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Posts from the ‘shopping’ Category

the truck effect

Tom got an F-150 around Christmas, and it’s been a topic of considerable amusement for our friends and family. Myself, I’ve moved through various emotional stages with the truck.

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1. Magnanimousness: Tom works hard. He’s driven my POS 2003 Ford Escape for a long time. He can’t even fully extend his legs in the POS 2003 Ford Escape. He needs this truck. And so he shall have it.

2. Annoyance: Why won’t Tom stop talking about the truck? Why does he spend our evenings in the driveway, alone inside the truck? Isn’t that kind of strange? How can his truck console already be filled to the brim with stuff like mouthwash and Clif bars, when he’s only had the truck for a week? How come I can’t eat in his truck, when he eats his food in my car, and then leaves the wrappers on the floor? When I return to the house after being away, why does Tom rush to the door and ask me if I saw his truck in the driveway, and doesn’t it look good? What is a bed cover? Why does Tom’s truck need a bed cover? Why does Tom need to tell me about a bed cover while I’m at work? Why would I care that because his new bed cover folds in three, I will never have to take it off? Why would I ever need to take a bed cover off of a truck? What am I, a fucking cowboy?   

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3. Jealousy: Ok, that didn’t feel good when my kids called my car the “Old Car.” It also didn’t feel good when they asked why it feels so small. In fact, it kind of stung. My car is not small. I can’t even park it by myself in my parking garage! And once I hit a post with my far mirror because I didn’t realize how big my car was. It is that big. And by the way, it’s only a year old. And it has stuff that the truck doesn’t have, like this chrome trim here on the gear shift. As anyone will tell you, chrome = luxury. And the truck doesn’t have this ambient lighting around the cupholders that I can change to turquoise or purple. And this push button start! Never mind that I can only tell 50% of the time when my car is turned off and that I’ve accidentally left it running for two hours at the mall. It can come in handy, that push button start. Like if I’m ever being chased by a criminal, I can run to my car and start it just by pushing a button. I don’t even have to find any keys. Tom’s truck doesn’t have a push button start. It also doesn’t have these cool sunglasses that I keep in my handy sunglasses keeper.

Ok, the truck has a sunglasses keeper, but it doesn’t have these cool sunglasses.

4. Resignation: Well, this truck is here to stay, apparently. And sometimes it’s blocking my car in the driveway and I have to drive it. So I better figure out how to park it. Let’s take it to the gym, where there are big parking spaces.

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5. Acceptance: Wait a second, I LIKE this truck. Hot guys do double takes when I jump out of this truck. They never do that when I jump out of my Explorer. On the road, cars move out of my way when I merge. I’ve been trying to get them to do that for years! I like that when I open the door, I have to hold on to the steering wheel just to hoist myself into the driver’s seat. That’s burly. And speaking of burly, I like that this truck goes with my distressed jeans. Think I’ll turn up the Willie’s Roadhouse and go haul something.

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how to lie about your shopping problem

When it comes to material goods, Tom’s needs are aggravatingly few. He saves the energy he might spend on coveting things for himself, on me. And by that, I’m not talking about him buying stuff for me. He hasn’t bought me a real gift since I lost the Hermes watch I scored for giving birth to his precious firstborn. No, I refer instead to his constant vigilance in spotting and calling out my new purchases.

“Is that new?” I have grown to hate and fear these three words. Usually when you hear them, they are asked by a friend who is about to validate your purchase by complimenting you. When Tom says the words, they come laden with innuendo, and enough guilt to kill.

I have four methods of dealing with this most annoying of questions. I’m not suggesting that these methods will work for you, but then again, they have served me well in the 15 years I have known my husband. So you might give them a go.

Hypnosis

Your success with this method will vary, depending on your guy’s relative knowledge of fashion trends, and the strength of his memory. Also, your skill at lying. Basically what you have to do is convince the guy that he’s not really seeing what he’s actually seeing.

In this, you will be aided by the fact that most of what you buy looks a lot like something you already have sitting in your closet. So when Tom points to my new black sweater, made of the softest, loftiest merino wool and asks, “Is that new?,” I can look over his shoulder at the nasty old black merino sweater I bought last year, and say, “No, I’ve had this for a year.” The beauty of this method is that in that moment, the hypnosis is working its magic on both of us, because in my mind, the two sweaters really do become one. Then, when Tom’s gone, the one sweater magically separates into two sweaters again. So I’m not really even lying.

This method works especially well with jeans. I could be married to Tom Ford, not Tom Johnson, and he’d still have problems telling the difference between my three pairs of ink blue J Brand skinnies. I mean, sometimes have trouble telling the difference. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need all of them.

Bribery

You can buy your husband’s silence by throwing him a bone, which for me usually involves stopping at H&M on my way out of Nordstrom, to buy a t-shirt that costs $9.90. L’Occitane soaps are also great for this. They cost ten bucks and have the added advantage of being soap, a product your man probably actually uses. And they smell really strong, which seems to have a mildly debilitating effect on my husband that allows me the 8 seconds I need to cram my shopping bags behind the laundry hamper in my closet.

If you’re shopping in the evening, treats work well. Tom gets so happy when I walk in the front door with an Oreo McFlurry that I could be dragging a new Lexus behind me and he wouldn’t notice.

Diversion

Your success with this method will also vary, depending on your guy’s attention span and your proximity to a television. In my house, it works like this.

Tom: “Is that new?”

Yoona: “Is what new?”  (Reaching for remote).

Tom: “Is THAT new.”  (Pointing to new bag).

Yoona: “Is WHAT new?”  (Turns on TV, to Channel 735).

Tom: “Wait a second, is that the Pats game?”

Like taking candy from a baby.

Role Playing

Sometimes Tom actually gets angry about a purchase, and then I have to work extra hard to justify my decision. Last Friday he beat me home and opened a heavy Amazon box to find a new pair of Fryes. While generally clueless about the relative cost of women’s fashions, Tom knows enough about women’s clothes to know how much Frye boots cost. I mean, they cost as much as one pair of his dress shoes, but whenever I say that he lashes out that he buys one pair of shoes every year. Cruel words that always strike me as a non-sequitur.

Anyway, all he saw when he opened that box was a pair of boots. What he did not see was that the boots were the culmination of two years of me searching for the perfect flat black boot. TWO YEARS. He had no idea how many heavy boots I’d had to purchase, then return.

He also had no inkling of the pain and mental trauma I suffered each time that I tried on boots that were unflattering. If you’re a guy, you might think I’m exaggerating, but you can be damned sure that every woman reading this post knows how it feels to try on something that is so bad that it makes you re-evaluate your life and how you’ve been living it. There are certain things you have to be very careful about trying on. Bikinis, natch. Skinny jeans, of course. Crop tops. Puffy sweaters. FLAT BOOTS.

So anyway, I basically had to lay out this entire sob story for Tom until he felt what it was like to live the experience of my search for the perfect flat boot. By the end, I felt like he not only approved of my purchase, but that he wanted me to have them.  Needed me to have them.

And that’s why Tom, and my new boots, are awesome.

fryes

my boots, with the world’s cutest pregnant person

yoonanimous reviews: water bottles

My family has approximately 200 water bottles, and most of them blow. If you’re in the market for one, I’m here to help you narrow the field.

I’ve had a lifelong struggle with water consumption. I know I need 8 cups a day. But I hate drinking liquids. My friend Ryan says that he prefers to drink his calories, in the form of beer. Not me. I prefer to eat my calories, in the form of bratwurst.

While I hate drinking water, I am an eternal optimist when it comes to water consumption. So I have a water tank in my house and fresh water delivered bi-weekly. And in hopes that setting the stage for water consumption will lead to the eventual drinking of water, I buy water bottles. Lots of water bottles.

My ratings are broken down into three categories, and go from a scale of 1-5. Drinkability refers to your ability to actually access the water in the water bottle. Portability refers to the water bottle’s take-it-and-go factor. The Kid Factor measures the bottle’s ability to withstand children, which in my case often depends on the hardiness of the nozzle. My kids are aggressive masticators. Like beavers.

1. The Camelback

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Judging by the selection at REI, the Camelback is the water bottle of choice here in Portland. The Camelback Eddy is hardy and indestructible. It is also large, heavy, and unwieldy, so much so that I feel nervous carrying it by its handle. The bite valves might as well be Haribo gummy bears as far as my kids are concerned. They have chewed through two 3-piece replacement packs with feverish intensity.

But let’s get right down to the nitty gritty about the Camelback, which is that you have to suck so hard on the nozzle to get the water out that it makes water-drinking both difficult and lewd. Tom once wiggled his eyebrows at me while watching me suck on the Camelback. I submit that if your water drinking can put your spouse in a romantic mood, you need a new water bottle.

Drinkability: 1; Portability: 2; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 4/15

2. The Sigg

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I must enjoy the Sigg because I’ve had one since law school. It has a pleasing shape and the seal on that cap is airtight. The lip has a nice curved shape and the flow of water is neither too fast nor too slow. It’s a bit large but it seems much lighter than the Camelback.

The problem with the Sigg and all other stainless bottles is the mystery about what’s inside. I guess it doesn’t matter because you’re just putting water in it. But if I start to think about it, I am uncomfortable with how dirty the innards of my Sigg might be. So I try not to think about it.

Drinkability: 4; Portability: 4; Kid Factor: 3. Total: 11/15

3. The Lululemon POS

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I think this bottle is a knock-off of the Lifefactory bottles that were ubiquitous for a while. It’s made of glass, which feels clean and virtuous, and the glass is encased in a rubber cover so that if you drop it, the bottle, in theory, won’t break. I say “in theory” because I’ve dropped a Lifefactory bottle and it shattered, just like every other glass item I have ever dropped.

I guess if I had to choose one thing that I like about this water bottle, I’d have to say the color. Sigh. I have tried hard to love this water bottle, because my kid gave it to me for Mother’s Day.

And yet, I cannot love this terrible bottle. First, while the cap is presumably airtight if properly sealed, I wouldn’t really know, because I have never properly sealed it, despite taking time out of my schedule one weekday morning to sit down and try to figure out where I was going wrong in my operation of the Lululemon POS.

To compound the problem, if the lid on this sucker isn’t on tight, you’re in for a world of pain, thanks to that wide opening. Which brings me to point number 2: it is impossible to drink water from this bottle without dousing your entire face and possibly your torso. Perhaps I have poor hand-eye coordination. But I have a hard time believing that, because I am very good at ping-pong. Instead, I choose to believe that the design of this bottle is inherently flawed. Also, the bottle is so tall and skinny that it tips over at the slightest hint of wind. Oh, and my kids never, ever choose this water bottle for themselves, because it weighs approximately five pounds. Don’t believe me? Watch.

Drinkability: 0; Portability: 0; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 1/15

4. The Bkr

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The Bkr, like the Lululemon POS, is made of glass encased in rubber. Also like the Lululemon POS, the Bkr is a classic example of form over function. For example, the spout is so small that when I drink from it, I can’t help but imagine that I am a tiny hummingbird using its tiny beak to draw (pollen? honey? dew?) from the stamen of a tiny, tiny flower. The tiny opening also makes it impossible to clean, or fill. If I’m trying to fill it from a water tank I actually have to crouch down and look up into the undercarriage of the water tank to ensure that I have placed the tiny opening of the water bottle directly under the spout, because if I don’t, the water just splashes all over. Drinking water is hard enough. I don’t need obstacles.

Drinkability: 1; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 1. Total: 7/15

5. The Klean Kanteen

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The Klean Kanteen is a standby in my house and we have many of them. It’s made of light stainless steel, and has a wider opening than the Sigg, which provides a satisfying but non-threatening flow of water. The width of the opening also allows you to look inside and actually clean the bottle. The lid has a handy loop for your finger. The slim shape fits nicely into a bag but is not so skinny that it will tip over. My only complaint with this bottle is that the lid, not being attached to the bottle, tends to go missing. But that’s not the bottle’s fault.

Drinkability: 4; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 4. Total: 13/15

6. The Crocodile Creek

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I’ve included my wine glass in all these pics to provide scale. As you can see, the Crocodile Creek, being designed for kids, is much smaller than the others. I’ve included it here because it is Tate’s favorite water bottle, and he asks for it by name (“my tiger one”). I think he likes the size of the spout, and that it is easy for him to handle. The small size makes it very portable. It’s very cute to look at. All that aside, if you are older than three, you might be frustrated by the pathetic flow of water, which is akin to what you might experience if someone were to wring a damp washcloth into your mouth. And while your toddler might love it, your older kid will shun it. Finn calls it a baby bottle and says it smells bad. But boy does Tate love it.

Drinkability: 3 (for kids); Portability: 4; Kid Factor: 5. Total: 12/15

7. The Contigo

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Ah, the Contigo. Linds has had one for a year, and she carries it everywhere. She drinks more water than anyone I know. I mean, so much water that it can feel alarming for a non-drinker to observe. Eventually I started wondering if it might be her water bottle. So I finally gave in and ordered one.

Now, my kids and I fight over the Contigo. Because it is an amazing water bottle. First, the size of it is like a slimmed-down version of the Camelback, with all the Camelback’s sturdiness. The nozzle is a hard plastic but it’s not gummy or chewy like the one on the Camelback. Instead, the Contigo nozzle facilitates your intake of the most satisying drink of water you’ve ever had. A steady, continuous stream of hydration. Linds described this water bottle best when she said that it actually makes water taste better.

But that’s not all folks. The nozzle, once locked, is leakproof. I have carried it inside my leather bag for a month with nary a drop spilled. The bottle is also entertaining, thanks to the white button that unlocks the nozzle and flings it into ready position. That’s the one complaint I have about the Contigo–when it unlocks, the nozzle flings a small spray of water in your face. But listen, with the Contigo, it’s all so good that even the spray feels intentional. Like it was designed to heighten your enjoyment of the water.

Drinkability: 5; Portability: 5; Kid Factor: 5. Total: 15/15

The Yoonanimous final rankings:

1. The Contigo (15/15)

2. The Klean Kanteen (13/15)

3. The Crocodile Creek (12/15)

4. The Sigg (11/15)

5. The Bkr (7/15)

6. The Camelback (4/15)

7. The Lululemon POS (1/15)

What have I missed? Do you have a water bottle that you love to hate, or one that beats my Contigo? I’m always on the hunt, and want to hear about it.

the scariest catalog

I realize it’s September 9th and that Halloween is seven weeks away. Try telling that to my kids. It’s like they have a sensor that goes off when they realize they haven’t harassed me about anything new in a while. Or maybe it’s because the wretched Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies catalog arrived the day after Labor Day.

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It’s called “Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies” but what it should really be called is “Satan’s Manifesto by Chasing Fireflies.” It’s hard to enjoy the last days of summer when I know that thing is on its way. Because it’s filled to the brim with some scary, scary shit.

My kids don’t think it’s scary. When they see it in the mail they jump up and down as if possessed and then flop down on their bellies, heads braced on elbows, to lick through every page with the focus and concentration I would hope they exhibit at school, but which I fear they only exhibit towards the Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies catalog. They drag the thing around like it’s a pet. They look at it in the bathtub, pages held high over the water.

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tate explaining to me at 7:15 AM that he needs to check the mailbox because finn told him we are getting ninja costumes today

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me explaining to tate that his brother is a liar

I brought up the catalog to other moms this week. My friend Heather said parents she knows intercept their copies in the mail and then hide them. Other friends just destroy them. Technically these friends may be committing federal mail fraud, if the catalogs are addressed to their kids. But I didn’t have the heart to get all lawyerly, because God knows, I get it. I only wish I’d had the foresight to do something about it.

The day the Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies catalog comes, the insanity begins. There are other catalogs that will come, but Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies is the ne plus ultra of Halloween catalogs. The wares are displayed on real child models, mostly blond, and each costume bears a long, corny description that seeks to justify the staggering expense of the wares. There’s nothing like girding your loins to pay $60.00 for an astronaut costume and then realizing the helmet is an additional $48.50. An astronaut without a helmet is basically a repairperson. A homemade helmet on top of a $60.00 astronaut outfit is just sad. I know all this because I wrestled with whether to buy that costume for three weeks last year before deciding to bend Finn’s will into believing that he wanted to be a Stormtrooper instead ($29.99 on Amazon).

I might feel bad about cheaping out on my kids, except that I don’t, because it turns out that Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies doesn’t want money from my kind. If they did, they wouldn’t offer costumes like this.

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Don’t be the asshole who lets your kid dress up as another RACE. I mean, just don’t. Call me overly PC or whatever, but are there really so few options out there that you need to indulge your child’s desire to dress up in some bastardized version of someone else’s national or racial heritage? I mean, maybe you can dress your kid up as a specific PERSON of another race. Like, I guess, Pocahontas or something. Maybe. No, probably not. Unless you put a nametag on the outfit that says “Pocahontas” or otherwise makes it crystal fucking clear that you are paying homage, not being racist. But that still feels wrong. Maybe even more wrong than no nametag. I dunno. I’m not Native American. But maybe, just don’t do it. And that goes for the rest of your racist family.

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Finn and Tate have their costumes picked out. Black and white ninjas. With all the accessories, the costumes for both kids will cost a neat $150. But don’t worry. I have seven weeks to convince them that they want to dress up as their daddy instead, using his neckties and some of his cufflinks. The nice thing about your kids picking out their costumes seven weeks early is you get to enjoy the magic of Halloween for two months. What could be better?

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sorry kids. mommy needs that money for retinol

adios, iPhone

We’ve suffered for a long time at the hands of AT&T. I’m not about using my blog to trash companies, but it’s been three long years of not getting reception in our own house and spending ten minutes with a wailing toddler waiting for the “hippo and dog” YouTube video to load.

Last fall we went to a Blazers game with our friends Dave and Courtney. Tom and I looked up from worrying that neither of us had a single bar on our iPhones (how would the sitter reach us?), to see Dave watching live-streaming ESPN on his Verizon Android. Watching ESPN inside an arena! What the hell. I could not have been more shocked if Dave had started levitating. Tom looked like he was going to cry. From that night on, it was a race to the finish. To the finish of our two-year AT&T contract.

I blamed AT&T, and solely AT&T, for our troubles. But for Tom, the AT&T stink had permeated his iPhone, and he wanted nothing more to do with either AT&T or Apple. For eight months I got to hear him talk about his new phone, the one he would get when our contract was up. “Yoona, it’s a Samsung. Babe, it’s KOREAN. Aren’t you happy I’ll have a Korean phone?” Tom panders to my nationalistic tendencies only when he wants to buy electronics. I remembered him doing the same thing five years ago, when he was making a play for a 54″ flatscreen that promised to overpower our living room and wrestle it into submission. “Yoona, it’s an LG. It’s Korean!! Aren’t you happy we’ll have a Korean TV?”

A month ago, Tom came home with his iPhone, screen shattered. Did he shatter it himself with a hammer, in a moment of frustration? Perhaps. He says he dropped it. We were a month away from the end of our contract. He did his best to hang in, but I felt bad when he started getting bloody cuts on his fingers from the glass.

At the Verizon store, he ran to the Samsung Galaxy 4S on display. “Excuse me,” he said, loudly, to a passing salesperson. “I need to get this phone off this cord so I can feel it in my hand.” The four customers waiting in line before us looked incredulous. I started looking at a tablet and pretended I was shopping alone. It was no use. “Yoona!,” Tom shouted, from across the store. “Yoona!!!” Shit, people were starting to look. The jig was up. “Come here!! Look! It is so cool!!!”

I walked over to see Tom holding a phone that was approximately the size of a paperback novel. It even seemed like Tom couldn’t get his huge mitt comfortably around the thing. “Isn’t it a little big?,” I asked. “No, no, no,” Tom answered. “It’s perfect. Perfect for reading documents.” Right. I started to ask more questions but Tom had already run over to the accessories display to pick out his phone cover. He grabbed a hot pink OtterBox. “I need one of these in case my phone gets wet. Patrick has one. So does Andy.” Patrick is a chef and has his phone near liquids all the time. Andy fishes most days. The most liquid Tom’s phone was apt to get near was a double Americano. Still, it felt cruel to deflate Tom’s excitement.

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After our phones were procured, we left for a weekend with our friends Jess and Brett, at their mountain cabin. On the ride up, I watched from the driver’s seat as Tom continually used his finger to scroll past the same screen, showing a hot air balloon, on his new phone. It was clear that Tom had no idea what to do with his new phone, or how to get past the hot air balloon. I couldn’t resist baiting him. “So what do you like about your new phone?,” I asked. “Everything,” Tom replied, his tone warning me not to press.

“Like what, specifically?,” I asked. Tom looked annoyed. “Well, like how big it is.” I waited for Tom to continue. “And how pink it is.” Technically, he was talking about his phone cover, but I didn’t have the heart to correct him, because by now he was doing a spot-on imitation of Steve Carrell’s character in Anchorman (“I love…lamp“), and I was really enjoying the show.

“Also, I love my OtterBox,” Tom said. He looked at me as if daring me to respond. He must have been provoked by my general demeanor, because suddenly, he came out with fists swinging. “I don’t even know why you got a new iPhone. Apple sends all their money to Ireland. They don’t even pay taxes.” I’d poked the bear and it was poking back! I swallowed my retort that he’d had an iPhone until five hours ago, and let it lie.

Tom’s new phone promises to provide delights in the weeks and months to come. Will Tom use the clip-on belt holder in public, for example. How long will he continue to refer to it as “my Precious,” for another. I may report back.

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the puffy shirt

When I first started dating Tom, I immediately began trying to expand his fashion horizons, but I shot out too fast from the gate. My first gift was an oxford shirt. It was a normal oxford shirt, in blue cotton, unremarkable in all aspects except that it had a ruffly tuxedo panel on the front. It sounds bad but take my word for it that it was cool—a casual tuxedo shirt, meant to be worn with sleeves rolled up and khakis or whatever guys were wearing on their legs back in 1999.

Our relationship was nascent, and Tom was eager to please. So he feigned awe/delight at the shirt, and then shoved it deep into the back of his closet where it rested against his pile of bootleg Phish cassette tapes.

I think what really stuck in my craw about the tuxedo shirt is that I could have returned it. I have written before about my talent—nay, GIFT—for returning things. I would have returned the tuxedo shirt, albeit pissily. But he said he’d wear it, and never did. Eventually, the shirt became more than a shirt. It became a sign of my generous willingness to help guide Tom’s fashion choices, and his ungrateful rejection of my benevolence. To this day, any time I try to get Tom to try wearing anything different, he drags out the dead carcass that is the Memory of the Tuxedo Shirt. “Yoona, I can’t wear this! It’s like that tuxedo shirt.” Or, “Yoona, remember the tuxedo shirt. I never wore the tuxedo shirt. And I’m sure as hell not wearing THIS.”

You’d think I was trying to convince him to wear, like, a cape. Or ass chaps. But it’s usually something completely innocuous, like a t-shirt in a smaller size, a size that fits. I just want him to try something outside of his normal casual wardrobe, which is either jeans and button down, or shorts and a too-large v-neck t-shirt. He always looks good. But he could look GREAT if he’d just push the envelope a bit.

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linds. and tom, in standard tom dress

Last week I saw a blue and white striped boatneck shirt at H&M. You know, the type sailors wear. I’d been trying to get Tom to try one, for years. The last time, we’d been at American Apparel and I knew it was pointless to even ask, because it was hanging between some men’s v-necks cut to the navel and a rack of neon banana hammocks.

But this time, I felt like I had a shot. After an initial struggle, Tom had recently worn a t-shirt with a wide scoopneck that showed off a mantastic amount of chest hair. With that victory in my mind’s eye, I paid for the sailor top and drove home, considering my approach. I couldn’t make a huge production of it. Best to go lo-fi. Under the radar. To present the shirt as if he had twelve other striped boatnecks sitting in his closet.

“Hey babe,” I said, passing him in the doorway. “Oh,” I said, tossing him the yellow bag. “I picked this up for you today.” And then I went to the kitchen to start making dinner. But he followed me, agitated. He held the shirt away from his body as if it was a lace thong. “What’s this? I can’t wear this. It’s a girl shirt.” I began talking, fast. “Tom. It’s not a girl’s shirt. It’s a sailor shirt. Male sailors have worn them for years!!” Tom looked unconvinced, but confused. Confusion is always the first sign that Tom’s resistance is weakening. So I went for the jugular. “I mean, Tom, do you want to look like everyone else?”

Tom, like most men, has a streak of vanity, and I could tell by the set of his jaw that by God, Tom didn’t want to look like everyone else. When victory is imminent, you have to just leave it alone. Press too hard, and they can turn on you, like some feral animal. I walked out of the kitchen and went to water the plants at the front of the house.

Next thing I knew, Tom was on the front lawn, looking mouth-wateringly good in his striped sailor top. He looked like a Kennedy. A hot Kennedy, not a puffy one. Even better, he had a sheepish, tentative smile, as if he was getting comfortable with the notion of looking that fine.

And then my damn six-year old ruined everything. Finn ran over from a lawn two neighbors down as if his hair was on fire. He screeched to a halt right under Tom’s chin. “DADDY.” Finn’s expression was alarmed. “Why are you wearing Mommy’s shirt??”

Tom swore under his breath and turned back for the house, already pulling the shirt off his torso. I resisted the urge to kick my own son in the shins and ran after Tom. “TOM!! Don’t listen to him!! He’s SIX for godsake. Look how HE dresses!!” I heard Tom run up the stairs, likely in search of one of his boring too-big t-shirts. And then I heard another voice, hammering the nail into the coffin. My three-year old, Tate, stopping as he passed Daddy on his way down the stairs. “Daddy! Why you wear Mommy’s shirt?”

Tom stormed the rest of the way up to our closet. When Tate got to the bottom of the stairs clutching his Pokemon binder, I observed that his penis was dangling out the bottom of his Gangnam Style t-shirt. I couldn’t believe Tom was listening to this pantless freak, instead of me.

I eventually got Tom to wear the sailor shirt out of the house, but I had to use some serious emotional blackmail. In all, the process was very exhausting, for a shirt that cost $24.95. He says that he’s never wearing the shirt again, now that I’ve written about it here. He wouldn’t wear his calculator watch for months after I wrote about it. But time heals all.

And he WILL wear the shirt again. You can help by not commenting on this blog post if he does.

smells like a dad

Every day is father’s day in my house. That’s my line and I’m sticking to it.

Unfortunately, there is an actual Father’s Day on the calendar, and it’s Sunday, June 16, and if your husband is like mine, he’s been dropping hints about his gift for a solid month.

To be fair, Tom stopped dropping hints when we got our last Amex bill. Now he drags a huge imaginary cross across the floor saying things like “I don’t need presents,” or alternatively, “We can’t afford presents.” The latter is particularly cutting because the implication is that we can’t afford presents because I spent all our money on fripperies. Wait, where was I going with this post?

Right, Father’s Day. It’s in the works. Tom requested a ratchet set, so I’m working on that, even though every time I buy tools for Tom I feel the money would be better spent as kindling for a bonfire. When we first got married Tom bought a bunch of tools at Home Depot. I remember an orbit sander, in particular. He sanded a lot of stuff for a while, down to the nub. Today, despite the fact that he never uses his own tools, he continues to light up when he hears about the tools of others. “Wait,” he asked our neighbor Bill last night, while taking out the trash and discussing (theoretical) shelf-building, “You have a chainsaw?”

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Tom’s not getting a damn chainsaw for Father’s Day. He’s getting a ratchet set, as soon as I figure out exactly what that is, and assuming Amazon Prime sells it. And then he’s getting some cologne.

Tom has come a long way in his personal grooming. When I first met him I would watch in horror as he would wash his face with soap and then strip it with cotton balls soaked with Kiehl’s astringent. That was it. No moisturizer, no after shave, no nothing. The cotton balls would leave little puffs of cotton residue on his dry, thirsty face. I have no idea where he learned to do that, but it was less a skincare regimen than an exercise in self-flagellation.

He’s come a long ways, my Tom. But he’s always dismissed cologne as an unnecessary step in his grooming. And you might agree. But scent is a dangerously powerful thing. My first boyfriend wore Obsession, an ambitious choice for an 18-year old, but the scent of it on his skin has left an imprint on my brain and I can’t shake it no matter how hard I try. And don’t get me started on Drakkar Noir. My love of Drakkar Noir and the songs of Nickelback are the two things that most negatively impact my self-regard, but the heart wants what it wants.

Anyway, Tom seems to want some cologne. A few weeks ago, while we were getting ready to go out, he grabbed a scent out of my hand and spritzed it on himself. It was amusing the first time, but then he kept doing it. I love Tom but there’s a chance that the cologne could smell better on him than me, and I can’t have that. So I’m on the hunt. To find Tom’s signature scent. Something that makes him smell like this:

More or less, anyway. I’ve admired this ad for years but I fear that M7 may not be the cologne for Tom. The ad copy promises that M7 embodies “male sensuality,” but I don’t know if anyone at Tom’s office needs to experience that. I’ll probably go with something cleaner, more bracing. I’m soliciting recommendations. Please help.

the hangover

School auctions are dangerous. Right up there with shark attacks and thong bodysuits. Auctions for pet causes are bad enough. But an auction for your kids? Game over. Because your kids—they need things. To refrain from buying stuff at a school auction would be tantamount to stunting your kids’ emotional growth, something you’re already doing plenty of by leaving them at school to earn a living. Combine all that with an open bar, and you’re looking at a wicked hangover the morning after.

The morning after this year’s auction, I woke up feeling panicked. I remembered the night before, but only the aura of it. None of the details. And I knew there were details. How much had I spent? I knew there had been alcohol. I recalled that. But how much alcohol? I had gulped down a fortifying cocktail on the way in, to try to forget that I was dressed, ridiculously, as an aging hipster. After that, I couldn’t recall any drink in particular.

I looked through the photos on my phone. I was either holding a drink and/or looked drunk in all of them. Oh my God. How much had I spent???

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I laid in bed under my covers and concentrated on remembering details. I knew I’d raised my paddle for new science equipment. But that’s ok. I mean, who can’t get behind science equipment? My boys would need to learn science if they were to become billionaire oligarchs. I knew I’d bought a berry picking trip with my kids’ teachers. Best money I’d spent all night, if I was to judge from years prior. But there was something else, wasn’t there?

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I kept scrolling through pics. My friend Caroline (in top hat) is always the cool girl in the room who seems up for anything. And that’s a really bad trait to have around when it comes to auctions. As for Mollyanne (neck tats), she’s got so much joie de vivre that you can get a contact high if you stand too close to her. Sitting between these two had clearly been my first mistake. Especially since Caroline’s husband Aaron, a relatively calm and mitigating influence, was in Asia on business. As for Tom, photos confirmed that he’d not been in a state to stop me from doing anything.

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I remembered Caroline, at some point, pointing to an item in the catalog. That’s right. A tango party! For seven couples! How sophisticated! How droll. I remembered telling her we’d go in on it, together. I remembered a lot of my arm, up in the air, waving my bidder number around, high from the wine and the energy in the room and Mollyanne’s woohoo’ing. I remembered Tom, fake moustache dangling, lunging across the table to take my bidder card away from me. I remembered being annoyed that Tom was harshing my buzz.

Alas. If only he’d harshed my buzz a little harder, I might have thought through the tango party a bit. Questions might have popped up. Legitimate questions. Like, would I have to wear tango shoes? I look really bad in mid-heels. Or: how would I blackmail Tom into attending a party at which he was required to dance in front of other people? And my God—what about the other couples? Even assuming Caroline could manage to drug Aaron and then lead his unconscious body around on the dance floor, that meant we’d need to find five other couples willing to humiliate themselves. Why hadn’t I thought of all this the night before??

Over the next few days, I pieced together the rest of that fateful night. A couple days later at pickup, I found a ceramic platter laying out on a table at the school with my name on it. I didn’t remember bidding on it. Hell I didn’t even remember seeing it. But the platter was beautiful, and I was gratified to realize that my drunk self had excellent taste in serveware. I wondered how much I’d paid. I wanted to know, but apparently I didn’t really want to know, because when I saw the auction receipt peeking out of my kids’ file folder, I left it there for three whole days.

In the end, it could have been worse. I could have been Caroline. She texted me this photo, with a message: “Is there anything that I DIDN’T buy?”

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Caroline has a busy summer ahead of her. Learning how to tango, making salad rolls and Almond Roca. Canning jam, and attending a garden dinner in NW Portland. Enjoying a romantic idyll in Bali with Aaron…and her three sons. But it’s alright, both her spending and mine. Because it was for a good cause. The best cause.

drowning in legos

Growing up, my brother had a blue plastic box that was filled with Legos. It was the size of a small shoebox, and it had stickers on the outside and a handle, and he carried it around everywhere.

My kids have approximately eighty times the amount of Legos my brother had. I don’t know how it happened. Insidiously, over time. You buy a set or two, you have a birthday party and you receive ten sets, Grandma sends some through the mail. I don’t know. I just don’t know. I think about it a lot. How did we get here?

My older kid covets Legos, but then, once procured and built, could care less about them. Tate, however, really digs on Legos, most especially the people figures, which he calls “my guys.” He wants to take his guys everywhere, at really inopportune times.

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At New Year’s, we were late for a family party in Vancouver and I hustled to get him ready. “My guys! I need my guuuuuuys!,” he screamed. Increasingly with Tate, I understand why governments negotiate with terrorists. At that moment, I gave in, because giving in was less painful than listening to Tate sob for an hour while I munched on a handful of Advil. I ran to the play room, dumped out a box of Legos onto the floor, raked through them with my fingers, and picked out four figures, all missing heads or arms. I threw them into a tin lunchbox and ran back to the door.

As I hurriedly pulled on my shoes, Tate opened the lunchbox, and eyed the contents. And then he put on his angry face, which makes my heart clench up in terror. “I want Kendo Kai!!” Kendo Kai? Sounded like a Ninjago figure, but I couldn’t be sure. The only Lego figures I can consistently tell apart from any of the others are the R2-D2 figure and the Batman figure, who helpfully wears a bat mask. More crucially, I had a better chance of running into Christian Bale right there in my entryway than I did of picking out Kendo Kai from the metric ton of Legos in the playroom. I exhaled an impatient breath. “Tate, we’re late. You have one minute to pick your Legos, and then we have to go.” Tate strolled to the playroom, picked through the Legos, and made a selection for his lunchbox, a process that took approximately three hours. We finally made it back to the entryway, and put on his shoes. When he stood up, his lunchbox opened over the heating register and all the pieces fell through the grate. And that’s when the real screaming began.

Legos cause a lot of drama in my house. For instance, the three panicked hours on Christmas Eve when Tom and I drove around Portland in separate cars trying to find a Ninjago set for Tate. Annoyingly, the only thing I could think in my panic was that, being 3, Tate wasn’t even close to being in the recommended age range for the Ninjago sets. At this rate, he’d be stealing scotch from Tom’s cabinet when he turned 8. What kind of crap parents were we? But all the anxiety faded when Tom texted to say that he’d located a Ninjago set at Barnes & Noble. Anyway, all the drama was worth it, for this moment, on Christmas morning.

The Ninjago incident was nothing compared to the Falcon debacle. When the Millennium Falcon came in the mail from Grandma Johnson, Tom took one look at the box and put it on top of his bookshelf. “WTF, it has 1254 pieces. I’m waiting for Matt,” he told me. Tom’s brother-in-law Matt is the kind of guy who wears shorts year-round and knows how to de-bone a chicken in 12 seconds. He is McGyver. This year he glued on a cabinet door in my kitchen, fixed a broken doorknob, sharpened all my knives, and pounded my misshapen mixing bowl back into round with a wooden spoon. Anyway, when Uncle Matt arrived a week later for the holidays, he and Tom began the process of building the Falcon. It took about six hours, on and off, to complete. The finished product was a beaut.

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Once built, the only thing Tate wanted to do is play with that Millennium Falcon. To open the flaps at the top, to put his guys in it, to take his guys out of it. But having expended considerable energy on its creation, Tom wasn’t about to let Tate touch the Falcon. Instead, he put it up in our bedroom, out of easy reach. Every morning for three days, Tate would come upstairs at the crack of dawn and try to touch the Falcon. And Tom would gently swat his hand away and tell him that the Legos—the Legos were not for playing. It sounds heartless, but if you’ve ever built a large Lego set, maybe you can sympathize. The Falcon was built layer by layer, with hundreds of pieces you can’t even see comprising the framework. It looked to be virtually impossible to reconstruct once taken apart. What drove Tom was not cruelty, but fear.

On the fourth day, I woke up late, to an ominous silence. I blinked my eyes to adjust to the dim light in our bedroom, and made out a fuzzy shape at the foot of our bed. I put on my glasses and realized it was Tate, standing with a gray roof flap from the Falcon in his hand. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. How long had he been in our room while we’d been sleeping?? I jumped out of bed and ran to the sitting room to assess the damage before Tom woke up.

In the next room, Tate and I both stared at the Falcon, now missing half of its top and much of its battle gear. Tate looked freaked out, as if he’d sleepwalked to the kitchen and woken up to find himself eating a package of uncooked bacon. I wanted to repair the damage and protect Tate from Tom’s wrath, but where to begin? To me, even in its finished form, the Falcon had looked unfinished. Now, I had no idea what parts were complete and which had had pieces torn off of them by Tate. “Buddy,” I whispered to Tate as I began sticking random Lego pieces onto the Falcon, “it’s not looking good for you.” Tate whimpered.

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When Tom eventually lurched into the room, he grabbed his hair in two handfuls and gave a silent scream. Then he took the Falcon and hid it, in the closet in his man room, where it sits to this day, giving joy to no boy or girl.

This morning, Tate asked if I wanted to play with his “pod racers.” I looked at the toy in his hand, and did a double take. I recognized those gray pieces: the roof flaps from the Falcon. And as I looked at his charming little creation, I remembered that this—spontaneous creativity—was why we put up with all the Legos. I gave Tate a snug and threw a mental fist bump to the Lego gods in appreciation.

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so uncool

Trying to save money always leads me to bad places. Like my hair dryer, for example. About three years ago, my Conair died. The lady at Trade Secret showed me the options, which all cost over $100.

$100? My Conair had cost something like $14.99. Seeing my hesitation, the salesperson paused. “I have a really good dryer that’s been marked down to $25,” she said. “But it’s a weird color.” Who cares what my hair dryer looks like, I thought. And that’s how I ended up with my Ed Hardy hair dryer.

It’s a hell of a dryer. My mom tried to take it to Korea until I reminded her of the voltage issue. Still, it’s ugly and racially offensive and I have to hide it when guests use my bathroom, and all that leads me to wonder if the savings of $75 was worth it, in the long run.

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I thought of my hair dryer this week as I bought my new skis. The guy helping me at the ski shop, who I should probably refer to as “T,” was about 25 and totally adorable. He reminded me of my high school boyfriend, who skipped a lot of school to go snowboarding, and once wrote me a love letter in which he referred to me throughout as his “Angle.” He wasn’t an academic, but he knew his gear, and I felt similarly trusting of T.

When I told T my budget, he looked depressed. But then he lit up. “Actually, I have a ski that would be great.” He took me over to a pair of white Dynastars. “I’ve skied this twin-tip, it’s awesome and has great control,” he said. “It’s on closeout, because of the design on it.” I looked closer. Ah. No wonder. There was a pink kiss mark on the design. So cheesy. And worse, the kiss made the skis look even more like girl skis, which they clearly were, because they were white. The skis also had an unfortunate label that said “Trouble Maker.” I’m not a trouble maker. In fact, the thought of making trouble of any kind stresses me out.

But the skis had been marked down to $199, including bindings. Less than my last pair of jeans. Tom would be so proud that I’d saved money. “Pretty bad,” I said, smiling at T. “But I can live with it for the price.”

T shook his head. “No, that’s not the bad part.” He rotated the skis to show the bottoms, which look like this.

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My God. I couldn’t believe you could put a picture like that on sporting equipment. I fought the urge to throw my coat over the skis. I couldn’t buy them. I would be ridiculous. But $199! Almost the same price as a season rental. “You aren’t just saying they’re good skis to get rid of them, right?”, I asked. T shook his head. I asked that question because I couldn’t ask the one I really wanted to ask, which was “You aren’t just saying they’re good skis because you’re high, right?” It seemed wrong given that he was at work and all.

I looked around at all the normal skis that didn’t have naked women on them, and nibbled nervously at my fingernails. It was so unfair. You shouldn’t feel like you have to sell your soul in order to save a little money.

In the end, I bought them. I told myself they could be ironic. But the buyer’s remorse started almost as soon as I left the store. I remembered that I’m 35, which makes me about five years too old to buy something uncool and pass it off as ironic. I am exactly old enough, however, that someone looking at me in those skis might think that I actually thought the skis were cool. After sleeping on it, I panicked afresh when I called T the next morning to ask him a question about my boots, and he didn’t even remember me at first, which leads me to the conclusion that he was in fact totally stoned when he sold me those skis.

Whatever. I saved money. I have that to cling to. Also, Tom really likes my skis, and keeps asking to look at them again. When Finn saw them, he stared at them wide-eyed and then laughed for a full minute, in a way that made me realize I would be the ridicule, not only of adults, but of children.

At least I saved some money.