Friday, July 29, 2016

And the Thunder Rolls

I just wanted to let you all know that the nominations for Parent of the Year are no longer necessary and that I am, without dispute, the hands-down winner of that most dubious award.

Whatever dumb shit you did, said, or attempted in the Olympic marathon that is parenting will pale in comparison to what I did to my daughter this week.

I sent her to sleep away camp.

Oh sure, it’s good for her. It teachers her independence and bravery, forces her to make friends and try new things, and according to a new article published this week, will actually help her earn higher scores on her SATs.


Let me set the scene for you. My daughter refuses to open her bedroom windows. Ever. No matter the temperature, the weather forecast, and the time of year, she will not yield. If we open the windows while she is sleeping, she will most assuredly wake up and close them again. The sounds of nature are blocked at all costs. Not only does she have a fan to create white noise, but she also plays music all night long on top of it. As an infant in her crib, the very first thing she learned how to do was to smack her fat little foot into the music box attached to the slats to make it play. We could hear through the baby monitor every time she awoke because it was always followed by music. To this day, she has never slept without some form of music playing, whether it was a lullaby on repeat or Kidz Bop on her iPod.

The sound of the sea against the sand? The lake water lapping at the dock? Hates it. Rain pattering against the windows? Hates. It.


My daughter is deathly afraid of thunderstorms. She panics at the first sign of dark clouds and will start to cry at the first roll of thunder. If we are home, then she can stay relatively calm, but will opt to sleep under her brother’s bunk bed because she is worried about trees falling on her head. This is a kid who must see the weather report before any outdoor activity. In our house, our favorite weather people are spoken about as if they are our closest friends. “What did Adam [Joseph] say today?” Or, “What did JC [Severe Weather NJ] post?” I have multiple weather apps on my phone and when a storm approaches, my phone practically explodes with vibrations, noises, and alerts as multiple news outlets provide up-to-the moment updates on lightning strikes, rain levels, etc. We have found that knowing ahead of time helps her control her fear, because it allows her to control her location. Otherwise, she becomes the textbook example of a panic attack. Think I am exaggerating, feel free to ask any of my friends and family who have witnessed her losing her ever loving mind when a storm approaches.

How does this lead into my Parent of the Year award?

Because she spent her first night of camp out in the open while a thunderstorm raged around her.

I could not possibly have created a worse set of circumstances for her if I tried. When we took the tour of camp, and even when we dropped her off, the tent looked perfectly acceptable. Hot as hell, but I assumed there was some sort of flap that came up or down to allow air to enter. Well, I was right, in a way, in that the ENTIRE tent basically is lifted up and away so that the structure consists of nothing more than a ceiling, four poles, and a few beds covered in mosquito netting. Just going to sleep in that must have been an act of courage. The sounds of all those leaves, and animals, and wind must have been torture for her.

Then, in the middle of the night, when she had probably finally fallen into some sort of exhausted slumber, the first rumble of thunder hit. My daughter has superb hearing. Whisper the word “cookie” and she will come running from three rooms away. Say her name and she appears, like Voldemort, because she is desperately nosy and must always know what is being said about her. So trust me when I say that that when God knocked down a pin in his cosmic bowling game, my kid was wide awake. Out in the open. Surrounded by strangers. In the middle of a thunderstorm that she was not even aware was coming.  

I’m honestly surprised I didn’t get a call at 4am asking us to come get her.

When the second storm moved in 18 hours later, at the end of what must have been a very long first day, my husband and I watched the radar like it was our job. Was it going to hit her location? Sadly, the answer was yes. This time, the girls were all safely ensconced in the dining hall having a dance party. But they still had to walk back to their tents afterward, the pathways all mud and puddles, the bugs out in full force, using flashlights and head lamps to light the way. To go to sleep in a stifling tent, with absolutely no air flow, with wet feet and pants bottoms, hoping that yet ANOTHER storm didn’t rear its ugly head.

And still no phone call. 

See, the problem with the camps is that we can see her and contact her, but she can’t do the same to us. I can stalk her on camp Facebook page, which regularly posts pictures, and I can send her a daily e-mail that is printed out for her to read, but she cannot reply. I have no idea how she is holding up this week. I found out about the “floating tents” via Facebook. Did she enjoy getting chased by a counselor in a dragon costume? Or being blindfolded while she tried to untie a stuffed animal from a pole? Does she like making dragon snot? It’s all a mystery. I can follow what she is doing, but have no idea what she is thinking. The only thing I know is that she is still alive and even that is suspect since I haven’t seen her in any pictures since Wednesday.

She comes home today after another night of rain. Either she is cured of her fear or she will never go outside again. Regardless of which way the wind blows (as it were), I’m pretty sure her therapy bills for this week alone will rival those of her college tuition.

I’ll take my trophy now, thank you very much. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Adventure of a Lifetime

I’m too old for this shit.

That is what I said to myself as I unlocked my front door at 5am on a Monday morning after staying out all night at a concert.

Bubbles and Boobs were going to set out on yet another adventure. We couldn’t acquire tickets to Coldplay, her favorite band when they played in Philly, a stone’s throw from our homes, but she was able to get us two tickets for the Meadowlands up in North Jersey. (I refuse to call it Met Life Stadium. There is no romance in bank-named locations.) Worried about the traffic in that area, we decided to take the train. Drive 45 minutes to the train, ride for almost two hours, transfer trains, ride another 20 minutes and viola – we have arrived. We did, however, find it troubling that no one was on the trains with us. I mean, this was a sold out concert in a stadium that easily holds 50,000 people (that is lowballing the 82,000 max capacity due to certain sections being closed because they were behind the stage.) And the train from Secaucus to the Meadowlands was empty. Weird, right?
Upon exiting, we turn to the conductor and ask, “Coldplay is tonight, right?”

This man turned to us and says, “No, that was last night and tomorrow night. Tonight is soccer."

Dead. Silence.

Bubbles looks at me. I look at her. The conductor looks at both of us like we are idiots.

“Really?” I ask, in a dumbfounded, oh shit, voice.

“Nah.” He says, cracking himself up. Bastard.

Turns out, we were just really early and most people don’t show up ‘til right before the big act hits the stage. Upon arriving at security, the friendly guard checked our ticket. His face dropped. He looked at me and said, “This ticket is for last night’s show.”

“Really?” I ask, in a dumbfounded, oh shit, voice.

He turns to the guard standing next to him. “Check it out.” She nods, turns to us and says, “This ticket says the 16th. You had tickets for last night’s show.”

“REALLY?” Bubbles and I ask in unison.

“Nah.” They laugh, cracking themselves up. Bastards.

So there we were, four hours early, in 100-degree heat, with the average bottle of water going for $5 and seats five rows from the top. We were the concert equivalent of the early bird special. We were, in short, old.

We made do by making fun of other people. Yup. I’m like that. Never fear, body shapes themselves were off limits. I have no right to make fun of anyone on that score. But clothing choices? Totally up for mockery. Harem pants. A guy in a monkey outfit. Rompers! (Bubbles was for, I was against.) Women in super high heels were perplexing to us, as were the men in jeans and long-sleeves. (Much later in the evening, spied with our exhausted eyes a woman wearing a full length winter puffy coat. With sandals.)

Eventually, we scaled the stairs and made it to our perch. The show itself was fantastic. Bubbles is a huge fan, I am a casual fan, and both of us were very pleased with what we saw. I don’t know much about Chris Martin, but the man is in phenomenal shape. He ran up and down that stadium floor as if it were inches instead of yards, without every missing a beat in his songs. Every attendee was given wristbands that acted like coordinated glow sticks throughout the night. Michael J. Fox showed up to play Johnny B. Goode on the guitar and it was phenomenal. Overall, a great show.

But then we had to get home.

All those people we were worried weren’t on our train earlier? Yeah, we found them all. And then some. And then some more. Tens of thousands of people were herded like cattle into a huge pen to try to get on the train out of the Meadowlands. According to the crowd, we were actually experiencing the best case scenario in that we weren’t surrounded by tens of thousands of angry, drunk, freezing cold football fans but instead, mellow Millennial concert-goers. But it was hot, sticky, smelly, and chaotic. I reached a new level of friendship with Bubbles as we decided holding hands was really the only way to ensure we didn’t get separated.

Almost two hours after the concert ended, we finally made it to Secaucus. Thirty. Hungry. Sweaty. An hour after that, our train to Hamilton finally arrived. Still thirty. Still hungry. Even sweatier. Two hours after that, we finally arrived in Hamilton. I downed a bottle of hot water like it was a gift from God. After another 45 minutes of driving, we arrived in our town and into the only diner open at that ungodly hour. We snarfed down turkey clubs, drank copious amounts of liquids, and tried to ignore the episode of Law & Order screaming at us from the TV.

Finally, as the sun started to rise in the sky, I made my way into my house, into a hot shower, and into my bed.

Bubbles, the valiant warrior, actually made it through an entire day of parenting on two hours of sleep. I slept through til lunch and just hoped the kids didn’t kill each other while I snored. It was a long night, a great concert and a phenomenal story. But seriously, I’m way too old to do that again any time soon. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Room Where It Happened

I believe that many people underestimate the necessity of being able to read a room.  My mother, famously, is unable to do so. For example, the day I delivered my second child, I was in really bad shape. Not good. Dicey, I’d even go so far as to say. My son was whisked to the baby nursey while I stayed in recovery for a very long time. To this day, my husband and I do not know the length of time between delivering my son and actually meeting him for the first time and our best guess is several hours. I tell this part of the story not for sympathy, but to set the scene. So, I’m finally, finally being wheeled into a room. Finally, finally, I’m going to see the tiny little being that I made. My husband was walking alongside the gurney and my parents are hovering outside the door of the hospital room. I look like Death has come knocking and may still be lingering to see if anyone is home. (My MIL had a picture of me taken about an hour later, so trust me when I say, the only thing missing from my ensemble was a toe tag.)

And as I am being wheeled past, my mother turns to my husband, and says, “So, how’s work?”  

Honest to God, that actually happened.

The Internet is the room right now and the tone of it is hurt, sad, vengeful, and stupid. While my goal is to write a weekly blog that is entertaining, there aren’t a lot of laughs in the world right now. Every day, there is another terrorist attack, another shooting, another Trump story. We are splitting hairs over which lives matter most, who counts as a good guy vs. a bad guy, and what is actually a weapon. Let me give you a hint about that last one – if it can kill you, then it is a weapon. If you are using it to kill someone else, then it is a weapon. Good? Good.

Every time a celebrity dies, the world rushes as one to social media to be the first to say rest in peace. Now we are rushing to offer our thoughts and prayers. To what end? We are all, in some way, affected by the tragedies buffeting our nation and our world right now. I have never been to France, but I’ve been to Virginia Tech. We all bemoan what is happening, but what the hell are we doing about it? And if your answer is playing Pokemon Go, then good for you. If your answer is doing anything that involves being loving and kind and wonderful to the human race, then good for you. You are part of the solution. But if you are the dipshit coming up with hateful memes and splitting hairs about which guns, exactly, are the ones doing the shooting, then you, sir or madam, may go to Hell.

I want to talk about my severe case of Hamilaria. Or how my youngest SIL is trying to kill my husband with a kitten named Yoda. Or how I have embraced the concept of taking the summer off of errands and activities so much that my kids have dubbed me “Summer Mommy” and say I am much more fun than the regular one. I want to be lighthearted and silly, but it would be like introducing a fart joke into the Scottish play.

So, please, for the love of all things holey and stinky, can we PLEASE go a week without flying a flag at half-mast? I really want to put my happy pants on again.  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I'd Build a Tree Fort In Our Yard

Once again, the Mega Millions is up to the absurd amount of half a billion dollars. This is an amount of money no one on earth actually needs unless they are single-handedly funding a space program or buying a small island country badly in need of infrastructure.

Asking people what they would do if they won such a large sum is one of my favorite questions. I actually did a Facebook poll once and someone answered, "Stonehenge." Here I thought I was being frivolous buying a Burberry purse, but no, he was going to buy one of the wonders of the world. He won.

After thinking it over obsessively for several years (whenever a big jackpot is up for grabs), this is what I think you should do if you win.

For starters, buy the ticket in one of those tiny corner stores that still exist in this country. They get a monetary prize for selling the ticket and I’d much rather see that money go to some hard-working individual just trying to run a business than a billion-dollar corporation that sells bucket-sized beverages. The other bonus of a mom and pop joint is that they don’t tend to have security cameras. The computer system that spits out the tickets knows the exact date, time, and location that ticket was sold. Match that to security footage and suddenly, grainy photos of your clueless mug are being circulated on YouTube before you even had time to check your numbers. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will.

Next, call a lawyer and a financial planner. I'm lucky enough to know a few of each, and my hope is that since we are personal friends first, and my windfall, through fees, would become their windfall, that honesty would prevail. The signed ticket itself would have already gone into a secure safety deposit box in a random bank in a random town. Once you get all the legal details squared away, then wait. Every lottery system allows for a certain number of days to pass before you legally have to claim your winnings. Wait until the last Friday afternoon of that period of time. Much like celebrities announcing their divorces, the goal would be to bury the news story amid the mid-afternoon haze of weekend travel updates and weather reports.

Then, decide how you will take the payout. I would prefer to take the long-term installment plan to both get more money and to avoid any possibility of spending it all at once. I realize that many prefer the big buy-out, theorizing that they could manage their own money better, but if they were such adept money managers, they wouldn't need to win the jackpot in the first place. As time and history has proven over and over again, money does not buy class, taste, or intelligence. I like the idea of a big fat check getting deposited into my account on a yearly basis. It is an excellent life insurance policy as winnings do not automatically go to next of kin and my kids would need me alive to keep the money coming. Either way, I would wind up with more money than God, and really, what does he even need to buy? Even a yearly payment would allow for Scrooge McDuck-style shenanigans (though why anyone would want to roll around naked in something as dirty as money is a mystery.)
Then what? I say reboot and reset. Pay off all your debts. House, car, loans, school, bookies, etc. I have heard that it is better to keep your mortgage as a tax write-off, but that seems like a lot more work and allows for banks to collect a shit ton of interest, so I’ll skip that and just own my property outright.  

Oh, and let me be clear. All of this must be done in absolutely secrecy. Don’t post it, tweet it, or breathe a word about it to anyone excluding the people who will help you make the financial decisions. Telling even one person will be the equivalent of just having a few friends over when your parents are away. Suddenly, you are in the midst of a raging kegger except instead of reaching for a beer, people will be reaching for your Benjamins. Lottery winnings are found money. You don’t earn a winning ticket, which means everyone and their step brother’s half-sister’s cousin twice-removed on your grandfather’s side will expect a piece of the pie. This isn’t a credit card commercial. Every friend, casual acquaintance, one-night stand, and barista at your local coffee shop doesn’t need to know what’s in your wallet. The free mug or t-shirt you get from being a guest on the morning news programs or afternoon talk shows will cost you millions in lawyer fees as you suddenly make yourself a target for every con man in the country. Is meeting a B-list celebrity in the green room really worth it? Doubtful. This may be the biggest, most important secret of your life. Keep it!
If you have to go public, do it strategically. Once again, timing is key. Wait as long as humanly possible. Provide as little information as allowed by law. You don’t want bells, whistles, or giant checks that don’t even fit through the door. You don’t need an agent or a manager or head shots. You need to keep your head down and your mouth shut.   

Once you are in possession of more money you will ever need, sit on it. BUY NOTHING. Say your car dies. Buy the Mitsubishi instead of the Maybach. Short on bathrooms and storage space? Buy the bigger house, avoid the biggest mansion. Take small baby steps in spending so that, God forbid, if you are like 70 percent of lottery winners and blow through all your money in a few years, at least you’ll have the basic building blocks of your life still firmly in place.

You don’t need to rent out Disneyworld. Really. You don’t. Sure, spend the money on first-class airfare, the best hotel, book the tour guide that gets you to the front of all the lines, eat in the best restaurants, and buy all the souvenirs. This is true for any vacation; turn the dial to eleven, but don’t change the channel. I have always wanted to stay in one of those small, high-end, super classy hotels that go for thousands per night and have the best rooms, views, and amenities. However, I’m not high end or super classy and all the money in the world isn’t going to make me so. This is why I advise living the best version of your own life, and skip trying to live the life of someone who looks like you, but has a bigger bank account. I just want to up my threat count, not wake up in someone else’s bed.

Finally, after a year, when you have taken plenty of time to really think about what you want out of your life, start spending the money. Wisely. Slowly. If you can’t say no to friends and family over something as simple as who will host a holiday, then hire a group of trusted advisors, create a board of directors, and let them sort through the long line of charities, entrepreneurs, and charlatans looking for a benefactor, angel investor, and sucker. You were just given the opportunity to change your life and those around you – don’t ruin it. I’m not saying don’t enjoy your money, but I am saying that don’t lose your mind doing so.

In short, buy the purse. Just tell everyone it’s a knock-off. And if you do find yourself in possession of one of wonders of the world, don’t brag about it on Facebook. You’ll just look like an asshole. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Excuse Me While I Stop and Catch My Breath

I am a very lucky woman. God granted me two healthy and hardy children. They are emotionally, intellectually, and physically fit. They are well nourished and socially adept.

Both my husband and I am employed full time in jobs that allow us to maintain a solidly middle-class lifestyle without destroying our souls.

Our extended families are stable. We live in a safe neighborhood, with good schools, and are surrounded by a network of friends that are supportive and wonderful.

We live good lives.

Now that I have solidly covered my bases so that the gods do not strike me down, and you understand that I do realize how incredibly lucky I am to live my life, I am going to complain about it.

While I am not quite ahead of the game of life, I am at least able to keep pace. These last few months, not only have I fallen behind, I feel like I fell off the board entirely. This last year just kicked my ass. Instead of walking the line, I was holding onto the edge of it with my fingertips. There were entire weeks where at least one if not all four family members were not walking into the house until 8:30 pm, and of course, some still needed to be fed, or showered, or had leftover work to do. Our calendar app ruled our movements. My husband and I did not have conversations as much as we had short, informative meetings every morning where we discussed our schedules while brushing hair and putting on socks. Our evening entertainment was seeing who fell asleep first on the couch during whatever mindless television show we switched on in the background to help us switch off our brains.

I only have two kids. I only work until 2pm in a family-friendly company. I am happily married to a husband who is an active partner in raising our children. So, when I say that I felt like I was flailing, let me be clear in that I salute every single one of you who have moved beyond man-to-man coverage and have more kids than free hands. I salute every single one of you who are still in meeting when the kids are supposed to be on the various fields. Parents who face the choice of missing a school event or missing a paycheck, parents who are doing it on their own, and parents who have so much more to worry about than whether or not the kid will make the playoffs. While the media often plays up the “Mommy Wars” and tries to pit those of who “work” vs. those who don’t, I think we are all comrades in the same trenches. And I spent the last few months fighting for my life.

I think the difference this year is that there was a domino effect to every choice. If homework wasn’t done on time, then dinner wasn’t consumed quickly enough, then we were running late to point A, which made us late to point B, etc. Activities started earlier. Instead of playing and relaxing in the early afternoon, the kids were already prepping for the next event while I was already cooking dinner. How anyone can eat a full meal at 4:30 in the afternoon is a mystery that I am well on my way to solving because the alternative is eating at 9 at night and that way lies madness. The kids weren’t getting the downtime they needed to reboot, I was running on empty, and my husband was just running, trying to make it to the baseball game or dance pick up, or home in time for me to head out to a meeting. At least once, we high fived from our car windows, as one pulled in while the other rolled out. We discovered that the kids could be left alone in the house together for the short periods of time between when I had to be somewhere and he hadn’t quite made it home yet. We divided and conquered on weekends, usually splitting the family along gender lines for birthday parties and practices, competitions and games. We learned how to outsource – hiring a bi-monthly cleaning person, paying a caterer for my son’s First Communion party, using our Amazon Prime membership so much I expect the drivers know our address by heart.

The last week of school was also the last week of extracurricular activities. As I was just getting ready to take my first deep breath of summer, my car broke down. My last social engagement of the year was a freezer meal workshop where I was so mentally, physically, and emotionally fried that I spent the entire evening laughing inappropriately, mixing up all of the ingredients, and so heartily screwing up the meal-making process so much that I am pretty sure I have been black-listed from Tastefully Simple for life.   

I bet you all have similar stories. Yours may include travel, or illness, elder care or newborns. Mine isn’t going to change anytime soon. As the kids age, their extracurricular activities will increase as they get more homework, as they add on practices, as they spend more time with friends. The longer you work for a company, the more work you tend to take on so that bucket isn’t emptying anytime soon. I still want to go out with friends, to volunteer, to be active in my church, school, and community.

So what gives? What am I going to do differently this year that I didn’t do last year?


I am going to breathe. I am going to get off the internal guilt-ridden roller coaster of always putting aside what we want for what we need. I am going to try to look at the clock less and the sky more. Sure, life is going to get busier, but I need to enjoy the smaller moments within the bigger rush so that I actually enjoy my life instead of just survive it. There are always going to be errands that need to be run. Zombies probably still have errands (they just do them in slow motion). There will always be a book on the shelf, a shelf that needs to be rearranged, and arrangements that need to be made. I’ve already heard from people whose kids are long grown that I will miss these days of frenetic energy and they aren’t wrong. So for now, let’s all take a deep breath together and go down this rabbit hole with a smile. You never know what might be on the other side.