Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What Goes Around Comes Around--Though It Might Take a Very Long Time

A million, bazillion years ago, Little Sister and I, ages 12 and 13 went to see a movie with assorted aunts and cousins. The movie, to give you an idea exactly HOW long ago it was, was Blue Lagoon, which we didn't actually get to see because there was a line at the theater all the way around the corner and the aunts weren't at all interested in standing in line for an hour or so to find out all the seats were sold. Instead, they tried to distract us from our catastrophic disappointment by taking us out for pizza.

As we were walking down the street, Little Sister, Cousin L (at the ripe and impossibly mature age of 14), and I tried to distance ourselves from our hopelessly uncool mother/aunts. A carload of hooting and hollering boys went by and Cousin L whistled or shouted something back to them--something somewhat encouraging, though I no longer remember exactly what.

Cousin L's mother (who I uncharitably called--at least in my head--Fat Aunt M the whole time I was in high school*) shouted, "Keep that up and you're not going to have a ride home!"

"Oh, I'll have a ride home," Cousin L laughed, "Maybe not my home, but I'll definitely have a ride home."

Funniest thing I ever heard, I'm tellin' ya'. Little Sister and I have even said it to each other for absolutely no reason once in a while over the years. "Maybe not my home..." heh, heh, heh.

Payback sometimes come in strange and indirect packages.

Last night, Son-Two and I were discussing computer time (which is at a premium around here even though we have three computers, because we have six people--all of whom have various Internet addictions to feed--except me of course. I'm not addicted...I can quit anytime I want...), or some other privilege (again, can't remember and this time it was only last night--not a million, bazillion years ago--how scary is that?) and I thought it was the perfect time to bring up his school performance--to remind him of the connection between good work and rewards.

"When the progress reports come out in a few weeks, I'm not going to find any nasty surprises in the mailbox am I?"

" now, they shouldn't be surprises, they may be nasty, but they definitely shouldn't be surprising."

*Speaking of karmic retribution--I think I just realized why I'm Fat Aunt S.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

The Masked Mom household is enrolled in Blockbuster Online--it's like Netflix, which all the cool families have, only not cool simply by virtue of the fact that I'm a member. Anyway, the way it works is you have a queue of movies you want to see and when you send back one movie you get the next one from your list. With six people in the household, all of whom have the password for the account, some weird things end up in the queue and because the queue is so long, sometimes it takes a while to get something you want and, by then, you might have no idea that you wanted it.

Consequently, sometimes movies show up in the mailbox that absolutely no one in the house wants to take credit/blame for*. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was one of those movies. The description on the wrapper (as always) was cut off mid-way through and the part that was included seemed none too promising, but it seemed stupid to send it back without at least giving it a try.

No one was in any hurry to try it, though, which is how the best movie I've seen all year ended up sitting on top of the entertainment stand for a week and a half, unseen by anyone. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, described as an "offbeat action comedy" on the Blockbuster site, stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer as accidental partners trying to solve a murder. It's full of memorable one-liners (and lots of foul language--at the end of the movie, Val Kilmer's character even says, "...and to all you good people in the Midwest, sorry we said fuck so much.") and scenes in which both Val Kilmer and Robert Downey, Jr.'s talents are used to great advantage. I realize they've both had a spotty record** in the acting department, but as far as I'm concerned, they were perfect in these roles and this movie redeems any misjudgments in their pasts.

Word of warning: it's definitely not for everyone. There is a lot of violence, most of it is not graphic, but there are a few "ewwww" moments. And, as both Val and I mentioned, lots of swear words. But if you like dark comedy--think Grosse Pointe Blank or The Ice Harvest, but dial them both up a couple of notches--it's one you don't want to miss.

Another sort of warning: I laughed so hard that by the end of the movie, I had a headache. You might want to pop a few ibuprofen and head your headache off at the pass.

Masked Mom One-Word Review: Hysterical.

*Partway through the movie, I vaguely remembered reading an interview in Esquire (or maybe it was GQ) in which the interviewer described this role as some of Val Kilmer's best work ever. So, maybe, just maybe, I was the one who put it in the queue. Wow, confession really is good for the soul.
**When I told Baby Brother that this was the best role I'd ever seen Val Kilmer in, he smirked, "Better than Batman, even?"

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It Takes a Village...

...and they all need to buy stuff from my kids. School means fundraising and fundraising means big, fat headaches for the Masked Mom.

I know a whole lot of moms who feel the same way I do. In fact, Crazy MomCat recently wrote a very well thought-out argument against school fundraising in general and against making us try to sell such useless crap in particular. I agree with practically everything she said and I would like to add a few points of my own:

---When you live in a very small town, especially in the poorest (or second poorest, depending on who you ask) county in the state, everyone reaches their purchasing saturation point much sooner than they might elsewhere. Go the first day of the fundraiser and you'll invariably find that half (or more) of the people have already been hit up by their neighbor or their nephew or some other kid canvassing the neighborhood.

---I've mentioned before that I have no contact with my mother's side of the family and basically haven't since she passed away. Fundraising is the absolutely only time I regret that lack of contact. My mother was one of eleven children--when we had fundraising to do as kids, all we had to do was put the order form on the middle of my grandmother's kitchen table and come back a few hours later. Bam--goal met, if not exceeded.

---Which brings me to my final point--in MomCat's post (as well as in other posts I've read on the subject) she mentions that most parents would probably be much happier just writing out a check than getting stuck with a bunch of ugly, overpriced, totally useless crap not to mention having to sell ugly, overpriced, totally useless crap to our nearest and dearest. I agree that most parents would prefer to do that--the problem is there are parents who don't have the extra cash to write the check (especially in the itty-bitty, poverty-stricken county I live in). And, right there, for me, is the Catch-22 of the fundraising thing. Presumably the idea of fundraising is to help out the parents and students without the extra cash, but the parents who don't have the money are far less likely to have a bunch of friends who have extra money to buy ugly, overpriced, totally useless crap. This becomes especially important in situations where the amount your child sells dictates how much you end up spending out of pocket (as with class trips in our school district).

At the moment, I'm just recovering from a pizza sale for Son-Three's soccer team (quota met, but only through the generosity (and love of pizza) of Other Kid's parents). And still embroiled in a magazine sale for Son-One's senior trip--the goal on this one is $850 in magazine subscriptions. Yeah, wish me luck.

Masked Mom, putting the F-U in fundraising since 1993-94.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Things No One Should Ever Have To Hear

"Your backseat might smell like kimchi. Sorry."

My sister-in-law, Baby Brother's Wife, is Korean-American. We were in Buffalo yesterday for BB's doctor's appointment and there's an Asian market on the same street as the hospital so BBW likes to stock up on all those Asian necessities while we're in the "big city." Apparently, sometime during the two-hour drive home, the lid popped off the kimchi and the bag was full of kimchi juice, which may or may not have leaked out on to my backseat.

Even though I'm pretty sure it didn't actually spill on the backseat, I'm a little scared to go out to the car this morning...Do you think I could call in sick due to possible kimchi contamination?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Wite-Out Tape

I have occasionally mentioned Cranky Boss Lady--and as her name would imply she's a Cranky sort. My job title at the flower shop is "manager," but my duties consist almost entirely of running interference between CBL and customers, sales reps, and even her family and friends. I need a raise, I think I've mentioned that before as well. I could probably make more in fast food management than I bring home every week from the flower shop.

But I don't quit because, every once in a while, Cranky Boss Lady does something to redeem herself. At Easter, she bought me a Madagascar giraffe (haven't seen the movie, just love giraffes--so no idea what his/her/its name is) basket full of PEEPS! (I'm a Peeps freak from way back--I understand absolutely nothing about why I like them since I hate marshmallows and they're sort of disgusting looking, but hey, there it is). She does this kind of thing once in a while--randomly buys me something--I'm still trying to decide if it's out of some generosity of spirit or if she's just a shopping addict and I'm one of her many "excuses." Regardless, I get the bounty.

This time the bounty was this:

It's amazing stuff. It goes on smooth and dry--you can write on it immediately. Maybe this stuff has been around for ages and I've just never noticed it, but I have to say I'm thrilled that it's finally come into my life.

Yes, I'm a total geek, but I'm passionately in love with Wite-Out Tape and I don't care who knows it.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Brilliant!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Soccer In The Olden Days...

Son-Three has had four home games since Saturday--that's a lot of soccer and I've noticed a funny thing happening as I sit on the sidelines watching the game and all the activity going on both on and off the field (and the surrounding fields). Though they're all dressed a little differently, the cliques of girls and the packs of boys are still divided into fairly recognizable groups--the jocks, the punks, the preps. I can't help getting the feeling that high school hasn't changed all that much. On the one hand, it's kind of comforting--maybe the world isn't hurtling straight into the toilet as I sometimes suspect--but on the other hand, it's sort of terrifying because who would wish high school on their own children?

Remembering high school and soccer games past, a story of Baby Brother's soccer-playing days came to mind. His goal (ha ha--get it?) was to guard a particular player on the opposing team. Apparently, he was staying right on top of the guy and the guy, frustrated and annoyed, finally blurted out, "Are you gay or what?"

Baby Brother, without hesitation, said, "Yeah, you busy tonight?"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)"

On the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, as we all reflect on the ways our country changed and grew from the suffering of that day, Alan Jackson's song "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" remains in my mind as the best, truest tale of that day. I still cannot hear it without getting chills--especially today of all days. It is a sincere man's well-thought-out reaction to horrible, horrible events.

I couldn't have said it better than Alan does (and if anyone else could, they haven't yet). So I'll leave you with my favorite lines: "Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us/And the greatest is love."

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Moving.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Don't Judge A Post By Its Title (Or Lack Thereof)

My paternal grandmother, my Nan, used to break into song right in the midst of her daily routine for no apparent reason. Often she would sing one or two lines of some off the wall (at least to me) song and then go back to whatever she was doing without even acknowledging (or even seeming to realize) that she'd been singing for five or ten seconds. It was like a mild and musical version of Tourette's syndrome--kind of.

In the past few years, I've found myself doing the same thing--humming "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" for no logical reason (as if there exists a logical reason to hum it), singing (in my best operatic voice--which is not operatic at all but more like the sounds a bull walrus would make if someone had him by the balls), "Way down upon the Sewanee river/Far, far, far away," and on really bad days belting out an original (if very short and somewhat foul (or fowl as the case may be)) composition: "Fa-la-la-la-la-fuck-a-duck."

My own outbursts of pointless (not to mention tone deaf and tuneless) music have me a little paranoid about what other genetic time bombs my grandmother has left behind. Will I soon start eating kidney beans straight out of the can while watching People's Court and Entertainment Tonight? Will I shave my legs with a dry razor while sitting on a lawn chair in the front yard? Will I discover my inner kleptomaniac--and begin filching worthless and completely useless items because I can't stop myself?

Anyway, my grandmother's been on my mind this week because one of the songs she would sing was "School Days." You know "School days, school days, dear old Golden Rule days?" Sometimes she would sing it right in the middle of asking one of us how school was going--which at least made a little sense--and sometimes she would sing it for absolutely no discernible reason. I'm happy to report that I haven't sung it yet, but it's been on the tip of my tongue and in the back of my mind all week.

Our first day back to school was Tuesday. For Son-One it was the first day of his senior year. Son-Two's a junior, Son-Three, a sophomore. And Daughter-Only? Well, she's in the Middle School this year.

Given her penchant for freaking out about the smallest things, I was really amazed at how calm she seemed as the new year--in a new building--approached. Even on Monday, with the Big Day less than 24 hours away, she seemed fine. By bedtime, the nerves were starting to show a little--she was studying the map of the building (a building, which, by the way, she's been in a number of times for plays, games, etc) as if her life depended on it, but still, she was doing better than I'd expected (and dreaded) she would.

Tuesday morning, she was ready and waiting long before any of her brothers. When we pulled up to the school, the boys all got out and there was Daughter-Only in the middle of the backseat, looking lost and tiny and just not at all ready to be going to sixth grade (SIXTH!!!) and she says, in her lost, tiny voice, "I don't wanna go."

The truth? I totally sympathize--more than she can possibly know. My first day of sixth grade was in a completely new school where I knew not a single soul and sixth grade is just this gigantic time--the cusp of something, I guess--and it still stands out as the first time (but not the last) in my life that I remember facing a new school with something close to abject terror. I didn't sleep a wink the night before and I can clearly remember being tempted to throw myself at my mother's feet and beg for a reprieve.

My mother wouldn't have given me that reprieve anymore than I could give Daughter-Only the reprieve she was meekly asking for. She got out without further protest and my pride in her at that moment was all tangled up with my sympathy, my empathy, my hopes that things will go smoother for her than they did for me.

"...dear old Golden Rule days..." my ass.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: US Open Tennis

I'm not a big televised sports fan. And I'm definitely not a night owl--I've lost track of how many movies (movies everyone assures me are fantastic, must-see sorts of movies) that I've fallen asleep in front of--if I sit still after 8:34 p.m. I'm very likely to be asleep within minutes. Yet, there I was last Thursday night at sometime obscenely close to midnight when I realized I was not only awake, I was enthralled by a televised sporting event.

Actually, tennis has always been my one televised sport weakness--that and the US Men's Olympic gymnastic team in 1984 (dang, they were hot!!!). The first match I really remember seeing was Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe playing the Wimbledon finals sometime in the early '80s. I was rooting for Jimmy, who seemed so much more mature and refined than John (and you know how important maturity is in a man--especially to a 12-year-old). For both the tennis addiction and the men's gymnastic team lust we have my grandparents to thank--I was staying with them both summers and they got three TV channels with their roof antenna (and those they got only when weather didn't interfere). (I also sat through good portions of the Iran-Contra hearings for the very same reason--though I'm happy to say no lust or lifelong interest in televised Congressional hearings developed from that exposure.)

Anyway, Thursday night, around 10:15, I was aimlessly flipping through channels (we have more than three, but a lot of times it just seems like more channels on which there's nothing at all worth watching) and Son-Two comes in to the living room to say, "Agassi's playing."

So Agassi's playing and it's his last U.S. Open and I ended up not just awake, but enthralled until the middle of the friggin' night watching him beat Marcos Baghdatis. It was one of the best matches I've ever seen--not that I can tell you much about the technical aspects of the sport, just that there was so much heart on both sides of the court that it was inspirational to watch.

And of course, I was right there, Saturday afternoon when Agassi lost to Benjamin Becker--who I actually feel kind of bad for since the first thing they asked him was not how great it was to win, but how it felt to beat Agassi in his final game. Dang, that's cold.

Agassi definitely brought something pretty rare to the sport and he will definitely be missed, but there's some real up-and-comers out there who I'll be keeping an eye on. And, I hear my old buddy Jimmy Connors (who turned 54 a few days ago) is coaching Andy Roddick, so I'll keep watching if only to catch a glimpse of Jimmy in the stands...'cuz you know you never forget your first love.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Riveting.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Perfect Post For August: Special Limited Edition Blogger Barbie!

Just before my ninth birthday, I fell in love. It was spring and the object of my affection was on display outside Montgomery Ward's at the mall across town. (It was called the MJ Mall and it was in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I have a vision in my mind of how to get there from the house we lived in then--we used to go so often. Of course, whether the vision would hold up in reality, I have no idea and I'm not particularly interested in finding out.)

It was a beautiful bicycle called the Strawberry Dream. It was gorgeous and designed long before that annoying freckle-faced Strawberry Shortcake doll came on the scene so it was covered in actual strawberries and strawberry flowers and leaves and the seat was the cutest pink-and-cream checkered pattern--it was just gorgeous.

I was with my father when I first saw it. I oohed and aahed and he said, "Well your old bike is looking kind of old...and you do have a birthday coming up, maybe you should talk to your mother."

So I talked (okay, whined a little) to my mother and she said, "We could get it for you as an early birthday present, but...we're going to be moving next month and our new house is way out in the country and we thought you might want a pony instead!"

Well, the choice was obvious, I guess, but I did hesitate, believe it or not, fixated a little on the squiggly little plants and the adorable strawberries sprinkled all over the bike--my bike, I already called it--but, in the end, with my mother's assurances that I would get a pony--a real, live pony!!!--for my birthday, I relented and let go of the (Strawberry) Dream.

So, in May, we moved and in July, along came my birthday. Of course, there was no pony--as a parent (especially one on a limited budget), I completely understand how these things happen--how a plan, a "promise," even, can fall apart in the face of unexpected fiscal realities--but as a nine-year-old who unwrapped Ballerina Barbie and her Dream Plaza, I was a bitter little kid.

Ballerina Barbie was the first--and only--Barbie I ever owned. It probably broke some Federal Trade Commission* guidelines for an American girl to make it to the age of nine without owning a Barbie, but I'd never wanted one. I just wasn't a Barbie sort of girl, which made my mother's choice all the more confounding.

Little Sister was of course delighted by the three-story mall with its working elevator and her Barbies couldn't wait to shop there. My Barbie? She owned the mall and on the rare afternoons I spent "playing Barbie," my Barbie went to her day job (as a brain surgeon--her office was in the linen closet--where I chucked her so I could sit in the hall with a book across my knees, while my sister's Barbies shopped to their hearts' content).

Needless to say, Barbie is a subject fraught with lots of angst for me--and apparently, I'm not the only one. I found this month's perfect post over at Suburban Bliss. In Mammoth Barbie, Melissa writes of her own thwarted dreams where Barbie was concerned. And though her take is much different than mine, the emotions--especially those "my parents sooo don't get it" feelings--really struck a chord. As with any "perfect post" or other piece of quality writing, this one is about more than just what it's about, if that makes any sense.

So here's my button--

A Perfect Post

And, Melissa, it's all yours.

Check out other winners at Suburban Turmoil and/or Petroville.

*These rules have changed but not been abandoned completely: now they apply not to Barbie but to Bratz dolls and Disney Princess crap.