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.

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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.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Killer Burp

It was never my intention to traumatize the children in any way. I never imagined their parents would become so frightened. But when the children started crying and the parents started glaring I knew it was time for the boy and I to leave the playground.

When we arrived at the playground on the wealthy side of town that day, the boy and I were impressed with how fancy and bright and clean it was. It was swarming with well dressed, multi-cultural children who said, “Excuse me”. The parents were actually playing and laughing with their children and not their Blackberrys. It was a wonderful, happy and nurturing environment. And despite the fact we had arrived in an American car that hadn’t been washed in 4 months, and despite the fact that part of his breakfast was still stuck to his face and despite the fact that I was wearing faded yoga stretch pants from Walmart, the boy naively deemed us worthy to enter the playground.

The boy ran over to the slide. As he reached the bottom of the slide a pair of stunning blond parents encouraged their little girl, in a foreign language, to ask the nice boy if he would play with her. I encouraged the boy, in American slang language, to get his fingers out of his nose and play with the nice little girl. The girl ran over to the long speaker pipe that was at one corner of the playground. The boy ran to the other side of the playground to the other speaker pipe. He listened as the girl yelled a mixture of jubilant English and some other language into the pipe. The boy paused before he responded to the girl. I was impressed that the boy was thinking about what he would say to the girl before he spoke to her. I shouldn’t have been.

The boy took one long, deep breath. And then he let loose the loudest, longest burp I have ever heard come out of any human being. This impressive burp traveled through the playground pipes and was magnified by the speaker at the other end. Parents turned their heads. Children looked up from the sandbox. The startled girl jumped back from the speaker. Her parents pulled her close. The boy was full of pride. He yelled over to me, “Did you hear my burp mom? Wasn’t that the coolest one I’ve ever done?” And in an instant, all the playground eyes were upon me. I was the burping kid’s mom.

I grabbed the boy and we moved to another part of the playground where the children and their parents were unaware of our offensive burping history. The boy was immediately attracted to something he had never seen. It was a Talking Bob. Talking Bob is a piece of interactive playground equipment that allows its user to make a brief recording of his or her voice. Then a playfully distorted version of what they have said is repeated back a in a funny and creative way. It didn’t take the boy long before Bob was speaking back in a high pitched helium voice or a robot voice. Bob giggled, echoed and made splashing sounds that were broadcast through Bob’s speaker to the playground. The boy yelled “I want candy!” into Bob. Bob responded with a siren and a high pitched voice saying, “Candy! Candy! Candy!” The boy barked like a dog into Bob. Bob giggled and barked back.

And then the boy yelled into Bob, “I’d kill for a cookie right now!” And Bob responded. Bob let loose with a deep growl and yelled out, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” And then Bob repeated it again, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” This growling, killing tirade was magnified by Bob’s speaker throughout the playground. Parents turned their heads. Children looked up from the sandbox. The boy was full of pride. He yelled over to me, “Did you hear that mom? Bob didn’t even talk about the cookie part. He just said, ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ That’s funny, huh?”

And again, all the playground eyes were upon me. I was the killing kid’s mom. I stood up from the bench I was sitting on and walked over to the boy. One little girl sniffled in her mother’s arms. Two other mothers whispered to each other behind their hands. I told the boy it was time to go get some lunch. And as the other playground parents and children watched us leave the boy turned to me and said, “Hey mom…I wonder what Bob would have done if I had burped into him.”

Check This Out!

Check out my current favorite blog, The Public Reader Daily Magazine and Web Guide at . It is chock full of interesting stories, pictures and links. Don't miss the section, The Humorous Side, and it's Weight Loss Plan story from April 1st. You will laugh.

I just finished reading Jhumpa Lahiri's latest book, Unaccustomed Earth. She is one of my favorite authors and Unaccustomed Earth certainly confirmed why. Give it a try.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Free Shipping

It wasn’t the bad S-H word that caused me to raise my eyebrows. It was the toddlers arriving for story time at the library as the man muttered the bad S-H word that gave me some concern.

I peered around my computer screen to find the man in heated conversation with his monitor. He peered intently at the screen in front of him and continued to express the thoughts in his head loud enough for his nearest neighbors to enjoy.

“I know you want me to fill that in but….but…..WHERE!”

The computer silently spoke back to him. The man became more frustrated.

“I THOUGHT I already did that! You know, I’m beginning to think you are full of crap.”

As the mothers rushed their toddlers past the man he slammed his hand down on the table. “Are you kidding me? Seriously? $9.95? You can’t possibly be serious.”

The computer must have been serious. The man was silent for a brief moment.

And then he leaned in toward the monitor and spoke to it through gritted teeth. “I quit. You win. I will just buy my sweater at the mall.”

I tried to casually glance at the man without him seeing me. I wasn’t the only one. I even saw the hip young woman next to him obviously staring right at him. The staring lady started to chuckle out loud. The defeated computer man turned to look at her. “What?” he asked her. “What do you find so very funny?”

She leaned in to him and put her hand on his shoulder. “Oh I’m so sorry for laughing.” she said. “It’s just, we’ve all been there. God knows we’ve all been there man. I tell ya, I feel for ya. We’ve all screamed at our computer before. It’s just….well…it’s just that most people don’t do it at the public library while 37 toddlers walk by.”

The man silently stared at her for a moment and then looked around at the rest of the computer users near him. We all simultaneously and most conspiculously ducked our heads back behind our own screens. We started typing gibberish in the hopes of appearing to be involved in our own computer work. He stood up, took one last look at the computer, and started to put his coat on.

And as the man walked away he could be heard muttering, “Free shipping my *ss.”

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I've been enjoying the PBS series, Spain...On the Road Again. Chef Mario Batali takes Gwyneth Paltrow, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, and Spanish film star Claudia Bassols on the ultimate foodie road trip through Spain's picturesque countryside. Good food, good scenery and a bit of history thrown in makes for a most enjoyable show.

I also made risotto a few nights ago for dinner. Each family member then threw in their favorite mix-in of choice. The Slightly Exaggerated family chose sauteed mushrooms, peas, chopped artichokes and bacon. One extravagant family member even chose them all. Make your own basic risotto recipe, throw in your favorites and you will be most happy.