From the Nanny Jo Diaries

Dear Diary,

Worry of the Day: Sometime in the murky future, this sweet little tater tot kidlet will discover that the only reason I hang out and party with her is because I’m getting PAID to do it.

And then she will hate me for the rest of my life.

Nobody warned me about this. Now I’m nervous. Now it’s….personal.

Perk of the Day: Kidlet thinks I’m an amazing cook. It doesn’t matter what gourmet lunch mom has prepared for her, the kid wants what I’ve packed in my own bag.

Today we had day-old cornbread muffins and made a delicious glorious mess of them.

Rant of the Day: Comatose parents!

I took the kiddo on a field trip today to a place that is designed specifically for toddlers through maybe six year olds.

It’s a “discovery” play place with both indoor and outdoor stations meant to encourage theatrics, scientific dialogue, gardening, and waterworks engineering. There were bubbles, legos, musical instruments, a climbing structure, book nooks, and a playhouse and play market, complete with little grocery carts and plastic produce.

I stood there digesting this for a minute before I said, “So, it’s basically just like home…but it comes with built-in siblings and I don’t have to clean it. Cool.”

Unlike home, my kidlet had to share this free-for-all with two busloads of kindergartners, one birthday party, and several exhausted new mothers who huddled in the picnic area, breastfeeding with one arm and slicing bananas into non-choking bits with the other.

There were only two supervisory eyes on the kid tornado that was blowing through the place, and they were both mine.

One eye stayed trained on the actual kid I had brought through the door, and the other eye helped me intercept the objects hurtling through space at her.

Kidlet is two years old now and becoming quite the little butterfly.

She went flitting between stations, considering all of the options, before settling on the slide.

Up the carpeted stairs, across the landing, and down the slide….over and over and over and over for a solid half hour.

If a little one sat on the slide ahead of her, she waited politely until it launched.

The larger ones would come along, pass her by, nudge the little ones out of the way, and help themselves.

She was very confused by it.

Eventually I lured her off and outside with the idea of bubbles.

“Bubble” is one of her first words. It’s what she called her contact lens.

There were five vats of bubble solution outside and multiple long wands for dipping and wafting through the air to create large bubble clusters.

It was fascinating for two dips.

Then another big kid came along, snatched her wand right out of her hand and walked away.

She and I looked at each other for a long minute before her face melted.

When kidlets cry, they begin with the lips, then the eyes follow, then the cheeks give way.

We decided that some kids are crazy like that and found her another bubble wand.

But inside I was steamed.

“Where are your parents?!” I mentally hollered at the kid wandering off.

As I turned back to my kidlet, another excitable kid waved his wand in the air and whacked her right on the head.

She got an instant shampoo and I was ready to wring out a few adults.

I looked around.

The adults were either scrolling through cell phones or talking to each other in corners, baby slings attached.

No one was going to claim the free-range shampooer.

Who does that??

Maybe this is the new parenting norm.

Confusion of the Day: At my house, the kids are either glued to computer screens or sitting in corners talking to each other and completely ignoring us adults who are running around “playing at real life” and occasionally bopping each other on the head.

Today’s Conclusion: If the adults and the teens are happily comatose, then society is currently being managed by bubble-wielding kindergartners. And we should be very afraid.

Nobody Panic

I was a great parent before I had kids.

Who knew my firstborn was going to practice base jumping from our rooftop into our pool on a bike when he was ten?

Why would he eat a live grasshopper at 14 “just because”?

I didn’t know he was going to get older and try out ear expanders or self-tattoo or hitchhike to Oregon for a summer.

I just didn’t see it coming.

With the smallest peek under the stunts we knew about, there were a multitude of others we wished we didn’t know about, but in hindsight, explained a lot.

There was nothing in my Mommy Tool Kit for it, and putting the Foot down and throwing the Rule Book around and chasing him with a straight jacket was futile.

When your child is young, you have no way of knowing whether his latest stunt is a trend or a one-off. Is it something you can discipline out of him or has it been hard-wired into his brain at birth and you need to step back and watch it unfold? When do you push? When do you accept?

And where?

And why?

There was a period of about five years when I went into deep mourning over my beautiful, healthy, gifted, intelligent and talented children.

Go figure.

It had finally occurred to me that no matter what I did, they were going to be exactly who they were born to be. That the genetic and atomic lot had been cast at conception.

And that just because I did “X” and “Y” did not guarantee me a “Z”.

Principles and proverbs are not promises.

I suppose parents who have a diabetic or downs syndrome child go through this period early on. There’s a moment when it dawns on you that things are definitely not going to be what you were expecting.

And all of my kicking and screaming and denial and praying isn’t going to change it.

Thinking it was temporary is what delayed my acceptance of what is permanent, and made the pain in my heart worse than it needed to be.

I was not mourning my kids after all. I was mourning my own inadequacy.

I got one thing right: having five kids forced me to surrender words like “perfect” and “under control” and “of course I know what I’m doing”.

But it wasn’t pretty.

I could never mourn aloud, knowing that the blessings my children held far outweighed the additional things I wanted for them.

There’s no support group for “coming to your senses”.

How selfish of me, to wish my own concept of who he should be onto a person who already was.

Saying good-bye to the child I was expecting and greeting the child I have with open arms has been a long journey for me, and I’m very aware of how crazy that sounds.

He, on the other hand, has always known himself. When he wanders away from his family into a crowd, his terrified parents call him “lost”, but he himself never feels lost.

He feels okay, exactly where he is.

He is not shy, he’s thoughtful. She is not particular, she is discerning. He is not rebellious, he is trying to understand a world gone mad.

They are all deliberately going about this business of living, and teaching me to reframe my views of all of it.

I think that, if any of this perception is true, the only things actually left to me as a mother are the passing on of my concepts of knowledge and wisdom, to do with as they see fit, and as much overwhelming and, yes, frequently volcanic, love as I can aim at another human being without exploding with the volume of it.

My children know me.

I hope that as they know me better over the years, they will also accept and forgive my own “me”-ness, knowing I would never deliberately cause them pain, either, as I go about the very blundery business of living.


In the Hot Seat

When we moved, we had a “pivot”.

Our old house closed escrow three weeks before our new house did, and we were officially homeless.

Into the gap stepped my beloved mother-in-law. Her empty rambling house would fit us all, and would you believe it, she had booked a three week trip to New Zealand months ago for that exact time frame. Now we were house-sitters.

I had learned by this point to not even be surprised.

I had been high-fiving God on an hourly basis since the whole moving process began.

This is how He rolled.

The first week in my mother-in-law’s home was lovely. Everything that could possibly be done, was done. There was nothing left to do but get the kids to school, sift through paperwork, wait for the phone to ring.

I wandered through her sunshiny house, reminding myself that the calm before the next storm of activity was a chance to be on vacation. After putting our property into tip top condition, it was a welcome chance to rest up. (If you think we had “movers” or “housecleaners” or “gardeners” or “leprechauns” doing anything for us, you haven’t read enough of my blogs. You’re cute. No.)

When the second week of waiting began, I found myself looking sideways at the living room. We were, of course, not making messes around the house, and being tidy in general.

But maybe mom wouldn’t object if I just dusted out one row of bookcases? If I put everything back exactly into the position it’s in? She won’t notice, will she? Just to pass the time a little.

I was halfway through the den when I came to my senses.

I forced myself to put down the cleaning supplies and step outside for some fresh air.

Just look at her pretty gardens, I mused. Her hummingbird feeders glowed ruby red and roses competed with multiple arrangements of succulents.

Five minutes later, I was washing windows.

It just felt like it should all sparkle at the same time, like a fireworks show.

In the third week of our pivot, things began to shift back into momentum, and I could not help moving into the faster currents with them.

I started scrubbing shower tiles and deep cleaning refrigerators and if Hubby had not physically restrained me, I likely would have become a chimney sweep.

Mom was coming home the next day and we were leaving simultaneously, and I surveyed the house that night with more than a little dread. There was no way she was not going to notice that her house had been turbo-cleaned by a crazy person.

I really couldn’t remember doing most of it. It just sort of happened.

I looked, aghast, at the shiny stovetop and the organized tea canister and wondered if maybe I should scatter some laundry around to distract her.


I am so sorry.

I need a hobby.

Here’s how to clean your stove. In case you need a hobby, too.

If you already crochet or ice sculpt or watercolor, you are exempt from cleaning ovens and reading the rest of this blog. You’re welcome.

For the two of you left, do this before you go to bed at night:

  • remove knobs, top racks, overhead vent mesh and run in the dishwasher with the dinner dishes
  • remove the inside racks and lay them out on an old towel in your bathtub
  • fill the tub with hot water and a half cup of dishwasher detergent until they are submerged
  • give it a swish, then soak overnight
  • remove and wipe dry in the morning before Hubby needs a shower
  • no? use a tub in the backyard or do the process inside sealed, doubled plastic trash bags
  • inside the oven, scrape out the big chunks of burnt gross with a rubber spatula
  • make a paste of baking soda and water and smear it everywhere except the heating element
  • rub it in a little if you like to play in mud, be careful to not cut your fingers on the back where the element ties in….ask me how I know this
  • remind me to install a new light bulb in there, it’s been out for months
  • smear it on the inside open oven door, too, but not the sealing gaskets

In the morning, after everyone is out of your way, take a wet cloth and wipe out all the gunk which has turned from white to black literally overnight. You can clean in your sleep! You are that good!

Just keep rinsing it all down the kitchen sink, because now it’s on it’s way to clean out the pipes too, you Wonderwoman, you.

Once you hit bedrock, there will be some smaller spots still stuck to the bottom. Stop making pizzas in there, people.

Put a little fresh baking soda paste on it, and spritz with some vinegar. Give it a rub till it comes clean. You didn’t run out of elbow grease, did you? Stop whining.

If it makes you feel better, empty the clean dishwasher and put the shiny bits back on.

There. See? Better.

Once you’ve done your worst, take a look at that window. The one you still can’t see through, even though it doesn’t matter because the little light in there burned out and you are too lazy to replace it. Ahem.

We can’t have that after all our hard work, can we? No ma’m, we cannot.

I use a razor blade to scrape out what’s still stuck to the glass window and also to remove the black rings around the burners up top. I’ve used it on glass top, stainless steel top, and traditional enamel top, muttering to the slime, “You’re not the boss of me!”

So far it’s worked out. But try a small spot in the back before you go nuts, just to be sure. Anything plastic will be scratched forever and I don’t want to hear about it in my comments section.

High Five everybody!


Concrete Evidence

Hubby and I added on to our house three times. It only took twenty years.

And we still speak to each other.

This is because we divided up the toolbox into two halves and respected each other’s territories.

I am the guy in charge of “destruction” and he is the guy in charge of “putting it all back together in the shape of a house”.

When we moved two years ago, we put the last details into place for escrow: the floor rails, some window blinds, refinished a little hardwood flooring.

It was as “completed” a project as I’ve ever been involved with. Hubby did most of it himself, the perfectionist engineer “learn as you go” type, and I supervised while keeping the kids from tetanus-inducing scenarios and cooking from the garage when necessary.

It was good times.

I only had one requirement when we shopped for another home.

“I’m never doing that again. Find a house that is DONE.”


It’s not that the time or the money or the skills were sold along with our old house, it’s that the wild enthusiasm of my crazy youth has mellowed into a place that whispers, “Nailed it. I can put the hammer down now.”

“We built a house,” it pleads, “Can we just live in it, for crying out loud?”

“We could,” Hubby reminds me, “if you would stop taking it apart.”

I do have mad skills with a sledgehammer, but I don’t have to keep busting out concrete patios to prove it.

No. I’ve graduated.

What you do next is what our elderly neighbor, Nuke, did.

He was a retired backhoe operator. He watched me wield Thor’s hammer like a boss, lounging over the fence with an iced tea, and when I finished, had a question for me.

“So. How are you getting rid of all that concrete?”

Hubby was going to rent a dumpster.

Instead, Nuke talked him into renting a small backhoe (which, coincidentally, took out the front yard concrete in a fraction of the time my sledgehammer required….welcome to my world).

Nuke carefully dug a giant hole in the middle of our backyard and filled it with all of the broken concrete. He moved all the dirt back into place and -presto!- all gone.

Nuke got to relive his glory days, someone else paid for it, and so far as you or anyone else on the planet knows, this never happened.

Until the next owners want a built in pool.

We know nothing. You know nothing.

Really though, putting a hammer in my hand is dangerous, and the fewer witnesses to my mayhem, the longer my calm as a cucumber reputation will keep.

The day I started taking out our original garage (we turned our garage into house twice…on the same house) I discovered something that some other, far-in-the-distant-past owner had hidden away on the property.

I was tearing apart everything in sight when a huge pile of girly magazines came tumbling out of a hidden recess in the wall.

I believe my exact words were, “Heavens to Betsy!”

I re-hid them in the bottom of the rubbish bin, disgusted on more than one level.

Why don’t people hide gold doubloons or wads of hundred dollar bills for me to find?

Maybe they do, they just remember where they hid it.

That would never be me.

A few years from now, the current owner of our old house will discover my so-safe-I-don’t-even-know-where-I-put-it mad money spot.

Then he’ll use it to put in a fancy new pool.

And you and I will be unavailable for comment.

Cavity Complaisant

Every six months two of my sons and I go to the dentist for a simultaneous mass cleaning.

It’s easier to schedule, harder to forget and impossible get out of.

It means there are three nervous hygienists asking me to “confirm” our appointments for the month leading up to them, via text, email, phone call, and talking drum.

If for some reason we didn’t show up, the office could close down for a happy hour.

But I think they’d rather have my money.

The boys and I hold a running competition to see who is cavity-free each time; the winners get to go immediately afterwards to the nearest Starbucks for a huge sugary drink to wash the squeaky clean out of our mouths, and the loser has to go back for further pick poking, cattle prodding and oral needlework.

This month, youngest child lost.

Tooth number 20 and tooth number 29 required a two-surface resin based composite filling that involved numbing half of his face and half of my checkbook.

I waited for him in the reception area, watching HGTV on a plasma big screen (which I’m sure I paid for, plus a year of cable) until the kid’s mouth was restored to “pre-owned certified”.

He sauntered out, I paid up, and we headed over to the high school to drop him off.

He flipped the car mirror down and started feeling around his jawline.

“Mom,” he said, squinting at himself, “My whole chin is gone. I can’t tell I have ears. Where is my tongue?”

“Well, your dentist said he wasn’t sure he could work on both sides of your jaw in one appointment. I’m glad he figured it out so we don’t have to come back.”

“I had everybody’s hands, tools, lights, and torture devices in my mouth at the same time. I can fit a lot of food in my mouth at once, but I think this might have been a record for me. He said not to eat until I can feel my mouth again.”

Knowing what a deprivation that was, I said, “You don’t want to accidentally bite your tongue or your cheek. You wouldn’t even know you were bleeding. Then you swell up and can’t NOT bite yourself. Just wait.”

He stuck out his tongue. Then he used his fingers to arrange his mouth into a pleasant resting position, a roguish half-smile

“Well,” he said, resigned, “I have no way of knowing if there’s drool dripping out.”

“Are you telling me,” I asked in my Mean Mom voice, “that this little experience didn’t hurt? Did you learn a lesson here?”

“Yeah, don’t lose a contest. The dentist never hurts. He’s nice. Can we swing by Starbucks?”

I gunned it straight to the school and as the kid exited the vehicle, I resolved to slip a little note to the dentist next time we go in.

Dear Dr. M,

My adorable little sugar addicts are allergic to flossing. I’m lucky they take the fuzz off their teeth twice a week. Which is the most shaving they will ever have to do.

Can you please let them feel just a little pain for their lack of discipline? I think they’re old enough to take it.

I understand the song of your people is, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you, but I like iiiiit, but I like iiiiiit….”

However, I feel that your ‘gentle dental’ approach is more of a job security thing, and not quite the reality check it ought to be.

I would do it myself, but I think they send moms to jail for chasing kids with large drills and hypodermics.

And you are totally getting paid for this skill set.

Sincerely yours,

PS: Next year, please take a portion of my check and invest in some new magazine subscriptions.

I like “O”.


The Jello Mold

When Hubby and I went through a bad patch that lasted, oh, about ten years or so, we finally got it into our hard heads to try counseling.

This is huge for ‘do-it-yourselfers’ like us.

After all, if you can completely re-wire your home or produce school-wide events for hundreds of kids, how hard can it be to stay married?


My Great Aunt Ruth once said, “Being married is like nailing Jell-O to a wall.”

It has a built-in level of frustration for certain activities, and you don’t know what they are until you’re shrieking at each other over the correct placement of the microwave.

When the Jell-O hit the fan, we decided we needed professional help.

Not admitted, mind you. Decided.

No one was about to admit to anything this side of Paradise.

And by “we”, of course, we meant “you”.

We went for six months, every two weeks with diligence, and guys…we got flunked out.

Who gets kicked out of marriage counseling? Who does that?

I imagine the counselor had never seen anything quite like us.

The first few times you meet with a counselor, you are on your very best behavior.

I channelled Oprah, Buddha and Mother Teresa.

I helpfully explained every one of Hubby’s flaws in a buttery velvet voice, professionally regretful that we had to take up her time like this, but quite ready to hear her list of “how dare you”s and the rational consequences for his behavior that would set our marriage back on the right track.

I counted silently to 100 over and over as Hubby took his turn, efficiently expressing his disappointed feelings in polished tones that conveyed, in more words than were strictly necessary, my nagging, defensive, contrary and unhappy ways.

By the time we drove out of the parking lot, there was such deep resentment between us, it’s a wonder the car didn’t spontaneously combust.

We held grimly on, reshaping that Jell-O and reaching for the hammer, waiting for something to change.

Certain that – eventually – we could nail it to the wall.

Several sessions in, I cracked.

Just a tiny bit.

I said what I actually felt that very moment without censoring.

It felt good.

It felt honest.

I relaxed a little.

Big mistake.

“Do you realize that what you just said was really sarcastic?” asked the counselor.

She was excited to finally do my censoring for me.

I left feeling chastised and immature. But only until I thought it through.

Then I realized she had finally found some truth. Sarcastic is who I am.

If you can’t see the complete irony in a situation and lay it out there in all it’s ridiculous snarky glory, then you are living a very alkaline life.

I have to add a little piss and vinegar once in a while, or I’ll go crazy.

Sometimes things get stuck. You try to shove the round peg into a square hole and it’s obviously not going to fit, so you take a hammer to it instead of removing the peg and starting over with a new plan.

Marriage counseling didn’t work because we expected someone else to do our dirty work for us.

We threw the Jell-O out. We put the hammer away.

I know how to clean an oven, or a shower stall, or the gunk that accumulates over years of marriage, the crusty bad habits in the corners and the slimy residue of a million words that were spoken in frustration.

But it’s dirty hard work.

It’s not easy.

And no one else is gonna do it.

You can ignore it and hope for the best…but sooner or later, you aren’t going to want to live in that house.

Throw out the trash of useless habits or words or expectations.

Then roll up your sleeves and clean what’s left; layer on some baking soda common sense and flood it with the stinging, clarifying, preserving vinegar of honesty.

Be lavish with the air freshener of kindness.

Reapply until you are back to the bedrock of the marriage, the solid bits still holding possibility.

Things get cleaned up that couldn’t get clean any other way.

And the little bubbles are fun to watch.


From the Daughter’s Files

Mother Knows Best  Knows A Lot Knows More Than We’ll Admit

-By the blogger’s daughter

“So…how do you hang stuff on the walls without using nails? And if you were hypothetically going to wash all of your clothes in one load, how do you do it without ruining them? And my roommate has the flu what do I do?”

It has begun.

Twenty-somethings we are (finally) out on our own. And moms you are probably already answering these questions in your head.

They say your relationship with your mother changes as you get older, but when they talk about your twenties it’s all about looking at her fondly for her newly recognized wisdom. I’d say it’s more like quiet desperation.

This stage of life is akin to being handed a comprehensive final exam without (a) having had the chance to sit through lectures 5-30 and (b) knowing that there will be questions with multiple okay answers or no right answers.

So you do the only thing that you can do –you cheat off of somebody else! And your parents are probably sitting closest to you. And your mother may move her hand and let you see some of her answers if you are really nice to her. Of course some of her answers may be wrong but she has a heck of a lot more of this test filled in than you!

There are some big ones like filling out personal checks and meal planning. But it’s the everyday questions that cut me down to size.

The other evening it was a potato.

I have a science degree and can tell you the molecular structure of the potato, but I am at a loss when it comes to actually cooking the little brown tuber. It’s a deceivingly simple vegetable. So with kitchen neatly prepped out comes the phone.

“Hi mom! You’re not busy or anything right?…Do you wash a potato with soap?…So when the potato recipe says ‘slice’ is that long-ways or short?…And it says bake but can I microwave?…What does the broiler on an oven actually ever do anyway?…Oh this recipe calls for several spices. I have the main one but I never bought parsley (because how often could you need it??)…Well spices are expensive!…Can I come over and borrow some?…What are you making for dinner tonight?”

I’m pretty sure that when Solomon wrote Proverbs he included ‘A time to stubbornly assert your independence, and a time to suck it up and call your mother.’ If you’re currently on bad terms with your mother you have to turn to Google or Pinterest where other people’s moms have posted their answers. But it never seems to turn out the same.

This may be just a phase and steadily I will learn one mistake at a time, but until then I will continue to get my answers from the closest reliable sources.

“Hi dad! How’s it going? So my toilet is making this really funny sound…”

When Santa Goes AWOL

Silly me.

I thought if I got everything done on The List in the appointed time frame and stood in the long lines without whining and wrapped the presents with gritted teeth while listening to Imagine Dragons really loud (hey, I have to cleanse my palate from the non-stop sugary jumbo pop of carols somehow) that Santa would take pity on me and go away for good on December 26th.

He’s still right here in my office, laughing with glee and kicking up his heels because his sleigh was hijacked in Toronto.

Which landed him and his empty sack on my USPS website, shrugging vaguely and giving me a look that says, “Sister, are you ever screwed.”

I wanted to send two gifts to Canada. How hard can this be?

The first was a gingerbread house.

I went shopping for one and found a magnificent gingerbread condo complete with runts, M&Ms, and sweet tarts for the icing.

When I discovered that I would have to take out a small mortgage on my own house to ship it, I rethought my strategy.

I have a girlfriend who does Christmas every year in her jammies at home, online. She clicks her mouse and Santa’s elves grab the gift, wrap it, sign her name, and deliver it to the doorstep of a lucky recipient.

My particularly suspicious mind cannot wrap itself around this voodoo.

It prefers to pinch and poke and sniff a potential gift before it’s approved for giving.

But it was time to open my mind to this brave new world.

Turns out, there is a version of Amazon in Canadian. Which made me feel great, because even though I still paid for shipping, it was in Canadian dollars which are attractive and make me feel slightly french and translate to smaller American dollars in the end, which is a really fun parlor trick.

I found an adorable gingerbread kit and pushed the “go” button.

Slightly dizzy from the speed wherewith I had just dispatched Santa, I gleefully went further into the website for gift number two.

No dice.

What I really wanted to send was See’s candy, an American thing I guess and would have been wasted on a Cadbury fan, but I knew my girlfriend liked milk chocolate bordeaux. The girl has taste. So.

I brought my box of chocolate delight to the post office fifteen minutes before it opened, and joined the long line already forming down the walkway.

I filled out customs forms and addresses and hummed some tunes and held a shoe judging contest with everyone else in line (the snappy brown buckled boots won) until it was finally my turn.

The post office is exactly like the DMV, only they don’t provide chairs to sit in while you wait. You finally get to the window and are practically hopping in anticipation of being DONE and the employee moves leisurely and chats about the weather and asks “isthereanythinginyourpackageflammableliquidhazardouspotentiallyhorrifyingormaybegrowingmold?”

And you say, “Nope.”

Then they smash it with a hammer, cover the damage with a label, toss it into a bin behind them, and demand all your money.

And you give it to them.

I tracked my first class package online. I’m savvy like that now.

It was a cute little timeline that showed precisely where my bordeaux went, each step of it’s adventure.

It touched in at exactly twelve spots, working it’s way from Los Angeles to Louisville and crossing the border into Hamilton and continuing on into Toronto.

All of this in four days. It was very exciting.

And then it was delivered to it’s final destination: Singapore.

On December 18th, 2015, at 11:01am, within a stone’s throw of my girlfriend’s doorstep, someone in the Canadian postal system must have hit his thumb with his hammer and in the excitement, tossed my package into the wrong bin.

Now, I myself do the same thing all the time, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that at 4:29am local time on December 22nd, my box of bordeaux was processed in Singapore.

Canadians are hockey players. They can get a puck the size of a quarter into a net the size of my car. You’d think they could aim.

Or maybe not.

The status on my USPS timeline still claims the package is “in transit”.

I’ll bet it is.

In transit to someone’s lucky mouth.

I went back to the post office today to mail off the tea to last week’s prize winner.

When I finally reached a human (this week, the neon sketchers won) I informed her that I had grossly overpaid and overestimated their services to Canada.

She mentioned that they had kicked my package to the Canadian curb in record time and once it was across the border, they washed their postal hands of the situation.

She didn’t have the information on the man in Canada who had smashed his thumb, so I could add insult to his injury.

Just as well, I guess.

Christmas and all.

My faith in the postal system shattered, I handed over my tea, wondering who in Iceland was going to end up enjoying it.

I went home thinking, “Well, at least there’s still Amazon. That package made it just fine. That’s it,” I resolved, “I’m using that from now on!”

There was an email waiting for me, from my girlfriend.

There was the gingerbread house I had sent, dutifully put together.

It was a gingerbread closet. Not even a leprechaun would fit without icing up his nose.

It held one breath mint over the front door.

So Canadian grams and American ounces aren’t the same, you’re saying? Am I supposed to translate millimeters and yards and ratios? There’s no math in Christmas!!

I wash my hands of this brave new world.

If you want something done right, you do it yourself.

Guess I’m flying to Canada.

Santa can wipe that smug look off his face.

Snobbery Robbery

Happy New Year!!

If you celebrated with bubbly and stayed up past midnight in your heels, then Happy New Year to you on Saturday, and serves you right.

How in the world do you choose the wine for your soirees?

Yeah, it’s red to go with red foods (beef, Spaghettios, apples) and white to go with white foods (chicken, pork chops, pickled eggs) and after that it’s all, “Oooh! Just look at the one with the galloping horses! I’ll take two!”

Some people I know (ahem) just grab the two-buck-chuck-in-a-box and move on.

I don’t blame them.

But I have friends who are the real deal wine snobs and I only hang out with them because I do the same thing they do…only with tea.

They stand in the midst of a stadium-full of wine bottles and read the back labels the way I stand in Target reading greeting cards.

Only I laugh.

And they frown.

“From the finest artisan vineyards of Italy where golfball sized grapes yield delicate hints of thistle-down overlaid with woody sycamore tree notes when they’re carved into pan flutes. Enjoy this pretentious, nuanced selection with sushi or stinky cheese.”

(Which, you need to know, means I’m not gettin’ that one.)

Personality: exploding with complex aromas of cherry, truffles, and a hint of unapologetic chimney soot, it has the legs of a showgirl.

Finish: has a creamy mouth feel yet finishes like you licked a silkworm. A silkworm that was sitting on toasted sourdough bread. A slightly wrinkled, somewhat wiggly, vaguely crunchy finish.

Match: to your dress, not your eyeshadow, you Philistine.

Here’s a label I understand.


Shut up and take my money.

So when I peruse the backs of tea boxes, I feel my nose turn up instantly.

I reached for my ascot as I read, “Premium blended black teas, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, ginger,” then snorted tea all over it when it continued, “gingerbread,” huh? “and Jamaican rum flavors.”

I drink this tea. Not you. You have to buy a club membership first.

Not just any rum. Jamaican rum. You know that’s right.

There are teas from the Brahmaputra Valley in north-east India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan, from the Himalayas to China to Kenya.

And their descriptions mash together like the Opening Ceremonies for the Tea Olympics.

“Intellectual, refreshing and invigorating, easy on tannins, our piquant infusion of ginger, green rooibos, Madagascar vanilla, chamomile and licorice root is our Signature blend, tangled with hibiscus and frolicking bursts of sweet orange over notes of nutty rich cocoa.”

I adjusted the Picasso hanging in my living room as I read,

“Exploding with antioxidants and mistily shrouded in undertones of vivid orchid with a hint of lily aroma, golden amber in the cup with a sweet caramel apple ending, it has an earthy sweet middle and the malty finish of inner peace.”

Eat your heart out, wine-in-a-box.

I was excited to read that tea is “a gluten free beverage”. Very likely it’s vegan as well.

My bubble burst when I got to this tea, though. I’m sure you can see why.

I can’t do it. I can’t.

I had to pull out my monocle and look again.

My IQ fell back down to wine-in-a-box level.

They’ve been family tea blenders since 1945.

But the von Trapp family spellers, they are not.

So I’m not sending it with my little Tea Sampler package going out to the amazing Mrs Flatley, who, in addition to being the lucky and tasteful girlfriend who Pushed the Button and Won a Prize,  may also be related to the infamous River Dancer (referred to as “cousin Michael, the Lord of the Pants”) as she actually lives on Riverfront St.

This is why I write.

I meet the best new friends!

Thanks for playing along everyone. We’ll do it again soon.