Friday, March 22, 2013

All in the Family (meeting)

I am a survivor of childhood trauma. 

And by that, I mean the numerous ridiculous phases my parents went through with a level of enthusiasm most of their peers from that era reserved for variety shows and key parties: the disco-dancing-class phase (replete with matching blue and white platform shoes); the health food phase (wheat germ on everything!); the religion-buffet phase; the aerobic dance phase (just Mom, fortunately); and probably the grooviest of them all:

the family meeting phase.

I do appreciate their efforts -- they did things to stay connected with each other and to try and make our family function well (or at least in time to the beats of Donna Summer songs). However, I'm not sure any of those things really benefitted their marriage or our clan in ways they intended. Sure, there was bonding over whatever-new-initiative-of-the-moment, but it was mostly in the form of eye rolls and secret looks exchanged between my sister and me.

Now that I have my own child and everything I once mocked I now do, we, too, have implemented a weekly meeting into our own family routine. (Though, fortunately, I have the Dilettantes with whom to share all of the other ridiculous experiments.)

Taking a note from the experts, we use this family meeting time to discuss things that went well during the week, what we appreciated about each other, family business and decisions, and then things that we need to work on or "do better" the following week. 

Of course, within about one week of beginning this, my husband and I expanded upon the concept of "do better" to provide a forum for us to unload a Festivus-worthy airing of grievances. Now whenever either of us feels any bit of annoyance with anything during the week, we simply say to the other in our newly-developed shorthand, "put it on the agenda."

So again I find myself repeating the pattern of bonding through the magic of the family meeting albeit in a different way than intended.

And at least I'm not making anybody choke down wheat germ.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Time to un-eat your lunch

I was recently reminded of a brochure my mother sent me when she taught tennis for the Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation Department. This brochure was provided for the employees who managed the city pools. And frankly, I cannot believe I have not yet shared this on my blog. I recommend reading this in its entirety, but for your added enjoyment, I have highlighted the best parts:

Fecal Accidents - both a concern and an inconvenience.

"A diarrheal fecal accident is a higher-risk event than a formed stool accident."  (Well, duh!). Also? Those volunteers who collected 300 stool samples are probably the same ones who apply to be stool donors. (And really? They cannot find any other type of fulfilling volunteer work?)

"Establish a fecal accident log." (heh heh)

As I was posting this last night, my 7-year-old read over my shoulder and asked what this was. I told her it was information about what to do when you find poop in a pool. Disgustedly, she asked me,  "Why do people even write these things?"

And I replied, "Well, that BA in English from Yale has to be put to use somewhere."

Such a waste,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Because our Easter Bunny is rather irreverent and does most of its Easter shopping at, our daughter can expect to receive the following awesomeness in her Easter basket this year:

And I was all excited when I received all of this fine merchandise in the mail. Except...(dear God!) the splat tomatoes were missing from the shipment. Figuring anyone who worked for must have a sense of humor, I fired off the following missive:
From: Kathleen
To: "" <>
Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 6:25 PM
Subject: Re: Order # 518794
Hello! I just received my order full of Stupid Easter stuff and noticed that my tomato splat ball is missing.
And as I have no idea how one is to appropriately celebrate the rising of Christ without a tomato splat ball, I'm hoping you can help me remedy this situation.

I appreciate it. Thanks!

And a few days later I received this reply:

Johnson Bailey replied

Hi Kathleen,

I am so sorry about the Tomato, I checked inventory and we are completly sold out of them, we would be happy to replace it for something else if you would like, or we can refund your money. Please let us know.


The Team
Shop for Laughs!
Seriously? Someone who is part of "The Stupid Team" sends me a straightforward e-mail in response to the one I wrote? (Although, "I'm sorry about the tomato" is not horrible...)

Naturally,  I had to e-mail them again:

I'll keep you posted. This may be the worst Easter, ever.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

History Re-Peeps Itself

So, folks, I've done it again. I've spent countless hours I can never get back crafting an art project from marshmallow Peeps for the Washington Post Peeps diorama contest. (A contest which has never shown me any love, yet I continue to try and win its affection.)

That says more about me than you know.

This year's? An homage to Annie Leibovitz's iconic photo of Keith Haring:

There's Annie Peepovitz taking the photo.
With a Barbie camera. 
Peep Haring originally had an "appendage" made
from a Barbie microphone. I removed it before
submitting. I'm confident I will regret that decision.
This also marks the first year I have "gone it alone" in my creation. My Peeps Partner in Crime (PPIC), Hillary, who you may remember from OUR HUGE 2ND PLACE WIN IN CHICAGO IN 2011 with this masterpiece:

had an insanely busy few months and was unable to contribute. I wrote about our win in about four thousand posts on the topic, detailing our journey from the construction of the diorama, to when we found out we were finalists, through our trip to Chicago to deliver the diorama, to getting interviewed on television, to winning second place. To say this was a highlight of my year ( life) would be the most pathetic thing I've ever put in writing an understatement. Read about the journey here:
Our Chicago win also won us the opportunity to display our diorama along with the Washington Post contest winners at Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia, for a month:

On display! In a real art gallery! (Ask me how many people I dragged to this...)

Hillary was also my partner in creating many losing entries in prior years:
Steve Jobs meets St. Peepter 2012
Blue Peep Group - 2010
I wrote about losing in 2010 in an entry titled Harshing my Mallow.

Whac-a-Peep 2009
I wrote about losing in 2009 in an entry titled The Susan Lucci of Peeps.

WGA Writer's Strike 2008
I wrote about losing in 2008 in an entry titled Peep Show.

And my first, lame entry into the world of Peeps dioramas:

Peepless in Seattle 2007
I even got the Dilettantes involved in creating a Peeps diorama as a holiday activity:

Festivus. For the rest of us.
Read about that one here.

We are already plotting next year's entry. And not to give anything away, but let's just say that Serrano is a huge influence and we're looking for a way to waterproof marshmallows.

Yours in Peeps,

***CHECK THIS OUT: Today's post was quoted in the Washington Post Express newspaper. They always come to me for insight on the hard-hitting issues:

UPDATE: The Washington Post Style Blog actually featured my diorama in a post about dioramas based on famous works of art. Click here to read this. (Hey -- it's something...)

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Listen to Your Instincts

Until recently, I have managed to audition for only one thing in my entire life -- the fourth grade choir.

And it was a miserable experience. Every other fourth grader in my school got to audition in groups of 5 or 6. Yet because I was absent the day auditions were held, I had to do a make up audition by myself. Me. The kid who was so painfully shy she did not speak a word until high school (and Bartles & Jaymes unlocked that vault). I remember nothing of the audition but sheer terror, barely singing above a whisper and completely botching it.

(While not an audition, I also tried out for the junior high track team years later. Which featured another greatest hit: I so aggressively wound up for the discus throw and built up so much momentum that when I let the discus fly, it took me with it, and I landed in a heap on the ground in front of the track coach who was unsuccessfully trying to hide her laugh behind her clipboard.)

So, as you can imagine, I've never equated auditions with "comfort" or "success" or "staying upright."

And even though my path has taken me down the road of public speaking numerous times and I'm now proud to have two humor speaking engagements under my belt, these things came to me. I did not have to actively seek them or compete against others for the opportunity.

So it was astonishing that when I first learned of the Listen to Your Mother program being held in DC last year, I knew I had to try out. This year. (With the kind of track record (heh) I've had, you'd need a year to mentally prepare, too.)

After scheduling my audition time, writing my piece and rehearsing it, I headed to the appointment on the morning of truth and had this actual conversation with my husband on the way out the door:

Him: "Where is this audition being held?"
Me: "A hotel room at a hotel near the airport."
Him: "Well that sounds perfectly legitimate. Good luck."

I shared this little story with the Producer and Director when it was my turn to audition, and the show producer said, "To be fair, this set-up is a little weird, you auditioning right in front of a hotel bed. At least we don't have the camera aimed at you like we did last year."

I believe it was at that moment I knew I really liked these women.

Which is good, because auditioning in front of only two people while sitting down is much harder that doing a presentation in front of a hundred people. (Even when Jim is your co-presenter.)

But hey -- I got through it. Then waited two weeks. Then found out I did not get selected.

Silver lining? I am now virtual friends with the Show Producer -- a woman whose blog I've been a fan of for some time. And I also really enjoyed meeting the very talented Show Director.

Most of all, I love that I got to toss this audition into a conversation with my daughter about the magic of saying "yes" to things and how you don't regret the "yeses" but you sometimes regret the "nos." (Ed. This will never apply to dating.)

I'm so proud I did this, so glad to have met a couple of great women as a result, and so excited to attend the LTYM show in Arlington on April 28th. And believe it or not -- excited to audition again next year.

P.S. I stayed upright, too.

By the way, the essay I read at my audition is below:

Hello My Honey…Hello My Baby….
Last Tuesday was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten.

And just as expected, there was a sleepless night the evening before, nervous anticipation about what the new teacher and classroom would be like, and inevitably, a few tears during the drop off.

But I’m OK now, thanks.

My daughter is attending kindergarten at the same place she’s gone to preschool for the past two years. She knows and loves the director and teachers and has lots of good friends there. Everything is familiar and comfortable and she tells me all the time that she loves going to school.

Actually, she says, “I love going to school, Sir,” as she has taken to calling me “Sir” lately.

Please do not look to me for explanation.  

But with the transition to kindergarten, some fundamental parts of the routine are changing: there is no nap time, lunch is not provided so the children have to bring their own, and there are some kids she does not know who will be joining the class. My husband and I have learned that sometimes with our daughter, things that are unfamiliar equal the transformation into a very shy child that we don’t recognize.

To put it more succinctly: I gave birth to Michigan J. Frog.

Do you remember this character from the old Looney Tunes cartoons? The frog with the cane and top hat that would dance and sing ragtime hits? In the cartoon, the man who discovered this frog’s talent hoped to make a fortune from it, yet every time he tried to get the frog to perform for others, the frog would simply sit there and ribbit. 

While we don’t (necessarily) hope to make millions from our daughter, we do sometimes wish she’d perform consistently. At least that way, we’d always know what we were dealing with.

This is the kid who received a preschool progress report that noted “talking in class” and “disrupting nap time by being social with her friends” as areas in need of improvement. The same kid who told me to leave when I returned prematurely from an errand because she was holding court with her grandparents. The kid who is anything but shy while she entertains her dad and me every single night with plays, performances, monologues and dancing.

(More often than not, these performances end with her pulling her pants down and mooning us. While I hate to encourage this behavior, I have to give her credit: this kid knows her audience. The move always brings down the house.)

Yet in some unfamiliar situations, our little extrovert will often be rendered mute, burrow into my shoulder and refuse to respond to other people. While I personally don’t mind it, I find that other people generally prefer two-way conversations.

My husband and I assumed that our best course of action to prevent her morphing into the frog on her first day was to prepare her for the ways in which kindergarten would be different from preschool. We were particularly worried about the elimination of nap time and broached the subject very gently, thinking this bit of information may likely cause a great upset in her small world. We shouldn’t have worried. When I said, “I have to let you know that in kindergarten, you don’t have naps anymore.” She replied, with a huge, dramatic sigh, “I’ve been waiting for that all my life.

That first day, armed with her Hello Kitty lunch box, her new school supplies and wearing an ensemble she had pulled together: (tie dye leggings, a wool plaid skirt and a bedazzled t-shirt), we walked into school. And I braced for what I thought was her guaranteed metamorphosis from confident extrovert to 40-pound growth on my body.

But guess what? Instead, she immediately took charge — directing me to where the “big kids” cubbies were, putting her things away, and purposefully striding into her new classroom ready to tackle the new school year. She immediately hugged her best friend, posed for the obligatory photo on which I insisted, and then busied herself exploring the new classroom and working the room.

Any reservations I had about the year dissolved instantly. In fact, she was having such a good time I didn’t think she heard me when I told her to have a great day and that I loved her. As I turned to leave, I started to get a little verklempt because it seemed that she did not need me in this somewhat uncertain situation.

And that is exactly the moment she ran up behind me, hugged me, and said brightly,

“I love you, too, Sir.”

# # #

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Finally, something in good taste...

I'm still a Dilettante.

Which is weird, because I've now been doing this for 7 1/2 years, which probably means I'm not. (And it figures that the one thing I've managed to excel at is not having an attention span...)

Anyway, the activity last month was a Gin Distillery Tour and Tasting, which you can read about here.

Oooh....something shiny,
This really was the front door of the Distillery.
I pretty much love this. 

Saturday, March 02, 2013


We've known my daughter has artistic tendencies from the time she was very young.

I posted about her first art installation here, created when she was just over 3 1/2 years old.

Then, there was the Valentine's Day "ladybug" - when she was about a year older.

When she was almost six, we got an iPad, so although her medium changed, the subject matter of her art remained pretty much the same.

Now that she's almost seven and a  half, her art has become more joyful. For instance, she painted this:

and this:

and this:

and even won the PTA art show photography category with this:

The theme this year was "The Magic of a Moment."

Her father and I were relieved, thinking that she had come through her personal blue period relatively unscathed and that things were looking up. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I went into the bathroom this morning and discovered her latest installation:

The theme this year was "The Magic of David Carradine."


P.S. Thanks to DC Blogs for linking to my post today -- you know, my autoerotic asphyxiation post. This is why my Mom tells people I'm incarcerated -- it's less embarrassing for the family.