’s more fun to make it sound like Computer Science beep boop was the gritty underbelly of a liberal arts education in the late 80’s.  Anywho…at the end of summer break our Junior year, this Computer Science major beep boop returned to school telling us all about how these supercomputers beep boop were being connected across the United States which would allow people to “talk” to other people.  Through the computer!  Beep boop.  In fact, they were also being connected with other countries and she had even “met” a guy in Canada or parts-north that way.  Another friend and I, hearing this crazy talk, laughed ourselves silly.  Computers that are somehow connected?  And allow people to “talk” to eachother no matter where they are?!?  HAAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHA!  What a stupid idea.  That will never catch on.