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”

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… 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.