Friday, September 29, 2006

LOST IN SUBURBIA™ by Tracy Beckerman

The Handy Husband
Now here’s something I don’t understand. There are some guys who seem to have a natural ability for fixing things, and then there are some who don’t. Yet, you take a guy who has absolutely no aptitude for home improvement, stick him in Home Depot, and he becomes convinced that all he needs is a wrench and some lug nuts and he can repair just about anything in the house. I don’t get this. I certainly have no misconceptions that dressing me in designer clothing will make me a model, watching HGTV will make me an interior designer, or singing in the shower will qualify me to be on American Idol. Well, O.K., that last one might be true. But take my husband, for example. Now to be fair, he is not without some sense of how to make minor repairs. Yet, he would rather try to fix something that he can’t, get frustrated and then give up after there’s a hole in the wall the size of North Dakota, and then call in a handyman, rather than just bite the bullet and call the guy before doing the damage, which almost always far exceeds the original problem. And if this is just about saving money, usually the hardware store bill far exceeds the bill from the handyman anyway. The funny thing is, when he can’t accomplish what he set out to do, he always blames it on the tools. “I can’t do this,” he says. “I don’t have the right molly.” Well, I don’t know who Molly is, but if he knew what he was doing, then why didn’t he get the right molly when he bought the another fifty dollars worth of tools he needed for this job? I mean, the handyman never has the wrong molly, right? Then there’s the always popular, “This is a much bigger job than I thought it was.” Something tells me, the handyman might have known that there was a beam behind the wall before he started drilling, as well. Of course, now we not only have a hole in the wall that we didn’t have before, in addition to the original problem, but we have to live with it for another month because the guy we could have called in to fix it right away is now on another job and won’t be available for several weeks. But honestly, I don’t blame my husband. He means well. I blame the hardware store. There’s something about a hardware store, especially a really big one, that makes a guy a bit delusional with imagined\nhome repair super powers. He walks in and right away he sees all these big shiny tools and some smiling guy in a nice red apron approaches and offers help. No matter what the job, they say, “Oh sure, all you need is this, this and that. No problem.” Of course, they say that. They want to sell stuff. I mean, this never happens when I go\nshopping in the department store, say, for make-up. And I almost never walk out with foundation, mascara, eye shadow and an entire facial cleansing system that I don’t need because the cheap stuff I bought at the drug\nstore works just fine." And I certainly never undertake a home improvement project myself that I\ncan’t complete just to save money. Not like the time that I decided to lay down a new kitchen floor while my husband was out of town. Who knew that you’re NEVER supposed to clean out the bucket of subfloor solution in the kitchen sink because it will harden in your garbage disposal? Or that you shouldn’t spray paint a kitchen table in the garage below 72° farhenheit because the paint will bubble and set that way? Or that Liquid Plumber should never be used in a dishwasher? OK, so maybe I’m guilty of doing the same thing. But where do you think I got the idea that I could do-it myself? Actually, the idea that I got was that I could do it better. So now we have two holes in the wall. Anyone know a good handyman? ©2006, Beckerman. All rights reserved. For more LOST IN SUBURBIA™ columns, go to

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Mix Tape

Remember back in the 80's when your high school boyfriend put together a mix tape to profess his love for you and you thought you were the luckiest girl on the planet? Mine was called "Music for Koukla" (doll) and it was filled with classic tunes by Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Elton John and Supertramp. Fast forward 20 years, and I've still got that tape, but that old boyfriend who I thought was the coolest guy in the world, was just labeled a major dork by my husband who saw my Sweet 16 video along with my kids and watched as my ex-boyfriend pretended to play air guitar while singing along to a Bruce Springsteen song...don't ask. Anyway, that leads me to my latest encounter with a mix tape. This time it was a CD made by my daughter's 7-year-old friend as part of her birthday goody bag. When we first put the CD on in the car, the kids were thrilled. Everything from High School Musical to Abba, to Kelly Clarkson. We were all bopping around to the tunes and had a great time listening along. After the kids left the car, the CD remained in my car which meant that every time I hopped in, my kids' CD started playing. I soon began humming along, then started belting out Broadway tunes like "Suddenly Seymour" and "Mamma Mia." I then moved on to "We're all in This Together" and felt like I was back in high school singing along to my favorite mix tape. Only difference - it wasn't my mix tape, it was my kids'. Not too least my car windows were closed so nobody could actually hear me!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Taunted by a Tamogotchi

I've officially left the little kid years with my daughter and have moved into technological territory. Forget the Gameboy, the X Box or the Playstation...these days, it's all about the Tamagotchi. I'm convinced that this crazy contraption was created to drive parents over the edge. Just as school started, I decided to be a nice mom and buy my daughter a Tamagotchi. The moment it arrived, she was thrilled and luckily a friend was over who was quite proficient at caring for this digital creature. You see, when you get a Tamagotchi, it becomes the neediest gift you'll ever receive. It starts out as an egg and then your kid can feed it tons of sushi, it poops, sleeps and if you don't take good care of it, you'll wake up in the morning to find a skull and cross bones greeting you. So far, our friendly Tamagotchi has been quite sinister - waking my daughter up twice this week and instantly sending her into bed with us. Then, she woke up to find that dreaded skull and crossbones. Determined to stop that Tamagotchi from waking the family, I told my daughter to find someone at school who could help us stop the insanity. And guess who came to the rescue? Her 2nd grade teacher...also a mom of two who showed her that there's a pause button on the darn thing. So parents, if you want to make sure your child and her Tamagotchi get a night filled with peaceful dreams and no skull and cross bones, then press pause and everything will be just fine. Of course, if the Tamagotchi kicks the bucket, you can also restart the contraption and start all over again with a little digital egg. Can't we just go back to basics? What ever happened with bringing home a baby chick anyway?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I'm Changing My Name

After a morning where I was summoned almost a dozen times by my daughter to her bedroom, from my son calling me from the family room, from my daughter again, this time yelling out "mommy" from the bathroom and then my son again from the kitchen, I've decided to make it official and change my name. I hereby announce that much like the artist formerly known as Prince, I am the crazy lady in the house formerly known as Mommy. I still need to find a catchier name or maybe a cool symbol that best represents the new me, but if it means that I won't be called upon to change the channel on the television set, wipe someone's behind, deposit laundry left on the floor and place it in the hamper, or clean up after someone spills their Fruit Loops on the carpet, then that's just fine with me. I actually announced my decision to change my name today while we were out and about in the car but unfortunately, my plan backfired. "I'm changing my name," I announced to my kids. "From now on, you can stop calling me Mommy." To which my son replied, "Okay then, Beth can you please turn on the radio?" Looks like Mommy isn't such a bad name after all.

Friday, September 08, 2006

LOST IN SUBURBIA™ by Tracy Beckerman

“What’s this stuff, Mom?”“ That’s meatloaf.” “Ewww. I don’t like it.” “How do you know? You haven’t even tried it yet.” “I can tell.” “How can you tell?” “Because its brown and it smells funny.” “It doesn’t smell funny. It’s just like hamburger. You like hamburger.” “It doesn’t look like hamburger.” “Here, try it with some ketchup.” “Can I put the ketchup on my mashed potatoes?” “(Sigh.) If you want.” “How come there are bumpy things in my mashed potatoes?” ”Because it’s homemade.” “I don’t like bumpy things. I like it smooth.” “It tastes the same.” “NO. The bumpy things don’t feel good in my mouth.” “Here. I’ll scoop the bumpy things out.” “Do I have to eat the Broccoli?” “Yes.” “Why?” ”Because green things make you grow.” “Can’t I just eat my boogers instead.” “Uch. That’s disgusting. NO. Buggers don’t count.” “How come.” “Because they don’t have the same vitamins in them.” “Can’t I just take my chewable vitamins instead.” “No. If you want to qualify for dessert, you have to eat some broccoli.” “What’s for dessert?” “Fruit.” “THAT'S not dessert! Dessert is supposed to be junky.” “Well, tonight dessert is fruit.” “If we’re having fruit for dessert, then I’m not going to eat the broccoli.” “Do what you want.” “FINE. I WILL! (Pause) Look mom, I ate all my broccoli!” “No you didn’t. You threw it on the floor and the dog ate it.” “I didn’t throw it on the floor. It fell when I was scooping it into my mouth.” “Every piece fell when you scooped them into your mouth?” “Yeah.” “But none of the mashed potatoes fell, right?” ”That stuff stuck to my fork better.” “I’ll get you some more broccoli.” “No that’s OK. I’m full and Daddy says I don’t have to eat any more when I’m full, so I’ll just have dessert now.” “You’re too full for dinner but you have room for dessert?” ”Yeah, dessert goes into a different part of my stomach where there’s more room. ”“Is that so?” “Hey mom, what are you eating?” “Tums.”

The Battle of the Canine Bulge©
According to a recent report by the National Research Council, ¼ of our nation’s pets are overweight. So apparently now, even dogs have to worry about bathing suit season. Not that I’ve caught my dog Riley staring in the mirror with angst over the size of his thighs or anything, but when the vet told me he was a couple of pounds overweight (the dog, not the vet), I felt for him. “We have to do something about Riley’s weight,” I told my husband. “We don’t want him to feel insecure around thinner dogs.” Clearly, I have my own weight issues.Yet, since I am the person who feeds the dog (1½ cups of Iams, 2 times a day), I felt somehow responsible for his extra poundage. However, I soon realized it wasn’t his meals that were the problem, but rather what he was eating in-between meals. On many occasions I have caught him helping himself to the kids’ abandoned Happy Meals at the table. And their mac and cheese. And their hot dogs. Perhaps, I thought, I should change what I’m feeding the kids, ergo, the dog will eat better.Not that I don’t provide them with healthier fare most of the time. But Riley is just as happy to steal the remains of the grilled chicken, pan-seared snapper and vegetable lasagna I make, as well.So we started clearing the table right after dinner. And then I caught him licking the dirty plates out of the dishwasher. The article went on to say that while cats are more snackers, dogs are .binge eaters. Tell me something I didn’t know. However, binge eating is not really the issue for Riley. His problem is indiscriminate eating. Does a ball of yarn have a lot of calories? He ate one of those. My son’s collection of rubber insects is now a half collection thanks to Riley. He’s bitten off and ingested most of the limbs of my daughter’s wooden dolls, two legs on the kitchen table and a ½ dozen supposedly indestructible chew toys. Not much fat content in those. We soon realized that the contents of the house had become a veritable buffet for the dog and began cleaning up and closing doors on a regular basis. If nothing else, the dog has certainly improved my family’s messy habits.Without the kids’ leftovers, the fallen bits of food on the floor, and the food residue in the dishwasher, we thought we’d nicked the problem. But, alas, he was still tipping the scales. “Does he get a lot of treats,” asked the vet.“Well, yeah,” I answered sheepishly. “But in obedience training, they taught us to motivate the dog with food. A treat after he potties. A treat when he sits on command. When he comes. When he stays.” I realized that all the treats were probably adding up to the equivalent of a third meal.So I checked in with a friend of mine who had taken the class with me about the treat issue.“Don’t you remember, we’re supposed to wean them off the treats,” she said. No, I didn’t remember. Probably because we didn’t get that far in obedience school before Riley had to drop out for emergency stomach surgery after he ate the aforementioned ball of yarn and developed a bowel obstruction. So I cut out the treats. He responded by eating my laptop manual. I let him run loose in the backyard three times a day for exercise. He responded by eating rocks from my garden. I took him for runs in the park. He ate mud.I said to my husband, “I think Riley’s father was a goat.” Finally I brought him back to the vet and we dumped him on the scale. I held my breath.“Riley’s weight is down,” she told me. “Good job.”Yeah, good job for him. But the whole ordeal stressed me out so much that I put on five pounds. Hey, someone had to finish the kid’s Happy Meals. ©2006, Beckerman. All rights reserved. For more LOST IN SURBURBIA columns, go to

Saturday, September 02, 2006


No one ever told me that when I became a mom, that I'd also have the dubious distinction of becoming a human coat rack. If you're a mom too, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Picture the scene - you bundle your kids up for a trip to the park and when you hit the open air, you realize it's warmer than you expected. The next thing you know, both of your kids have ripped off their jackets and have proceeded to deposit their clothing into your arms. Trailing them as they climb the monkey bars, you're now in charge of sweatshirts, hats, a windbreaker and the snacks that you brought with you for your fun-filled afternoon. But then, snack time arrives and you suddenly become the trash receptacle. Yup. Those juice boxes, fruit roll up wrappers and empty potato chip bags are instantly handed back to mom, the official sanitation worker who is always on duty to put trash where it belongs. Now don't get me wrong. On most occasions, I tell them that I'm not the garbage lady and they should throw their trash away, but let's face it. Sometimes it's easier to take their junk and toss it rather than deal with the whining that always accompanies my "throw your garbage away yourself" missive. I've also realized that while I don't have a degree in medicine, I might as well have trained with Florence Nightengale. When anyone falls and scrapes their knee, complains of water in the ear, or moans that they're about to toss their cookies, I'm always at the ready with band aids, bactine, hydrogen peroxide and chewable pepto bismol. So while writing and PR may be my chosen profession, I now moonlight as a coat girl, garbage collector and part-time nurse. Better hit the road and grab a band aid - my son says he just got a paper cut.

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