Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fear the beard

A funny thing started to happen to my husband’s face a few weeks ago.
Hair kept growing on the bottom of it. And growing.
It’s a beard, he said, when I asked him what was going on.
I’m growing a beard.
My husband has been known to grow a goatee or mustache/chin hair combo. Even a short, trimmed up beard. But this was definitely Beard 2.0. And it was getting longer by the day.
Here’s the thing about beards. They don’t just arrive full grown. They kind of sneak up on the people you live with. If the man of the house stops shaving, it takes about a week before the rest of us catch wind of this new creation. And then one day there it is.
A beard.
What’s the inspiration for the beard? I asked.
He reminded me about the upcoming wine competitions he’ll be judging at. I guess most wine judge types go for the clean-shaved look.
A beard might be one way of differentiating himself amidst the other oenophiles sniffing inside their wine glasses.
Or maybe the beard will help capture the wine “bouquet” more effectively.
Either way, he’ll definitely stand out.
The girls were a little dubious about Dad’s new look.
How long are you going to let it grow? they asked.
Is it hot?
Is it itchy?
Is that all gray hair?
The reporter in me was also curious. What kind of beard are you going for?
Former Giant Brian Wilson? Merlin Olsen from “Little House on the Prairie”? “Duck Dynasty”?
None of the above, apparently. After some consideration, he texted me his beard inspirations: sailor Sven Yrvind, castaway Tom Hanks and Zach Galifianakis.
I had to Google the first guy. Sure enough, he’s a sailor who possesses some mighty facial hair. And all white, I should note.
Tom Hanks’ beard in “Cast Away” was quite magnificent, too.
I don’t know about the third reference. Maybe I’ve got the “Hangover” movies on my mind but I kind of wonder how clean Zach Galifianakis keeps his beard.
Turns out that once you have a beard, it’s like joining a new club.
My husband has reported that beard wearers like to acknowledge each other.
Kind of like when a woman sees another woman wearing a really cute pair of shoes. Only beard guys just nod in a manly way at each other. They don’t ask where the other guy got his beard and if it was on sale.
After Googling Sven Yrvind, I came across this Australian guy by the name of Jimmy Niggles. In honor of a good friend who passed away, he’s been growing a beard for years.
And it really is some beard — thick, reddish brown and very long. He claims it’s worth a million bucks, but I think we might have a contender right here in Napa.
Our beard is definitely worth at least half that.

Monday, March 17, 2014

SAT survival

What’s worse than waking your teenager up early on a Saturday morning?
Waking your teenager up early on a Saturday morning so she can take a test.
Not just any test. The SAT.
Yeah, that test. The one that certain colleges are apparently sooooo into. And take very seriously, as in without a score of approximately 3,951 you’re not coming to our college, no way, no how. We don’t care who your momma is.
Scholarship givers are also kind of obsessed with SAT numbers.
For example, the highest score wins. Which I guess is OK if you are the one with the money and in charge of handing it out.
But we are not the ones with the money, we are the ones looking for the money, which meant that last weekend I had the Worst Mom Job Ever — waking our 16-year-old up early so she could go do a whole bunch of math at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday.
Proper Photo Identification is another big SAT thing.
Apparently — shocker! — there are some students who imagine they can send some super-smart impostor to take the SAT test for them.
This explains why I had to spend three days hounding our 11th-grader about finding her student ID so she could prove to those SAT ID checkers that she really was her super-smart self.
SAT testers are very specific about what to bring on test day:
Exactly two No. 2 pencils and a “soft” eraser.
A snack.
A water bottle.
But no cellphones. Students caught using cellphones can get kicked out of the SAT.
No parent who just paid $50 to make her teenager do word problems on a Saturday morning wants to get a call an hour later saying come get your kid who just got kicked out of the SAT for texting her boyfriend.
Students also need a high-tech calculator (the kind that always seems to be missing the day before test day) and extra batteries.
The day before the test, I put new batteries into the calculator, and then put it, along with the pencils, eraser, student ID, test ticket, a water bottle and a snack, into a big Ziploc bag.
There. Everything is perfectly visible and nice and organized. I can now continue my fretting about those weird SAT analogy questions and square roots.
At the school that morning, I handed our girl the plastic baggie with her test-taking survival items securely zippered within.
“A Ziploc bag?” she said. Really?
It’s all there, I said. Ready to go.
Grumbling, she got out of the car, Ziploc bag in hand.
Four hours later, I waited outside the school. As the kids started leaving the classrooms, no one looked overly traumatized.
Most of them just looked like they wanted to take a nap.
Right before our girl came out, I saw one boy leaving.
Guess what he was carrying?
A big Ziploc bag with a water bottle and calculator in it.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Here kitty kitty

One Huffman daughter accused me of wanting to get a cat so I’d have something to pick up and cuddle.
Hey, if certain teenagers let me pick them up and hug them, I would. It’s not my fault they don’t want to sit on my lap anymore.
The Huffman cat talk got real after a visit to the animal shelter where we clamped eyes on a black kitten with white paws, white whiskers — and get this — a little white mustache. Nothing is cuter than a cat with a mini mustache.
On her first day in her new home, the kitty took tentative steps and slowly inched her way around the floor of the girls’ bedroom.
Oh she’s shy, I thought. How cute.
The whole “I’m so shy” thing didn’t last long.
About 12 minutes later the cat figured out she had the whole house to conquer, which she immediately did, to the dog’s distress.
She bounded up the stairs like a kitty version of Mount Everest. She climbed the screen door like Kitten and the Beanstalk.
She used dad’s beard as a grooming tool. She scaled the pant legs of one Huffman daughter like a ladder.
She also spent a fair amount of time chasing her own tail, randomly scurrying from room to room and walking on keyboards while humans tried to type.
It’s been two weeks since the kitty, now named Inky, became a part of the family. Even the dog is semi-tolerating her cuteness, although usually while attempting to sniff her butt.
Sure there were some wrong turns. The kitty pooped in some wrong places. She peed in another wrong place. She almost gave the dog a heart attack when she tried to eat the dog’s food.
Apparently it is very hard work being a kitten and frequent rest breaks are needed. The kitty has napped on laps, on iPads, on shoulders and in a squished up cardboard box.
She napped with her head upside down, hidden under a pillow and all four paws in the air à la “dead cat.” She does not seem to do much napping at night, which lead to some serious strategizing of where the cat should sleep. As in, alone.
Before we got our kitten, cats were pretty much off my radar. Not anymore.
YouTube cat videos? Hilarious! Kitty pictures on Facebook? Can’t get enough of them! Cat toys at Target? Buying them! All!
I believe Inky approves of her new home because she purrs. A lot. There’s nothing like a purring kitten to make a grown-up go all gushy inside.
A purring kitten is like Valium for the ears. It puts you in a purring trance. This could be useful for the next time the girls break out in a fight. I’ll just pass them the purring kitten and see how long the battle lasts.
I knew a cat would be good for something.