Family

Life of the party

Life of the party 1

When Scott’s Saturday turkey hunt in Nebraska was postponed due to weather, we quickly adjusted our weekend plans. The cold, rainy day was a perfect opportunity to visit his sister and her family, who live just one hour south of where we were staying. The catch? Scott had forgotten to actually tell his sister we were coming to Nebraska–you can imagine her husband’s surprise when I called the house that morning.

“Hey!” I chirped energetically. “We’re in town! What are you guys up to today?”

And then it was my turn to be surprised.

Apparently, it was our niece’s fourth birthday party. (Cue the forgetful Aunt and Uncle of the year award!)

claire

We rushed to Target and bought the frilliest, sparkliest gift we could find before rolling into the four-year-old fiesta just in the nick of time. The look on our nieces’ and nephew’s faces when we made our surprise debut was priceless. I was so glad we had been able to attend the gymnasium-themed party, and was really looking forward to spending the afternoon catching up with everyone.

I turned to express my excitement to Scott, but he was long gone. Apparently, a gym full of toys = his kind of party.

But the fun didn’t stop with Scott’s scooter antics. Moments later, I found him hula hooping with his new BFF.

scott-facebook

The two were later spotted coloring in the cake room.

A bromance with a slightly inappropriate age gap.

A bromance with a slightly inappropriate age gap.

Much to my surprise, Scott is quite the coloring book prodigy. Although I suppose his art could be considered a little bit “dark”.

This could be worth a pretty penny someday.

Just go back to sleep, Aurora.

In a twist of irony, Scott had his own mentally unstable Disney princess moment at dinner later that night. Lipstick and all. In an attempt to fill the awkward silence with some laughter, he grabbed my new tube of MAC Ruby Woo and hastily started applying.

No offense honey, but that's not really your best color.

No offense honey, but I think you’d look better in “Candy Yum Yum”

The good news? His impromptu makeover broke the ice and put everyone in high spirits.

The bad news?

I’m married to the 30-year-old equivalent of a toddler with gender issues.

(But at least dinner’s always interesting.)

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Brunhilda

Brunhilda 4

One of the best things about spending time in Seattle is getting to visit my younger sister, Hayley.

Being a mere two years apart, Hayley and I are extremely close, despite the fact that we are essentially polar opposites. While I spend my mornings applying Crest White Strips and a set of false eyelashes, she’s brushing her teeth with organic toothpaste that tastes like clay and slathering her lashes with an all-natural eyelash tint made from edible dye.Yet in spite of our striking differences, we share a bond stronger than the pungent taste of her terrible–yet apparently effective–toothpaste.

sisters

I hadn’t seen Hayley in person since December. When I arrived at her doorstep last week, I instantly knew something was different.

“Whoa…turn around!” I exclaimed. She slowly circled once as I took in her recent update in all of its stunning glory.  “Oh my gosh,” I cooed, “It’s amazing!”

“Thanks! I just cut it a few weeks ago.” she chirped. Suddenly, I realized my sister had lost approximately eight inches of length from her hair. It looked adorable, but that hadn’t been the change I was referring to.

“It’s totally cute! But…uh…I wasn’t talking about your hair. I was talking about your booty.”

Somebody had to say it. There was no denying the voluptuous bubble butt that was clearly the focal point of her floral print leggings. (And honestly, her entire appearance. Let’s just say homegirl is giving Beyoncé a serious run for her money.)

“You noticed!” she exclaimed with glee. “I’ve gained twenty pounds since you saw me last!”

Hayley’s recent weight gain certainly isn’t something she’s ashamed of. The first thing you should know is that my sister is an elite athlete. Not only is she a competitive rower who logs nearly two hours on the lake most mornings, she’s also very involved in a local running club, and is an up and comer on the Seattle triathlon scene. And Hayley doesn’t just compete in triathalons…she actually wins them. Needless to say, my little sis hadn’t gained twenty pounds as a result of too many hot mess burgers or lack of activity. She’s a physical specimen, gaining muscle and power as a result of some seriously intense training.

My sister’s rigorous physical activity requires that she eats several calories a day to maintain her energy level and fuel her metabolism. Basically, she’s one of those people who can eat whatever she wants and still be cellulite-free. Clearly, I hate her for this. (In the most loving way possible, of course.)

Take last Thursday for example. The weather in Seattle was absolutely gorgeous. We decided to meet my brother and his girlfriend for a sunset picnic at one of our favorite spots in the city, Gasworks Park. We stopped at Subway where I picked up a six-inch turkey breast on wheat. No mayo, no cheese, just lots of vegetables. I have a pair of lace shorts to fit in to, after all.

Naturally, Hayley ordered a foot-long sub filled with bacon, cheese, mayo, and all the good stuff I chose to deny my taste buds. She also topped it with every single vegetable offered…but all I could think about was that tasty, melty cheese. As we sat at the park, enjoying our meal, she noticed the longing gazes I kept directing towards her calorie-laden sandwich.

“Jealous?” she asked with a smirk.

“A little.” I confessed. “But some of us don’t work out three hours a day, and have to watch our diet as a result.”

“Sorry,” she shrugged, “I can’t help it if I have to feed the beast.”

Please tell me you have not named your butt ‘the beast’?” I pleaded.

“You got a better suggestion?” she asked between bites of bacon-infused goodness.

“Umm…Brunhilda?”

And that’s how my sister’s arse got its name.

The following day, Brunhilda was on display for all to see as Hayley and I spend the day at my very favorite naked spa. (More on this tomorrow.) I stood in awe, watching her parade around the facilities with a rump that appeared to be sculpted out of smooth, white marble. And no…I don’t think it’s strange to write publicly about my sister’s behind in such a manner — if you’d been there you’d also recognize that it’s a freaking work of art.

Meanwhile, I kept my self-conscious saddlebags safely concealed in the whirlpool. (And how come I’m the one with saddlebags? I didn’t even EAT any of that bacon sub sandwich!)

While I’m certainly envious of the mighty Brunhilda, the thing I admire most about my sister is her confidence and self-love. Sure, it’s easy to feel comfortable in your body when you’re in pristine physical condition and in the midst of your athletic peak. But Hayley’s had her fair share of awkward phases, and certainly won’t be rocking the white marble booty forever. I’m certain that one day, when those foot-long sandwiches finally catch up to her, she’ll love herself just as much as she did last weekend at the spa. Hayley’s realized that it’s more important to focus on health and happiness as opposed to jean-size or an inner-thigh gap. She sees food as a source of joy and nourishment, not as a dangerous temptation or something she needs to restrict. My sister doesn’t have time to worry about counting calories or calculating the fat count in a strip of bacon — she’s too busy having fun and living her life to the fullest.

She enjoys the moment.

And the bacon sandwich.

I think we (and by we, I mean I) certainly have a lot to learn from Hayley.

And Brunhilda.

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At least we didn’t get shot 7

For this former Washingtonian, the Denny’s in Parkland brings back floods of fond, maple syrup covered childhood memories. Whenever my parents felt like an evening out, the six of us would pile into our wood panelled station wagon and make a pilgrimage to “America’s Diner”. Before the waitress even had the chance to hand us menus, my father would order six $1.99 grand slams and six waters. “It’s the best value.” he would sternly say.

As we cleaned our plates, I dreamed of one day working at Denny’s–earning a king’s ransom in tips through exceptional service and witty banter with my customers. Free pancakes and popcorn shrimp would obviously be an added bonus.

Over the years, the restaurant of my youth has declined–or perhaps it’s always been crappy and I never noticed. Either way, I still secretly love eating there, despite it’s rough demeanor and questionable breakfast meat.

All this is to say, when my sister sent me the following text last Friday, I wasn’t exactly shocked.

Deny's text message

Apparently, she wasn’t either. ‘Ish like this really isn’t out of the ordinary in our ‘hood.

Speaking of P-town, the next morning I found myself back in my old stomping grounds–my parent’s house, to be exact. I had made plans to take my mom to breakfast prior to attending a wedding later in the evening.

ME: So…where do you want to go eat, mom?

MOM: Let’s go to Denny’s!

ME: We can’t go to Denny’s…two people got shot there yesterday–it was a drive-by. Let’s go with something a little less violent.

MOM (completely unphased): Oh…okay. Wagon Wheel?

ME: Yeah. Wagon Wheel.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the hot spots of the 98445 zip code, the Wagon Wheel is a 24-hour Parkland institution that sells beer for $1.50. They’re famous for having delicious, chicken-fried breakfasts, and a large, obnoxious sign.

Unfortunately, we made quite a disappointing discovery upon rolling up to “The Wheel.”

They had up and gone out of business.

ME: Look mom…they’re closed. For good. Do you just want to go to Starbucks and get pastries?

MOM: No, not really. I’m still kind of in the mood for Denny’s. Is that OK?

Long pause.

ME: I guess so. I mean…if someone just got shot there, chances are it won’t happen again for at least another month or so–statistically speaking, our odds for survival are actually pretty strong.

MOM: Right. And Starbucks doesn’t have good bacon.

She had a point. Five minutes later, we found ourselves seated on opposite sides of a booth in an extremely crowded dining room. Apparently, the people of Parkland are more than willing to risk their lives for a three dollar omelet.

Being that this could potentially be my last meal, I decided to go all out with a short stack of blueberry pancakes (extra butter and syrup), hash browns, sausage links, scrambled eggs, and several cups of coffee. Mom had the same.

MOM: Why does coffee always taste so much better when you don’t make it at home?

ME: I know. This coffee is totally worth a bullet wound. So are these pancakes.

MOM: Especially the pancakes.

We wolfed down our food, caught up on our gossip, and complained about my dad and his ridiculous pants collection. We felt totally safe — like the drive-by shooting never even happened. I even worked up the courage to use the ladies’ room before we left.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, our bellies full with grease and simple carbohydrates, I breathed a sigh of relief.

ME: Well mom, we didn’t get shot.

MOM: At least not yet. Hey–wanna go to the Quilt Shop?

ME: Not really. I kind of needed a few things from Target.

MOM: Yeah…but we’re far less likely to get shot at the Quilt Shop.

She was right. Worse case scenario, one of us would get stabbed with a crochet hook–but those things aren’t that sharp anyway. We probably wouldn’t even need stitches…just maybe a tetanus shot.

With an argument like that, I couldn’t really say no.

Well played, Mom. Well played.

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Birthday Diva 3

After demanding diamond earrings this year, and throwing a hissy fit after last year’s missing husband bicycle catastrophe, it’s probably apparent that I’m somewhat high maintenance when it comes to birthdays.

While I realize this isn’t the most appealing quality, it’s actually not my fault.

You see, my birthday diva tendencies are completely genetic.

Dad

The original birthday diva.

That’s right — my dad, who celebrated his sixty-fourth birthday earlier this month, is even worse than I am.

There is one difference worth noting. While my birthday demands tend to come with a hefty price tag, Mark wants all of his birthday glory free of charge.

Let me explain.

Last Friday night, our family went out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Coronado, California. While the food does cost over ten dollars a plate, there’s free bottomless chips and salsa, so Mark agrees to dine there. We had just settled into our seats when I heard the faint sound of singing. Gradually, the melody grew louder and louder, until the table next to us was surrounded by six different waitors singing the restaurant’s official birthday song. As the performance commenced, the birthday “Ponchito” was presented with a slice of ice cream cake that was quite literally the size of a small pony.

I tried not to make eye contact with my dad, but it was too late. The seed had already been planted.

“We should tell them it’s my birthday” he suggested.

“Dad,” I calmly responded, “you’re birthday was eight days ago.”

“So?” he shrugged. “I didn’t get free dessert anywhere else on my birthday…I might as well claim it now!”

I rolled my eyes and went back to my chips and queso. This universal rule about being able to transfer your free birthday dessert to a later date was certainly news to me.

By the time our waitor had returned to take dinner orders, it seemed Mark had forgotten all about the free cake. Unfortunately, the Ponchito sitting on the other side of our table just so happened to also be celebrating a birthday. As the second slice of pony-sized ice cream cake whizzed by our table, Marks eyes gleamed with envy and desire. Again, I did everything in my power to avoid eye contact.

“Hey,” he whispered, “When the guy comes back, tell him it’s my birthday.”

“But Mark, it’s not your birthday” my mom protested.

“How are they going to know?” he grinned. “I don’t have my wallet, remember?”

This was true. Dad’s wallet had been missing for twenty-four hours. Suddenly, I wondered if the missing billfold was a desperately elaborate scheme for free frozen dairy product.

Each time the waitor breezed by our table, dad begged us to let him know it was his birthday. After three failed attempts, Mark decided to take matters into his own hands.

“Excuse me,” he inquired while tapping the waitor’s elbow. “How far from your actual birthday does it have to be for you to get the free cake?”

We cringed. Scott buried his face in the chip basket out of pure shame. I swooped in to salvage what was left of this humiliating exchange.

“Sorry sir,” I nervously muttered, “His birthday was…um…yesterday, but well, we didn’t get a chance to celebrate until tonight. Do you think you could sing to him?”

Our server generously obliged. As he walked away Dad turned to me and winked, wearing the biggest smile I’d seen on his face in a very long time.

Twenty minutes later, his moment in the spotlight arrived.

While most people blush a deep shade of crimson when publicly serenaded with a Tex-Mex version of “Happy Birthday”, Mark chose to sit a little taller, savoring each wonderful second of complimentary birthday glory. He glowed with pride as he claimed the attention of the room, along with his very own slice of pony-sized ice cream cake.

I’d be lying if I said the largest portion of the pony-sized ice cream cake didn’t go to me. Us birthday divas have to stick together, after all.

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