Friday, December 5, 2014

A Kindergartener’s Christmas Story

A few years ago, when our youngest Lily was in Kindergarten, I sat down with her classmates and we discussed the meaning of Christmas. Their insights were just what you would expect from a five year old – entertaining, inaccurate, yet full of certainty.

The first question was simple: Why do we celebrate Christmas? One little girl said, “We celebrate Christmas because that’s the day Jesus was born. His father, Joseph, sawed boards for a living and his mother, Mary, took care of Jesus all day.”

Next question: What happened on the day he was born? Lily’s friend Mia, said, “His parents went to a little temple and they put baby Jesus in the hay with a blanket, and they had a donkey and animals.” A little guy got so excited to contribute that he shouted, “Oh, and when he got born, an angel went there to the wise men and said, ‘I have great joy!’” Then according to Lily and two other girlfriends, the wise men brought the baby Jesus some gold stuff in a little gold basket, a bottle with smelly stuff in it and some mercury.”

I decided to switch gears a little bit with my line of questioning: Where does Santa live? One little boy was absolutely confident when he said, “Santa lives in the North Pole, which is on the moon.” But his buddy next to him countered: “No, it’s at the bottom, I mean the top. Is it the bottom or to top? Oh, I don’t know!”

And what is the North Pole like? One boy had an extensive description: “The North Pole is like an arctic place and it has Christmas trees and whole bunches of elves and reindeer that have magic in them that make them fly.”

“Really?” I asked, completely surprised. He giggled. “They can fly?” I gasped. ”How in the world can they do that?”

One little girl explained patiently, “His reindonkeys fly him to our houses.”

“Okay,” I said, “but HOW do they fly?” The guy who thinks the North Pole is on the moon started moving his arms up and down, saying, “The reindeer fly by flapping their feet,” he demonstrated.

After his display, I think I caught him rolling his eyes at the others as if to say, “Can you get a load of this goofy lady? She doesn’t even know reindeer can fly!”

Next I asked them what Santa does in the North Pole. Flappy-armed boy spoke to me patiently, as if speaking to a child, which is ironic, if you think about it: “The elves live there and work and work and Santa’s their boss.”

Which begged the question: What does Santa’s wife do? One girl told me very plainly, without a hint of a smile, “It’s Miss Santa’s job to fix the T.V.”

Next I asked them how on earth Santa gets the toys from the sleigh into their house. Much discussion took place around the chimney, and they all assured me they don’t make a fire on Christmas Eve so Santa doesn’t get burned. One shy little girl finally spoke up: “My mom leaves the door unlocked so he can get in. We make chocolate chip cookies because he loves chocolate chip cookies. And sometimes we pour milk for him too.”

Then I asked, Have you ever actually seen Santa? One boy said that he’s tried, then added, “But I’m usually very tired at that point.” And his buddy said his family camped out on the floor but still didn’t spy him. “He must have turned himself invisible,” he explained.

Of course I asked the obligatory question of the season: Were they naughty or nice this year? Without fail, they assured me that they had all been nice, but one honest boy added, “Sometimes we can be a little bit naughty.”

Last question: If you could say anything to Santa, what would it be? I expected to hear additional gift items to add to their lists, or questions on how he does it all. But instead a little girl’s response caught me by surprise, which seems appropriate, given the fact that this holiday is all about surprises and wonder.

She smiled and whispered, “I’d say, ‘Santa, I hope you have a fun time.’”

The end.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Say cheese

It’s that time of year again … the time when I start thinking “I really should get an ‘official’ family photograph taken so we can send it with our Christmas cards.”

Every year our refrigerator is covered with our friends’ family pictures, each one more beautiful than the last. Here is one family frolicking in a pile of leaves, tossing a few in the air, laughing at some private joke. In another the kids look like they stepped out of a J. Crew catalogue immediately after getting their braces off.

And every year I have the best intentions of getting my brood all together in some lovely outdoor setting and taking a picture that captures our essence as a family. But instead we end up with a candid shot of the kids thrown in front of the fireplace with a string of twinkly lights wrapped around them for a festive touch. Or the four of us, shivering in the snow at Lemolo Lake on our trek to find a Christmas tree, which, in theory, sound lovely. But our smiles are always off, more grimace than smile, because we can’t find a tree that doesn’t look like Charlie Brown’s, our feet are soaked to the bone, someone forgot the Hershey’s bars for the s’mores, and we are somewhat tired of the sight of each other.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sure, these are still technically considered family photos, but not the family portraits of my childhood. What I’m saying is they are NOT Olan Mills Portrait Studio.

If you did not have the pleasure of experiencing an Olan Mills Portrait Studio as a child of the ‘70s or ‘80s, you missed out on a cultural event. Kids, think Awkward Family Photos and you can envision what I’m talking about.

And my mom LOVED her some Olan Mills, much to the chagrin of her four daughters.

Despite the fact that my sisters and I were all in various stages of the awkwardness that is adolescence, my mom insisted that we get dressed up and get our family portrait taken.
This was the era of feathered hair, cowl neck sweaters and gaucho pants. Yeah, we were styling. And thank goodness someone forced us to get photographic evidence of these days (she said, sarcastically).

Stepping into an Olan Mills Portrait Studio felt like stepping into Kojak’s apartment … shag carpet, groovy music, and indistinguishable smoke smells. The lighting was dim, which I suppose was to create a mood, but instead created a sense of anxiety and doom.

Inevitably the “photographers” were middle aged men down on their luck, making minimum wage forcing people to pose in positions that, 30 years later, require regular trips to the chiropractor.

“Here, you - you in the Marcia Brady ponytails - come and sit next to your sister but with your back to the camera. Now put your arm around her shoulder and look over your shoulder.”

My oldest sister would mumble out of the side of her smile, “Yeah, ‘cause this is always how we sit at home.”

Poor guy. He had no idea the sarcasm that was eking out from behind those smiles, but to be completely honest, none of us were happy to be there, the photographer included.

I was always intrigued by the nature backdrops in the studio. The photographer would lower a screen with a picture of a forest in the background and we’d stand in front of it, fully clad in clothes you’d never wear in the forest. Never mind that there was a park with trees RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE STUDIO. But he’s the “photographer,” and this was clearly the more artistic and natural approach.

So as I take another crack at a family photo this year, at least my kids can rest assured that we won’t be heading to an Olan Mills Portrait Studio. However I see quite a few leaves collecting in our back yard and I feel a frolic coming on.

Now, if I can just find those gaucho pants…

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Family, like fish, are only good for three days

I just booked a trip to Ohio for my niece Maggie’s upcoming wedding. It’s a real circle-of-life moment for me, seeing that Maggie was our flower girl at our wedding 22 years ago.

I’m hoping it will be a fabulous visit. It has to be better than our visit four years ago.

How could it possibly be worse?

The hosts in this case were my sister Peg and my brother-in-law Jeff, parents to the bride-to-be Maggie. They are lovely people with, as you’ll see, amazing patience for me and my brood. It was just me and the kids (hubby had to work) so I assumed it would be no big deal, right?

Wrong.

The first incident occurred within minutes of my arrival. I took my suitcase up to the guest room to unpack. I went over to open the shades and they collapsed on my head. As I balance them above my head, trying to re-insert the ends into the hardware, the curtain rod fell down as well. I tried my best to replace the shades but later in the night the whole contraption fell again.

Our second night there we made popcorn, caught fireflies and watched a movie with the kids. Someone (the jury’s still out on who) put the popcorn kernels down the drain, causing the garbage disposal to emit a groan that was not unlike a dying seal. I found Jeff at the sink, his arm in the disposal up to his elbow, pulling them out one handful at a time.

On day three I thought I would redeem our family name by running out to the store to stock up on some grocery items. I was borrowing my niece Maggie’s car during our trip, and when I started to back up out of the driveway I slammed into something. I looked out the window just in time to see the back hubcap rolling in the yard. Upon closer inspection I realized that I had struck the basketball hoop’s post.

Later that day I overheard Jeff say to Peg, “Our ice maker in the freezer is broken.”

“I wasn’t anywhere near the thing,” I yelled across the room, exasperated by the carnage that was piling up, seemingly as a result of my family’s presence.

Then Lily and her cousin were playing in the garage and decided to pull the garage door rope down, disengaging the automatic door opener, thereby trapping Jeff’s car inside until we figured out what had happened. At this point, I was ready to call the airline and get us on an earlier flight home.

Instead, I decided to do a load of laundry and ended up accidentally washing Nathaniel’s iPod among a load of darks. I immediately put it in a bag of rice since that had worked for my cell phone a couple of months ago. Jeff looked skeptically at the bag, and asked, “What happened here?”

I assured him that this would work, as it had before, and he said, “Yeah, but you dropped your cell phone for a moment in the toilet. The iPod rattled around in water for an hour.” Sad but true, Jeff was right and the iPod died that night in Ohio, alone in its rice tomb.

On day four, the last day of our visit, Peg asked Jeff, “Do you think it’s a Burmeister curse?”

“No, because they’ve stayed here before,” answered Jeff. “But then again, they’ve never stayed this long…”

“You know, I can hear you guys,” I reminded them, sitting across the table, a mere inches from this discussion.

So here we are, four years later. I can only imagine the conversations Peg and Jeff are having anticipating our arrival …

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives and works in Winchester. You can reach her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Monday, August 11, 2014

From the nursery to the dorm room

I remember before our first child was born, I spent hours upon hours imagining, planning and decorating his nursery to welcome him home. Craig and I settled on a stars and moon theme for the room and I started purchasing everything with constellations I could find.

Of course this was early in our marriage when we were dirt poor, living off of the humblest of salaries while we finished graduate school. Let’s just say we ate a lot of Ramen.

So I did what every poor, non-crafty person does: I found crafty friends to help. One friend helped me make the bedding for the crib out of dark blue fabric with metallic gold stars on it; another friend helped me refurbish a hand-me-down chest of drawers so we could paint it like a dark, cloudy sky and then stencil gold stars on it; another friend helped me make curtains to match the crib bedding.

I then went in search of quotes that referenced the stars and sky and created them into wall hangings.

So why did we spend months in advance of our baby’s birth painstakingly decorating his nursery? Because we wanted this little bundle of joy to know from the moment he opened his eyes each morning that he was loved, safe and home.

Last weekend, however, when it was time to pack up that little “baby’s” room for college, we were done in a matter of hours.

How did that happen?

We went from Lego pieces strewn across the floor, a life-size Han Solo figure and a Yoda talking doll (sorry, action figure) to nothing more than a teenager’s clothes, books, musical instruments, laptop and a cell phone.

There are no longer any signs of Lego pieces anywhere in his room. Han Solo, while still cool, is nowhere to be found. Yoda, thankfully, was out of order after a certain parent took a hammer to him after he shorted out and wouldn’t stop saying “Tired, you are” at 3 a.m. (I was exhausted.)

As far as I could see, only one thing remained in his room that had roots in his childhood: the fleece blanket. I received this full-size blanket for Christmas one year in college, and for some reason, Natty adopted it at a very young age. As I stand at the door of his almost empty room, I can see it among the blankets on his bed.

Just the other day he asked me, “Do you mind if I take the fleece blanket up to school with me?”

Of course I smiled and said, “No, I don’t mind at all,” as my eyes filled up with tears.

As we head up today to take him to school, I may not be able to decorate his room like I did when he was about to be born. Yet our goal is still the same for him today: We want this young man to know from the moment he opens his eyes each morning that he is loved, safe and home.

I’m hoping that everything we’ve taught him over the last 18 years has communicated this message clearly, but just in case, it’s good to know the fleece blanket will stand-in to convey the same message for us.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Alive women don't wear plaid either

I went shopping the other day and realized, to my horror, that plaid clothes are making a comeback. The mere thought of this makes me shudder.

I’m not a big fan of plaid clothing. Never have been; never will be. And I don’t mean I just don’t care for plaid, I mean I break out in hives and start itching at the mere thought of plaid clothing, which is eerily similar to the physical response I have at the sight of clowns. But I digress.

Why do I feel so strongly about plaid, you might ask? Two words: Catholic school.

Beginning in first grade, I was given the plaid uniform to wear EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT EIGHT YEARS. Think about that … outside of weekends and summer vacation, I had no choice whatsoever on what to wear for a solid eight years.

There ought to be a therapist who specializes in this, but you’ll be surprised to hear there is not. Trust me, I’ve checked.

Sure, at first I was excited to wear the uniform, especially since I had watched my three big sisters march off to school in their matching uniforms (in the ever-lovely colors of forest green, gray and black, I might add). But once the novelty wore off, it became a bit of a grind.

“Wasn’t it nice to not have to give a second thought to what you’d wear each day?” friends ask, meaning well.

Sure, just as much as you’d like eating the same breakfast of a hard-boiled egg every day for EIGHT YEARS, I think.

Too much of a bad thing is just – well, bad.

Never mind the feeling of suffocation these restrictions placed on my freedom of expression by the time I was in eighth grade. I wanted to be adventurous, experimenting with respectable clothing choices, such as leg warmers, parachute pants, and jean jackets (with the collar turned up).

Can you say “Hello 1980’s?”

As if it wasn’t awkward enough to be a 13-year-old in the early ‘80s walking to and from school in this hideous plaid monstrosity, there were other hurdles to jump.
Exhibit A: The Bay City Rollers. In the late ‘70s, the Scottish pop band was promoted as the “tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh.” I’m sure that is because nothing says rock-and-roll like matching tartan plaid outfits on grown men, am I right?

Exhibit B: The Outsiders. The book read by all middle school students portrayed the gang fights between the Greasers and the Socs (short for socialites). In the book the Greasers are the well-meaning, mistreated and misunderstood underdog while the Socs were just jerks. Of course, every time a Soc is mentioned he is wearing a … wait for it … Madras plaid shirt. I rest my case.

Exhibit C: Daisy Duke. Back in the ‘80s the Dukes of Hazards was popular, as was Daisy Duke, the racy side-kick country girl who had a penchant for plaid shirts. Of course Daisy tied her plaid shirt above the waist and wore hot pants, neither which is acceptable dress under the Catholic School Girl Dress Guide of 1981.

Now, I can wear gingham shirts (the younger step-brother of plaid, which was just not brave enough to cross paths with one another). I can even wear argyle (the slightly off-balance sister of plaid).

But if the ‘80s film is right, and “Real Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” neither does this girl. Ever again.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Aloha, owwwiieeeee

Have you ever lived under the illusion that you were better than you really are? Or have you found yourself assuming you can still do the things you were adept at when you were, say, 18? Have you found that some physical movements that were once common place, now often result in a trip to the chiropractor?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, take heart … I am right there with you, my friend.

Our 12-year-old daughter has taken up hula dancing. I, fancying myself the spry teenager of the late ‘80s, would sit and watch her rehearsals and think to myself, “I can totally do that.”

Ah, sweet delusion. How was I to know where you would lead me?

When my daughter brought home a few DVDs of the dances she was learning, I stopped making dinner one night to join her in the living room to practice. You know, throw the kid a bone.

Back in the day, I could watch any kind of dance move and mimic it no problem. Of course, there wasn’t much skill to the zombie dance moves of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but that wasn’t all I could do. I could also imitate the entire Bangles video for “Walk Like an Egyptian,” so I had that going on. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my moves were multi-faceted.

So in my mind, I’m thinking, “This will be no sweat. Let me run through it once with Lily and show her how it’s done.”

The video started and her teacher, a Roseburg woman who’s been teaching hula for years, popped up the screen and started dancing. We were barely two beats in and I was already behind. “No problem,” I told myself. “You’re just rusty after all these years. Muscle memory will kick in anytime now, pal.”

Next thing I knew, Lily was onto another move and I was still getting my arms to do the side-to-side move that hula is known for.

“No, mom!” said Lily. “Don’t move your fingers like that! Move them like this!”

Hold up. Why is my 12-year-old daughter telling ME how to move? Clearly she doesn’t know who she’s dealing with. Has she not seen me dance along to “Dancing in the Dark” by The Boss?

The next move was something with our hips that is not humanly possible. I seriously don’t know when my hips became disjointed, but I resembled Bambi the first time he tried to walk.

By this time, Lily was doubled over laughing. At me. The original (self-proclaimed) ‘80s valley girl.

What kind of lunacy is this?

By now I was completely out of sync and so far behind, that this particular Soul Train was ready to run right off the tracks. Plus I was out of breath and sweating. After 60 seconds of hula.

My how the mighty have fallen.

At that point, I grabbed my apron and went back to making homemade pasta e fagioli, something I truly am still good at. But just to show I was still cool, I turned on the Bangles Pandora station while I cooked and danced a little while I stirred.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Don't fence me in

Last weekend we celebrated 22 years of marriage with a spontaneous overnight trip to the Rogue River. As luck would have it, both kids were invited to friends’ houses for the night and we were able to leave after work Friday and head south.

As we pulled together the plan Thursday night, everything was falling into place. I had booked a cabin, I had the directions to the lodge, and we had packed up everything we needed to hit the road. Sometime around 9 p.m. Thursday night, however, both Craig and I looked at each other in alarm and gasped, “What about Angus?”

Angus the Wonder Pup is our cute one-and-a-half year-old Scottish terrier who needs constant supervision except during those moments when he’s sleeping or eating. (The keyword in the preceding sentence is CONSTANT.)

He’s a good little pup, but he is busy busy busy and likes to eat inedible items, tear around the house with someone’s sock, eat every flower off the hydrangea plant we put in the ground not 10 minutes earlier, and piddle in the corner, so we have our work cut out for us during his waking hours.

And we had not arranged for anyone to stay with him like we usually do.

“You know what this means,” I stated, more than asked, my husband. “It means we’re going to finally try out a kennel.”

“I’ll call in the morning,” said Craig, realizing that the only thing standing between him and the Rogue River was this cute little black ball of fur.

Halfway through my workday I got a text from Craig that read: “Kennel is lined up and ready to go. We can drop him off on our way out of town.”

Now, just getting Angus in the car is a feat. Not to mention, the only time he gets in the car is to go to the vet or the groomers. You can imagine how much he dislikes going to the vet, but he’s not a huge fan of the groomers either. He gives me this look when I pick him up, all trimmed, smelling good and wearing a jaunty scarf. The look says, “You have no idea how emasculated I feel right now.”

The kennel itself is a lovely place that came highly recommended by our vet, so we were confident Angus would be happy there. Plus the people who worked there were so nice. They took one look at Angus and said, “Oh, how cute is he?” which showed us they are discerning folk.

But once we pulled out and passed Angus in the fenced-in area he gave us “the face.” Those pitiful eyes seemed to be saying, “Hey people, I haven’t peed on the carpet in a few months now. Is this really necessary?”

Needless to say, he was more than ecstatic to see us on Sunday when we picked him up. If licks can be interpreted, I’m pretty sure he was saying “I promise to never eat another hydrangea plant again … at least for a week.”

I keep waiting for a call from the kennel staff, complaining about their own hydrangea plants, but so far so good.

What a good little puppy.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Small moments add up to big changes in our children’s lives

I’ve written some version of this article every year around graduation time, especially the last few years as I’ve watched our friends’ children reach the age where they are graduating from high school. This year is especially poignant as we send our oldest off to college in August.

I still remember the day four years ago when Natty gave me a hug and I realized he had passed me in height. I was completely caught off guard. When did this happen? Just yesterday he was shorter than me, but like Jack’s beanstalk, he just took off without warning.

It wasn’t the fact that he grew taller than me that got to me; it was the fact that I didn’t realize that the day before was the last day he’d be smaller than me in every way.

There are so many events in our lives as parents that are milestones, and their celebrations mark their passing: birthdays, graduations, driver’s test, a kid’s last summer home before college …

But there are equally important milestones that come and go without fanfare, which makes the passing a little harder for me to handle. I think it’s because they lack a sense of closure, a rite of passage.

For example, I still remember the evening not long ago when I realized that our sleepy seven-year-old daughter was too big for me to carry from our bed to her own bed. I wish someone would have caught me the night before that and whispered in my ear, “This is the last time you’ll ever carry her in your arms like a little girl again. Enjoy every minute of it.”

Natty used to reach out and grab my hand as I walked him into his elementary school. One day it just stopped without warning, as it should, but had I known that that was the last time we’d hold hands on the way into school, I would have squeezed his hand a little tighter and longer.

I truly believe that the less our kids need their father and me as they get older the better job of parenting we’re doing. All I’m saying is that I wish there were an early warning system in place that would notify me, “This is the last diaper you’re ever going to change because she’ll be fully potty trained tomorrow” … “This is the last day with training wheels because he’s going to learn to ride without them after dinner” … “This is the last bottle you’ll ever prepare because she’s graduating to a sippy cup” … or “This is the last time you’ll read ‘Goodnight Moon’ (even if you’ve already read it 4,520 times) to this little person on your lap who calls you ‘mommy.’”

Time marches on and in between the hours great changes are occurring in our children. I simply want to learn to embrace those in-between moments more, because I don’t know if they’ll ever come around again.

I love what C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “The Four Loves” and I think it’s applicable to the love I feel toward my kids: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken."

So, as I move forward with birthdays, holidays, high school graduations and college Parents’ Weekends, I hope and pray that my heart stays soft, even when it feels like it might break at the loveliness of it all. Carpe Diem … seize the day.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can contact her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, May 9, 2014

I can't be trusted with a DIY project

I am not cut out for do-it-yourself projects. Never have been; never will be. I’ve heard it said that the healing process can begin when you admit your shortcomings, so I’m going public with my admission.

My inability to do-it-myself once again became crystal clear while designing my own graduation announcements for our oldest child’s graduation in June. I saw the prices for the announcements through the school’s vendor and thought, “That’s too expensive! I’m creative, I can do this myself.”

That statement, right there – “I can do this myself” - is the slippery slope that leads me to the DIY trash heap, resulting in wasted money, time and effort.

Here’s what happened. I scanned pictures, I placed the pictures using the handy online tool and chose the kind of card stock I wanted to use for the invitations. I added the information about the graduation party we’re planning with three other families, and clicked ORDER.

Then two days later I realized I had ordered 75 invitations for the WRONG DAY.

Forty-eight dollars later, I placed my re-order for the very same invitations with the correct date. See how I saved us some money there? Yeah, me neither.

I wish I could report that this if the first instance of my DIY projects going awry, but my son would be the first to tell on me and my history of DIY nightmares. Sadly, he’s been the brunt of most of these.

Exhibit A: The Great Home Haircut Nightmare of 1998: By the time Natty turned two, he already needed monthly haircuts, which added up quickly. It was a simple haircut, so I naively assumed “I can do this myself!” and bought some hair clippers at WalMart. I didn’t read the instructions because “I don’t do instructions” (another article altogether) and instead pulled out the clippers and started “trimming.” Instead, I shaved a strip on the back of his head bald before realizing that there were attachments for how many inches you want to cut off. Craig came home, gently took the clippers out of my hands, and said, “Please just pay for the haircuts.” I’ve never seen those clippers again.

Exhibit B: The Great Halloween Costume Debacle of 1999. Natty loved the Veggie Tales videos as a child, so for his third Halloween I decided he would go as Bob the Tomato. Sure, they sold costumes, but they were ridiculously overpriced and we were on a tight budget so I thought “I can do this myself!” I found an orange felt pumpkin costume on clearance at Kmart and bought some red spray paint. I decided I would spray paint the orange pumpkin to make it red, put some cut-out felt eyes and mouth on it and – voila! –our very own Bob the Tomato costume. Well, I’m here to tell you that spray paint does not go on felt smoothly, which made him look a little like Bob the orange/reddish squash. Then it started raining while we were trick or treating, so the paint started running down Natty’s legs. The next year, I bought a costume.

Exhibit C: The Great Birthday Cake Apocalypse of 2002: I’m one of those people that see a picture in a cookbook and think “I can do this myself!” True, most of my baking does TASTE good, it just ends up not looking even remotely close to the picture. I tried to do a Star Wars cake for Natty’s sixth birthday and … long story short … ended up at Fred Meyer Bakery that morning buying a sheet cake in time for his party.

In a few short weeks, Natty will be picking up his graduation gown and mortar board, but I’ve been thinking that those would be super easy to sew myself. I mean, I took a sewing class in the seventh grade, so how hard could this be?

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Say Yes to the Tux? Maybe not

Our son is a senior this year, which means the year has been swallowed by college visits, college applications, scholarship applications, FAFSA forms (also known as the ninth circle of hell), graduation party planning and, this weekend, prom.

And prom means one thing is certain: We will be forking over an unholy amount of money to rent a tux for one single night.

On a trip up to the college of his choice last weekend, we had the TV on in the hotel room and it happened to be tuned to the show “Say Yes to the Dress” on The Learning Channel.

For those of you who don’t know what this show is, let me give you my best synopsis. It’s about a bride, her mother, and her bridesmaids shopping for the perfect wedding dress (hence the title). And it doesn’t paint women in the most flattering light. Seeing that it’s a reality show, of course it capitalizes on hissy fits, power struggles and ridiculous one-liners such as “You don’t like my dress because you’ve never liked me!” or “Does this make my shoulders look fat?”

Oy.

I sat in the hotel eating breakfast, mouth agape as I watched the horror show of catty women in search of a dress that helped reflect their genteel, kind and feminine side. Oh, the irony.

My son Natty sat next to me for a few minutes, watching the train wreck as it happened, and said, “You know, it would be funny if they had a show called ‘Say Yes to the Tux.’ My best guess is that it would last a whole three minutes.”

We discussed how the show might play out: A tuxedo store clerk would bring out the first tux.

Natty: “I’ll take it.”

Tuxedo clerk: “But it’s only the first one, and it’s black. We have many other shades of gray, charcoal, slate, brown, taupe…”

Natty: “Wrap it up. That’s the one.”

Tuxedo clerk: “Okay, just give me a second to get my measuring tape and we’ll take some measurements.”

Natty: “Not necessary. I’ll just take that one. It looks just about right.”

Tuxedo clerk: “That’s not how this works, sir. I show you a tux, you choose the one you like, and then we measure you for the perfect fit.”

Natty: “There’s where you’re wrong. I don’t care about a perfect fit; I just want the cheapest tux in the shortest time possible.”

You can see how TLC might not think this would make for riveting, juicy programming.

To stretch it out, they could follow the male customer into a floral shop to help him pick out the corsage, but our guess is that might take less than a minute.

Floral clerk: “Can I help you?”

Natty: “Do you have red roses?”

Floral clerk: “We have many roses in various colors, along with other lovely varieties of flowers.”

Natty: “Yeah, that’s not necessary.”

The End.

If this is what a career in reality programming looks like, I think I’ll keep my day job, thank you very much.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Blended with love

I’m not sure if the makers of my blender ever imaged the concoctions I came up with a couple of weeks ago, but necessity is the mother of invention. And when your teenage son gets his wisdom teeth removed and can’t eat anything solid for three days you get really inventive – quickly.

I should have my own show on the Cooking Channel, although I don’t know that anyone would watch. I could barely watch what I was doing myself. Some foods were just never meant to be pureed.

Granted, food preparation can be a bit gross at times in normal circumstances (raw chicken, anyone?) but there are certain foods you just never want to see blended, let alone eat. Let’s just say I think I’ve ruined Ramen noodles for Natty forever. (Which is fine by me: Have you examined the sodium amounts in those deceptively tiny packets?)

When Nathaniel’s friends from school stopped by with ice cream, I made some milkshakes, but noticed my son eyeing the chocolate chip cookies coming out of the oven. Have you ever blended chocolate chip cookies before? Neither had I. But it is blended heaven, I tell you. A Dairy Queen blizzard has nothing on this concoction.

Of course not all experiments were winners. During one of the rounds of milkshakes, I accidentally left the spoon in the blender before pressing the “on” button. I don’t think my ears (or the spoon) will ever be the same. I let it go for some time, frozen trancelike by the screeching metal sound, until one of my son’s friends simply yelled out “spoon!” and jolted me out of my stupor.

Another time I left the lid off and sent the contents flying through the air onto my window, cupboards and toaster. I’m here to tell you that fruit smoothie is downright tricky to clean out of a toaster.

I’m just thankful I didn’t leave the spoon in at the same time I left the lid off, creating a projectile object hurtling through my kitchen. Perhaps that’s why Nathaniel and his friends stayed a safe distance from the blender at all times.

As you can see, I had some kinks to work out, but by the end of his recovery I had this blending thing down. Therefore, if the Cooking Channel is interested in a 30-minute show starring me and my blender I already have some name suggestions:

• For a simple, to-the-point title that encapsulates the disgusting dishes I can create I give you: “Iron Gut.”
• For a motherly-centered show I propose: “Blended with love.”
• For a more literary reference I offer: “But soft, what food from yonder blender make?”
• And to go head-to-head in competition against “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” I suggest “Blenddown with Eileen B.”

I’m flexible on the title, mind you, but I think the promo should read something like this:

Join Eileen as she helps you make one of the milestones in your child’s life the tastiest. When the time comes for your progeny to undergo the coming-of-age wisdom teeth removal, follow her steps so that you’re armed and ready to create some liquefied goodness, or turn them off their favorites forever.

Bon appeteeth.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Parting shot produces pungent after life

Dear Skunk:

After two weeks, I am waving the white flag. You win.

Until we met 14 days ago, I would listen to people talking about how their pets were sprayed by skunks and be ever grateful that I had never had to deal with such a stinky mess. Then I accidentally ran over you on Garden Valley.

Granted, running over a skunk isn’t the same as getting sprayed by a skunk, right?

That’s what I thought. I was so very wrong.

I assumed you sprayed me at the last minute, before my headlights overtook you (again, my deepest apologies). But when I mentioned this theory to my friend Julie she laughed out loud. Did I really think you had time to aim and fire as I was barreling upon you at 50 miles per hour, she asked.

Turns out Julie used to work for a company that cleans up messes in homes after a catastrophe occurs, including a skunk coming inside and spraying the interior. She gave me the low-down on what really happened.

Apparently, when I hit you I ruptured your scent sack (who knew?) which, put simply, means the joke’s on me. Not only do you have my full attention, but my deepest respect; I had no idea the wrath you were capable of unleashing.

I had to park the car in the driveway outside of our attached garage that first night because the stench was permeating the entire household. My son, who was a passenger to this joyride of death, inadvertently left his clothes on the floor of his room, and refused to sleep in there two days after the clothes were washed. This was the time it took for your stench to evaporate. According to Wikipedia: “The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness, and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by a human nose up to a mile down wind.” I am here to say “true that.”

A few days after I hit you I had an appointment in Eugene. It was raining that day so I thanked my lucky stars and assumed that the rain water would wash away any lingering proof of my crime against the Garden Valley Skunk Gang. Silly me. Again, Julie explained that skunk spray is an oil-based substance, and had I ever noticed how well water and oil mix?

In retrospect, I do believe Julie was having fun at my expense.

So I headed over to Champion Car Wash and asked them to give me an underbody wash. The guy taking the money acknowledged my predicament by admitting that he wasn’t breathing through his nose. Unfortunately, the guy at the end of the car wash, the one who’s there to dry off the car, was not breathing through his nose either.

Again, from Wikipedia: “Frequent encounters with dogs and other domestic animals, and the release of the odor when a skunk is run over, have led to many myths about the removal of skunk odor. Due to the chemical composition of the spray, most of these household remedies are ineffective.” NOW you tell me.

Finally, after day 14 we are able to park the car in the garage, but it still stinks to high heavens when you walk out of the house into the garage.

I’m not sure where I’ll send this letter, especially given the fact that you’re dead, but I had to write it to pronounce you the victor of our competition. I admit the error of my ways, and I tip my hat to you and your kind.

Sincerely,
The Stinky Burmeisters

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can reach her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Beware the acronym: Your message may be LIT (lost in translation)

In 1943, David Davis of Bell Laboratories coined the term acronym as the name for a word created from the first letters of each word in a series of words (such as SCUBA, which stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus). Since then, generation after generation has created more and more acronyms, causing more confusion than clarity if you ask me.

IRA could be something you put money into for retirement, or it could be a group of rowdy Irish revolutionaries. IOU stands for I owe you, so in actuality it should be IOY. IEEE could stand for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or it could be the sound a hyena makes.

See how confusing it can be? And really, if there’s any truth to evolution, shouldn’t we be getting better at communicating more effectively? Instead, this upcoming generation is adding to the problem with texting acronyms. Thankfully we have a 18-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter to help us navigate our way through the labyrinth of LOLs, TTFNs and BCs or I fear we’d be TL (totally lost).

I got an email the other day that had CYA in the text and it stopped me in my tracks. What does CYA mean? Can you ask? Can Yosef act? Cathy’s yelling again? (Because I know Cathy, and she does have a tendency to yell, but I digress…)

I feel like each year I understand less and less, setting me up to make disastrous mistakes in communicating to the younger set. And I know I’m not alone.

My sister Peg is in the same boat. She is a high school English teacher in Ohio and she’s one of the coolest people I know. Of course she’s a hippie, but in the best sense of the word (meaning she showers regularly but still wears Patchouli and cool clothes). All that to say she’s a pretty hip teacher, with her finger firmly placed on the pulse of teenage culture. So when she was talking to her class about some surprise and told them to “keep it on the LD” she wondered why they all started laughing. “Mrs. G---,” a student said, “I think what you’re trying to say is ‘keep it on the DL – down low.’”

Another teacher came to Peg wondering why students were sprinkling “101” in various places throughout their written work. It took them a while to figure out that students were actually interjecting “LOL,” which stands for laugh out loud.

If this is happening to people my age, I can only imagine what happens to our parents’ generation. One person shared that her aunt thinks that the aforementioned LOL means “lots of love,” so she’s been sending notes, cards and messages that are wildly inappropriate, unbeknownst to her. Think of the disastrous results that can occur from not knowing that LOL means “laugh out loud.”

• “It’s your birthday. You don’t look a day over 40! LOL!”
• “So sorry to hear of your loss. LOL.”
• “Happy anniversary. I don’t know a couple that seems better made for each other. LOL!”
• “Your baby is adorable. LOL!”

See what I mean? It’s important to nail this down.

So let’s KISS (keep it simple, Sherlock) and stop with the acronyms already. Say what you mean, even if it takes a few more seconds out of your day. It’s not like we’re in such a hurry that we don’t have time to complete our sentences with good old-fashioned words. Besides, it’s the LYCD (least you can do).

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She CBR at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can FHOT at EBurmeister.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who needs Wii when you have rabbit-ear aerobics?

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the sizes of televisions today is an embarrassment of riches.

I grew up in a middle-class Midwestern family, so the fact that we had one, 19-inch television for all six of us was normal. (We also only had one bathroom and one car for all six of us as well, but don’t get me started down that “when I was a kid” road.)

This television was a Zenith, and it sat on a metal trolley on wheels, for easy transition from one area of our small house to the other. Not that we ever moved it, but just having the option felt like we were important, on-the-move kind of people. Clearly my bar for extravagance was set pretty low.

In the ‘70s, there were exactly four stations to choose from: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. Once the ‘80s rolled around, we caught whispers of another option out in the big world called “cable,” but we still hadn’t upgraded to a color television at that point, so cable seemed like a pipe dream.

Most Americans made the transition from black and white to color in the mid-1960s, according to Wikipedia. But my family held out until 1985. Keep in mind, however, that my mom refused a microwave until well into the ‘90s, claiming, “Life moves fast enough as it is. Why would I want to speed it up any more?” So my sister took matters into her own hands and bought my mom a microwave for Christmas one year. The tag may as well have read, “Time to move it along, mom.”

The rabbit ears are what I remember most about the Zenith. “Rabbit ears,” for those of you under the age of 40, was the term we used for the antennae that sat atop every television to help with reception. The box had a dial and the two antennae, which resembled a rabbit’s head. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but the accepted belief was that if your reception was bad, you simply moved the antennae in the direction of the closest television tower and it would improve the picture.

This resulted in some hilarious escapades between me and my three sisters performing acrobatics just to get a clear picture. I remember wanting to see one episode of “Welcome Back, Kotter” so badly that I stood through the entire episode with one hand on the antennae and the other pointed out the window in the general direction of the television tower. Hey, you made sacrifices for John Travolta, even back then.

If the reception was extra bad, you’d bring out the tin foil. For some reason, wrapping foil around the ends of the antennae seemed to improve the television rays beaming to our house from the tower. It was all very mysterious, but we did what we had to in order to ensure that we saw the next episode of “Barney Miller.”

Of course there wasn’t the option of taping shows back then, so you had to be at home at 8 p.m. on Tuesday (sharp) if you wanted to see “Happy Days” in its entirety. And if you had to use the bathroom, you had better not take more than the allotted three minutes for a commercial break. Television viewing was an exercise in efficiency.

This is why today’s television viewing is such a contradiction.

Not going to be home Tuesday at 8? No problem; you can just DVR it. Have to use the bathroom during a football game? Go ahead and push pause and take all the time in the world. See? It’s just different.

Do we own a big-screen television? Yes. Do I like to watch television shows on demand, what I want to watch, when I want to watch it? Yes. But I also pine for the days when television was an event, and you couldn’t wait to get home Sunday evening, make popcorn and watch “The Wonderful World of Disney” at 7 p.m. on Channel 5. And I must admit, there was something magical about knowing that many other children across American were doing the same thing at the same time.

And their antennae probably had tin foil on them, too.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Her vs. Siri: What's love got to do with it?

I recently saw a trailer for the movie “Her,” starring Joaquin Phoenix. In it, Phoenix’s character decides to purchase an OS1 which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. The OS1 is named Samantha, and the main character falls in love with her, hence the movie’s title.

Now, I’ve not seen the movie, the IMDB synopsis goes on to say that “Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t.” This made me laugh, thinking about my own “relationship” with Siri, my artificially intelligent operator on my iPhone (and I use the term “intelligent” loosely).

Siri and I have been in a relationship now for three years, and contrary to this movie’s theme of falling in love, I can barely stand her. One of the first times I ever called on Siri to “”help me in ways others hadn’t” was when I was in search of vodka. Let me explain.

I had never in my life had a need to buy vodka, but after ordering vodka penne pasta while in Portland, I decided to try it on my own. I went to Fred Meyer and asked someone in the produce section where I could find vodka. He answered, “At a liquor store.” Turns out Fred Meyer doesn’t sell hard liquor. Who knew?

So I got to my car and had to admit that after 17 years of living in Roseburg I had no idea where a liquor store was. I picked up my iPhone and hit the Siri button. “Siri, where is the closest liquor store?” I asked.

She answered, “Let me check … it looks like the closest liquor store is 1 mile away, would you like me to get directions?”

“Yes,” I answered, smug in my mastery over my circumstances, with Siri’s help of course.

After a minute, she said, “Follow these directions to 2152 NE Vine Street.”

Easy peasy, I thought, as I started following her verbal instructions. As I turned past Coastal Farms and Ranch, I thought, “This doesn’t seem right” but I soldiered on, trusting Siri’s intelligence over mine. Big mistake.

As I pulled up to 2152 NE Vine the sign read “Vine Street Baptist Church.” Ummmm, what are these people using for communion?

I picked up my phone again and started yelling at Siri this time “WHERE IS ANOTHER LIQUOR STORE?” Had someone been outside my window listening, I wouldn’t have blamed them for calling the police.

This time she directed me to an actual liquor store in the strip mall at the corner of Garden Valley Boulevard and NE Stephens, you know, a location I had PASSED ON THE WAY TO A BAPTIST CHURCH.

“Idiot,” I mumbled … to my phone.

It was not one of my best moments. But it wasn’t Siri’s either.

Next up, I needed to call our son. His name is Nathaniel, but he goes by Natty, and I have him programmed as such.

“Call Natty,” I said to Siri.

“What is your daddy’s name?” she asked.

“No, Siri, Natty!” I said louder, as if she was just hard of hearing.

“Why don’t you just tell me who your daddy is.” She chirped, as if nothing was wrong and she wasn’t actually an imbecile.

“N-A-T-T-Y!” I screeched while at a red light, averting my eyes from the person stopped next to me, gawking at the lady in full meltdown mode next to him.

“Who would you like to call?”

Seriously? And they call this INTELLIGENT.

Finally, I pulled over into a parking lot and dialed Natty’s number the good old fashioned way. I guess I sounded edgy because he asked, “Are you all right?”

“Yes, it’s just that Siri is stupid,” I answered, them immediately realized how ridiculous I sounded, even to myself.

“Okay…” he said, checking his own smart phone for a good therapist for his mother, I’m sure.

So, if I do happen to go see “Her” at the theater, I’ll be the one scoffing at the screen, intermittently yelling, “Yeah, right!” when Samantha actually gets something right.

As William Congreve wrote in 1697, “Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned by her OS1.” Or something like that.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

When the heart of rock and roll requires a defibrillator

I’m not handling the aging process very well. I fight it constantly, trying to stay relevant in an ever-changing world. I fancy myself a hip mom who “gets” the humor, music and movies that our kids like, but the older I get, the more my plan of eternal hipness is unraveling. And to be honest, I’m not sure I have the energy to fight it anymore.

Take the Top Ten Albums of the Year. When the list came out at the New Year my husband said, “Do you recognize any of these artists or groups?” I looked over the list and had never heard of any of them. “Neither do I,” my husband said sadly. Keep in mind, this is the same man who followed U2 on a set of concert dates around Ohio and Michigan in the late ‘80s, got his 55-year-old Dad to listen to an entire Rush album with him in high school, and spent the night outside in a lawn chair so he could be first in line for Huey Lewis and the News tickets (not one of his prouder moments).

And me? I sang in a garage band until I had to quit because our jam sessions conflicted with volleyball practice (I had my priorities). I knew the lyrics for every song ever written by The Bangles, I got my hair cut just like Pat Benetar, and I had my very own “Born in the U.S.A.” t-shirt from the Boss’s stadium tour in 1985. Oh, I was cool all right.

So here we were, two previously hip and relevant parents, who didn’t know a single Top Ten act in 2013 and we … wait for it … couldn’t care less.
“Ah, well,” I said, handing the list back to Craig. “I’m going upstairs to take a nap.”

This whole interaction reminded me of one of my favorite Jeff Foxworthy sketches where he’s telling how his parents can still embarrass him. He explains, “Especially the way they dress. See, 'cause I have a theory. I think your parents are riding along on the fashion train, and one day they go ‘That's it, I ain't going any farther.’ True story: last year, I'm in the grocery store with my dad. He is wearing a pair of platform-heeled Dingo boots, wide flair-legged Levis that only miss the floor by ten or twelve inches, and an "Over 40 and feeling foxy" t-shirt. I'm like, ‘Dad, people are staring at you.’ And he goes, ‘Well, son, there's something about a Dingo man.’”

What I’m saying is, when it comes to music, I’ve become Jeff Foxworthy’s father.

I’m the one who’s now asking, “How can you understand what that guy’s saying when he’s singing?” Or I ask my son, “Why does he have to sound so angry all the time when he’s screaming those lyrics?” Or I scratch my head and say, “Can’t she just wear normal clothes instead of trying to dress like an extra-terrestrial on stage?”

And then I remember how confused my parents were when I had my boom box cranked up so high the paint was chipping off the walls, playing Bruce Springsteen (“How can you understand a word he says?)”, Adam Ant (“Why is he screaming and wearing girl’s makeup?”) and Madonna (“You call those clothes?”)

The apple doesn’t fall far from the musical tree. I’m just sayin…

Maybe we’re not entirely off the charts musically. We’ve managed to stay up to speed in some genres thanks to our 18-year-old son. So we’re not hopeless, just tired.

I could fight this, I know I could. I could buy a Lady Gaga CD (or download it, however you do THAT), and listen to the lyrics and discuss them with the kids, but I simply don’t have it in me. These days, I’d take a nap over a Lady Gaga CD any time, and I’m hunky dory with that (kids, see your parents/grandparents for the definition, or you can use The Google).

I’ve spent my time on the Music Train and I ain’t going any farther. That train is now off the rails.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and plays her Bangles cassettes at extraordinary high volumes around Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Srsly, Oxford Dictionary? I'm not going to squee over this year's added words

It’s that time of year again. Time for me to put down my copy of “Anna Karenina” and stare into the abyss that is the new list of words added to the Oxford Dictionary Online, an institution that is clearly doing its best to ruin my children’s generation by adding ridic* words to the dictionary. (*Ridic — short for ridiculous. It was added last year. No, seriously.)

Now if I sound hoity-toity, it’s intentional. I understand that new words that make their way into our culture SHOULD be added to the dictionary, but sometimes the additions are just a sad commentary on the culture in which we live.

Like “selfie.” Not only did it make it on the 2013 list of new words, it was named the Word of the Year.

What is a selfie? It’s a picture you take of yourself, typically with a smartphone, and upload to a social media website (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

In an article in The New Yorker, Katherine Martin, the head of U.S. dictionaries at Oxford, was quoted as saying, “The concept of a Word of the Year is inherently subjective: We analyze frequency and historical evidence, but our real goal is to identify an emerging word that embodies the zeitgeist of the year, and that is the driving force behind the choice.”

So the “emerging word” and our culture’s “driving force” is … ourselves. I don’t think the “Me” generation of the ’80s can even hold a candle to our current cultural narcissism.

Here are a few other additions for this year’s Oxford Dictionary Online (and my editorializing comments. You’re welcome).

• Srsly: Short for seriously. Because those extra vowels take too long to add, what with all the selfies we’re taking.

• Digital detox: A period of time during which a person refrains from all electronic devices in order to actually speak with others sitting nearby. Much-needed addition, in my opinion.

• Flexitarian: A person who is primarily a vegetarian, but occasionally eats meat or fish. First it was vegetarian, then vegan, then pescatarian and now flexitarian? I have no words.

• Tray bake: A type of cake or food that is baked in a square or rectangular container and cut into individual pieces for serving. In my day, we called that … cake.

• Apols: (informal) apologies. Srsly?

• Babymoon: A relaxing or romantic holiday taken by parents-to-be before their baby is born. When Craig and I were expecting our firstborn 18 years ago, I think we went out to the Olive Garden the night before I went into labor and called it good. I feel robbed.

• Derp: Informal exclamation used as a substitute for speech regarded as meaningless or stupid. So which word do we use to describe how stupid the word “derp” is?

• Food baby: A protruding stomach caused by eating too much food. As in “No, I’m not seven months pregnant. That’s just my food baby from Christmas dinner.”

• Squee: An informal exclamation used to express great delight or excitement. You mean, squeal? Yeah, there’s already a word for that. Derp!

I know I sound like an old fuddy-duddy who is about to yell at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn, but how many kids are taking a break from their selfies long enough to play on my lawn? Srsly, I just think we need to draw the line without apols. Amiright*?

*My prediction for 2014 Word of the Year.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister or you can email her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com.