Reasons I love the Brunswick Doverama

bowling shoes

1. With the Brunswick Doverama’s special certificate, kids can bowl one free game (with shoe rental) per kid per day for the whole summer.

2. There’s a 99 cent game special for everyone, all day on Tuesdays.

3. You can tell by the name that just adding ‘rama’ to the end of ‘Dover’ suddenly makes it sound really fun and bowling-ish.

4. Bumpers. LOOOOVE the bumpers. Gutters equals scary, bowling ball magnet and sad zero-scoring children. Gutters bad…bumpers good.

5. Thanks to the indoor smoking ban, bowling no longer necessitates intense laundering session to wash cigarette stink from my favorite summer clothes.

6. They may be rented, but I really dig bowling shoes. I even considered buying a pair to wear in my everyday, non-bowling life. They’re so funky and retro–I love ’em!

7. For 2 bucks in quarters, you can feed your children a candy lunch using only the coin op jaw breaker dispensers in the lobby.

8. Electronic scoring–with velocity tracking–how awesome is that? Now I can verify that little Jaki Farley’s ball really WAS going down the lane at .5 mph.

9. Cosmic bowling–at noon! The lights go down, the disco lights come up, the bad ’80’s music videos come on, and the party, my friend, has started!

10. This past Tuesday I bowled 7 strikes in 2 games–3 of them in the 10th frame of game 1. And no, they weren’t because of the bumpers. Call me a turkey if you will; I will wear the name with pride.

Whenever you’re near, I hear a symphony…

dominos

Thankful Thursday this week (actually on a Thursday for a change, how do you like that?) is brought to you by my children, whose patience in the midst of my recently heavy workload earned them a night of carrying on, singing at the top of their lungs, bathroom words aplenty, and no-holds barred Mexican train dominos.

Let me explain.

I had a boatload of deadline driven work this week for which I am very thankful, of course. The work, however, put me in a tough spot as a parent. There’s nothing I like less than my children having to look at the back my head all day, while the front of it is glued to the computer screen. Not that the back of my head isn’t attractive (I’ve never looked), but it just doesn’t wear that expression of love and interest of its feature-filled counterpart on the front, except maybe on a bad hair day that’s particularly bad.

The kicker is that when the work ship pulls in to port, it tends to be at the least convenient times, like during the children’s summer break, in the week of a thousand appointments, or during the two-week vacation that’s pre-paid and has been planned for months (my poor friend Andie finds herself in that predicament; I hope there’s WiFi in the Outer Banks). What I’ve learned is that, despite my strange bent toward skipping all meals, eschewing all social contact, and locking myself into an attention-sucking techno-marathon to get all the work done, I need to “break it up” as it were, with kid-oriented activities (like bowling!), stress-relieving errands (like a walk to the bank!), and even a couple of personal diversions that really are fun for the whole family (fresh baked brownies, bring it on home!!!).

I’m thankful that yesterday all the plates stayed beautifully in the air. I worked. We went to tennis. I showered. We visited the grandparents. I had lunch with a friend. I worked. The kids returned with the grandparents. I finished work and actually ate dinner. I worked a little bit more. Then I pulled out the dominos.

My husband was out, so sadly he missed the most raucous domino game of all time. There was so much hooting, tooting, burping, wailing, singing, and hand-drumming, that at one point I had to sing out a la The Supremes, “Whenever you’re ne-ar, I hear a SYM-phony…burp, zweep, honk, fart!” at which point Jake’s lemonade went somewhere seriously up his nose. This opened us up into several molto fortissimo renditions of “Eye of the Tiger,” that cheesy ’80’s rock anthem to which my children know all the words, thanks to a little game called Rock Band.

Never before have my children had the unbridled opportunity to vent their nervous energy by belting out whatever popped into their heads. They stood on chairs, danced like Chuck Berry, made faces, sang, screamed, cheered, and dispelled that toxic pent-up pressure that surely would have landed them in trouble at any other time.

I’m glad, because in the rock, paper, scissors of family life, noise may not always be appropriate, but lemonade up the nose wins every single time.

Thankful Friday?!?!

uturn

I’m a day late for Thankful Thursday. So sorry.

I’m having one of those weeks where every day is getting away from me. I’m swamped with work (thankful for that), swamped with activities (also, thankful), and swamped with celebrating a birthday this weekend that’s as epic as the Apollo 11 moon landing (my husband too, is turning 40, and, yes, I’m so very thankful for him).

One thing I’m especially thankful for is the great girls night I had on Wednesday. By ‘girls,’ I mean my daughter’s eight- to eleven-year-old friends, who’d congregated at my house in hopes of a sleepover. Boy, were they in for much, much more!

First, I offered to take them to the local pool…which turned out (after our 20 minutes of dressing, sunscreening, and towel fetching) to be CLOSED because of a mechanical problem. We turned around to go home, but on our way there the girls suggested a state park pool (travel time: another 20 minutes), which turned out, upon our arrival, to be closing in 15 minutes. We turned around again, and, desperate to drag victory from the jaws of defeat, I suggested dinner at the Sonic drive-in (cheers!!!), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Movie Night (applause!!!), popcorn, s’mores, and, yes, even a sleepover (hysterical delight!!!).

The girls and I had a super-fun time, owing in part to the convenient absence of my son at another sleepover across town. Yes, the girls were up until 11 making scary jumping and crashing noises in my daughter’s bedroom, but I didn’t care. Emergency room potential or not, saving that night was an amazing mom moment for me.

And now, after saving, I’m savoring.

Perennial Hope

daisiesThere’s nothing quite so pompous and possibly self-serving as a non-poet like me trying to write poetry. Still, I dashed off these couple of lines–the first few a couple of years ago, the rest earlier this month.

It’s a drizzly day here in Dover, but nevertheless, enjoy.

Perennial Hope
Greet me by the back door
Bursting with the light
Of a bright summer day

Handfuls of promise
Ripening possibilities
With irresistible optimism

You bloom

Wizarding spells that, were they real, would be awfully handy around the house

harry potter

  1. Verdi grassimatum – instantly regrows grass in the 4′ x 20′ spot where I pulled up an entire trashcan full of ivy last weekend.
  2. Maximus levitoweloria – lifts kids’ wet towels from the bathroom floor, moves them up 2 feet, and hangs them on handy, but strangely underused bathroom hooks.
  3. Pup emergencia – lets my dog out in the middle of the night while I dream, pleasantly, of an entire evening uninterrupted by weeping, antsy animals.
  4. Notanotha pizzaratore – randomly selects and whips up a crowd-pleasing homemade meal that in no way resembles pizza, bagel melt, grilled cheese, quesadillas, nachos, mac and cheese, or any other starchy, bread-like ingredient covered with melted cheese item.
  5. Snuffaclutterismos – busts annoying piles of laundry, bedding, books, papers, and assorted clutter left around house by short, mischievous elves, ages 11 and 9, who are themselves under the Omnisomnulence charm, wherein any mention of chores makes them instantly so drowsy that they lose all ability to function coherently.

Still in the middle of my Harry Potter marathon. Can you tell?

The Points Don’t Matter

tickets2

During the school year, my strategy for shopping with the kids is this: avoid at all costs. During the summer, my strategy for shopping with the kids is this: when unavoidable, award points—generously.

Yes, I’m that crazy mom you’ll hear in the health and beauty section saying to my sluggish and bored children, “50 points to whoever finds the toothbrushes!” You’d be amazed at how it sends those kids running. And, don’t worry, whoever’s the runner-up in the toothbrush department doesn’t really lose out, because he or she will get 50 points just for not clobbering the sibling who made it first to the oral hygiene aisle (and maybe 25 more for finding the toothpaste that’s 2 inches to the left of the previously mentioned toothbrushes).

In case you’re wondering, I should tell you that a la “Whose Line is it Anyway,” the points don’t matter. You can’t turn them in for valuable prizes. They don’t have any cash value. There’s no extra tech time associated with them. If they mattered, then we’d need a whole documentation and accounting system which’ll just bog things down. Nope, they’re just points, pure and simple. Take ’em or leave ’em, but they’re all you’re gonna get. And, surpisingly, they work.

In fact, last week I awarded an unprecedented 100 points to a Target employee just because she nailed the precise location of the clothespins for us. Honestly, she was thrilled to accept them! I used to think money was the only real employee motivator (that and some really well-timed carbs), but now I think differently. It’s all about the points, baby!

Do you think the State of Delaware’s powers-that-be considered offsetting the 2.5% paycut with meaningless points that won’t buy you anything? Well, perhaps they should.

Thankful Thursday: Gone to the Dogs

dachshund-lamps

If you’re a Facebook friend of mine, you’ve noticed that my dog has been, shall we say, restless of late. Restless as in getting up at all hours, not sitting still, never on the right side of the door. Until the American Veterinary Society Ethics Committee approves Nyquil-laced doggie biscuits, though, I think I’ll have to make peace with it.

Seeing Wesley curled up in my den in a big blue beanbag chair this morning, I remembered that back in July of 2000 he was so gravely ill that I thought we’d lose him. One day he became very lethargic, stopped eating, and started throwing up. The next morning we visited the vet, who said that if we hadn’t brought him in when we did, he probably would have died. She clearly saw that he was jaundiced (invisible to us, as he’s covered in long black hair) and dehydrated (again, how were we to know). She immediately admitted him to the “inpatient” department of the Dover Animal Hospital, and we all hoped for the best.

Exploratory surgery, innumerable tests, and 5 days in the Animal Hospital later, we still didn’t know what was wrong. Thankfully, though, the vet told us that with time and non-specific treatment his liver levels had improved. There was no evidence of cancer, nor of the copper-retaining condition that they had suspected (a condition that oddly mimics almost exactly a genetic liver condition for which my husband takes medication daily). It would be about a month before he would really bounce back, but bouncing back he was…and just in time to welcome a new human addition to the household less than a month later.

Yes, Wesley can be a challenge sometimes, but I’m still so very thankful for the time we’ve had with him since that big health scare. He was only around 4 years old then, and now he’s a surprisingly lively 13, who’s looking handsome and as cozy as ever. He’s lived long enough to see my children through being scared of the dark, and for all his quirks, he’s still a wonderful, comforting companion.

Life ebbs and flows with gains and losses, good times and bad, the just and the unjust. Considering the years that were added to my dog’s life and the joy he’s brought to my family during those years, I’m willing to forgive his senior citizen quirks. I’m glad for the blessing he’s been to my family, and I hope that he has many more remarkably good years of health and happiness with us.

What do you say…do you want to play?

TaxiNow that Vacation Bible School and 4th of July are behind us, I feel like the kids and I have finally hit our summer stride. We’ve got a routine. We’ve got some boundaries. We eat 3 square meals a day (albeit mozzarella sticks, chicken nuggets, and carrot sticks, but whatever).

It may not mean we’ve got a tidy house all the time, but I’d say it’s kind of working.

We’ve also got us a new gimmick—a little lunchtime game I like to call “Cash Table.” Based on Discovery Channel’s Cash Cab, Cash Table is a trivia game that takes place right at my dining room table. I ask the children general knowledge BrainQuest questions. For every right answer they get a nickel. For every wrong answer they…don’t get a nickel. At the end of the game (as determined by the empty plate count and the number of ants gathering in the pants), the kids can risk it all and go double or nothing on one final question (that I screen carefully to make sure they can definitely answer it).

What I find most curious is that, watching the program, the children always advise the players against the double-or-nothing risk (not that the TV people can hear the advice, but considering Dionne Warwick’s claim that psychic energy is more powerful over the phone lines, maybe it’s also boosted by cable…and TiVo). These on air contestants have accumulated hundreds and hundreds of dollars, with the possibility of earning enough in the end to pay for a month of even NYC rent. However, given the choice of doubling 11 nickels into 22 at Cash Table, my children both unequivocally wanted one last question so they could totally risk it all.

All 55 cents, but still.

It’s provided an interesting little window into the kids, I think. I want my children to be risk-averse, but only to a certain degree. On the other hand I want them to be risk-takers too. It’s that old Aristotelian thing—the mean between the extremes. Risk too little and you’re a coward. Risk too much and you’re reckless. Risk 55 cents and, well, you’re really not risking that much.

$1.10 though? Now that’s some real money.

Counting Sleep

counting sheepThis from Jenn: Is sleep overrated?

Jenn, Jenn. I don’t pull out my soap box often, but I must tell you, sleep is most definitely NOT overrated. If anything, it is underrated!

Consider the following:

-Too little sleep messes with your blood sugar and makes you hungrier (making you eat more, making the scale tip, making the clothes tight…)

-Poor sleep patterns can contribute toward high blood pressure.

-Insufficient sleep depresses your immune system.

Sleep deprivation can lead to slower reaction, irritability, and depression, so, no matter how much you’re improving your Wii bowling scores with your late night marathon sessions, you’re going to be a real drag to be around.

It’s not easy, but take it from this recovering insomniac, there’s sleep to be had, as long as you get disciplined about it. I’ve collected tips for sleep for a long time, and here are my personal favorites:

1. Cut out the caffeine. Or cut back. Or something! Caffeine may perk you up, but it’s also putting you behind the sleep 8-ball, especially the closer to bedtime you have it.

2. Exercise. It’ll tire you out, it’s good for you, and you’ll wear it well. I find that it even tends to cheer me up. All good things.

3. Set a bed time and stick to it. Mine is 10:30 pm. Sometimes 11, but during the school year it’s a strict 10:30. Before that and I’m up at 3. After that, and I wake up with horns and a tail.

4. I’ve never sought physician approval on this one, so don’t take my word for it, but if you need something to break the cycle of no sleep try a dose of Benadryl. Or Nyquil–that’s a guaranteed good night’s sleep. But listen, only in desperate circumstances, OK? Maybe once every couple of months…and only one dose. We’re not talking fiendish consumption here. Please.

In the interest of equal (or not so equal) treatment, there is some evidence that suggests too much sleep is also problematic. There’s not much about it at this link, but it’s worth thinking about…not that many of us are sleeping our days away.

For more on the subject, check out this piece from the Washington Post.

Happy napping!

Get a Move On

gallipoli

Friend and military wife Liz pointed to moving as her writing prompt of choice. She’s soon off to Colorado from Dover, and in the midst of the massive pack-up.

Back in 1992, after a semi-failed attempt at graduate school, I found myself moving for the 3rd time in 12 months. Craig and I were renting a professor’s desperately-in-need-of-a-spiff-up house and, exhausted from the packing, taping, wrapping, sorting, and general mourning involved with the move, we decided to take a movie break. Sorting through the prof’s VHS collection, we chose an early Mel Gibson pic—a little feel-good movie called Gallipoli.

If you’ve never seen it, Gallipoli, besides being fun to say, is Peter Weir’s not-necessarily-so-historically-accurate account of the historic World War I era battle between Turkish and Australian/British forces. The story, in short, is this: Mel Gibson makes a friend, Mel Gibson and friend go to war, Mel Gibson fails to get vital message to the front line in time, leading his friend and countless countrymen to be mowed down in a merciless hail of gunfire.

Great.

Needless to say, it was the worst possible movie choice of all time for two people whose unemployment and academic overwhelmedness had sprayed a big, giant firehose of hopelessness on their otherwise sunny prospects. Looking back now, the fate of the poor Australians should have made our situation sparkle in comparison. But, being the “glass is not just half empty, it’s dirty, cracked, and probably loaded with stomach-churning bacteria” kind of person that I was, I took the movie as a metaphor for my own angst-ridden existence.

Moving—touching every item of my own “stuff,” making decisions about what to keep and what to toss, mourning the “here,” fearing the “there,” experiencing the crunch of the ticking, ticking clock—it’s not at all my favorite thing to do. For me, it’s one of those barren experiences that needs to be managed to be endured. It needs a soundtrack, a cinemascape, a tasting menu, a recreational program just to be bearable.

I think that if I were in the same situation again, I’d make some light and ridiculous viewing choice to counterbalance my own inner drama queen: PeeWee’s Big Adventure, The Jerk, Shaun of the Dead, repeating loops of SNL’s Blue Oyster Cult cowbell sketch, even Jerry Lewis in The Disorderly Orderly. Heck, I’d even watch the Time/Collection of the ’70s infomercial. They’re mindless and pointless, and when you’re emotionally raw and kind of mentally exhausted, they’re guaranteed to leave you on the floor grasping for your inhaler.

As long as you haven’t packed it, you’ll be all set.

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