Monday, August 29, 2011

Kate and Allie

Remember the 80's tv sitcom Kate and Allie? Please tell me I'm not the only person dorky and old enough to have this as a cultural reference of their youth. Ok, let me jog your memory. Two single moms live together raising their kids, hilarity ensues complete with canned clapping infused in post production. (Just to make sure you know it's funny and all.) Well, that was me and Kirsten and our collective 6 kids when we visited Colorado. My house is being rented out, so for 10 days the kids and I are staying at Kirsten's. And for the next ten days Kirsten and I are Kate and Allie. I'm not sure which one I am, but if I had to guess I'd say I'm Allie because Jane Curtain and I have the same gummy smile. Which is why I give that smirky I'm not showing my teeth smile...



See?

We moved to Colorado in December 2004 and I was on a quest. Since I had so carefully chosen Colorado totally out of the blue to be our new permanent home, I wanted carefully chosen girlfriends. Ok, so Colorado wasn't carefully chosen, but I did take friend making extremely serious. Seriously, I did. Who wants to end up with soul sucking vampire friends? And you know that they exist because you've probably got at least one. And at this point, you know not even horrific garlic breath will make them go away.

So one day in early 2005 soon after we arrived in our new home of record, I was at the park with the kids when I struck up a conversation with another mom at the park. We were having a lovely chat and I surreptitiously checked for fangs and didn't see any. I liked her and hoped she wasn't a werewolf in sheep's clothing because I don't know how to check for that. Things were going great until we had to go because one of the kids had some urgent business that can not be attended to at the park with the closed restroom. And then her cell phone rang. Damn it. What are the chances that I would run into her again and I don't even know her name. The next day I'm at the library and I see her. Ok, I have this weird thing where I assume people won't remember me and I feel really gooby and awkward. Actually in all honesty I always feel gooby and awkward. But she does remember me. But that's probably because I just met her the day before. We exchange numbers and voila, I officially have one friend, and her name is Judy.

That August, we go to River's kindergarten orientation and meet his teacher and other kids in his class. His tablemate is Quinn. And in the flurry of putting the boys crayons away his mom and I start talking. Her name is Kirsten. Since it's not a common name I tell her I have a friend Kiersten (different spelling, same pronunciation). Kirsten's daughter is Molly. Oh my god, my Kiersten has a daughter Molly too! And come to think of it their son's middle name is Quinn. This is when I think she's starting to think I'm a big fat liar. Then somehow Judy comes up. You know Judy? I'm friends with Judy too! That's it. She staring at me blankly like I'm a total psycho. Because come on, I sound like a total psycho liar.

And I'm not a psycho liar. I'm a stalker. Day after day, I'd casually show up early at kindergarten drop off looking for opportunities to make conversation (which I totally suck at, trust me on this one). Then I'd linger and let the kids play for a bit after pick up. I like her and I want her to like me too. Not only that, but the women she hung out with were totally cool, laid back, had great kids and a huge one for me, they're funny. And that is how I became friends with an amazing bunch of women. I wore them down. I think Judy may have vouched for me too, although I'm not quite sure what she had to go on. But she is from California and I think people there know a stalker is just a friend you haven't met yet. It's been 6 years since then and for the last year and a half of that I've been in Morocco missing them.

Here are just a couple excerpts of the adventures of Kate and Allie (and friends) from our trip.

Episode 1:
The reunion show where everything is so comfortably familiar you wonder if its a re-run.

Episode 2:
The one where River's hair catches on fire. I would personally like to find a way to make this one scratch and sniff.

Episode 3:
The great hunt for the Albino Sasquatch and proof he really does exist. (Upcoming post.)

Episode 4:
The pork loin that almost wasn't, co-narrated by the non-existent bbq grill and broken oven.

Episode 5:
The camping episode that proves that night terrors are definitely scarier than ghost stories.

Episode 6:
Swords vs. air soft guns. Are limbs and eye balls really necessary?

Episode 7:
The no-this-isn't-the-Andy Griffith-show-even-though-the-bar-in-town-closes-at-9pm-like-it-would-in-Mayberry show.

Episode 8:
The serious episode that tackles the humiliation that is IPCAYKOS (Inappropriate Public Crying at Your Kids Old School)

Episode 9:
When an old flame returns will sparks fly or is love lost forever? A middle school harlequin romance.

Episode 10:
One of the kids says they aren't getting on the plane to return to Morocco. Viewer discretion is advised.



After 24 hours of travel with 4 exhausted and irritable kids and we're back in Morroco. Let me just say there are no words for how unfun this return trip was in so many ways. Only 10 months left. I can do this! We can do this!

I'd like to dedicate this post to all my Colorado girlfriends. Remember, just when you think you're all by yourself, you're not. But that's probably because I'm long-distance stalking you, you know facebook style. And in case you haven't figured it out yet, yes, I am your soul sucking vampire friend...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quick, I Gotta Fast



So it's almost the end of Ramadan and while the Muslim world has endured almost 30 days of fasting, I've not even attempted one. I've never fasted a whole day in my life. I tried once when I was a teenager because my older sister decided one year on Ash Wednesday that we should fast like good Catholics. (She's always been a much better person than I am.) I don't know how she convinced me to do it. She's the rule following, organized "we should do this" one and I was always the slacker "okay, sure I'll do that", rule bending breaking opposite. And true to my slacker nature, I broke fast at about 1:30pm that day. The Catholic guilt has consumed me for years and now here it is Ramadan. I must redeem myself. Quick, I gotta fast!

Can you imagine not one, but 30 consecutive days of denying yourself not only food, but water, tobacco, sex and alcohol. Actually, Muslims are never allowed to drink alcohol, but I thought I'd throw it in there to emphasize how dismal Ramadan sounds. All this denial and self-discipline is supposed to teach patience, spirituality and humility. But have you been in afternoon traffic during Ramadan? There is very little empathy, charity, generosity or purity of thought when famished people are driving. In fact, Ramadan is the only time of year I have ever witnessed fist fights in the streets. So does appetence effect spiritual awareness?

Today is the day I'll find out.

7:00am I get up after trying to force myself to sleep in, but I'm old with kids, so I can't.
7:01am Smelling wafts of coffee Craig has brewed. Damn it, I really wish I could sleep in.
7:20am Morning coughing fit which are the remnants of pneumonia. A drink of water would wash these phlegm balls down nicely, but I don't.
7:30am Morning dootie happens right on schedule without the caffiene stimulus. (I'm sorry that you know my morning poo time and now so are you.)
9:00am I make bbq sauce and caesar dressing for a party later on.
9:10am I realize the great thing about cooking is tasting, but I can't so I recruit taste-testers.
10:00am Head to the grocery store to get a few things I need. Luckily I'm not hungry and the grocery store here doesn't have anything tempting anyhow.
10:40am Return home and make watermelon salad for a party in the evening.



10:42am Again, realize how hard it is to prepare food and NOT sample. What cook doesn't eat as they cook? It's just wrong.
11:30am The kids and Craig eat lunch and strangely I'm not even hungry. Did I mention I LOVE food and I cook/shop for/prepare and talk about food a lot during the day?
12:00pm I thought I would be starving by now. Not even a grumble.
12:30pm We head to the pool for an afternoon of swimming.
2:00pm The kids chomp down the snacks I packed because they're "starving". This is ironic since they've eaten a shit load of food already and I've had nothing all day.
3:00pm We return home from the pool.
3:05pm I'm shocked I haven't caved. This whole post was going to be about how I caved and was a raving bitch.
3:10pm Craig says the fast has made me calmer than usual. Which gets me thinking, am I usually a high strung raving bitch? Is that what he meant?
4:00pm I finish the Caesar salad for the party and I got the recipe for the dressing off the internet and hope it's not gross since I can't try it myself before the party where I will serve it to real live people.
5:00pm We arrive at our friends house. I induldge in a glass of water.
5:30pm Ok, I'm at a party. I'm not going to wait until 7:04pm to officially break my fast cause that would be unparty-esque of me.
5:31pm Muslims traditionally break fast with water and dates. Me? I break fast with cumin gouda on a cracker and red wine. Cheers!
7:05 The official call to prayer and cannon boom is heard throughout the city breaking the fast.

It sounds a little something like this..

(Oh and this is me accurately translating every word of what is being said during the call to prayer.)



(And yes, I'm positive the word "please" was said so many times because apparently Moroccans are second in politeness only to Canadians.)

So while Moroccans are feasting on sweets and tagines at their Iftar. We're going American style. BBQ chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, watermelon, potato salad, pasta salad, mac and cheese.



So what what have I learned today? I would make a great anorexic. (Please note: I do not condone eating disorders nor do I or have I ever had one.) I've also learned the word fasting is completely misleading. Fasting is in fact a slow process. It should be called lethargic-ing or somnolent-ing or sloth-ing. It would be far more accurate. And finally I can absolve myself of my Catholic guilt I have carried with me since I was a teenager. But I did break fast with a glass of red wine and a cracker. Oh my god! That's just like communion. And I haven't been to communion since I don't know when. Damn it, this guilt isn't going away any time soon. I guess that's my epiphany.

Florida

I used to think Florida was the coolest place on earth. Obviously "coolest" being a poor choice of words. See I met Craig in Holland in 1988(long story) and he was from Orlando and I was from a town outside of Buffalo. At the time any place that I didn't have to shovel snow and freeze my ass off sounded like paradise. So when we got married and moved to Miami where Craig went to med school and I worked full-time and part-time and went to grad school, I was pretty stoked. The fact of the matter is, we were so damn busy with all that work and school we didn't even know what city we lived in and it didn't even matter. But living in Florida did allow me to shave 20 minutes of my morning routine because I didn't need to scrape ice off my car. SCORE!

We moved out of Florida in 1996 when Craig sold his soul to the army. But, we visit family and friends there once a year or so. And while we're there we...

build sandcastles at the beach...



sit in puddles and have wet sand draped on your legs...



surf until you see a shark and head back to shore...



canoe and swim in gator-infested water (which Craig swore to me for years wasn't alligator infested, but of course IS).



Then you go to Gatorland or some other outdoor attraction where you are not in water...



which clearly means you're either clinically insane or just a stupid tourist. The ratio of insanity to tourist is 2:4 in the below photo although it's hard to tell the difference...



Cause why would you do that? Why on earth would you leave your air-conditioned house, air-conditioned car, air-conditioned work place, air-conditioned mall, air-conditioned anything else and face that Florida traffic to go into that inferno? WHY?



Now, we always thought we'd end up in Florida. But in October 2004 with three young kids and two months before Craig separated from the army, I actually thought about living in Florida. We've never in our married lives gotten to choose where we lived. The army always chose for us. So I confessed. I hate Florida and I don't want to live there. You see, I love being outside in the fresh air and it turns out I really like having seasons. Florida is just too hot and too crowded for this small town girl who thought she was a big city girl, only to discover she's a small town girl after all. I want to live somewhere cool, where it actually is cool, like Colorado. Not that either of us had been to Colorado or knew anyone in Colorado or had any job prospects in Colorado. But what we did have was the idea that Colorado would have the laid back outdoor lifestyle we wanted for our family. Five years of living there proved me, I mean us, right.

The day before we left on our trip from Morocco to Florida we told the kids the surprise we've been dying to tell them. Not only did we come to the states to visit Florida, but we're also going home to visit Colorado!

To be Continued...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wedding Favors

How does one person really know that they love someone else? Like really, really know? Well, they decide to get married in central Florida in the middle of July outside on a golf hole when it's over 100 degrees. This my friends is love and as you know, love is blind or in this case, love is hot or flame retardant or something like that. I ask you, is there any better reason to go to Florida in July? And maybe more importantly is this couple truly flame retardant? Wait. Are we?

We arrived in Florida the week of the wedding. It was in the midst of the last minute hustle and bustle of family arriving, down to the second preparations, phone calls and socializing that every bride and groom must endure. This is the inevitable wedding stress that begins a marriage. Sitting back and watching them and their nervous excitement that their day would all go perfect, I was relieved it wasn't my wedding. Or was I?

Craig and I were married almost 20 years ago in 1992. The year is important. If you're younger than 30 you may not realize that in '92 the trends of the 80's still weren't quite over yet. You see, big New Jersey mall hair was still cool. Dresses still had poof sleeves and bows placed right on your ass for emphasis or parenthesis or whatever. People still gave disgusting chalky pastel mints that no one actually liked or ate as wedding favors. DJ's were still playing the hokey pokey and even worse, the chicken dance even when you told the dj that under no circumstances was he to play it. Wedding cakes all had little plastic people with creepy painted on hair on top of the very, very boring vanilla cake. It was a hideous, hideous time in history. Especially wedding history. Yes, 1992 was the year BEFORE the return to classically beautiful weddings people actually wanted to have photos of and not photos taken by a legally blind man in his 70's. In hindsight, he was probably doing us a big favor with the blurry pictures. And this is why you will never see a photo of my wedding. Ever. And no I'm not bitter, just bittersweet. Ok, maybe not.

Cut to July 30th, 2011. It's Paul and Ashley's day and it's finally here. Paul is Craig's youngest brother. I first met him when he was 11 and he's been like a brother to Craig and I. Well, you know what I mean. Paul and Ashley had been friends for years before they ever started dating. And Paul? He's a clever guy, so he knows when you have a beautiful woman with an even more beautiful soul who is dare I say...out of your league you should seize the opportunity to marry up. But you're not here to hear a sappy love story. No, let's get to what you really want, the pictures.

Let's start with the uber cute favors shall we? With all that cuteness, but yet so temptingly chocolaty one must contemplate the age old question. To eat or not to eat?



The venue is elegantly perfect. Wedding 101: Bows on the backs of chairs make them look classy while bows on the back of women make them look like 18 wheelers.



The pulchritudinously manicured cake. (Yes, pulchritudinous is a synonym of beautiful, conversely the antonym of beautiful is plastic people on top of a cake.)



Ashley's dress is absolutely gorgeous. Strapless is definitely the way to obliterate poofy sleeves.



Ashley looking ethereal with an elegant updo and a single flower. (I'm pretty sure the flower symbolizes her deflowering to occur later on in the evening...)



Even the bridesmaids are pretty in pink dresses. A testament that Ashley loves these women? Look, there's no bows on their asses!



Then the photographer. You would never know he wasn't feeling well when he took these shots because they're totally sick. I particularly like this shot with the sidewalk signifying that they are at the beginning of their journey together. Oooohhh, watch out for the gum!



You can't tell how hot it is in the photos, so the photographer used the sprinklers in the background to represent how drenched in sweat they are. I like the way this guy thinks.



Gratuitous, we're in love and we're looking longingly at each other like we're gonna kiss photo. Gross. Get a room already!



Ok, this is all so flippin' perfect I want to puke. After they're married 20 years are they going to look back at how dated their wedding was? NO. No, they're not! They're gonna be like look, look how flippin' perfect it all was dear. Let me be the voice of reality here. No one can have the picture perfect wedding. No one.

So I'm going to do you a wedding favor right now.

I'm going to give you the one photo that the photographer couldn't.

And thank you again Ashley for allowing Paul to marry up...



If you would like to reciprocate the wedding favor you can photoshop Craig and my heads on your favorite wedding photo.

Photos courtesy of Teran Wedding Photography.

Friday, August 19, 2011

We're Comin' to America

When we left off we were three days out from our trip to Florida. What I neglected to mention, I had pneumonia. How exactly does one get pneumonia in Africa in July? Especially when I can't think of any other person who was sick at the time I could have gotten it from. Weird. I finished my last mega dose of antibiotics the day before we left, though I was still exhausted and hacking up ginormous phlegm balls. But no matter, we had a plane to Florida to catch.

I wish I could tell you a rousing story of our getting on the plane and how it was so meaningful to leave Morocco right before Ramadan blah, blah, blah. But the truth is I don't remember it. My memory of the trip begins when we got on our Air France flight from Paris to Orlando. You see, this is when things start to change. This is when we all see that there are tvs in every seat back for our 9 hour flight. Did I mention we don't travel with psps or portable dvds because we don't have psps or portable dvds? Bless me father, for I have sinned. It's been at least 22 years since my last confession. Before I rattle off my long list of sins I'd like to take this moment to thank you for tvs in airplane seat backs. Without them I'm sure there would be at least 5more sins on my list...yada, yada, yada. Amen.

I have to say this Air France flight totally changed my perception of the French. I'm sure you've heard that they are cold, snobby and aloof. But I am here to tell you that cold, snobby and aloof people do not put tv monitors in coach and they also don't deliver a delicious bottle of red and a bottle of liquor right on your tray in coach. RIGHT ON THE TRAY I said! Right after they deliver my tray the flight attendant serves up the kids trays also with wine and liquor on it. Cha ching! Either they'll sleep really well or I'll have 4 extra bottles of a fabulous French red. Either way it's a win-win. Who am I kidding? I would never waste a bottle of red on my kids, that's what benedryl is for. Then before I can snag them, the one who giveth taketh awayeth. Damn it! Forget everything I said about the French they are pretentious snobs.



So after a long flight where the kids watched movies until they're eyeballs were seared pink and I coughed for last two consecutive hours, we finally arrived in Orlando. When we got to immigration and I was still coughing the agent integrated me to see if I had tb or some other rare African disease before finally stamping my passport. Now finally we're in the USA. I've been waiting to be enveloped by the sweet sounds of English. Unfortunately, no one in Florida actually speaks English. Everyone knows that the official language of Florida is Spanglish.

Despu├ęs tenemos el coche de alquiler (after we got the rental car), we drove to Craig's mom's house. The kids saw grandma, their aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time in a year and a half. This begins the first night of many where we stay up late partying. Okay, many really means every night. The next morning we were all up at 5:00am. My kids don't sleep in. They are the kids you don't want to have at a sleepover. Considering it's 9:00am Morocco time and the kids are usually awake up at 6:00am, I guess that's not too bad. But what the hell do you do that early in the morning?

You go to Target.

Duh!

Thank god we went at the butt crack of dawn because the only thing more overwhelming than shopping at Target would have been shopping at a busy Target. And there was so much stuff arranged so neatly and displayed in such a luxuriously hygienic environment it was total sensory overload. Ember was running with the cart doing 360s and wheelies just because she could. I mean there was all that empty space after all. The shopping was so daunting, I'm glad we have a mission. The first priority is to get the kids clothes and shoes to wear to their uncle's wedding later in the week. My kids like any other kid, hate shopping. But because they haven't been forced to shop since we left the states this is well actually fun for them and they go to the dressing rooms without whining. I wish I had a cheesy music video of them trying on clothes you know 90's style like in Pretty Woman. But that would be weird. But I could play it for their prom dates and embarrass them. And I'd like that.

After the clothes shopping is done we go check out some other things...



like crackers and granola bars. Did you hear me? Crackers AND granola bars people!!!



And did you know Target sells wine? Did you? They even have these cute little boxed wines. And they have a Malbec. And they are actually good. I felt like I should taste test them for you to spare you any pain and suffering a boxed wine can cause. Please note that if you live in Colorado, Target still doesn't sell wine in any store other than a liquor store. My condolences to all of you that this ridiculously archaic law affects.



And of all the kooky things you can buy in America, did you know that you can buy fake toenails? Yes. Really. I will not road test fake toenails or fake fingernails for that matter. And painting my nails? I'm not into that either. I did get my first (and probably last) mani/pedi this trip. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I totally got the impression that the nail techs were discussing the disgusting state of my feet in Korean. And I'd rather have disgusting feet than be the subject of salon banter I can't understand. On second thought, it's probably better that way.

After all was said and done our cart contained:

1 camera for Jade (purchased with money grandpa sent her for her birthday).
Pants for the boys for the wedding.
Shirts for the boys for the wedding.
Belts for the boys for the wedding.
Shoes for the boys for the wedding.
Black socks for the boys for the wedding.
Socks and underwear for all the kids.
Skirts and shirts for the girls for school.
Shorts and shirts for the boys for school.
Lots O' Printer cartridges. (Which now means we can't use the convenient excuse of we have no ink so you can't print out that frivolous color photo of Big Foot. Damn it.)
Two boxes o' wine.
Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries.
Sunscreen.
Workout outfit for me that is so soft I might never take it off. And that would be totally stanky and gross in America, but perfectly acceptable in Africa.

And then we go to the cashier who is so frickin' chipper at this ridiculously early hour I'm sure she's on prozac or she had a super big gulp size coffee this morning. Probably both. In two minutes or less she tells us her whole life story and comments on our sunscreen purchase. She doesn't wear sunscreen herself, it's all a scam by the sunscreen companies she says. This improbable, unnatural, over the top artificial happiness mixed with corporate skepticism is just so American. I haven't missed it and I've never been more desperate to get out of Target.

But first, the grand total of our maiden shopping voyage.

$700

SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS! Are you kidding me? This is just day one people! We haven't gotten: new sneakers, school supplies, pajamas, books, watches for my middle school boys who need to keep track of time but probably won't, an mp3 player for Sky because the post office declined shipment of the one we ordered him for Christmas, glasses for River and reading glasses for me.

Maybe this is all a dream or some crazy pneumonia induced coughing fit hallucination. But then why am I coughing wearing this super comfy workout outfit while drinking a smooth boxed Malbec while the kids are outside skateboarding in grandma's cul de sac drenched in sweat with beads of sunscreen rolling off that sweat. Maybe the cashier was right. Sunscreen doesn't actually work in Florida because you can't help but sweat it off. Now where can I get some prozac and a drum-sized coffee?

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