Monday, January 24, 2011

The inquisition, Mom-style.

Surrendering to Motherhood
Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
Monday, January 24, 2011

Moms are part parent, part private investigator. We always have to be a just a little suspicious. We have to consider all the angles and possibilities. We have to be skeptical. It’s our job.

Recently one Huffman girl got invited to a sleepover. As a parent of a teenager, I’ve discovered that meeting the parents of my teen’s high school friends isn’t as easy as when they were in elementary or middle school. So when the invitation came (via text message, which is so 2011), the first thing I did was ask my daughter for the phone number of the mom hosting the sleepover.

I know the mom by name, but we’d never met face-to-face or talked on the phone. Now this mom is probably a Perfectly Normal Mom like the rest of us. She’s likely not an axe murderer or sociopath. But I had to make sure. So I called Mrs. Sleepover and left her a message.

I tried to play it cool. This is what I said:

“Um, yeah, hi this is Mrs. Huffman, and I heard that you invited some girls over for a sleepover. Is that correct? Just checking, ha, ha, you know how these girls can be, making up plans without us actually knowing about it, ha ha! I was wondering who’s going to be at the sleepover, what time we should drop off, that sort of thing. OK, thanks, give me a call!”

Sounds pretty reasonable, right? This is what I really wanted to say:

“So you’re hosting a sleepover, huh? And exactly which responsible adult is going to be at home during this sleepover? Are you the kind of parent that thinks you can just disappear into your bedroom and leave 15 teenage girls on their own for a few hours? And what about boys? Are there any boys living at the home? Any teenage boys? Will they be invited to this so-called party as well? Do you have guns in the home? Any weapons, sharp knives or large axes on display?”

My imaginary inquisition continued.

“How about alcohol? Like to gamble? Bet on the ponies? Buy lottery tickets?”

“What’s your day job? Do you work for a Mafia boss? Hang out with methamphetamine makers? Like to grow marijuana in the attic?

“What kind of neighborhood do you live in? Any drive-by shootings lately? Any carjackings, Peeping Toms or kids throwing rocks at windows? Do you give out ‘good’ candy at Halloween?”

Part of the plan for the sleepover involved travel to a fundraising party/event at the high school. Sound harmless enough, right? Oh no, it only kicked my imagination into overdrive.

Who would be driving the girls to the school? What kind of driving record do they have? Ever gotten a DUI? Ever caused a car crash or run a red light? Jaywalked?

And what about this so-called fundraiser? Where is it at and who’s running this show? What exactly would the kids be doing and did it involve turning off the lights at any point? Would backpacks be searched? Drug-sniffing dogs on duty? Breathalyzer tests for teen drivers attempting to leave the party early?

While we are at it, who else is going to this sleepover? The kind of girls who have great ideas like “Let’s sneak out of the bedroom window and run down Jefferson Street at 2 a.m.?” or “Hey, how about a big drink of that peppermint schnapps in your parent’s liquor cabinet?” Inquisition Mom needs to know.

About the time I was wondering about fingerprinting and credit checks, Mrs. Sleepover returned my phone call. Before I could say anything, she gave me the complete run-down.

Just so you know, she said, this is strictly a girls-only sleepover. No boys will be at the house. And my husband and I will do all the driving to the school. We don’t want any teen drivers driving any of the other teens. And we will be home all night and be checking on the girls regularly so that everyone is behaving. We are very careful about our daughter and her friends, she said.

Yes, yes, of course, I said. I never thought anything else.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yodeling Ventriloquist Miss Arkansas!

I LOVED Miss Arkansas' amazing yodeling double ventriloquist act during the Miss America competition! When she and one other contestant were left standing at the very end of the show, I was sure she'd be the winner. But, alas, no. She had to settle for first runner-up (and a $25,000 prize, which is not to shabby, folks.).

Apparently I'm not the only one who loved Miss Ventriloquist. She has since appeared twice on David Letterman. Apparently, Letterman loves yodeling too!

We haven't seen this much interest in the Miss America first runner-up since Vanessa Williams had to give up her crown in 1984.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Miss America top 10!

Here we go Miss America fans! The competition starts tonight at 6pm PST on ABC. My top ten:

Miss Oklahoma
Miss Nebraska
Miss Alabama
Miss Rhode Island
Miss Hawaii
Miss North Carolina
Miss Michigan
Miss Delaware
Miss New Jersey
Miss California

Monday, January 10, 2011

Grin and Bear it.

Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
January 10, 2011

Let’s take the snow train to Reno, my husband said.

He was talking about Amtrak’s California Zephyr that travels from Emeryville into the Sierra and Reno before heading all the way to Chicago.

Sounds good, I said. Any trip where I don’t have to drive, navigate or stay awake is my kind of travel. The snow train would allow us a comfortable, heated view of some winter wonderland scenery. And best of all, it would drop us off just a block from our hotel in Reno.

Arriving in Reno and checking in at our hotel after our five-hour ride, the first thing the kids spotted was a huge arcade game area. They headed straight for the classic ring toss. Now, we all know how hard it is to actually land a ring on the top of those Coke bottles. It’s like they design those rings specifically to bounce right off.

But dad and the girls were not intimidated. Buying a bucket of red rings for $5, they got to work.

Each girl had a different tossing technique. One leaned in. One tossed quickly and another aimed very carefully.

Boing, boing, boing — the rings bounced wildly off the glass bottles.

I was highly skeptical. No one ever wins this game, I scoffed.

I noticed the prize for the game — a giant stuffed bear. This was the king of stuffed animals. It was five feet tall. The head of the bear was bigger than two human heads. The arms of the bear were longer than human arms. It’s a good thing this game is hard to win, I thought. We have enough c-r-a-p in our house. We do not need to bring a giant bear home.

And then I heard a “clink” sound. I looked down and sure enough, a single red ring tossed by dad had landed around a Coke bottle neck.

Woah! he shouted, raising his arms over his head.

Woah! the other players shouted.

Dad had won the giant bear. Grabbing his prize, he put the bear on his shoulders. He danced around with the bear. Our girls jumped around him with excitement.

Take my picture, he said.

Let me carry him, the girls said.

I admit I was excited for them, but Practical Mom was already wondering — how the heck were we going to get the bear home? I didn’t have an extra train ticket for a giant bear. Where would he fit in our already overcrowded house? And who was going to carry him around for the next two days?

We quickly learned that walking around a casino with a giant stuffed bear is like walking with a celebrity. Everyone looks. Everyone comments.

“Nice bear,” a security guard said.

“That is one big bear,” a middle-aged man carrying a racing form said.

“They won the bear!” a mom said to her kids as we walked around the arcade.

Two ladies parked at the slot machines smiled and laughed at my middle daughter who carried the bear, which was bigger than she was.

“How you gonna get that bear home?” someone else asked.

Good question. I started toying with the idea of leaving the bear behind. Maybe the girls would get tired of babysitting the bear in a few hours, I thought optimistically.

Perhaps we could park him in a chair at a slot machine. Surely someone would find him a good home. Someone who collects giant bears.

At lunch, the bear sat in an extra chair while the five of us ate. A volunteer senior citizen security guard drove his motorized cart over to our table.

“What’s the bear’s name?” he asked.

Gumbo, the girls said.

As he was talking, I casually checked out his cart to see if it had room for two. Maybe he’d like a bear companion with which to do his security rounds.

Near the elevators, a little boy about 3 years old came over to give the bear a hug. Then he started crying. I think the bear scared him. I crossed him off the list of adoptive bear guardians.

Upstairs in our hotel room, the girls posed with the bear for more pictures. Negotiations began on which bed the bear would sleep on that night. I wondered if how the hotel housekeepers might feel about getting a giant bear as a tip.

The next morning, we had to take two taxis just to fit the five of us, our luggage and the bear to the train station for the ride home.

The conductor didn’t say anything when the girls carried the bear on board. Seen one giant bear in Reno, seen ’em all, I guess.

The train was full, but that didn’t matter. The girls put the bear on the floor and rested their feet on him all the way home.

I knew that bear would be good for something.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Mad scientists!

Check out my Girl Scout troop going MAD for science at local discovery center, Scientopia!

Monday, January 03, 2011

That is some bear!

Look what Dad won for his girls on our trip to Reno! After winning this new friend at a ring toss game at Circus Circus, we have a new member of the family. He now sleeps on Allie's bunkbed.