Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Standing in Line

1. The kitchen section of the department store was full of men that mid-December afternoon. One father and his two teenage boys wandered aimlessly. The father scolded the boys for arguing and pushing, “I told you boys to stop that! Let’s hurry up and find something for you mother and get the heck out of here!” The two boys continued to jostle each other, yell at each other and tease each other with utensils. One boy had a whisk in his hand and kept following the other boy and poking him with it. After a few minutes, the second boy could take the abuse no longer. A few aisles over, I, and for that matter the entire kitchen section, heard him yell out, “G*d da**it! Quit sticking that whisk up my *ss or I’m gonna take you out with this rolling pin-right here, right now!”

When I went to pay, the two boys and their father were behind me in line. The father spoke to the boys. “Now when we get home I want you both to wrap this stuff for your mother. And I want you to wash that whisk before you wrap it….your mother doesn’t ever need to know where that whisk has been.”

The two boys shrugged their shoulders. One finally spoke, “Well….I guess it is Christmas.”

2. I don’t know how many people were standing in line at the 12 checkout stands, but it was a lot. I don’t know how fast those lines were moving, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of pretty darn slow. I don’t know how many cheerful people were waiting in those lines with me, but it seemed like zero.

I wanted to make the neighbors some cookies and I needed some butter. I stood in line surrounded by the cranky, huffing people, holding my 3 boxes of butter.

One man a few people back yelled, “Hey buddy, can’t you count! You got 16 items buddy! That’s more than 15! 16….more than 15……”

The woman behind me muttered to her friend as they perused a tabloid, “Those crazy Kardashians. I’ll tell you what those girls need: Jesus. Those girls need a little Jesus in their lives.”

The woman behind her kept checking her watch and sighing loudly. “I hate this time of year. It just brings out the stupid in people. How hard can it be to make this line move a little faster?” She then gasped and turned to the Jesus woman. “Dangit! I forgot the Velveeta for my dip. Could you hold my spot while I run and get some?”

The Jesus woman turned white and stammered. “Um…..I don’t know….that’s probably not going to work, honey.”

The Velveeta woman turned red and seethed. “For God’s sake, you’ve got to be kidding me.” She stayed in line.

When it was my turn to check out I plopped my butter on the moving belt. The angry counting man was still angry. The Jesus woman was still a bit pale. The Velveeta woman was still cheeseless. Things were a bit tense in that checkout line.

The checker scanned my butter. I told her I needed butter for my neighbor’s cookies. We both looked up at the little screen to see the total.

She looked at me to see if I had noticed what was on the screen. I looked at her to see if she noticed what was on the screen. We both started laughing. The Jesus woman wondered what was so funny and leaned forward to see the screen. She started laughing. The counting man in line a few people back yelled out, “Hey, what’s going on up there?” The checker turned the screen for those in line to see. Then the Velveeta lady and the counting man were then laughing as well.

The screen read:


As the checker handed me my receipt she said, “I sure hope your neighbors enjoy their “BUTT” cookies!” And all the relaxed, smiling people in line laughed at me and my butter as we left the store.

3. “Honey, quit beating that man with your naked baby!”

The 4 year old was standing in line at the UPS store with her dad holding a naked, plastic baby doll by the leg.

“But, why daddy? My baby is mad at that man. She wants him to move so we can be first in line. This line is too slow daddy.”

The elderly man who had been beaten by the baby turned around and kneeled down to speak to the little girl. “Your baby must be very cold.” he said. “Maybe you should wrap her up in your coat so that she stays warm. She seems like such a nice baby.”

The 4 year old turned to her daddy. “It’s ok daddy. My baby said that man can be first in line. She found out he was nice.”

The dad smiled at the girl and patted her on the shoulder. The girl snuggled the naked baby inside her coat. When she was done she looked at the line of people behind her and then up to her dad. “Hey,daddy. That man was nice to me and my baby. There’s a lot of people waiting daddy. Maybe, daddy…maybe ALL of these people are nice.”

Check This Out

Soft Ginger Cookies (Neighbor’s Cookies)

¾ cup butter or shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp soda
2 tsp ginger
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
A shake or two of nutmeg

Beat butter for 30 seconds. Gradually add in sugar. Add egg and molasses and beat well. In separate bowl, stir dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, mixing well. Shape into balls. (Roughly 1 ½ inches round). Roll in granulated sugar. Put on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let stand 2 minutes.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Urgent Care

The nice lady sitting up straight behind the desk was tapping away on her keyboard and looking at her monitor. I sat slumped on the other side of the desk, the boy beside me, waiting to pay yet another co-pay. The nice lady paused and muttered, “Hmmm…..” Then she looked up and half questioned me, “Well, I see that this is the boy’s first time visiting Urgent Care?”

I’m pretty sure the laughter that came out of me disturbed the walking pneumonia lady 3 seats away.

“Oh no…..there’s some mistake. The boy has been here many times before. He’s a regular customer.”

I was pleased to see that my favorite chair was available in the Urgent Care waiting room that Thursday morning. I had a good view of Regis and Kelly on the TV. I wasn’t near the drafty, constantly in motion, door. On my right hand side was the table that always had the best real magazines. The in-house promotional medical magazines were always kept on the table across the room, near the drafty door. I picked up a copy of a 2008 Redbook and tried to decide if I would read the “Easter Fun for All Ages!” article or take the quiz on page 142 that would tell me if my marriage was “Heavenly Blissful, Rock Solid, Truthfully Terrible or Ignorantly Even”.

The pneumonia lady made it hard to concentrate on my reading. She kept hacking and quietly moaning. The impatient father in the corner kept looking at his watch and sighing. He kept telling 4 year old Kayla that someone would look at her ear soon, very soon. The teenager in the football jersey sitting across from me couldn’t fit his foot in a shoe. His foot was purple and swollen. He texted the entire time he waited. His mom absentmindedly kept running her hand along his shoulders and asking, “How does it feel now, sweetie?” The middle aged woman in the corner sat hunched and held her back with one hand. She told her husband, “That is the LAST time I am ever going to do THAT! Mark my words!”

We all turned our heads as the hairy, sweaty workman in overalls walked in. He held his right arm funny and walked a bit sideways. In his left hand he held a brown paper bag. He walked up to the nice lady behind the desk. “May I help you?” she asked him.

“Yeah. I was working over at the Burger King installing their new playground. I slipped and fell and impaled myself on this. I ripped it out of myself and put it in this bag. I figured the doctor would need to see it.”

He opened the bag to show the nice lady. The nice lady’s eyes grew wide. “Oh dear. Wow! Now THAT must not have felt very good at all. How unusual. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

The entire waiting room craned their heads toward the man in overalls, desperate to see what was in that paper bag.

At that moment a nurse came into the waiting room and called the boy’s name.

I was pleased to see that the boy and I were ushered to my favorite Urgent Care room. It had walls, not curtains. It had the most interesting paintings on the walls, not just pictures of kittens and strawberries. It also had the cool inner ear and nose diagram poster. The room next door only had the proper coughing and sneezing technique poster. And just as I had hoped, the 2009 College Basketball Preview Sports Illustrated was hidden behind the Spanish language influenza flyers in the magazine rack-right where I had left it last time.

When the doctor finally arrived, she exclaimed to the boy, “I have never, ever heard of such a thing. I can honestly say that you are my first tetherball injury. I had no idea it was such a violent game!”

The doctor turned to me. “Do you know the way to the X-ray room?" Which really meant, "The boy will need many, many, very expensive X-rays that will give him cancer when he is 47.”

I said to the doctor, “Yes, I know the way.” Which really meant, “Are you kidding me? Not only do I know how to get to X-ray, I also know two shortcuts in those back “restricted” hallways. And this time I’m gonna beat my record of 1 minute and 23 seconds. Last time the boy and I got behind that lady with the walker and we lost 12 precious seconds.”

While waiting for the boy to be X-rayed, I visited the secret bathroom only the employees knew about. It still had that fabulous vanilla melon scented soap. I chatted with Serena M. who checked the boy in. She’d finally had her baby. His pictures were adorable. And I flipped through the January 2010 People magazine. They always had the most current magazines in X-ray.

The boy left Urgent Care with his arm in a sling and his lower arm in a brace, instructions to take a lot of pills and a sheet of physical therapy exercises. On our way out, we walked past Ray, the security guard. “Oh dear, BOY! You can’t possibly be back here again? Weren’t you just here a month or two ago…or was that your sister? Please tell me what you have done to yourself this time.”

The boy told his story.

“I was playing tetherball at recess with a tall kid. He swung the ball really high above my head. I jumped up to hit the ball. I missed the ball and instead the rope wrapped quickly, all around my arm, really tight. When I came down, I found my entire body dangling, held up by the rope that was wound around my arm. I have a bunch of super nasty red marks and a ton of ugly bruising. My forearm is sprained and the doctor said I tore the rotator cuff in my shoulder. It all hurts a lot.”

Security guard Ray shook his head in disbelief. He patted the boy on the head and told me to say hello to the teenager. “It’s been a few months since she’s been in, hasn’t it? She's probably due.”

Check This OutA co-worker of the husband shared this interesting homemade cookie a few days ago. He sandwiched peanut butter between two Ritz crackers and covered the whole thing in chocolate. I haven’t had time to look up a recipe, but you definitely should. It was reeaallly gooood.

Monday, November 29, 2010

School Conferences........Oh. Dear.

The boy’s teacher said it so casually that it took a few moments for me to muster the appropriate shocked response.

“In all my 13 years of teaching I have never had a student make me want to crawl under a rock and hide.”

Oh. Dear.

My brain raced.

This sounded like it could be bad.

The teacher continued, “It was the first day of school. I had a new student that didn’t know anyone. I knew your boy from chess club last year. I knew he was a good kid. And so, I asked your boy to accompany the new student around during the first recess.

One hour into the new school year, in front of the entire class, your boy looked at me and refused. Without pause, he said, ‘No thanks. I’m not that good with people.’”

Oh. Dear.


This might be bad.

“Imagine my shock. One hour into the new school year. My authority already challenged. And… the new student. I’m sure the poor kid wanted to crawl under a rock too.”

Oh. Dear.

The teenager’s teacher said it so casually that it took me a few moments to realize she was serious.

“I’ve got a real problem with your teenager in my class.”

Oh. Dear.

My brain raced.

This sounded like it could be bad.

The teacher continued, “Your teenager is not living up to her potential in my class. She is not contributing like she should.”

Oh. Dear.


This might be bad.

“Imagine my shock when I read her first paper. She had wonderful, well thought out ideas. But, in class, she is very quiet and never speaks up. I need her to start speaking up and sharing her ideas with the class.”

Oh. Dear.

One kid spoke up. One kid never spoke.

When confronted, the boy who spoke up to the teacher explained, “What? It’s true. I’m very shy.”

When confronted, the teenager who never speaks in class explained, “What? I can’t believe she would say that! I’m a good kid. I don’t see what the problem is! I get good grades and I wish you would just get off my back. I don’t have time for this. I have too much homework. What is for dinner by the way? What? I’m so tired of pizza. Do we have any pasta? And do we have any cider left? That was some good stuff. You should get some more the next time you go to the store. Oh, by the way, basketball practice ends early tomorrow night. And guess what my friend told me. She twisted her ankle and might not be able to play. And she also said her cat just died. I told her that I was sick of my cat waking me up in the middle of the night. Hey! Can we turn the TV to ESPN? SportsCenter should be on. Boy I hope it snows. I really don’t want to go to school tomorrow. I have a test in history. Oh man. I can’t believe she said I need to speak up. I suppose it’s true though. I really don’t raise my hand at all. I’m very shy.”



Check This Out!

The newish Elton John/Leon Russell album, The Union, has been much enjoyed by the Slightly Exaggerated family in recent weeks. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the superstar John and the superstar of the past, Russell, have created what can only be called “good music”. Great songwriting, fabulous piano, and solid, interesting vocals make this an album you should definitely check out.

For more info:

Read this.

Or watch this.

Monday, November 15, 2010


When the girl in green ferociously hurled the teenager to the ground,
the crowd, though not at all surprised, managed to express a stunned gasp in response to the forceful attack. The crowd watched in anticipation as the teenager’s still body lay straddling the sideline of the soccer field-her legs on the inbounds turf, her head on the faded red track that encircled the field. As the battered teenager finally rose from the ground, her elbow had already started swelling, her hip had already started bleeding and the cleat impression on her leg had already started bruising. And when the teenager then proceeded to launch herself down the field after the ball, determination on her face, none of those injuries really seemed to matter to her at all.

It was a Saturday afternoon near the end of the soccer season when the teenager decided to paint her toenails. The homecoming dance was that evening and the teenager was attempting a metamorphosis from tough athlete in worn out sweatpants to refined princess beauty in sparkly dress. The teenager looked down at her toes. The nail polish had managed to cover the black, half dead, toenails stomped on all season by opponents’ cleats.

She looked up at her mother, a bit surprised, and muttered, “We just might be able to pull this off.”

The teenager with the recent flu shot looked at her arm. She was pleased to see that the promised redness and swelling had not materialized. She shaved her legs, evaluated her leg bruises and watched the biggest scab on her knee wash down the shower drain.

The teenager with athlete’s foot was relieved to see that the cream had finally worked and the nasty bruise on the top of her foot had faded. Rough elbows were lotioned and she was able to rid herself of another scab. She had refused tanning lotion and pondered whether her farmer’s tan from her soccer shirt was visible. She ran her fingers through her conditioned hair. The sweat was gone for now. The scrapes on her hands, from the last time she had been thrown down, were nearly invisible.

The hairstylist took one look at the teenager’s hair and declared, “Honey, you definitely need some texture.” The teenager replied, “Can you make me girly?”

The mother attempting to put on the teenager’s, hopefully tasteful makeup declared, “You do know I’m not very good at this, right?” The teenager replied, “Just don’t make it too obvious, OK. Remember, I’m not used to wearing all of this crap on my face.”

The teenager that wiggled into the sparkly dress had to do so carefully. She didn’t want to aggravate her hamstring pull again. When she leaned against the bathroom counter to put on her earrings she had to avoid resting on her sore hip. As she poked at her ears, she prayed her ear piercings hadn’t closed up. And as that teenager walked downstairs in her strappy, high heeled sandals, with a death grip on the stair railing for balance, she hoped her sprained ankle was fully healed.

The proud father that watched the sparkly princess come down the stairs had to hold his emotions in. He couldn’t believe how fast 16 years had gone by. He remembered how tiny and bruise free she was when she was born. The boy wondered what the heck had happened to his older sister. She walked by him without punching or teasing him.

The mother with the camera hoped her heart wouldn’t burst.

She remembered everything.

Every day.

Every moment.

Every second.

The mother took the pictures.

Too many of them. Over and over.

The teenager wanted to be done. She wanted to sit down.

The father and the mother and the brother watched the sparkly princess-athlete-teenager gingerly walk on her unfamiliar high heels, over to the old, worn chair to sit down.

That sparkly teenager, in a dress, plopped in that old chair and spread her legs wide, like only a NFL linebacker could. She planted her 3” heels on the wood floor and lay back in the chair to relax for awhile.

The mother, appalled, scolded the teenager, “Oh honey, if you’re going to dress like a lady, you must learn to act like a lady. You must put your legs together. And please, cross your ankles. It’s the proper way.”

The sparkly princess-athlete-teenager grinned back at the concerned mother and announced, “It’s OK mom, I’ve already thought of that. That’s why I’m wearing my Under Armour spandex shorts underneath my dress. That way, I can sit any way I like and it won’t ever be a problem.”

The teenager then lifted her dress to show the family that despite the sparkles and the hair and the makeup and the heels, she wasn’t quite ready to cross over, completely, to the girly side.

The father dropped his head in fatherly shame.

The boy grinned in brotherly amusement.

The mother, of course, documented the moment in pictures that were soon deleted. After all, the family must maintain some minimal positive reputation.

The teenager, finally ready for her first homecoming dance, could only think of one thing. “I wonder if I’ll be the starting point guard on the JV basketball team this year…”

Check This Out!

We here at Slightly Exaggerated have finally jumped on the Stieg Larsson bandwagon. We've read the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire. While initially slow, the books soon became impossible to put down. Definitely R rated, these mystery thrillers easily lived up to their hype. Now, I just need someone to loan me their copy of the third book. Now. Please.

While reading these books, the Slightly Exaggerated family enjoyed a turkey, red pepper and blue cheese on sourdough toasted sandwich. The sandwich was almost as good as the book. You should really try it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

All That Was Good

It was a sunny Friday afternoon when the neighbor and I stood on the sidewalk and were surrounded by all that was good in the neighborhood.

The little girl’s blonde hair was a blur when she flew by on the bike she had just learned to ride. A brand new Spider Man costume ran by with a happy little boy inside. The teenage boy mowed a lawn that wasn’t even his own. At the end of the street the toddlers giggled. Their mothers talked of trading babysitting and trading recipes. The man up the street was underneath his car, changing the oil. The man down the street was washing his car. His son was perfecting his skateboarding tricks. A jogger ran by and waved. A calico cat took a bath in the center of the road. Three big dogs trotted by, dragging their owner by a leash. You could hear the soccer practice at the nearby school.

All the grass was green because of last week’s rain. Next spring we would all have iris in our yards because one neighbor had shared her large bunch. One family would have apple pie that weekend, made from the apples that were shared by their next door neighbor. A 15 year old girl planned how she would wear her hair for the upcoming homecoming dance. She wondered if the neighbor girl she’s known since she was 4 years old was going to homecoming too. An elderly man, two houses up, said goodbye to the neighbor who had checked in on him. Some third grade girls ran to the neighborhood park to hang upside down on the monkey bars. The neighbor who always takes care of the park wondered if it might need some new bark. You could smell the barbeque from someone’s backyard. Another neighbor was finishing up the potato salad. Tonight, the neighbors would gather.

It was a sunny Friday afternoon when the neighbor and I stood on the sidewalk and were surrounded by all that was good in the neighborhood.

It was that same sunny Friday afternoon when the TV news reporter came to our neighborhood and stood on the sidewalk with the neighbor and I.

“Have you heard about the shooting?” she asked.

Have you heard about the horrible things and the awful stuff and the ugliness and the chaos?

Did you hear it was your neighbor?

Your neighbor was shot.

Your neighbor is dead.

Standing on that sidewalk, in the middle of our neighborhood, the neighbor and I knew that none of what the reporter had just said would ever make any sense to us.

You see, our neighbor was a big part of all that was good in the neighborhood.

It was past my bedtime on a dark Friday evening when I turned on the late night news. I saw my neighborhood on TV. The little girl’s blonde hair was a blur off in the distance as she rode her bike down the street. The grass was just as green from last week’s rain. You could hear a dog barking.

I heard the reporter’s voice coming from my TV.

“Neighbors say they are shocked. Neighbors say he was a good man.”


Monday, October 11, 2010

Cowlick Surrender

The boy knew it was futile to run from me. Like every other morning of the year, I was armed with a spray bottle of water, a tube of hair gel and a comb. Like every other morning of the year the boy attempted escape.
On this day however, the boy knew I would win. Today those cowlicks would be tamed, for today, was school picture day.

When he woke up on the morning of his school pictures the boy was already resigned to wearing an itchy collared shirt. He was not, however, happy about having his hair combed. The boy didn’t believe in combing his hair preferring instead to, “show the world my personality!” The two cowlicks the boy was born with guaranteed his hair would always have personality.

When I dropped the boy off at school that morning I had claimed victory over the cowlicks. The boy’s hair was combed and mother approved. I had a smile on my face as I proudly watched my handsome boy approach his group of friends. The boy spoke. His friends laughed and pointed at the boy’s head. I watched as the boy’s friend put both of his hands in the boy’s hair and ruined my hard won cowlick victory. I put on my angry face, put one hand on my hip and gestured at those boys with the wagging index finger on my other hand. The boy, half embarrassed and half annoyed, smoothed his hair down as his group of friends giggled. My cowlick victory was still intact.

It would not have been my choice to schedule the boy’s school pictures immediately after PE class. The boy ran hard in PE. The boy sweated. When the boy left PE his hair was no longer mother approved. The cowlicks had reasserted control and the boy’s personality was in full view. The experienced ladies helping the photographer took one look at the boy’s hair and knew it was not mother approved. They grabbed a comb and attacked the boy’s hair. The cowlicks fought back. The photographer called the boy’s name.

But, the comb was stuck.

The helper ladies, wide eyed and panicked, stared at the boy. The boy, wide eyed and unconcerned about their worry, stared back.

And as the photographer called the boy’s name again he turned to find the boy’s sweaty hair, wound forever around a black plastic comb, the entire mess shooting straight up out of the boy’s head. The boy’s personality was shining in full glory. It was not mother approved.

“So, how were your school pictures?” I asked the boy when he arrived home from school.

“Oh they were great!” the boy said. “Except I had PE right beforehand and my hair got sweaty and messed up and those ladies tried to comb it and the comb got stuck in my hair and 6 people tried but none of them could get it out."

I instantly regretted purchasing the more expensive picture packet with those extra 5x7’s. It sounded as if the boy’s pictures were not going to be mother approved.

The boy continued, “But you don’t have to worry mom, I think my pictures will turn out ok. After those ladies cut the comb out of my hair, most of it didn’t stick up very far anymore!"

Stunned into silence by this hair cutting news, I realized I had no choice. I raised my white flag and surrendered, permanently, to the undeniable power of the cowlick.

Check This Out!

A bunch of important publications named the novel, Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, one of the best books of 2009. I couldn’t agree more. If you like mystery, suspense and plot twists, then this page turner is for you. I initially thought that Await Your Reply’s topic of identity theft sounded a bit dry. I was wrong. I couldn’t put the book down. So go make up a big pot of chili or a nice double recipe of casserole. Because your children will need to eat while you’re reading and you’re not going to want to stop and cook. Not that that happened to me…..ahem.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chekov the Potty Mouth

It was 11:45 pm, when the husband, now known as Chekov, put down the masking tape he had used to tape the hotel doors shut. He snuck out of his room wearing his favorite swim trunks. He passed by the pool and headed to the hot tub where he was greeted by Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty and Uhura. He put his walkie talkie on the table with the others, took off his shirt and slid into the water. As he laughed at Spock’s story about the problem child in room 345, the 40 something husband thought to himself, “This is the best band tour ever!”

When the teenager agreed to let the husband chaperone her band tour she had four rules. 1. The husband was not allowed to pack a swimsuit. 2. He was not allowed to ever take his shirt off. 3. He was not allowed to enter the pool area of the hotel for any reason. 4. The husband was not allowed to embarrass the teenager in any other way that wasn’t covered by the first three rules.

By the end of day one, the husband had already broken rules 1, 2 and 3.

Band tour had started that morning with the teenager excited about her first band tour. The husband admitted to being a bit nervous about his first band tour as a chaperone. When the charter bus pulled away from the school, the teenager was sitting with her friends, somewhere in the middle of the bus. A few rows in front of the teenager, the chaperone husband had forgotten about his nervousness when he was handed his very own walkie talkie and a list of Star Trek code names each chaperone was assigned. The bus had only travelled a few miles when another chaperone, “Scotty”, yelled out, “Klingon battle cruiser at 9 o’clock!” as the bus passed a police car. With a satisfied look of amusement on his face, the husband looked back a few rows at the teenager and he was pretty sure he saw her roll her eyeballs.

On day 2 of band tour, the husband called home. I chastised him for breaking rules 1-3. “Come on!” the husband whined. “The teenager wasn’t even there. She’s got nothing to worry about. I won’t embarrass her. By the way, these teenage boys CAN NOT keep their hands off of the girls! They are constantly touching them. I’m beginning to think that it’s all they ever think about!”

Later on that second day, the teenager was heard reprimanding some boys for swearing. The boys were used to it. The teenager had gained quite a reputation, apparently, for being the band “potty mouth police”. The teenager didn’t like bad language and wasn’t shy in telling her peers to clean up their mouths.

The husband was unaware of this fact.

It was near curfew on night 2 of band tour. The boys were expected to be in their rooms on the 3rd floor of the hotel. The girls were expected to be in their rooms on the 2nd floor. The chaperone husband was having trouble with Joe. Joe very much wanted to touch a girl. Joe would sneak down to the 2nd floor. The husband would send Joe back to the third floor. This cycle would repeat, numerous times. Finally, the husband could no longer maintain his proper chaperone composure.

“Joe! Get your a** back to your room right now. And I don’t want to see your a** down on this floor again!”

On day 3 of band tour, the charter bus, full of tired teenagers and chaperones, began to make the long trip home. As the teenager sat with her friends, somewhere in the middle of the bus, she was surrounded by kids who were reminiscing about the prior 2 days.

One boy piped up, “I think the funniest thing that happened on band tour this year was when the teenager’s DAD actually SWORE at Joe when he kept trying to sneak on to the girls’ floor. The potty mouth police’s own DAD swore. How funny is that?”

All the kids agreed. The husband’s swearing on band tour would be remembered for a very long time.

And so it was official. Rules 1, 2 and 3-broken. And now rule number 4-broken. The husband was 4 for 4.

The teenager hunched further down in her seat and glanced forward a few rows toward Chekov the husband. Somewhere near the front of the bus, Captain Kirk yelled out, “Klingon battle cruiser approaching!” Chekov grinned and thought to himself, “This was the best band tour ever!”

Check This Out!

Do I need to even mention that Iron Man 2 is now out on DVD? I thought not. Love that Tony Stark….

The novel Born Under a Million Shadows, by Andrea Busfield attempts to shed some positive light on Afghanistan. From the beauty of its land to the beauty of its people, Afghanistan comes to life differently than it does on the evening news. Despite a difficult history, the drug trade and the Taliban, the people of Afghanistan somehow manage to hold on to hope for the future. Although this was a slower, quieter novel, I did enjoy it and recommend it especially if you have an interest in that area of the world.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Jim L. Affair

It was true that Jim L. and I were getting closer. After all, I had started seeing him on a daily basis.

It was bound to happen.

I had no idea how much we had bonded, however, until I handed him my credit card on that rainy morning 3 days after school had started.

As Jim L. swiped my credit card, I pushed my driver’s license across the counter toward him. He pushed it back. “Oh, don’t worry about that.” Jim L. said with a grin. “I don’t need your ID. I know who you are.”

Jim L., employee of the month at my local Office Depot, handed my credit card and my receipt back to me. And then he handed me my new 3” binder because the history teacher said 2” was much too small. He handed me a set of binder dividers because the Spanish class was divided into 12 units-not 8. And he handed me a book cover because the math teacher “said she would charge me $150 if my book comes back with one tiny mark on it!”

In the past few days, Jim L. and I had bonded over thumb drives, black 1 ½" binders, composition books, fine point Sharpie pens, and whiteboard erasers. Jim L. told me how smart I was to have purchased my college rule notebook paper early. “I run out of that every year, no matter how much I order!” Jim L. and I had become so close that he had stopped bagging my purchases, because, as he put it, “I know you like it that way.”

As I walked away from Jim L. that morning I knew it had to end. I could no longer keep seeing him like this. I was sure that today was the day the kids would come home from school without any more demands for unexpected school supplies. I would no longer have a reason to run off to see Jim L.

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning!” Jim L. called out to me as I started to walk away from the counter. In shock I turned to face him. Didn’t he know I wasn’t coming back? Didn’t he know that we were over?

I had to be honest with Jim L. “Oh no, I won’t be back. I’m done buying school supplies. Maybe I’ll see you in December when I come get paper to print my Christmas letter on.”

But Jim L. was experienced. He knew better.

Jim L. turned his head to the side, narrowed his eyes and started laughing at me. “Oh you’ll be back before then! I give you 2 weeks and you’ll be back for a report cover or a tri fold presentation board or lead for those mechanical pencils. Oh, and ink for your printer. I know you’re going to need ink. Everybody needs ink.”

I turned away from Jim L. and stomped right out of that Office Depot. I stomped through the automatic doors and headed to my car. And as I bent down to pick up those dividers that I dropped in the parking lot puddle because I didn’t have a bag to put them in, I had one annoying thought running through my head.

Dangit. Stupid ink. I knew I forgot something.

Check This Out!

The day we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. Jane Lynch, recently of Glee fame, who is second only to Betty White in her “It Girl of the Moment” status, will star as Sam’s mom on a new episode of iCarly. I suggest you check your local Nickelodeon listings to find out when it will air in your area. (9/11/10 at 8pm for me). A very reliable news source has recently reported that the iCarly audience is made up of just as many responsible, mature adults as it is kids and teenagers. So to all you moms and dads out there: It’s ok to admit that you find it a little bit funny that Gibby is always taking his shirt off, that you laugh when Neville says, “Rue the day!” and that you’re really glad your mom isn’t like Freddy’s.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I’d like to make it clear that the boy never actually smelled. But, I was well aware that it would not be long until the malodorous aroma that accompanies boys of a certain age would take up residence in our home. It was evident to me that a nice hot, soapy shower must become a regular part of the boy’s life. And so I began Phase 1 of my No Aroma campaign.

I encouraged the showering. The boy still considered daily showers to be optional. I pleaded and begged for the shower. The boy said showers were a form of punishment. I insisted on the shower. The boy said, “I just took one two days ago!” I raised my voice. The boy huffed and rolled his eyeballs.

But then the boy came home from school with the paper that had to be signed by a parent. The school was going to show the boy a special movie about growing up.

When the boy arrived home from school the following week, his backpack hit the floor with a thud. The door slammed a bit harder than usual. The boy thrust a yellow piece of paper at me.

“How was school?” I lovingly inquired to the boy.

“WELL! I had to watch that special movie today!” he sniped back.

“Oh……I see….” I answered in my careful, suddenly a tiny bit panicked voice. “And how did that go…..?”

“WELL….!” barked the perturbed boy. “You’ll be happy to know that, APPARENTLY…..I AM supposed to take a shower every day!”

Phase 1 of my No Aroma campaign was complete. On to Phase 2.

I began to read the yellow “Growing Up” paper the boy had given me.

“Hey boy! It says here that boys your age can start to use deodorant. Maybe we should get you some.”

“NO.” came very quickly from the boy’s mouth.

The teenager yelled from across the room, “Yeah boy, you should get some Old Spice and then you can be just like that guy from the commercial who takes a shower and then has diamonds on a boat and ends up riding a horse backwards. Yeah, boy, you could be that manly if only you got some deodorant!”

The boy turned to me and stated emphatically, “No. Deodorant.”

They next day I took the boy to the store to buy deodorant.

I encouraged the deodorant. The boy wasn’t interested. I recommended a scent. The boy found excuses. I insisted on the deodorant. The boy began the tedious task of smelling every one.

It was after he had sniffed more deodorants than I would ever admit, that the boy’s eyes lit up. “Well the teenager just might get her manly man after all!”

I looked down to see the boy holding a tube of Old Spice.

“So boy, you’ve decided that you like Old Spice after all?”

“Oh, I don’t care if it’s Old Spice or not….it’s the name of this scent that I like. If you’re gonna make me do this deodorant thing, then I’m gonna do it with style.”

The boy applied his new deodorant at home and walked up to the teenager. “How do you like me now?” he suavely purred to her.

“Did you get Old Spice? Cuz….I can sure smell something! What kind did you get?” the teenager asked.

The boy pulled his deodorant out of his pocket and held it up for the teenager to see. “It’s Swagger, baby. My new deodorant is called Swagger. Oh yeah, I got me some Swagger.”

Phase 2 of my No Aroma campaign was now complete.

Now on to Phase 3. How to get the smell of Swagger out of my house.

Check This Out!

The Slightly Exaggerated family recently watched The Class, a French movie about a passionate French teacher trying to make a difference teaching at a school in a rough Paris neighborhood. Featuring real students instead of actors, this movie is based on a novel by Francois Begaudeau that was adapted from his real life experiences. We've also watched, The Street Stops Here, a profile of the legendary high school basketball coach Bob Hurley, Sr. A coach with over 900 wins, Hurley coaches at the struggling, inner city St. Anthony High School. While the basketball team is nationally ranked every year, the school has no gym. While the basketball team tries to win yet another state championship, the school tries desperately to raise enough money to stay open yet another year. Both movies are full of swagger, and both are great stories. Check them out.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Head Games

It was a sunny spring Friday, just past noon, when a baseball bat slammed into the side of the boy’s head, causing his body to be shoved into a chain link fence. The boy spent the rest of his recess wandering around the playground, dazed, until the school bell rang. When the boy sat down at his desk, the girl sitting next to him dropped her jaw and her hand flew to her mouth.

“Um…oh my god…um…boy, you do know that you have blood running down the side of your head, don’t you?”

“No.” was all that he muttered back.

The substitute teacher sent the boy to the nurse. The boy told the nurse he “must have scraped his head.” He left with a bandage that stayed stuck to the side of his head for an hour before it found a permanent home in the garbage can because it was itchy.

It was almost 5 pm, just before dinner, when the boy arrived home that evening. I dropped my jaw and my hand flew to my mouth. “Oh my goodness! Those glasses are less than a week old! How did you manage to mangle them so badly?”

The boy quietly answered, “I think I got hit in the head with bat.” He turned his head and I saw the scabbing wound and a small lump.

It was 5:02 pm, just after I had examined those mangled glasses, when common sense and a little bit of sympathy entered the conversation. “So, you think we need to take him to Urgent Care?” the husband queried.

It was 2 ½ years ago, just before the fall leaves fell from the trees, that the boy acquired his first concussion. And while it would be an overstatement for me to claim to be an expert on concussions, I was confident that I could adequately evaluate him for signs that should be of immediate concern.


It was 5:16, just after I had thumped the lump on the boy’s head and asked, “Does this hurt?”, that parsimonious efficiency sent common sense out to start the car. I announced to the husband and the boy,“ Urgent Care is open until 9. But the eye doctor is only open until 6. Let’s go there first.”

It was 5:26, just after the eye doctor lady saw the boy’s mangled glasses, when she dropped her jaw and her hand flew to her mouth. “What happened?” she questioned.

All eyes turned to the boy. Somewhere in the boy’s head, a switch was flipped and he suddenly piped up, “I got hit with a plastic bat at school. Hey! I remember!”

It was 5:49, just as the boy’s glasses were deemed forever mangled, that parsimonious efficiency reluctantly determined a plastic bat hit did not an Urgent Care visit warrant. A reluctant common sense drove us home.

It was Monday morning, just after the boy spent the entire weekend repeatedly responding to his guilt laden and paranoid mother, “Yes, I’m fine!”, that the school was notified that the boy was an accident waiting to happen.

And it was the very next Friday, just after lunch, when the school nurse called our home. “The boy has hit his head quite badly. I think you should come quickly.”

When I saw the tennis ball sized bulge coming out of the back of the boy’s head, I dropped my jaw and my hand flew to my mouth. The school nurse shook her head and turned to me, “Yes, it’s impressive isn’t it?” The boy told me he had hit his head on the “Big Toy” as he spiraled down the “corkscrew” pole. When a girl found the boy sprawled out, motionless, underneath the “Big Toy”, she dropped her jaw and her hand flew to her mouth, “Are you dead?” she screamed. As we left the school, the school secretary felt the back of the boy’s head. Her jaw dropped and her hand flew to her mouth. “Well, I’d say you’ll be headed to Urgent Care, won’t you?”

It was 1:30 pm, just after the boy told me he’d really, really like to go to sleep, that we were taken to an Urgent Care examining room. It was 1:45, just after the boy complained that his pain level was getting “worse and worse”, when the doctor came in. And it was 1:57, just after the boy told the doctor that he didn’t have any clue how he got hurt, that the boy found himself getting his brain scanned.

It was 3:45 am, just after the alarm had gone off, that I woke the boy up from a deep sleep. I had done so for every two hours since he went to bed and would do so that entire weekend. The boy was lucky to be home with a mere concussion diagnosis instead of a more serious diagnosis of massive internal brain smashing or bleeding or swelling.

It was 8:45 on the following Monday morning, just after I had hugged the boy tight, for a solid 39 seconds, that the he managed to break free and wander off to school. And it was 8:46 that I muttered the words, “Dear God…please protect that boy’s head.”

Check This Out!

In the spirit of all things dangerous, the boy would like you to check out a multitude of videos online that offer detailed instructions on how to modify your Nerf gun. The boy claims his Nerf dart now flies twice as far up the street and at a much greater velocity. The husband’s empty Mountain Dew bottles now leap the length of our postage stamp yard when hit by this higher speed Nerf dart. This new modified gun will cause your teenager to yell, “MOM!!!! He almost hit me!” This new modified gun will cause your husband to say, “Boy! We don’t shoot people or animals. Hey…when can I try that thing? Is it my turn yet?” And this new modified Nerf gun will cause most mothers to drop their jaw and have their hands fly to their ears. This will be followed by a motherly growl of, “Take that thing outside! It’s too loud! And be careful…you’ll shoot your eye out with that thing…..”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Touch the Grass

Like any well intentioned, yet occasionally misguided mother, my only desire was to manufacture a memory for the teenager. Now, it’s true, had the incident actually come to fruition I would have had some regrets. At the time however, my only concern was for the teenager.


As we arrived early to the major league baseball stadium our backs were warmed by the midday sun. Our noses were awakened by the smell of those pungent garlic fries. And our eyes were widened by the sight of the great, green, pristine grass below. We blindly rushed, guided by a sea of experienced ball capped young fans, down to the seats along the first base line. The team was stretching, playing catch and taking batting practice. Not being a family prone to being star struck, we found ourselves to be quite unexpectedly so. They were very close, those players on TV, that the teenager yells at so intently. They were alive and real.

We could have touched them.

Except, that would have been frowned upon, I’m sure.

We had been to the major league baseball stadium last season, on “Kids Run the Bases Day”. The field was lined with security guards who periodically, and most authoritatively, yelled out, “Don’t touch the grass!” The boy was on crutches and evoked much sympathy as he slowly attempted his round of the bags. The teenager, who also ran the bases, apparently did so with a longing we would hear about the entire off season.

“I really wish I had touched the grass.” she would randomly yell out in conversation.

On that sunny day this year, as we approached the field along that first base line, the teenager renewed her green grass desire. “I really, really want to touch the grass.”

Inexperienced in any sort of fan behavior, we watched as those around us confidently called out the players’ names. We had no collector pins on our hats. We possessed no Sharpie pen. We had not purchased an 8 x 10 glossy photo. And yet, armed with only the boy’s mitt and the teenager’s private baseball stats notebook, somehow, we looked as if we fit in. Because of course, we too, were star struck.

As we watched the players practice, the teenager muttered to me yet again, “I really want to touch the grass.”

Finally, the superstar 3rd baseman approached the sidelines. I slapped the boy on the back much harder than I had intended to and whispered loudly into his ear. “I want you to shove your mitt out there near him, and don’t you take it back until he signs it.” The boy looked up at me and seemed to question my aggressive suggestion. I glared at him with my best, “I said DO IT!!!” glare. “

I turned to the teenager and said, “I want you to shove your notebook out there near him and don’t you take it back until he signs it.” The teenager gazed right past my face and whispered to me, “Wow…he is so much better looking in person. And look, he gets to touch the grass. I really want to touch the grass.”

The security guard shadowing the 3rd baseman, as he signed autographs, was a delicate man who didn’t come close to filling out his official windbreaker. The man was slightly taller, by a few inches, than my stretched out height of 5 feet. I knew, without a doubt, however, that I weighed more than him. The teenager tugged on my sleeve and whined, again, in my ear, “Maaawwwwmmmm…..I really, really want to touch that grass!” I turned from my grass whining child back to the security guard and saw that he was picking the dirt out from underneath his fingernails.

And then it hit me.

I could take him.

The teenager would touch that grass.

I leaned into the teenager and whispered my plan. “Why don’t you just jump that wall real quick, run out and touch the grass, and then run back.”

The teenager’s eyes widened to their limit. “Mother! The security guard is RIGHT. THERE. HEL-LO!”

“Yeah, yeah…I’ve already thought about that. “ I whispered back. “I think I can take him. Besides, really, what’s the worst thing that will happen? “

When we left that baseball game that afternoon the boy was holding his mitt, newly signed by the superstar 3rd baseman. The shadowing security guard had taken off his too big windbreaker to reveal that he was composed entirely of hardened muscle fibers. And the teenager, having chastised me for my “stupid suggestion” that she jump the wall, left that game, again, without having touched the grass.

A few days later we watched on TV as a Philadelphia Phillies fan ran out on the field and was eventually tased. The teenager turned to me and said, “See mom! THAT’S the worst thing that could happen when you jump the wall.”

And then she longingly added, “But at least he got to touch the grass….”

Check This Out!

If you like dogs then you must watch this movie. If you don’t like dogs then you should still watch this movie. If you like heartwarming, heartbreaking, fantastic, based on a true story movies that you might want to have some Kleenex handy for, then you too should watch this movie.

The Slightly Exaggerated family just finished watching the wonderful movie, Hachiko: A Dog’s Story and recommend it wholeheartedly. Ok…perhaps…the most hardened and disillusioned of you will find it a bit sappy. But that is all the more reason for you to watch it as well.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Four Women, Three Coupons

She was wearing heels and had just returned from a business trip. She told the female cashier that things were “just crazy, unbelievably crazy!” And then she chuckled as she reached into her purse. She pulled out a coupon for Vitamin Water and handed it to the cashier. The coupon was scanned and the register beeped. The cashier read the coupon and then told the woman, “Oh, I’m so sorry dear. It seems this coupon has expired already.”

“Really? Are you sure?” the business woman questioned. “Shoot! My daughter printed that out for me to use. Well, who can read that tiny print anyway?”

The cashier nodded her head and agreed. “Yes, that print is much too small. These things happen! And things are so crazy for you right now. Don’t you worry about it at all. I’m sure your daughter will understand.”

The next woman was wearing flip flops had just returned from the pediatrician. She told the cashier about her baby and her husband who were waiting in the car. She smiled as she reached into her purse. She pulled out a Women, Infants and Children(WIC) voucher for baby food and handed it to the cashier. The cashier read the voucher and then told the woman, “Honey, you can’t use this! No, this is all wrong. This is for 8 fruits or vegetables and you only have 7 plus one turkey rice. This turkey rice isn’t covered, honey.”

“Oh dangit! I must have made a mistake. Is there any way you can get someone to run back and get a veggie for me real quick. Please?” the flip flop woman asked the cashier.

The cashier huffed loudly. The woman said, “I’m sorry.” The cashier rolled her eyeballs. The woman complained about the huffing and eyeball rolling. The cashier complained about having to call for a veggie baby food runner.

Things got nasty.

I was next in line. I was wearing worn out running shoes and had just come from the shower.

As the unpleasant situation continued to escalate, I turned to the man behind me in line. He raised his eyebrows to me. I raised mine back to him. I communicated my discomfort. He communicated his disgust.

When the flip flop woman was gone it was my turn to check out. In my effort to ease the discomfort I nervously said to the cashier, “I hope my groceries won’t be so dramatic.”

“Well, I’m certain they won’t be!” the cashier barked back to me, obviously still upset. She continued, “I’m going to report that woman! You’ve gotta have some responsibility! I mean for god’s sake, it said right there on the paper ‘8 veggies’. It didn’t say a thing about turkey rice. I can’t believe she tried to take me for a ride and thought I wouldn’t notice. If you’re gonna get aid like that-aid that I’m helping pay for, mind you- well I’m just sayin’—you have to have some responsibility. And not show up high to grocery shop…I’m sure she was probably high.”

The man behind me piped up, “Well, for all we know she was high but the real problem lies with the state. I mean, really, isn’t it a stretch for the state to hand out those coupon things and assume that those people will be able to read them? She obviously couldn’t.”

As if on cue, I handed the cashier my coupon for $2.50 off of two boxes of Drumstick Lil’ Drums snack size ice cream cones and prayed for a quick exit from the uncomfortable situation. I’m not normally a Drumstick consumer. Pleased, however, to see they had come out with a new, smaller size, it was that coupon that convinced me to finally buy them. I was going to surprise the boy and the teenager with these new smaller, and mother approved, ice cream cones.

As I unloaded my groceries onto my kitchen counter at home, I found my $2.50 Drumstick coupon in one of my bags. I pulled my receipt out of my purse. Sure enough, the cashier woman had failed to scan my Drumstick coupon-the coupon that convinced me to buy those cones in the first place.

I ranted to the family about the whole uncomfortable situation. I jabbered on for some time about how the cashier was nice to the fancy lady with a Vitamin Water coupon and impatient to the flip flop lady with her WIC coupon and completely forgot about my Drumstick coupon altogether.

The family responded wordlessly with the relaxed slurping of their Drumstick ice cream cones.

Finally, the boy spoke. “Well, I think the whole thing turned out great. Because, Mom, now you can take that coupon back to the store and buy us two more boxes of those cones.”

“Yah,” the teenager piped up. “And you should go back to the same checker and maybe she’ll forget again about your coupon. Who knows how many boxes of these cones we could end up with?”

I turned to the husband and gave him the “whose crazy children are these?” glare. The husband grinned back at me. “What?” he said. “I mean really…you’re the one who’s always saying we need to find the positive in every situation. ”

Check This Out!

I suppose,obviously, I should probably recommend the Drumstick Lil’ Drums snack size cones. I haven’t actually eaten one yet, but I can assure you the rest of the family gives them a big thumbs up.

The husband and I recently watched the documentary, Iron Maiden: Flight 666-The Movie on the TV station Palladia. Neither of us have been huge Iron Maiden fans in the past. I suppose the whole darkness and devil worship rumors scared me off in high school. However, after doing a bit of research, it was nice to find out that Iron Maiden is a whole lot more complex and a whole lot less evil than I had been led to believe. And as the husband and I found out, that even as “old guys”, Iron Maiden is still unbelievably talented. We accidentally stumbled upon this documentary, saw the name “Iron Maiden” and started to turn the channel. And then they started performing. We ended up watching the entire movie and then put it on hold on Netflix so that we can watch it again. If you are open to a little bit of hard rock, you definitely will want to give this one a chance.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Carefully Researched Odds

When the boy was in the belly, so many years ago, those who know about these things told me there might be something wrong with him. The levels aren’t right and there are more tests you must take. There is blood to be drawn and magical gel for your stomach and needles that will tell us the answers. There are pamphlets to be read and counselors to cry to and peer groups that will strengthen you in this difficult time. And oh, by the way, having considered the carefully researched odds, would you consider abortion?

None of it mattered.

The boy was our boy, no matter how he arrived from the belly. And so those who know about these things took their needles and their counselors and their carefully researched odds and left the husband and I and the 5 year old teenager alone to wait for the boy to arrive.

There were real fireworks when the boy was born. I held the brand new tiny boy tight as we looked out of the 5th floor window of that big hospital on the hill. We looked through the dark sky, down to the flats where the rest of the world was celebrating the opening of the new bazillion dollar baseball stadium. The boy and I knew the fireworks were really for him. I was sure the fireworks were there because the boy was out of the belly and it was clear to me, despite all of the carefully researched odds, there wasn’t one thing wrong with him. The boy, hours old, already knew that the fireworks were there because fireworks were super cool. And oh, by the way, was there any way he could light one?

From that day on, the boy has fearlessly lived his life in pursuit of all that was super cool. And I have trailed woefully behind, attempting to protect him from all of the carefully researched odds that are against him.

The 6 month old boy screamed in protest of my calm and peaceful environment and made it clear that he didn’t really believe naps were necessary. The 14 month old boy shook the entire house when he leapt from the railing of his warm and safe crib and announced to the world with conviction, “I JUMP!” The 28 month old boy fed his carrots to the floor, pointed to McDonald's french fries and yelled, “I want supersize!” The toddler boy ignored educational Sesame Street but told a captive audience in line at the Target store, as he pointed to a Men in Black DVD, that he wants the, “black man, black man, mommy!” The four year old boy disregarded the water safety portion of his swimming lesson and instead, dove to the bottom of the deep end of the pool just to see how far he could go. The 2nd grade boy ignored the plastic flying elephants at the amusement park in favor of flying through the dangerous world on a roller coaster I was convinced would kill him. I looked on in fear, but it was clear to me, that despite all of the carefully researched odds, there was nothing wrong with the boy.

As the boy has gotten older, he has continued to ignore all the odds given to him by those who know about these things. He insists on fast forwarding a life I would prefer to slow down a bit. In our family, it was the boy who figured out how to text 10 minutes after we got a cell phone. It was the boy who first bypassed the Net Nanny on the computer. It was the boy who told his teacher he didn’t need to show his work in math because he “already knew the answer in my head”. It is the boy who, without nerves, gave a speech last week to 50 master’s degree students at the local university. His only worry was getting a second muffin from the complimentary snack table before they were all gone. I looked on proudly and it was clear to me, that despite all of the carefully researched odds, there was nothing wrong with the boy.

And it was that same confident boy last week, who exhibited particularly cunning behavior when he independently activated the parental controls, for ALL of the TV programs, on the husband’s big TV. It was that same sweet boy from my belly who was the only person who knew the secret code to unlock those TV programs. It was 11 years ago that those who know about these things presented me with carefully researched odds and I’ve always believed they were wrong. But as the husband and I and the 15 year old teenager sat helplessly on the couch and waited for the boy to arrive, I began to have my doubts. On that day, as I sat staring at the silent TV that the boy had hijacked, it was clear to me, there just might be something wrong with that boy.

Check This Out!

If you could invite any 3 people to dinner, who would you invite?

Like any good 40 something mother who is a former big haired girl from the 80’s, the obvious answer to this question is Oprah, Jesus and Jon Bon Jovi.

Somebody might be losing their dinner spot at my table however, to Tod Davies. Davies is a screenwriter, producer, radio food show host, and the editor and publisher of the online magazine Exterminating Angel Press. A few of you may want to check out the Exterminating Angel Press website and it’s thoughts on “creative solutions for practical idealists” and a “practical look at what is and isn’t working on the planet”.

I am, however, most fond of Tod Davies for her recent book, Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got. This is a fabulous little cookbook without a single “recipe” in it. Instead it is full of stories and moments and inspirational thoughts that point to the heart of what everyday life should be. How nice it would be if we were all able to employ the Jam Today philosophy of, “If you want the world to be a better place, you should start by making sure everyone around you is well fed, and then work from there.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wet Feet

The boy came home from school and immediately started complaining that his shoes had holes in them. The boy complained that his feet were wet.

This was nothing new.

The boy has a tendency to abandon all common sense and walk through puddles, and run through mud and take the least paved route to wherever he is going.

“Yes, it was wet today, wasn’t it.” I absentmindedly answered.

The boy came home from school the next day and complained that his shoes had holes in them and that his feet were wet.

“Stop walking through puddles!” I barked at him with a little more awareness and a little less empathy than I had the prior day.

The boy came home from school the next day and complained that his shoes had holes in them and that his feet were wet.

“Goodness gracious!” I cried out in nearly complete attentive frustration. “Aren’t those shoes dried out yet? You should put them in front of the fireplace to dry overnight.”

The boy dried his shoes out overnight in front of the fireplace. As he put them on the next morning I said to the boy. “Now, boy! Those shoes are dry now. Your socks are dry now. When you get home I expect both your shoes and socks to still be dry."

The boy looked at me in, obviously immersed in thought. After a minute he spoke. “Mom? Can I take a box of Kleenex and a roll of duct tape to school today?”

“Why would you need those?”

“To keep my feet dry, like you want me to. I can put the Kleenex in my shoes around my socks to keep them dry. And I’ll roll the duct tape around my shoes to cover up the holes to keep the water out.”

“Gosh darnit, boy! I swear I just bought you those shoes. I can’t imagine that you really need duct tape for your shoes.”

The boy leaned back in his chair and lifted his feet in the air. I leaned forward and for the first time, ever, and certainly the first time in the last three days, I took a look at the bottom of the boy’s shoes.

The boy went to school with his shoes and the duct tape and the Kleenex. His teacher and his friends and I’m sure, a random child welfare worker just passing by, were able to see that the boy and his feet were not properly cared for. The boy and I did go to the shoe store that very night to get him some new shoes. And later that evening, I officially withdrew my application for Mother of the Year.

Check This Out!

The Slightly Exaggerated family has now realized that lentils mixed with rice and grape tomatoes and salt and pepper makes a very nice breakfast.

We’ve realized that the composition, Pines of Rome, by Ottorino Respighi can cause the teenager to tear up, cause the boy to declare, “I feel like someone is sneaking up behind me and is getting ready to stab me in the back!”, and cause the husband and I to thoroughly enjoy a 9th grade band concert.

And we’ve realized that a nice little perennial plant, known as the Heuchera or Coral Bells, will live very happily in the shade and will make your yard look great.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jury Duty

When I surrendered all of my morning duties to the husband, I didn’t delude myself with high expectations of what would happen when I was not home. During our temporary role reversal, I assumed that the dishes and laundry and floor cleaning would not cross the husband’s radar. I was hoping however, that the husband would ensure that the teenager and the boy, clean or not, nutritious breakfast eaten or not, homework finished or not, would somehow get to school on time and in one piece.

When I left my family for jury duty that morning I was armed with snacks and books and whole ton of patience. I had been told there might be some waiting. And despite inexplicably setting off the security alarm at the courthouse door, I managed to check in on time, fill out my forms and start to prematurely judge all of my new juror friends by their appearance and behavior.

A competent seeming judge soon provided an inspirational and instructional speech on my jury duty experience and the pride I should take in the long and slow process of waiting.

The judge asked if there were any questions. The first question came from a young woman and concerned the form we had all filled out. “It says on the form, ‘Have you ever been a party to a lawsuit?’ Well what if you went to a party and afterward there ended up being a big lawsuit over some stuff that happened that night?”

The next question came from a middle aged woman who cleared her throat and then spoke. “Where it says here on the form, ‘Have you ever been convicted of a felony?’…..well…what exactly do you mean by a….FELONY?”

A man raised his hand and asked the judge, “I already know I’m prejudiced but I didn’t see that on the form. Is there any way I can just leave now?”

Between the judge’s infectious enthusiasm for the importance of jury duty and my new doubts about the capabilities and qualifications of some of my fellow jurors, I found myself more than ready to take part in the judicial process. Within the first hour, a woman began to announce the names of 62 people that were to be questioned for a jury in courtroom number 4. I sent the woman telepathic messages with my brain, “Pick me! Pick me! I’d be good! I got an A in American Government in high school!” I don’t think the woman ever got my silent messages. She never called my name. I was convinced there had been some mistake.

Eventually, my jury duty enthusiasm began to wane as I sat and waited with those who were in the same jury limbo boat that I was. We read our books, ate our snacks and pounded on laptops. We spoke in Korean, very loudly, on our cell phone for 2 hours straight. We complained about President Obama and Sarah Palin and those troublesome Australian tax rates. We bought shoes for $39.95 from our cell phone, confessed our marital troubles to strangers and announced to the room that the pitcher for the local baseball team was a big wussy. But mostly we shifted in our seats and stared at the walls. I never was called to be a juror. After hours and hours of waiting I was sent home. I had earned $20 in jury pay, read two great books and was now able to speak some rudimentary Korean.

I drove in the driveway and my thoughts shifted back to my family. I wondered how the morning had gone for the husband and the teenager and the boy. When I walked into the house it was not the expected dirty dishes or the inevitable basket of dirty laundry or the pesky crumbs that were still left on the floor that caused me to pause. It was the sight of the first aid kit, strewn all over the counter, left in a frantic mess that caused my breath to momentarily suspend.

When I left for jury duty that morning I had hoped that the husband would somehow ensure that the teenager and the boy, clean or not, nutritious breakfast eaten or not, homework finished or not, would somehow get to school on time and in one piece. And I could see from the evidence of the dismantled first aid kit before me that the teenager and the boy, although apparently bandaged, were still, thankfully, in one piece.

Check This Out!

One of the books I read while waiting for my jury duty moment to come was Exile by Richard North Patterson. This legal thriller focuses on the defense of a Palestinian woman on trial for organizing the suicide bombing of the Prime Minister of Israel as he visited San Francisco. I found it to be a nice combination of the expected drama and suspense a novel like this is known for as well as a good dose of information about the Middle East and the often confusing Arab-Israeli conflict. This one was a hard one to put down.

For a completely different kind of book, you might try I'm Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago. The author, Hape Kerkeling, is a hugely popular comedian and entertainer in Germany and the rest of Europe. His pilgrimage across the Pyrenees to the Spanish shrine of St. James, is the same spiritual journey that over 100,000 people make every year. I expected a book by a "funny guy" to be intentionally funny. This book wasn't. It was most definitely amusing. But somehow, quietly and slowly, meaning and inspiration also snuck their way into the words he wrote. This book started off slowly for me. And by the time I had finished it I knew it would be a blog recommendation.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Basketball Yelling

For effect, I’m sure, the old man deliberately stood up and shook his fist as he began to yell.

“COME ON YOU IGNORANT ZEBRAS! Why don’t you put away your whistles and finally let a basketball game break out! We didn’t come here to see YOU IDIOTS blow those whistles!”

And then he emphatically added, “GOSHDARNIT!”

Except the grandpa in the stands at the basketball game, obviously frustrated with the number of fouls being called, didn’t really say “goshdarnit”. He was a bit more colorful.

Finally, he sat down and let out a hearty guffaw announcing to those around him, “Boy, in all my 78 years I have yet to find a goof ref. That’s why you gotta yell at them. You gotta set them straight.”

When the teenager’s high school basketball season began there was talk of sportsmanship and respect and personal growth. There was talk of hard work and goal setting and training schedules. There was talk of fundraising and parental volunteering and even, having a little fun playing some basketball.

Nobody, however, mentioned the yelling.

Just like the grandpa in the stands, a coach of one of the other teams in the league had an awful lot to say. You know the team I’m talking about. The well respected, super disciplined, naturally gifted, nationally ranked team that is undefeated this year.

The coach of that team called a time out and quickly ushered one of her players off the court. The coach’s face was 2 inches away from the girl’s face. The coach was seething and shaking and let loose, loud enough for the entire gym to take dictation. “WHAT COULD YOU HAVE POSSIBLY BEEN THINKING? Do you have any clue how to play basketball or were you just born a complete IDIOT!”

The entire gym was silent. We could hear every word. Even the teenager’s coach, trying to proceed with his own time out instructions, paused, not quite believing what he was hearing.

The coach of the other team continued her rant, “Did you see how that girl just made that basket? DID YOU SEE THAT? Or are you blind too? I think you must be blind to let her get by you like that! That basket is on your head. We could lose this game and it could be ALL YOUR FAULT! Now sit down because YOU. ARE. DONE.”

She then pointed her index finger at the 15 year old girl, right at that spot in the middle of her forehead just above her eyes and said with pursed lips, “I’ve told you before…I will only play winners.” She then motioned toward the line of chairs where all the subs sat and walked away, shaking her head.

The teenager’s coach took one look at the group of stunned teenage girls standing before him, focused only on the drama across the gym. “Look at me!” he demanded. “That is not us. We will play OUR game.” He tried to assure them again. “That is NOT us. You are all doing a fabulous job. Now….let’s go out there and finish this game. And let’s remember why we play this game. Because we love it and because it’s FUN.”

While it may not be unusual to have fans yelling at referees and coaches yelling at players, I was not prepared for the teenager herself to come under fire. The competition was intense, the game was close and the teenager was yet again at the foul line, shooting one of the 31 free throws she would shoot in the game. A mother from the other team started making her presence known. Each time the teenager would begin to shoot, the mother from the other team would yell out, “You’re gonna miss it, MISSY, you’re gonna miss it MISSY…because you know that you are NO good…MISS IT, MISS IT……..WOOOOOOO!”

I was surprised how quickly my usually passive nature was replaced with thoughts that any mother bear protecting her cubs would easily identify with. And while I did manage to control myself until the end of the game, I was still fuming on the way home in the car.

“This yelling at basketball games is really starting to bother me. It is not good!” I said to the teenager, a bit louder than I had intended.

“First it was that grandpa in the stands, and then it was that awful, angry coach. And now, today, there was that loud mouthed horrible mother from the other team yelling at you! Basketball should be fun, just like your coach said. All of this yelling does not make basketball fun!”

When we arrived home the teenager turned on the television to her favorite college team’s basketball game. Her team was behind and was not playing well.

The teenager immediately started yelling at the screen, “You are frickin’ idiots! How could you possibly have thought that shot was a good idea! Bunch of….LOOOOOO-SERS!"

Shocked, I asked the teenager if she had heard a word that I had said in the car about all of this yelling at basketball games.

“Oh, I heard everything you said,” the teenager replied. “Sometimes you just gotta yell though. That’s why I like watching basketball on TV. I can yell all I want at the players and coaches and no one can hear me! I’m not hurting anyone’s feelings. Isn’t it great mom?”

Just as she finished her sentence she started yelling again, “Oh, come on ref there’s no WAY that was a charge. He wasn’t set!”

And as I turned toward the TV to see what the teenager was talking about I heard the animated announcers commenting on the ref’s call, “Wow! A lot of people are unhappy with that call. We’ve got coaches, players and the fans all doing a whole lot of yelling right now. But then, Jim, isn’t that half of what makes basketball so much fun? The yelling?”

Check This Out!

Spring is just around the corner. If you need a respite from all of the basketball yelling in your home during March Madness, may I suggest you consider the calming effects that some nice quiet gardening could have on your life.

You could start by reading this fabulous book. Better Homes and Gardens, Garden Doctor, Advice from the Experts- 1021 Questions Answered. This is great bedtime reading chock full of short, easy to understand answers to all of the gardening questions you didn't even know you had.

And once you are done reading, head to your local garden store and pick up a pack of these Ed Hume Dwarf Cherry Rose Nasturtium seeds. This is a super easy to grow annual and a nice change of pace from the usual orange, yellow and red nasturtiums. Even the back of the seed package says, "Thrives in poor soil. Needs no fertilizer and very little water." How much easier can it get? I've planted nasturtiums for quite a few years in recently overturned sod that, after years of grass breakdown would eventually become a flowerbed. While I waited however, the nasturtiums covered the ugly mess and looked fabulous.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lean Pocket Love

We couldn’t have been more unlike each other. I, the well fed and harried suburban mother, rushing through the grocery store, pushing a cart full of suddenly necessary impulse purchases, my thoughts centered 3 hours ahead, the incomplete list in my head having been abandoned 5 aisles before. Him, the seemingly delicate but deliberate Asian man, plainly focused in the moment, grasping his well thought out list written on the yellow lined paper, as he spoke quite intentionally into his phone in a language I had no hope of deciphering.

I pretended to look at the frozen pizza while he stood in front of the Lean Pockets, the door fogging up as he held it open. It seemed as if he intended to inspect every variety of Lean Pockets and the neighboring Hot Pockets, all of which were on sale this week.

I was in a bit of a hurry and needed those Lean Pockets for the boy. He hadn’t been eating his lunch. He didn’t always like the lunches I made him nor did he like the lunches the school served. He was also in a hurry to get out to recess. He was coming home hungry. I was worried about the boy. When the boy was born, my visions of his future certainly did not include feeding him Lean Pockets. But here I found myself, 10 years later, hoping the man in front of me did not take all of the Ham and Cheddar kind, because that was the boy’s favorite flavor. I knew that if the boy had a Ham and Cheddar Lean Pocket in his lunch, he wouldn’t, yet again, come home hungry. The Lean Pocket was my last hope.

The man in front of me continued to speak into his phone, repeatedly grabbing and then putting back numerous boxes of both Lean Pockets and Hot Pockets. I spent quite some time pretending to look at the pizza before the man finally moved to the right and let the fogged up door slam shut. I casually moved over, opened the door and scooped up a couple of cheap boxes of Philly, Cheeseburger and Ham and Cheddar Lean Pockets.

As I started to walk away I saw the man eyeing the Lean Pockets in my cart. With hesitant English he asked me, “Is the Lean Pocket better than the Hot Pocket?”

“My wife and I are so worried about our daughter,” he continued, pointing to his phone that was now in his shirt pocket. “She is so big now. She sits in her chair and watches TV and eats the candy and the chips all day long. I don’t want her to be so big. I want her to eat something better than the candy but she won’t eat anything else. She won’t eat the fruit and the carrots my wife gives her for lunch. I am hoping that she will eat this Lean Pocket, though. If she has the Lean Pocket in her lunch then maybe she won’t be hungry for the candy. My wife thinks the Lean Pocket is our last hope.”

I was worried about the boy. The man was worried about his daughter. My initial impression was wrong. The man and I couldn’t have been more alike. It would be the Lean Pocket that would save us both.

Check This Out!

The Urban Cookbook, Creative Recipes for the Graffiti Generation, by King Adz is a most unique cookbook centered on the creative work of 25 super talented young urban dwellers from 5 hip cities all around the world. From advertising to art, from film to music, from toy design to fashion design, this book is chock full of cutting edge ideas and unbelievable creativity. Almost, seemingly, an afterthought, there are also 50 global recipes such as Lahmacun, Frikandel and Chicken Bicken included. I wouldn’t necessarily go buy this most untraditional book, but it was fun to see something different. It's worth a quick look at your local library if you think you'd enjoy the unique art and if you want to find out what the heck a Trinchada is.

Some of the Slightly Exaggerated family enjoyed this Middle East and North African inspired couscous dish on page 100 of The Urban Cookbook. Fry one chopped onion in oil for 5 minutes. Add 4 chicken pieces (we used thighs) and fry for another 5 minutes. Add 2 tsp ground cumin, 3 tsp ground allspice, 3 pieces of cinnamon stick and 4 cloves of garlic (chopped). Cook on low for 5-10 minutes. Add 2 ¼ cups chicken stock, 1 can whole tomatoes, 1 can chickpeas, juice of 1 lemon, 20 green beans, 4 stalks celery (chopped) and 2 carrots (chopped). Simmer for one hour, adding more stock if necessary. Make at least 6 oz of couscous according to package directions. Serve chicken on top of a bed of couscous and finish with chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

The Lean Pocket loving Slightly Exaggerated family members were not as fond of the couscous dish as they were of the Spaghetti Pie recipe on page 248 of The Urban Cookbook. This “English variation of an Americanised Italian” recipe took a little time to make but was certainly well worth it. Fry one large onion (chopped). Add 2 1/4 lbs ground beef. When cooked, add 1 large can whole tomatoes, 4 TBL tomato puree, 2 beef stock cubes dissolved in ½ cup water,4 cloves of garlic (chopped) a splash of red wine,4 tsp of Italian herb seasoning, salt and pepper to taste and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 hours, adding some water every 20 minutes or so (keep it wet). Near the end, throw in a handful of chopped fresh basil. In another pot, boil 1 to 1 ½ pounds of spaghetti, leaving it slightly undercooked. Drain. In a third pot, melt a large pat of butter and 2 heaping teaspoons of cornstarch and mix into a thick paste. With heat quite low, add 2 cups of milk, splash by splash, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Increase heat a bit and add ¾ pound grated cheddar and 2 teaspoons of mustard, stirring continually until thickened. (I also added a dash of nutmeg to this cheese sauce.) In a colander, pour boiling water over a large bunch of fresh spinach. Now assemble! In a large ovenproof dish, place a layer of spaghetti, a layer of meat sauce, 4 slices of Emmental cheese, a layer of spinach, and finally a layer of cheese sauce. Repeat. Sprinkle top with more grated cheddar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.