Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Press Here For Song

It wasn’t the toy drive the teenager’s teacher had a problem with. It was the door decorating contest that he found unnecessary. Somehow, the decorated classroom doors were supposed to encourage and remind the students to bring toys to the school for children in need. A pizza party would be awarded to the class whose door was judged most worthy by the PTA judges.

When the door judging day arrived, the teenager and her classmates pleaded one last time with the teacher. Could they please have some time to decorate their classroom door? The teacher stood firm in his belief that classroom time should be spent on learning. They accused him of being a Grinch and sucking the joy out of their holiday season.

One boy made a final attempt to change the teacher’s mind. “It doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming," he said. “I mean, heck, we could even tape ME to the door and at least it would be better than having nothing on the door!”

The teacher grinned, just a little bit, and believing it to be impossible said, “Ha….now that I’d like to see!”

With lightening quick speed, before the teacher could stop them, the students rushed into action. Within minutes the boy was taped to the outside of the door. Someone produced a battery powered miniature plastic Christmas tree with lights and shoved it into the boy’s hand. The boy yelled out, “Grab the red tape! Grab the red tape!” Someone covered the boy’s nose with red tape. Next to the boy’s head a sign was taped on the door. The sign said, “press here for song” and had an arrow drawn on it that pointed to the boy’s red nose.

The PTA judges arrived just as the students finished their masterpiece. The judges had already seen beautifully decorated doors covered with intricate glittered snowflakes, curly ribbons and fancy lights. They had seen real Christmas trees, and 3-D dioramas and pseudo fireplaces with stockings hung and fire glowing.

They arrived at the teenager’s classroom to find a boy taped to the door.

The judges looked at each other and giggled a bit. “Do you think he’ll really sing if we press his nose?” one asked out loud. “Only one way to find out.” said a brave one who stepped forward and pressed the red tape.

The teenage boy, voice cracking, burst out in holiday song. The students inside the classroom went uncharacteristically still and silent. Students and teachers from other classrooms quietly poked their heads out of their rooms to hear the singing. The judges dropped their judging clipboards to their sides and said not a word as they listened to the boy sing.

And when the boy was done, he started to speak, rambling just a bit. “We believe that Christmas should be a very personal time of the year. And what better way to represent Christmas and giving and what the whole season means than with some sort of personification of this special time. And we believe that there’s no better way to personify something than with a real person. That is why we have a real person on our door. Because we believe that people need to remember that Christmas and giving and toy drives are really all about people. Real people.“

One of the judges lifted her clipboard and began to write on it. Another judge asked the boy, “How long did it take you to write that speech?”

“Um…I didn’t prepare it ahead of time…I just kind of said what I think.”

And as the judges turned to walk away the boy heard one of them say, “Christmas…about people…how novel.”

Check This Out!

This is the recipe for the cookies I usually make to give to the neighbors for Christmas.

Soft Ginger Cookies

Mix 2 ¼ cups flour, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp soda, ¾ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp cloves in a bowl. In another bowl, beat ¾ cup margarine, butter or shortening for 30 seconds. Gradually add in 1 cup sugar. Add one egg and ¼ cup molasses and beat well. Stir in dry ingredients. Mold into balls and roll them in granulated sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Let stand 2 minutes.

(As usual...I have a hard time following a recipe exactly. With these cookies, I tend to go a bit heavy on the spices and will often throw in a few dashes of nutmeg or mace as well.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It Was That Easy

Of course, if I had received any advance warning of the impossibility of the arduous undertaking I would soon find myself regretfully immersed in, I would have rapidly abandoned all illusion of parental compassion and concern. I would have just told the teenager that I really didn’t care if her old basketball shoes gave her blisters. I would have turned a blind eye to those slippery soles that caused her to fall down on the hardwood and come home bruised and battered.

But I didn’t have any advanced warning.

So when the teenager announced that she needed new basketball shoes I eagerly agreed to help her shop for them. I was, of course, naive and oblivious, singing along to the radio, when I drove those back roads to the mall that one Saturday morning. I had initially wanted to travel south to the super large sports store. But the teenager pointed out that if that single super large sports store did not have what she was specifically looking for, we were somewhat far away from any other basketball shoe store. So instead, we headed north to the insanity of the big mall and the many accompanying strip malls within close proximity. With this option, we would have 12 stores to choose from.

The teenager found basketball shoes that she liked at the very first store we went to. She did not however, find them in the correct color or the correct size.

We spent the next 4 1/2 hours travelling to the other 11 stores in the area. We looked at many, many different kinds of shoes but didn’t try on a single pair. As a last resort, I convinced the teenager to go back to the first store and again, try on the pair that she had initially liked. I tried to convince her that ½ a size too big wasn’t really THAT big. I tried to convince her that the color didn’t matter one bit. I tried to convince her to, please, put me out of my shopping misery and just pick any darn pair of shoes in that store as soon as she possibly could.

This unsuccessful shoe shopping was making me very cranky.

I was not, apparently, the only ill-natured mother in the store that day.

I heard another mother raise her voice and I turned my head to see a teenage girl shaking her head. I heard her mother bark, “What do you mean ‘white basketball shoes are stupid’? That’s ridiculous. When I was a kid I was grateful to even have a pair of shoes, let alone special basketball shoes. I wouldn’t have dared tell my mother they were the wrong color!”

It wasn’t long before another mother/daughter pair joined in on the shoe shopping discontent. This time it was the daughter who provided the lecture. “Yes. Mother. They are too small. They really, really are. Besides, I wanted the Nike and these are Adidas. Nobody on my team wears Adidas. I’ll look like an idiot if I’m the only one with Adidas shoes.”

As we three mothers began to commiserate with each other, the three daughters huffed a lot, rolled their eyeballs and asked each other what high school they played for. One mother finally announced, with great frustration, that she and her daughter were going to have to brave the mall stores. She was a fair bit testy and patently annoyed when the other mother and I said that our shoe shopping experiences at the mall had produced nothing other than lunch at the Panda Express.

The teenager and I left that store empty handed. As we drove away, the teenager grumbled a request to go to the super large sports store. After a long day of shoe searching, I most definitely did did not want to travel south to that super large sports store. But the teenager pointed out that if anyone would have the shoes she wanted, it would be the super large sports store, of course. And so, like all obedient sports mothers who have come before me, I drove south. I drove another half hour to the very store we had considered starting with many, many hours earlier that day.

The teenager and I arrived at the super large sports store at 3:32 pm. The teenager walked over to the basketball shoe section. She found the shoes she liked. She found the right size. She found the right color. She tried them on. We paid for them. At 3:49 pm we drove out of the parking lot and headed home.

It was that easy.

Check This Out!

The husband and I have been doing a little remodeling. In an effort to get a few ideas for our home projects, I’ve been enjoying the book, The Not So Big House.

From author’s website comes this description,“The Not So Big House books by Sarah Susanka bring to light a new way of thinking about what makes a place feel like home—characteristics that many people desire of their homes and their lives, but haven't known how to verbalize."

Full of great ideas for all areas of your home, the initial book The Not So Big House and the many other similar ones that follow it do not focus merely on square footage and the standard builder options all too common in today’s modern houses. Ms. Susanka's books offer creative examples that make a real design impact that is personal, meaningful and most likely, just what you wanted for your home.

Explore more at www.notsobighouse.com and www.susanka.com.

Monday, November 30, 2009


I noticed her name because it wasn’t spelled the right way on her nametag. Instead of Jordan, it was spelled Jordynne. She was the grocery store checker for the line I was waiting in. I was next in line when the lady in front of me put a bottle of Merlot on the dull black belt that seemed to move quite randomly. Jordynne quickly picked up the black phone receiver. “Override on check stand 3. Override on check stand 3.” she announced to the entire store as she rolled her eyeballs. The very young looking, gum popping Jordynne wasn’t old enough, apparently, to run a bottle of wine across the magic beeping, barcode reading, scanning machine. I watched as the lady wanting the bottle of Merlot became annoyed at the delay.

A hardly mature looking, but apparently more important woman, who was probably 23 years old, casually appeared from parts unknown. As she ran her special card across the scanning machine, she turned to Jordynne and started joking…or so I thought. “So Jordynne, I see you are trying to drink on the job again!” The young Jordynne huffed and again rolled her eyeballs at the presumably older, special card woman as she wandered back to her hiding place. Jordynne politely took the Merlot lady’s money and told her to have a nice day.

And then it was my turn.

I couldn’t resist having a little chat with Jordynne. As she scanned my garbanzo beans and my orzo and my Smores Goldfish I audaciously asked her outright, “So, been drinking on the job lately, huh?”

Jordynne, thankfully, taking my comments in stride, let out a mini guffaw laugh. “Ha! If I was gonna drink on the job, I can tell you one thing. I wouldn’t be drinkin’ no fancy wine.”

Fascinated by the most exciting grocery store moment I’d had in awhile, I, mostly sarcastically, continued to pester Jordynne. “Really? No wine drinking on the job, huh?”

Jordynne, however, became altogether serious. She was also most forthcoming and educational with her answer. “Oh, hell no! You gotta be smart. Anyone can smell wine on your breath. Wine at work is usually a bad idea.” And then she lowered her voice and turned her head a bit more toward me. “If you’re gonna drink at work it’s gotta be vodka. There’s no other choice. It’s clear, it’s innocent looking and there ain’t no one who can smell vodka.”

Not being a vodka consumer, I found myself captivated by Jordynne the checker and her patent honesty.

I curiously pushed on while Jordynne tried to find the produce code for my fresh ginger. “So, seriously, if you drink vodka, no one can smell it? Has that worked for you before?”

Jordynne stiffened a bit. She slowly looked to the left. She casually put my ginger in the bag and told me I owed her forty seven dollars and eighty three cents. Then she slowly looked to the right.

And then young Jordynne,20 years my junior, looked me straight in the eye and scanned my face, just like her scanning, checking machine did to my produce just moments before.

Jordynne lowered her voice to a whisper and she pointedly said to me, “Well, all I can say... is that….well……it worked in Junior High. “

Check This Out!

I must admit, I think American Idol alum Adam Lambert's recent television actions probably were uncessary. I've listened to his new album. He's good. He's got talent. He doesn't need the drama. Sure...he's trying to make a certain point. But the fact remains, the voice can stand on it's own. I suppose the drama makes for good publicity. In fact, I'll admit...the dramatic publicity got me to listen sooner than I would have. But honestly, it's the great voice that will get me to buy the whole album instead of just his first single. See for yourself at www.adamofficial.com/us./intro where you can sample the entire album.

And in case you're looking for something a bit more traditional, Christmas music, perhaps, I am here to tell you that the wait is over. Heavy Metal fans finally have Christmas and winter music that they can listen to at this special time of year. Rob Halford, of Judas Priest fame, has just released Halford III, Winter Songs. Complete with Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel, We Three Kings and many other Christmas traditionals and originals, this album will fill a void in your collection that has existed for a very long time. I encourage you to go to www. halford music.com and explore his latest.

Monday, November 23, 2009


While the rapid gunfire, so close to where the teenager and I were sitting, did come as quite a shock, it was the look on the teenager’s pale face that scared me the most. “Those weren’t gun shots, were they, mom?” the teenager asked me with wide eyes, her heart beating much faster than it was just a moment before. In one second, I found myself nervously assuring her that it couldn’t possibly be gunshots. And in the next second, it seemed, we were in lockdown.

The teenager and I had gone to watch a girls’ high school soccer game at a local stadium. Just as we took our seats the shots rang out. It happened just like the shooting victims on the TV news said it would. It was fast forward. And it was slow motion. All at the same time.

As the shots rang out I saw dozens of birds fly off the roof of the building next to where we were sitting. It seemed as if I saw the details of every single bird. I saw both soccer teams running off the field, toward the locker rooms, with escorts yelling at them to run faster. It seemed as if I saw every single girl’s face filled with perplexed fear. I saw the fans in the stands questioning each other. “Did that sound like gunshots to you?” I saw the usher running toward us telling us to get to the safety of the building as quickly as we could. I remember running toward the building beside the teenager. I remember thinking that it was important for me to shield her from the gunshots. I remember wishing that I knew which direction they were coming from so I would know which side of her to run beside.

After an hour and a half in lockdown we were allowed to leave. They said it was gang related. They said they never caught the shooters. It happens all the time, they said. No big deal. The shaken up soccer teams left as well. The game was rescheduled for later that evening at another field.

The husband took the teenager to the rescheduled game that evening. As he left, I handed him the cell phone. “Now, I don’t want any calls about teams being rushed off the field or your life being in danger or anything…..!” I jokingly lectured. We laughed at the absurdity of my overprotective warnings.

The game was to start at 7:00 pm. At 7:01 pm my phone rang. It was the husband. Shocked, I answered the phone and didn’t give him any chance to speak. “Why are you calling me?” I yelled. “Hasn’t the game started yet?”

“No," the husband answered. “We’re having a little situation here. The teams have been rushed off the field into the safety of the locker room. It looks as if it’s going to be awhile before the game can start.”

The husband tried to explain more but I quickly interrupted him with my own rapid paced questioning. “What do you mean ‘rushed off the field’? There are no gangs in that area! It can’t possibly be another gang shooting! That’s ridiculous! Are you and the teenager ok? Are you safe? Seriously! What could possibly stop a game other than ‘SHOTS FIRED’? What could be worse than gang shootings?” I hysterically yelled at the husband as I had flashbacks to my own scary afternoon.

Like a good and wise and experienced husband, he paused to make sure I was done with my unrestrained verbal flailing.

And then he spoke.

“I’ll tell you what can be worse than gangs. It is MOTHER NATURE! We are in a 30 minute lightning delay. We have quite a storm going on here!”

OH. It was a storm.

Gunshots versus lightning-I wasn't quite sure which was worse.

Check This Out!

The older half of the Slightly Exaggerated family recently enjoyed the old Bette Davis and Joan Crawford movie, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?". While we initially thought this to be a nice, happy movie, we were quickly proven wrong. It's a bit scary and a bit shocking...but all in a nice old movie not too over the top kind of way. We enjoyed this movie while eating our romaine, salmon, red onion and garbanzo bean salads topped with sea salt and black pepper croutons. Add a nice vinaigrette and you can enjoy the perfect movie/salad combination as well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Destined to Drive

The husband was clearly giddy when he walked through the front door last spring.

“How was the high school information meeting, dad?” the teenager naively queried.

“Oh, it was great!” the husband shouted, barely able to contain himself. “Did you know that you can get your permit when you turn 15 if you are enrolled in driver’s ed? 15!! That’s only a few months away! I have the paperwork right here! HOW. COOL. IS. THAT. Pretty soon, you will be able to drag race with me!” And with that he threw down the driver’s ed pamphlet on the living room table.

There was a family pause as the teenager, the boy and I all processed this shocking information.

The nearly 15 year old teenager finally stood up and announced with emphatic conviction to the family. “I am never, ever driving and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!”

The husband was dumbfounded. The boy called the teenager a big crazy chicken. I asked the husband if he had learned anything at this meeting about the benefits of AP Calculus versus AP Statistics. His answer to me was, “What does she mean she never wants to drive? How is that even possible?”

The disbelieving and disheartened husband spent the summer trying to convince the teenager that it was her innate destiny to become a driving enthusiast. Yet, when she turned 15 last week, she still had no desire to drive and she finally told us why.

“Well, I don’t want to drive…because…because…well…because I’m afraid that all the drivers on the road will be just like dad.”


Said the husband.

“I’m afraid,” the teenager continued, “That people like dad will honk at me if I do something stupid.”

The husband was gone a few days later when I took the teenager to an empty parking lot. She was not happy with me when she realized what we were there for. Eventually, however, she sat in the driver’s seat. Eventually she put the car in gear. Eventually she took her foot off the brake. And, eventually, we crept forward.

“Put your foot, gently, on the gas pedal.” I urged her.

And, eventually, she did. She pressed the gas pedal. Just enough. We rolled about 20 feet at 5 miles per hour.

And then she slammed her foot down on the brake. She turned her head toward me and I saw a look of satisfied shock on her face. Her wide, excited eyes and a huge, joyous grin filled up her face.

"OH………I LIKE THAT!” she said. “Now that…THAT was FUN!”

And as she pulled up the parking brake she looked at me again, this time with a look of panic on her face. “Oh, don’t you dare tell dad that I enjoyed that, ok? He can never know!”

The entire family was in the car the next day when the stoplight turned red. We came to a stop in front of a car dealership. The husband, as usual, surveyed the cars on the dealership’s lot. The teenager looked out the window and suddenly spoke up, “Oh, wow! Do you see that red sports car dad? Now that is a cool car! I’d definitely drive that car.”

The husband voiced his approval as a look of utmost contentment spread over his face. He turned to me and whispered, “Now THAT’S my girl. I knew she’d eventually come around to this whole driving thing.”

The husband grinned, looked forward to see that the light had turned green, and then honked his horn at the car in front of us who hadn’t started moving yet.

And from the backseat we could hear the teenager blurt out, “Not that I’m ever driving, however! In fact, I’m never, ever driving and you can’t make me!”

Check This Out!

Take a listen to RiverBend on their MySpace Music page. Mostly rock, a little grunge, a little bit indie--see if you like them. www.myspace.com/riverbendrock

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Becoming My Mother

It was when I started reading celebrity biographies that it occurred to me that I just might have…finally… become my mother. She loved those biographies. I had never been a fan of them myself. But, here I was, sitting on my bed, staring at a stack of biographies on the nightstand in front of me. I remember many times when my mother had in front of her, a similar stack, and would try to decide which biography to read first from the many she had picked out at the library. And here I was, so many years later, doing the very same thing.

I was aware that my transition to becoming my mother had started awhile ago. I had, for some time, been warning my family to throw out raw meat that had turned brown in the package. I cautioned them to watch out for falling pallets in warehouse stores. I had started carrying a Kleenex in my pocket and placing the children in front of me in family photos. I found myself becoming irrationally overprotective of my father and brothers. And, without thinking, I began to put extra mayonnaise on my family’s sandwiches.

Increasingly, the signs of my transition had become somewhat undeniable.

Like any independent young woman, I was convinced early on, that my life’s journey would be very different than the one my mother had taken. And for some time, it was. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found my life’s journey coming full circle to a place that would have been very familiar to my mother. Certain personality traits and interests and values that were so uniquely hers, I am now finding myself wholeheartedly embracing as my own. It would have been such a joy to share with her these new things we would have had in common.

But I can’t.

Because on this day, two years ago, my mother died.

I would have dearly loved to have had more time with her. However, at the time she died, I was thankful for and content with the 38 years that we did have together.

But, now that I’ve become my mother, it is quite apparent that 38 years together wasn’t nearly enough time at all. Now that I like celebrity biographies, just like she did, I’m not so content anymore. I want her to recommend some biographies for me. I want to talk to her about the Dean Martin biography I just read. Now that I’ve become my mother, the last 2 years suddenly seems like such a very, very, long time for her to be gone. 2 years seems like a long time not to talk to your mother.

It’s too bad that it took me 40 years to become my mother. It’s too bad she’s no longer here to enjoy our new found similarities. It’s too bad, because I have a feeling she would have liked me a lot.

In Loving Memory of MAMA.

One of the few times she didn't get away with standing behind me in a picture. Taken, my senior year in high school, May 1987, at the Mother's Tea.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now, finally, everybody has one.

It is entirely possible that I am the last person in the developed world to not own a cell phone. I’m sure this will come as a bit of a shock, but I’ve never really wanted one, either. I’ve never had the desire to be reachable at all times. And I’ve certainly been reluctant to squeeze the money out of the budget to pay for one.

The teenager, following in her strange mother’s footsteps, does not own a cell phone either. Despite being the last teenager she knows without a cell phone, she has never asked for one. In fact, the teenager has never been comfortable talking on the phone at all. She even actively avoids talking her friends on the land line phone in the house. “I just don’t like talking on the phone!” she emphatically states.

But the teenager is now in 9th grade. She has many activities that take her far away from home. Perhaps someday there will be an emergency. Perhaps every single person around her will have had their cell phones die because they talked on them too much that day. Perhaps then, a cell phone of her own would come in handy.

Recently, a nice relative asked if we wanted her old TracFone. “You can just prepay for the minutes you think you will use!” she told us. This seemed to be the perfect way to enter the cell phone world, particularly since we intended to use the phone so very little.

I got a little bit excited when I saw our new cell phone for the first time. I unwrapped it from the bubble wrap the nice relative had wrapped it in. I flipped the top of the phone open and in one instant crossed into the addicting world of the cell phone. And while I had absolutely no desire to call anyone and absolutely no desire to have anyone call me, I did feel just a little bit more important knowing that these calls could happen if I wanted them to.

I motioned for the teenager to come take a look at the new cell phone. I wanted her to feel just a little more important too. I wanted her to feel like, finally, she would fit in with all of her peers. When the soccer team phone list came out, she would no longer be the only girl on the list without her own cell number. Perhaps, she’d even lose her fear of talking on the phone.

The teenager walked up to the table where the cell phone was sitting on top of the bubble wrap it came wrapped in. The nice relative and I looked on, in great anticipation of the teenager’s reaction to seeing her cell phone for the first time.

“Teenager! Look what this nice relative gave you! Can you believe it?” I excitedly said to the teenager as I pointed toward the phone.

The teenager’s face lit up. A big grin spread across her face. Her hand reached down toward the phone.

“Wow! Cool!” she yelled out, as her hand bypassed the phone and quickly grabbed the bubble wrap. “That is the coolest bubble wrap! I love bubble wrap! Can I pop it?”

Check This Out!

The Slightly Exaggerated CEO has been obsessed with Dean Martin, as of late. Numerous Dean Martin biographies have been read. His music has been playing constantly. And his movies have all been put to the top of the Netflix queue. One of the favorite movies has been, The Young Lions. Not being a “WWII movie kind of gal”, I hadn’t anticipated enjoying this war movie, which stars Dean Martin, Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando. Released in 1958, Young Lions is most definitely full of all the good and the bad that comes with a movie of that age. (I am always surprised by how abruptly movies from that time period frequently seem to end.) Nevertheless, I did enjoy The Young Lions quite a bit and urge you to move it to the top of your Netflix queue.

And while you’re waiting for you movie to come in, check out my favorite Dean Martin song, Ain’t That a Kick in the Head, from the original 1960 Ocean’s Eleven movie.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back To Normal

It was the first day of school. I was looking forward to life getting back to normal. There would be no more of this crazy sleeping in stuff and coincidental chore slacking and shocking PG-13 movie watching that went on past 9 p.m. You can see that, given these lax summer circumstances, my family was long overdue for a dose of the ordinary and mundane.

“So how was your day?” I asked the family at dinner that night. I waited for the usual and expected reports of teachers and homework and routine work projects.

The boy spoke first. “The kid sitting next to me had to go to the nurse today. After he got his cell phone taken away, he swallowed the lid of a Sharpie marker--on purpose. I was ok with that though, because he really, really smelled bad…kind of like our cats’ litter box. I hope the nurse gave him a bath.”

The teenager spoke next. “The Lawnmower Boy was at my bus stop this morning. Remember him? He was the kid from last year who stole a lawnmower on the way to school from someone’s backyard. When he got to the bus stop he tried to mow us all down and then tried to bring the thing on the bus. He was expelled. So, anyway, he ended up failing last year and is back again, now in my grade, still at my bus stop, and still talking about finding another lawnmower to mow us all down.“

The husband then informed us that he had spent the whole day with auditors from a very high level government institution who told him his work from the last 4 weeks was completely flawed. He spent the entire day defending his work, his confidence level and all that he knew to be true and right. Only at the very end of the day did he find out that it was the auditors’ fancy measuring equipment that was out of whack and was in dire need of repair. The husband’s work was fine.

And then it was my turn. I proudly announced, with great flourish, to my family, “Well, I can see that you all have had a very interesting day. But …I, I…have been nominated to become Miss Teen United States.”

As they ate their low fat stroganoff, I passed around my glossy Miss Teen United States brochure that had come in the mail that day. They stared at me in disbelief. The teenager gave me an obligatory, and by now perfected, eyeball roll. The boy asked if there was anything fried to eat instead of this “gross gravy”. The husband wondered, out loud, if it was too late to catch the national news.

And then it was the second day of school. I was looking forward to life getting back to normal. I was hoping there would be no more of these outlandish Sharpie eating, lawn mower chasing and government incompetence stories. “Have a nice day!” I called to the family as they left that morning, trusting that they would come home with the usual and expected reports of teachers and homework and routine work projects. And then I ran inside to start my day. After all, I only had 3 months to find an evening gown, practice my baton twirling routine and find a magic bikini that came complete with Spanx shapewear and that fancy double stick tape built in.

Check This Out!

The Slightly Exaggerated music review consortium has unanimously agreed that Paramore’s song Crushcrushcrush has won the song of the week award for the second week in a row. The Slightly Exaggerated sociological advisory panel has agreed that it is physically impossible to sit still while listening to Paramore’s song Crushcrushcrush. And the Slightly Exaggerated lie detector machine agrees that Paramore’s appeal has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that their music also appeared on the Twilight soundtrack, based on the Twilight movie which was based on the Twilight book by Stephenie Meyer which was all about……EDWARD...sigh. We swear. We just really like Paramore.


Friday, September 4, 2009

With Great Wisdom

It had really been quite a lovely hike until the boy jumped the stream. We were still over a mile from the parking lot when his knee landed on that boulder and the boy found himself unable to walk. The husband and the teenager and I took turns piggybacking him back to the car. The teenager soon became frustrated with her heavy and wiggling brother.

She turned to me and whined, “Can’t he walk on it for a little bit?” With great wisdom I scolded her, “Your brother is hurt and you are going to have to be patient with him. It might take some time for his knee to heal.”

Three weeks ago we found ourselves at a major league baseball game accompanied by the boy on crutches. After the game, thousands of grinning children lined up to “run the bases” of the impressive field. When it was the boy’s turn to start running, he awkwardly dug his crutches into the pristine dirt and pushed off. I began to tear up as I watched him struggle around the bases with wobbly toddlers passing him on both the left and the right.

As he touched home plate with his crutch, the boy turned to me in frustration and complained. “That was hard. I wish I could walk on my leg.” With great wisdom I comforted him, “You are hurt honey, and you are going to have to be patient. It might take some time for your knee to heal.”

Two weeks ago we found ourselves at the doctor for a follow up visit. The boy had not been a compliant patient and I was intent on acquiring a more restrictive brace for his knee. The boy had been seen crutch racing, often forgot to wear his brace and had even fallen down the stairs. As a result, his knee was still swollen and was not improving. But the doctor did not give the boy a better brace. Instead, she told the boy that he needed to start walking on his injured leg and wean himself from his crutches.

I couldn’t possibly follow those doctor’s orders. I knew it was still quite painful for the boy to put any weight on his injured leg. With great wisdom I defiantly told the boy, “Don’t worry honey. I know that you are still hurt. We are just going to have to be patient. It looks like it’s going to take quite some time for your knee to heal.”

One week ago I found myself being questioned by the husband. “The boy starts school soon. He’s not going to still be on crutches, is he? Perhaps he should start putting some more weight on his leg.”

Shaking my head at the callousness of the husband I informed him that the boy was still in quite a lot of pain. I stated that the boy had already experienced enough pain and I would not force him to go through any more. With great wisdom I admonished the husband, “The boy is still hurt and we are just going to have to be patient. Apparently, it is going to take a long time for his knee to heal.”

Just a few days ago I found myself meeting the boy’s new soccer coach for the first time. I wanted to inform the coach that while the boy was currently injured, he did hope to play for his team a bit later in the season when his knee had healed.

The new soccer coach shook my hand and I struggled to mutter a coherent hello. Standing before me was a most fabulous looking, 30-ish, David Beckham look alike. Standing before me was a man that would cause women between the ages of 7 and dead to stop and stare. I was uncharacteristically ruffled.

And then he spoke.

He had a British accent. That accent not only cemented his stunning looks but I was sure it also made him smarter, kinder, and a better soccer coach.

The coach/Adonis questioned the boy about his knee and then offered a bit of advice. “You know buddy, you should start putting some weight on that leg. It will really speed up your recovery.”

I rushed the boy home and made him walk across the living room without his crutches. I told the husband the new soccer coach had suggested the boy start putting some weight on his leg. I told the husband the new soccer coach seemed very competent. I told the husband that I hoped the boy could start soccer practice next week. I told the husband I thought we should start telling the boy to push through the pain.

“What happened to being patient? What happened to protecting the boy from pain? And why do you suddenly find it so important for the boy to play soccer this year?” the husband fired back at me.

“Oh come on!” I guiltily replied back. “The boy has been on those crutches long enough. It’s time for him to get better. Besides….I have a feeling it’s going to be a very, very good soccer season.”

Check This Out!

The summer reading list here at Slightly Exaggerated included the monstrous book, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. At nearly 1000 pages, it was by far one of the most all consuming books I’ve read in a long time. I could not stop reading about the building of an English cathedral in the 1100’s and the lives of the people involved in this great endeavor. In an effort to medicate a severe case of book withdrawal upon the completion of Pillars of the Earth, I also read its equally massive “sequel”, World Without End. World Without End takes place in the same cathedral town 200 years later and, surprisingly, I think I liked it even more than Pillars of the Earth. Don’t let the 1000 or 2000 pages deter you from what I found to be a wholeheartedly engrossing and entertaining read. I must warn you that both books are most definitely rated R. That being said however, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Monday, July 20, 2009

100 Lessons

I didn’t realize in the beginning that telling stories would end up being such a learning experience for me. But as I look back at the evolution of the 99 Slightly Exaggerated stories that have been posted, I am reminded of the many lessons I have learned. And so for this, the 100th Slightly Exaggerated story, I offer a recap--just in case you’ve missed a few.



1. Always keep the butter away from the cat.
2. Always know where your transmission is.
3. People who don’t barbeque are weird.
4. Burn all photos of you in a bad perm.
5. Looks can be deceiving-especially with small, cute dogs.
6. Grocery store shelves are strong enough to climb.
7. Don’t be so quick to judge.

8. Walking naked through the mall is more fun than buying a car.
9. Teachers aren’t paid enough money.
10. Every person is special.
11. The clutch pedal is the one on the left.
12. Never, ever put candy in your underwear.

13. Sometimes the best things happen when you find yourself in a hole.
14. The glass is always half full.
15. If your underwear is showing, your need to pull your pants up.
16. Slow down, pour some lemonade and sit on the porch for awhile.
17. We’re all just a tiny bit mentally ill.

18. 2 + 2 does not always equal 4.
19. Always remember your password.
20. Diversity is complicated.
21. The squeaky wheel will always get the most attention.

22. Mini spares are meant for paved roads.
23. High school class reunions are completely terrifying.

24. High school class reunions are a total blast.
25. Never underestimate the value of strong core muscles.
26. If you’re gonna break it, break it good.

27. Parenting is hard.
28. Men and women do not speak the same language.
29. All children should come pre-packaged in bubble wrap.
30. Blood in the urine is never a good thing.

31. Cats don’t like rules.
32. Death brings an uncomfortable, lonely silence...and a whole lot of food.
33. Mothers are irreplaceable.
34. Never bleach your maple tree.

35. Cats are arrogant.
36. It takes many different colors to make a rainbow.
37. Bikini clad baristas DO make a better mocha.

38. The husband is obsessed with his car.


39. And yet, still, we are married.
40. Don’t forget to see what is right in front of you.
41. A good haircut can change your whole attitude.

42. Never light a candle near an oxygen tank.
43. Children can be very cruel.
44. Driving fast is fun…just drop the kids off first.
45. I shoulda been a blonde.

46. A year from now will be here much faster than you think it will.
47. Really, men and women don’t speak the same language.
48. One way or another, we’re all living in the world inside our head.
49. Always preheat your cast iron pan before putting the cornbread batter in.

50. Turtles are funny and make people happy.

51. Guilt can be a heavy burden.
52. Most people deserve to be treated better.

53. Always get the happy gas.

54. Children are often best behaved at school.

55. A bus is not a good place to pee your pants.

56. Husbands are often worst behaved in public.
57. Less is more.

58. No matter how tempting it sounds, don’t eat the cat food.
59. 1 defunct bank + 1 unemployed homemaker + 1 $30,000 credit offer= 1 major economic crisis.
60. Count your blessings before they are gone.
61. It is hard to find an honest politician.
62. Fat pants are really, quite depressing.
63. Never let your cat play with your gourd.

64. It’s a dog eat dog world.
65. It is possible to be accused of being flagrantly right wing and flagrantly left wing all at the same time.
66. Oprah knows everything.
67. BPA is scary.
68. All caged children should be freed.

69. Nothing says “I love you” like a well timed, inattentive grunt.
70. Wieners are for eating.
71. Nothing says “Christmas” like a pig in the yard.
72. A little bit of laughter and a little bit of luck-that’s all anyone really needs.


73. When you can’t go through, just go over.
74. Bank robbing is harmful to your health.
75. It happens all of the time…really.
76. Ignorance is bliss…especially with calorie counting.

77. My actions are not consistent with the person I hope to become.
78. When you write the word “pee” in your blog, you get a lot of hits from some VERY alternative and disturbing Google searches.
79. Sports should be fun.
80. Always cook your chuck roast for at least 6 hours.

81. It is true…the scale really does lie.
82. With a little help, household appliances can live forever.
83. Crime doesn’t pay.
84. When playing tackle basketball, be prepared for some blood.
85. Don’t plant too early.

86. It is not polite to swear in the library.
87. It is not polite to burp into a microphone.
88. It is not polite to uncork your stroker mouse…at least not in public.
89. It really can hurt so good.

90. High fructose corn syrup is the answer to most parenting problems.
91. Always know which end is up.
92. Healthy breasts should always be a priority, even in this economy.
93. Things could be so much worse.
94. A woman can absolutely do whatever she sets her mind to.

95. It really is Colonel Sanders’ fault.
96. Healthy breasts should always be a priority, even if you’re a 9 year old boy.
97. Beware of exploding footwear.
98. Time really does fly.

99. Never, ever trust the questionnaire.
100. Never, ever try and summarize your first 99 blogs. It is way harder than you think it will be.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Little Buggers

I took a deep breath, grabbed my suitcase and punched my new key into the doorknob of room 569. I was 18 years old and this was the nervous moment when I would meet my first college roommate. Despite never having met this girl, I was fairly confident we would get along. We had both filled out an extensive questionnaire that asked many questions about our likes and dislikes and behaviors. We had been matched as roommates because, according to our questionnaires, we were quite similar.

The first thing I saw when I walked into my freshman dorm room was a small white television on the desk in the far right corner. The evening news was on, very loudly. The bed on the right side of the room had been slept in.

She had already moved in.

I put my suitcase on the bare mattress on the left and looked around at the room that wasn’t much larger than a suburban bedroom walk in closet. I walked over to the window on the opposite side of the room and gazed at the sidewalk, 5 stories down. My roommate’s side of the room looked like she had lived there for quite some time. Very fashionable clothes and piles of makeup and hair products were strewn everywhere. Pictures of, presumably, her friends, were haphazardly posted directly on the walls. The light was flashing on her answering machine. She had 22 messages.

I quickly reasoned that my new roommate was a messy, vain, clothes hound who had a very busy social life. This was nothing like me. I didn’t understand how a mismatch like this could have happened. After all, I had filled out the questionnaire!

The TV suddenly caught my attention. I heard intense, driving music and turned to look at the tiny television. Apparently, there was breaking news. An anchor woman stated that a man had been taken into custody and was being charged with the shockingly brutal rape and murder of a local college girl. While the authorities had only charged this man with the crimes against this one girl, they anticipated many more charges against other victims.

The city prosecutor spoke on the television, “This man is very, very bad. We’ve been looking for him for a long time. He is a brutal, violent and especially dangerous man who has absolutely no regard for human life. Apparently, some friends of his have been assisting him in avoiding capture but after particularly good police work and one lucky tip, we were able to apprehend him this morning. Our city is now a safer place.”

My stomach churned.

It was at that moment that I met my new roommate. She walked through the door of our dorm room and glanced at me. Her attention, however, was quickly diverted to the evil, dangerous man on the television.

She blurted out, somewhat inattentively, “Hi, my name is Shawna. I guess we’re roommates.”

And then she pointed to the television and the recently accused rapist and murderer that was on the screen. “Hey…that’s my friend James. What’s he doing on TV?”

Oh dear. This wasn’t on the questionnaire.

She knew the bad guy. He was her friend.

I would soon learn that Shawna had lots of scary friends. She had friends that would pound on the door at 2 in the morning screaming that they knew I was in there and they were going to mess me up “real bad”. She had friends that would sleep in my bed when I was gone because they needed to “hide somewhere…just for a little while.” And after those friends left, Shawna told me it would be a really good idea if I washed my bedding and all my clothes in really, really hot water and a little bleach…to kill the “little buggers” her friends had left behind.

I survived that first year of college, I survived Shawna and her scary friends and I even survived the “little buggers.” You can be assured however, that when I filled out the roommate questionnaire for my sophomore year, I was very careful to request someone who wasn’t so messy.

Check This Out!

The Slightly Exaggerated family has recently enjoyed the comedy of ventriloquist Jeff Dunham (www.jeffdunham.com) , s'mores made with the Hershey candy bar Cookies and Cream, and buckets of strawberries from the backyard patch. We highly recommend them all.

Monday, June 29, 2009

And Then I Blinked

I remember my 10th birthday well. My aunt Debbie put both of her hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. First she congratulated me. “You are now into double digits! Congratulations!” And then she warned me. “From here on out your life will seem to speed up. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.”

And then I blinked. I must have.

Because one day I woke up and everything had changed. My small hometown is big, the strawberry field is a mall and upriver just isn’t that far away anymore. The friends I grew up with couldn’t wait to get out of that small town. And now some can’t wait to get back to it. The brothers I played backyard wiffle ball with and crowded into the back of that old Citation with are now men who have stress and bills and kids. Somewhere along the line my dad stopped driving us kids to practice and started driving a golf ball. Before I blinked my mother had a Kleenex in her pocket and she told me I looked good in the light blue dress because that was my color. After I blinked there was silence. She was gone.

When the husband walked up to me in 1985 he didn’t take his sunglasses off, even though we were indoors. He was tan and lean and confident. He caught my eye and hijacked my heart. And then I blinked and was shocked to find that somehow, 24 years later, 9 houses, 6 states, 6 cars, 13 pets, 2 kids and 20 wedding anniversaries have filled our lives.

It was just yesterday that I tried to keep up with the 2 year old teenager along the frozen Merrimack river in New Hampshire. She yelled, “I go running! I go running!” And then I blinked and she is running the hurdles at the Jr. High and nobody can keep up with her.

And it was just yesterday that the giggling toddler boy begged to be pushed higher on the swing. And then I blinked and he’s begging to go on the looping roller coasters and wants to know how old he has to be before he can bungee jump.

Next week I will walk up to the boy and put both of my hands on his shoulders. I will look him straight in the eye and say, “Happy 10th birthday! You are now into double digits! From here on out your life will seem to speed up. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.”

I swear he was just born.

I remember my 40th birthday well. For on that milestone day last week I stared at myself in the mirror, eyes wide open, and I willed myself not to blink.

Check This Out!

When I was 10 my favorite treat was a Mountain Bar candy bar. I've recently rediscovered the Mountain Bar and am happy to report that the Mountain Bar is one thing in life that hasn't changed. You should go get one now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Keep Marching!

Having been a mother for 14 years, 9 months and 2 days, I was quite confident in my ability to counsel the teenager. She was rather worried about marching in her first parade with the high school marching band. After carefully assessing the situation, I astutely determined that standard parental guidance was all that was required.

I began with the usual reassuring opening of, “Oh honey, it’s gonna be ok!” I peppered in a few small self esteem boosts discretely disguised as caring parental sympathy. I then went on to recite a few lesson filled idioms, followed by the typical thought provoking series of rhetorical questions and finally ended with the obligatory and always empathetic parental anecdote from my own marching band days.

And just for good measure, because this was her first high school event and it felt like some kind of milestone moment, I decided to add on the always effective parental guarantee. “So you see honey? I am absolutely sure that everything is going to be just fine. All you have to do is walk and play at the same time. I mean really…what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

When I first saw the teenager after the parade, she was most definitely unhappy. She approached me in her stocking feet. She carried her trumpet in one hand. In the other hand she carried her shoes. One shoe was covered in black electrical tape. The other shoe was in pieces. She held the shoes up, shook them at me and yelled, “I’ll tell you what’s the worst thing that could happen, mom…THIS! My shoes exploded! That is the worst thing that could happen!”

Halfway through the first song, the sole of her left shoe started flapping, making it difficult to march. Then the sole of her left shoe fell off completely. The teenager, in horror, bent down to pick it up. All those around her started yelling, “Keep marching! Keep marching!” And so she left the sole of her shoe in the middle of the road. The brass section marched right over the sole, the flutes tried to step over it and the percussion section took turns kicking it around the road. The top part of the teenager's shoe now began to roll away from the side of her foot. Her left sock was marching on pavement.

A band helper managed to grab the sole from the middle of the road. She borrowed black electrical tape from a tow truck driver who was also in the parade. The teenager was unceremoniously pulled out of line and her sole was quickly taped back to the rest of the shoe. With the entire world watching, the teenager most conspicuously made her way back to her spot in the middle of the band.

And then the sole of her right shoe started flapping. And it flapped, awkwardly, until the last few yards of the parade when it too, fell off completely. Her right sock was marching on pavement. The temporary tape repair to the left shoe was beginning to fail. She took both shoes off and started the walk back to the car with her peers, who could all be heard muttering, “Did you see that somebody’s shoe exploded?”

And after marching in that memorable first parade, the teenager went home, put away her trumpet, and spent the next 3 days trying to get the splinters out of the bottoms of her feet.

Having been a mother for 14 years, 9 months and 3 days, I was quite confident in my ability to counsel the boy. He was rather worried about speaking in front of his class the next day. After carefully assessing the situation, I astutely determined that standard parental guidance was all that was required. I began with the usual reassuring opening of, “Oh honey, it’s gonna be ok!” and I ended with, “I mean really…what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

And then I went and took a good long look at his shoes.

Check This Out!

In remembrance of Michael Jackson, I urge you to check out this video by Alien Ant Farm. Their version of Smooth Criminal, one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs, contains numerous references to many of Jackson's most famous videos and personal quirks. See if you can pick them all out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Itchy, Swollen and Dimpled

I suppose I should have been more concerned when my 9 year old boy asked me if I thought his breasts were an unusual shape. But stranger things than that have come out of that boy’s mouth in the past and quite honestly, I wasn’t particularly shocked by his breast question.

“Why no, honey,” I murmured. “You’re perfect just the way you are.”

I was distracted by the pile of bills that had just arrived in the mail. The husband and the teenager had both received magazines and were already absent from the conversation. The boy was perusing the junk mail that had arrived with his name on it.

He continued to ask questions. “Mom, have my breasts been itchy or swollen lately?”

“Itchy? Are you itchy? Do you need some lotion?” I questioned back without pause or thought.

Amused by my lack of attention, the boy continued. “No, I’m not itchy but I am very concerned about this discharge I have coming from my...um...dimpled...nipple.”

I quickly looked up from the bills to see that he had also caught the attention of the husband and the teenager. The wide eyed husband was looking most confused and a tiny bit afraid. The teenager rolled her eyeballs and sighed. “You’re such a punk, you know?”

“I am not a punk!” the boy yelled back shaking his junk mail at her. “But...I just might have a thickening of my breast tissue!”

He had our complete and full attention now. “What the heck are you talking about? You don’t even have breasts! You don’t even like saying the word!” I shouted at the boy.

“Well, I may not have b-r-e-a-s-t-s,“ the boy declared, in elongated form, “but according to this postcard that I got today… from the doctor…” he yelled, glaring specifically at the teenager, ”which was addressed to me and to ME only……well…..you should all know that it is time for my yearly mammogram.”

We stared in silence at the boy for a good 10 seconds. He had a grin on his face that could not be erased.

“See, I told you that you were a punk,” the teenager finally muttered.

I grabbed the postcard out of the boy’s hand. It was true. It was addressed to him and apparently, it was time for his yearly mammogram.

“Honey, this is some mistake. It’s probably meant for me. We can just recycle it.”

“No!” the boy chuckled loudly. “Don’t recycle that! If I make my appointment by July 1st I can get a free digital thermometer with that special coupon on the back!”

The husband shook his head and went back to reading his magazine. The teenager, mumbling something teenager-ish under her breath, shook her head and went back to her magazine. The boy, giggling the whole way, went upstairs to the computer to check on his Club Penguin Puffles.

I shook my head and went back to dealing with my own mail problems. Apparently, our dead cat was eligible for a credit card with a $5,000 limit and I wanted to get started right away filling out the application.

Check This Out!

The Slightly Exaggerated family has gone country this week. We are obsessed with Jason Aldean’s song, Big Green Tractor. Listen to the link below, over and over, at sunset, while rocking on your porch swing that overlooks the vast landscape that is your yard. Make sure that you're also drinking some of this lemonade.

Strawberry Lemonade

Add one cup of sugar to two cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Squeeze the juice of 6 or 8 lemons into the pot. Add one or two small tubs of already sweetened, sliced frozen strawberries. (Or add some fresh or frozen unsweetened strawberries. If you do this, you may want to add a little more sugar at the beginning. As with anything, adjust to your taste. You can also puree the strawberries before adding to the pot if you don't like your drinks chunky. I usually mash things up a bit with my potato masher.) Stir well, add as much water and ice as you need to make it to your liking, and refrigerate. If it is a special occasion, such as a Thursday, you can also add a bit of sparkling water or club soda.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Does your family complain about your cooking? Does your family prefer to go out to eat instead of eating at home? Does your family not give a rip about their arterial health? I’ve been there my friend and I’m here to tell you, there is hope. There is a solution to your problems. Your family will soon love your cooking! Dinner at home will be fun again! And you will quickly learn to live in denial about your family's health status just as they do!

For many years I’ve mistakenly believed that my family liked meals made with chicken and fish and shrimp. They’ve happily consumed many restaurant meals of fried chicken, fish tacos and breaded shrimp. At home however, the healthier roasted chicken, salmon tacos and shrimp pasta I lovingly prepared them were eaten a bit less enthusiastically. When my family didn’t enjoy the food I had made, I blamed myself. Imagine my relief when I realized that I could place the blame on someone else! I wasn’t a bad cook. I was a victim.

My family’s taste buds had been hijacked. Scientists have proven that taste bud hijacking and the accompanying changes in food preferences can be blamed almost entirely on a Mr. Colonel Sanders. There as also been extensive subversive support of the Colonel from a Mr. Ray Kroc and quite possibly the entire tempura and panko loving population of Japan. Because of the Colonel and his posse's reprehensible and ultimately addictive actions, good people such as my family and yours, have through no fault of our own, come to prefer food that is fried.

Research has also proven that while most people do prefer food that is fried, they really are most happy when consuming the actual fried coating itself. The food it was covering is merely an incidental delivery vehicle for the crispy goodness and crunchy fun that only fried breading can provide. Studies have shown that once exposed to this fried breading, it becomes nearly impossible for the average person to resist it's tempting and ultimately habit forming draw.

That is why in my home, we have finally stopped fighting the pull of the entire FRIED world. We have decided to fully embrace our hijacked taste buds. We now ignorantly focus on what really makes us happy. We are now a FRIED family. It's just easier this way. We have stopped wasting our money buying chicken and fish and shrimp. We have stopped wasting time preparing these expensive store bought ingredients. We now spend more time together as a family enjoying FRIED. We don’t worry about the chicken; we just go straight for the fried outside part. We don’t bread our shrimp; we just fry the breading. I'm here to tell you that my family is happier than they have ever been because they are finally getting the juicy, greasy goodness they prefer. And I am happy spending less money on food, spending less time cooking in the kitchen and most importantly, I am enjoying the rave reviews my family now gives me at every FRIED meal.

All of this joy can be yours. You too can live in denial and have this kind of bliss in your home. Whether you choose tempura batter, an egg/flour/crushed cornflake coating, or the ever popular buttermilk/breadcrumb dip with the Colonel’s own 11 herbs and spices, I guarantee that your family will no longer complain about your cooking.

So go fill a pot with oil, turn on the burner and start your journey of making mealtime a happy time in your household again. And the next time your family asks what is for dinner, do what I have done and scream like a crazy woman, “FRIED! We are having FRIED because that’s the only thing you people seem to like!” Ahem.

You won’t be sorry.

Check This Out!

When the Slightly Exaggerated family wants to annoy the neighbors, we open all of the windows, turn on the ABC show Wipeout and set the husband down in front of the TV. He laughs so loudly and and obnoxiously that we think he might need some Depends.

And while you're watching Wipeout, you can have this super easy non FRIED meal for dinner.

Slow Cooked Italian Chicken

Empty two packets of powdered Italian dressing into a crock pot. Add a cup or so of water and mix. Put in 4, or so, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and coat with the dressing mixture. Cook on low for 3 hours. Mix one 8 oz package of softened cream cheese with a big can of cream of chicken soup. Add mushrooms if you like them. Pour over the top of the chicken, stir and cook on low for another hour. At this point, you can dice or shred the chicken and put it back in the pot. Or leave the breasts whole, if you prefer. During the last few minutes of cooking you can throw in some peas or broccoli too. Serve the whole thing over rice or noodles.

The Slightly Exaggerated family version of this meal included shredding the chicken. We also used low fat versions of the soup and cream cheese. Mushrooms and peas were served separately at the table and added by those who weren't 9 year old boys.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lime Rickey, On the Rocks

When I arrived fashionably late it was clear that some women weren’t taking things slowly at all. A tall redhead with crazy wild eyes held on to a Green Dragon with both hands. A petite brunette kept pointing and laughing at the candy pink Sexy Rexy in her hands. I saw one older woman push her way through the crowd to the front. She forcefully asked the man behind the counter, “Do you have a double for me?”

The woman next to me couldn’t decide between getting a Sweet Rocket and going for the Many Happy Returns. “Oh, who am I kidding. “she said. “You know I’m gonna get both! I’m sooo bad!”

Two other women held on to each other as they pointed across the room. “I don’t know about you but I think it’s about time one of us went native!” They giggled loudly as they walked away.

I struck up a conversation with a man leaning on a table. “I never thought I’d get this lucky.” he beamed. “That lady just gave me an Ace of Diamonds. I hit the jackpot! Now I’m off to get some Sultan’s Water.”

The place was crowded and overwhelming. It was loud and busy and chaotic. It was full of people who were crazy and confident and full of character. They seemed to be having the time of their lives. They were throwing money around like they had just won the lottery. And I was pretty sure after hearing the word “labiatae” twice that some of them might have even been talking dirty. I was intimidated and uncomfortable. I knew that I didn’t fit in with these people.

I was pushing my way through the crowd toward the exit when that all changed. I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I’d like to say that I was different than those crazy people. I’d like to say that I was able to have complete self control. I’d like to say that I just said no.

But I didn’t say no. I took one look and I knew I had to have it. It was when I couldn’t say no to that gallon of Lime Rickey, that I knew I might have a problem. I tried to stop the grinning and the laughing and the money from flying out of my pockets. I was powerless. I was addicted. I really was a plant person-just like all of the other crazy people there.

After ultimately spending two hours at that arboretum plant sale, I went home to plant my own supply of labiatae in my herb garden and the double petunias in the front yard and the Lime Rickey heuchera in the rock garden. And I vowed that next year, I was going to get in line early. My new plant friends told me that you’ve got to show up early if you want to have a chance at getting some Aunt Eliza’s Rat Tail. Apparently, it sells out quickly every year.

Check This Out!

When I arrived in the husband's family it was clear there was one woman who didn't take things slowly at all. I began to hear stories about this woman being struck by lightning and memorizing the bible and having something to do with runaway horses and buggies. Regular readers of this blog may remember a posting from January 8, 2009 about this same woman flying a Volkswagen over a snow bank.

Once in a great while, if you are lucky, you will meet a person who is larger than life. If you are really lucky she’ll share a Dr. Pepper with you and tell you some of her stories. The husband’s great aunt, Katherine “Kay” Keating,
passed away this week. She really was a larger than life person, full of more stories and fortitude and gumption than 10 men. The husband had the great honor of having her commission him as a United States Naval Officer. Because of Kay I learned that heaven really does exist underneath a lilac bush in the foothills of the Rockies. The teenager has learned, without one shred of doubt, that a woman can absolutely do whatever she sets her mind to. The boy has learned that barns are cool and mules are cool and falling on a barbed wire fence is definitely not cool.

I cannot encourage you enough to check out the link to Kay's obituary and a hometown editorial about her. She was quite a woman and she will be missed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Occasional Tickle

It started with an almost silent, innocent and occasional tickle. It ended with violent, debilitating and constant hacking. Somewhere in between we found the drugs, he fell asleep exhausted and I cried.

We were saved when the calm soothing voice of the doctor told him to “just relax, be the boss of your cough, everything is going to be ok, push your belly out when you breathe, use your nose to overcome your inflamed airway and it will all be ok….” Apparently, all we needed was a little hypno-babble, a bottle of water, a referral to a speech therapist for breathing lessons and a permission slip to pee…and cough… as much as he wanted to at school.

Go figure.

The boy has been ill the last few weeks. It was nothing more serious than a simple virus that morphed into his attempt to remove both of his lungs by violent expulsion.

At an earsplitting level.

Every 3 seconds.

We’ve been to the doctor too many times. He’s had hot baths and hot cocoa and Life Savers. He’s had nose sprays and allergy medications and antibiotics. He’s had pep talks and motherly love and fatherly concern. He’s had codeine and cough suppressants and ibuprofen. He’s had enough steroids to make him either ineligible for his Little League team or the MVP of the entire region. He’s had x rays and blood draws and breathing treatments.

We’ve been charged more co-pays in the last two weeks than we normally pay in a year. The bills that will arrive in the next few weeks will be more money than my so called writing career produced all of last year. The boy has missed more school in two weeks than the teenager has in 9 years. The family has been stressed. The family has been annoyed. The family has been altered. We’ve been put out. We’ve been inconvenienced. We’ve eaten too much pizza. The boy has eaten too much chicken soup. The boy has lost 3 pounds. I’ve probably gained them. The teenager accused him of faking it. The husband secretly wanted to escape to work.

We’ve filled out more forms than it takes to become a citizen. We’ve divulged our inner most secrets to the computer system. The thread count of our bed sheets, the sleeping preferences of our pets and my penchant for nasty Mexican TV dinners during pregnancy has been thoroughly analyzed and critiqued by those who apparently know more than we do. I’ve been asked if I’ve ever been concerned about the boy’s heart rate. I’ve been asked if the boy’s toe lint has ever appeared abnormal. I’ve been asked if I feel safe in my own home and if the husband is a threat to a stable family environment.

I’ve been asked why I wasn’t concerned when I heard that first tickle in his throat.

What I heard was, “Why aren’t you a better mother?”

I’ve been upset. This has been rough. We’ve had it hard.

And then, finally, we walked out of the children’s hospital, after our final visit with our specialist, the one who’s from the Mayo Clinic, the one who ALL the coughing people go to, the one who held the magical answers.

It was then that we saw the girl.

She was 2 weeks old. She was tiny. Her parents seemed so very young. She was in an adorable pink car seat attached to a stroller. She was sleeping.

Her father carried her oxygen tank while her mother pushed the stroller.

She needed that tank to live.

And as we waited for our elevator, we glanced back at that sweet baby girl.

And we felt lucky.

Check This Out!

In our many days of illness the Slightly Exaggerated family has watched Bolt, Hotel for Dogs and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Not being picky folk, we enjoyed them all. The coughing boy would like to point out that Journey to the Center of the Earth was his favorite. The husband would like to recommend the book, The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby. This has kept him occupied during many waiting room sessions. I would like to recommend the August, 2006 issue of Good Housekeeping. They have a great chicken recipe that I know you’ll love.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In This Economy

“Healthy breasts are something every woman deserves, especially in this economy. Can we count on you to help ensure the breast health, breast education and breast peace of mind for all women?”

The woman on the phone wanted my money. She was hoping that I would help pay for mammograms for uninsured and low income women.

“We find that our ‘most caring’ contributors enjoy donating two mammograms for women who can’t afford to pay themselves. Each mammogram is $90. Now let’s just confirm your address and I then I can put you down for our ‘most caring’ contribution of $180.”

“Oh wow!” I said with a bit of shock. “No, I’m sorry but that just isn’t going to work for me.”

Before I had finished my sentence the woman had begun to speak again. “Yes, I certainly understand that in this economy not everyone is comfortable being a ‘most caring’ contributor. Since breast cancer has touched so many lives however, we find that people still want to do their part to encourage breast health, breast education and breast peace of mind. Why don’t I put you down for our ‘just doing my part’ contribution of $90 to help pay for one mammogram.”

“No….no…I’m afraid that isn’t going to work for me either.”

“Yes, I certainly understand that in this economy not everyone is capable of doing their part. That is why we have begun to offer our ‘working together’ level of contribution. Your contribution of $45 will be combined with another ‘working together’ contributor to provide one mammogram for an uninsured woman.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, but even that is too much for me.” I apologized to the woman.

There was a moment of silence. The woman huffed ever so slightly. Then she started to speak, “Yes, I understand that in this economy…”

I interrupted her. “I too have been touched by breast cancer and I’m a huge fan of breast peace of mind and all the other stuff you’ve mentioned. I would love to help you out. But, in this economy, I can only afford to give $5. You don't by chance have an 'it takes a village' level of contribution, do you?"

Check This Out!

Here's a nice little song that just might get your toes tapping. Miss Kiss Kiss Bang by Alex Swings Oscar Sings is Germany's entry into the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest held in Moscow. No one seems to mind that Oscar is from southern California.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cat-1 Me-0

I’d like to make it clear from the beginning that it never crossed my mind to actually hurt the cat. I have spent an inordinate amount of time, however, thinking up ways to scare the living daylights out of it. The fluffy, long haired, orange cat from the next block over is a regular visitor to my yard. He likes to sit underneath the tree right next to my bird feeder. He hides in the evergreen branches, stealthily stalking and taunting the birds.

Seeing that my bird friends were in imminent danger of death by cat, I knew it was my responsibility to defend them. I needed to let the orange cat know that he was most unwelcome in my yard. I tried pounding loudly on the window. I tried opening the window and yelling at the cat. I put large sharp rocks underneath the tree. I even tried actually chasing the cat out of my yard. Appearing amused by my commotions, the cat would eventually trot out of the yard at a leisurely clip. Each time, he mocked me with his tail held high, brazenly stared me down and always registered a growly complaint. And within hours, he always returned.

It was when I saw the boy shooting the teenager in the head with his Super Soaker water gun that I knew I had found my answer. “In this family, we don’t shoot each other!” I scolded him. “Now give me that gun. I’ve got a cat to find.” I primed the boy’s water gun so it was ready to go and propped it up outside the front door. The next time that fluffy, orange menace threatened my birds, I was going to be ready.

My heart started pounding when I pulled into the driveway the following day. I saw him in his usual spot under the tree. I quietly snuck from the car to the porch and grabbed my loaded Super Soaker. I surreptitiously moved
behind the Japanese maple tree until I was within 3 feet of the cat. My finger was ready to pull the trigger when the cat finally noticed me. The jig was up. He sensed the new found liquid threat and he started to bolt. With lightening quick speed, I lunged after him with my Super Soaker. And with pure joy oozing from my pores, I aimed right for that evil fluff ball and pulled the trigger.

When the teenager and the boy found me on the porch they paused briefly to assess the situation. And then they let me have it.

The teenager yelled out, “Oh my gosh, mom! I seriously hope you never, ever own a real gun. “

The boy came up and grabbed the Super Soaker from my hands. “ I wouldn’t have given this to you if I knew you didn’t have a clue what direction to point it!”

I went into the house and got a towel to dry off my hair. I washed the dripping mascara off of my face. I changed my water soaked shirt.

I walked back downstairs and looked out the window at the bird feeder.

And under the tree, curled like a snake around the sharp rocks, and looking utterly content and dry, sat the fluffy, long haired, orange cat from the next block over.

Check This Out!

If any of your high school memories involve the band Van Halen, if you have a hard time driving 55 or if you’ve ever been to Cabo Wabo, then you might be interested in the hard rock sounds of Chickenfoot. With Sammy Hagar as lead singer and a few other well known musicians such as bassist Michael Anthony from Van Halen, guitar legend Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, Chad Smith, Chickenfoot is a great surprise for those who like that sort of music.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to Clear a Stadium In 10 Easy Steps

1. Pull the boy out of school early to attend the teenager’s first track meet of the season by pretending he has an “appointment”.

2. Persuade the boy that sitting still for 2 ½ hours really will be fun by bribing him with saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup.

3. Drive just a bit over the speed limit, hit only green lights and get lucky finding a close parking spot because after all, the teenager is running the first event of the meet and you are not allowed to be late.

4. Haul the video camera, digital camera, hand held games, books, sunscreen, water, blanket, extra coat, hat, sunglasses, the paper with the order of events on it, and all of the boy’s bribery food from the parking lot to stadium.

5. Find a seat in the crowded stadium near the largest group of people you can find.

6. Cheer on the speedy teenager in an appropriate parental manner that will not embarrass her in any way.

7. Be somewhat inattentive as the boy begins a coughing and sneezing fit like none seen or heard before.

8. Appear shocked as you realize that the boy is only managing to cover his bodily emanations about 52% of the time.

9. Look empathetically apologetic toward the people as you watch them quickly gather their children and their cameras and their own bribery food and scurry to the other side of the stadium, glaring at you in harsh judgment the entire time.

10. To ensure that there are no stragglers left sitting around you, encourage the boy to replace the word, “achew!” with the words, “swine flu” when he sneezes.

Check This Out!

This week at the Slightly Exaggerated home office, we have been smelling the lilac bush, eating a lot of sun dried tomatoes and searching for 3/8 OD aluminum tubing. The lilac bush smells great. The tomatoes taste great. And the tubing connects the old AC condenser to the transmission cooler lines that go to the radiator so that the AC condenser can now magically become a heavy duty transmission cooler instead of the radiator so that the transmission will not overheat because of the super loose stall converter. The Slightly Exaggerated home office highly recommends that you try to find your own lilac bush and your own jar of sun dried tomatoes. Slightly Exaggerated can not claim any responsibility for injuries sustained if you decide to attempt your own tubing project.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bean Ball Boy

When he walked through the door, the boy had his head hung low. He tossed his baseball mitt on the closet floor and walked onto the living room carpet with his dirty cleats.

“How was your baseball game?” I asked him.

“We lost.” he told me. “I was up to bat in the bottom of the 9th. There were two outs. We were behind by one. Bases were loaded. I had a chance to tie the game and I didn’t do it.”

I began to counsel the boy on how striking out wasn’t the end of the world. It even happens to the best major leaguers.

“Oh I’m not upset about striking out.” he informed me. “That kid was pitching way too fast. He’s a 5th grader and I would have never been able to hit off of him. I was just hoping for an inside pitch. I leaned in as far as I could, hoping I would get hit. “

“What?” I cried out in surprise. “You were hoping to get hit?”

“Yeah! That was my plan. Then I would have taken first base and the guy on third would have gotten home. We would have been tied. Then the top of our batting order would have been up and I’m sure they would have been able to get one more run in. And we would have won the game. But I couldn’t manage to get hit…so we lost.”

Looking at the boy, I began to consider where and when my attempts to be a good parent had failed. Finally, I said, “Boy! It is not a good thing to get hit by a baseball. You could get hurt. And I especially don’t want you to TRY and get hit by a baseball. Just for the record, you are not allowed to get hit by a baseball. I want you to jump out of the way every single time.”

Two days later, the boy walked through the door with his head held high. He tossed his baseball mitt on the closet floor and walked onto the living room carpet with his dirty cleats.

“How was your baseball game? I asked him.

“We won!” he said with a smile on his face. “It was the greatest game ever! I got hit!”

”You mean that you got a hit?” I tried to clarify.

“No! I mean that I got hit by a pitch!” the boy answered excitedly. “Look at my elbow, mom. Doesn’t it look cool?”

The boy pulled up the sleeve of his shirt to reveal a swollen, bulbous, bruised elbow. He cringed when he tried to bend his arm. “Man, it kind of hurts.” he muttered, still grinning with pride.

After taking a deep breath I asked the boy. “Don’t you remember me telling you that you were not allowed to try and get hit by the ball? In fact, I think I specifically told you not to get hit at all. Did you try and jump out of the way?”

“Oh, mom, I didn’t have to try to get hit this time. The other pitcher was really bad. I even tried to get out of the way like you wanted... but I still got hit. How. Lucky. Was. That."

Check This Out!

British web sensation Susan Boyle’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables has caused the Slightly Exaggerated family to become re-obsessed with the 10th anniversary Les Miserables concert that took place at Royal Albert Hall. Available on DVD and CD and easily accessible on You Tube it is the greatest music you will ever hear in your entire life. Period.

Friday, April 17, 2009

In Defense of the Husband

To my kind and tolerant neighbors, all nearby innocent elementary school children, and every sensitive songbird that used to visit my bird feeder:

It’s not my fault. I wholeheartedly blame the husband. That being said, I would like to apologize for the recent disturbance that has altered our normally tranquil suburban community. I have tried my best over the years to be the type of wife who could squelch every last bit of her husband’s desires, personality and enjoyment in life. I have failed miserably. Despite my best efforts, the husband still loves his 1969 Camaro.

It was this Camaro that received a new racing engine this past week. I realize that this engine has caused much distress in your life. I realize this engine is unreasonably loud and obnoxious, vibrates the very foundations that your homes sit upon and is, quite possibly, illegal in 9 states. My friends, I also share your concerns. However, because I’ve been married to the husband for many decades now, I am obligated by the marital contract to offer up some sort of defense in support of him. I do this, of course, with the implicit assumption that you will not involve law enforcement officials in any manner whatsoever.

Evidently, my friends, the thunderous blasting that has been let loose from my once peaceful garage is not the annoying disturbance we have initially perceived it to be. I am aware that some of you were in fear that a jumbo jet crash landing in your bathtub was imminent. I know that many of your napping babies were unceremoniously jolted awake. And I myself have been witness to particularly panicky pets disappearing for days on end. I’ve been informed by the husband, however, that we should not fear. Apparently, this deafening display of horsepower and the occasional heart stopping crescendo of simulated acceleration is actually quite necessary and very, very su-weeeet. Perhaps even, righteous…dude. This beautiful gift of horsepower comes from the somewhat uncommon yet quite extraordinary high compression, high lift racing engine. What a privilege it is to be privy to a sound that is so rarely heard in suburban enclaves such as ours. We are so lucky. So sayeth the husband.

Evidently, my friends, the chest pounding tremors that have emanated from this monster of an engine is a sure sign of gearhead success. It’s true that these other worldly vibrations are usually reserved for California fault line dwellers. I know that your wall decorations have vibrated off the wall and have fallen to the ground. And I can confirm that these vibrations have even caused the weak bladdered among us to experience mild urinary leakage. But that is the trade off, apparently, when you are dealing with uncompromised, large bore excess. This unrestrained, quake like experience is the result of a simple but proud pursuit of unrestricted power without bowing to the unreasonable expectations and limitations of neighborhood civility. The husband does not feel that his choice of 3 inch pipes on a dual exhaust is indicative of any rudeness, insensitivity or unmannerly behavior at all. Any engine can sound good. But to reach true engine nirvana, you must feel it. So sayeth the husband.

I am fully aware that there has been a gasoline and exhaust smell that has permeated our neighborhood. I know that this smell has caused fits of gagging in otherwise healthy and tolerant wives. And I suspect that this awful odor is 97% responsible for the recent air pollution warning in our greater metropolitan area. But it goes without saying, that this is merely the gratifying, beautiful, retina burning evidence that high octane racing fuel is present. The burn characteristics of this sweet nectar from the racing gods serves to increase horsepower, acceleration and general combustion efficiency. It should be revered and not reviled. So sayeth the husband.

I’d like to tell you, my friends, that after my loving and non judgemental confrontation with the husband over this engine and its unpleasant side effects, that he has vowed to change his ways. This would not be true. I must admit, that yet again, I have failed to squelch the husband. As a result, the husband has issued the following statement:

“To all non-gearheads: You must realize this ain’t no grocery getter. This beautiful blend of muscle and steel is built to haze the hides. This righteous ride is now equipped with a stroker mouse motor. This baby is now ported, overbored, jetted up and ready to rock and roll. And with her new rubber rake, a new light up tach and a tranny signed by Dirty Dan himself she is now ready to meet the tree. And finally, I honestly don’t understand your complaints about the noise. I mean really, it’s not like I left her uncorked.”

So sayeth the husband.

Pray for me, my friends. You can see what I’m dealing with here.

Check This Out!

If you too find yourself unexpectedly receiving cable channels that you have not paid for, then may I strongly suggest that you start watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network. The boy and the teenager give it two thumbs up.

Of course, if you prefer, you could also watch this. It would make the husband so proud.