Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fad Aversion

I will admit that I do have a certain aversion to following a fad. For instance, I just started watching Survivor two seasons ago. And I never learned how to knit when it went around in the 90s. I didn't read the Twilight series until this fall. It's not that I'm against whatever the 'thing' is, it's that I don't want to jump on the bandwagon. So I take my time, and years later when it is safely out of fashion, I decide to give it a try.

So begins my quest to learn how to knit. It was prompted because my 8 year old daughter learned how to knit this year, and I can't help her when she gets stuck. My 7 year old son can also knit himself into a holey, lop-sided frenzy. Newsletters come home from elementary school about the virtues of this previously feminine-only art, and we don't even go to a Waldorf School.

As I do with many other questionable ventures, I invited my girlfriends to join me in the fun. It turns out that there are quite a few closet want-to-learn-how-to knitters in my little group. Lots of other moms figured they'd give it a go. We have naturally discussed our complete lack of free time, along with wondering when we would ever sit still for long enough to knit a whole row, but alas we are up to the challenge. The challenge being finding a time when all of us can attend class at the same time. But I have faith that we will spend the time together, knit a few scarves and drink a few glasses of wine in the process. Isn't that really the point?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Parking Lot Mamas' Guide to Last-Minute Gifts

So you're all ready for the holidays, except for maybe three gifts for those hard-to-buy-for people. Perhaps you need something for your husband who basically has everything, or you need a gift for your Aunt Edna, who just announced that she's coming for the holidays. Or maybe you need something for your new brother-in-law, whom you know nothing about except for the fact that he's an accountant in Indiana. Have no fear, the Parking Lot Mamas' Gift Guide is here!

But before we get to that, let's review a few basics of what NOT to give during the holidays:

1. Body slimmers. Husbands, do not give your wife Spanx, Bodyslimmers, or control-top underwear. This should be obvious. The same rule applies to anti-aging creams, gift certificates for Botox, Alli weight loss pills, and diet cookbooks.

2. Lingerie. If you must buy lingerie, please make sure you have the right size. My poor husband bought some lingerie for me 12 years ago - four sizes too big. That was the end of lingerie gifts.

3. Do not re-gift stuff that is obviously used. A friend of mine recently received a set of Conair hair rollers, with hair still on the rollers!!

4. If you need to get a teenager something, and you don't have one yourself, please ask someone with teens for advice. A Spiderman sleeping bag, marker pens, or Pokemon movies are just not cool for a teen.

So here we go - the ultimate gift guide for those hard-to-please people on your list.

For the teenager - Sarcastic t-shirts are always a hit. Threadless has some fun ones, including "Being Vague is Almost as Fun as Doing This Other Thing..." and "I Listen to Bands That Don't Even Exist Yet."

For the daughter who's permanently connected to her iPod - the pink Speakal iPod speaker system packs five total drivers (including a 4-inch subwoofer), adjustable bass controls, and 360-degree sound distribution into a cute pink pig. I guarantee her friends don't have one yet.

For the son who hates being dragged along on vacations - If your son is in the "it's not cool to be seen with my parents" stage, and you're on the beach for a day of "family bonding" while snorkeling, then slip him this ultra-cool underwater digital camera mask. He'll quickly forget why he's so cranky because he'll be taking photos and videos of all the underwater wildlife.

For the husband who has everything - If your hubbie is a serious email junkie, then plop down a whopping $17 for this ingenious USB Webmail Notifier, a cool looking "envelope" that softly glows when new email arrives in his inbox. Since it's USB-powered, he won't have to worry about stuffing batteries in it every week.

For the wife who runs the household - The Audiovox Homebase Digital Media Center is every SAHM's dream. It sticks on your fridge and includes a 7-inch display, a dry erase board, digital clock, Post-it pad and an LED message indicator. I'd put this on the door to our garage so we can check it before rushing to school.

For the dog who doesn't want another Xmas sweater - Fido will wow all his canine friends with a Plexidor Electronic doggie door. Replace your regular flap doggie door that screams "ROB THIS HOUSE" with this sweet electronic dog door. Your dog wears an RFID chip on his collar, and when he approaches the door, it automatically swooshes open. Very Jetsonesque.

For the grandma - Obviously anything handmade from the grandkids is a sure winner. But if she has a hard time remembering where she put her keys, Brookstone's wireless key finder will locate her lost keys with just the press of a button. Simply press one of the color-coded pager buttons on the wireless transmitter, and the matching key fob will answer with a loud alarm.

For the geek in your life - The electronic t-shirt with playable drum kit. Hit the drums on this shirt with your finger and they play through the built in speaker. It comes with 7 different drum sounds for the ultimate in chest-based drum solos.

For Fred From Sheboygan- If these gift ideas are just too mainstream for you, and you need to get something creative for your "comedian" cousin whose bacon flavored dental floss is his favorite possession , then head on over to and check out their, um, desktop organizer.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

C'mon kids - just one more photo. Pleeease.

"Mom, this snow stuff smells bad. Can we go now?"

Why on earth do we make kids sit in front of these fake backgrounds that spew smelly fake snow for yet another photo op? Do we think it will make us look like good parents? Do we think kids actually enjoy these forced poses? Or are we planning to collect all these photos and show them to their "dates" when they're teenagers?

Cruise ship photographers take great glee in setting up 50 gazillion photo sessions throughout the ship and on excursions. It's probably one of their top $$$-making schemes, a close second to the $8-$12 watered-down pool drinks and the $30 t-shirts.

Still, I had a great time on the cruise. Maybe all those watered-down specialty drinks helped. Or maybe it was the free chocolate vanilla swirl ice cream all day long.

Just don't sing "A Whole New World" anywhere near me, or I'm liable to crack.

Monday, December 1, 2008

And How Was Your Thanksgiving Break?

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. It brings to mind the smell of roasting turkeys, rustling leaves, and the sound of family squabbling. But in our case, it brings to mind something entirely different. We opted to flee Oregon for the holidays and join a small group of 2,400 complete strangers (plus five good friends) for a seven-day cruise in the Caribbean.

Things were going great until my son mumbled "my stomach hurts" after one of our first dinners. I thought it was just from overeating, which seems to be the number one thing to do on cruise ships. Alas, I was wrong. We took him to the basement of the ship to see the doctor, and he was quickly diagnosed with the dreaded NOROVIRUS. You've probably heard of it. That's the virus that sickened over 2,600 people on the QE2 a few years ago. Ugh. It's basically an extremely intense version of the stomach flu. So the poor little guy was quarantined for 48 hours. In a room the size of a large shoe box. Luckily, with round-the-clock movies and room service, he pulled out of it pretty quickly. The scariest thing was when a ship employee showed up at the door dressed in a full hazmat suit in order to sanitize the room.

Then there were the late dinners. We weren't able to get the "early seating" for dinner, so we had the joy of eating a four-course meal from 8:30-10:00 every night. Here's a photo of one of our more lively dinners, as we were waiting for our food to be served.

And how was your Thanksgiving holiday? Please share your story - we'd love to hear from you!