Monthly Archives: February 2019

Streeeeeeetch!

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Streeeeeeetch!

A recent conversation with the family mutt, known as Blanche to the blogging world:

Super Cringe: Blanche what are you doing?

Blanche: I’m stretching. I can’t just run outside like I’ve been shot out of a cannon now, I’m in my late 50s.

Super Cringe: Sure, sure, I get that…what is it you need to chase?

Blanche: Are you kidding, don’t you see that thing in the sky? The boy is out there I need to protect him.

Super Cringe: It’s a drone Blanche, the boy is fine, he’s operating it.

Blanche: What kind of wizardry…nope, that flying thing needs to go.

Super Cringe: What are you going to do if you catch it?

Blanche: I think you mean, what am I going to do when I catch it! I dunno sniff it, take a bite, walk around with it in my mouth like a champion drone killer. Let me out, I’m stretched and ready to go!

Super Cringe: (Hand signals to son from the window that a maniac dog is about to be released so he can take precautions) Alright then Blanche, Godspeed.

 

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Teacher Appreciation

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Teacher Appreciation

Hi Friends,

I submitted this essay for consideration for an anthology. It got rejected 😦 in the nicest possible way. To be fair, they did request that actual teachers submit so there’s that. Names have been changed to protect the guilty, hope you like it.

Bryce

Teacher Appreciation

I’m not a teacher nor do I play one on TV. I’m a parent of two humans, one dog, a crested gecko and carnival goldfish. Raising humans has caused me to interact with the people that are brave and kind enough to become teachers.

My first introduction to teachers as a parent was preschool which both of my kids entered at age 2 ½. I was a sleep deprived, mentally exhausted stay at home mom and I couldn’t wait to get my kids out of the house for three hours, four days a week. It felt like time off for good behavior (not that I’m personally familiar with that). I practically ran across the parking lot in my haste to get to the gym and unload the dishwasher undisturbed, (inhales deep) aaaaah, the sweet scent of freedom.

I have so much fondness for those early days of learning and structured play. Miss Colleen, Miss Cheryl, two Miss Beths and Ms. Tami, they saved my sanity and laid down the first layer of bricks, which began the educational foundation for my children. Before you can say, “pass the Capri Sun” that phase is over and you register your kid for Kindergarten.

When my oldest started Kindergarten I entered the “Zealot Phase” of parenting. I took everything way too seriously and thought that the school would improve greatly if they just followed some of my suggestions. The fact that I have no experience as a public educator did not deter me from speaking my mind (often & to anyone that would listen, mostly other neurotic moms).

My first issue was class size. There were 25 kids assigned to my son’s Kindergarten class. I lost my ever lovin’ mind. I spoke out about it at school board meetings and wrote letters, so many letters. Then I found out my son’s teacher was pregnant and would go on maternity leave mid year (Oh FFS are you kidding). At one point there were rumors of the beloved elementary school shutting down and I went full on crazy and started a petition on Change.org (Oh yes I did). I may or may not have been interviewed by the local press.

When my daughter went to Kindergarten the following year, I was panicked when I received a call from her teacher. My first thought was, well here’s where it all goes of the rails, what did she do, turns out I was selected to be Class Mom. I got to spend a good amount of time in the classroom and on school trips. Mrs. G was a tough teacher but she was also kind.

There is something so beautiful and miraculous about watching children learn to read. Some of my daughter’s classmates were ESL students; their parents couldn’t read English. By the end of that school year, each one of those kids was ready to enter first grade as a proficient reader. Mrs. G did that for thousands of kids over the course of her teaching career. What a positive impact to have on the world.

There was another standout teacher in elementary school, Mr. M, he taught first grade. He was the rock star teacher that parents prayed their kids would get. My friend Tina’s son had him and the following year my daughter landed in his class. He was worth the hype and then some. Unfortunately, Tina had cancer and the prognosis was grim. She hired Mr. M to tutor her son, Rob, who did not need any extra help. It was clear she wanted to continue the bond between Mr. M and Rob. It worked, after she passed away, Mr. M remained a close friend to the family.

I feel that I must pause here a moment to reflect on Tina’s passing. She had two children, a daughter, Cathy, who was in high school and Rob, who was in 5th grade when she died. It was of course excruciating for everyone. There was a memorial gathering for Tina in her family’s home. Half the district teachers were there as well as some of the school principals.

Mr. O was Rob’s teacher that year and my son was in the same class. He honored the family’s request to not approach the subject of death unless Rob brought it up. Instead, Mr. O hosted small lunches with Rob and a few of his close friends. He kept tabs on Rob to make sure he was OK while respecting his space. A year and a half after Tina passed, her daughter graduated high school as Valedictorian. No doubt the teachers and staff that were within their orbit helped to get the family through the most difficult of times.

My son always did well academically in school. Socially things started to get tricky in middle school. He took a lot of heat for being a JETS fan in EAGLES territory. One time he made a bet with his 6th grade science teacher. Whichever team lost, the losing fan would have to wear the opposing team jersey. The JETS managed to pull off a win and Mrs. H wore the JETS jersey as promised. She texted me a picture of herself wearing it standing next to my son, who had a huge grin on his face. It was an act of kindness that meant the world to me. I knew then that my son had someone looking out for him. She saw beyond the honor roll student, she saw a quiet kid who needed to be a part of the social fabric.

After my brief zealot phase when the kids started public school, I decided to show my appreciation and volunteer. I became the parent that signed up for every volunteer post known to mankind. Several years ago the State of Pennsylvania made it a total pain in the ass to donate your time. Here’s a checklist for people that volunteer in PA schools:

  • Criminal History Request
  • Child Abuse Clearance
  • FBI Fingerprints
  • School Personnel Health Record – TB test & physical for those volunteering 10 or more hours a week
  • Arrest/Conviction Report & Certification
  • Blood of a Unicorn

Only one of those is false. Those that go through the trouble to get their clearances are rewarded with being able to plan class parties, facilitate school clubs, attend field trips and chaperone dances. I had a pretty good run of it up through middle school, which is when your kids start to get embarrassed and don’t want to see you anymore (sigh).

Field trips are the best way to acquire some teacher appreciation. I’ve been on quite a few; apple orchard, pumpkin farm, minor league baseball games, museums, a walking tour of Philadelphia and the Renaissance Faire. I’ve done many of the trips two consecutive years because my kids are one grade apart.

Nothing puts fear in you like being responsible for five kids off the leash in Philly. I chaperoned my daughter and four of her friends a couple of years ago on a scavenger hunt of historical artifacts. Participants were encouraged to use their cellphones to take selfies in front of historical landmarks. We were on track the first hour until they saw a Starbucks then thoughts of Betsy Ross were replaced by cravings for Butterbeer Frappuccino.

The Renaissance Faire makes the Philly field trip seem like kittens and rainbows. You have to meet at the school and get on the bus at 6:50am for a two-hour drive to CrAzY Town. Once we arrived, chaperones were told that students weren’t allowed to purchase weapons, that’s a clue that you may be in for a rough day.

Once again you get a group of students to chaperone basically, someone else’s kids that you have to keep alive and not lose for several hours. Not an easy task when you have to mind five 13 year old boys in a place which is overrun with sharp objects; hatchet throwing, knife throwing, archery and the obligatory joust. I had to pry one kid away from a stand that let you throw glass bottles against a wall for an exorbitant amount of money. I plan to open a booth like that in my basement, college tuition is just around the corner.

This is one place where you definitely want to pack a lunch or you will spend a small fortune on a dried out turkey leg which, you will need to wash down with some bee-magnet cider. Everyone that works at the faire is in character and they make the Philly Revolutionary War reenactors seem mainstream. This is a 14-hour day and it is intense.

I’m physically and mentally exhausted after these trips and it makes me truly appreciate teachers. I get to go home after these events, maybe warm up some leftovers and call it a day. The teachers go home to their own family situations and whatever work they need to catch up on because they were out of the classroom all day.

I don’t interact with teachers as much as I used to, my kids are in high school. I see them from time to time at back to school night or the occasional school event. I do see the groundskeeper, Mr. D, monitoring car line which, is a hot mess every morning.

Last year after the Parkland shooting, I paused when I saw Mr. D standing by the cones at his post. It was the first day back at school after that dreadful day and like most parents in America, I was nervous about sending my kids to school. I wondered if Mr. D would take a bullet for my kids, notice a threat, sound the alarm in time. The next instant I felt guilty because he didn’t sign up for combat duty and he has two kids of his own.

America, we are asking too much of our teachers and giving far too little in return. Teachers went into their profession with a curious mind and a full heart, excited to share their passion and help our children learn. Now they are confined to teaching to standardized tests and worrying if they will cross paths with an active shooter and become a human shield.

I have a deep appreciation for everything educators do for our children. Thank you teachers everywhere for being on the front lines of learning, for noticing the shy kids, for quietly purchasing a book for the broke kid at the book fair, for knowing when to apply pressure and when to back off for each student. I know there are times when you sacrifice being there for your own children so you can care of mine. I see you and I appreciate you.

Welcome Aboard!

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Welcome Aboard!

Hey there blogging friends, there has been a recent uptick in followers here lately and I have no idea why. The newbies could be Russian bots, marketing peeps or spies for Jeff Bezos, complete mystery. For the authentic, in the flesh real people, hello and welcome aboard. Thanks for joining this weird ride of mine. Here’s a snapshot into my life via a description of yesterday’s events so you have an idea of what you’re in for, buckle up.

Nut Butter Log – Thursday

OH FFS there is another school delay! The sleeping in bit is great until it derails the remainder of your day. I needed to be in three places at 9:30am – 1) Work 2) Shoveling my mother’s driveway 3)Driving kids to school. The kids still come first around here followed by mom and then the clients. Calls were made and expectations were appropriately lowered, what I refer to as adjusting the sails.

Getting middle school and high school kids to school on time has a set of variables that I didn’t really anticipate when they were little. I thought preschoolers were a tough bunch – lack of focus, poor bowel movement control and a struggle to tie shoes, sometimes I long for those days. I can’t get into specifics because teens have very intense rules about what can and can’t be posted…let’s just say that some mornings it feels like I am walking a tight rope over lava…in a wind storm.

I dropped my son off first then offered to take my daughter to Wawa for some snacks because she had ski club after school. She was very happy about that (parents of littles – food bribes still work in middle school). We were driving out of the busy parking lot with no expletives and zero honking which, is a minor miracle because that place is the stuff of nightmares. Then it happened, a massive hot chocolate spill directly into my daughter’s crotch.

DD: Mom! Oh no, look!! I look like I peed myself.

Me: You smell good though…you went with the S’mores variety didn’t you (exaggerated sniff)…now that is the smell of summer in February.

DD: Oh My God! I can’t go to school like this.

Me: Nope, you can’t. I’ll take you home (smirking). You can go to work with me. Rob & Laura would love you. (They’re in their 90s)

DD: MOOOOOOOOM.

Me: Relax honey, just think about which pants you will change into and be super fast when we get home. Sometimes the universe sends us a sign to not take ourselves too seriously. We will now refer to this as “The Great Hot Cocoa Incident of 2019”.

DD: I’m sorry you’ll be even later for work. (Side eye and a smirk, she has perfected both)

After I got my daughter to school, I was on my way to my mother’s house to drop off the milk which, I forgot to drop off at 8:30 when I shoveled out her car and walkways. I got to my clients house an hour later then scheduled and then shoveled out their car, driveway and walkway. Lots of shoveling which was good since the gym got sidelined with the delayed opening.

I have a small business which fills in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. Many of my clients are elderly and need assistance with errands, household chores and rides to the doctor. Rob and Laura are clients that I visit twice a week and I adore them. They’re both in their 90s and have some mobility issues. Yesterday our errands included two grocery stores, a diner, the butcher and the post office.

The first grocery store was a hive of activity. Our slow moving somewhat decrepit parade was getting passed by like fighter jets buzzing the tower. I had to suppress the urge to stand in the center of each aisle and assume the starfish stance in an effort to create a safe zone for my clients. Shopping with them is always interesting, they bring a list which is organized by aisle. Things were going well until we got to the beans. Butter beans and Lima beans were both MIA. I can’t really tell the difference between the two but Rob can and he has a recipe that doesn’t allow for bean substitutes. This necessitated a trip to a second food store.

I offered to do the bean run into the second store and have my clients wait in the car. They obliged and I soon found myself in another aisle of beans stumped by the options. There were Butter beans (yes!)..then there were two types Lima beans. One can advertised “Butter Beans, Lima Beans in Sauce” they were white and looked suspiciously like the plain butter beans. The other can of Lima beans were the familiar detested green Limas of my youth. This was a bit of a dilemma, which Limas should I get? When I was putting myself through college, working full time busting my ass, I never imagined this would be my breaking point. In my mind I could hear the overhead store announcement,  “Existential life crisis brought on by beans, aisle 15”.

I could not consult my nonagenarian friends (I went to college so I could use that word), they don’t text so, I made an executive decision and put those nasty green Limas back on the shelf. I found out later that I made the wrong choice because of course I did! I was blinded by my longstanding hatred of green Lima beans. You never know when a food you hated in your childhood will come back and bite you on the ass. Yesterday the green Lima beans did just that, the bastards.

After the beans were tucked into the car I asked my clients where to next – those party animals wanted to go to the diner. I guess they rested up while I was having a mental breakdown over beans and they were hungry. I was hungry too in fact, I treated myself to an Almond Joy while I was checking out with the beans. I had to cleanse the putrid memory of green Lima beans with something equally powerful from my childhood palate.

The diner we went to is their version of Cheers, everyone knows their name here. I walked in the middle of our slow moving parade with Rob in front and Laura behind me. This is a typical conversation:

Me: Rob we have the table in the back corner. Remember if you fall, fall backwards, I’ll catch you.

Rob: (Grunts) It’s crowded.

Me: Yup, we’re threading the needle here, threading the needle, almost there.

When we get to the table I ask them each where they want to sit. Then I sit, taking a mental note of where the canes are resting so, they don’t become tripping hazards for the waitress.

Laura: I love Ann (the waitress), she seems like an interesting person. I wish I knew her better. Check out her feet when you get a chance.

Sure enough Ann is sporting some bold striped socks. Laura knows this because at 92, her head is in a permanent downward tilt. At the first grocery store I saw a dime on the floor which I quickly stepped on to hide from her view. I didn’t want her to bend down and pick it up. Not on my watch Laura, the activity of bending down to pick something up can be a game changer at her age.

After lunch Rob wanted me to stop at the butcher to buy bacon. The store is a throwback to what I can only assume would be 1957. This is one of Rob’s happy places and I marveled at the number of deer heads on the wall (7 and one was wearing an Eagles hat). One more stop at the post office to clear their box and we were back at their house. I helped put groceries away and noticed that there was another pound of bacon in the meat drawer. I informed Rob that he has a significant bacon supply and then remind him we are going to see his Cardiologist next week, we both chuckle at that.

When I get in my car to leave my clients, I get a text from my husband that a family friend is sick and we may need to watch their twins (6 years old). I text the twins mom and offer to help.  She takes me up on it because I’m the friend you call when sh*t goes sideways. I won’t hold your hair back if you’re drunk in a club vomiting into a public toilet but I will drive you home, my friends know this.

Once again I found myself in the position of needing to be in two places at once – picking up my son who stayed after school for robotics and fetching the twins off the bus. I texted my son to hasten his pace and broke several traffic laws to get to the bus on time. For the next 5 1/2 hours I had twins who are equal parts adorable and exhausting. At 9pm I took them home and at 9:30 I picked my daughter up from ski club. Within an hour, I was falling asleep in bed sitting up not watching the news.

Like so many of us, child-rearing competes with caring for aging parents, self-care, and running a household while managing a job.  I’d say this is what it’s like to be the meat in the middle of a generation sandwich but nut butter seems more appropriate. Thanks for visiting :).

 

Booked!

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Booked!

You ever have a day that seems to have it’s own theme? That weirdness happened to me yesterday and the common thread was books. Common thread is an oxymoron because although books were featured throughout the day, the intention and context varied wildly. I’ve already corrected myself and I haven’t made it out of the first paragraph yet, yeah me. In the interest of saving time and not boring you to tears, I’ve created a list to explain myself:

1. I found out yesterday that an essay I submitted was rejected for a anthology. It’s fine (*sniff*sniff*), the collaborator was super nice about letting me down. I wish every rejection in life came with that much consideration. I thought about sending her flowers afterwards, it was that kind.

2. There was a fundraiser for our high school library and I donated. I’m all for more books, all the time.

3. I’m currently reading, Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Why yes it did come out 5 years ago what’s your point? I like it. It has mixed reviews on Goodreads, some people want more dirty laundry. I don’t, it’s authentic without giving the reader too many cringe-worthy personal accounts. I don’t need to know why she got divorced or the details of her married sex life. She has kids that I guarantee, never want to read that. There is a part in the book called plain girl versus the demon which really resonated. I don’t know a woman alive that hasn’t gone through that particular self-deprecating hell.

4. Speaking of hell, my kids high school had an ALICE drill. For the uninitiated, that is the protocol in place for active shooter drills (isn’t that sweet, I mean we have fire drills, better chance of getting shot at than experiencing a fire at this point). Students were instructed to move heavy furniture to block doors, ladders will be provided to evacuate the second floor classes and books will be used as potential shields or to distract yourself while your classmates are getting shot at – I hear War and Peace pairs well with a school shooting. In any event, it’s a nice thick book and that may slow the bullets enough to not die, maybe.

In an effort to not obsess about that last bit, tell me what you’re reading in the comments.

 

Rub My Belly

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Rub My Belly

For those that are new, Blanche is the made up name of my real dog. I’ve recently introduced her to the Super Cringe series on my blog. Super Cringe is the alter ego of my pen name. I probably should have suggested you take a seat before you tip toe into my thought process, sometimes it gets surprisingly deep in the shallow end. Anyway, if you’re still here, thanks. Here’s a recent conversation:

Blanche: (Super excited greets the family at the door. All 90 pounds of her is wiggling with joy) Oh my God your back! I was so worried, you’ve been gone for like a year, I thought you deserted me.

Super Cringe: I told you we were going away for a few days. We missed you too buddy!

Blanche: WWhaaaat – why do I smell dogs. G-damn it you were with other dogs.

Super Cringe: It’s true we stayed with friends and they have two dogs.

Blanche: (Stands up on back two legs, crosses her front arms in front of her chest) Right and I’m supposed to be OK with that….you should have taken me.

Super Cringe: We can’t take you on a plane, you don’t even like going in the car. Seriously you are the only dog I ever met that doesn’t enjoy sticking her head out the window. What’s up with that?

Blanche: I would have gone on the plane. I could have pulled off the therapy dog thing. I have a sensitive nose the window thing is too much.

Super Cringe: You’re 90 pounds I can’t stick you under the seat in front of me, you aren’t a lap dog.

Blanche: I would be a lap dog, you won’t let me.

Super Cringe: You are 5′ 3″ when you stand on your back legs. I’m pretty sure the cut off for lap dogs is 3′ 6″ on hind legs.

Blanche: That sounds totally made up.

Super Cringe: Maybe…

Blanche: And stop tossing my weight around. Do you want me to start telling everyone how much you weigh?

Super Cringe: I don’t even know what I weigh, how would you know?

Blanche: I know stuff. The squirrel that was eating the molding, he gotten taken out by one of the hawks.

Super Cringe: Really! Wow, what else ya got?

Blanche: The UPS guy has a sinus infection and the neighbors kid was doing laps in our driveway again.

Super Cringe: You are a fountain of knowledge. You want a belly rub?

Blanche: Yeah, I want a belly rub (assumes the belly rub position).

Super Cringe: We cool?

Blanche: Yeah, we’re good, a little to the right.

Super Cringe: (sighs) I wish every relationship was this easy.

 

Oops, I Did it Again

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Oops, I Did it Again

Sorry if I just downloaded an ear worm into your brain from early Brittany. In the words of the infamous BS, “Oops, I did it again”. No I have not broken a heart by being carelessly flirtatious, I stepped into a comment landmine on social media (again).

I belong to a social media group that has the terms “Crones” and “Anarchy” in the name. It’s a spirited mix of women of a certain age and attitude (not to be confused with Teens of Anarchy that write in a code of acronyms encrypted with the names of YouTube stars and musicians I haven’t heard of…different crowd). My fellow crones post about current events and personal situations. There is usually a lot of crone love and understanding, today though, things went off the rails.

Sadly, I step into a big steamy pile more often than I used to – perhaps there are more piles or I have just gone blind and don’t see them until I’m in the middle of one. I make what I think is an innocent comment or relate my own personal experience and <BOOM> I have offended someone without intending to do so.

Not surprisingly I did this a few times (to infinity and beyond) during the 2016 election. One time (not at band camp) I made what I thought was a fairly bland comment about Jill Stein and received the wrath of angry hippies. Those peace-loving kombucha drinking folks have some serious pent-up rage. Don’t get your homemade yogurt in curds dude, that slimy mess will turn into cottage cheese with that attitude and no one wants that.

Yesterday was a snow day where I live so I spent more time than is healthy on Facebook. Any time on Facebook probably isn’t healthy but I don’t smoke or drink and you can only eat so many cookies. Someone posted a picture of the March Esquire issue which features a white teen boy with a “day in the life” type of piece. Unfortunate that this was released in February, you know black history month. I mean people do need to know the struggles of white middle class males because that particular group has been so under-served. I’ll see myself out.

 

Good Talk Dog

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Good Talk Dog

The following is an actual made up conversation I recently didn’t have with my dog. She is fiercely private so I will refer to her as Blanche (psst, not her actual name). I wanted to make her fake name Gertrude and then shorten it to Gertie. Then I remembered that Michelle from Rubber Shoes in Hell has a cat named Gertie and that seemed like some kind of weird fake pet name plagiarism. I know Christopher from Freethinkers Anonymous will figure out which Blanche inspired me because he knows things.

I will refer to myself as Super Cringe, my alter ego’s alter ego (FFS this is starting to feel like a wordy math equation), because some days it’s good to have two degrees of separation from your actual life. Today is one of those days.

Blanche: Sleeping curled up on her bed which is close to my desk. Loud snores with the occasional twitchy leg, this is a standard dog nap.

Super Cringe: Pipe down over there you need a CPAP mask or what?

(And here’s the part where I wish I could draw like my friend Lisa McMillen of Cica Lisa Designs who drew my Super Cringe character. Lisa could draw an amazing sketch of my lazy azz dog sleeping with a CPAP mask on and that shit would be hysterical. Sadly you have to use your imagination – 90 pound black labradoodle mutt who looks like something Dr. Seuss created, lots of gray hair on her face…..now go use that imagination!)

Blanche: Dude, I’m so wrecked from all the company this weekend. Do you have any idea how much unauthorized food I ate in the past 37 hours?

(Disclaimer: Chicks from New Jersey use dude for guys & gals and this bitch is from Jersey)

Super Cringe: Well I did get some specifics on the chunks you hurled last night. By the way, two things I need to acknowledge….thanks for puking on the tile and for waiting until I went to bed. Bummer for the hubs though (I high 5 Blanche and wouldn’t a sketch of Super Cringe high-fiving  a funny looking dog with a CPAP mask dangling from her collar be hysterical) but seriously what is the appeal of deer poop?

Blanche: (looks embarrassed) Whaaaat?

Super Cringe: Why do you eat deer poop, it’s got to be disgusting…

Blanche: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Super Cringe: Shows Blanche a pic of the vomit which includes a mass which looks suspiciously like deer poop.

Blanche: Turns her head in shame, talks to the wall. I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it.

Super Cringe: Alright, well I hope you feel better. I’ll take the scat mat off the couch tonight, just don’t let dad catch you.

Super Cringe and Blanche fist pump each other and Blanche goes back to her nap. Super Cringe leaves to read her favorite Sunday Blog My Dang Blog and has some catching up to do at Redneck Latte Ravings.

 

Summer Camp

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Summer Camp

I went to summer camp once when I was a kid and it was subsidized. We drove 45 minutes each way on a school bus with a bunch a screaming lunatics. You had to watch your back and guard your lunch or you wouldn’t eat that day beyond the off brand stale snacks they gave out. I’m so glad I clawed my way out of poverty so I can eat real Oreos and not those sad Hydrox second rate cookies.

My kids have each gone to a variety of summer camps – soccer, chess, YMCA, a drone academy, tech school, improv comedy and cow camp. Cow camp is quite special, this summer will be my daughter’s 4th year. We basically pay an exorbitant amount of money to have her work on a dairy farm for a week. She partners up with a friend (because they’re suckers too) and the two girls get assigned to a calf for the week that they attend camp. They groom the calf, walk the calf on a lead and review the basics of showing livestock. They also spend a day in the milking barn. The place smells like sour milk and cow sh*t but my girl loves it and it’s the most effective way to pry a phone out of her hand.

My husband gets annoyed paying for this working farm camp and he suggested we start a “Housecleaning Camp.” Naturally we would charge the parents an outrageous sum of money to send their kids to our house to learn proper cleaning. My husband would have to teach it because I’m not qualified. It sure would be nice to earn some cash and get the house cleaned. I’m currently drafting a business plan and I intend to franchise.

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Last year my daughter attended cow camp with a very good friend who shares her sense of humor. They told me what they wanted to name their calf and I thought it was funny. I posted about it on Facebook:

“Informal Poll – If your kid went to a dairy farm camp and they (along with a friend) decided to name their cow “Burger” would that be considered funny or disturbing? Asking for a friend…”

Most of my FB friends thought it was funny. Except one person who wrote this:

“Are they prepared to butcher and eat it? That would be the difference between ‘’for real/funny’’ and ‘removed/callous.’ If my kid were in the first category, I would be immensely proud because I think we all need to own our sh*t, and as a parent and teacher, our kids NEVER own their sh*t because we have failed and created ‘snowflakes in climate change’!”

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Woah lady, slow down.This is supposed to be a light-hearted post. No she isn’t going to butcher a dairy calf for food, that WOULD be wrong. Plus she is only kind of leasing the calf for a very specific time period. That calf will be working with two more suckers campers next week. I can’t imagine what that bill would be not to mention the psychological trauma for all involved.

And with that the levity and humor was sucked out of my post. I know the person who wrote that and I like her, I still do. I pointed out that it is a dairy cow so that eliminates the meat aspect. It kept nagging at me though so I decided to put it under my mental microscope to take a look.

Use of NEVER is non starter for me. I point out my kids’ errors on a daily basis. I don’t consider myself a maker of snowflakes but perhaps that is like the crazy person who can’t see their crazy. To say someone NEVER does something would actually take some serious effort at consistency. Doesn’t apply, let it fly.

Then I focused on the term callous and that’s what got under my skin like a splinter you can’t quite get regardless of the tweezers and incessant picking. Then I came to the realization that my kid needs to be a little calloused. The fact that she is showing some grit in a humorous way actually puts us in the plus column.

And then I found this T-shirt:81Lyxlyn9iL._UL1500_.jpgWe tried drone camp for the first time last summer. My son is mechanically inclined and he likes to fly drones so we decided to give it a try. There aren’t that many camps that interest a 14 year old dude. I got a super creepy vibe off the owner when I walked in on the first day. There were just a handful of people signed up including a mother and her two kids. The fact that a mom was there gave me some comfort.

This was a one week camp and I stayed within a 5 minute drive while my kid was there. I usually sat in the parking lot for the 2 hour sessions. Each day I would hear about some sexist (toward the mom and daughter) remarks or other inappropriate comments hurled at the helpers by the owner.

The owner, Mr. Yaya (a solidly fake name), would verbally abuse the help, who had the misfortune of also being his stepsons. He would say stuff like “they’re white on the outside but yellow on the inside,” Whaaat?!. One time I watched an argument between Yaya and one of his stepsons. Yaya was yelling at the kid saying “don’t tell me how to run my business” as I’m walking toward the building. Awkward.

On the last day of camp Yaya announced that he was going to Maine. I mentioned that we had gone to Bar Harbor in June. Yaya proceeded to tell us why he hated Bar Harbor and how only stupid people go there. Apparently, Bar Harbor gets far too crowded for Yaya, he isn’t really a people person (shocking because he is so damn charming). The icing on this weird cake was that my son built a drone during the camp but he wasn’t permitted to keep it. Basically another pay-to-work camp. I’m thinking we will skip drone camp next year.

 

Making Space for Forgiveness

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Making Space for Forgiveness

I told her it was OK as my mother sobbed on my shoulder. I turned out fine, my life is far better than anything I could have dreamed. I told her that I forgave her and I understood that she just did what she had been taught, modeled patriarchal behavior. The same shit that her parents did that tore her down. Now she feels regret for repeating those awful behaviors.

Women are so eager to take on the blame. She’s crying over the bad wiring in her brain. The structure and synapses which were created by her own traumas, one by one, they formed a new way of thinking; alcoholism, rationalization, self-preservation, victim-hood, depression and decades of regret, at 73 the guilt is smacking her in the face, hard.

It’s sad and predictable, I remain calm and reassuring, while simultaneously hoping I can get home before the ice cream melts in my car. I know that sounds callous but I’ve been living with this drama my ENTIRE life. My head wanders in several directions: my recently deceased father and the damage he inflicted on all of us, groceries in the car, company coming over and being a witness to my mother dissolving in front of me, again. It’s almost too much to take but I’ve taken so much more than this when I was little.

She laments about her mental illness and the limitations it has caused. Her brilliant mind is her best worst enemy. She talks about her long ago marriage to my father and how brutal he was…he’s been dead less than 5 months. She begins to tell me about the rapes, the beatings, how awful he was and I don’t want the details. She holds the worst of it back and I am grateful for that. I already know too many terrible things about my parents, I don’t need more. I do ask for clarification on a few things, the answers surprise me.

I asked her why she left me in Florida when I was 9 while she and my brother went back to New Jersey for a visit. She has a puzzled look on her face and says that I wanted to stay. I was 9 and calling the shots apparently, I stayed with friends that we barely knew for those two weeks. She asked me if anything bad happened during my weeks with Kay and her family. I tell her no, remembering that is when I started smoking and I kissed a boy for the first time. I don’t mention these things, she has enough on her mind. She didn’t want me to stay with Frank, her then live-in boyfriend. She asks me if Frank ever made a pass at me. He didn’t, I was never assaulted by any of her boyfriends which, in retrospect, is sadly miraculous.

Then she confessed one of her biggest regrets as I stood there. She regrets how she handled it when she found out that 16 year old me was in a relationship with a 32 year old man. A man who 6 months prior, had been my counselor. So predictable, the textbook definition of a vulnerable girl and a predatory male. She’s mad at herself for not lashing out at this man 34 years ago. Instead she gave me the anger and disgust because that is what she was taught. It’s the females fault, it always is, men are the way they are. It’s OK mom, you reacted the way you were taught, I forgive you. She seemed to calm down a bit and I told her I loved her and left to go home.

A few hours later, I’m in my kitchen making a damn good tomato sauce with sausage, eggplant and roasted garlic. I have the echo blasting 70’s music, I’m in my happy place. Then I have one of those ah-ha moments. My mother doesn’t hate me, she hates herself for all the ways she’s failed me. Somehow this awareness removes a burden and I have more space for forgiveness.

Panic at the Escape Room

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Panic at the Escape Room

I recently took a group of teenage girls out for pizza and an escape room experience. The outing was to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. She’s had to deal with some adversity this past year – the deaths of two grandfathers, a falling out of previously close friends and the hormonal angst of being female in an adolescent body. Eight grade is out to destroy everyone and no one gets out unscathed. I try not to fret about it too much. I constantly remind myself that grit doesn’t grow on a sunny beach, it grows in a dark, lonely, painful place.

I started to have anxiety about her birthday in the wee hours before dawn. Somewhere around 3am my brain decided to obsessively worry if someone would decorate her locker at school. I realize what a luxury problem that is, I was raised by an alcoholic mother and had a deadbeat dad, a decorated locker wasn’t in my orbit in middle school. First world problems be damned, my mind just wouldn’t let it go.

My daughter and I have made at least a dozen trips to the local drugstore to purchase candy and decorations for various girls in her grade. My girl makes a point to celebrate everyone’s birthday. She even decorates for half birthdays for the friends that have summer birthdays when school is closed. She’s logged significant hours on this little project and I was concerned that she might get forgotten since she is usually the organizer. Like the mom who bakes her own birthday cake because no one else will, for the record I haven’t done that but I know women that do. I have purchased flowers to cheer myself and have made my own chicken soup when I got sick. It’s empowering to take care of yourself. Decorating your own locker would just be weird. I did hand over a king size candy bar in the morning and noted that I would have attached them to her locker if that was allowed. I got some serious eye roll for my troubles.

I worried for nothing, her friends showed some big love. My daughter came home with Halloween-level bags of candy – Kisses, M & Ms, Reese’s, Kit Kats – it was Candy Palooza! They put streamers on the row of lockers which flanked hers, there were balloons, pictures, memes, there may have been a parade, it was magical! The only bummer was one of her closest friends couldn’t make the event due to a weekend away which could not be rescheduled.

Driving your kids and their friends around is the best way to learn about them. I try to keep my mouth shut and just listen, not my first inclination. My daughter likes EMO (for the old people, that is a genre of rock music which leans heavy into emotional expression and yes I had to Google it ’cause I’m old too). Her choices were vetoed and they started playing songs from Seussical.

Horton Hears A Who

I tried not to laugh excessively as the theater nerds in the car sang their hearts out while my daughter had a FFS look on her face. It was priceless. Before you could say “Break a leg!” we were parked and headed in for pizza. I got them all pizza and seated myself at a table for two on the opposite end of the room. Shortly after I was settled in, I got a text from my daughter “love you momma”. Ahhh, I replied with the usual emoji’s – kissy face and double hearts. A few minutes later I got another text – That was Xxxxx. Punk got me, I may have yelled “You Suck!” from across the pizza dinning room, maybe.

An hour later we were on our way down the block to go to an escape room. My daughter picked out the scariest possible scenario because that’s who she is. One friend was petrified so I opted to stay with her and watch the remaining girls try to think their way out of the room via a monitor.

This room included a prisoner who was supposed to be foreboding instead he was a cornucopia of clues and helpful hints. “No, not that key”, “Turn it the other way”, “Listen to the tape again”…..this man was desperate for these girls to “escape” so he could move on with his own life. One of the clues required that a Nerf dart gun be used to hit a specific target. My daughter was so bad at this that the inmate was actually handing her the darts to improve her odds. Imagine Hannibal Lector trying to assist six teenage girls with a task for 50 minutes when everyone is taking turns giggling and screaming “shut up” at each other. I’m sure he was ready for some Chianti by the time we finished. They got out in 53 minutes and that man earned every penny of his pay.

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What he wanted to say: Oh FFS girls, look under the compass. The compass, it’s circular has a glass dome top with N, E, W, S inscribed…..I’m guessing none of you were ever in the Girl Scouts. No I don’t want a smoky eye tutorial. Are you even paying attention?

I drove all the girls home and later that night I went to my daughter’s bedroom. She had a great birthday and she loved her presents – mostly nods to Panic at the Disco and My Chemical Romance, her two favorite bands. One friend included some sarcastic buttons in the gift mix. This is my favorite –

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I happen to be good friends with the mother of the girl who gifted this to my daughter. She gets our humor.

So while I can pat myself on the back for a successful outing I must also call myself out for a gift faux pas. In my haste to purchase EMO ‘merch’ (that’s short for merchandise, or so I’ve been told via audible eye roll)…I purchased a sweatshirt that is wildly inappropriate. I’ve given in on the excessively ripped jeans fad however, my daughter will not be wearing her new MCR sweatshirt to school. It has this on the front:

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Not really sure how I missed the gun border on this. My eyes aren’t what they used to be and it was one of those late night Amazon purchases. We all have to live with those regrets from time to time…of course it wasn’t Prime, that would be too easy. So once again a parental victory is leveled by a parental fail and isn’t that the way.