Welcome to the Circus

“Paper or plastic?”

I was in the grocery store yesterday, as I am on most Mondays. I was staring at the ridiculous magazine headlines near the check-out {just before purchasing two of these fine publications}. I was tired. I mentally calculated when I would have time for a shower later in the afternoon between school pick-ups, karate and dinner prep.

And I wondered if, just a day before, it had really happened. Had I been up on a stage? With my name in a program?

“Ma’am, do you have your Price Plus card?”

Had I been all dressed up? Blinded by the lights of the stage? Had I really heard the words of my own writing come out of my mouth, through that microphone and into the audience of hundreds before me?

“Any coupons today?”

What a difference a day makes.

I don’t expect that I’ll ever forget what a great experience it was to be part of the Listen to Your Mother show in New York. It was really a thrill to share a stage with such a wonderful group of people — some professional writers and performers, and some not {ahem} — who brought such a huge array of motherhood stories to life. Every one of them impressed me more than I can say.

Let me tell you a few truths about the whole thing.

  • I was terrified. Really terrified. Like, I-might-pass-out kind of terrified.
  • I was stressed out. In true Murphy’s Law fashion, my son was projectile vomiting the whole night before, which kind of limits one’s babysitting options. And I was convinced that I would be the next one taken down by this virus, just in time to take the stage. {Thankfully, this didn’t happen.}
  • And, for the record, how many maternity dresses do you think one would have to try on at 35 weeks pregnant to find something that looks decent-ish enough to wear on a stage? Does 25 sound about right to you? OK, good.

But, all that aside, everything — somehow — came together. I was lucky to have family and friends give up their own Mother’s Day plans to come and support me. And you know you have amazing friends when they offer to babysit your sick kids so that your husband can come and see the show.

I felt guilty about spending Mother’s Day largely away from my kids. Yet, it was still somehow so fitting to be exactly where I was. I was doing something completely for me, yet it was something absolutely drawn from the essence of my daily motherhood grind. So even though my kids weren’t in the theater, they were up there with me on that stage — in my mind and on those pages from which I read. They were the reason I could do this.

I’m told there will be a YouTube link available at some point and, depending on how much of a Mack truck I look like, I may or may not share it with you when I get it. So, here is the written version of the piece I read. For the full effect, picture me overheating with fear and wondering if I’m actually about to faint.

But I’d do it again. In a heartbeat.

Yep, it happened.

“No, no coupons today. Paper bags, please. And add these two magazines to the total.”

 

_____________

Welcome to the Circus 

 

Dear Child #3 {and, yes, we’ll get you a proper name},

I thought it might be helpful if we had a little chat before your June arrival.  I want to make sure you understand the lay of the land around here.  Because it’s probably pretty traumatic to be thrust into the world unexpectedly.  A world of chaos and strange customs.  A world inexplicably ruled a little more by Taylor Swift every day.

It’s hard enough for me to understand this place, and I’ve been here a while — so it must be completely unsettling for you.  Like suddenly joining the circus. Without even signing up for an audition.

So let’s think of this as your Circus Orientation Guide so that everything seems just a little less freakshow when you get here.

Let me introduce the main players to you.

There’s me – I’m the ringmaster.  The one who keeps the show running.  The one who attempts to contain all scheduling delays to under an hour. The multi-tasker who is just one flaming juggling pin shy of a domestic inferno. You may know me better as the person you often hear screaming “Get in the car, get in the car, get IN THE CAR, I’M LEAVING — GET. IN. THE CAR!”  That, incidentally, is nothing to worry about.  Just standard operating procedure around here.

And your dad.  When not pushing the limits of a gripping Home Depot addiction, he is the guy up on the high wire of our act — without a net — maintaining a sense of calm that keeps a certain ringmaster from throwing herself into the tiger’s cage. He astounds me every day with his solid footing and roll-with-the-punches mentality. And yet, this man never fails to delight the masses with his quirks and his laughter. He is the showstopper. Armed with extraneous power tools.

Let’s move on to the Clown Car.  Or, better said: Great news — you also have two siblings waiting to meet you!

Your big brother just turned six.  Currently Clown-in-Chief, he takes his leadership role seriously. He is a student of detail and a sensitive little soul. But he also has other aspirations.  For example, he is currently on track to break the world record for Number of Consecutive Questions Asked in a Six Year Period.  In addition, he can teach you all about the fine art of debate. I think his method, once published and with proper agency representation, will gain a loyal following.  The working title is Wearing Down Your Mother Through Endless Rebuttals: One Boy’s Journey From No. Anyway, he is really excited to have you around — as long as you’re a boy.

You also have a big sister, the clown apprentice.  She will be four this summer.  But she thinks she’s 12, so don’t say anything.  This is the girl who will grow up to tell all the jokes and charm the crowds. And because she has zero regard for her personal safety and would be well-served by wearing a helmet at all times, we are considering her for the human-shot-out-of-the cannon act.  Or, based on her table manners, she may soon headline the plate-spinning portion of the show. She is also really excited to have you around — as long as you’re a girl.

Back to me, though.  Because I’m the one you’ll be hanging out with the most in the beginning.

Just to be clear, I’m far from perfect.

For instance, I curse too much.  I know this because a sailor once told me during Fleet Week that I have a bad mouth. Also, I had very high hair in the 80s.  I miss living in Manhattan sometimes but I carry its residual pent-up road rage around the suburbs with me.  I am deathly afraid of craft stores and am 100% lacking the DIY gene, so you shouldn’t expect any sort of popsicle stick building or rainy-day diorama creations from me.

But, on the flip side: I make a mean red sauce, have been known to tell a good story now and then, and I am uniquely qualified to teach you – in 21 years – how to responsibly conquer a roulette table.

And here’s the truth about running this circus: There was actually a time when I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to be a mother.  Until I was.

And then, after your brother was born, I knew I had to have a second child.

And then I wasn’t sure about a third.  Until I was.

And then I knew I wasn’t finished — even with my imperfect parenting, a high rate of baking disasters and a broad cynicism of class moms.  I knew we needed you.

And you’ll be here before I know it.

So, welcome to the circus, baby. It’s the show of a lifetime and the best gig, by far, I’ve ever had. What some call madness under the big top, or three rings of crazy, we simply call the “home” command in the minivan navigation system.

Now, all that’s left is whether to buy the pink or the blue baby unicycle.

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Listen to Your Mother

Only six more days until I stand up on a stage in Manhattan and read a piece of my writing to hundreds of strangers.

Here are some things you will not find me saying about this upcoming experience:

  • No big deal — just your typical Sunday.
  • I’m not terrified. At all.
  • I have tons of flattering wardrobe options to choose from at 35 weeks pregnant.

Because, the truth is, I have several questions in the category of Reasons Why Getting On Stage Will Be Terrifying:

  • What if I completely freeze when I’m up there?
  • What if my jokes fall flat?
  • What if I go into labor? On stage?

Anything is possible.

But one thing is certain: I am honored and thrilled to be in this year’s NYC cast of Listen to Your Mother.

 

 

This is one of 24 Listen to Your Mother shows taking place across the country this year, giving Mother’s Day a microphone and featuring writers and performers telling their own tales of motherhood. Having been in rehearsals with my fellow cast members, I can tell you that our stories range from the funny, to the sweet, to the downright heartbreaking. Some of us are mothers. Some are not. And, together, we’ve got the goods on the complexity, diversity and humor of motherhood.

What? You want to come and see the show in New York on Sunday at 5pm? Excellent! We’ll be at Symphony Space on 95th & Broadway. Even the marquee says so.

You want to bring your mom? Great! It will be forever known as That Year You Took Her To See That Fabulous Show for Mother’s Day. Sure, you’re setting the gift bar high for the future, but it will be worth it {said the perhaps-not-totally-objective cast member}.

Oh — you want to ditch your mom after brunch? OK, I guess that works too — I’m not getting involved, but just give her a nice gift first.

Ohhhh — you want to ditch your kids for the evening, after opening the gifts they made by hand for you and enjoying the five-course brunch they prepared? Psssst — I can help. {Note: The show’s content is not suitable for young children anyway, so you’re not technically “ditching them” as much as you’ll be “supporting me.” It’s all in the semantics.}

You want to know if I go into labor on stage? Fine, but please tell my husband to narrow down his list of baby names already. And if you know a good anesthesiologist, feel free to bring him/her to the show as your +1.

 

There are two ways to make all of this happen:

1) Enter to win a free pair of tickets that I’m giving away, courtesy of the show’s producers. Just leave a comment on this post between now and Wednesday at midnight (ET).

2) If you don’t win the freebies, you can buy tickets here

 

I hope to see you there! I’ll the one with the giant belly trying to sneak some snacks onto the stage.

 

Giveaway small print: One entry per person. Contest open to U.S. residents age 18 and over. Entries close on Wednesday, May 8 at midnight. Winner will be randomly selected via Random.org and announced here. If winner does not respond within twenty-four hours, a new winner will be selected. I was not compensated for this post or for promoting this giveaway. All opinions are my own {as always}.

 

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I Left Town & Then Crazy, Exciting Things Happened

So we’re back from Florida. I have some highlights to share with you, but not just yet. For now, let me just say this: If you’re ever concerned about global warming and want a surefire way to lower your hometown’s average temperature by 20 degrees or so, give me a call. My family and I will bring a localized Arctic Blast right to you. Just a little short-term cold pattern to last the length of our stay. Really, give us a try.

But in the meantime, I have to tell you that clearly I should go away more often. Because crazy exciting things happened while I was gone.

First, I got a fabulous phone call. It happened while I waiting in an endless line to have my kids meet Ariel. Or maybe it was my husband who really wanted to meet Ariel. Whatever. The point is that this call delivered the great news that I’ve been selected to join this year’s New York cast of Listen to Your Mother.

 

Wait. What?

How exciting is that? I auditioned a few weeks ago and basically chalked it up to a good experience, since I was pretty sure they didn’t want to cast someone who looked like she might vomit from nervousness. Not exactly a crowd-pleasing vibe.

But, somehow, I was selected. I went to my first rehearsal last night and I’m so thrilled to be joining this fabulous group of writers. And while I’m perfectly comfortable on my couch in my yoga pants behind the keyboard, reading my work in front of a live audience is going to be a first for me. I will probably pass out. Or hyperventilate. Or go into labor {since the show is just a few weeks shy of my due date}. If you want to see for yourself how this pans out, you can buy your tickets here.

Something else equally exciting happened while I was freezing in Florida and wondering why Ariel was only wearing a seashell bra in a borderline-frost climate.

I had my writing published.

In a book.

This book.

 

The one that is, as I type this, sitting at #1 in the Amazon Humor/Parenting & Families category and #4 in Overall Humor.

{For the record, that’s ahead of Mindy Kaling and Chelsea Handler’s books. Now we have to set our sights on knocking Sarah Silverman and Tina Fey out of the #1 and #2 spots.}

Wait. What?

Yes. The amazing powerhouse Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat gathered 30+ bloggers for an anthology of fabulous parenting essays.

Here’s a full list of my hilarious partners in crime:

Insane in the Mom Brain
The Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva
Baby Sideburns
Rants From Mommyland
You Know it Happens at Your House Too
The Underachiever’s Guide to Being a Domestic Goddess
My Life and Kids
Bad Parenting Moments
Let Me Start By Saying
Frugalista Blog
Suburban Snapshots
Ninja Mom
Four Plus an Angel
Honest Mom
Binkies and Briefcases
Naps Happen
Kelley’s Break Room
Toulouse & Tonic
HouseTalkN
Hollow Tree Ventures
Snarkfest
Mom’s New Stage
Nurse Mommy Laughs
The Dose of Reality
The Mom of the Year
Life on Peanut Layne
Momaical
Cloudy, With a Chance of Wine
Confessions of a Cornfed Girl
I Love Them Most When They’re Sleeping
Random Handprints
RachRiot
You’re My Favorite Today
Funny is Family
My Real Life

Again, I’m so thrilled to be included.  These ladies are funny and irreverent and setting the blogosphere on fire.

What’s that, you ask? Where can you buy this book? How can you help us outsell Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman?

Ah, I happen to have that information handy.

For the Kindle version, you can find it here.

iTunes folks, head over here.

Old school print copy, here you go.

I mean, you can’t expect me to tell you about Disney World after all that, right? Because there clearly aren’t enough Mickey waffles on Walt Disney’s personal grill to compete with this other news right now. I am still waiting for it to sink in myself.

Then we can go back to half-nude Ariel and the like.

 

 

 

 

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Movie Magic: The Distinguished Panel Speaks

OK, friends, it’s the home stretch. Three days until the Oscars.

I have made huge progress in my personal preparations. And while this may not include trivial things like seeing a single film on the Best Picture roster, I have the big stuff covered.  Meaning, I know exactly which yoga pants I’ll be wearing for the red carpet coverage and which snacks I’ll be consuming during the 17-hour awards broadcast.

So I’m pretty much ready.

Earlier this week, in the spirit of such thorough preparedness, I shared my list of favorite Oscars winners past. Today, I’m bringing in the real experts* to tell you all about the very best in film.  Please welcome today’s panelists:

Ninja Mom

Honest Mom

Frugalista Blog

Let Me Start By Saying

Toulouse & Tonic

Wendy Nielsen

Bad Parenting Moments

Mommy Shorts

Paige Kellerman

*Qualifications for being a real expert include prolific and hilarious blogging capabilities, with some convictions about movie-watching on the side.

OK, ladies, we’ll start with the obvious question: What are your three favorite movies ever (not necessarily in order)?

Ninja Mom:  I hate me for saying this, but Ghostbusters is the only movie on the list. “Tell him about the Twinkie.”

Honest Mom:

  • When Harry Met Sally: I will love this movie always and forever, amen.
  • Star Trek (2009 movie): Call me a sci-fi dork, I don’t care. It’s exciting, funny, and has one of the best openings to a movie, ever.
  • Tangled: Great songs, fun plot, and I can watch it with my kids. And Flynn Rider is hot.

Frugalista Blog:  Rear Window, Bridesmaids & Gone with the Wind.

Let Me Start By Saying:  Pride & Prejudice (1995 BBC version with Colin Firth), Anchorman and Gone Baby Gone.

Toulouse & Tonic:  The Princess Bride, Willow & The Wizard of Oz (Do you think I have a type?)

Wendy Nielsen:  Some Kind of Wonderful, Never Been Kissed & Good Will Hunting.

Bad Parenting Moments:  Blade Runner, The Wizard of Oz & The Big Lebowski.

Mommy Shorts:  Amelie, Adaptation, Edward Scissorhands & Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I know that’s four but it was already hard enough not to include Better Off Dead and Raising Arizona. Also, I just realized I have two Nic Cage movies on my list and I now consider him one of the worst actors ever. What happened?

Paige Kellerman:  It’s hard to pick three, but a few I enjoy, over and over, are Starsky and Hutch, Serendipity & Pride and Prejudice.

 

I am a chronic movie quoter.  It’s a problem. Which movie quote(s) are you most guilty of repeating?

Ninja Mom: “Cats and dogs, living together, mass hysteria!” See above (Ghostbusters). I never said I was proud.

Honest Mom: “These aren’t the [insert object to replace “droids”] you’re looking for.” Any red-blooded Gen Xer can quote Star Wars on cue. If you can’t, I’m a little suspicious of you.

Frugalista Blog:

  • “I will be proud to partake in your pecan pie.” (When Harry Met Sally)
  • “It’s all ball bearings these days.” (Fletch)
  • “Put the lotion in the basket” (Silence of the Lambs)

Let Me Start By Saying:

  • “I wanna say something. I’m gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don’t, send it right back. I want to be on you.” (Anchorman)
  • “I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.” (Anchorman)
  • “I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.” (So, pretty much, all of Anchorman.)

Toulouse & Tonic: “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”  (I am a TOTAL Princess Bride geek.)

Wendy Nielsen: “I’m not Josie Grossie!” (Never Been Kissed)

Bad Parenting Moments:

  • “Well, yeah, you know, that just like your opinion man.” — The Dude (The Big Lebowski)
  • “Well, THAT escalated quickly.” — Ron Burgandy (Anchorman)

Mommy Shorts: “It smells like a used diaper filled with Indian food.” (Anchorman) My mom and I use it all the time. But only to each other.

Paige Kellerman: “I drink your milkshake.” (There Will Be Blood)

 

{The mention of a milkshake evokes Snack Break inquiries from the panel.  This quickly deteriorates to angry demands for an Extended Wine Break. Once I am able to reconvene everyone with full wine sippy cups, the discussion resumes below.}

 

In the movie version of your life story, which actress plays the role of you? 

Ninja Mom: Surely someone has dibs on Tina Fey. Maybe Tina will let me play her in the movie version of her life.

Honest Mom: Julia Roberts. Because I laugh big and loud like she does, my hair is kind of like hers, and I think my mom actually may love her more than me. Seriously. My mom has seen every Julia Roberts movie ever. It’s a little weird.

Frugalista Blog: Kristen Wiig– because she’s so goofy and makes all these facial expressions. Or Amy Poehler because she’s so funny. I guess I see myself as funny.

Let Me Start By Saying: Anne Hathaway. I’ve been told by multiple people that she’s the younger, brown-haired, brown-eyed version of me, and she’s clearly more talented than me, so yeah. I’ll take Anne.

Wendy Nielsen: Rachel McAdams because I was told once I looked like her!

Bad Parenting Moments: Lena Dunham. She’s short, funny, a tad crazy and our boobs are simpatico.

Paige Kellerman: Morgan Freeman. Doesn’t everyone want to be played by Morgan Freeman?


Own up: Which really bad movie(s) do you watch anytime you come across it/them on TV?

Ninja Mom: The Blues Brothers. Though I’d argue it’s awesome.

Honest Mom: 17 Again – Good Lord, is Zac Efron adorable.

Frugalista Blog: Step Up – Channing Tatum (hubba hubba) and Mean Girls (It’s not bad, it’s good actually, but I always watch it!)

Let Me Start By Saying: Step Up – OMG the dancing!  Notting Hill – the adorableness and Brit humor! But my real addiction is comic book/sci-fi movies. I can’t turn them off: Thor, Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, all of that sort. I’m obsessed.

Wendy Nielsen: Any Lifetime movie that features Tori Spelling.

Bad Parenting Moments: Showgirls. Every. Damn. Time.

Mommy Shorts: City Slickers. I used to watch that movie every time I felt depressed in high school. The scene where they finally bring the cows home just makes me happy.

Paige Kellerman: Mean Girls and Shawn of the Dead … Every time.

 

{Objection from the moderator:  There’s no way *none* of them get sucked into A Walk To Remember.}

 

Naturally, you’ve just been tapped to host the Oscars and you have no blogging conflicts to keep you from flying to Hollywood — so who is your top choice for co-host? Why will your Oscars be the most highly rated ever?

Ninja Mom: Matt Damon. Shut up. I want to smell and maybe caress him in a loving way that makes his clothes fall off.

Honest Mom: Tina Fey. DUH. We’d be the most highly-rated ever because of her awesomeness  — and because of my answer to the next question. Best. Awards. Ever.

Frugalista Blog: Oh my God!! This is my dream! That and going to the Oscars, being nominated for an Academy Award and winning. Okay, I will host with Hugh Jackman. He’s hosted before and he and I will do a musical number. Of course, it will start with him in a bath, naked, or a shower. Not sure which. I will come down on some harness and do Cirque du Soleil maneuvers. Not that I’m very acrobatic, but I just want to. Also, I can do trapeze, so we’ll have to throw that in somewhere. Oh wait – I just thought of host idea #2. Steve Carrell or Ben Stiller. OR Robert Downey Jr. And it would just be a bunch of comedic one-liners and hilarious quips. And Robert Downey Jr. will be shirtless. And maybe in a shower.

Let Me Start By Saying: I want to host with NinjaMomBlog’s Nicole Leigh Shaw. I think we’d be just the right blend of stand-up comic, ridiculous movie knowledge, and hotness. Like a poor man’s Tina Fey/Amy Poehler, but with greater height distance between the two of us.

Wendy Nielsen: Ryan Gosling!!  My Oscar telecast will be the most highly rated telecast because everyone loves The Notebook and they’ll think Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are hosting!

Bad Parenting Moments: Amy Sedaris. Amy and I hosting would be like Cirque du Soleil filmed at the landfill. You wouldn’t be able to turn away.

 

You’re all fabulous writers. So, which {real/existing} movie do you wish you had penned?

Ninja Mom: Ishtar. If I’d written that I’d know there was nowhere but up from there.

Honest Mom: The Twilight series. Who would’ve thunk vampires and wolves could be sexy? Big-money genius, right there.

Frugalista Blog: This is 40. Story of my freakin’ life. Minus the surprise pregnancy.

Let Me Start By Saying: Amelie felt like magic. Memento was brilliant. 50/50 because a hilarious cancer movie? Impossibly possible. Looper was so original. Slumdog Millionaire was a rich web with tactile love.  Signs was funny and deep and layered and it still gives me the creeps.

Toulouse & Tonic: Princess Bride.  You probably could’ve guessed that, right?  There is just so much funny packed into one movie.  No other movie is so quotable.

Wendy Nielsen: Wedding Crashers or Bridesmaids

Bad Parenting Moments: Lost in Translation

Mommy Shorts: Adaptation — so freakin’ clever.

 

Once and for all: How do we get the winners with long speeches to shut the hell up and exit? Because the orchestra thing obviously isn’t working.

Ninja Mom: Anal tasers.

Honest Mom: Put one of those trap doors in the floor. When time’s up? Buh-bye!

Frugalista Blog: You get the floor to open up and they fall through like on the Ellen show when she plays a game.

Let Me Start By Saying: Hole in the floor, when the time is up, the lever is pulled and the person falls into the press room.

Wendy Nielsen: The mic needs to drop into the ground!  Or have they already done that?

Bad Parenting Moments: Dangle a martini on a fishing line in front of them. Like a carrot to a donkey, they will follow

Mommy Shorts: I say go old school. Canes seem very effective.

* * *

Please join me in thanking my fabulous panel for this lively and informative look into their minds.  Now you know what fuels these gals.

 

Well, that and the wine they are still drinking.  I can’t get them out of my house.  It looks like we’ll have to sit here together and watch Anchorman.

 

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2013 Ode to Oscar

So the Oscars are nearly here.

As a movie lover, this used to be a big event for me.  Before kids.  Before I had no time to go to the movie theater.  Before my TV was taken over by ninjas and princesses instead of very cool on-demand movies.  I used to make a point of seeing all of the nominations for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay.  I planned my morning commute on the day the nominations were announced so I could catch them live.

Not so much anymore.  But, hey, I heard The Little Mermaid 3D is coming out this year — that’ll be fun.

I’m having my annual guilt about not having seen most {OK, most = all} of this year’s nominated films, and so I’m going to make up for it by having some Oscar Week fun on the blog. I have many a funny blogging friend ready to tell you all about their favorite movie moments over the next few days.  In the meantime, and without any authority on who should win this year’s awards, I’ll instead write about my favorite movies of Oscars Past — both real and imagined.

In alphabetical order (since I can’t rank them), I present an unsolicited list of my favorite movies ever.

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Almost Famous (2000) — Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (Cameron Crowe).  Nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson) and Best Editing

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Cast Singalong

A coming of age story is one of the oldest themes out there, but this is just done so well — especially since it’s supposedly based on director Cameron Crowe’s own experiences.  And against the backdrop of 1970s music and all its overindulgences.  I don’t care if you love Elton John or not (OK, I care a little — you should love his older stuff), but you can’t *not* love that “Tiny Dancer” group singalong on the bus.  Also, the amazing moment when Billy Crudup’s character finally answers the question:  “What do you love about music?” and it launches into the whole ending sequence…complete with Led Zeppelin…Oh, I love it so much.

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American History X (1998) — Nominated for Best Actor (Edward Norton).

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Ongoing View of Edward Norton’s Abs  Best Skinhead in a Leading Role

This movie is more violent than most I’d typically watch, but Edward Norton is amazing in this role.  A total and complete badass.  The whole thing is a heartbreaking and very real look at the White Supremacist movement in our country.

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Annie Hall (1977) — Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actress (Diane Keaton), Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen), Best Director (Woody Allen).  Nominated for Best Actor (Woody Allen)

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Opening Sequence of a Movie

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I know I said I can’t rank them but this is my all-time favorite movie, start to finish.  Even if you think you hate Woody Allen, just give this a try sometime.  For me.  Especially if you love When Harry Met Sally because, psssst, that movie is borrowed heavily from Annie Hall.

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Casablanca (1942) — Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.  Nominated for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score

Imaginary Oscar: Best Global Love Triangle

Of course Victor and Rick both wanted Ingrid Bergman.  Stunning.  So, ladies, what would you have done in Ingrid’s shoes?  Me, I think I can safely say I would have stayed in Casablanca and lived in the casino with Rick, even if he remained emotionally unavailable.  Because we gals often gravitate towards the complicated stuff.  And I wouldn’t be much good at outrunning the Nazis.

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Cinema Paradiso (1988) — Oscar for Best Foreign Film

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Non-Gangster Italian Film

Another coming of age film.  Quiet and gorgeous and will make you want to sit in an old-time movie theater with a huge glass of Chianti.  Ah, Alfredo — we all should have had someone like you in our childhood.

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Double Indemnity (1944) — Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Recording.

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Cheesy Dialogue

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I know I said Ed Norton was a badass but I think that Barbara Stanwyck may be able to take him down.  She was that good — the original Femme Fatale.  Angelina Jolie, you could learn a thing or two from Barb.

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Fargo (1996) — Oscars for Best Actress (Frances MacDormand) and Best Original Screenplay (Joel & Ethan Coen).  Nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (William H. Macy), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Editing

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Use of a Wood Chipper

Oh, Frances MacDormand.  Oh, William H Macy.  Oh, Steve Buscemi.  Which of you do I love most in this movie?  I really couldn’t say.  Dark, dark humor against a blaring white North Dakota winter backdrop.  Crime, used cars and a very pregnant police officer.  Hats off, Coen Brothers, hats off.  Their very best, as far as I’m concerned.

YouTube Preview Image

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Goodfellas (1990) — Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Joe Pesci).  Nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Lorraine Bracco), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Handheld Shot

So this movie made me want to marry a gangster when I first saw it at age 19.  Ray Liotta fucking rocked this role.  And Martin Scorsese, who often calls the music in his films “the soundtrack of my life,” just nails this.  Here’s the handheld camera shot I referenced in my fake Oscar.  Not one cut.  Crazy.  And with The Crystals (“And Then He Kissed Me”) to boot.  Who doesn’t love a good back entrance tour of the Copa?

(I can’t find a clip of this anywhere that will embed into the page — sorry for the pop-up.)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCYwcObxl78

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Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) — Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Caine), Best Supporting Actress (Dianne Wiest) and Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen).  Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing and Best Set Design.

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Husband Swapping

Mia Farrow.  Dianne Wiest.  Barbara Hershey.  Sir Michael Caine.  I think I’m done selling this one.  If you haven’t already, please see it.

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Lost in Translation (2003) — Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Bill Murray) and Best Director.

Imaginary Oscar:  Best Mystery Ending Line.  Best Karaoke Scene

You are more than a little dead inside if the end of this movie did not get you.  Bill Murray’s unknown whisper at the end, right into Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey” —  I was a mess.  Plus a fabulous cover of Roxy Music by Bill Murray.  What a great, great movie.

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Manhattan (1979) — Nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Mariel Hemingway) and Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen)

Imaginary Oscar:  Most Stunning Visual Love Letter to New York City

YouTube Preview Image

A lot like Annie Hall.  But with a very young Meryl Streep (her second movie role) and an even younger Mariel Hemingway.  And great line about Sanka:

I wanted to tell you about it.  I knew it would upset you. I…         
We had a few innocent meetings.    
                   
A few? She said one. You guys should get your story straight. Don’t you rehearse?    
                   
We met twice for coffee.   
                   
Hey, she doesn’t drink coffee. Did you meet for Sanka? That’s not too romantic. A little on the geriatric side.

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And the Honorable Mentions go to Jerry Maguire (yes, really), Radio Days, The Producers (original version) and The Shawshank Redemption.

OK, that was hard to narrow down!  But fun.  Surely my picks are not the same as yours — so let’s see your additions please.

And Happy Oscars to you all — even if you haven’t seen this year’s nominees.

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Disney World Planning Fail

Every December 26, I get the Post-Christmas Blues and, to combat them, I begin to plan our family trip to Walt Disney World in March.

I followed the same timetable this year and got my flights/hotel squared away.  Then I made the mistake of blowing off the dining reservations until last week — an ungodly seven weeks prior to our arrival.

This is pretty much Disney Armageddon.  The End of Days.  The Death of Tinkerbell.

Now, before you Disney veterans begin breathing into a paper bag, I should tell you that I know better.  I’m a seasoned WDW traveler.  And while I’m not the WDW Extremist who books my trip six months in advance, I have found that two months out is generally OK if the dates don’t coincide with Spring Break.

I just procrastinated with the dining this year.  And now I’m paying for it.

I don’t believe in planning every single meal at WDW in advance, but there are key restaurants/experiences I want to nail down ahead of time.  And then there is some ratio where I’m willing to wing it with some fast food-ish (aka Quick Service Dining) options.  That’s OK.  If it’s part of the plan to do that.

Let me illustrate exactly what you don’t want:  No plan at the stroke of 5pm, when your kids declare they are starving at the same moment that everyone else in Central Florida reaches the same realization.  

Because, at that point, you are left with these choices:

–Accept a hot pretzel as your fate for dinner, served by some 15 year-old in an awful costume who chirps, “Have a magical day!”

–Wait on some line for 45 minutes to eat at The Craptastic Desperation Buffet.  {I don’t think that’s the official name, but I’d have to check.}

 

Not willing to fully embrace this destiny for three meals a day over five days, I have come up with some alternate coping mechanisms for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

1.  Research a secret loophole for using FastPass in restaurants.  Screw Space Mountain, I want the front of the line at Chef Mickey’s breakfast.

2.  While in a crowded, enclosed space {presumably, waiting to go on a ride}, start a loud and highly plausible rumor about “those unfortunate findings” in the kitchen of Cinderella’s Royal Table.  “I mean, at first I thought the mice were part of the act, but…”

3.  Begin to fabricate false memories of how tasty the buffets were.  Maybe that dried out meat and side of Goofy pasta really was worth the $30 per person.

4.  Wonder how long the family can subsist on the illegal stash of cereal bars I have smuggled into the park {ssshhhhh, they’re watching}.

5.  Drop hints to the kids that eating lunch with a Disney character is overrated.  Suggest that Mickey and Cinderella are egomaniacs who  steal children’s french fries.

6.  Rationalize the money we are saving by sacrificing sit-down meals.  After all, a series of $8 hot pretzels is way more economical, paving the way for the irrational purchase of various overpriced memorabilia in the shape of mouse ears.

7.  Secretly scheme a pregnancy-related blood sugar crash in front of my favorite Disney restaurant during peak dining hours.

8.  Tell my family that, starting on this vacation, we’ll be juicing as part of a new health kick.  Assure them that the dizziness will pass.

9.   Consider cheating on WDW with dinner at Universal.  Risk being locked out of our WDW resort upon our return.

10.  Embrace the Vacation = Ice Cream philosophy to an extreme by feeding the family those delicious Mickey-shaped ice cream bars at every meal.  Praise myself for the parenting knowledge to offer significant dairy supplemental value to my growing kids.

 

There.  I feel better already.  I think these strategies will work, if it comes down to it.

But, just in case, I’m on hold with the WDW Dining Reservations Line as I type this — ready to execute my alternate plan:  Begging.

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My Cirque du Soleil Audition

 

The residents of Fordeville are on Flu Lockdown after my son was diagnosed over the weekend.  Since he has sneezed on me no fewer than 487 times in the last week, it’s only a matter of time before I get it.  So, as a warm-up to my clearly impending misery, let me tell you about another form of torture I experienced just before lockdown.

In a few weeks, I’m attending a very nice event that requires me to dress up.  Usually, I embrace something like this.  It gives me an opportunity to go shopping and find something to wear.  And even shower.

It’s a little different at 20 weeks pregnant.  My options are far more limited.  I mean, I don’t want to spend much money on something that will fit me for all of four days.  As for going the Duchess Kate route and famously re-purposing something I already own — well, I don’t think my yoga pants are acceptable, even in a bedazzled state.  And I’m saving my muumuu debut for the town pool at about 38 weeks pregnant.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find a simple, elegant — and of course, black — maternity dress that I felt comfortable in, yet was not shaped like something out of the Breaking Amish Mother-To-Be Collection.

Score!

Having completed my purchase, I felt victorious and relieved.  And then, I saw them.  On my way out of the store — on the rack out of the corner of my eye.

Maternity Spanx.

At first, I was confused.  I mean, what’s the point?   There’s no pulling in this stomach, at least not without industrial or surgical equipment.

But, ever the curious consumer {and clearly stalling to drag out my alone time in the mall}, I took a closer look.

Hmmm.  Why, yes, I would like to pull in my bottom and streamline my legs — all while giving my growing mid-section some forgiving room for expansion.

In what I can only describe as a second trimester moment of low blood sugar, I was sold.  I purchased the Maternity Spanx.

Anxious to witness their slimming effects, I immediately took them out of the package when I got home.  I began to try them on.

After gently sliding them over my hands, I wondered if maybe I purchased the wrong size.  I  mean, I’m no stranger to regular Spanx, but these — they seemed awfully restrictive.  Like barbed wire.

I checked the package.  Nope, I had the right size.  And so I started again, gathering them carefully around my ankles.  The trip from big toe to ankle took about six minutes.

Wow, I had a long way to go.  I checked my calendar to make sure I didn’t have to be anywhere for the next 25 minutes.  Did I have anything on the stove that could burn while I’m trapped in this compromising, chain-gang-like position?

I continued.

By the time the Maternity Spanx were up to my knees, I was winded.  Yes, my legs were slimmer, but I was concerned about my circulation.  I wondered if I should talk to my OB about this before proceeding.  Or maybe a hematologist.

The knee-to-hip journey was perhaps the most challenging.  Now, I work out about three times a week, and yet this task had me in a full sweat.  In fact, I only have to exercise twice this week after the calories I burned in my Maternity Spanx application.  And I feel I’ve earned that extra cookie, if not an alternate spot on the US Women’s Gymnastics team.  Better yet, I think I have just mastered the audition process for Cirque du Soleil.

My God, this was exhausting.  Despite leveraging my years of intensive ballet training, I. just. couldn’t. get. these. things. all. the. way. on.  And where was that bottle of water I swore I had on my nightstand?

Finally, success!  The Maternity Spanx were fully in place.  I took a minute to rest from the cardio impact of my efforts and regroup.   Once I adjusted to the lack of oxygen flowing to my brain, I thought the result was pretty good.  I looked at least eight ounces lighter than I did half an hour ago, when I began this P90X situation.

After all that, I considered just sleeping in them, as I was far too exhausted by the thought of reversing the process.

Thinking ahead to the lovely event I’m attending, the fate of my Maternity Spanx is unclear.  I hate to waste the money I spent on them, but I’m just not sure I can repeat this exercise in torture.  Plus, it would cost even more to have the ER cut me out of them if necessary.  Do you think my co-pay would cover that?

But, then again, looking eight ounces lighter is appealing in my current state.  Maybe I’ll take what I can get — even if I can’t get up from my seat without medical assistance, just for the night.

 

 

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The Annual Christmas Music Confessional

 

It’s time.

The Annual Fordeville Christmas Music Confessional is open.

Forget your shopping lists, your relatives driving you batshit crazy, the overachieving Pinterest Christmas boards and moving that damn Elf on the Shelf again.  Because it’s time to come clean about your dirty secret — the cheesiest Christmas songs that you love, that you sing at full volume when nobody’s looking — but would never admit to elsewhere.

So, I bring you a public service with this confessional.   I’m owning up to all my holiday favorites, as I have done for the past few years — shamelessly — and now you have a place where you can do the same. And we’ll never speak of it outside this blog.

Come all ye cheesy and tell us what you’re singing when nobody is around.

  • I’ll start out safe and lead with John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over).” The song isn’t cheesy, but the sight of me — inhaling a hot chocolate and weeping when those kids start singing the chorus — might be.  This song kills me. Gorgeous and sad and sweet.
  • “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” As a child of the 80s, I won’t even bother apologizing for loving this song. It’s my birthright. I remember my sister getting the 45 single (gulp), and we played it over and over. And the video — Sweet Jesus. I. Loved. It. My friend Jen and I made it our full-time job in sixth grade to know which artist was singing which part, amidst our intense Simon LeBon vs. Bono debates. I just looked online at the full Band Aid roster of singers and I think I feel my leg warmers falling down. Kool and the Gang? Really? YouTube Preview Image
  • Apparently nobody ever fucking comes home for Christmas and there are all kinds of ways to sing and cry about it. And so I give you “Baby Please Come Home for Christmas” {The Eagles, Aaron Neville and Bon Jovi versions} and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) {the incomparable Darlene Love, of course — but the U2 version is also great}.
  • Let’s just veer further into total holiday depressive mode while we’re at it with Joni Mitchell’s “River.” Doesn’t it just make you want to jump out of a window in utter despair? Not just me, right? And — cheesy alert:  There is a little-known remake that is sung by, of all people, Robert Downey, Jr.  Who knew?  Apparently, he did this on one of his Ally McBeal guest appearances {remember that train wreck of a show?}. Turns out, the man can sing.  Say what you will.  Oh, and pass me the tissues.

OK. I’m saving my truly cheesy favorites for last.

  • I honestly can’t even talk to you if you can’t get behind Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne.”   No, I’m not joking. “Met my old lover in the grocery store — The snow was falling Christmas Eve…” Yes, that one. Fucking kills me.  You might be a little dead inside if it doesn’t get to you.

And, some big favorites to tie this up. Strangely, both of these last two songs have the same title but are entirely different. So, under the category of “All I Want for Christmas Is You”…

  • This one is a Fordeville family favorite but not terribly well-known, unless you are one of the five global members of the Vince Vance & the Valiants Fan Club. I have no idea what else they sing — I think they are a country outfit — but what a great song, released in 1989. The video has a medium-to-high bizarro/creepy factor (What the fuck is actually happening with the weird dude? There is no way in hell that’s all she wants for Christmas). But the music has got a twangy, sort of retro feel. And it’s completely cheesy. Bring it!
  • Lastly, yes, I’ll say it. I love the Mariah Carey song. I know, it’s cheesy. But I’m owning it. I’m not typically a Mariah fan but there is something about this song. It reminds me of the old Phil Spector Wall of Sound and the girl bands of the 1960s. Plus, it conjures up that scene from Love Actually, and then I think about Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, and everything is right in the world.

So there you go — those are some of my holiday favorites, in no particular order. Honorable mention to The Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” and The Beach Boys’ “Merry Christmas Baby.”

Confession complete.

But you guys are not going to leave me hanging out here all alone, are you?  Let’s hear the best of your worst.  It’s OK — I promise to keep it between us and the Internet.

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A Very PBK Christmas

Nineteen days until Christmas and, if you’re anything like me, you’re anxiously dusting off your PBK catalog for some swell new ideas on how to complicate the hell out of your remaining holiday prep time. Because there’s nothing else left to do, of course.

As my holiday gift to you, I will keep today’s PBK rant brief.

 

Festivities

If you are planning to host a holiday cookie exchange, please know that PBK has you covered and is ready to guide you through about 26 grueling steps for success {starting three to four weeks before your event}.  Some must-haves:

The Mason Jar Snow Globe

{Image: Pottery Barn Kids}

Naturally, your event will be an utter shit show if you don’t have homemade centerpieces for each baking station. I mean, I would never stay at a cookie exchange that didn’t have handcrafted fucking holiday terrariums.

{Image: Pottery Barn Kids}

In short, this mason jar is an exercise in torture.  Not only does it involve a glue gun {as should any activity with small kids}, but there are tweezers.  Why tweezers?  To help you “lower the scene down into the jar.”  Naturally.  Look, if you haven’t ever built one of those ships inside of a bottle, I don’t think this for you.  And by “you,” of course I mean me.

 

Chocolate Milk Snowmen

{Image: Pottery Barn Kids}

When a Disney-themed sippy cup and a bottle of Hershey’s syrup up for grabs simply won’t do.  I find this craft worthwhile because, well, the kids will get to enjoy it for all of the SIX SECONDS it takes them to inhale their chocolate milk and shatter the glass on your floor.

{Image: Pottery Barn Kids}

I read step #1 and thought about instead tying the fabric around my own neck in a noose-like situation, just to free myself of PBK.  Good news, though:  You can probably use the leftover mason jars here that you nearly threw across the room a few hours ago while trying to create the damn snow globes.  Just try to get all the fake snow and glue out before you serve my kid chocolate milk in this, OK?

 

Decor

Hosting parties for the under-21 set is not really your thing?  That’s OK.  Just make sure that your home is decorated as elaborately as possible for Christmas.  I, for one, am so grateful for this particular suggestion.

{Image: Pottery Barn Kids}

Because, if you can believe it, I almost forgot to adorn the stairs of my home with jars of holiday candy.  I have been looking for more places to rest breakable glass receptacles filled with sugary treats for my children — and now it seems so obvious.  Heaven forbid they don’t get to eat a candy cane, nib of chocolate or peppermint sucker each of the 8,613 times they go up and down the stairs every day.  This shouldn’t cause me any problems at all.

 

Gifts

Finally, what would PBK be without those special holiday gifts for your kids?  I chose a few favorites.

The Elf on the Shelf Letter Carrier

{Image: Pottery Barn Kids}

Now the children have an easy and direct way to make sure their letters get to Santa.  It’s also the quickest path to a lifetime of therapy sessions generated by this gigantic, creepy elf staring at them every night.  Throw in the matching PBK Elf on the Shelf bedding and pajamas, and this gift set has a certain serial-killer-in-training or American Horror Story undertone that I can’t quite shake.

The Mini Dyson

{Image: Pottery Barn Kids}

Let’s examine some of the features, as stated by PBK:

  • Designed after the full-scale European models.
  • Features a bright whirring vortex, realistic sounds, tools and a detachable wand.

Did they say “bright, whirring vortex”?  I can just hear that annoying Dyson guy in my ear.  And, isn’t that code for “likely to cause seizures”?

I’m sort of opposed to my kid owning nicer cleaning machinery than mine.  She’ll be all, “Uh, Mom, what is that Swiffer thing?  And why the hell isn’t it monogrammed and color-coordinated with your pajamas?”

But the truth is this:  Your child won’t need this Mini Dyson if you just buy her this gem instead.

{Image: Pottery Barn Kids}

The Danbury Dollhouse.  Or is it Downton Abbey?  Hard to tell.  Anyway, I’d be shocked if it didn’t come with its own maid’s quarters.

So there you have it.  19 days.  Get going — before there’s a run on glue guns and mason jars.

__________

 

Other holiday notes:

–Congratulations to Teresa Vanselow for winning the autographed copy of Spending the Holidays With People I Want to Punch in the Throat. Thanks to all who entered!

–Need more holiday cheer?  Check out my post over at Mommy Shorts this week on how to eliminate holiday stress {hint: seasonal polygamy}.  I think my case is pretty compelling, and my legal team is making some real strides on my behalf. Also, I staged a last-ditch intervention for our Elf on the Shelf over at Elf Shaming.  The next stop for Jingle is rehab.

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I Don’t Watch Homeland. Can We Still Be Friends?

 

My husband and I don’t have much of a social life.  Like many parents of young kids, we don’t get out as often as we’d like.  But hey, we can have cocktails at home, cook dinner and watch some TV.  And then we can talk about that riveting evening with other parents of small kids who don’t get out.

Well, that’s not working anymore.

Because we screwed up.  We’re out of the loop.  We’re late to the party.  We’re missing out.

On Homeland.

My life is starting to feel like a Saturday Night Live skit.  I can’t have any social interactions anymore without an exchange like this.

**Begin social interaction.**

“You guys are watching Homeland, right?”

“Uh, no.  We haven’t seen it yet.  I hear it’s gr–”

Wait, what?!  OMG, you’re not watching Homeland?  You’re kidding?  Please be kidding.”

“No. I know, we need to start.  We don’t have Showtime.”

“Well, you have to get Showtime.  You have to.  Or just get it on Netflix.”

“That’s true.  We could do th–”

“OR watch it online.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“Oh wait, I think my cousin’s ex-husband’s new wife’s niece’s parole officer has the first season on DVD.  I’ll get it for you.”

“Oh you don’t have to do that.  Thanks, though.”

“Well, then WHAT are you going to do? ”

“We’ll get it.  We will.”

“Good.  Because we are OBSESSED with it.  OBSESSED.”

“Really?  I hadn’t noticed.  I can’t wait to watch it.”

“What else could you be watching on Sunday night?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I mean, we flip the channels and, you know — we find something.”

**Blank, incredulous stares.  End of social interaction.  Possibly end of friendship.**

Seriously, I have had some variation of this conversation no fewer than five different times in the last two weeks.  This is a fiercely loyal group of viewers.  And I believe them — I’m sure it’s a great show.

But, here’s the problem:  Apparently, P and I don’t learn from our mistakes.  We never watched 24.  Or Alias.  Yeah, once in a while we’ll catch Mad Men if it happens to be on.  We were hot and cold with The Sopranos.  But we fumbled our way through the related conversations {Did Tony die on the series finale?  And what about using that Journey song for the closing scene?}.  We did OK.  We got invited back to parties.  Mostly because we fucking owned Lost.  We rode that wave from beginning to end and were completely well-versed in all things about The Island, The Others and The Smoke Monster.  At a Final Jeopardy level.

But that doesn’t matter anymore.  That day is done.  It’s all Homeland, all the time.  And we’re on the outside looking in.

This is affecting my interactions at pre-school pick-up.  The Kindergarten bus stop.  Playdates.  Bunco night.

And now, we’re just plain screwed.  It’s the holiday season — the one time of year when we get out to multiple parties in the span of several weeks.  It’s also — I hear, frequently — around the time when the Homeland Season 2 finale will air.  This is a social pariah perfect storm for us.  If we don’t start watching it now, I should probably just cancel the babysitter and stay home.  We will have no social credibility.  What could we possibly contribute to these parties?

So, if you see two loners by the punch bowl at your next holiday gathering, mumbling quietly about the Lost finale — that will be us.  It’s all we’ve got.  Until we get our hands on those Homeland DVDs.

 

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