Sunday, April 25, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Confirmed Bachelor

Here is a conversation that occurred on Friday between Sassy and Bubba:

Sassy: "Bubba, why don't you like girls?"

Bubba: "Because they like romance."

Sassy: "Why don't you like romance?"

Bubba: "What...kissing? Love? Yuck!"

Sassy: "And you don't like kissing?"

Bubba: "No! It makes me think of girls!"

Hmmm...I'm getting the feeling that he has something against girls. I wonder if he knows that I pray God will find him a wife...
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Maturity is Highly Overrated

I wonder if there will ever come a time when my mental age will catch up with my chronological age. Chronologically I'm (pardon me while I throw up) 35, but mentally, I'm still in my 20s. When I look in the mirror I can see the little tell tale signs that I'm getting older. I'm starting to see the first signs of wrinkles,especially between my brows from my habit of scowling when I'm driving or thinking. The gray hair that has plagued me since my teen years is more abundant and even more resistant to Clairol. My body, while never firm and perky, is starting to give up the fight.

I can look around my life and see other signs of my age as well. I have a mortgage--not my first. My 15 year anniversary is coming up. My baby is now 11. Hanging out with other "young" couples makes me realize that I no longer fit into that category.

The evidence is all there, glaring at me like a neon sign, but I still can't seem to wrap my mind around it. In short, I am in denial.

There are times when I look around and think, "I can't possibly be old enough to be running a household that consists of 3 children, 2 pets, 2 businesses and an entire yard. I mean, I just graduated from high school a few years ago!" (The truth is that I graduated 17 years ago, but who's counting?)

I have friends who have careers and it makes sense to me because, after all, they are "older" than I am. I have friends with houses that are all put together, not cautionary tales in remodeling the way mine is. But that's the way it should be because they are obviously "older" than I am. And of course some of my friends have new cars that they are making payments on, but I don't because I'm not "old" enough.

I don't think of myself as my "high school self" any more because, let's face it, we all get better post high school and no one wants to cling to that yearbook image. But for some reason, I still struggle to come to grips with the fact that I am approaching (shudder) middle age. Forty is just around the bend as well as my kids' teen years. How did growing up and becoming an adult sneak up on me like that?

My saving grace is that saying, "You're only as old as you feel." If that's really true, than I still have a few more years before I have to start thinking about facing reality.
Thursday, April 8, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

G.I. Jane? Yes. Joe Barbie? Forget It.

A word of warning for you, dear readers. I have pulled out my soapbox and I am climbing on top. I've decided it's time to address the infuriating double standard that exists among our children. Truthfully, this double standard even exists among adults, but my concern for the moment is only for my kids. What I'm talking about is the fact that girls can be boys but boys are not allowed to be girls.

Let me elaborate. My daughter is a princess, as most young girls can be. She loves to dress up, wear jewelry, make-up and nail polish, play house and Barbies. She is a girly-girl. But she also likes to play Pokemon and Star Wars, have pretend battles with her brothers, play with Legos and soldiers. For Halloween, she dressed up as a commando soldier complete with faux six-pack and stuffed pectoral muscles. Everyone's reaction to my daughter's choice of costume and leisurely activities? "How cute, you have a little tomboy."

But here's the flipside. My boys (one or both, depending on the activity) in addition to all the rough housing and normal boy-type games, have enjoyed dressing up in sissy's dresses and jewelry, having their nails painted, playing Littlest Pet Shop games, and even playing house. The typical reaction to this? "You need to be careful so he doesn't get confused." I've had close friends actually imply that I need to watch out that these activities don't lead them to an alternative lifestyle.

I'm going to take a moment to scream at the top of my lungs in frustration before going on. Okay, I feel better.

Are you kidding me? Do you actually think that my son wanting to play a game of dress up is going to make him gay? Why is it okay for my daughter to do everything the boys can do and no one is worried that she's going to end up a lesbian? Why do boys have to always be rough and tumble creatures? Why can't they be free to explore their softer side?

I would love to be able to start a Men's Liberation Movement. Women have been demanding equal rights and equal treatment for years. Now it's time for the men. I want my boys to be able to do anything the girls do without fear of being judged. At the ages of 9 and 11, they already know that the things they do at home are not looked favorably upon in society. That's just not what "boys" do. To anyone who makes boys feel like they can't enjoy things that are typically considered "girly", I say take a long leap off a short bridge. It breaks my heart to see my son debate with himself over whether or not to have me paint his nails (even if I'm using green or blue) because he's afraid of what other people will say. He should be able to do it because it's fun, not worry about being judged for it.

If my daughter wants to be a Pokemon, Power Ranger, Luke Skywalker or Army ranger, she's applauded for being a strong, tough girl who knows her mind and as well she should be. But if either of my sons wants to dress-up, sew, bake, dance or wear jewelry, he does so knowing that he will be teased mercilessly. I've had enough. Boys can be sensitive. Let them be sensitive. Has anyone ever considered what would happen if our boys learned sensitivity, creativity, compassion, and artistry when they were young? How would things be different if every tough, macho man out there also knew how to be sweet and tender?

I grew up playing with Tonka trucks, watching He-Man and Transformers and hiding out in the woods playing soldier. When my husband was growing up, he learned to cross-stitch and paint and he was invited to girls' slumber parties. I think we can attest to being one of the most stable married couples around. Why not give our little boys a chance at growing up with the same opportunities and allowances that we demand for our girls?
Sunday, April 4, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

GOODwill? I Don't Think so.

Thrift stores are dangerous places. I'm not just talking about the army of germs that roams freely through the merchandise waiting to infect those who go in unarmed with hand sanitizer, or the real possibility of slicing your hand open while digging in the clearance bin all because someone carelessly tossed aside a dolphin shaped glass candy dish that exploded on contact. The danger I'm talking about is nothing so obvious. No, this is much more insidious, stealthy even. The danger lies in the allure of...possibilities.

As a crafter, and a fan of Martha Stewart when it suits me, thrift stores, second hand stores, even garage sales are indeed highly dangerous. I have to prepare myself before entering. I know what my goal is, I remind myself of my target and vow to not stray away from it. I gird my loins, bypassing the carts that I know I will have no need of and march bravely past the registers and into the heart of unknown finds.

I start out at a brisk pace but it doesn't take long for that musty smell of old books, mildewed clothes and long forgotten tchotchkes to envelope me, fogging my brain. My target starts to waver a bit and before I know what's happening, I find myself wandering the book aisles. It's just a detour. "What could it hurt?" I reason with myself. After all, I buy books anyway, might as well buy them at a discount.

When I am satisfied that I have read every title available and plucked out a few that will fit perfectly on my overflowing bookshelf, I finally move on. First through the shoes where, even though they almost never have a pair in my size that has any sole left, I eye every pair. I can't help but steal a glance at the furniture which is next to the shoe aisle. I have no room for anything in my house but if I found the right piece--the one that just needs some paint, maybe a few screws, perhaps a replaced slat of wood--I would find a place for it.

I do have enough will power to skip past the electronics section but that only leads to the glass trinkets. I can feel my knees go weak as I get closer. I used to be able to justify shopping down this aisle because I could find stuff for the crafts I would sell, but not anymore. I have no reason to go down this aisle and yet, I find I am too weak to resist. What if I found a bride and groom figurine to add to my collection? What if I really do have a use for that elephant pitcher that pours through the trunk? Maybe I'll find an abandoned set of china in just the right pattern that they're selling at a steal?

The wood aisle is actually worse because I know that with a little paint, many of those discarded shelves and plaques could actually be cute. They have potential. That candle holder is broken on the bottom? Put a flower ring around it. That wall sign has a crack in the corner? Glue a few decorative buttons on to cover it. There isn't anything I can't improve with a little bit of paint and hot glue.

I don't dare go past the baskets, that's just tempting fate. They are my Achilles heel. I am a strong, intelligent woman but I can be brought down by a clever wicker weave. See, I don't have to have a use for a basket for it to worm it's way into my hot little hands. It's as if they have a secret password into my brain--they know how to call out and tempt me until I am helpless to do anything but take them home and add them to the pile of baskets that have escaped from the forgotten bins of the second hand store and have been adopted into my welcoming home.

By this time, I've had to go and get a cart because my arms are turning purple from trying to balance all the items that I feel too guilty to leave behind. After all, if I won't give them a home, who will? If I'm lucky and I manage to shake out of that dust-induced coma, I will skip past all the ladies' clothing racks. Being an average size girl of average build there will be tons of garments for me to choose from as long as I'm willing to invest in some bleach, Spray 'n' Wash, and a few buttons to replace those that have popped off.

The guilt of pushing a loaded down cart up to the register when I only meant to spend five minutes in the store is soon forgotten as I realize that several of the items I picked out have the correct color of tag for the half-off discount. Half off what was already a great price? Can it get any better than this?

As I load my treasures into my car, the fresh air seeps into my muddled brain and the fog starts to lift. I sober considerably at the thought of having to explain to my husband why these particular items were just too big of bargains to not buy. It's only when I'm pulling out of the parking lot--my bank account emptied, the smell of an old person's attic permeating my entire van--that I remember that I was only supposed to run up to the store to find my son a pair of pants and I never even looked at the kids' clothing.

The thrift store defeated me again.
Friday, April 2, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Autism Awareness

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and April is Autism Awareness Month. It was just a coincidence that last night I watched a movie called "Adam", about a woman who starts to fall for a man who has Asperger's. It came from Netflix and it's been sitting here for more than a week but I finally watched it last night.

Take my advice and watch this movie. It's just beautiful. Hugh Dancy plays Adam and he does a wonderful job. Rose Byrne is Beth, the woman who moves next door and finds herself drawn to him in spite of his quirks and oddities. It's a story of friendship, of love, of learning to adapt, of living in a world where you don't quite fit in. It's a great story.

Honestly, it didn't matter to me what the story line was, I had to watch it to see how well they portrayed Asperger's. I was very impressed. Hugh did a wonderful job of conveying the social awkwardness, the lack of empathy, the halting, stuttering way of talking and moving, the singular focus on one subject, the fear of change, the incapability of eye contact. He was just lovely as a man who is still a man despite not fitting in with those around him.

I have to be honest and tell you this movie made me cry. It does have some sad moments but I know the reason it made me cry was that I was seeing my son on screen. Not the son that I have now, and not the son who was first diagnosed, but my son just a few years ago. Bubba is not the typical Autistic child. While he may have regressed into a non-verbal, screaming machine with no eye contact and little regard for danger or people around him, he has made amazing strides to become a social, talkative boy who has--for the most part--learned to cope with transitions.

When Bubba was little, I never in my wildest dreams thought he would be where he is today. In my most secret dreams, the ones I didn't want to speak out loud for fear of jinxing them, I prayed that one day he would grow up to be as high functioning as Adam. I prayed that he would be able to hold a job, make a friend or two, maybe even be able to live on his own with some assistance. In all your dreams for your children, you just want them to live a happy, normal life. "Normal" takes on a whole different meaning when you are living with Autism.

Watching the movie last night, I cried. Okay, I sobbed until I thought my heart was going to break and I'm crying now. I cried because I recognized Adam. I cried because I recognize the frustration--of both Adam and the people who are trying to understand him. I cried because I know how painful it is for someone with Autism to be faced with change. I cried because I was familiar with his movements, his way of speaking, his bluntness, all the unspoken social nuances that went right over his head. I cried because he found a friend. I cried because he found someone to love him just as he was. I cried because he had to deal with a world that is harsh. I cried because he managed to make his way in that world, carving out a niche that suited him and his differences. I cried because I'm grateful that Bubba has progressed beyond what I ever dreamed possible. I cried because most Autistic children aren't like that. I cried because I have learned more from my son than he's learned from me. I cried because God has entrusted me with the care and upbringing of such a special soul.

Living with Autism is not an easy task. It drains the mothers. It's hard on the fathers. It wears on siblings. I have days where I have to convince my other children that they do love their brother no matter how difficult he makes life sometimes. There is nothing more heart wrenching than to hear your child say they wish they didn't have a brother. That's a knife to the heart with a wicked twist for good measure.

No one chooses this for their life, but it's my life. He's MY son. I love him 'til it hurts. I pray every single day that he will grow up to find someone who will love him just as much.
Thursday, April 1, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

I must confess that I have been a Robert Downey, Jr. fan since I was in high school. Maybe it's just that bad boy factor, but I've always enjoyed watching him and I always rooted for him to overcome his addiction problems. He was the only reason I ever watched "Ally McBeal" and I was sad when his personal life caused him to have to leave the show.

Throw together a big budget action movie with one of my favorite actors and you have a movie I couldn't wait to see. I was more than a little surprised to find out that Guy Ritchie directed this movie. He's known for British, independent oddball movies like "Snatch" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". This is quite a step up for him and he definitely rose to the challenge.

Robert Downey, Jr. is the titular Holmes while Jude Law is his long-suffering Watson. The chemistry between the two is great. They play off each other in a relaxed, well-versed way that would be natural of two men who've spent years living and working together to solve the world's toughest crimes.

Watson is leaving, having just wrapped up his last case with Holmes, to get married and settle down. But as we all know, there can never really be a last case. He gets pulled back in when Mark Strong as Lord Blackwell apparently comes back from the dead with evil intentions.

I love the action, the look, the gadgets, the way we hear Holmes' brain work. I love the banter between Holmes and Watson. It's a highly entertaining movie. Of course, they left it open for the possibility of a sequel. And while sequels are rarely as good as the original, I will be one of the first in line if they have a "Sherlock Holmes 2". (*****)

Movie Review: The Invention of Lying

Within the first ten minutes or so of this movie, there is a conversation between Jennifer Garner and Ricky Gervais that I'm sure will turn off many people I know to the point they won't want to watch the movie. That makes me sad because this movie is one of the funniest ones I've seen in a long time.

"The Invention of Lying" takes place in a world where lies don't exist. They've never heard the word and can't even comprehend the concept. This is a brutally honest world. When I say "brutally", I'm not kidding. It's not just that they can't lie, it's that they are compelled to say what they are thinking and let me tell you, the truth hurts. There are no lies of omission, no skating around the truth. If someone thinks you're fat and ugly, they flat out tell you that you're fat and ugly. I know, I know, it's highly inappropriate and people's feelings get hurt. I think it was the outrageousness of the idea that I found so amusing. Watching this movie I became aware of how many ways we avoid the honest truth to spare those hurt feelings or misunderstandings. It's a kindness to others that we don't reveal what we're thinking every moment.

The story goes like this: Ricky Gervais is crushing on Jennifer Garner but she is in no way attracted to him because he's a "chubby, snub-nosed loser". Then one day, at the end of his rope after the worst day ever, Gervais' brain snaps and he tells a lie. He doesn't understand how it happened but he soon realizes he can take advantage of his new power. He gets his apartment and job back, gains wealth, succeeds at work and gets the attention of Garner. Life is good. Until he tells lies that gain the attention of the whole world. Everyone wants to know how he knows the things that he does and they want answers. Obviously he's telling the truth because no one lies. There's no way to explain what's going on without getting himself into trouble so he has to concoct more lies. It's a bitter cycle that starts to wear him down.

Besides being funny, this movie is a sweet portrait of a man who just wants to be happy and in his world, he would never have a chance by telling the truth. But you can see the endless circle that one gets caught up when lying. There is no way out but through more lies or telling the truth. In the end, he has to make a choice--lie and have the woman he loves, or tell the truth and most likely lose her.

This is a sweet movie. You completely feel for Gervais' character when you know that the deck has been stacked against him for reasons he can't control. But it's also sobering to see how easy it is to slide down that steep hill of lies. (****)

Movie Review: Couples' Retreat

Here's another offering from Vince Vaughn and crew. In this one, Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell are a couple who are considering divorce and decide to go on a couples' retreat in order to decide if their marriage is worth saving. They recruit 3 other couples to go with them so they can get a discounted rate. While the other couples are hoping for a nice, relaxing weekend, what they end up with is 6am New Age marriage strengthening exercises and questionable counseling sessions. The couples who were only there for a vacation end up confronting the problems they have but try to ignore. There were a few funny moments, but then, it doesn't take much to amuse me. Overall, I was very disappointed. There are certain expectations that come along with a Vince Vaughn movie and one of them is that it will be funny. This one? Not so much.

Of course, everything works out in the end. We don't watch Vince Vaughn movies to be reminded of bad things like divorce, we watch them to be completely glazed over and spoon fed happily ever after. I don't mind the spoon feeding as long as it's entertaining. This movie is not. Skip it. (**)

Movie Review: Love Happens

I've fallen behind on my movie reviews so don't be surprised at the sudden deluge of reviews.

"Love Happens" is another predictable chick flick. This one stars Aaron Eckhart as a self-help guru who is touring the country to promote his newest improvement program, this one to help people get over the death of a loved one. His own wife died 3 years ago but it seems that he just hasn't been able to make peace with himself. He can help everyone but himself. Jennifer Aniston comes along as a quirky florist who stirs up interest in Eckhart's character. (Just an aside: What is it about Aniston that makes directors think she would be perfect in "quirky" roles? She's best when she's just an every day woman. Quirky just comes across as awkward on her.) You can pretty much chart this plot from the get go. Being around Aniston and his in-laws forces Eckhart to come to terms with truths and pain that he's been avoiding for 3 years. The self-help master has to find a way to apply his lessons to his own life. As I've said before, I enjoy chick flicks even though they rarely bring anything new. The best part of this movie was that it was filmed in Seattle and I found myself shouting, "I've been there! I know exactly where that's at!"

This is a nice addition to the genre but it won't be remembered in a year. (Does anyone even remember it now?) (***)