yes,
it really happened

Halloween Help Me…

I miss the days when I could just sink money into the most adorable Disney Princess Halloween costumes possible. Katie has been Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Anna from Frozen, Sleeping Beauty (which at the time was before Katie perfected her speech articulation and she called her Cheapy Booty which gave my family the hysterics) and Merida, which was probably her favorite because it included arrows – and weaponry when you have an older brother is really a fabulous idea.

Here we are. Two weeks and counting. And there will need to be not one, but two, acceptable costumes for my tweenage daughter.

Because what eleven year old girl could commit to just one outfit in a day?

Princesses are no longer an acceptable avenue of dressing up. My feisty and fiery independent girl is now balancing her desire to be whatever her imagination creates alongside her friends who may or may not want to create a group of themed costuming. Two girls considered being Salt and Pepper, then a third wanted to join in and they switched to Rock Paper Scissors. A fourth was interested and suddenly the other original costume friends have moved on to other groups. “How does that make you feel?” I asked, unsure if this will be something that will send my daughter into hysterics. “Mom,” she tells me, rolling her eyes, “They’ve known each other since kindergarten. Of course they need to do something together!” I exhale. Drama averted. For now.

I desperately try to balance my understanding of middle school girl social dynamics with my practicality of getting the costume purchasing checked off my list. Is this why millennials are so fragile? Because we parents allow for so much emotion to be wrapped up in something as “simple” as a Halloween costume? Or are they not truly fragile, but rather just unafraid to express their emotions, however charged they may be? I recently had dinner with one of my good friends who is a child psychologist. Her therapy sessions for that week included half a dozen girls talking about their Halloween costumes and the group dynamic of inclusion vs. exclusion. I remember the days of middle school and wanting to be included in a group, a safe haven of power in numbers during a socially awkward age. But what I did not ever need to endure was being “dropped” from a group text, where the planning and group continued on without me. The sting of the playground or notes passed between classes ended with the school day. If we left school on Wednesday saying we were all going to be M&Ms, on Thursday morning that was still true. With the addition of cell phones, the group dynamic can change from M&Ms to The Incredibles, with five girls leaving the sixth off the text chain and she has no idea what has happened until she finds out through the grapevine. First of all mean girls make me sad. Second of all mean girls should be banned from being amazing super heroes like the Incredibles, because their family social dynamics are way too sophisticated and awesome for mean people. But I don’t get mean girls, let alone texting social cues. It’s little wonder that 24 hour social worries have created a whole new level of anxiety in our kids. The 24 hours news cycle certainly hasn’t helped my own anxiety. I get them.

According to Emily Tate, writing for Inside Higher Education in March 2017, “More than half of the college students who visited their campus counseling centers during the 2015-16 academic year reported symptoms of anxiety… This marks the seventh year in a row that anxiety has been the top complaint among students seeking mental health services.”

So how do we help our kids deal with anxiety? How do we help them confront the world and other people who have graduated from little kids who are “naughty” to young adults who are exclusive and sometimes downright nasty? How do we balance the appropriate amount of empathy and understanding with a balance of humor and light-heartedness? If I had the answers for those questions I could fix a lot of problems. In the meantime I’m still focused on Halloween costumes. And I’m not even sure I can handle that well. Sometimes I have a wicked sense of humor, other times I can suck the fun out of everything.

Alex, who is 14, wore a homemade t-shirt last year that said “Error 404; Costume Not Found”. He opted out of the trick-or-treating and answered our front door for the little costumed cuties that came our way. This year, he is debating whether or not he should dress in a t-shirt saying “Choose Jesus Not Cheeses” and hold a sign that says “God Hates Cows” – Lactose Intolerance, or, wrap himself in bubble wrap and wear a hat that says “Fragile – I’m offended”, a Millennial in ironic form. He may have inherited my sarcastic sense of humor.

My sister once dressed as Bird Flu. It was my favorite costume ever, combining my fear of germs with current events and humor. She wore scrubs and added feathers. She somehow found chicken feet slippers, which seem odd for anyone to want to purchase outside of Halloween time. She donned an ice pack as a hat and headed off to her grown up party. Her now husband won the contest that year – he ripped his shirt to shreds and found a giant stuffed tiger to attach to his back – this was less than a month after the Siegfried and Roy tiger attack. My sense of inappropriate humor is something that makes me truly appreciate my brother in law. We both crack up at the same stuff. Mostly the same jokes that 14 year old boys like.

So Love Jesus Not Cheeses is easy. The social drama of Halloween and middle school girls? Not as easy – for me, anyway.

Katie costume number one, for school, is currently undecided. This awaits the consideration of many other eleven year old girls and new friendships this first year of middle school. So I wait. I consider my lack of patience, I take a lot of deep breaths. “I’m cool. I can wait,” I think, and know that if my husband were in charge of costumes he’d wait until October 30th to even raise the question, so there’s no need to sweat it. Although the “it should be homemade” hint from Katie makes me worry if the craft stores are open late, and how long glue takes to dry, and whether staples are dangerous against delicate tween skin.

Costume number two, for trick or treating with her best friend (since they were two years old), is themed. Her BFF is going to be an Astronaut, Katie will be an Alien. “Can’t you do that for school too?” I ask, obviously oblivious. “No,” Katie tells me shaking her head. “That’s way too little kid-ish. It only makes sense if I’m WITH an astronaut.” Of course. How could I have not known that?

“So can we plan the alien costume?” I ask, picturing pigtails and googly eyes headbands available on Amazon. “Oh yes,” Katie says, her enthusiasm starting to rise, “We’re gonna need some duct tape so I can make some boots.”

No. Seriously. No. I see where this goes. I can pretend to be patient, but I am not crafty. I want to be crafty. I worship people who are crafty. I look at Pinterest as though it were a museum website full of amazing things that Other People can do. But I am not signing up to make boots out of duct tape. Don’t get me wrong – I love homemade costumes. My favorite costume to this day was when my mom (who is not crafty) convinced my aunt (who is artsy and crafty and crazy, but that’s another story) to make me a “kitty cat” costume. I wore fuzzy footy pajamas (with the bottoms cut out so I could still wear sneakers), a tail, and a mask with whiskers and ears. It was amazing. I was a fuzzy cat and cozy. To this day I wish pajama day were a real thing for adults. A comfortable costume? Sign me up.

But duct tape boots? I can see where this goes. I buy eight-dozen rolls of duct tape for twice the cost of a real pair of boots that she might actually want to wear again. Katie promises she will complete the make boots project on her own. She waits until October 30th, panics, cries, melts down, screams at me that this isn’t her fault, and then I try to make duct tape boots out of the remaining four inches of duct tape. I then cry on my way to Target to look for Alien Boots. Did any of that happen? No. Not yet. But it could. A real-life alien could also land in our yard and give Katie an outfit. Anything is possible. Apparently I am excellent at bringing my own anxiety to Halloween and costumes.

So do we all need to rid ourselves of Halloween Induced Issues? Or is it easier to worry about that instead of nuclear war with North Korea, climate change that looks like science fiction movies, and a world full of division and angst? If you’re not anxious maybe you’re not paying attention. I think our youth are paying attention. Let the costume worries be their world, for now.

 

One Flag, Two Sides

My relationship with our country and its symbolisms is a complex one. I’m not a flag waver. I’m not a flag burner. I grew up with both in my family. I broke bread at the same table as the patriot and the hippie. It was interesting, as a child, to watch these two men eat meals together, knowing that they could not possibly be more different, yet there they sat, respecting each other and both loving my grandmother’s amazing whipped potatoes. Those potatoes transcended mere mashed potatoes – she whipped those taters til lumps were a distant memory. I didn’t even know mashed potatoes could have lumps until I was in high school.

My grandfather was named Jack, and he was part of America’s greatest generation. He signed up to be a Navy fighter pilot before he was 18 and convinced his mother to sign the permission to enlist form by promising her he’d keep one foot on the ground. He never broke that promise – he brought a bucket of dirt up in his fighter jet every time he flew, and kept one foot in the bucket. Jack didn’t believe in lying. He landed jets on giant aircraft carriers in the middle of the ocean and passed his final exams with flying colors, identifying friendly and enemy aircrafts shown on a giant screen for just a fraction of a second. Some of his classmates found the answer key and cheated. Jack thought he should study anyway, and ignored the answer key. In the end, anyone who had used the answer key was dismissed – it had been a plant by the instructors to see who would lie, and it was designed to root out the liars. During visits home in New Jersey, Jack would fly his jet through rain clouds over the skies of Clifton so he could make it rain below for my grandmother, where she worked as a nurse in the hospital. The hospital staff would run for cover, unsure if it was Germany or Japan or friendlies. My grandmother knew it was Jack, courting her, changing the weather just for her.

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A Forking Mystery – AKA: Where Stuff Goes In Our House

The forks are missing. This is a catastrophe.

First, perspective.

Yes. There are amazing and important things happening in the world, in my country, in my town. I’m even involved, doing my civic volunteer duty. My girl scout troop is running an encampment to introduce younger girls to the joys of nature and camping. My Junior League colleagues and I are launching a state-wide initiative to offer training to anyone who wants to be more involved in helping to run nonprofit boards (by the way, registration is ending soon so you should visit www.getonboardnj.org asap to register if you haven’t done so already – shameless plug but it’s really gonna be amazing).   There are also one thousand four hundred and fifty seven end of year school events that are on my calendar. So that will be fun.

But what is it that has me really laser-focused at the moment? Scheduling? Organizing? Increasing registration numbers for important things like nonprofit training? Or perhaps finishing the edits on my book so I can finally submit it to agents and maybe be a famous writer? Or at least a published-not-famous writer?

Nope.

The forks are missing. The forks are not broken, the forks are not dirty. I do not have forks where the tines are crooked which I can’t stand because I have OCD and the crookedness feels like evil in my mouth. The forks are just unavailable. The forks are freaking gone. WTF forks? And WTF family? How can I have raised children that allow this sort of catastrophe to happen? How can I live among animals where utensils are not a treasured and respected part of daily life? Take a fork. Use it. Put it in the dishwasher. Maybe the sink if you truly cannot find the energy to open the dishwasher door because of the lethargy induced by eating whatever it was you ingested with said fork. But did you throw out the fork? Did you put it in a couch cushion? Is it hidden in some dark recessed place in our house? What has happened?

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The Women of the Bus: Lessons from our March on D.C.

Last November, something happened. I didn’t see it coming. And after it happened, I didn’t like it.

My good friend, Jenna, didn’t like it either. She was the one who first asked me if I thought I might consider going to D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. I wanted to go, but I also don’t like being cold. I mean, President Harrison DIED because he went to DC for his own inauguration. Except he didn’t wear a coat or a hat and he gave a two-hour speech. And then he died from pneumonia. Jenna promised to lend me gear to keep warm. I agreed. We were going. But we also thought we could find a few other people to come with us. So we hired a bus. And then looked for people to fill it. Worst-case scenario we would be a lonesome twosome on a very expensive bus and we’d just have to hope that the husbands didn’t mind us spending that kind of money. “I accidentally hired a bus” doesn’t sound quite right, but it was sort of the truth.

So Jenna and I posted in our “secret” facebook group, “Chatham Moms for Hillary”. A friend of a friend started it as a safe place for Hillary supporters to talk with like-minded people. Chatham tends to be a rather red place to be, with slightly more registered republicans than democrats, and an awful lot of independent voters who tend to lean right when they get in the voting booth. Democrats in Chatham tend to feel like a minority, even though our state of New Jersey is always counted on to go blue for the President. In a sea of red Morris county, Chatham (Borough and Township) went for Hillary in 2016. I partially credit Chatham Moms for Hillary for making that happen. We were together. We felt empowered. We got out the vote. We made signs and posted them boldly on our front lawns and in public places. We let others know we weren’t alone. But our candidate lost. And we were collectively sad. So when the idea happened to come together and ask for our voices to be heard, we asked others to come along. It wasn’t just a ‘we don’t like Trump’ thing. It was a ‘can you please hear us’ on the issues thing. Issues like climate change (and believing science), education, health care access, financial security, homeland security, women’s issues and human issues.

We filled the seats of the bus in a week. And then there were more people who wanted us to get a second bus. We sent them to our friends in Madison and to Rallybus. We were satisfied with 53 women. It was enough for the time being. “I accidentally hired TWO buses” would definitely not fly.

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Yes, I’m writing. And no, I’m not sharing it, yet.

blue-typewriterSo you may have noticed that I’ve been a little quiet on the blog front. There’s a reason. I’m writing a book. The Book. And I actually would love a little help from my friends on a couple of things, if you don’t mind, and have the time…

Well, I actually have a couple books in the figurative fire, but The Book is right now called A (Few) Year(s) In My Head, and it’s scheduled to be done around January or February sometime. I have an actual writing schedule with the number of words I need to write each day. I’m ahead by 18 days at the moment. I like being ahead of schedule. It reminds me of my school days and extra credit. I loved getting 105 on a test. That would happen sometimes in English. Never math. Or science. That shit is hard. But English? Bring it. I’m such a nerd that way.

So, you ask, what is the book? What’s it about? Are you in it? So the book is similar to my blogs.  In fact I’ve incorporated some of that writing into it, so some of the book will look familiar to you if you’ve read all of my yesitreallyhappened.com stuff. But the pieces are longer, more detailed, updated, and supplemented by another 50,000 words that I had to say. Out loud. And on paper. Well, for now my laptop screen. Hopefully someone will actually want to publish The Book when it’s all done and maybe even PAY me for it. I might buy some celebration book shoes.

But I am still adding new material – and if you WANT to be in the book I still have room. I’m looking for a little help on some of the research in three areas at the moment. So while you’re perusing the internet, or hanging out on the couch, or can’t sleep, some things that I have in my brain:

  1. I would like to add some more personal stories to the “Why Teenagers Should Drive Piece of Shit Cars” segment. If you have a story to add, please sent me a note. I also love these stories in general and they make me laugh, so thank you in advance for contributing to my excellent state of mental health.
  2. I would like to expand on my theory of why scientific studies are stupid. It’s also likely to go into the idea that polls and surveys are dumb. I know you’ve read an article about something and wondered who PAID researchers to do a study on lint traps in dryers, or why red wine is good for you (only to be followed by a study about why all drinking will kill you).
  3. Last but not least, I’m looking for a list of things that could kill you. This is going to be a pivotal new chapter called “And Then You’re Dead”. That might sound a little dark. It might actually be a little dark. But it will absolutely lean on some humor and has a happy ending. So if there’s a fear or phobia or thing that you read in the news that made you go “Hmm, we could die from that”, please share. I know you’re out there. I’ve seen your list on your phone. I’ve heard you over lunch, over wine. We talked about it waiting for our kids outside the school. The truth, the fear, the holy crap we’re all gonna die, it’s out there. Let’s share.

Thanks for reading, researching, and being there for the journey! Onwards!

The Poop of the Beasts

dog poop signToday I want to talk about something that plagues me on a daily occurrence. Dog Poop.

Those of you who know me may know that I have not one, but two, Bernese Mountain Dogs. Gryffin is 130 pounds of pure happiness and love. Nicky is 90 pounds of medicated hyperactivity. I love them both, but I really love Gryffin. He is the best dog ever. But there is one area in which Nicky beats Gryffin. Poop.

If you are a dog owner, or a parent, you can understand the ability and desire to discuss poop. Poop is indicative of overall health. Physical, emotional, mental. It is the essence of the being. You see, Nicky has his issues (please see Yes My Dog is Crazy if you haven’t read it already), but in the poop department, he is king. Regular, perfectly shaped, excellent consistency, not too hard or too soft, not overwhelming in size. And the best part is that he poops in the yard every day without fail and NEVER poops on a dog walk. And since I live the life of a princess, we have someone who comes pick up the poop in the yard and take it away twice a week so I NEVER have to pick up Nicky poop. Ever. That is perfection.

Gryffin, however, poops every time we take a walk. Which is every day. It’s as if he can only find comfort in pooping on someone else’s lawn. So a daily part of my life is picking up his poop and carrying it home with me. Now, here’s the thing. Gryffin has food allergies. If he eats a bite of something he shouldn’t, his poop falls apart. And then, too, so does my day. Easy, one might say. Just make sure he only eats what he is supposed to. Yes. That sounds right. But the only food that doesn’t make Gryffin sick is Hydrolized Soy Protein. So any bite of food that falls from anyone’s hands, anything that’s left on a coffee table, any tempting piece of morsel – runny poop. Cheese, milk, any dairy, pork, chicken, fish, duck, venison, we’ve tried it all. The only protein we haven’t tried is kangaroo. I like kangaroos. I can’t believe it is a dog food. But we’re not buying it. Might as well be called “cute furry creatures”. So in the meantime, poop.

I’ve come up with a system for rating my poop days. Remember, Gryffin is 130 pounds. So he has poop the size of a human. Sometimes more than any normal human. So in order to have an easy time of picking it up, despite whatever size it may be, it needs to have a consistency of perfection. That makes it possible to use the first piece of poop to pick up the other pieces of poop, sort of like stacking pieces of playdough against each other. This is what gives me joy.

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Mother’s Day at Our House – a prediction of this year based on past years and I just know ok? Trust me.

 

yellow rosesWe’ve done this routine before. Mother’s Day. Smiles, flowers, breakfast in bed. And a few realities too. This is how it will play out tomorrow.

6 a.m. I hear Katie stirring. She is an early riser. She comes into my bed and snuggles and whispers “Happy Mother’s Day!” She is adorable. She’ll wake Brian and head downstairs to cook breakfast and bring it to me on a tray. She is good that way. Brian will pat my head and stumble downstairs after her.

6:45 a.m. Breakfast will arrive. I will pull off my sleep mask and reach for coffee. I wish for sleep. Just, sleep. And I marvel that despite all the wonderful things my husband can do in his career and life, he makes terrible toast. I remember when I was sick once, and I asked him to make me toast, and I got back this hard, brick like substance with a smoosh of butter in just the center, not spread out to all the sides. Toast is really an art. And no one makes better toast than my mom. Perfectly toasted, the butter married to every nook and cranny all the way up to the crust. Toasted but still soft that it isn’t overwhelming you with crumbs. Just looking at the toast would make you start feeling better.

7:15 a.m. I’ve eaten and put my sleep mask back on. I bet I can catch 40 minutes before we have to go to church. Because yes, I agreed to teach Sunday School on Mother’s Day. And yes, I’m part pagan. But the kids love me. And I’m nice, so this is what we do.

7:20 a.m. Katie checks on me to see if I want more breakfast. No. Just Sleep.

7:25 a.m. Brian checks on me to see if I want more coffee. No. Sleep Mask. Sleep.

7:30 a.m. The dogs check on me to see if I want to get up and feed them breakfast. FML.

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Little Trip to the Prairie

signWe left the boys home. They weren’t interested. Or at least not obsessed enough. So this trip was just Katie and me. Two girls on an adventure to Minnesota, to follow the road to all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.

We started by flying from NJ to Minneapolis/St. Paul. I’m not sure why these Twin Cities are so close together considering how far apart everything else in the state is, but they’re only 25 minutes apart. It can take longer than that to get across midtown in NYC. We hopped in a rental car for a 2 ½ hour trip across the southwest portion of the state. The rental car guy asked if we needed a map (yes please) and where we were headed. “Walnut Grove!” I exclaimed, thinking everyone on the planet would jump up and down at how exciting that is. I mean Laura LIVED there. He shook his head, “Never heard of it,” he replied. “Sleepy Eye? Springfield?” I implored. Those were the big cities Pa would take the wagon to when he needed supplies. “You must be going out really far,” he answered, and gave me directions out of the airport. I was on my own, with Google maps and Katie, age 10, as navigator. I also decided the rental car guy was nice, but a total turd for not knowing and worshipping Walnut Grove.Read More

Yes, My Dog is Crazy, and Yes, He Needs Medication

IMG_6664You might have heard this before, but my dog is crazy. Not Gryffin (short for Sir Godric Gryffindor of Harry Potter fame) -he’s my first dog, the older dog, the perfect dog. Firstborn son dog. Dog that finished every training class they had at the local animal shelter and was recommended to be a pet therapy dog for hospitals and senior centers because he was soooo good and soooo perfect. That dog I like. But I liked him so much I figured, hey, why not get a second dog? Then my pet can have a pet. I think he’s lonely when I’m not home. He needs a puppy. Great idea, right? Wrong.

Welcome Nicky. Short for Nicolas Flamel, also of Harry Potter fame. Except the only magic this dog has is that he hasn’t managed to kill himself. From the beginning he wasn’t “normal”. Most dogs can be crated and learn not to poop in their crate. This dog pooped in the crate and rolled in it so that anytime I left the house for an hour I had to bathe him. And get poop off of him. Gross. So away goes the crate. He doesn’t like to be contained or restrained. I get it. Except when I leave now he starts eating not just anything he can find laying around, but also the walls. Not just the corners, or the moldings, although he ate those as well, in addition to the actual walls.

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Man Flu – She’s Sick; He’s Sick(er)

man cold seasonYou’ve noticed right? Or maybe suspected? That there is something drastically different between when a woman is sick and a man is sick? It’s OK. You’re not alone. Here’s what happens. To All Men. Without Question or Exception. Sometimes, men get sick. Sometimes they don’t whine. Sometimes they go to work and tough it out. Sometimes they muster through the weekend and still do household chores. And then at some point, their Healthy Manhood expires and they act like a Sick Man. And what Sick Men do is not the same as what Sick Women do.

When He’s Sick: He wakes up. He has A Sniffle. Maybe he has a Tickle in his throat. He moans. He Feels Sick. This means he can’t get out of bed. He can barely move. He must remain lying down, stay in bed and Recuperate.

When She’s Sick: She wakes up. She has A Sniffle. Maybe a Tickle in her throat. She gargles with the leftover toothpaste in her mouth and spits. The Tickle doesn’t go away. She gets the kids ready for school. Has some tea. The kids forgot they need to make a cardboard castle for a poem project for school. The rest of the tea is forgotten as they excavate the recycling in the garage so they can finish the project in thirteen minutes. She drives the rest of carpool to school, balancing a castle on her lap. On the way home she picks up dog food, goes to the bank, and remembers the kids lunch supplies for the rest of the week. When she gets home her tea is cold and Himself hasn’t moved. He moans a little in his sleep. She forgets why she married him. It certainly wasn’t for his immune system.

When He’s Sick: He uses four boxes of tissues. Some of these tissues make it into the garbage can. The rest spread across the floor like a carpet badge of honor snot.Read More