Monday, November 25, 2013

Put a stamp on it.

Last week I spent about 17 too many hours fretting over ordering our family Christmas card. Choosing the family photos for the card wasn’t the hard part — I’d been forcing our girls into posing for group shots all year.
It was the rest of the card that gave me fits.
Like which uplifting phrase to choose to be printed next to our pictures.
Ask any parent of teenagers if any of the following sentiments sum up their year. Note: Make sure they’re not eating or drinking when you do.
“A year of love and laughter.”
“Blessings beyond measure.”
“Delightful days and merry moments.”
Or simply:
Really? Sparkle?
I would use a lot of words to describe 2013.
“Sparkle” is not one of them.
Next, each card also has a space to include a longer written message. Oh how I hate that space. I’m a writer. I love my words. But I just hate my words on a Christmas card.
I never know what to write. How do I describe a whole year in two paragraphs?
Use headlines? Verbs only? Adjectives only? Emoji icons? Hashtags? Censored with black boxes over the bad parts?
Write a glowing, five-star review of the “highlights”? Come up with a fake-sounding “happy news only” version?
Gag me with a Christmas spoon.
The truth is way too boring:
Mom and Dad didn’t get enough sleep. Teenagers got too much.
Children misbehaved in various appropriate and inappropriate ways.
There was grades drama. Boyfriend drama. Sharing-a-bedroom-don’t-touch-my-stuff drama.
A Huffman college student went to class. A Huffman college student did not go to class.
iPhone screens were shattered. Accidentally.
Teen Twitter accounts had to be suspended. A DMV driver’s permit test was taken four times.
There was rotator cuff surgery. Insurance deductibles were met. 5K races were run. 5K races were walked.
Too much money was “saved” using the Target red card. Way too much money was not saved buying caramel Frappuccinos and cake pops at Starbucks.
FasTrak violation notices were received. A dog wasn’t walked enough. A dog’s poop wasn’t scooped often enough. Laundry wasn’t always folded promptly. Dust on dressers was ignored. Stairs were definitely not vacuumed often enough.
Too much frozen food was served as “dinner.” Nobody ate enough vegetables. Nobody ate less ice cream. Not everyone made it to church every Sunday.
Ferrets were found living in a closet. Mice were found living under the house. 4-H rabbits multiplied in the backyard.
Children still aren’t able to kill spiders in bathrooms. The word “whatever” was heard way too often. Eye-rolling will likely continue into 2014.
Is there a card for that?
I didn’t think so.
I’ll just order the “Sparkle” one instead.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Choose your battles

I’m supposed to be teaching our 16-year-old how to drive, but it looks like I’m the one who should be studying the DMV manual.
Can I blame it on Halloween? Because it was Oct. 31 when I had my run-in with the law. OK, it was a meter maid, but she wore a uniform and had a shiny badge. And instead of a gun, she had one of those handheld computer thingies aimed at my car.
I can explain. School tradition says eighth grade throws the annual Halloween carnival. So there I was last Thursday in the parking lot of the youngest Huffman’s school, wearing my witch hat and glittery witch cape. I was working at the nail polish booth painting Strawberry Shortcake’s fingernails when I heard our principal announce: “Parents, if you are parked illegally, move your car.”
I’m not parked illegally, I said to myself. I know not to park at a red curb, and a green curb and all the other colored curbs. I know not to block driveways or park in disabled spots. Because I am such a know-it-all, I just knew that it was OK that I happened to be parked next to a silver fire hydrant.
I was in that state of denial, the one where you think: “My car is fine parked next to that silver fire hydrant because the red ones are the only important fire hydrants.” That kind of denial.
A few minutes later I looked up and that’s when I saw her — Mrs. Meter Maid, or Ms. Parking Enforcement Officer, which I am now thinking is a more respectful sounding name. She was slowly walking up the sidewalk. Like a hunter stalking her prey, she looked up and down the street as if to say, “Who’s the next parking scofflaw/numbskull/dummy I’m going to run across today?”
And then I saw her look at my car.
“Tell me that car is not parked next to that silver fire hydrant,” read the imaginary thought bubble over her head.
Two things became very clear to me at that point. Parking next to a fire hydrant was not a good idea. And I was about to get a ticket for doing so.
From across the parking lot, I ran. I ran like my life depended on it.
“I’m coming,” I yelled, holding onto my witch hat, my cape billowing behind me.
Arriving at my car, I practically skidded to a stop at her side.
She looked at me sternly.
When is it OK to park next to a fire hydrant? she asked me.
When it’s silver? I said feebly.
As the words tumbled out of my mouth, I knew I’d given the wrong answer.
It’s never OK, she said, even more sternly.
I gulped.
You’re absolutely right, I said.
What if there was an emergency, she said? What if the fire department needed this hydrant?
She lectured me for another minute or two, throwing in numerical references to the California Vehicle Code during which I only nodded my witch hat in agreement to everything she said. I may have thrown in a few “yes ma’ams” as well. She had me dead to rights, and I knew it. I had no legs to stand on. I was at her mercy.
After more deep gulps on my part and more sternness on her part she left me standing there, ticket-free, in her wake.
Only I didn’t stand long. I jumped into my car and moved it far away from any fire hydrants.
An editor of mine always said never pick a battle with someone who buys ink by the barrel.
I say never pick a battle with a Parking Enforcement Officer.