No Peeking Allowed

I can’t spend as much time on blogging today as I’d like because I am up against a firm gift wrapping deadline.  For one thing, I am working to beat the holiday shipping rush.  I have to wrap gifts for family in Virginia with enough time to pack them in the neat and orderly manner that annoys the guy at the UPS store.  Yes, in case you are wondering, I will be patronizing my favorite UPS store run by the guy who asks me without fail, “Have you shipped with us before?”  Goodness, it drives me crazy.  I AM A REGULAR CUSTOMER. (Deep breath).  Maybe I’ll play along with the whole charade this time.  Maybe I’ll act like I’ve never been there and ask all sorts of questions before I disclose that yes, indeed, I am in his computer.  We’ll see how Mr. UPS Store Guy likes a taste of his own medicine.

Anyway the most pressing reason I have for completing my gift wrapping today is because Jared will take his last final exam at nine o’clock this morning.  This means Christmas break in the Datoc household officially starts at 11 o’clock.  HURRAY!  What does this have to do with gift wrapping, you wonder.  Let me tell you.  The minute Jared crosses the threshold of our home, the following words will pop into his head.  LET THE SNOOPING BEGIN!  He will immediately run upstairs to wake his brother, who incidentally has been sleeping since he got home from college on Wednesday evening.  Together they will begin creeping around the house, snooping for Christmas gifts.  This is a time-honored tradition in the Datoc home, having been passed down from my side of the family.  I’m pretty sure my mom was (and may still be) a snooper.  I am a snooper.  Both of my kids are snoopers.  I am fine with the snooping.  In fact I’m better than fine.  I like the idea of Christian and Jared sneaking around the house, snooping in closets, corners, behind the furniture, in the attic, in the basement, and pretending they are not.  It’s a bit of a game, and just thinking about it makes me giggle.  Pat and I will pretend we don’t know the kids are snooping and they will pretend they don’t know that we’re pretending that we don’t know.  You know the drill.  I’m not sure if Pat knows I’m still a snooper.  He actually may believe that at my age I have outgrown this sort of thing.  I am here to tell you I have not.  I still snoop, but I NEVER, EVER peek.  Peeking is worse than having bad manners.  Peeking is mean-spirited.  In fact, peeking is stealing.  That’s right…stealing.    Frankly, I think there needs to be a nationwide, no make that a worldwide, prohibition on peeking.  Legal or not, hear me when I say this.  Under no circumstances is peeking ever allowed in the Datoc home.  Peeking will not be tolerated.

Contrary to popular beliefs, Christmas snooping and Christmas peeking are NOT one in the same.  Christmas snooping involves only the search.  Finding the stash puts an end to the snooping.  It is at this point that the snooper realizes there will be a gift waiting for him under the tree on Christmas morning.  He may be tempted to peek, but he will not.  He does not remove the wrapping paper, open the box, examine or even steal the tiniest peek at the package contents.  Christmas peeking deprives the bestower of a very precious gift;  the gift of seeing the recipient’s face as he rips off the wrapping from the package and beholds its contents for the very first time.  Remember there is only ever one very first time for anything.  I tell you, Christmas peeking is stealing.  It is tantamount to stealing an actual physical Christmas gift before it ever  has been given because for some people experiencing the excitement and joy expressed in the surprised looks on their children’s faces is the best Christmas gift of all.  I’m just saying that’s how it is for some people.

Peeking is not allowed in this family.  NO PEEKING ALLOWED!  I won’t have it.  It’s mean-spirited and on top of that  it’s flat-out stealing.  We are not a bunch of thieves.  We Datocs may snoop, but we NEVER, EVER peek.  We weren’t raised that way.   Now you’ll have to excuse me.  It is eight o’clock.  Jared just left for school which means I have exactly two hours and thirty minutes to complete my gift wrapping.  Wish me luck.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a… Good Night.  Sleep Tight.


Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

What is the world coming to?!  Global warming?  The polar ice caps are melting?  I don’t know, but I’ll bet Al Gore has an explanation.  It was 50 degrees in Connecticut last weekend, but it snowed in Atlanta.  You heard me.  It snowed in Atlanta.  In fact, it snowed here for three consecutive days.  Nope…I take that back.  Make that four consecutive snow days for Atlanta because it’s snowing again today…right this very minute.  Did you get that?  IT’S SNOWING AGAIN TODAY!  That has to be some kind of record.  It snowed on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and some more today.  Really!  Ask anyone.  Okay.  So nothing accumulated, and it’s been anemic at best, but catching a glimpse of even the tiniest of snow flakes floating gracefully through the air makes me giddy!  (Speaking of giddy, CHRISTIAN WILL BE HOME FROM COLLEGE IN JUST A FEW HOURS!)

I get giddy over snow, and it’s not because it stirs up memories of my childhood winters in Connecticut.  No, no.  It’s because snow whips southern folks into a frenzy and it’s fun for transplants like me to watch.  The minute Glenn Burns (one of our local weather personalities…FYI they’re not weather men anymore…sheesh) even hints at dropping the “S” bomb, Atlantans (and I can only assume this is true for all southerners) rush out and buy up all the toilet paper, bottled water, milk, and bread from every grocery store in the entire metropolitan area and surrounding counties.  I swear it’s true.  And another thing.  Native Atlantans think snow flurries call for umbrellas.  Now any self-respecting Yankee knows that you do not, I repeat YOU DO NOT, use an umbrella when it is snowing.  No, no, no.  When it is snowing, you drop your head back as far as it will go, look up toward the heavens, open your mouth and catch snow flakes on your tongue.  Please do not attempt to argue with me about this.  That is what you do when it snows, and it cannot be done if you are holding an umbrella up over your head.  It’s not proper snow protocol.  I mean the whole point of walking around outside in the snow is to let it land on you for Pete’s sake.  Plus, it’s just plain weird to see people walking around outside in the snow with umbrellas hoisted up over their heads.  And how about those people, caught without snow boots or galoshes, who wrap their shoes in plastic grocery bags and think they can walk around in the snow?  Do they know how ridiculous they look?  Umbrellas overhead, plastic bags for shoes, carrying sacks full of toilet paper and bottled water?

As if southerners walking around in the snow isn’t insane enough, you should see what happens when they get behind the wheel of a car after a good dusting of the white stuff.  Good heavens.  It’s sliding and skidding and spinning and car after car, having bumped into one thing or another, pulled off to the side of the road every ten yards for miles on end.  I’ll tell you what.  Southerners just need to stay put when it snows.  Start a fire in the fireplace, people.  Pop some popcorn and drink some cocoa.  Please.  It’s like the song says, “Oh the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful.  Since we’ve no place to go.  Let it snow!  Let it snow!  Let it snow!”

Merry Christmas to all and to all a…  Good night.  Sleep tight.

Where did you say you went to college?

My son, Christian, asked me to send him a suit, dress shoes and some ties because he is attending a fraternity function on Friday night.  He’s not in the fraternity yet, but is being invited to this function as part of the rush process.  The whole rushing and pledging process seems a little barbaric to me, but then again, I don’t really understand all of this fraternity and sorority business.  I don’t know the difference between rushing and pledging and initiating.  It gives me a headache trying to make sense of it all.  We didn’t have fraternities and sororities when I was in college.  Now, it’s not like I went to school during the era when the temple mound builders roamed the earth.  I’m not that old.  Fraternities and sororities had been invented by the time I was a coed.  We just didn’t have them in…ahem…the Ivy League.  I’m always a little reluctant to mention I’m an Ivy Leaguer.  You see when I disclose the fact that I attended Yale, it seems every Tom, Dick, and Harry I’ve ever met thinks it’s hilariously funny to make a big deal whenever I do something stupid.  It never fails.   I make some awful blunder and there is always someone  lurking around the corner just waiting to ask me sarcastically, ‘Where was it you went to college again?”  Even the tiniest of gaffes arouses the comic in the nicest of people, “So you must have been a REALLY good athlete, eh?”  Chortle, chortle, chortle.  Let’s all get a good laugh at the expense of the nerdy girl.  Stuff like that really irks me.  Sheesh.  And by the way, I’m not even that smart.  Seriously, I’m pretty sure if I were applying to Yale today, I would not be wait-listed, let alone get in.

Where was I?  That’s right.  Christian called to ask me to send him a suit, dress shoes, and a few ties for this formal fraternity function to which he was invited.  Call me dependable because within 30 minutes of Christian’s phone call, I had rifled through his closet, pulled everything together and was heading for the UPS store.  I walked in the door and took note that there was one person in line ahead of me who seemed to be shipping several packages.  Getting a jump on Christmas, I’ll bet.  My mind wandered a bit as I waited for my turn, and in the meantime several other people came into the store and fell in line behind me.

“Who’s next?” the clerk queried to the group of us.  Even though, I might add, it was obvious that I was the next customer in line.

“I am,” I said raising my hand.

“How can I help you?”

“I’d like to ship a package by UPS ground to my son at his college address.”

“Have you shipped with us before?”

Let me take a minute to tell you that his question always baffles me.  I have been shipping with this particular UPS store, run by this same guy for five years.  In that time I have sent birthday and Christmas presents to our family in Virginia and since Christian went away to school last year, I have been a patron at least once, if not twice, a month.  I felt like screaming at this guy.  LOOK AT ME YOU IDIOT!  DON’T PRETEND YOU DON’T RECOGNIZE ME!

“Yes, I’m in the computer,” is what I replied instead.  Then, without waiting to be asked for it, since I know the drill, I gave him my home phone number and name in order for him to access my account information in his database.

“Okay.  I’m guessing you want to send this to Christian in South Carolina?”  See, I knew he recognized me.

“Yes, but I need to buy a box.”

“Okay.  Just step to the side here.”

I complied, thinking I would wait off to the side while he went to the back to grab me a box.  You are never going to believe this, but the clerk then looked to the person in line directly behind me and asked, “How can I help you?”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I stood there watching in disbelief as he attended, one by one, to the next three people in line.

“Excuse me, “ I interrupted.  “I was here before all of these people.  Can you tell me why I am standing here waiting for you to go get me a box, and instead you’re serving all of these people first?”

“Please be patient ma’am.  I don’t want the line to get too long, and it’s going to take me a little while to finish up with you.  There’s no need to make all these people wait.”

“No, no, no.  See I’ve already been patient.  I patiently waited for you to finish with the gentleman in front of me who shipped several boxes to different addresses which took quite a bit of time.  Now it’s my turn to be waited on and it’s their turn,” pointing over my shoulder to the people behind me, “to be patient.  I’m sure they’ll understand because that’s how waiting in line works.  First come first serve.”  I turned and posed this question to the three remaining people in line, “Am I right?”   I got one bashful nod from the person immediately behind me, but the other two just glanced away uncomfortably pretending not to hear me. DOESN”T ANYONE HAVE MANNERS ANYMORE?

“Fine.” He stormed to the back of the store to get me a box.

He came back and motioned for me to hand the suit, shoes, and the rest of what would soon be the contents of the package over the counter to him.  I watched him as he began to pack the box.

“Excuse me.  I see you’re putting the suit in first, but could you please put the shoebox and the smaller bag with the neckties in first, and then lay the suit on top?  Oh and don’t forget the note there and that little bag of beef jerky.”

”It’s better if I put the suit in first and the other stuff on top.  It fits better.”

“I know.  I can see that, but I’d like you to put everything into the box in the order I described so that when my son opens the box, he’ll be able to take the suit out first and hang it in his closet and then take out the shoes and ties.  That will make it easier for him to put everything away.”  The clerk stared incredulously, blinking every few seconds.  With the look that was plastered on his face, I have to say I was thankful he didn’t know I graduated from Yale because he’d have probably made some sarcastic remark like, “And where did you say you went to college?”  Instead he just shook his head and said, “Okay.”

Till tomorrow…  Good night.  Sleep tight.


When my kids were little, we played all sorts of made up games, most of which involved my singing.  We played one that the boys called, “I Know an Old Lady.”  If it sounds vaguely familiar it’s because everyone knows the folk song I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary (written and composed by Rose Bonne and Alan Mills).  Anyway, our game evolved out of my singing that song to Christian and Jared.  We’d get in the car to go somewhere and one or both of them would shout, “Let’s play I Know an Old Lady, mom!”  So I would start with the first verse.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a fly.  I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.  Perhaps she’ll die.”

Next, one of the boys would shout out something for the old lady to swallow.  For example, Christian might shout, “I know an old lady who swallowed a book!”  I’d echo his verse and add the rhyme.

“I know an old lady who swallowed a book.  She swallowed a book ’cause she was too tired to cook.  Perhaps she’ll die.”  Then, of course, both boys would erupt in laughter.

This back and forth could go on endlessly, with the boys trying to stump me by shouting out bizarre, hard-to-rhyme objects for the lady to swallow, followed by my attempts at composing a verse that both rhymed and made sense.  One of my all time favorites was, “I know an old lady who swallowed the TV remote.  She swallowed the remote and changed channels in her throat.  Perhaps she’ll die.”

Another game we played evolved from the children’s song. Old MacDonald Had a Farm. We sang our version like this.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a (name of family member).  E-I-E-I-O.  With a…” Here’s where the fun started.  Instead of an animal sound, like in the real song, we’d plug in something about the family member.  For example, for Pat, we’d shout out x-ray.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a DADDY!  E-I-E-I-O.  With an x-ray here, and an x-ray there, here an x-ray, there an x-ray, everywhere an x-ray, x-ray.  Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.”

By the way, for those of you wondering about all the x-rays, my husband is not accident prone.  He is a radiologist.  Get it now?  We might plug in something golf related, or  “GO REDSKINS,” for Pat also.  For the kids we’d plug in homework, baseball, Harry Potter, Legos, etc.  Everybody in the family including aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins dogs, EVERYBODY had a variety of things sung about them.  Everybody, that is, except for ME.  Without fail, whenever we played this game and it was my turn, Christian and Jared would sing the same thing about me.  ALWAYS.  I swear.

“Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.  And on his farm he had a MOMMY!  E-I-E-I-O.  With laundry here, and laundry there, here laundry, there laundry, everywhere laundry, laundry.  Farmer Datoc had a farm.  E-I-E-I-O.”

So it came as no surprise to me when Christian showed up at home on Tuesday night before Thanksgiving with four trash bags and a laundry hamper stuffed full of dirty laundry.  Apparently he hadn’t done laundry for close to a month.  For those of you who are not parents of college students, be advised there is something putrid smelling about college student laundry that doesn’t happen when they are living at home.  I’m not sure how or why it happens, but HAVE NO FEAR, my college boy!   No one, I MEAN NO ONE can do laundry like your mama!

When I’m tackling one of those super sized, my-kid-just-came-home-from-college-with-more-dirty-clothes-than-I’ve-ever-seen-in-one-place-outside-of-a-commercial-laundromat jobs, I stick to a rigid protocol.  I’m very good at adhering to rigid protocol, especially if I think it will make my life easier down the road.  First comes what I like to call the primary sorting.  You know, separating everything into the five primary laundry loads:  towels, sheets, darks, lights, and whites.  Everyone does this right?  Next come the subsequent levels of sub-sorting which is the process of organizing the main loads into smaller loads by clothing type.   Let’s take Christian’s darks as an example.  I sub-sorted the main dark load into two smaller secondary loads classified as dark tops and dark bottoms.  These smaller loads were sub-sorted again into tertiary loads.  The dark tops were sub-sorted into the tertiary loads of dark t-shirts, dark collared shirts, dark sweaters, dark sweatshirts, and dark workout shirts.  The dark bottoms were sub-sorted into the tertiary loads of dark jeans, dark twill pants, dark athletic shorts, dark sweat pants, dark underwear, and dark socks.  The process of sub-sorting continues (quaternary, quinary, senary, septenary, etc.) until the loads are small enough to fit into the washing machine.  Once, sub-sorting is complete, stubborn stains are pre-treated and scrubbed and finally loads are sent through the washing machine and dryer, folded and stored (or packed in the case of college students) away.

Maybe you think it sounds like I’m a little compulsive, but I’ll tell you what.  I like order.  The principles that govern the way I do laundry are fundamentally the same as those principles that compel my behavior at the grocery store check out counter.  In the same way I like to place my groceries on the conveyor belt in the order in which I will eventually unpack them from the bags and put them away at home, I like to sort my laundry in such a way as to make folding and putting it away as easy as possible.  You know the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.   I can’t really explain it, but it sort of makes sense.  You know what I mean.

By the time I finished with Christian’s laundry, I had systematically sorted, stain treated, washed (in eco-friendly, phosphate-free, detergent, mind you), sent through the dryer, folded and helped Christian repack 13 loads of laundry.  It was poetry in motion.  I’m not ashamed to tell you that for the better part of two days there was laundry here and laundry there, here laundry, there laundry, everywhere laundry, laundry, but it was worth it.  Dirty laundry that I could barely bring myself to touch was once again clean and fresh.  Amazing. All I can say is  E-I-E-I-O.

TIll tomorrow…Good night.  Sleep tight.