Friday, March 15, 2013

At Your Commando

There's so much laundry coming through the Salfino Laundry Service, it's kind of crazy that for a split second on one recent day, I actually sort of thought to myself, "Am I missing some of Ryan's underwear?"

See, I am the family laundress.  I know, I know, it sounds so quaint.  Yet pathetic.  The fact of the matter is, I never taught my daughter how to do her own laundry, nor, shockingly, has she shown any interest.  Mike's been pretty much banned from it because he'll throw everything in the dryer, let it shrink and leave it there to wrinkle.  And Ryan, well, let's just say he's doing his part by generating his fair share.

But of late, the workload seemed a bit lightened.  I recently found out why when Ryan and I were on line at a supermarket checkout.  I was blithely putting items on the conveyor belt, thinking about how many things I wouldn't be buying if Ryan wasn't with me.

Ryan, apropos of nothing: "Yeah, I've been going commando for a while now."

Me, snapping to attention: "What words did you just say?"

Ry: "I've been going commando."

Me: "What?!  Why are you saying this now?  And why would you DO that?!?"

Ryan: "It's comfortable.  It let's me be more free down there."

Me: "So... there really HAS been less of your underwear in the laundry lately!"

Ry: "Yeah, exactly.  See?  I'm helping you out."

Considering half the time Ry forgets his belt and his jeans are falling down, this latest development had me feeling slightly alarmed.

Me: "FYI, you're not 'going commando' anymore.  For god's sake, this can only end up with me getting a call from the principal's office."

Ry: "Okay, fine.  But it did cut down on the laundry.  Anyway...."

Ryan is a mastermind at distracting people from the main event.  And this time, the "Big Thing" was a fondue pot.  Apparently, Ryan felt like he hadn't really lived because we didn't own one.

His big break came as we were checking out a relatively new Fairway market near our house.  Boxes of fondue pots were scattered serendipitously around the store's fromagerie, fairly FORCING Ryan to put one in our cart.

This led to a cheese buying spree from which European nations are still reeling.

Me, looking at the box, waiting to check out: "Why am I buying this for you?  This is stupid."

Ryan: "Come on, you're not buying that for me. You're buying it for all of us."

Right.  Even though Cara doesn't eat bread or cheese, Mike doesn't eat melted cheese unless it involves something being parmagiana-ed, and I -- who WILL eat anything -- try to avoid things in the "Foods That Will Stick to Your Butt and Gut Longer Than You Thought Conceivable" family.  But sure, Ry, I was buying it for the family.

I stood online staring at the fondue box, flimsily making mental justifications for "investing" in this glorified saucepan and the accompanying bumper crop of cheeses.  I envisioned all kinds of reasons why it would "make sense" to  break out some melted dairy goodness: Movie night. Girls night. A decent report card.  A bad hair day.  Five minutes of being sad.  It was quickly dawning on me that in no time, my only apparel option would be triple XL muumuus.
It was at this point that my son's sixth sense must have kicked in.  As I was picturing catastrophic weight gain and early onset heart failure, Ryan realized his dream of cheese-covered everything was rapidly melting away.

So, Ryan did what he had to do.  He pulled the emergency switch: "Yeah, I've been going commando for a while now."

Like iron bits to a magnet, my random and distracted thoughts suddenly honed in on one issue: "What?!"

And, just like that, I was the new owner of a fondue pot.

Yeah.  He's THAT good.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bringing Up Tuxie

Last summer, we had a close encounter of the canine kind. But once the family realized I truly wasn't "just pretending" to be a crank about the prospect of taking care of a dog for the next 17-to-21 years, the dealio fell through.

Ryan levied a two-day "Mom sucks" campaign before launching into, "Well, we should at least get a new kitten."

Cut to two weeks ago. Enter Tux.  Tuxie, for short.

We've already had Molly, the Maine Coon cat, for three years. She's awesome: beautiful, playful (with me, and a little with Cara), sweet (to me, and a little with Cara). Perhaps best of all, she sleeps by my feet and learned early on not to wake me up before 8:30 a.m. on weekends. What more could you want in a pet?

Ryan: "I want a new kitten. One that will sleep by ME. One that will sit by ME. Molly is YOUR pet."

Pets are funny that way. They gravitate to the person that feeds, pets, grooms and cleans the litter box for them. Weirdos.

But I always wanted Molly to have a pal for those rarified times we all leave the house for more than half a day.  Or, God forbid, actually take a vacation.  I feel like Molly feels like we're abandoning her.

Molly: "Seriously, this is not a problem. Don't be bringing in a new feline on my account. I'm good--really. In fact, I'm begging you... "

Me: "Molly, meet Tux!"

Molly: "God dammit! Doesn't anybody listen to me around here?!"

Tux: "What's her glitch?"

If anyone has ever seen the children's book or TV show "Little Bear," Tux looks like Cat.   He's not a kitten, but a one-year-old rescue.  He's quite handsome, black with white down the front and on his paws -- like he's wearing a tuxedo.  Awwww, aren't we clever?

I wanted to name him George Clooney.  But nobody else around here was on board.   But the cat IS so handsome he deserved the title.  And both know how to rock the tux look.  Plus, how impressive would it have been to be at the grocery store talking about what to get George Clooney for dinner?

Random Evesdropper: "George Clooney is at your house for dinner?!"

Me: "Uhh, yeah.  Like, all the time."

Molly: "What's wrong with you? You're in major need of a vacation.  Go ahead and take it.  And take George Clooney with you.  Freak."

Before you side with Molly and say we upset the apple cart and destroyed her quiet, happy life, Tux was rescued from a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot.  The good people from the Save The Animals Rescue Team (S.T.A.R.T.) offered him through the Totowa, NJ, Petco adoption event.

So we brought the little guy home (okay, he's big for a cat, and bigger than Molly).  But he was SO grateful to not be eating frozen coffee grounds for dinner.  We followed all the instructions about keeping the cats separated and giving them a slow introduction. Well, when Tux first saw Molly, he was happy!  Happy to see another cat!  Happy to have a playmate!  Happy to have humans feeding him and a warm home!

In turn, Molly decided to show everyone where the term "hissy fit" comes from.

Molly: "WHAT. IN. THE. HELL?!?!?"

Tux: "Hi, I'm new around here.  What's your na...?  Aaaagh!  That's wicked bile breath, sister!  No offense, but I didn't smell anything nearly that bad out back of Dunky D's.  You need to fix tha...  HEY!  Aaackk! Fine, I'll back away.  Oh my god, fix that."

Molly: "You know, hissing hurts me.  I've never even had to DO that before.  And now you're giving me crap about my breath?!  It's SUPPOSED to be offensive!  Boys are IDIOTS!"
So Molly spent the first week hiding from Tux.  Since he's a boy, and only one year old, he thinks galloping up and jumping on her is a great way to say, "Good morning."  But she's three and, like me,  not a morning person -- we don't want to deal with pleasantries until 5 p.m. or so.   She refused to eat or drink water with him around.  I had to carry her to her litter box so she would use it.  She was becoming an anti-social wreck.  I felt awful.

On the other hand, she mostly spends her days sleeping.  Lately, she seemed sorta bored.  Tux had the potential to add a little life to the party.  So what WAS her glitch??

Tux: "Seriously, I'm telling you.  She has diva issues."

Me: "She's being a brat, Tux, but come on.  You invaded her space.  And would it actually kill you to just WALK up to her instead of RACE into her face??  Could you just chill the hell out a little?"

Tux:  "Look, I'm a dude.  I do everything bigger and faster."

Molly & Me: "We know!"

Tux: "I eat fast."

Molly: "You eat like a pig is more like it.  Did you ever hear of NOT knocking your food all over the floor??  And stop eating MY food, by the way!"

Tux: "Ya snooze, ya lose."

Tux: "And I run fast.  Faster than you."

Molly: "You're a clod.  You crash into everything.  You already broke a vase!  I'm so glad they didn't name you George Clooney, you klutzy lug."

Tux: "They should have named you Mariah."

Molly: "Oh, my God.  I didn't ask for a bratty brother."

Cara: "Welcome to my world, Molly."

Ryan: "Tux, we're gonna be good, good friends.  Hey, ya wanna know what girls hate?  Farts."

Tux: "Right on, brother."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

All On A Winter's Day

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a huge bruise on the back of my leg. Since I haven't been falling-down-drunk in a while, I was kind of wondering how I garnered this small ocean of blue on a leg that normally only features varicose streams.

And then it dawned on me: snow tubing.

I took the kids a couple weeks ago on a rare day when not only was there some snow on the ground, but it was barely cold.  That meant Cara, who has the body fat of a small zucchini, could stand to be outdoors for more than 10 minutes.

Now, I just want to put it out there that no one in this household has ever gone snow tubing before.  Probably because of my "crash fear."  Little did I know that a professionally run snow tube park is probably 100 times safer than the local sledding hill, where eight-year-old boys don't actually seem lethal until they're barreling down an icy slope screaming, "I'm out of contrrohhllll!!"

Sledding also involves walking yourself and your ride back to the top of the snow-covered hill.  That's why you don't see the old-timers, the overweight or the Salfino kids doing a lot of sledding.

So in my mind, snow tubing held a high probability level for broken bones, eye damage and/or nose bleeds due to inescapable crashes, preceded by an insufferable amount of grunting and grousing getting the tube back up long hills of packed powder.  Sorta doesn't really seem that fun.

Cut to this past Christmas break.  Every other day, either the weather was lousy or one of the kids was sick: a head cold, it's raining, a stomach ache, it's raining, a migraine (that would be me).  The break was a bust.

A week later, I couldn't take being stuck indoors anymore.  That's when I decided to explore the wild world of family snow tubing.  Not that our whole family would go.  Mike had to watch the NFL games for work, although, he normally opts out of things that smack of "fresh air activity."  So I went online and looked up local snow tubing options.

And that's where I saw two things that convinced me to give this venture a shot:

1) The snow tubes go down bermed chutes, so people can't slam into each other
2) There are conveyor belts or tow ropes to pull you back up the hill

Mike was out bowling at that point.  I knew if he came home before we got out, he'd react with his normal, "You're going to do what?!  Why??  You could break a leg!"  Read: "Cath, don't get hurt because it will really suck for me!"

So I yelled to the kids to get ready with hats, boots, gloves.

Me: "Ryan, get off the Xbox!  We're going snow tubing!"

Ryan: "We're going to do what?! Why??"

Me: "Ryan, you'll be kicked off the game as soon as Dad comes home.  And then it's either snow tubing with me or reading something."

Ryan: "Hold on!  I'm coming!!"

PS--Ryan is 12.  He got his last pair of snow boots a year ago... or so.  Who remembers these details? (More later on the "I can't walk!" portion of our day.)

We went to Camelback Mountain in Pennsylvania.  Ryan has gone to the resort in the summer when the place has its Camel Beach water park going.

Ryan: "It takes two hours to get there.  And with snow, and traffic... we won't get there until dark.  Why are we doing this??"

Me: "The web site says it should take an hour and a half.  Relax."

He put his head back and fell into a deep, disgruntled nap.

An hour later, we were walking through the parking lot.

Ry: "That two hours went fast."

Cara: "It didn't take two hours."

Ry: "It does on our camp bus."

Cara: "That's because your bus doesn't go 82 miles an hour."

Which isn't even legal, so of course I didn't drive that fast.

Anyway, we stood in line to pay and sign waivers saying we wouldn't sue anybody if we got hurt, maimed or killed.  Which, of course, we would.

While on line, Ry noticed most people had on apparel that seemed more suited to snow play than the denim jeans we were wearing.

Ry: "They all have legit snow gear, Mom."

Me, cribbing from the esteemed Ryan Reynolds film, "Just Friends": "We're from Jersey.  We tube in our jeans."

We went along a paved sidewalk, grabbed a snow tube, pulled it over a non-skid plastic walkway and boarded a slow-moving conveyor belt that took us up the hill.

Cara: "This is SO. MUCH. BETTER than sleigh riding!"

Ryan: "Seriously!"

Sad, but then again, my kids were agreeing on something!  It was a beautiful moment.

Our first run was great.  I had smooth ride with a couple of graceful twirls thrown in.  The second run...let's just say that amount of spinning is probably a bona fide torture technique somewhere in the world.  The end of the run culminated with 100-mph spins that were slowed only when I bounced very, VERY hard on something that I hoped wasn't a small child.  Because I bounced twice.  I was considering my lawsuit options as I opened and closed my eyes, waiting for the skies above me to come to a stop.

By the time I could stand again, the painful bouncing was forgotten, due to severe nausea.

But I had paid good money for this brand of fun, so we pressed on.  But by the end of the next run, Ryan said he was losing feeling in his feet, due to a constant pinching sensation.  I had brought a pair of hiking sneakers that he probably should have used the whole time, considering the conveyor belt, plastic non-slip walkway, etc..  Whoops.

This break was also when Cara asked how many more runs we were going to do.  Despite a good seven layers involving wool, down and thermal tech gear, she was shivering.

To be a good sport, she did one more run and beat a hasty retreat to the "snack shack" for some hot tea and a reboot of her circulation.

By now, it was dark.  Ryan and I did one more run.  I watched one mom put her toddler in a tube by herself and give her a push down the hill.  I watched another mom lay on her belly on the rear of a double tube, holding her year-old baby in the front tube.  I marveled at their lack of worry.  Actually, that's not true.  I thought these people were insane.

On the ride home, as Cara thawed out and before Ryan settled in for another nap, I told them we should be glad.  We tried something new!  We got some fresh winter air!  Dad didn't thwart our plans!  AND nobody got hurt!

Okay, well....