Desperate Housewives Book Club

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or maybe like me, running around like a drunken cowgirl trying in vain to lasso your children together), you’ve heard of the book Fifty Shades of Grey. I didn’t learn about it until a few of months ago at a dinner with girlfriends where my dining companions regaled me with a brief synopsis of this modern literary marvel. In short: it’s about a 27-year old Seattle billionaire with sado-masochistic tendencies and his quest to dominate a young, virginal (of course) 21-year old girl. You know, your typical girl meets boy, boy woos girl with non-disclosure agreements and contracts regarding usage of nipple clamps, girl falls for boy, boy spanks the crap out of the girl kind of love story. Is there any other kind?

And since then, the book and the two sequels have become seemingly ubiquitous, making appearances at book clubs, Saturday Night Live skits, countless newspaper articles, television pieces, and as punchlines to every late night talk show hosts’ jokes. Well, last week, I finally broke down and decided to buy the damn things to see what the fuss was about with the intent of blogging about it. So really, it was purely for, ahem, research purposes.

Normally, I would borrow the book from the library. But I decided to forgo this route after reading a New York Times article stating that Fifty Shades was the most popular book in circulation in the Hennepin County library system with over 2,000 requests as of May 21st (we’re apparently a bunch of pervs up here in the tundra). So off I went to Barnes & Noble to purchase the first book in the trilogy. Yes, I know I could have easily downloaded the book to my iPhone or iPad but I still haven’t embraced the e-book phenomenon yet. Call me old fashioned, but I like to have my books about BDSM in good old paper, thank you very much.

I went to the bookstore when my sitter had the girls because the last thing I wanted was for my two-year old to bring the pyramid display of Fifty Shades books tumbling down while I inconspicuously tried to grab my own copy. Or for my six-year old to practice her newly acquired literacy skills by reading aloud the back cover for the store’s benefit (“Mommy- what does ‘erotic’ mean?”). I circled the counter with my book in hand, wondering if I should buy other books along with it so that the store clerk wouldn’t think I wasn’t a total light weight. Maybe Anna Karenina? Fifty Shades AND Tolstoy? What a Renaissance woman! Or perhaps a bunch of children’s books too? But then they’d probably think I was a pervert AND a pedophile. So, in the end, I just slapped the book on the counter, kindly declined their offer of a gift receipt, and high-tailed it on home for some summer reading.

Well, I ended up getting through all three books in the span of about a week. What can I say…I like to see things to completion. Believe me, plowing through them was not an easy feat given that Katie was constantly grabbing the books out of my hands, asking me to read it to her while also enquiring where the pictures were….thankfully, my versions were unillustrated. And there was a lot of skimming involved– I mean, do I really want to read every single word regarding genital clamps? Uh, no thanks.

And the verdict? Well, Tolstoy this is not. In fact, these books make the Twilight books (which I also read) look like Jane Austen. But, really who am I to judge? E. L. James is published, and I am not. She and generations of her descendants can live off the royalties from the books and the inevitable Hollywood adaptations while I’ll probably be eating Beanie Weenies straight from the can in my dotage. However, I can’t resist a few notes to the author…maybe some minor tweaks for future editions?

Spoiler alert– I do give away some of the oh-so intricate plot lines so don’t read on if you don’t want to know.

Perhaps a thesaurus? The authoress has some favorite words and she likes to use them…a lot. Case in point: the word “gasp.” The main characters, Christian and Anastasia, spend a good portion of their time gasping. They are so awe struck by each other’s beauty- the dark penetrating eyes (his) and locks of flowing hair (hers) that every eight paragraphs, they must gasp. And that’s just when they are clothed. They gasp while drinking coffee/tea , they gasp while talking, they gasp while eating…frankly, I’m surprised no one had to come and do the Heimlich on them. I’d (gasp) appreciate (gasp) some (gasp) verbal (gasp) variety.

Dialogue schizophrenia The main characters in the book are supposed to be twenty-somethings living in Seattle. And yet, they alternately speak like Eddie Haskel (“Holy Cow!), a southern good old boy (“mighty fine”), and a Queen’s loyal subject (“lovely,” “keen,” and “smartly dressed,”). Has the author ever come in contact with a twenty-something American? Has she seen Jersey Shore?! As my college lit professor would say: verisimilitude!

And speaking of verisimilitude He’s a billionaire CEO of his own privately held firm and yet seems to work less than a 40 hour work week. They meet, fall in love, break up, get back together, get married, foil a blackmail plot…and a kidnapping plot…and a murder plot…and break down all his psychological issues AND get pregnant within a five month time period. Oh, and renovate a house. Really?

New nickname Anastasia’s pet name for her true love is Fifty. She refers to “my Fifty” or longingly sighs (or gasps), “oh Fifty” in all sorts of ways throughout the book. All it did for me was to imagine Christian Grey as this:

Pass the VitaminWater, please.

Less is more I know this is supposed to be an erotic novel but really, must they be SO bunny-like in their extracurricular activities? All it does is desensitize you to the material which I am sure is not the author’s intent. Another scene with a vibrating butt plug? Ho hum. <YAWN>

So other than the unoriginal writing style, the poorly developed characters, the totally implausible story line, and the offensive idea that all women want to be dominated by men, these books are a winner. Seriously, I haven’t laughed this hard since Seinfeld went off the air.


Summer Mysteries

We are 12 days into our summer and I am happy to report that we are still alive and I have not eaten my young.  On the first day of no school for both girls, they were at it like cage fighters at an Ultimate Fighting Challenge competition, using hand-to-hand combat moves rarely seen in polite society.  After 9 months of having their own personal routine and space, it was jarring for us all to share the entire day together.  The girls became extremely territorial- in fact, I’m surprised they didn’t just lift their legs and mark their property immediately.  I am extremely grateful they did not because I’d be the first thing urinated on by my feral children.  But now, we are slowly finding our rhythm and can be happy to be in each other’s company for more than 48 seconds at a time.

That doesn’t mean that it’s smooth sailing all the way.  I’m still navigating the ins and outs of summer and during the past 12 days, I’ve had some puzzlers.  Maybe you can help me out with these “summer mysteries.”

1.  Why is it that despite our 3,3oo square foot house and 2/3 of an acre lot filled with toys, a Rainbow playset, and all sorts of other amusements, the only place the girls want to be is RIGHT IN MY LAP.  Seriously?

2.  How can I have driven 97 miles in a 3 day period when every place I go is within a 5 mile radius of our house?

3.  Why must the girls bicker about the most minute of minutiae almost every minute of the day? Who gets the red plate? Who gets the pink? Who gets to blow the bubbles? Who gets to pop them? It is constant and it is unrelenting.  I may just join Costco so I can buy ear plugs in bulk.

4.  How can I have a zit the size of a small foreign coin on my forehead at 37 years of age?  The explanation from my dermatologist that “many pre-menopausal women experience acne” was NOT satisfactory.  Pre-menopausal?  Didn’t I, like, just have a baby?!  I blame the stress of having two children at home full time on the present state of my complexion.

5.  How is it possible that my husband can stretch an 18-hole round of golf into a 6.5 hour event? And let it be noted, the course is a mere 2.9 miles from our house.

6.  To continue with the golf theme, how can my husband play a minimum of 27 holes per week and have his handicap go UP?   I fear this will lead him to believe he needs to play MORE golf, not less.  Or maybe he’s just telling me he’s playing golf and he’s really having an affair.  Frankly, I’d prefer the affair.  It would probably take up less time and he’d come home happier.

7.  Why do the girls want the exact opposite items for lunch from one another?  Sarah wants hot dogs…Katie wants anything but.  Katie wants hot dogs…Sarah wants chicken nuggets.  And me? All I want is a tumbler full of sauvignon blanc with a Valium chaser and a personal chef.

8.  Why is it that despite my repeated entreaties not to do so, the girls continue to use the fountains in kiddie pool as their own personal bidet?  Thankfully, they still have their swim suits on and aren’t going totally “European” but really, ick.

9.  How can my girls complain that it’s too hot when it barely reaches 85 degrees here?  Proof once again that they don’t have a drop of my Texas blood and that I am indeed raising Minnesotans. Uff-da.

10.  And where, oh where in heaven did Katie learn to hit me between the legs while yelling, “I’m punching you in your weenie!!!”?



Father Knows Best

Father’s Day is this Sunday and as the day approaches, I’d like to take this opportunity to enumerate why I am so appreciative of my own husband:

1. Whenever the girls (or even the dog) throw up, he is always the one to clean it up.

2. He takes the girls into the big swimming pool, ensuring that I don’t have to submerge myself in water unless absolutely necessary.

3. He opens a bottle of wine whenever I ask…and sometimes even when I don’t, but clearly am in need of it.

4. He is the quicker thinker during emergencies. I look like a lobotomized deer in the proverbial headlights, but he always knows what to do and directs me into action.

5. He always dives off the diving board in the goofiest and most awkwardly contorted flips and somersaults which guarantees a gleeful laugh from the girls and the inevitable lower back pain for him later in the evening.

6. He never questions my liberal use of babysitters.

7. Or my credit card bill.

8. Or my propensity to eat out for lunch.

9. He finally learned how to cook scrambled eggs this past year and has been serving up “Dad’s Famous Eggs” ever since. Coupled with his recently acquired bacon cooking skills, he can actually put together a whole meal all by himself- a first in the 14 years I’ve known him.

10. He always takes petting zoo duty.

11. He is always supportive of my need for some “me time” via moms’ night outs, trips with girlfriends, or an emergency therapeutic visit to the nail salon. You think I’m batty now– imagine me with no time off at all!

12. He dutifully hands over they keys to his vehicle when the thought of driving my minivan one minute longer curdles my insides as though my organs have been bathed in battery acid.

13. He takes the girls to play golf, ski, play tennis, and other physical activities where perspiration may occur. Sloth, thy name is Jane.

14. He walks our third and most neglected child (our dog Ellie) almost everyday, even in subzero temperatures with the very real possibility that he could lose his nose to frostbite.

15. No matter what the hour, he checks on the girls every night before he goes to bed, tucking them in, straightening out their tangled limbs, fluffing pillows, and rearranging blankets.

16. And in Sarah’s words, “Dad is the best because he brings me Starbursts whenever I want.” Indeed, who can compete with that?

Thank you to my wonderful husband and the father of our beautiful girls. I hope all you dads out there have a stellar Father’s Day. And Happy Father’s Day to my own dad– I LOVE YOU!!

Wake Up Call

I don’t know what’s worse– the shrill ring of the alarm clock or having your two-year old grab your iPhone in the early morning hours and try her hand at portrait photography.   Now I know why I am getting that giant Grand Canyon of a furrow between my eyebrows that makes me look perpetually constipated.  How am I supposed to “relax” while sleeping when at any moment, something like this can happen?  I don’t know of any other job where the boss comes into your bedroom to haul your butt out of bed and to demand breakfast…and to change their diaper.

Letter of the Day

Oh dear readers, I cannot believe it but Sarah has only THREE days of Kindergarten left.  How did the school year pass so quickly?  And how is it that very very soon, I will be the mother of a first-grader-to-be?  It is simultaneously thrilling and oh-so sad to me.

Sarah had a wonderful year and I have truly loved watching her thrive at school.  One of the absolute best things that has come from this year is her love of reading and writing.  Reading is one of my passions and I am using this blog to explore another passion, writing.  It is amazing to see Sarah spread her own wings and share my enthusiasm.  One of the more tangible products of her newfound knowledge is all the notes she has been writing to herself, to me, her dad, her sister, and even the dog.  Here’s a compilation of some of her missives from the last 9 months….

How can I not forgive her when an apology comes so sweetly and so sincerely?  I especially love the extra “so’s” and the red hearts.  I can’t remember what the transgression was but whatever it was, my heart melted when I saw this:

One day I woke up with this next to my bed.  Hmmm…who could my “secret admirer” possibly be??

When I got home from a trip with some girlfriends in February, I found this very sweet letter on the mudroom bench.  I especially love the drawing of California.  And apparently, the state is under attack from some large lizard like creature:

One night, when I was feeling a little under the weather, Sarah even created a “coupon” for me.  Nice of my boss to give me some time off, don’t you think?

But lest you think she is using her wisdom all for good, let’s look at this note that she wrote for her teacher.  Backstory: she had been begging us all year to ride the bus.  We kept telling her no, and apparently, she felt it was time to take matters into her own hands.  It is the first of what I assume will be many forgeries to come.  I especially love how she signed the note “Jane” and not “Mom.”  And her spelling is flawless.  She’s a tricky one.

Finally, this isn’t a note to me but a page I found in her room while cleaning.  She writes several “notes to self” but the text in blue absolutely killed me: Note to self, you can cry for good because you love someone very much,  like me today.  Oh Sarah, I know exactly how you feel.