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downers: sweaty pits

Finn is on the cusp of something. I don’t know if it’s the beginning of manhood, or the end of babyhood, but I’ll tell you this: it doesn’t smell right.

As usual, Cuz voiced it first. “Finn smells,” she said. I had noticed it myself, usually after one of his soccer games, but had been in denial, for months. Normally, Finn smells like warm, active boy—a very good smell. Possibly, the best smell. More and more often, however, that boy smell comes with a dash of Gouda.

I can’t even tell where the smell is coming from. At bathtime, I stuck my nose under his armpit as he grumbled about privacy. It didn’t smell good, but neither did it smell like cheese. I think it’s his feet. I almost keeled over this week when he sat down next to me and pulled his feet, sockless, from a pair of Nikes.

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How did this happen? Finn is half Asian, and Asians don’t have B.O. I know, because I know a lot of Asians. And in general, none of them smell as bad as white people. It’s not a scientific sample, but take the Asian and white guys I know. The Asians might smell like a shit ton of Polo Sport, but they aren’t going to smell like rotting vegetable matter, like Tom does after a summer day in a suit. I’m just saying. Sidle up to an Asian after your gym class. Maybe not exactly roses. But not so bad, either. I can’t explain it. Might be the lack of body hair.

It sure as hell isn’t the lack of sweat. I am 100% Asian and I sweat profusely in situations requiring even the most minimal amount of physical exertion. Once, after a Zumba class, I passed by a nice old lady in the locker room. “I hope you enjoyed your swim!,” she chirped. Listen, friendly people: sometimes, it’s better not to make assumptions. Sometimes, in fact, it’s best not to say anything at all.

At least my sweat doesn’t smell. I know, because, duh, I’ve touched my sweat and smelled it.

Sweating really creates issues when it comes to clothes. I remember when I wore a pair of tight pants to go dancing, way back in college. They call it vegan leather now, but back then it was called plastic. Imagine dancing in a hot room in skintight plastic pants. I’d dance for a few minutes and then go to the restroom to roll down my pants and sop up the sweat with toilet paper. For the record, it’s really hard to look sexy in your tight plastic pants if people think you have a weak bladder or uncontrolled diarrhea.

Sweat is also really bad with silk. I wear a lot of silk, because it drapes nicely over my A cups and skims over my love handles just so. But for me, even thinking about sweat while wearing silk results in immediate pit stains of man-sized proportions. I’ve spent many a wedding with something wedged under my arm, to hide the evidence. Try hugging someone with a wedding program tucked under one arm, and an evening clutch tucked under the other. Or don’t. Best to wait to be hugged in such scenarios. You can participate in the hug by leaning in. I’m a great leaner.

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linds and me, leaning

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time googling stuff like “extreme sweatiness” and “excessive sweatiness” and “does Certain Dry cause cancer.” Linds turned me onto Certain Dry, which she says keeps your armpits sweat free. I’m sure Linds wouldn’t mind me sharing that as a white person, she worries about sweaty pits even more than I do. If there’s someone with B.O. in a room, she immediately assumes it’s her. Even I don’t do that. Anyway, the Certain Dry. It works, Linds says. Of course, she had to stop using it when it started causing her to scratch at her armpits uncontrollably in public. There’s always a catch. Why does there always have to be a catch?

Why can’t they invent a silk that makes sweat invisible? Can you put deodorant on a six-year old’s feet? That Asian you know who smells really bad? I’m all ears.

my game of thrones obsession

I am obsessed with Game of Thrones and it’s only getting worse.

Unlike my friend Kathryn, who has consumed approximately 20 hours of the show in the last two weeks while holding down a job, I started watching the HBO show from day one. That’s because I am a sucker for period dramas. And the commercials led me to believe that the show was a period drama, set in the Middle Ages. I didn’t realize the show had dragons in it until it was too late. Dragons, as everyone knows, are shorthand for nerdsville. And I left nerdsville at least ten years ago.

The reason I got hooked on Game of Thrones early on is this character, whose name is Drogo, but who I referred to throughout 2011 as “my boyfriend.” His pecs, as you can see, are seriously distracting. As is the perfectly applied eyeliner. But it’s really the beard that gets me.

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Before you start being all worried for Tom, consider that the guy who plays Drogo is actually the real-life husband of Lisa Bonet, on whom Tom has had a crush for approximately three decades. Lisa Bonet is a real person so she could THEORETICALLY fall in love with Tom, whereas Drogo can’t fall in love with me because he’s pretend. So really, the person you should feel bad for is me.

Back to Drogo. In case you think I’m weird, most women who watch the show think Drogo is hot. Linds thinks he’s hot and she doesn’t like muscular men, or beards. Cuz says he’s a H2 check on her hotness scale. Cuz’s hotness scale, called BUNAH, is super complicated, but basically an H2 check means, Cuz would tap that.

As for me and Drogo, our romance was shortlived, because (SPOILER ALERT) he dies at the end of Season 1. I got over it quickly, though, because Game of Thrones is literally ground zero for hot bearded men. Witness:

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Robb Stark here starts out as a boy in Season 1 but morphs into a full-grown hottie by Season 3. I attribute it less to any physical transformation and more to the fact that Robb becomes King of the North and therefore becomes very powerful. Power is hot.

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Jon Snow is also a Stark but is illegitimate. So he has a chip on his shoulder and an outsider’s mindset, which means he’s your classic tortured hero. His storyline forces him to be in cold places all the time, so I don’t know what his chest looks like. But he looks good in fur. Sometimes you just have to go on faith.

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Jaime Lannister is a really bad guy for the first two seasons, but (SPOILER ALERT) something really bad happens to him in Season 3, and then he gets all humanized. Personally I found him hotter as a bad guy, but whatever. I had this same issue with Eric the Vampire from True Blood, who went from being a stone cold fox in the first few seasons to turning into a mealy-mouthed nice guy in the latter seasons. What could be less hot than a nice vampire? Nothing. Anyway, back to Jaime here. His character pushes a kid off a castle wall and has sex with his own sister. None of that detracts from his looks, of course, which are exceptional.

It doesn’t even gross me out to think that if any of the characters above actually existed, their beards would have lice and bits of mutton in them. Nor does it bother me to know that in real life, the actors who play these men are very short. I have a feeling that the guy who plays Jon Snow is like, 5’2″. All I know is, I saw him in a fashion spread in GQ and something wasn’t right. Nothing wrong with being 5’2,” of course. But I’m almost 5’9″. It ruins the fantasy of having a hot bearded guy at my disposal when I have to think about kneeling down to make out with him. But whatever, it doesn’t matter. Because it’s a fantasy. Game of Thrones gets that. I get that.

I wish I could say I’m just into the TV show. But I can’t. I’m deep in the throes of the third book, which is very well written, and in which major stuff starts happening. I’m roughly three or four chapters ahead of where the show and Tom are, which results in Tom and I bonding in the following fashion:

Yoona: “Tom. Shit just got REAL in the book.”

Tom: (wide eyed, sits down). “OK. You have to tell me. Immediately.”

Yoona: “Do you really want to know? Because it’s crazy.”

Tom: “I WANT TO KNOW I WANT TO KNOW I WANT TO KNOW!!!”

Yoona: (disclosure of major plot points).

Tom: “Hoo boy.” (Pause). “Who’s Arya, again?” Then: “Why did you tell me all that?”

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Short bearded guys on TV come and go. But there’s only one real-life Tom. He’s 6’4″ and all mine.

Happy Birthday my love.

wisdom from cuz

Well, it’s happening. Cuz, who has lived with us for about a year, is leaving. Off to architecture school. We will miss her. Cuz is hard to describe, but imagine a 5’5″ ball of sass rolled in black eyeliner, leather, and Haribo wrappers.

Tom will miss his TV and sugar buddy. Cuz’s appetite for television is almost equal to Tom’s. He complains that since she moved in, all the TVs in the house are always set to Bravo. I don’t watch, but I can’t imagine the actual episodes of Married to Medicine being any more entertaining than her verbal recaps.

I will miss watching Cuz and Tom’s epic sugar battles. Like when Cuz brought home a half-gallon of Cake Batter ice cream, which she doesn’t even like, just because she knew it was the one flavor Tom wouldn’t eat. I witnessed the shitstorm that ensued when Cuz discovered that Tom had eaten the entire container anyway, after a late-night Game of Thrones bender.

I will miss Tom’s confusion over Cuz’s grooming habits. “What is she DOING in there??,” he will hiss at me, when Cuz has been in the bathroom for a long while. As if I would know. I assume it’s her skincare regimen.

I’ll miss Tom and Cuz’s ragtag laundry assembly line, in which Cuz will wash ten consecutive loads of laundry, Tom will fold all of it, and then neither of them will put any of it away, resulting in this log jam in my bedroom, which stresses me out not at all.

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Tate will miss Cuz’s skills at inserting tiny little weapons into the hands of tiny little lego figures. He will miss her shrimp fried rice.

But of all of us, I suspect it’s Finn who will miss her the most. They’ve had some epic battles, Finn and Cuz. From the start, Finn has been confused by Cuz’s status in the hierarchy of our household, a confusion that has been aided by the fact that Cuz has a baby face and is not that much taller than Finn.

But Finn and Cuz—they talk. They talk about stuff that Finn doesn’t talk about with me, or his dad. I usually only hear about it secondhand, after the fact. Like on our way to the dentist, when Finn sat in the back of the car wringing his hands like Lady Macbeth and muttering to himself about cavities. “How does he even KNOW about cavities?,” I whispered to Cuz, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. “Oh, because of me,” she answered, blithely. “I told him I had cavities when I was a kid and that they hurt really, really bad.”

I wouldn’t have delivered the message in quite that way. But Finn now wants to brush his teeth. Like, all the time. Such is the power of Cuz.

Best of all are Cuz’s lessons on more abstract topics. Like the rigors of fame.

Finn: “I want to be a good soccer player so I can be famous like Lionel Messi.”

Cuz: “You know, Finn, fame isn’t all that great.”

Finn: “What do you mean?”

Cuz: “Well, when you’re famous, people hate you. Like Robin Van Persie. Remember when he played for Arsenal and everyone loved him? Well now he plays for Manchester United and everyone in London hates him. You wouldn’t want everyone to hate you, right?”

Finn: (confused stare).

I couldn’t have eviscerated the glamour of fame any more efficiently. And she did it using terms Finn understands.

It will be hard to replace that kind of wisdom.

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zucchini bread for liars

I suspect that vegetables are a relatively boring topic for anyone who 1) doesn’t have kids, or 2) has kids who eat vegetables (I hate you), and for that I apologize. For me, the only time I stop thinking about how to get my kids to eat more vegetables is every couple months when my brain shorts out and forgets to think about the topic out of sheer exhaustion.

We all know an adult who will only eat hamburger meat and chicken nuggets. My older kid, Finn, is like three Happy Meals away from becoming that societal freak. If he turns into that guy, I will kill myself. I really will.

Last week I asked Finn, as I do every few weeks, if he was enjoying the carrots in his lunch. Yes Mommy, he nodded, as usual. But that day, I don’t know—maybe he looked away a beat too long—something made me ask again. Finn squirmed in his seat and began staring at the far wall. Then things went all to hell.

“You have been eating your carrots, right?,” I said, thinking of the 500 or so baby carrots I’d packed in his lunch over the past six months.

(Long pause). “Wellll. Sometimes I don’t eat my carrots,” Finn said.

(Longer pause). “Sometimes?,” I asked, nibbling a nail. “Or all the time?”

Finn looked like he was going to cry. “All the time, mommy,” he said.

Man. Secretly I think I always knew he wasn’t eating those damn carrots. There were signs that I chose to ignore. Like the one morning I casually handed him a baby carrot at breakfast while I was packing more carrots in his lunch and he took ten minutes to choke the carrot down, which he then promptly regurgitated. “But you eat these all the time at lunch!,” I said. Like an idiot.

Looking back, I clearly chose to turn a blind eye. Lying is no good, but my grown-up behavior was arguably worse. Finn probably felt that he needed to lie about eating the carrots in order to protect my emotional well-being. When I asked Finn’s lovely teacher for advice, as I always do when the going gets tough, she suggested, gently, that I stop packing the carrots for the time being. So no more carrots.

Anyway. A part of me is glad that’s all worked out and the sham is over and now I can go back to hiding vegetables in Finn’s food.

Zucchini bread is a passion of mine. I like mine moist, zucchini-heavy, and not too sweet. After many dozen loaves, I’ve worked out my standby recipe. It’s low on sugar, part whole wheat, yadda yadda, but here’s the best part–you can mix all the contents by hand. My stand mixer is a beast that weighs approximately 75 pounds. Increasingly I find myself looking for ways to avoid using it.

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If you have a food processor with a shredder blade, you can get this whole thing in the oven in 15 minutes. As part of his ongoing campaign to do harm in the kitchen in order to avoid being asked to cook, Tom accidentally lit my food processor on fire about a year ago and it still manages to get the job done with the zucchini, even though I have to stick my hand in the feed tube to get the motor to work. Just think how easy it will be with your fully operational Cuisinart.

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Zucchini Bread

Adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Ingredients:

1.5 cups all-purpose flour (spooned in to the measuring cup, not packed in)

1/2 cup + 3.5 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 large eggs

1/2 liquid cup vegetable, safflower, or canola oil

1/2 cup sugar (add more for sweeter bread–Beranbaum’s original recipe calls for 1 cup)

3 cups shredded or grated zucchini

1 cup chopped walnuts (or omit)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Move rack to rung below middle of oven.

2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

4. Whisk together eggs, oil, and sugar until incorporated in large bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Batter will be a little stiff.

5. Add zucchini, mix to incorporate with wooden spoon. The batter will begin to loosen as the moisture from the zucchini incorporates into the batter. Fold in walnuts, if using.

6. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 5 loaf pan. Or cheat and spray the pan with Baker’s Joy like I do.

7. Bake in oven for 55 minutes. Check with toothpick, if batter still moist, bake for another five minutes. Do not overbake.

8. Cool in pan for ten minutes. Run knife along outside edges to loosen, remove from pan and set on cooling rack.

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shot through the ear

I recently turned 36. I’m a fatalist. Anything above 35 and I’m 40. If you’re older than 40, don’t be offended. I’m looking forward to (the jewels I will hopefully receive from Tom at) 40. But I feel like I’ve barely settled into my 30s, and now I’m being forced along, and I really don’t want to go.

The signs are there that change is happening. I was at the mall and picked up a cute pair of flats from a display only to realize they were Borns. Fucking BORNS. Either Born no longer makes old lady shoes, or I’m developing old lady taste. At the gym, I flipped through an issue of More magazine and found every article to be highly resonant and relevant to my life. In fact, the magazine could have been called “Yoona: The Magazine for You.”

Once I noticed these small indicators that I was aging, I was resolved. I wouldn’t go gently into that good night. I would fight like a wild and untamed she-cougar. But how?

Good thing I have a 20-something in the house. Cuz showed me articles on Vogue and Into the Gloss about piercings, and said she was getting some. YES. I could pierce myself! My new piercings would reaffirm that I was young. That I had LIFE.

When I told Tom I was going to get a double helix piercing, he grimaced and went off in search of his jug of Advil. When I mentioned it again the next day, he turned mean. “Were you serious? Because Kathryn thinks you’re having a mid-life crisis.” Damn right I was having a mid-life crisis. Tom was lucky I liked my skin too much to tattoo “T&Y4 EVER” on my knuckles. I’d text Linds about the piercing, only to get supportive responses like “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Cuz herself was no help. She wanted to wait to do it in NYC at NY Adorned, and kept putting me off when I tried to set a piercing date.

Well. Game on, losers. Like a 13-year old, nothing makes me want to do something more than a passel of doubters. There’s a piercing parlor a block from my office, and it looked spacious and clean. On Yelp, it had almost all 5-star ratings. Done. I dragged Cuz in on a Thursday night.

The thing about piercing parlors is that they are intimidating for naturally non-subversive people like me. At Straight to the Point, they had a bunch of art on the walls showing piercings so crazy that I started to rethink the whole thing. It was like walking into a hair salon and noticing that all the photos on the wall are of Carrot Top. That might scare you. You might think, this place is not for people like me.

The jewelry on display made things worse. It’s not that the pieces were so large, it was that they were so foreign. They had a whole case with items that looked like wooden salad plates. No idea what they were for. See? That would be intimidating, right?

The parlor didn’t have the right equipment that first night so we left. Even if they’d had the equipment I’m sure we would have left. We needed time to get comfortable with this world we were entering.

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On Saturday outside the piercing place, I circled the block in vain, looking for a parking spot. After 15 minutes, I began to take the lack of parking as a sign that God didn’t want me to pierce myself. From there on out, I took everything as a sign of God’s disapproval. Once we got inside, a guy named Evan gave us our paperwork while I fought not to stare at the huge ring in his nose and the studs embedded into his skin near his eye. I asked him how piercings like those didn’t fall out.

“Oh, you just make a cut and then pop the stud in like the skin is a buttonhole,” Evan explained, cheerily. I gave a nonchalant laugh and promptly turned white as a ghost. I looked down and concentrated on my intake form. Had I had alcohol, it asked. Hell yes I’d had alcohol. Who went to a piercing place without having alcohol? “You’re ok if you had it with food,” Evan explained, when I looked up at him in hope. “Oh phew,” I chuckled, weakly. I filled out the rest of the form in a daze. I’m sure that Emily, my piercer, found it really helpful to learn that I’m allergic to cats.

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There were people ahead of us, so we waited outside the piercing room and chatted with Evan. “People don’t cry, right?,” I asked. “Oh, all the time,” he answered. I tried again. “But not, like, SOBBING, right?,” I clarified. “Sometimes,” Evan said, amiably. I began to wonder if Evan and the wall art were the parlor’s way of weeding out people who weren’t fit to pierce. Emily called us in to the piercing room just as the last of the wine from dinner wore off.

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Cuz got in the chair first. I watched her to assess how much pain she appeared to be experiencing. Her eyes got big for the first piercing, but no tears. She winced at the second piercing, but still no tears. I felt comforted. And her piercings looked amazing. After Emily sanitized the chair and pulled out new instruments, I sat in the chair and babbled incoherently about my grandpa and the time he accidentally ate my contact lenses while we were on vacation. Emily laughed, warmly. She marked in pen the spots in my ear where the holes would go, and then laid me back. As my chair reclined, I asked Cuz if it had hurt. “No,” she said. I relaxed. “Well, not the first. The second was really painful.” But by that point I was fully reclined and it was too late to run. “Take a deep breath,” Emily said. And then she stuck a needle into the outside of my ear. Twice.

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Anyway, it’s done. It hurt, but not as badly as contractions. Plus, I once heard that when you’re old, you feel pain less keenly. So there you have it. I’m not old.

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talking sh*t about my kids

A couple weeks ago, my friend Mandy sent me a video of her kid doing something funny, and then immediately expressed remorse because she’d invaded his privacy. I felt respect for Mandy in that moment. But it was the kind of respect I have for people who go on hunger strikes. Whenever I hear about someone on a hunger strike I try really hard to think of an issue I feel strongly enough to starve for, and always come up short. An end to man sandals, maybe.

Before that conversation with Mandy, it had never really occurred to me that my kids had privacy rights that could be violated, least of all by me. Clearly not, because I blog about them. I share details about my kids that will likely anger them in the distant future when they are old enough to read blog posts, although Tom won’t let me write about the really interesting episodes. But I rationalize that I feed them and clothe them, and once this blog really starts making some serious coin, they can take pride of ownership in the family enterprise.

Not going to happen, my friend Courtney likes to tell me. She regularly reminds me that once my kids get older, I’ll have to stop blogging about them. She’s right, of course. Thank God I’ll still be able to write about Tom.

I’ve been feeling badly since noticing recently that I talk a lot of shit about my 3-year old. Tate is very cute. I’m his mom and, being a realist, I’m also prone to suspicions that my kids are less cute than I think they are, but I’m pretty sure he’s objectively cute. And it’s a good thing he’s cute. Because if he wasn’t so cute, I might have left him at Whole Foods months ago, bundled up in a basket with a rolled-up wad of cash and some Legos.

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Finn was 3 at some point. But Finn was never like Tate. There’s the first parenting no-no: comparing your kids. I can’t help it. If you go through an experience once, it’s human nature to expect a similar experience the next time around. Finn was energetic and Cuz remembers that he was mean at that age, but he has always hated getting in trouble. Tate could care less about doing the right thing. I blame this trait on Tom’s Caucasian genes, because Koreans are all about doing the right thing.

I might tell Tate not to kick a ball in the house. He will look at me, give a toothy grin, and then drill me in the face with the ball. I have no tools in my parenting toolkit to deal with stuff like that. I mean, I do, but Tom, being a liberal white person, frowns on spanking. Sometimes I have to pretend like I didn’t feel the ball hit my face, just to buy myself time to figure out what to do. FUCK!, my mind screams. WHAT DO I DO??? During moments like that I swear I can feel the weight of all my Korean ancestors looking down on me and shaking their heads in collective shame.

We worry so much as parents because we love our children more than cheap words can express. I know Tate will be ok. Even in my bleakest moments I have respect for his strong will, a quality I’m still hoping to develop at the age of 36, as related to food and portion control. Also, I try to remember that he’s 3.

This too shall pass. I know that because my friends say so. Friends like Mandy, who love and worry about their own children. And that’s why I talk shit about my kids, I guess. Being honest about how scary parenting can be makes me feel less helpless. It makes me feel less inadequate. It makes me feel less alone.

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mini las vegas

I got some funny looks when I told people that I was taking the kids to Vegas for Spring Break. Tom and I, despite our staid outward appearances, really enjoy Vegas. We don’t gamble, but we eat like pigs, and window shop, and walk around hand-in-hand gawking at how short everyone’s skirts are. Then we fall asleep at 10:00 PM after eating Doritos from the minibar and watching ESPN. It’s the best.

Our itinerary was so kid-friendly that it sounded completely lame when I’d tell friends about it. I started wondering why we were going to Vegas at all. We were booked at the Four Seasons, chosen primarily because it had no casino, and because it had a 18″-deep kiddie pool. Any parent who’s booked a relaxing vacation only to spend a nervous week worrying that their kid will drown, knows how important it is to have a kiddie pool.

The Four Seasons was predictably great but its kiddie pool is about as big as a hot tub. In fact, I suspect that it is a converted hot tub, because there’s a sign next to it about pregnant women hot tubbing at their own risk. The kids took one look at the kiddie pool, threw their shoes into it, and then asked to play with my iPhone. It worked out, though. We had access to the “beach” at Mandalay Bay, so we hung out there for the better part of three days. In general, everything was fine as long as we stayed near our hotel. Once we left the hotel, things got dicier.

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On our first day in Vegas, we went to lunch at the Rainforest Cafe at the MGM Grand, because it has fake animals in it and I stupidly thought the kids would just love that. After waiting 30 minutes in line, we sat down at a table surrounded by a group of animatronic gorillas who would beat their chests amidst strobe lights at regular, five minute intervals. Both kids began crying the first time it happened. Tom helpfully chose this point in time to remind me that the last time Finn had been to the Rainforest Cafe, he had hated it. The kids calmed down eventually but seemed too nervous to eat. Tom complained that his clam chowder tasted microwaved. Tense from the strain of showing my kids a good time, I bit into the cold onion ring sitting inexplicably on top of my burger, and wondered aloud why anyone would order clam chowder at a Rainforest Cafe.

After a nap and more swimming, we made our way to dinner at the Bellagio. On the way, our salty cabbie began waxing poetic about the “old” Las Vegas. The one that didn’t have kids. The one that had the bikini mud wrestling. Finn’s head, which had been focused on staring at the scandalous billboards outside, immediately snapped around. “What’s bikini mud wrestling?” I reacted as I always do when I’m confronted by a kid with a difficult question. I redirected. “Finn,” I said, pointing to the credit card machine in the back of the cab, “Look! It’s a computer.” Tate piped up from his seat. “Can we go to Rainforest Cafe?” “No,” Tom said. “It’s closed.” “For how long?,” Tate asked. “Forever,” Tom said.

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waiting for the pirate show

After dinner, we took off on foot for Treasure Island, where Tom assured me there was a fun, kid-friendly pirate show. Even better, it was free. We showed up at 6:30 for the 7:00 show and staked out a front row spot right in front of the pirate ship. While we waited, I killed time by watching an electronic billboard overhead advertising a show called “Sirens of TI.” It featured a bevy of scantily clad women and I turned the boys away from the screen to prevent more awkward questions. I wondered, idly, what “TI” was. Ah! Treasure Island. I watched more of the video. The scantily clad women were gyrating on a stage that looked like…a ship. A pirate ship. I felt a warning bell go off in my head, and tugged on Tom’s sleeve. “Tom. TOM. Are you sure this is a kid show?” But it was 7:00, and Tom was already focused on the stage. “The show’s starting!,” he said.

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I don’t know. Maybe the show was kid-friendly back in the 70s when Tom was a kid. The 2013 iteration is pretty spicy, and features a main character/stripper named “Cinnamon” who says she’s called “Cin” by all the seamen who have entered her cove. That was an actual line from the show. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed that Finn wouldn’t ask me what a seaman was. When the rest of the sirens joined Cin on stage to start their number, I started panicking in earnest. But Finn and Tom seemed transfixed by the spectacle. Tate was less impressed. “There’s only one boy,” he complained to no one in particular, in the middle of another dance number/group striptease.

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The show only lasted about 15 minutes and involved several explosions, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. After Cin and the Pirate Captain made out and slunk off to have sex in their “hideaway,” we began walking back towards the Bellagio to check out the fountains. The traffic on the Strip was a bear, and we were walking the same speed as the cars were driving. The car that was moving in pace with my family was a moving billboard advertising naked girls delivered to your hotel room. I put my body between Finn and the billboard and did my best to keep his eyes to the hotel side of the sidewalk. We stopped at the Mirage to look at the Volcano. We finally got to the Bellagio, where we got ice cream cones and cheered the fountains.

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The third day, we made our way to Circus Circus, because Circus Circus sounds like a place that would have stuff for kids. I had never been to Circus Circus and Tom tried to warn me ahead of time, but he did a really inadequate job of describing what a complete shit hole it is. It was by far the scariest place I have ever been in my life. Unlike the rest of the Strip, Circus Circus feels like it was built a long time ago, before concepts like ventilation, fire codes, and emergency exits came on the scene. Predictably, my kids were delighted by the nasty chaos and ran through the hotel, running their hands along all available surfaces, ignoring my pleas “not to touch anything.” We waited around for the free trapeze show. It was like 13 minutes long and I swear I could do most of those catches and releases if I went to a week of trapeze school. But whatever. My kids dug it.

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And that was the beauty of this vacation. My kids dug it, from start to finish. And Tom and I had so much fun seeing all the insanity through the kids’ eyes. That’s what vacationing with kids is all about, right?

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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.

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Ah, romance. We all want more of it. Even if you’re married, like me. ESPECIALLY if you’re married, like me. Sometimes I tell Tom that he could be more romantic. Flowers. A handwritten note. A surprise gift. After twelve years of marriage, the surprises can feel few and far between.

I’m equally to blame. Last Friday, Tom grabbed me in an impromptu embrace and tried to wrestle me onto the bed. In full daylight, with the kids only a floor away! What could be hotter? But the housekeepers had just visited. And our bed had just been made, to perfection. “TOM!! NOOOOOO!!,” I screamed, as he pushed me backwards onto the mattress. Tom sighed, his mood deflated, and then walked off to check scores. I smoothed out the duvet, assuring myself that all was pristine.

Or a couple weeks before that, when Tom tried to corner me in my closet. That time it was the overhead lights. All I could think about was how much my face looks like Alice Cooper’s under those lights. I don’t feel sexy when I feel ugly. I shoved Tom off of me and ran to pat some retinol on my face.

The more I thought about the romance thing, the worse I felt. If I wanted more romance, I shouldn’t just sit around waiting for it to be visited upon me. I would try a spontaneous gesture on Tom, in hopes of receiving spontaneous and expensive gestures in return.

At the mall, I moseyed into a See’s Candies to eat some samples, and saw a potato made out of chocolate.

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It was boxed in green and dusted with cocoa powder and it had little things stuck in it that made the potato look like it had eyes. All in all, I was charmed by the verisimilitude of the thing. It was so funny. A chocolate potato. For St. Patrick’s Day! SO spontaneous. Tom would love it. I bought one and rushed home, eager to begin the romance.

At home, I changed into my pajamas and placed the box on his pillow. And then I waited for him to come to bed. But then, I fell asleep. The next morning, Tom didn’t say a thing about the potato. I tried to be gracious about it, but I was annoyed.

“Did you see the thing I left you on your pillow?” Tom looked up from brushing his teeth. He rinsed, and then smiled. “Oh yeah! The potato. Super funny. Thanks babe.”

Thanks babe? That was it? Couldn’t he see that I was trying to be romantic? Getting dressed, I saw that he had left the potato on a shelf in the closet. I moved it to the bathroom, and placed it between our sinks.

And there it sat, for two weeks. After the first few days, I was mystified. Tom can eat a pound of Sour Patch Kids in one sitting. I’ve seen him cram an entire chocolate bar into his mouth. I know my man. He likes candy. So why wasn’t he eating the potato? I opened the box and took a small nibble. It was totally delicious. I closed the box back up and pushed the potato closer to his sink, right next to his shaving cream.

Every day the potato sat there, I felt rejected. And then one day, the potato was gone. Where was the GD potato? I sent Tom an email, and waited impatiently for his response.

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A wholly inadequate response, I felt. I’d given Tom a bouquet of flowers and he’d hit me in the face with them. He made it ten times worse when I confronted him by phone. “Babe. I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I had no idea it was that important to you. It just looked…gross. I mean, why would anyone want to eat a chocolate potato?” I sat there, speechless. I mean, he ate bags full of gummy candies that looked like little children. But Tom wasn’t done. He had some salt he wanted to rub into my wounds. “I mean, a part of it was already eaten and that made it even more gross, like a…like a RAT ate part of it or something.”

Anyway. Even though he rejected me and my romantic gift, it felt good to think about Tom, and to think about doing something nice for him. I feel like I’m flexing a muscle that’s rusty from disuse.

I’m already plotting my next act of romance.

garnier left me for dead

My beauty products keep getting discontinued and it has to stop. I’ve been left most recently by my favorite Nars cream blush, my eyelash curler, and most traumatically, by my Shiseido mascara.

You get burned enough times and you start taking preventative measures. Makeup is one thing, but my hair is another. Given how serious I am about my hair, I have long stockpiled hair products. I buy cans of my hairspray whenever it goes on sale. I had a couple weeks of satisfying styling with a mousse about a year ago and I started stockpiling that, even though our history together was brief and untested.

But I never bothered stockpiling my Garnier Surf Hair. For starters, it was always available. They sold it everywhere, even at Safeway. You know your hair product has entered the pantheon when they offer it at Safeway. And it was cheap. It was $3.60 with my Rite Aid 20% discount. To my mind, something that cheap couldn’t be worth the effort of discontinuing. For $3.60, the stuff gave my hair texture and volume without stickiness or shine. It was perfect. And I took it for granted.

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I should have seen the signs. I couldn’t find it the last couple times I was at Walgreens, but I figured it was a stocking issue. But then it happened again, at QFC. When it happened at my Rite-Aid, I stood in the aisle with my heart racing and braced my arm against the shelf. Breathe, I told myself. Surely it was a fluke. I pushed the red button near the razor blades and waited, pacing the aisle, for someone to come to my rescue. When the salesperson appeared, I told myself to act normal.

“Excuse me. Do you have any Garnier Surf Hair in the back? I’d like to buy eight jars.” The salesperson went to look, and then came back empty-handed to tell me that actually, she hadn’t seen the product in a while. Holy Mother. How had I gotten HERE? I considered asking her to open the razor blade display so I could put myself out of my misery, then and there. I impatiently waited for her to finish talking and then I raced to my car. Then I drove to Target, which is like 20 minutes from my house. If they didn’t have my Garnier at Target for $3.88, I would know that the idyll was well and truly over.

Well, they didn’t have it. I raided my drawers at home and at the gym and took inventory of my rations. The situation was dire, as I’d not bought any Garnier in months. I was down to one container, empty but for the paste stuck in the lid. Soon, I found myself thinking about Garnier Surf Hair around the clock. I’d use ever-smaller quantities of the stuff in an attempt to make it last, which resulted in bad styling that seemed an omen of the hair struggles to come. At dinners and cocktail parties, I’d find my attention drifting from conversation, as I wondered if I could concoct my own paste out of other, inferior styling products. At home, I hid the Garnier underneath the sink, so Tom couldn’t use any. I tamped down the twinges of guilt by telling myself that his hair looked essentially the same with product as it did without. But I was lying to myself. Because Garnier Surf Hair improves everyone’s hair.

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I hate everyone and everything associated with the demise of Garnier Surf Paste. I hate Garnier, who is offering a new formulation (“Power Putty”—how original) that is twice as expensive. I hate the friends who tell me I’ll find another hair product, and then recommend the product they’ve been using, which costs $22 per tiny jar. I hate the soulless pigdogs on eBay who see these things coming and stockpile discontinued product to sell it at obscene markups. I support the idea of a capitalist society, but not as it applies to me in this particular instance. Finally, I am annoyed at Tom, who, as a fellow user, is partially responsible for the global depletion of a most valuable resource.

But the most bitter of recriminations, I reserve for myself. Because I knew this could happen, and failed to act with either purpose or conviction. When I see my cans of stockpiled hairspray and stupid mousse I want to go back and do it all again. The mousse makes me particularly angry, because I haven’t used mousse (mousse!) in almost a year.

It’s sad to have hoarded hair products. But it’s even sadder to discover you’ve hoarded the wrong ones.