Mommy Olympics

The Grocery Shopping Marathon: Parent must buy a week’s worth of groceries for a family – with a child or children in tow. Extra points awarded if you’re not too embarrassed by the performance to return the next week.
The Young Child Schlep: Parent juggles children, including one who doesn’t yet know how or refuses to walk, and all the equipment needed for a 12-minute excursion from the house, including diaper bag, change of clothes, snack, drink, favorite toy, book, spare baby carrier, etc. Stroller not allowed. (You were just running out for a minute.) Extra points awarded if total strangers don’t offer major pitying looks.

The Public Toilet Germ Avoidance Dance: Parent must change baby’s diaper and/or assist older child on the toilet while simultaneously preventing any part of child and/or baby/child equipment from touching any part of the public facilities. Shoe bottoms an exception. Extra points awarded if family can exit restroom without anyone touching the door with bare skin.

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Exercise Time

MCM: You must be referring to a new exercise program that has been quite heavily publicized recently. It is indeed for a game console called, not pee-pee, but named apparently after that very same bodily function.

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Putting Life On Pause

This is official notice that friends will no longer be receiving any birthday wishes from me. I still do hope people have happy birthdays, but I refuse to say anything; what I could get back has become too risky. Like the latest example: I recently popped off an email to wish an old friend happy birthday, and she wrote back to thank me, sighing that she’s really not paying attention now because we’re getting so close to 50. 50? 50? Hardly, although she certainly does seem to have catapulted into a touch of senility.
Let me explain. Technically, my friend and I are in the decade that leads up to 50, but way way way on the young end of it. Barely there at all in fact. And, as my friends should be aware, and will be reminded if they ask, I’m younger than everyone I know. And staying that way.
Not that there’s anything wrong with 50. But there’s no need to get ahead of yourself. Not that you have any choice in how fast you age, but once that desperate looking-ahead to driving age and legal drinking status has passed, it’s time to relax and enjoy the ride.
There’s more to this than my personal refusal to accept that I’m getting older. I’m part of the baby bust, generation X if you remember back to that once-popular marketing term that took off after Douglas Coupland’s novel. All our lives we busters have trailed the baby boomers, that post-World War II span of high birthrates; that’s like growing up with a motormouthed, self-involved older sibling monopolizing mom and dad’s attention. (After all, when was the last time you heard the term “Gen X” used? We’re not the mass of boomers and we’re not so young, so who cares about selling to us anymore?)
Because they’re such a bunch of blabbermouths, I mean, because they have been breaking ground over the years in their openness to discuss personal issues, we’ve been hearing about what the boomers are doing and what they’re concerned about at every age – so that sometimes their concerns overshadowed our own. We couldn’t even spell sexuality, they were already having their ´60s hippies explorations and then 70´s disco decadence; so we ended up with Laugh-In go-go dancers, and gym class hustle lessons. Then, we were moving into the prime years to be concerned about contraception, just as some boomers started to worry about infertility; so news on IVF techniques filled health stories.
Now, with the oldest boomers into their 60s, we’re all being swept along as The Vagina Monologues crowds move on to Menopause: The Musical (well, perhaps not quite the same crowds). To go by the amount of chatter, we’re either all there already or are simply pre-menopausal, which is technically true (for women at least; men miss out on these clear hormonal cycle markers).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that previously taboo topics of life’s stages (I’m thinking more about women here, although who’s not comfy chatting about erectile disfunction these days?) are discussed more openly. Sharing information about what childbirth’s like, and illnesses, and what aging means, is a great help for people following behind and going through the same thing, and we could go further with openness. The bulbous generation will forge ahead on how to treat hot flashes, and what an aging neck really looks like. And I really hope boomers will sort out Medicare problems and the healthcare mess, and agitate for some gentle, respectful way to care for the elderly as their parents and they themselves face old age.
Heck, now, thanks to boomers sharing, I know all about breasts shrinking with age. And so I know what to watch develop (undevelop?). But…do I really want to have another detail of aging to focus on? Especially if there’s nothing (non-surgical) I can do about it?
And, yes, Nora (and you’re technically a pre-boomer, I see), my neck’s starting to bother me too – particularly after having seen an especially unflattering picture taken from a kid angle (pictures aimed up do no one any favors; my advice: don’t let your kids near a camera until they’re as tall as you are). But if it weren’t for having the title of your book stuck in my mind, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed it as much. I mean, don’t I have a few years before I need to buy a jaunty little scarf for my neck? In the meantime, I’d like to slap on some moisturizer and concentrate on other things than when my AARP subscription can start.
But the boomers’ concerns become everyone’s concerns. Or at least the concerns of anyone who chooses to pays attention to them. But at least if you pay attention there’s time to prepare for the next stage, which with my aging plan I figure won’t come for another 30, 40 years.

Grounds for Coffee

I don’t mean to sound like an effete little whiny Euro snob, but sometimes the stereotypes are true: Americans drink a lot of bad coffee. I’m back recently from a visit to the States and believe me, it was rough, coffee-wise.
I don’t mean the drinks at all these coffeehouses that have sprouted; I’m talking your average cup of joe that you can get at the corner diner, if that still exists. O.K., I know someone’s going to pipe up and say, “Hey, what about Starbucks? They’re all over and they have good coffee.” Well, yes, fine, maybe they do, but first of all, Starbucks isn’t really in the U.S. It’s the European coffeehouse as filtered through Seattle, meaning it’s a good place to discuss philosophy in the rain, or, in other words: Canada.
And then, I was visiting family, and my family’s not really a Starbucks kind of family. For one thing – and here I’ll share my own thinking but it must have come from somewhere – my kids might one day be interested in going to an American university and if so, that $17.50 per mucho mocha super gigantgrosso we’d shell out at Starbucks might well be missed. And then, for the calories in a mucho mocha etc., you can get a plain old black coffee and a donut at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Oh yes, we are a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of family. By the end of the trip Son the Elder was keeping track of how often you could spot a Dunkin’ Donuts, which in Rhode Island and the company’s home state of Massachusetts where we were driving around averages one per block. Hard to beat that convenience. And Son the Younger had made up his own tune to sing the advertising slogan his brother read to him off the donut bags.
So it’s clear what chain had claimed our loyalty this trip. All these chain places are in a coffee war or breakfast war or lunch war or something, so I expect we’ll be getting a thank-you note pretty soon.
No, I exaggerate, we didn’t really spend the whole trip driving from Dunkin’ to Dunkin’, but I did learn a coffee drinking secret of theirs, by accident. See, when I say “black coffee and a donut,” black coffee is what I intended to have, and what I usually drink in the U.S. But at Dunkin’ Donuts, while trying to communicate in what I thought was my native tongue, I ordered coffee. Now, as part of this foo-foo coffee trend everywhere (apparently I’m not the only one who’s noticed your average cup of coffee is not always so good), even ye olde Dunk has fancy coffees; so when the counterman asked me what kind of coffee I wanted, I asked for “just regular.” Which, as I sort of vaguely knew, but relearned with the first sip, at Dunkin’ Donuts means with cream and sugar. Which is actually quite tasty, and makes the coffee irrelevant, thanks to those extra calories tucked in. So that’s a slip I repeated accidentally on purpose.
Traveling around Europe, one of the things a coffee drinker can do is check the guidebook for each country on how coffee is served and the language to order it. I thought in the U.S. I’d have it down pat. Apparently not. Although Dunkin’s coffee quirk doesn’t bother me because it strikes me as a little piece of the chain’s regional background hanging on.
That’s like In-N-Out Burger’s “secret” ordering codes. The burger chain is a California institution and possibly the only chain that could be good enough and hip enough for both Paris Hilton and the late Julia Child to frequent. If you’re in the know, you can order in a special way instead of straight off the menu, like asking for an “animal-style” hamburger to up the condiments. Although at this point, if an uncool outsider like me has heard of the secret menu, it’s got to be well on its way from insider code to pure marketing schtick.
McDonald’s too, now that I think of it, offers a cheaper senior coffee that you can ask for even if it’s not on the menu. And their coffee is supposed to be relatively tasty these days. But that’s senior as in senior citizen, and I hope I’d have to be a bit more jet-lagged than I’ve been so far to look like I could order that one.
And Starbucks apparently has off-the-menu possibilities also. Like a small-sized, bargain-priced coffee you have to know to ask for. Which I might have to try sometime, if I can remember how to order it.
Gee, I thought I knew the lingo back home. This all makes café con leche look mighty easy.

Heavy Shopping

After all, you can’t grow out of a sofa. Well, you can, but it’s pretty hard to do and then you get featured on a reality show with the producers using a crane to take the wall off your house to get you out for emergency intervention. Typically women unhappy with some part of their body can satisfy their shopping jones with shoes and jewelry, but maybe we’ve hit the point where yes, you can grow out of those too. Calves too heavy for cool boots? A choker necklace just highlights the second chin? How about some new throw pillows and a shower curtain instead?

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Kosher Babies

Very clever all this hipster stuff, but if your mother didn’t go to Brown, she did go to Pembroke you know, (because they didn’t let women in in my day, and if you think that wasn’t tough, that’s another story)…. So we thought, these kids – if they see each other as cool and sexy and hip, or just that being Jewish doesn’t automatically make you a Woody Allan-type nebbish – maybe we’ll finally get to hear ourselves called “Bubbie” before it’s too late, God forbid.

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