Monday, April 27, 2009

Cattle and Chicken and Pigs, Oh My!

“What can you tell me about Swine Flu?” I asked my husband the moment he returned from work. I’m sure these are the days he loves being a doctor.

“Please don’t stop buying bacon,” he answered.

“Why would you say that?” I said. (I knew exactly what he was talking about.)

“Remember Mad Cow Disease?” he asked, as if I could ever forget.

“Mad Cow was no laughing matter. Oprah had a whole show about it. Can you imagine dying a slow, painful death from some neurodigestivegitative disorder?”

“Neurodegenerative,” he smirked.

“Even worse,” I shook my head. “Oprah probably – no – DEFINITELY saved our lives that year.”

“You mean the year we spent eating frozen ground tofu in our spaghetti sauce?” he gagged a little. “The year you tried to spearhead the marketing of chopped Spamburgers to McDonald’s?”

“It would have made us millions.”

He rolled his eyes. “And just when you started to come around, [one trip to Gates Barbeque snapped me back to reality, some things are worthy dying of a neurowhatever disorder for] Avian Flu hit the news.”

Ah, the Bird Flu. Those were scary times.

“You wouldn’t let us eat poultry for six months,” he said. “The kids still freak out every time we drive by a KFC. You almost had us eat a Thanksgiving sausage that year.”

“Yes, and the leftovers would have been fantastic,” I reminded him. That was during my phase where I thought I could look just like Giada if I ate everything she made on TV. I could not have been more wrong. I looked more like Paula Deen.

“You can’t catch Bird Flu from eating chicken!” he snapped.

“If you can’t catch Bird Flu from eating chicken, then why was everyone on China wearing those mouth guards to keep from eating stuff they shouldn’t?” I asked.

“Those weren’t mouth guards,” he said, “Those were respiratory masks. Bird Flu was in the air, not in the food.”

“Say what you want,” I told him, “but, personally, I would rather eat a tuna enchilada than risk catching some deadly chicken bacteria.”


“Same thing.”

“Not really.”

“So next you’re going to bring up the peanut butter recall?” I changed the subject. I was not in the mood for a microbiologist’s dissertation on the genetic and physiological differences between streptococcus and rhinovirus.

“You mean the month we ate your homemade granola bars?” he laughed.

“Those were cheaper and safer than the store-bought ones,” I reminded him.

“Cheap, safe, gritty, flavorless, and still in my digestive tract,” he responded.

Yes, all of those things were true… “But none of us died from salamander,” I added.


Sigh. “So are you going to tell me about Swine Flu or do I have to wait for Matt Lauer on Monday morning?”

“Wash your hands, exercise, and quit talking on the cell phone while you drive.”

“But what about Swine Flu?” I pleaded, “They’re calling it a deadly international pandemic online.”

He shook his head. “Please don’t stop buying bacon.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

New to You!

Remember the sitcoms of the ‘80’s? Remember the flashback episodes where Alex P. Keaton reflected on his life right before college graduation or the Huxtables swapped stories before Theo moved on into the real world? Weren’t those some of the best?

This week’s Jules is a retrospective episode of sorts. I have been doing this for eight months now, with a fresh story every week, and have grown in readership from, basically, my parents to nearly 400 of you. Many of whom may not have read some of the earlier gems I have penned, which is why I have decided to publish this week a version called, “If You Haven’t Read It, It’s New To You!”

Now, I hate to just publish a total repeat, and, being a Libra, I could never decide on just one. So I have listed below four of my favorites from 2008 for you to read at your leisure. I hope you enjoy them, that you have a great week, and that you return next Monday (or whatever day you blow off work to laugh a little) for a new story…

My Summer Vacation Part I: Cruising Altitude
Enjoy the view from seat 13C aboard Southwest Airlines flight to Chicago. I sure did J

Bringing (Beach) Sexy Back
Why one should never order one’s swimsuit from a catalog.

Endurance: There is no Crying in Training
How I tortured my kids (and myself) during the summer of 2008

Work of Art
Caroline’s many contributions to her Kindergarten class.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How Richard Dawson Robbed Me of my Childhood


It was the summer before Kindergarten. I was five. My grandmother and I were in the living room watching “Family Feud.”


Richard Dawson (yes, it was long enough ago that Richard Dawson was hosting --- and our TV only got four channels) gave his contestants the following challenge:

“One hundred people surveyed, top three answers are on the board,” he began. “Name an imaginary character children believe in.”

Since this was also long enough ago that the remote control had not been invented, my grandmother sat helplessly on the sofa behind me, unable to switch to “The Newlywed Game” fast enough…

“Santa Claus!” the first contestant replied.


My heart sank.

“Easter Bunny!” the second said.


My head started spinning.

“The Tooth Fairy!” the third contestant quickly exclaimed.


I turned to look at my grandmother, my jaw dragging behind on the shag carpet. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Yep.”

And, just like that, my childhood was gone.

This experience probably has a lot to do with why, throughout my entire grade school career, I dreaded conversations that turned to the debate of whether the Easter Bunny was a real bunny or a person dressed up like one, whether Santa made the toys or bought them, or whether the Tooth Fairy was a girl or a boy (actually, that one didn’t really start until college).

It also probably has a lot to do with how blown away I am, year after year, that I am able to get my own kids to buy into it at all.

“Well, kids, every Easter Sunday, just as he has since the empty tomb was first discovered 2000 years ago, the Easter Bunny breaks into all the Christian homes on every continent around the world in one night and single-handedly delivers marshmallow chicks and hollow chocolate replicas of all his friends for children to eat in celebration of Jesus rising from the dead. And he hides the candy, creeping all over the house, leaving nothing but a trail of plastic grass behind him. Most amazing of all is that he does this while you are tucked in bed sleeping just one room away!”

Normally this kind of story would induce nightmares in small children. And yet, amazingly, children welcome the idea of an animal breaking and entering, as long as he comes bearing Reece’s Peanut Butter Eggs and jelly beans.

(Actually, I feel the same way.)

I am now down to two believers out of my four. Amelia recently figured it out on her own. But Ellie – poor little Ellie - had to be told by me right after her tenth birthday.

“Mom,” she said one day, holding an old baby tooth, “I found this in your jewelry drawer. Is this from one time when the Tooth Fairy couldn’t find my tooth?”

I looked into her eyes, remembering the conversation we had just had two weeks earlier about how babies were made, and decided I couldn’t have her go on knowing about sex but not about the Tooth Fairy.

And, just to be sure she was completely stripped of all juvenile fantasies, I came clean on Santa and the Easter Bunny too.

Tears streamed down her little face as she learned that Mom and Dad not only had a secret in the bedroom, but they also had a secret on the eve of both major holidays. I felt like the Grinch, ripping her blissfully naïve childhood away from her that summer.

If only Richard Dawson could have been there to help ease the blow…

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Break '09: Part II (In the rocks, with salt)

Having braved the elements once, I was not about to be subjected to Mother Nature’s spring wrath again.

So the next day, we decided to hit the climate-controlled environment of the Hutchinson Salt Mines, a working salt mine 650 feet underground. To put that into perspective, that is like traveling the height of the St. Louis Arch… except in the opposite direction.

(The weather outside that day turned out to be 70 and sunny.) (Of course.)

But before going underground, we had to watch a safety video detailing exactly what to do should a fire break out while (trapped) in the mine…

“You will each be given a Rescue Breathing Pack to carry,” the narrator began. “In the event of a fire, pull the blue knob, turn the red thingy, yank on the white pin, put the cup around your mouth and pinch your nose closed with the attached paperclip.”

Breathing Pack, got it.

“Then begin to breathe like normal, only through your mouth…” he continued, “and with the reality that you could die if you don’t reach safety within 90 minutes.”

Ninety minutes with four kids? Uh--

“The mouthpiece will grow hot,” he went on, “it may even result in serious burns to your lips. But you will be alive. And isn’t it worth burning your lips off to avoid dying alone near the center of the earth?”


“I thought so. So keep breathing, no matter how badly it hurts. And, make no mistake, it will hurt.”

What the eff kind of vacation--

“I bet you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into [diabolical laugh]”

As a matter of fact…

“Well, relax. In 50 years, we have never had a fire in the salt mines, because salt cannot catch on fire. [This is not entirely true.] Now go grab those rescue packs and meet up by the only working elevator!”

I descended deep into the earth a mining novice, whose most intimate experience with salt involved a shot glass and lime. But after the 45-minute tram tour packed with details about how to extract salt from the earth (and no less than 12 rounds of the “I didn’t like the camel ride” mantra Caroline adopted), I had become a near-expert on the fine art of big-ass drills and multi-lined explosives.

And our fellow tourists had crossed “camel rides” off their to-do lists.

We ended the tram ride at the underground museum. The salt mines are not only home to my third favorite part of a margarita, but they are also home to many government and Hollywood artifacts, as the mines are terrorist and moisture-proof.

But not Caroline-proof.

Rescue packs still intact, we decided to lead our three happy kids and Caroline through the walking portion of the tour.

“Look at that huge saw that can cut through rock!” I said with amazement.

“My helmet is too big,” Caroline lamented, bent over and shaking her head until her helmet dropped to the ground.

Moving on, I tried another display. “Look at this old newspaper from the day Lincoln was shot!”

“Ugh. I can’t read yet,” she said.

“And see this mainframe computer? Dad’s iPhone can hold 600 times as much as this big computer!”

“I want to go home.”

The words “George” and “Clooney” caught my eye. “Oh, guys, look! It’s the costume from ‘Batman’!”

“I didn’t like the camel ride.”

I was just about to point out the shield Brad Pitt carried in “Troy” (I am pretty sure I saw he carved my initials into the back with a tiny heart right above) (he is always doing thoughtful things like that) (don’t tell Angie), when poor, tortured Caroline, cried out from the depths of her being, echoing into the endless caverns for all those visiting to hear,


Heads jerked in our direction, the gift store clerk shot her diet Shasta out her nose. Dave scooped up the claustrophobic diva, and we all made our way to the elevators well before anyone could ask us to leave.

Spring Break ’09 had been a smashing success. Exotic, full of adventure, and, best of all, no one had to see me in a swimming suit.