Monthly Archives: January 2011

New Year

I’ve heard it said that the way you spend New Year’s Day is a good indication of how you are going to spend the rest of your year. If that is true, then I give up: I certainly don’t want to spend an entire year vacuuming up cheese balls and scrubbing silly string off of the walls. Yeah, you guessed it: I had a New Year’s Eve party this year, and if you’re wondering why you didn’t get your invitation, don’t. I didn’t get one either, because, as it turns out, it wasn’t so much that I had a New Year’s Eve party as that my house did. That’s right: I wasn’t there.

The funny thing was that my husband had been saying for weeks that he wanted to have a New Year’s Eve party, and I had just kept saying “no.”

“You think you want one now,” I said, “but just wait until you have to clean up after it the next morning.” I painted a convincing enough picture of doom and destruction that I managed to talk him out of it, something he reminded me of the next day when we were gathering up glasses (all thirty-one of them) from the various nooks, crannies, bookshelves, backs of toilets and couches where they had been stashed. (Yes, I counted them, because all thirty-one of them had to be washed. By me. I was actually a little impressed; I hadn’t known we even had thirty-one glasses. But then again, I guess I hadn’t ever really considered a vase to be in the “glass” category before, either. It’s probably a good thing I’m not one of those people who keeps Grandma’s ashes in an urn on the mantel.)

“Hey,” I told him, when he complained about finding a bottle of root beer on the roof, “you’re the one who wanted to have a party.”

“Yeah,” he shot back, “but I kind of wanted to be home when it happened.”

And therein lay the problem. In the absence of a party at home my husband and I had decided to go out on New Year’s Eve. Which is why our daughter, Clementine, asked if she could have a few people over while we were gone.

“How many?” we had asked her, instantly suspicious.

“Just two or three,” she had replied, the very picture of wholesome innocence.

Hmm. That sounded reasonable, we thought. After all, you really need at least four people to have any kind of fun. Think about it: any less than four and there’s not enough of a fight over Boardwalk and Park Place when you’re playing Monopoly. And forget about UNO—“skip” and “reverse” just don’t have the same punch in a UNO game with less than four. That was my thinking, at least.

Of course, the way things turned out, the only way the Monopoly game would have gotten used that night was if someone had decided to use the thimble and top hat for micro shots. Which, in fact, may have happened—I guess I’ll know for sure the next time I have a hankering to visit Marvin Gardens.

In Clementine’s defense, she didn’t actually invite all of the people who showed up. “Every time I came out of the bathroom there were another twenty people here.” My first response to that was, “Well, then, you should have stopped going to the bathroom,” but one glance at the thirty-one—thirty-one!—glasses lined up on the kitchen counter and I realized that not going to the bathroom probably wasn’t an option for anyone there that night.

Come to think of it, two bathrooms aren’t a lot for thirty-one people. I sure hope all of those glasses were used to hold drinks. Because that would be an even worse way to spend the New Year.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive

Vision Quest

So, according to Wikipedia (and, as we all know, Wikipedia is always right), an eagles’ eyesight is so sharp that they can spot a rabbit moving through the brush from up to a mile away. To put this into perspective, this means that their vision is approximately six to ten times better than that of the sharpest human; or, to put it another way, that their vision is approximately ten million times better than that of the sharpest teenager girl.

I don’t know: maybe it’s also the same for teenage boys—after all, there are plenty of jokes out there about “going blind”—but since I only have a teenage girl (so far), I only know about the (ahem) fairer sex. And let me tell you, from where I sit, the fairer sex is pretty damn blind.

Or perhaps I should say, “from where I perch,” since in my house there is no place to sit: all of the flat surfaces have long been overtaken by huge piles of crap. Huge, invisible-to-the-teenage-eye piles of crap, that is. Take Clementine’s bathroom, for example (no, really: please just take it away). As a rule, I usually wait to issue the order to “get all of your crap off of your bathroom floor” until her clothes, magazines and empty Manic Panic jars start to mount higher than the sink. At that point she will go in, crash around for a few minutes, and then storm out, leaving the dirty clothes hamper full to the level of the towel rack with things like shoes, raincoats, and math books. The floor, however, will still be ankle deep in detritus.

“No,” I’ll say. “I want you to pick up all of it. And put it away where it belongs.”
With a heavy sigh she’ll march back in, scoop up the top layer from the floor, dump it on the couch, and then slam back into her room.

At this point my voice, never too pleasant to begin with, will start to take on a distinct upper crust British sneer. I’m not sure where it comes from: I think I’m channeling that one show—what’s it called? “Super Naggy?”


Another sigh from her. “What? I don’t see anything else.”

And the thing is, she doesn’t. Of course, this is partly due to the fact that she insists on “cleaning” the bathroom with the light off. (We don’t call her “Little Lawyer” for nothing. I can almost see the wheels turning in her head as she pictures herself up on the stand, the ghost of Johnnie Cochrane making his case to the judge: “Your honor, I ask you—how could my client possibly be responsible for scrubbing the toothpaste off of the sink when she couldn’t even see the sink? Without any light, the bathroom looks all right.”)

But the other part of it is that she really doesn’t see it. The same way that we, as humans, can look at a field that is teeming with rabbits and only see scrub, she can look at a bathroom that is crawling with filth and only see tile.

Who knows? Maybe there’s some evolutionary reason for this: maybe the same way that teenage boys are supposed to be risk takers is because it is hard-wired into their brains to go after wooly mammoths and such, maybe teenage girls are supposed to be slobs because it is hard-wired into their brains to ignore piles of wooly mammoth guts and other crap on the floor of their cave.

Or maybe there’s no clear explanation for it at all. Maybe teenage girls are just slobs. I’m sure that’s what it says on Wikipedia.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive

Invent This

There is a story about Thomas Edison and Henry Ford that involves the two great inventors spending the day together at the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair. It seems that, after walking around and looking at the exhibits for nearly eight hours, they both realized at approximately the same time that they had promised to meet their wives for tea much earlier. This event, which was reported in the local papers, was looked upon with benevolent amusement by all—with the possible exception of their wives—as just another example of the quirky workings of two great minds.

Surely, the thinking went at the time, two such great men shouldn’t have to bother with trivial things like remembering what time they promised to meet their wives for tea. They had already given us electric light and affordable cars—what more could we possibly expect from them?

I was thinking of this story the other day when I came home from work to find my kitchen in its usual chaotic state, with the fridge door gaping open, the milk jug sitting on the counter, and the lid on the floor. Next to the milk, providing more than a little clue as to why it was out, was a trail of cereal leading all along the counter and back to the cabinet, where a box of the same cereal lay tipped over on its side, more cereal spilling out onto the floor. The whole thing had the air of a brutal breakfast crime scene (one where the cereal was the intended victim and the milk simply an unfortunate witness), but of course, having seen this same scene many times before, I realized it was neither: instead, it was simply the remains of Clementine’s breakfast.

You might wonder, reading this, why we tolerate such slovenliness in our house—you might even assume, given the magnitude of the mess, that we encourage it—but I assure you that the answer to both is the same: we don’t. Believe me: as many times as we have come home to this terrible scene we have chastised Clementine about it. But no matter how upset we get, or what we threaten her with, in the end her answer is always a variation of the same theme: “I’m not like you: I have better things to think about than making sure all of the cereal is off of the floor.”

She always says this so dramatically, and in such a please-don’t-bore-me-with-your-bourgeois-sensibilities tone, that I can’t help but be reminded of the pair of errant inventors, sacrificing their amicable marital relationships in order to bring us cruise control and the electric chair. And I can’t help but wonder what invention of equal importance Clementine must be working on to justify turning my kitchen into a cereal wasteland every morning.

Who knows? Perhaps she is working on how to make a blacker form of black. Or perhaps she is mapping out the location of the lost eyeliner mines of the Incas. Or perhaps she is even pondering what must surely be the greatest teenage conundrum of all time: why are my parents always on my case about stupid stuff like homework and cereal?

Of course, perhaps I am maligning her. Perhaps what she is really thinking about is the cereal; perhaps all this time she actually has been working on the problem of how to get the cereal out of the box and into the bowl without spilling it on the floor, and these daily trails are just proof of the failure of yet another one of her Rube Goldberg-like inventions.

It could be happening that way. After all, wasn’t it Edison who said, “I have not failed; I have just found ten thousand ways that don’t work”? Which means, at that rate, I’ll only be cleaning up cereal for another thirteen years.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive


Well, it happened again last night. Somehow, although I had locked all of the doors and the windows, they got back into the house and made a huge mess in the kitchen again. When I woke up this morning there were cereal boxes that had been ripped open and emptied, ramen noodles scattered on the floor, and as for the cookies I had just baked last night? Forget about it.

I suspect, of course, that Clementine has been letting them in. She thinks they’re cute. We all did, at first, and who could blame us? Those dark black circles around their eyes and that bushy hair that stuck straight up made them look like some sort of emo toddlers. And then, the way they would use their little hands to root through the cabinets for food was so cute that it was almost human. And, of course, there was that look they got in their eyes; sometimes, on those rare occasions when they would look straight at you, I swear you could catch a glimpse of something almost like intelligence in there.

But the fact is they’re wild animals, and they belong outside. In the long run, it does neither them or us any good to let them inside, because if one thing is certain, it’s that where they go, trouble always follows. Still, even I had to admit that they were pretty cute, and that it was with quite the heavy heart that I eventually went online to look for ways to get rid of them.

I didn’t have to look far before I found a website called Get Rid of Things dot com that sounded perfect. (Sadly, the fact that it was so easy to find the site only confirmed their status as vermin in my mind). One click later and I was reading the following advice: “Although often portrayed in movies as cute, curious, and smart as the dickens, what movies fail to show us is what an incredible pain in the ass they can be. They are quite at home in the middle of towns and cities, and because of their dexterity, they are quite adept at dumpster diving. Also, they are omnivorous, and will eat fruit, fish, meat, veggies, bugs, lo mein, jello, slim jims and just about anything else they can get their little paws on.”

The website then went on to offer the following advice for keeping them away.

1.)Protect your trash.

2.)Keep your yard clean.

3.)Make them feel unwelcome.

4.)Scare them away.

5.)Trap and relocate them.

Then the website went on to mention things like lacing the area with ammonia or predator urine, putting up scarecrows, and, as a last resort, shooting and killing them. While I thought the last few bits of advice were a little over the top, I was downright appalled at the final one. After all, as annoying as I find them to be sometimes, I still don’t think it’s legal to kill them. Even with a permit.

And then I realized that I had gone to the wrong How To Get Rid of Things page. I had thought I was on the one about teenage boys, but as it turns out, I was on the one about raccoons.

Eh. Except for the killing part, all of the advice still seemed spot on: in fact, I went back online to see if I could find a reliable source for some teenage boy predator urine. That was before I remembered that I’m already living with the perfect source: the father of a teenage girl. Now I just wonder how hard it’s going to be to convince my husband to pee into a cup.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive