ULTRA 101

ultra |ˈəltrə| informal noun an extremist; adverb [as submodifier] very; extremely: the play was not just boring, it was ultra boring. – MERRIAM WEBSTER

Based on Webster’s definition, I’m ultra over Ultra.  And it hasn’t even started yet.  For those of you not familiar with this long-awaited music event, ULTRA is an annual three-day music festival in downtown Miami that’s happening this upcoming weekend. It started 15 years ago (the year I gave birth to my daughter) as a small soiree for electronic dance music (EDM) aficionados. Over the past decade and a half, it has “ultra” successfully grown into a three-day massive concert culminating the Winter Music Conference (WMC). I should have recognized the omen of things to come when my daughter was a poster child for the WMC in the early years.

Photo credit: Seth Browarnik, worldredeye.com

Photo credit: Seth Browarnik, worldredeye.com

Ultra is Miami’s EDM version of SXSW, Lollapalooza or Coachella, and if you’re over 35 and NOT involved in the music industry or have a love of EDM, consider this your introduction to the subculture.

If you have children or preteens and live in South Florida, do not ever judge the already ultra-fied parents of slightly older children around this time of year. I assure you, at some point within the next decade, you will not pass through the teen years untouched by Ultra (and we older parents will be the first ones “liking” your kids’ Ultra pictures on Instagram once your little angel enters the Ultra years).

You, too, will undoubtedly one day be asked to fork over $500 for a three-day pass to Ultra.  Months before the event, every resourceful parent will try his/her best to snag “Early Bird” tickets online for a fraction of the price.  FYI, snagging these golden tickets is as easy as winning Powerball. So good luck with that.

You will also be asked to either shop for, or fork over more money for, the mandatory Ultra outfits that one wears to the festival.  This wardrobe consists of a mixture of the following:  the most hideous fluorescent-colored spandex you can remember wearing in the 80’s, blended with a touch of 1960’s Woodstock-esque headbands and flowers, and topped with hundreds of accessories, furry animal hats, and my personal favorite: “candy/kandi.” Candy is what we would otherwise call “plastic, beaded bracelets” (any other time of the year, these fashion choices are exclusively worn by either 6-year-old little girls or a slightly deranged, older homeless woman pushing a shopping cart containing her worldly possessions).

2013 Ultra

2013 Ultra

You will become familiar with their Ultra lexicon.  You will know when and how to use the phrases turned up, turned down, PLUR, dubstep, when the bass drops, just to name a few off the top of my head.  You may even like some of the artists and music if you just open up your mind a little bit. It ain’t Springsteen but some of it is really, really good.

You will, at the end of a very long weekend, thank whichever god you pray to that your child (and you) survived a very long weekend.  They will come home to you dirty, broke and dehydrated ($5/bottles of water over three, dusty 85+ degree 12-hour days – do the math). Your child will be exhausted and if you’re lucky, welcome a little of that mommy TLC they’ve been vehemently eschewing during these teen years.

And before you ask, yes, we are aware of the dangers of Ultra.  We are aware of the fact that there are drugs and alcohol associated with music festivals (we middle-aged South Floridians all survived the Sportatorium).  We have open dialogues with our children about the perils of bad choices.  I’m very fortunate that the majority of my daughter’s friends have moms that are realistic, like-minded amazing mothers who band together as a village to raise our children.  We share the understanding that our children do not live in bubbles.  That whether one lives in a tiny city or a bustling metropolis, teens today are exposed to drugs and alcohol in settings far less obvious than a music festival. Whether they choose to tell you or not (and for your sake, I hope they feel comfortable enough to have you as a sounding board), they make choices daily.  In schools, online, at parties, at friends’ homes, the sheltering of yesteryear really does not exist today.  The only measure of where their internal “judgment compass” lies is in the choices THEY make when exposed to situations. So far, I am ridiculously proud of my children, their choices thus far, and the wonderful friends (and friends’ parents) they’ve surrounded themselves with.

So that being said, I will now step off my soapbox, finalize the ULTRA transportation details with my army of supermoms, turn on my newest favorite artist that my daughter introduced me to (Chance the Rapper, in case you’re wondering), and anxiously await my favorite day of the year: post-Ultra Monday.

Peace Love Unity Respect (PLUR)

Peace Love Unity Respect (PLUR)

 

 

Ski Week

Each year, from mid February to late March, my Facebook feed fills with gorgeous pictures of snow-capped mountains serving as a backdrop for my Floridian friends and family dressed in snow gear.  In the world of South Florida private schools, this signifies that the season of “Ski Week” has arrived. One week every year (and bizarrely, different weeks for each respective school), we South Floridians beg, borrow and buy approximately 200 lbs worth of ski apparel, reserve our family a week-long chunk of snow-covered heaven, and head northwest.  We then post our ski pictures.  The problem is, we are so out of our element and two degrees away from hypothermia that we forget to take off our goggles and helmets.   If it were not for the name and geotag above the pictures (or the token picture taken by the fire in the lodge), we could easily swap photos and have no idea who’s who.

Coming from cold climates, my parents both deliberately made their home in South Florida to AVOID the ice and snow. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Miami Beach was transforming.  What was once a sleepy city/waiting room for the senior-est of citizens waiting to enter the pearly gates, turned into a rapidly growing borough of migrating New Yorkers looking for a permanent place to thaw out and raise families. Short of a Bar Mitzvah/wedding/death, we first-generation Miami Beach natives rarely ventured further north than Orlando’s Walt Disney World.  Most of our parents were permanently done with snow. I don’t think I owned a pair of boots until I moved away to college.   

Things have changed considerably since I was a child.  Miami Beach is still a destination for those looking to thaw out.  People still migrate here to thaw, but now they also chill, turn up, turn down and everything in between.  The people who call South Florida their home year-round have changed quite drastically, as well.  We don’t fear the cold as did our parents before us.  We covet it.   Growing up in a tropical climate with no seasons other than HOT, our generation dreams of snow days and real winter wardrobes.  And now, rather than photo albums, we now have social media to chronicle our lives.

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For those beautiful native Floridian friends who crave adventure, are blessed with natural agility and athleticism and, who could probably have qualified for the Winter Olympics in a colder parallel universe, I marvel in awe at your prowess.  It also reaffirms my belief that opposites attract since there is no other way to define our friendship.

With every Ski Week vacation, I proved my parents right. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my family ski trips, it’s that I have no business being on or near snow.  I could attribute this partly to the fact that the highest slope I have any experience with is in the parking garage at Aventura Mall. I firmly believe that most South Floridians lack the fundamental understanding of gravity’s effect on angled surfaces. Especially cold, slick, angled surfaces. No matter how many cross-fit or spin classes one can attempt in preparation, your knees, hamstrings and quads are one movement away from a “ski story.”  Consider each safe landing at the bottom of a run an omen. Repeat at your own risk.

I’ve also learned that no matter how cute little ski clothes are in the store, BORROW clothes for your kids.  You live in South Florida.  Kids grow. My son’s first ski bib was pink.  I told him it was light red so I could save $200.  Whatever. 

As for your outfit, no matter how much you rationalize, don’t buy the $2,000 Bogner ski bunny suit.  I know it looks so good on you in the dressing room. You will never get enough use out of it to justify the cost. True ski aficionados have their own fashion code and next year (or possibly the year after if you’re lucky), you’ll look like an idiot…if you don’t already.  Splurge on the most comfortable apres ski boots you can find.  Trust me on this one.  

Furthermore, if you’re from South Florida, assume that you are unable to remain vertical on even the smallest patch of ice.  No shoe ever created will allow you to safely and/or securely walk on ice.  For some reason, Floridians are like ice magnets, and when we slip on that tiny two-inch patch of ice, our coccyx bone somehow finds the only other two-inch patch of ice to complete the fall. Assume everything is ice and walk accordingly. 

Put your children in “ski school” to teach these little tropical creatures how to navigate quickly on this foreign white flooring.  You’ll need that down time after spending two hours dressing them in the fourteen layers of clothing they’ll need to brave the elements. They’ll hate you for something once they hit their teens; it may as well be for blessing them with good ski form.

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ski school graduates and black diamond pros

If you are a Floridian with limited ski experience, limited athletic ability and generally can’t ski well (basically, me), don’t even think about snowboarding.  It takes the biodynamic element to another level. There will be swelling.

Looking back now on the many family ski trips under my big umbrella, I’m very grateful that we were fortunate to be able to make these memories, as painful and terrifying as they were.  In hindsight, this Miami girl had no business ever being on a snow-covered mountain and I’m very lucky that I didn’t ski myself or my children off a mountain or two (although I did come close).  Yet now that my older children filled their respective Ski Weeks with friend-filled afternoons at the beach (and my body reminding me that skiing is now just a way to satisfy my insurance deductible early in the year), I’m vicariously enjoying the Facebook timeline of my friends and their kids.

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Enjoy your trip, ski your double black diamonds to your heart’s content, and PLEASE take your goggles off for the damn Facebook pictures so I can recognize you.

 

Gilding the Lily

Since I began writing this blog, I’ve wrestled with writing a post about my daughter, Lily.  If you’ve ever met my Lily…my beautiful, fierce, and slightly ferocious Lily…you could empathize with how terrified I am.  Off the top of my head, I can think of 243 ways this can go very badly. Very, very badly.

My daughter is beautiful.  My daughter is introspective.  She is loyal, kind, fiercely fair, and respectful to others (as long as they didn’t give birth to her).  She always sticks up for the underdog.  She gives generously of herself, especially to those in need.  She’s an insanely gifted singer.  She’s an honor student. She is a magnificent human being that I feel fortunate to call my child.

She is also learning how to drive.

I’ve already taught one child how to drive. It was easy. In fairness, my son was always fascinated with cars and started driving on people’s laps at age four. He could maneuver a golf cart at age 7 like a 65 year-old Boca Raton retiree.  He was a natural. Being the conscientious mother that I am, I made sure he supplemented his driving education with hefty doses of Grand Theft Auto. He breezed through his exam.

After a smooth, pleasant experience with my son,  I went into Round Two with my youngest child with way too much confidence.  I was grossly misled by the adept skill she exhibited at such an early age while she maneuvered through the mean streets of Grand Theft Auto.  I didn’t heed the omen I was given during the time my husband tried teaching 13-year-old Lily the fundamentals of driving a car. That lesson ended abruptly by Lily exiting the driver’s side while the car was still in “drive (I did learn, however, that my husband possesses the very sexy, stunt man-worthy quality of being able to jump over and slide into a driverless, moving car). Until very recently, I also didn’t fully wrap my brain around the concept that she was born cursed with my horrible sense of direction.  She has been driving for over nine months and still gets lost shortly before exiting our driveway.

Furthermore, I didn’t factor in the idea that Lily and I have fundamentally different ideas of what skills one must possess to drive safely.  For example, I feel that a stop sign is not merely a suggestion.  I regard it as the younger, less-emphatic sister of the mighty red light rather than a barely acknowledged distant cousin.  We agree to disagree.

We do agree on most of the pre-drive protocol involving the checking of the mirrors and seat positions.  However, we lock horns on Lily’s requirement that calls for both the volume and the bass of the car’s sound system to be set to a level which makes the windows rattle.  Another point we argue about is the fact that I firmly do not feel that mastering the perfect “selfie” behind the wheel is a usable skill on the road.  Again, we agree to disagree but I’ll admit that she’s far more photogenic than I, so my opinions regarding this skill may be skewed.

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It seems as if each and every teachable driving moment ends in conflict.  I have a very close relationship my mini-me and I dread the fallout that inevitably follows each driving lesson.  I’ve actually pondered the thought that I’d be a much better passenger if I was tranquilized. Regretfully, the amount of Xanax I’d need to be calm enough makes me prone to drooling and more importantly, would render me useless as a driving teacher (which pretty much defeats the whole purpose).

Last weekend, nine months into the Driving-Miss-Lily experience, my husband and I reached our breaking point with our beautiful, headstrong daughter.  We were passengers while she drove us to an appointment via US-1.  For those of you not familiar with this road, it is a main north-south highway running along the Eastern coast of the US.  My little slice of US-1 is basically a four lane free-for-all consisting of too many shoppers eagerly speeding to get to our world-famous Aventura Mall, international tourists who are vacationing here for the winter (who deem most of our road rules optional), along with a plethora of senior citizens who should have had their driving privileges revoked during the Reagan administration.  It is a congested, dangerous road that we had no business being on with a 15-year-old, new driver.

It was on this treacherous patch of asphalt that my husband and I simultaneously realized that my daughter had most definitely NOT mastered the art of the lane change.  Technically, she had mastered changing lanes – she just chose to change ALL four of them in one swift diagonal move without the aid of indicators. We (loudly) voiced our displeasure with her technique, as did many motorists within the four lanes that were swerving to avoid her. After a harrowing minute of real-life Frogger, I actually climbed out of the car before it came to a complete stop.

There was yelling.  There were tears.  There was a scathing diatribe in which I berated her driving. Any mom listening would know my rant roughly translated into “please God, don’t let my baby get hurt.”  In my head, I was sure that Lily understood that what I was screaming was “I love you so much and I’m so scared that I cannot keep you safe.”  What really came out of my mouth was a string of four-letter words strategically transformed into verbs, adverbs, adjectives and dangling participles vulgar enough to make a sailor blush. If teen daughters could interpret Mom language, I believe this world would be a far calmer place. And wine sales would drop significantly.

It was at that moment that my husband and I realized that some things are best left to the professionals.  So as I sit here writing this, my daughter is taking her first driving class with a man driving one of those conjoined-twin cars fitted with two sets of everything and a big sign announcing to all those on the road: “STUDENT DRIVER.”  She is furious with me… and that’s ok.  I should probably be a little worried because she’s going to be the person who decides what nursing home I’m going to go to when I’m old.  Based on her current level of anger, I’ll be lucky if I’m living in an old refrigerator box under a bridge.  That’s okay.  She can be as mad as she wants. I’m confident that by the time she needs to visit me in my box, she’ll not only be fluent in Mom language, she’ll finally be able to change lanes like a pro. That’s all that matters.

 

Happy National Pancake Day

History was never my best subject.  Partly because AP American History was one of my early morning classes (I am unable to process a complete sentence before 9 am), along with the fact that I went to a high school with a very understanding security officer.  As long as he received a bagel and coffee upon my return, he’d gladly turn a blind eye when I snuck off campus for breakfast.  Which is why I did not miss the irony upon waking up to discover that today is a national holiday celebrating breakfast.

Excuse me if I don’t know the intricate details of the battles fought by our forefathers, but apparently, today we honor the brave breakfast warriors who heroically sacrificed so we could celebrate National Pancake Day. IHOP  will be giving away a free shortstack from 7 am until 10 pm today.  For the history buffs who would like to recreate the battle of Pancreas (and donate to Children’s Miracle Network), arm yourself with insulin and elastic-waist garments and carpe friggin diem.

For those of you who aren’t very patriotic (I don’t judge), lazy (raising my hand), don’t know where your local IHOP is (HINT: look for 18-wheelers and a nearby WalMart) or merely have an iron-clad noncompete clause with your pancreas or intestines,  I created a DIY way to celebrate this monumental day in a less Honey BooBoo-esque manner.

Gluten Free High Protein Pancakes

Gluten Free High Protein Pancakes

All you need is this:

½ cup cottage cheese, ½ cup oats (gluten free if that’s how you roll), 2 eggs (or four egg whites), ½ tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp oil (I use coconut oil).

And a blender, frying pan and stove.  If you don’t have the last three things, you should probably eat most of your meals at IHOP anyway so just stop reading here.

Blend all ingredients in your blender.  Cook them (if you don’t know how to cook a pancake, please refer to the paragraph above this one)get-attachment-6.aspxget-attachment-7.aspx

The recipe yields about four pancakes.  I added garnish of sliced banana, toasted sliced almonds, whipped cream, a dusting of cinnamon… and way more maple syrup than an adult should ever consume in a month.  Don’t judge.

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Whether you decide to get out those sweatpants and head on over to your nearest IHOP (and do a good deed by donating to Children’s Miracle Network), or try your hand at this healthier version (minus my whipped cream and maple syrup tsunami), have yourself a fantastic NATIONAL PANCAKE DAY.

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Open Letter

An Open Letter to the thief who tried to steal my American Express number:

Based on your brief and futile shopping history, you clearly DO NOT know anything about me.

You’re tech-savvy…I’ll give you that.  You somehow got my name, my security code and my credit card number while my card sat nestled safely in my wallet.  You then were able to take all that encoded info and replicate a Platinum AMEX card that actually passed muster in a store.

I’m impressed.  Truly.

If I had those skills, I’d probably be writing a poignant goodbye letter to my friends while driving a Bentley fitted with a huge U-Haul trailer. My children would be right behind me in their respective U-Haul-lugging Lamborghini and Maybach.  I can’t speak for my men, but I’m highly confident that my daughter’s U-Haul would most probably contain an unconscious James Franco, bound and gagged.  My husband would be following in his Tesla (I do not think Tesla offers a trailer hitch option.  I would volunteer to take his stuff because I am an awesome wife).  My trailer would be stuffed with crocodile Birkins, three Shetland ponies, every infomercial item I’ve ever seen and the entire contents of four Dylan’s Candy Bar stores.  These ill-gotten gains would be stuffed into new Louis Vuitton steamer trunks with 43 rescue dogs sitting on top of them and I’d be en route to my Gulfstream jet headed to a country with very loose extradition laws.

Being that I can barely program directions into a GPS or handle an email account more complicated than AOL… I’ll probably never have the opportunity to test my integrity.

Yet, Mr. Credit Card Thief, with all your computer intelligence, and the ENTIRE consumer world being your veritable oyster, your FIRST (and last) shopping choice was to walk into an auto parts store in a small town in Georgia and go on a shopping spree for fuzzy dice and rims.

Honestly, I am a little insulted.

Because of you, I now know the actual real-time speed of a nanosecond because that’s how long it took the Fraud Alert Department at AMEX to call me.  I swear the guy  on the phone was laughing at you.  Anyone reviewing my purchase history would know that there are very few things that would raise a Fraud Alert eyebrow, yet you succeeded.  This month alone, my credit card statement includes Fresh Balls cream for my husband’s testicles.  Again, this is because I am an awesome wife and I fully recognize the issues associated with South Florida humidity and good hygiene.

Fresh Balls Drying Cream

Fresh Balls
Ball Drying Creme

My credit card statement also includes payments for the services rendered by some great doctors with really scary specialties because my youngest child had a terrifying health scare (also the reason why I started my blog off with a bang and then fell off the face of the earth for the past two weeks).  Instead of  blog-writing, or wondering why the hell someone bought a commemorative Dale Earnhardt steering wheel cover, I was worrying about my daughter.  Worrying works, by the way.  Ninety-nine percent of the things I worry about end up turning out fine.  My daughter will definitely be in the 99th percentile.

As for you, Mr. Credit Card Thief, I won’t worry about you for even one nanosecond.  I am a firm believer in karma.  One day, I believe that you’ll wake up to find your credit card statement is fourteen pages long.  There will be a sizable purchase at Louis Vuitton and Dylan’s Candy Bar.  If you look closely, you will also notice that you have donated a king’s ransom to a local animal shelter.  And when you look out your window, you’ll probably see a convoy of luxury vehicles bogged down by overstuffed U-Haul trailers.  Look closely at the girl in the lead.  The top of her Bentley will be down to make room for her big umbrella. And she’ll definitely be shooting you the bird.