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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

May 12, 2011

Am I hallucinating or did I really just google “shopping carts fecal matter”?  My search window confirms it:  shopping+carts+fecal+matter.  Even more disturbing than the search term itself are the results:  over 660,000 hits, including numerous references to the recent news item I was searching for (Fecal Matter Found on 72 Percent of Grocery Carts).

Ready for anything - even the grocery store

I have to say, fecal matter seems to be pooping…er, popping up all over the place.  First it was found on bathroom faucet handles and public phones, then it moved on to bagged salad greens, hot tubs, and soda fountains.  Now we find out that grocery carts are contaminated too.  What is this, the great doo-doo migration?  Are we supposed to poop…er, pop into hazmat suits before any shopping excursions to the dirty and dangerous grocery store?  I can tell you one thing:  my early morning pre-coffee, no makeup, snarling schleps to the local Kroger are already a public menace.  I don’t see showing up in full-on protective gear as endearing me to my fellow shoppers. 

To be honest, I’d just rather not hear about it.  If nasty germs are lurking everywhere – and really, don’t we already know that? – why do we need a breathless announcement each time a college student swabs another surface?  Is it gross?  Yes.  Did the gag reflex kick in a little when I first read about it?  Yes.  But does the headline truly accomplish anything positive for public health?  I don’t think so.  Generations of moms were already skeeved out by shopping carts because we knew thousands of strangers had touched, rubbed, sneezed and who-knows-what-else all over them before we plopped our little darlings down in the seat.  We did our best to keep them from mouthing the cart and at the end of the shopping trip we wiped their hands off.  No panic, no sweat, no tears. 

It comes down to this:  wash your hands, and teach your children to wash their hands!  Wash your hands when you use the facilities.  (Yes, those facilities.  Everyone says they do but check out A Whole Lot of Us are Big Fat Liars with Biohazardous Hands for some surprising stats).  Wash your hands whenever you return home or to the office after having been out and about.  Wash your hands before you prepare food or put away clean dishes.  Keep hand sanitizer in your purse (Howard Hughes Would Have Loved Purell) and share it liberally with your children and loved ones.   

At the end of the day, I’ve decided that in the big scheme of things some microscopic bits of ick on my grocery cart aren’t worth the energy it would take to panic, and I’m happy to see that  a microbiology professor agrees.  I’m not going to ask where fecal matter may turn up next, and I’d really prefer if you didn’t tell me.  I think I’d rather read about the woman who went in for oral surgery and woke up with a Transylvanian accent.  Bela Lugosi in a housecoat?  Now there’s something to be frightened of.


Halloween: The Ugly Truth

November 3, 2010

I have to admit to a certain amount of dread when Halloween rolls around.  Now that my kids are older (11 and 13) I can no longer convince them that slapping a floppy sun hat on their head, knotting a bandana around their neck and “riding” a plunger around the neighborhood makes a really neat-o “not to mention authentic!” cowboy costume. 

Cowgirl is happily oblivious to the fact her boots are on the wrong feet. Lion boy appears to be stunned at this bizarre turn of events.

No more generic costumes (hobo, gypsy, witch, plunger-bustin’ cowboy) easily whipped up through the creative use of discarded clothing and household items. 

Now, due to my lack of  sewing skills, I actually have to spend money on specific character costumes (Indiana Jones, Wolverine, Jack Sparrow).  This year it wasn’t too bad; I managed to come up with a couple of passable Prince of Persia assassin (“Hassansin, Mommy.  HASSANSIN!”) costumes by purchasing only the requisite weapons and a couple of large squares of black fabric.  This is a great triumph in my book.   

Halloween 2010

Then, of course, there’s the horror of compulsively stealing, literally, candy from a baby.  My baby.  Yes, I’m one of those unfortunates cursed at conception with a genetic lack of discipline.  If there is chocolate in the house, I will eat it.  Period.  I’ll never forget the sharp pain of self-repugnance I felt upon overhearing my husband say to my then four-year-old daughter (frighteningly precocious in many ways, including the apparent ability to keep track of every piece of her Halloween candy, which I hadn’t counted on) “Sweetheart, I would NEVER steal candy from you!”  I nearly choked on the purloined fun-sized Snickers bar I had crammed into my mouth only seconds before, and later managed to return the Butterfingers that were hidden in my pants pocket without getting caught.  Thank goodness.  (Now I simply buy Halloween candy at the beginning of October under the pretext of taking advantage of the best selection, hide it under the pretext of keeping it safe until the 31st, scarf it up in secret over the course of the next week or so under the pretext of…well…let me get back to you on that one…and then repeat the vicious cycle up until Halloween afternoon when I have to rush out and buy candy so we’ll actually have something to pass out to the trick-or-treaters.)

But the thing that really sends a chill up my spine is the aftermath.  The horrifying spectre of seventeen pounds of candy – per child, each insidious little fun-size piece a sugary WMD of tooth decay – leering up at me for weeks on end from the trick-or-treat collection bags (which have morphed into pillow cases – greedy little buggers.) 

This year, however, I think I finally gained the upper hand.  It actually started last Halloween, when I had the brainiac idea to pay the kids for whatever candy they didn’t want.  Unfortunately, being new to the concept and somewhat mathematically challenged, I offered them 25-cents per piece…and then wept as I counted out over $25 for each of them.  So on Sunday evening after they had returned from their rounds (just the two of them, on their own in our neighborhood for the first time – yeah, I might’ve had one or two pucker-y moments) and were basking in the glory of their candy haul spread out all over the living room floor, I announced, “I will pay you $1 for every six pieces of candy you give away.”

$36 worth of candy

Money truly is a great motivator.  My daughter gave away enough candy to earn $17; not to be outdone, my son earned $19.  That’s 216 pieces of candy that will NOT be ingested by my children (for whom brushing teeth is considered a heinous form of torture).  Money well spent, in my book!

Now I just have to get rid of everything they gave away before it ends up on my backside.  I think I’ll send it in to work with the hubby.  I’m sure the fact that the bag will contain no Butterfingers or Snickers bars is pure coincidence.

Note: 13 year-old, upon reading the above:  “This is giving me great insight into your twisted mind, Mommy.”

Attack of the Maneating Backpack

October 1, 2010

I rolled my eyes at first when I saw the headline for this online article, “Backpack Safety.”  Bike safety?  Check.  Personal safety?  Check.  Pool safety?  Check.  Cyber safety?  Check.  But backpack safety?  Please.  I have enough things to be genuinely worried about regarding my kids without bringing a glorified tote bag into the picture.

But then I started thinking about it.  Backpacks really are dangerous.  In the Savvy household there are several serious hazards posed by backpacks:

  • catastrophic paper lacerations could be caused at any given moment by an explosive discharge of papers (including but not limited to:  incomplete assignments; assignments that were completed but never turned in; assignments that were turned in, graded and handed back during the Nixon administration; class notes; old tests; multi-hued reminders of the book fair, family bingo night and the third (And final!  This time we really mean it!) extension of the school fund raising order form deadline; loose-leaf notepaper sheets decorated with enough swirly doodles to put any rococo artist to shame; and various and sundry overdue book notices, overdrawn lunch account notices, and class agenda pages
  • the tidiness of our home entry is seriously compromised by the gargantuan black and electric blue plaid bags (yes, I gave them free rein on the selection) and the accompanying Pig-Pen-like miasma of papers floating aimlessly about the general area *note:  the tidiness of our home entry is also compromised by my lackluster cleaning skills, but that’s beside the point*
  • the packs and attendant books, loose papers and empty lunch bags together pose an exponential trip risk

"Oh yeah. I'm big. I'm bad. I'm a backpack."

Setting aside all of the health risks posed by over-stuffed backpacks and focusing on the truly important, ie shallow appearances, when my 13 year-old hoists her backpack up onto her shoulders (via block and tackle) she ends up with a silhouette that would put Quasimodo to shame.  Fortunately her superior hygiene habits forestall any serious comparisons.

I do like the line, “Many packs feature multiple compartments that help students stay organized” (my emphasis).  Clearly that’s one memo among the thousands collected in their backpacks that is missing.  In a child’s mind, multiple compartments simply mean more surprise options as they blindly shove papers willy-nilly into the depths of their pack.  This of course leads to the classic, “Somebody took it out of my bag!” when it’s time to retrieve that night’s homework.

Another line I got a kick out of:  “The pack should rest evenly in the middle of the back and not sag down to the buttocks.”  Remember, we’re talking about the generation that inspired “Pants on the Ground.”  What’s another 20 pounds of papers and books when it already looks like you’re carrying around the bulky remains of an industrial-strength colon-cleanse in the seat of your saggy jeans?

A copy of the 16 billion page healthcare bill? Nope. Just the interior of one of our backpacks.

There are no lockers at our local middle school, so my daughter hauls her two-ton backpack around on her back all day, every day, at school.  Shouldn’t this fall under some kind of child labor law?  Forget kettle balls, I can use my kids’ backpacks for strengthening my core… if I were so inclined.

Perhaps it’s time for me to help my kids clear out the offending bags and do a bit of organizing.

Now where did I put that blast shield?

See these bags under my eyes? I earned them the hard way.

August 25, 2010

So teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep because they’re spending too much time plugged into their social network, online games and cell phones (Wired and Tired)?  Well boo-hoo.

You know what keeps me up at night?

  • a mortgage we’d love to refinance in order to take advantage of lower interest rates, but which the bank won’t touch because our house’s value has dropped farther and faster than Rod Blagojevich’s pompadour when denied large amounts of extra-strength hair mousse and a leaf-blower hair dryer
  • trying to figure out why, when property values rise, my property taxes go up; but when property values tank (see above), my taxes go…up
  • Lady Gaga’s political commentary
  • lamenting how little we’ve saved in the kids’ college funds
  • juggling raising a family while caring for infirm parents
  • struggling to successfully apply the law of diminishing returns to driving 5 miles out of my way to buy gas that’s 2.7 cents cheaper per gallon, taking into account average gas mileage, speed & time spent idling at red lights (Please excuse me while my head explodes)
  • middle-age spread (wait – did I say middle-age?  Umm…I think I meant post-teen)

At least teens still have collagen in their elastic virginal undereye skin. They don’t have to face a mirror each morning sporting  dark circles, puffy lids and undereye bags large enough to smuggle at least a dozen extra-large cotton balls into a Marlon-Brando-as-The-Godfather-look-alike convention.  Nor do they have to have a serious conversation about whether or not hemorrhoid creme is really an effective – if not humiliating – antidote to said bags.  (Not that I have ever actually participated in such a conversation.  I just happen to know someone who knows someone whose great-aunt thrice removed thought she’d once overheard this particular remedy mentioned during a sit-and-be-fit class at the local senior center.)

I’m not bitter or anything, but I have no sympathy for the poor pubescents who simply lack the will to turn off their nifty little gadgets and games.  Feel sorry for them?  Give me a break.  Look me up teen texters, when you move out of the house, get a real job, and realize you get two days instead of two weeks for Christmas vacation (truth be told I never got over that), living on Top Ramen and fast food is actually kind of gross, and it takes a lot of the fun out of staying home sick when there’s no one around to fetch tissues or keep you plied with juice, crackers and chicken soup.

In other words, see me when you’re all grown up.  Then we’ll talk…and I promise I’ll have all the sympathy in the world.

A road trip blog that includes the phrase “Pyrrhic victory.” Go on…you know you want to look.

July 7, 2010

The Savvy family recently returned from a two-week road trip.  Planned by my husband, it took us to an awesome naval aviation museum (at Pensacola, where my Dad had his USCG flight training), three Civil War battlefields, two Revolutionary War battlefields, several out-of-the-way ramshackle little towns in the deep south where various artists associated with the Blues were born or lived during their formative years, Graceland (yes, we made the pilgrimage) and Sun Studio in Memphis where Elvis recorded many of his early songs – including his first ever.  Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and numerous other big names of the early 50’s also recorded there, and at the end of the tour we stood in the very same modest little recording studio where musical history was made.  (I was almost equally impressed by the fact that U2 recorded “Rattle and Hum” there too.  The hubs, who despises U2 with a passion – don’t ask, I love him so I overlook it even when he says, “They are stinkbombs” – not so much.)

Oh…did you think I was done?  If I don’t mention Fort Sumter or the battleship USS Alabama, aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and submarine Clamagore (all WWII vintage) said spousal unit might interpret the omissions to mean that I didn’t enjoy those tours.  For the record, having grown up as the child of a military man and being very familiar with those types of exhibits, I enjoyed them thoroughly and was happy to share the experience with my own kids.

quiet country road

The road to Shiloh National Military Park

It was a lovely trip.  Thank goodness my kids are easy travelers.  I must confess we broke down and now have a DVD player in the car after intense lobbying by two very determined lawyers-in-training.  Although they always did fine without it (we are regular road-trippers) I have to say it cuts down quite a bit on grouchy grumbling and slap-fests in the back seat.  We still manage to be mean parents, though (yes, this Mean Mommy married an equally detestable and loathsome Daddy) and its use is tightly regulated, much to their chagrin:

…it’s a Pyrrhic victory as I have managed to ruin the effect by imposing a “no use while just tooling around town” rule along with severe restrictions on road trip usage:  they may watch one video of their choosing after watching an educational video (Bill Nye the Science Guy rocks, thank goodness!!) and their total time is limited to 1/3 of the time spent on the road.

Yes, we had a fun time and made some life-long memories.  Especially me, as I suspect I will never forget getting hit with a sudden and severe attack of food poisoning while walking around Charleston’s beautiful historic district.  Heat index of 105, a 20 minute walk back to the hotel, and no public bathroom in sight.  Yep…those scars run deep.

Give me a year and I may – just may – be ready to do it all over again.

If You Open it, Close it

June 23, 2010

My mom always had newspaper clippings, articles, comics and other helpful little items stuck to the refrigerator, giving it the messy appearance of LSD-inspired collage wallpaper.  Many of them fluttered hopefully if you walked by fast enough, as if they were reaching out in a silent plea to be read.  The truth is, there was so much stuff on that fridge that it was nearly impossible for the human eye to focus on any two words that might actually be part of the same sentence, thus ironically preventing any of us girls from actually absorbing any of the proffered wisdom.

With one exception.  “The Rules,” a sheet which morphed into numerous incarnations throughout the years but which always held a place of honor on top of everything else, in the middle of the door.  The Rules alone were clearly legible – not that it helped, because it really wasn’t until we all grew up and out of the home that we actually started living by them (again, the irony is crushing):

  • If you open it, close it.
  • If you turn it on, turn it off.
  • If you break it, repair it.
  • If you can’t fix it, call someone who can.
  • If you borrow it, return it.
  • If you make a mess, clean it up.
  • If you use it, take care of it.
  • If you move it, put it back.
  • If it belongs to somebody else and you want to use it, get permission.
  • If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
  • If it doesn’t concern you, don’t mess with it.

I recently came across a set of The Rules in a totally random place, and decided to make a copy for the Savvy refrigerator: 


Yes, I know my artistic abilities are stunning.  I am especially proud of the clip art image of a bespectacled bulldog studying what appears to be a serious textbook.  Visual beauty aside, my set of The Rules are a straightforward formula for a courteous and respectful way of life.

I just hope my kids take them to heart a lot quicker than I did.

I’m Just Sayin’…

June 16, 2010

The best birth control ever invented is someone’s bratty toddler throwing a tantrum in public

If your child’s bicycle helmet is loose enough to perch jauntily on the side of his head like a drunken sailor’s cap it will NOT protect his brain in the event of an accident

Forcing a winning kids’ soccer team to tone down their efforts on the field by threatening them with a default loss will NOT teach the losers how to be winners (Win a Game by more than Five Points and You Lose)

For a short period of time during our high school senior year, a good friend of mine drove a flesh-colored Ford Pinto with a lavender paisley roof…I kid you not

Some of the things my children do which I find most irritating happen to be reflections of my own personality shortcomings (where’s Freud when you need him?)

I really did turn into my mom – thank goodness 🙂

Life would be so much easier if I had my own personal administrative assistant

I miss snail-mail (there’s nothing like being pleasantly surprised by a card in your mailbox)

Sometimes I would give anything just to relive a week in my early 20’s; post-college, pre-marriage & kids

If your tween daughter’s shorts/pants have something emblazoned across the posterior, people will stare at her fanny

If you buy your high-schooler a brand new Beamer or equally fabulous sports car you can put money on the fact that he’ll speed & drive irresponsibly (Favorite P.J. O’Rourke quote:  “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys”)