My daughter Brontë LOVES stickers and makeup.
She combined both her passions today by creating the world’s most awesome eyebrows.
Totally nailed it, right? 🙂
My daughter Brontë LOVES stickers and makeup.
She combined both her passions today by creating the world’s most awesome eyebrows.
Totally nailed it, right? 🙂
“Hemlines leaving everything to the imagination…”
This was my entry for this week’s Six Word Story Challenge at Sometimes Stellar Storyteller. The theme was “revealing.”
Obviously, you could go different directions with this theme: revealing info, revealing gestures, revealing clothing… maybe even write about a youth potion for cows (HAR DEE HAR HAR, couldn’t help it).
The challenge is open through Saturday and anyone can play. I recommend it–it’s like a creative brain sprint before endurance writing
Picture a little girl, aged three or four, with long blonde hair and a pouting round face. Hayley’s forehead hair swoops to her right temple where it’s fixed with a tiny bow. The kind of bow you’d expect to find above poodle ears.
Hayley was already playing at the library’s Lego table when Brontë approached her. “Hi!” Brontë says. “My name is Brontë and I’m four. What’s your name? Do you wanna play?”
“NO, I HATE YOU. GO AWAY. THESE ARE MY TOYS.”
Brontë blinked at her before moving to the other end of the Lego table. She picked up a handful of rectangles.
“STOP IT. THOSE ARE MINE. GO AWAY!”
I waited for Hayley’s mom to intervene.
I took Brontë’s hand as we walked toward her little sister, Bridget. Bridget is two years old and feeling every inch of it. I don’t need a Bridget/Hayley collision happening where we’re supposed to be quiet.
We cross to the outside playground, where the girls run away squealing. Brontë heads to the swings as Bridget tiptoes up to a pivoting blue seat.
I notice the seat is much lower than it used to be, undoubtedly because too many children had been getting hurt. Kids sit on it then use their bodyweight to start whipping around. It gets going fast enough that flying off is inevitable.
Bidgie sits on it and starts leaning. It begins to move. She twirls in a light circle as I sit nearby, watching.
Hayley runs up. Apparently, she came outside too.
“GET OFF. I WANT TO PLAY WITH THAT!”
Bidgie stares at her in a slow revolve.
“GET OFF!” Hayley walks up to Bidgie, putting out both arms as she prepares to push the baby off her toy.
I jump up with a look that convinces Hayley to back away.
Bidgie turns fast and faster. My heart beats a little harder. She spins quicker and quicker until she’s nothing but a flesh-toned baby blur.
And she flies off the apparatus, smacking the ground with her head. Oh no…
I fight my instincts to rush to her aid. Kids are tougher than we think, but if they see you panic, they will panic.
No point in preemptive alarm. If they’re hurt, they’ll cry without being reminded.
Bidgie stands up without incident and walks to the neighboring ladybug car, scrambling inside. She grabs the handlebars and shakes as though she has spiders in her pants.
Seeing the open blue seat, Hayley wanders toward it.
Right as Hayley begins to sit, Bidgie shouts “NO!”
It’s an unrelated “no.” I think Bidgie’s just angry that the ladybug won’t take off, no matter how hard she shakes.
But it’s tough to say, because two-year-olds are fond of saying “no.” They like the power of refusal, the freedom of choice, the way the word rolls of their tongue. Maybe it’s just payback for having to hear it all the time.
It’s one of the quirks of being two.
Another quirk is believing that everyone is always talking to you. So when Bidgie screams “No,” Hayley freezes.
I notice it. Bidgie notices it.
Hayley approaches the blue seat again. As she begins to sit, Bidgie shouts “NO!”
Hayley stops and Bidgie smiles.
Bidgie waits for Hayley to try again. Hayley looks around her before touching the blue seat with her hand.
Hayley screams, “BUT I WANT TO!” before throwing both arms above her head and running away.
It worked. Bidgie says “no” a couple more times, curious if anything else will happen.
Then she looks toward her sister and nods.
It had already been a rough day by the time the bleached blonde in the white SUV was giving me the middle finger.
Rough, as in my two-year-old daughter Bridget had been throwing irrational fits for hours, those kinds of spiraling tantrums where the kid slams their own head against the floor then screams even harder because their head hurts and you just can’t talk them down from the ledge.
Her antics were driving big sister Brontë up the wall too, because we were supposed to go to the library. I had promised we would go to the library earlier, as four-year-old Brontë kept reminding me.
Again and again.
Finally, we hopped in the car after Bridget calmed down enough to maybe hold it together for a while.
If we can just get to the library, I thought, maybe the kids will start having fun and calm down.
And the girls’ faces did light up upon seeing the library as we crossed the parking lot holding hands. Running up to open the big library door, they giggled while running straight to the play area inside.
Strolling in behind them, I walked over to the check-in machine within play-area viewing distance. I plopped my giant pile of books down on the table with great relief then pulled my head to my shoulder to work out the kinks.
I glanced over to check on my kids. Where’s Bridget?
Stepping back toward the play area, I was hoping to find her innocently standing somewhere since she’s little enough to disappear behind a chair. I looked around, but…
Grabbing Brontë’s hand, I started wandering about the library, softly calling “Briiiiiidggggggget…” as I began to panic. Just then, some flustered library employees came running up.
“Is that your baby upstairs?” they asked. “She’s running around tossing books off the shelves.”
Turning purple, I almost said “No, but I’m going to march her right back to her negligent mother and give that lady a piece of my mind.”
But I couldn’t, because I was right about to bring them the mangled From Up On Poppy Hill DVD we’d checked out that Bridget had gotten her hands on a few days earlier.
Instead, I mumbled some weak excuse about her taking off real fast before hoisting an angry Bridget onto my hip and returning to deal with the giant pile of books. She kicked the stack all over the floor a couple of times before I managed to check them all in.
Today’s library trip just wasn’t meant to be. I grabbed Brontë, handled the mangled DVD fiasco, and carted the thrashing toddler circus back to the car.
The kids were wailing as I drove toward the freeway, fantasizing about how I was going to lay them down the moment we got home. Coming up the off-ramp onto an exit-only lane, I pictured myself shutting their bedroom door before stepping outside for a breath of fresh air.
And quiet. That beautiful, peaceful, upcoming moment of quiet. I put on my left blinker.
An SUV far, far away began to speed up behind me, but there was still plenty of room and my lane was ending. I went left.
Then I noticed the SUV’s blonde driver in my rearview mirror. Pouty-mouthed beneath her giant sunglasses, she flipped me off wildly and conspicuously, so I wouldn’t miss it.
OH YEAH!? WELL, RIGHT BACK AT YA! I thought while throwing both arms out the window.
SUV Lady clearly wasn’t expecting this because she sped up to the next exit and left. Either she was scared or she had been planning to exit all along, which only make her outrage all the more confusing.
I watched her disappearing angry blonde head for a minute before hearing a little voice peep up across the backseat: “Mommy, what was that? With your fingers?”
Okay, try to be casual…
“That was a very rude gesture we’re not supposed to make, but mommy got caught up in the moment.”
“Why?” Brontë asked.
“Because that lady made it first.”
“Because she’s a… Umm, because some people are mad that other people need to use the road because they think only they should be allowed to drive and no one else should ever get in front of them. See, mommy needed to drive in front of that lady, so the lady got angry and made a rude gesture with her hand.”
“So… her mean?”
“Yes, she’s mean. She doesn’t want to share.”
“You make it with both hands.”
“Yes, to show the other lady how wrong she was. But it’s not a nice thing to do.”
“You did it by accident?”
That seemed to satisfy Brontë and she dropped the subject, shifting into yet another rehash about why Pinkie Pie is the best My Little Pony and the many reasons we need more pasta in our lives.
And since she hasn’t been running around the house flipping off her sister left and right, I figure we negotiated that minefield about as well we could.
Could have gone worse, at any rate. Someone could’ve started a fire.
In case you hadn’t already put this together, I’m a huge fan of movies and television. Give me some good dialogue, a well-crafted plot, and I’m on board… whether it’s Breaking Bad or Gravity Falls.
But after watching all of these make-believe little universes, I’ve noticed certain quirky conventions common across all genres. We’re so used to seeing them, we don’t even think about how unrealistic they are.
I’m not talking about corpses reanimating into dangerous zombies or aliens taking over the Earth, either. Those are part of a wild premise you’re supposed to accept from the start.
No, I’m talking about everyday, run-of-the-mill oddities that are hard to un-see once someone points them out:
You might see someone order food or drinks or get into a cab sometimes, but you’ll never see money changing hands unless it’s specifically part of a plot device.
By this, I mean you could see someone ordering a round for everyone in the building while holding fistfuls of cash and tipping wildly to show how rich he is, or someone’s card being declined to show how his life is slowly unraveling to the rock-bottom point.
You might even see a group of people divvying up the check at a restaurant to give us insight into which characters are stingy and which are inclined to mooch off their friends.
What you never see, however, is the routine settling of bills that’s part of everyone else’s daily life experience. Usually, movie people just hop out of the cab or leave the restaurant like it’s an acceptable thing to do.
While we’re on the subject of leaving restaurants, have you ever noticed how often a couple of TV characters order drinks and then don’t drink them?
Usually, a server walks by their table to set down the beer/wine/vodka that our characters ordered, then something dramatic happens, prompting one or both to leave the table…
With their untouched drinks just sitting there.
Just once, I’d love for the restaurant manager to come running after them, yelling, “WHAT!? You just order some drinks and then take off? Who’s gonna pay for that?”
If you pay attention, you’ll notice that most movie characters never sign off before ending conversations on the phone.
That would make sense if they were having an argument, but it seems to happen all the time.
I don’t know about you, but if I were on the other side of the line, that would seem pretty abrupt. I would wonder what I did or said to make someone slam the phone down on me, or even whether something bad might’ve just happened to them.
But not so in the bizarre world of film or television, where characters just stop the conversation as soon as they’re done. No one ever seems to mind. No one ever calls back, wondering why the hell the phone line just went dead.
Actually though, I do have a real-life example of someone who did this: my grandfather.
I don’t know if it’s because he grew up in a household where they didn’t have phones and then never familiarized himself with normal social rules for phone transactions, or if he just lived by the beat of his own drum, but he would hang up the phone without warning after any random exchange.
A typical phone call with him sounded something like this:
I call him… [Ring! Ring!]
Me: Hi grandpa! It’s Erin. Is grandma there?
After a minute, I call him back… [Ring! Ring!]
Me: Hi grandpa, it’s me again. Do you know when grandma is going to be back?
Grandpa: Well, she went to the grocery store, so ’bout an hour.
I would’ve thought he was furious at me if I didn’t know any better, but that was just how grandpa talked on the phone. He seemed to confuse it for a telegram.
And the strangeness of this encounter kind of illustrates what it would really be like if people used phones the way film and TV characters do.
At any rate, these weird behaviors, taken together, show us what an oddly centered universe we find in the world of fictional entertainment. No one truly exists except the characters we are watching at the time… No one needs to be paid, or told you don’t plan on drinking the full pints you left at your table, or given explanations for your abrupt departure on the phone.
I’m proud to announce my “Should have translated the Chinese before tattooing” entry into the Sometimes Stellar Storyteller’s Six Word Story Challenge came in third place this week. The theme was: impulsive.
For this week’s challenge, on the theme “despicable,” my entry was:
“Eh, someone else will get that.”
Good luck to all participants
Having kids can make you rethink childhood, filling your world with new toys and cartoons while bringing up long-forgotten memories about how it felt to be a kid.
But lately, I’ve been reassessing adulthood too. Maybe it’s because kid society sets up an obvious parallel, or maybe my mind just tends to wander after hearing the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song for the forty-millionth time.
At any rate, after thinking long and hard about the adult lifestyle, I’ve decided it’s completely crap. Even beyond all the bills, long working hours, and slower recovery times:
I can distinctly remember thinking, as a young child, that my pets were holding out on me because they could probably talk if they wanted to. I was also convinced that becoming a fairytale princess who lived in a magical castle was a viable career track.
Why not? These things happened on TV and in movies all the time. It’s kind of like adults thinking they’ve actually gained useful medical knowledge after watching enough episodes of House or Grey’s Anatomy.
Eventually though, you grow up and learn that animals will never ever have long conversations with you, won’t help you clean up or sew costumes, and don’t wear cute little outfits in their adorable secret treehouses.
Plus, these so-called “magicians” are just con men with impressive slight-of-hand abilities.
These revelations could explain why the Harry Potter series is so popular among adults. We just can’t accept never being able to turn invisible or fly.
Sure, it’s “adorable” when little kids build Lego castles and play with Star Wars figures, but adults doing the exact same things are suddenly “socially-retarded dorks.”
Everyone loves it when kids put on costumes and start role-playing, yet Cosplay and SCAA aficionados are considered deranged the minute they put down the coffee and stop discussing interest rates. Cause why would any rational person prefer superpowers to some hardcore monotonous number crunching?
Making friends as an adult is a tedious balancing act. Everyone’s so suspicious of strangers now that you find yourself always trying to be friendly without coming off needy, original without seeming crazy, or ethical without looking like a butt-clenched Puritan.
It’s a fine tightrope to walk and the constant class-pegging scrutiny only complicates matters. You could be talking about the weather, for example, but deep down you know everyone’s silently judging the clothes you’re wearing, the car you drive and the line of work you’re in.
Oh, you drive a Prius? Must be a quasi-Socialist tree-hugger.
An SUV? Possibly a holier-than-thou Soccer Mom. Check for highlights.
A truck? Clearly a gun-toting redneck that can point out inconsistencies in the whole “moon-landing” hoax.
My four-year-old’s friend-making process is soooooo much simpler. It goes something like this:
My daughter runs up to some kid wearing a My Little Pony shirt and yells, “YOU LIKE PINKIE PIE? I LIKE PINKIE PIE! WANNA BE BEST FRIENDS?”
And then, realizing they “get” each other, they walk off holding hands.
When you’re a little kid, mastering basic grooming standards is pretty simple:
Hair brushed? Check!
Skirt/shirt not glaringly tucked into my underwear? Check!
Shoes match? Check!
And you’re good.
When you’re a teenager, things get a little tougher. By then, you also have to worry about your clothes being reasonably stylish and the current state of your acne outbreak, but you’re still mostly focused on your own body being sufficiently groomed.
Once you hit adulthood, though, grooming your body gets much harder. Your metabolism is plummeting and you have less time to play outside.
Clothing standards get more formal too. Now you’ve got to shell out for work attire and event wear.
But that’s not all, the whole concept of your appearance expands in scope.
Now you have to have nice furniture and dishes and entertainment systems and office supplies. And you have to keep it all clean, so your guests don’t think you’re some kind of degenerate with ketchup stains on your shirt and dried-out pizza crusts under your couch cushions.
If you rent an apartment, you feel like you should be trying to buy a house.
And once you live in a house, you’ve got to worry about keeping the plumbing, the exterior paint job, and your roof intact.
But that’s not all. Now you also have “landscaping”responsibilities. You need to make sure your patio furniture is cute enough and have long, boring discussions about building retaining walls.
You’ve got to get your lawn mowed, your hedges trimmed, your pests controlled, your fences intact, and your rain gutters cleaned before your neighbors, and possibly the homeowner’s association, come after you.
It’s not just your body anymore. You have to manage an entire ecosystem.
No one ever claps for me when I pee in the toilet anymore, at least not without sarcasm. No one ever compliments me on finishing an entire meal without getting it all over the table.
And no one ever predicts a wildly successful career because of some basic proficiency I just demonstrated: Holy crap, did you just REPLACE A LIGHTBULB? Folks, we have the next electrical engineer on our hands!
No, for that much social approval, adults have to win a Nobel Peace prize or something.
Adults who get caught painting on walls are fined or jailed. No one praises their creativity or need for artistic expression.
No one ever thinks adults who binge on chocolate while watching cartoons are adorable. Suddenly, it’s all “asking for diabetes” and “heart attack waiting to happen”city.
Likewise, if I, say, flipped some guy’s shirt up at Safeway, people wouldn’t chuckle while saying I was just being curious. Maybe I WAS being curious… is that so hard to understand?
Adults are MEAN.
Say you’re having a really stressful day and after filling up your shopping cart and waiting in a super-long line at Costco, the cashier hands your card back and says, “I’m sorry Ma’am (or ‘Sir’), your card has been declined.”
Imagine if you could just chuck your purse (or wallet) at the nearest wall, throw your head back and scream “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!” before dropping on the floor and rolling around, kicking your legs and punching anything in the vicinity.
Or say if your spouse suggested seeing a really dumb movie, you could scream “NO, THAT’S STUPID!’ in response before running in circles to express your irritation.
Or pretend your boss asks you to stay late at work on Friday evening to finish a boring project and you start shouting “I DON’T WANT TO I DON’T WANT TO” while dropping your files and running straight out of the building.
Okay, maybe allowing that sort of behavior would get pretty inconvenient after the initial thrill, but it could start wearing down the crushing stockpiles of frustrated anger most adults are carting around wherever they go.
Maybe there’d eventually be less misdirected anger haphazardly zig-zagging across adult society as we lumber through our daily routines.
Just think: no one awkwardly positioning their shopping carts in the middle of aisles when you obviously want to get by. No one tailgating the crap out of you when there’s clearly another car right in front of you or speeding up the moment you flip your blinker on then moving into your lane anyway.
Passive-aggressive episodes like these could be a thing of the past, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
I’ll never forget my first breakfast in Germany while waitressing over the summer, years ago, for a student work-exchange program: hot white bread rolls slathered in thick layers of butter and Nutella, washed down with whole milk and sugar mixed into coffee so strong that a second cup literally broke me into a sweat.
We also had full-fat yogurt with muesli mixed into it. You couldn’t even find full-fat yogurt in America, being as convinced of the evils of dietary fat as we were at the time.
Having just lost twenty pounds on a hardcore low-fat diet myself, I panicked at the prospect of endless spreadable meats and cheeses. But with nary an artificial sweetener or low-fat product in sight, I figured I’d have to suck it up and eat like a German.
I dove headlong into a sausage-and-potato lifestyle, taking walks in the Black Forest every day in hopes of mitigating the consequences. When I was later shocked to return home and find out I hadn’t gained an ounce, I figured daily exercise must’ve done the trick. What else could explain it?
Years later, when the anti-fat philosophy shifted anti-carb, I was haunted by my childhood trips to France every time I bit into another sad little cheeseburger wrapped in lettuce leaves. Like so many others, I jumped on board the low-carb craze, even though I knew damn well that French people eat fluffy croissants and buttered baguettes every morning.
Yet somehow, the French are still much thinner than we are.
Like so many other Americans, I keep fighting the obesity demons lurking just outside my door by doing whatever diet researchers tell me. This means I’ve been on a huge array of diets, because diet researchers can’t seem to keep their stories straight.
We’re supposed to take personal responsibility for our health, they keep telling us, but that’s tough to do when the game keeps changing. As soon as we’ve thrown out our butter and replaced our milk, cheese, and salad dressings with low-fat versions, we’re suddenly hearing simple carbs are the problem.
Oh, did we say simple carbs? Nah, we meant the glycemic
index load. Fats are good, but definitely avoid saturated fat. Wait… we meant trans-fats, because saturated fats aren’t as bad as we thought.
The truth is that it’s impossible to simultaneously follow all of the crazy-making nutritional advice we hear. You can’t avoid all sugars, starches, fats, carbs, meat, eggs, gluten, dairy, soy, and processed foods without starving to death. You can’t be vegan and eat like a caveman at the same time.
Sometimes I suspect these diets only work because they make our food less palatable, so we end up eating less of it. Salads and pasta don’t taste as good without creamy toppings. Digging into steaks and butter is fantastic during the honeymoon phase of low-carbing, but gets monotonous after a bit. Eventually, all you want is a cracker.
Yet we Americans keep scrambling to follow this week’s nutritional guidelines and currently, the idea of whole foods is all the rage. More important than counting calories, we are told, is eating fresh, unprocessed food.”Real” food, without sugar.
Then along comes this bombshell study from Cornell University showing that skinny people actually drink more soda and eat more junk food than the overweight. Kinda busts a gaping hole in the idea that you can eat whatever you want as long as it’s nutritious, right?
Dangerous studies like these leave me about a hair’s breadth away from chucking my morning kale shake in favor of little powdered doughnuts. Because in all honesty, who wouldn’t rather dip powdered doughnuts in coffee than choke down a bunch of kale?
And who wants to suffer years in bitter self-denial when it’s all begun to feel like a crapshoot, anyway?
But then, Giant Buzzkill Faye Flam comes along and makes a reasonable argument rebutting the latest research. Since overweight people may be reacting to their health problems by reducing junk food, she points out, it doesn’t mean junk food didn’t cause their problems in the first place. Believing that would be like thinking salt causes low blood pressure because hypertensives go on low-sodium diets.
On the other hand, we’ve got Jeff Wilser’s experiment in eating nothing BUT junk food for an entire month. After chowing down on Oreos, M&M’s and pretzels for thirty days, he was amazed to find not only his weight plummeting, but also his cholesterol readings improving.
Jeff’s experiment reminds me of Morgan Spurlock’s disastrous thirty-day fast-food binge in Supersize Me, with one major difference: whereas Morgan made a point of eating more calories than he normally would, Jeff followed the servings sizes on junk food packaging (though he allowed himself “cheat” days, where he binged).
So does it all really come down to calories in vs calories out? Maybe.
I suspect, in the end, that portion control is the root of our problems. Fifty years ago, before the American obesity epidemic hit, we didn’t have this dazzling array of low-fat and gluten-free products, but our portion sizes were drastically smaller.
Apparently, today’s Happy Meal at McDonalds would’ve been considered an adult-sized portion back then.
And we’ve been conditioned to think of ridiculous portion sizes as normal. Since Americans believe a good deal means getting more for your money, restaurants have responded to market demand with an exploding portion-size arms race over the past several decades.
In short, portion sizes have gotten huge and we’re used to them. We’ve been conditioned to think anything less than a massive amount of food means we’re getting ripped off, while simultaneously assuming that whatever entree we’re served represents a “normal” meal.
My takeaway? Just eat less, but maybe don’t stress so much about the nutritional makeup of every last morsel. We have nutritional needs that go beyond the number on your scale, so it’s not a great idea to live off sodas and Twizzlers. But maybe a little bit won’t hurt .
So, if you really want that cookie, go ahead and eat that cookie.
Just not the whole box.
Violet the Cat: Oooh, ohh… we’ve been wanting to ask you something.
Me: Okay, what?
Zoë the Cat: We think we’ve figured out what you are. You’re a tigress, right? We’re right
Me: Tigress, I like that. But why do you think I’m a tigress?
Violet the Cat: Because you’re really big, you bring back food for the family, and you sit in the water every day.
Zoë the Cat: And we’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. Look, we think it’s really cool that you’re not afraid of the water, but…
Violet the Cat: You’re not bringing back any fish.
Me: There aren’t any fish in the bathtub.
Zoë the Cat: Yes there are, or why would you even go in there?
Violet the Cat: We’re not trying to embarrass you, okay? But it’s not good for your kittens to eat cereal all day. They need fish.
Me: Well, where’s YOUR fish? You guys eat nothing but cat cereal every day!
Zoë: AND WHO’S FAULT IS THAT?
Me: GET OFF THE TABLE!
Wylie the Cat: That’s so MEAN.
Violet the Cat: Yeah, you KNOW we love flat things.
Me: I don’t care. It’s dirty. We eat there.
Violet the Cat: How DARE you? I bathe twenty-seven times a day!
Me: Don’t care. I don’t need you guys tracking your litter-paws across the table.
Violet the Cat: Oh, she went there…
Wylie the Cat: Okay, I wasn’t going to say anything but… WE KNOW YOU’VE BEEN PEEING IN THE WATER SUPPLY!
Me: I’m not peeing in the water supply. You guys drink out of the toilet.