On Discovering That I’m a Prodigy.

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The year of 2017 will be forever remembered as the era where I made a monumental breakthrough on my journey of self-realization. If I were given one of those standard employee reviews where they asked me what my strengths and weaknesses were, before 2017 would be lacking a vital component of who I am.

Because 2017 was the year my husband acquired an NES Classic. Just before they were discontinued forever, might I add. It was for sure fate guiding my husband’s obsessive impulses so that I could discover my greatest ability.

I am a Dr. Mario genius.

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I had played it as a kid and remember being fairly good at the game, but we didn’t own it so I was not aware of my remarkable savant tendencies in the particular skill set that this game requires. Both playing on my own and in a two player game, I am STUNNING. My mind works in just the right way so that I can dominate, knowing instantaneously where the ideal place to land each dual-colored pill is. I can plan ahead, making sure that each killing of a virus is actually a double or triple virus kill, therefore sending extraneous and devastating blocks into my opponent’s pill bottle.

Lest you’ve forgotten your own childhood Dr. Mario experiences, the game works somewhat similarly to Tetris, in that you’re trying to clear stacks of similar colors. Except in this game, the plot is a bit thicker – you’re trying to cure viruses* with pills – three same-colored pill halves stacked on top of a virus clears it. Or if you’re just making a stack of pills, four same colored pills clears out.

When playing one player, I can continue the game indefinitely, despite the growing number of viruses at every level. The only thing that stops me is my eyes – they start to water and see double after a while – just like our mothers warned us, Nintendo will destroy your eyes.

When playing two player, each player selects their own level of difficulty, thereby leveling the playing field with a Dr. Mario handicap. When Chris and I play against each other, I choose level 11 or 12, and he chooses level 5. I have over double the number of viruses he has and that nearly makes it fair – but not quite, to be honest. I still savagely beat him 99% of the time.

Thankfully, Chris enjoys his regular beat down.

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Every time I play, I am re-amazed at myself. It’s as if I suddenly realized that I’ve always known how to fluently speak Russian but had just never encountered a Russian speaker to reveal my talent.

I have since been trying to analyze these previously untapped skill sets and figure out how to apply them in real life, becoming a multi-billionaire by my ability to sort the stock market, or analyze computer code to find (computer) viruses, or something. But I have yet to identify a profitable application of my genius. Perhaps I need to visit my old college advisor. But for now, I guess I’m just going to have to go on the video-game-entertainment circuit, wowing intent crowds with my ability to eradicate viruses in a stunningly efficient manner.

* Despite my love for this game (due mostly to my own mastery of it), the premise does slightly annoy me, as all us mothers know that “It’s just a virus” means “There is no pill in the world that can cure your kid right now so you just go on home and enjoy the misery of your sick kid until that virus runs its course over the next 7-10 days and also enjoy the fact that you just wasted a $35 co-pay.” So either Dr. Mario has made a breakthrough and found a pill that cures viruses, or this game is a complete lie to humanity. I’m putting my money on Dr. Mario being a pill-slinging savant. Just like me.

On Needing More Chill.

If we were playing the “I Have Never” game, until last week I could easily say “I have never bought a refrigerator.”

I am nearly 36 years old. Chris and I have been married for 16.5 years and have lived in three different dwellings. And we have never bought a refrigerator. Each house came with a fridge, and each fridge was old and “fine.”

We’re not the type of people to replace things that are “fine”, even if we don’t like them. We nearly vomit at people on House Hunters who flippantly say “I don’t like that shade of marble countertops but we can always rip them out and get a shade darker.”

So, in our minds, just because we never had a fridge that we felt any fondness toward did not mean that we should go out and buy a new one.

But we’ve now been in this house for over a decade, using a fridge that someone else bought. Somewhere in that fridge, there are decade-old germs that don’t belong to us. And, the fridge is pitiful. The veggie drawers are broken and melded shut, the light bulb, if barely shaken, decides not to work, and anything left in the freezer for longer than a fortnight can be guaranteed to have freezer burn. Oh and when you close the fridge door, be sure to pull the door in an upwards fashion or it will not seal.

So I wasn’t exactly sad when our fridge got continence issues and began peeing water on the shelves. I’m sure it could be fixed with a new dehumidifier core or some-odd piece like that, but DANGIT I am nearly middle-aged and I deserve my first new fridge.

Chris came home from work one day and I confronted him in front of the naughty fridge itself.

“I’m putting my foot down. I don’t care what your reservations or worries or logical reasons are. This is a ten to me*. WE NEED A NEW FRIDGE.”

He said, “Ummm…”

…then he decided to play with me.

“I don’t know…But getting a new fridge leads to…”

“NO IT WON’T. I know that’s what you said that one other time. We will not get new cabinets or new appliances or new countertops or an all new kitchen. I JUST WANT A FRIDGE.”

“Okay then.”

I said, “Thank you. I’ve already been shopping. I’ve picked out three options depending on how far you’re willing to let me change the status quo.”

He kindly obliged my most severely changed choice, wondering I’m sure why I felt the need to be so forceful in my fridge militiawoman presentation.

(I mean that fridge had been urinating on my blueberries – you’d have anger issues too.)

But then came measuring of the fridge hole. And depth and width, all of which I tackled all by myself. Like the adult I was convinced I was.

I measured and re-measured and re-measured again. I panicked in the middle of the night about whether a fridge would fit in that hole or if it was just all wrong for modern-day fridges. I picked a fridge and re-picked a fridge and re-picked again. The kids discovered that they loved fridge shopping and were amazed at the ones with double-tap glass doors and apps and background music and internal cameras so that you could look at the contents while you were at the grocery store.

I begged Chris to help me quadruple check my hole measurements before I had a nervous breakdown.

He again happily obliged, perhaps wondering why his wife was so frantically taken by this issue.

Finally, we bought a dang fridge.

Sight unseen, even, because that fridge did not have a display model.

It would not be delivered for a week, so I endured another seven days of fridge urination while waiting for it, becoming more and more hateful toward the current chiller of my fruits and vegetables.

But then it arrived.

And it was beautiful.

And I had no idea how very intense fridge delivery is. It’s the best “free delivery and installation” deal in the country, y’all.

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After over TWO HOURS of getting it through the front door, removing the doors and hinges to get it through the kitchen door, getting the old fridge out, and peeling away those glorious sheaths of new appliance plastic, they finally were ready to slide it into the fridge hole.

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(Note: all this time all of my fridge and freezer contents were sitting on my countertops. Nothing causes anxiety like all the slowly warming food.)

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Which was the moment when Fridge Delivery Man #1 turned to me and said “I don’t think it’s going to fit.”

What? No. It will fit. I measured five times.”

“It’s gonna be tight…I’m not so sure.”

“I will ax down that cabinet if we need to. IT WILL FIT.”

They looked at me with a measure of healthy fear, then positioned the fridge and began sliding. It banged the side of the cabinet. They repositioned, straightening it perfectly. This thing couldn’t go in a degree off-kilter or it wasn’t going to work.

They began sliding again, and this time it was going. Just barely. SO JUST BARELY.

They stopped and looked at me. #1 said “So do you want us to keep going?”

I scowled up my entire 36-year-old face. “This thing is not coming back out of my kitchen. OF COURSE I WANT YOU TO KEEP GOING.”

And they did.

And it fit.

The children are so taken by the cleanliness and organization and hugeness and brightness of it all. Ali said that getting a new fridge is the most exciting purchase ever and way better than a new car.

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Even if I didn’t get the one with the apps and cameras.

And best of all? This fridge doesn’t need adult diapers.

* “It’s a ten to me” is fantastic marital communication advice that we got from good friends many years ago. You can only use it every now and then, but it’s an easy way to communicate “This is actually really really really seriously the most very importantest thing to me and I’m not being dramatic AT ALL.” This helps your spouse realize the gravity of the issue being discussed. I highly recommend it. And new fridges.

On Finding Swagger.

I cannot communicate in barber language.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to style Noah’s hair differently for pretty much his whole life. His hair refuses to do anything except exactly what it does. Which is to hang. In a straight line. No part. No body. No nothing. I’ve felt as if he was years too old for his haircut for quite a while now.

IMG_1546I’ve begged the barber to “give” him a part, or cut it closer, or anything. So the barber would cut his hair as if it’s going to part, and he’d part it for me while it was wet, and Noah will look like the perfect 1950’s gentleman. But then as soon as it dries, it hangs straight again – except with newly unimproved crookedly cut bangs.

I’ve fought with his hair. I’ve bargained with his hair. I’ve tried everything.

Finally I decided to browse the internet until I found a totally new ‘do. Something leaving no amount of bangs to fall straight. I pulled up the Google. And the Pinterest. And made the mistake of browsing with Noah.

Naturally, he liked none of them. None were good enough for him.

After my eyes blurred together from all the kid pictures, I found one that I liked. I begged him to like it.

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“It’s too messy.”

“Okay well how about this cut but fixed less messy.”

“Okay we can try it. BUT NO MOHAWKS.”

I wasn’t sure why this qualification had to be made, but whatev. No Mohawks it is.

I really didn’t want to pull up Pinterest for our male barber who still doesn’t take credit cards and has an old fashioned glass bottle coca-cola machine in his shop. He even has a shoe stand with what seems to be a full-time shoe shiner (who is usually taking a nap when we’re in there.) These people do not know about Pinterest. And I didn’t want to be laughed at.

But I took Noah in anyway, rather pensively. And the stars shone upon me. There was a woman working that morning that I’d never seen before, and we were assigned to her. Surely she’d heard of the internet.

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I told her it was time to try something completely different. I pulled up the picture and told her “this – but less messy. And a little tighter on the sides.”

She worked on him for a good 45 minutes – this was significantly longer than a usual snappy trim. I listened nearby as they discussed the weather and school and summer vacation and what was on the news. It was perfectly perfect.

Finally, she finished.

I’ve never told a barber or a hair person of any variety that I didn’t like a cut, so even though I wasn’t feeling like it was exactly what I was after, I took the blame upon myself instead (maybe Noah doesn’t have the right kind of hair) and thanked her profusely.

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We took an after picture in the blaring sunlight, then went to Target to finish our errands. I thought that maybe the haircut just needed a little help to be what I had envisioned.

Noah was indifferent, as he has always been about his hair. But I explained my plan to him anyway.

“I’m going to buy you some gel. I think we can make your hair do the right thing with it.”

“I don’t want gel!”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t know what gel is.”

“Well that’s a terrible reason not to want it.”

“Does it look like Jell-o?”

“Definitely not.”

“Okay well we can try it.”

At Target…

“OOOOH here’s some ‘Swagger Gel.’ Do you want some swagger?”

“I don’t even know what Swagger is.”

“Well it’s time you learned.”

Clearly my kid needs to study up on vocabulary in first grade.

We decided on Aussie Hair Gel (because it was half the price of the Old Spice Swagger Gel – which Chris later said was no reason not to buy our kid some swagger) and tried it out when we got home.

By the stolen looks in the mirror and the impish grins I caught when he thought I wasn’t looking, I knew he loved it.

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And so did I. It was exactly as I had hoped. Even thought it instantaneously aged him by at least three years.

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That night, after his bath, he asked for gel.

“Well, we’ll probably have to do it again in the morning, but I can put some in if you want.”

“Actually, I want to learn how…”

We stood in front of the mirror, me standing behind him, giving him lessons on how to properly gel his hair.

“See, run your fingers through it. Then pull the bangs straight out, then give them a little flip upwards.”

He grinned and giggled at his newly unearthed forehead, jumped around with excitement, and made my day.

The next day after church, he found me and said “I’m ready for a mohawk.”

“Really?!? I thought that was the one line you wouldn’t cross.”

He shrugged.

I gave him what he asked for. He disappeared into his room to change his outfit to match – or at least his idea of matching. Then he swaggered outside where Chris was washing the car, leaned up against Chris’ Mustang, and asked me to take his picture.

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Vocabulary: Achieved.

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