Real Estate Tangent

The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Smoke Detectors: A Government Conspiracy

So, guys… I’ve uncovered a US government conspiracy to systematically identify and eliminate the weaklings in our society in order to strengthen our position as a global super power.

No, I have! Really, just hear me out:

What’s the core value of being American? Like the one thing that really makes us who we are, and different from any other nation in the world? That’s right: The fervent and universally held opinion that we are THE BEST at everything important. We’re the strongest and the militariest and the coolest and the BBQiest and if not the smartest, well then certainly the craftiest and smuggest. And don’t you try to tell us differently.

Certain secret government agencies, in their quest to protect our national identity of WINNERS OF STUFF, have noticed some disturbing cultural trends that indicate we could be slipping:

  • Reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty and Slednecks.
  • McRib sandwiches with meat pressed into the shape of pretend bones.
  • Formal sweatpants.

Just to name a few.

These government agencies eventually decided the indicators had reached a level of concern that needed to be addressed if we are going to maintain our status of Country Everyone Else Wishes They Were. Something needed to be done to cull the herd, to select out the individuals who weren’t up to par. So they hatched a plan to infiltrate American homes and secretly institute a barrage of physical, emotional and intelligence tests to filter out the weakest of us, cut the fat and keep us at our societal fighting weight.

I know what you’re wondering: What are these tests and how do I know about them?

Well I’ll tell you. Smoke Detectors. That’s how they do it. And I know, because this week my family was subjected to this brutal and barbaric round of testing. They thought they were smarter than us. They thought we wouldn’t figure it out. But I’m here to tell you right now that what we went through could only have been part of a government conspiracy to break us down, reveal our weaknesses and ultimately eliminate those who couldn’t handle it. There’s just no other explanation. Here’s how it goes:

Monday morning at 3:17, I was dreaming that Scott Folley showed up at my door with a bacon blue cheese burger and a bottle of Zinfandel. When he spoke, he sounded like Louis CK, and he told me he wanted to take me to a deserted island and help me write my novel. Just as he looked into my eyes and leaned forward (he smelled like beef and cheese), alarms started going off, Barack Obama and Portia DeRossi with her terrible hair burst in to take him away and I woke up, only to realize the alarms weren’t in my dream. They were all the smoke detectors in our house going off.

By the time we’d checked to make sure there wasn’t a fire (let’s be honest, I stayed in bed while Jason checked) and calmed the kids down, the alarms inexplicably stopped. Everyone went back to bed and laid awake trying to calm our heart rates while wondering if our house was haunted, and trying to remember if our alarms only detected smoke or if they were some kind of carbon monoxide thing, too, and sniffing to see if we could smell gas.

About 10 minutes after we’d all finally settled down and drifted back off to sleep, at 4:45, they all went off again. This time they stayed on for a good solid 10 minutes. The kids and cat huddled on our bed with me and their hands over their ears, while Jason stumbled around the house in the dark yelling profanities and our neighbors updated their list of Reasons to Evict The Newlins* to present at the next HOA meeting.

At 5:15 the alarms went off for the third time and continued to blare until Jason ripped them all off the ceiling one by one and removed the batteries.

This is Phase I of testing. It targets anyone emotionally unstable, depressed, or suicidal. Sleep deprivation plus non-stop ear-piercing alarms, combined with the terror of potentially seeing your family cooked to death is an extremely quick and effective way to whittle you down to your core where you’re just a bundle of raw nerves. Sometimes it even causes loved ones to turn on each other. I was actually a little surprised we survived this stage. When Jason broke down and began angrily berating the smoke detectors themselves while Jonas begged me to make it stop because it was hurting his ears and the cat shivered in my lap, I had a moment where I wondered if the sweet release of death wasn’t preferable.

After Jason and the kids shuffled blearily out the door to school and work, I was determined to figure out and solve WHATEVER THE FUCK was going on with the smoke detectors so that we could get a decent night’s sleep the next night. I began by calling the manufacturer of the smoke detectors. I was routed through a phone system and forced to leave a voicemail for a customer service rep.

Next, I turned to the internet. A quick Google revealed sometimes dust caused smoke detectors to malfunction. Vacuuming them out could remedy the problem. I came up with a plan to vacuum each out, replace the batteries (just in case) and put them up one by one. The first one seemed fine. The second seemed fine. The third croaked quietly when I tested the alarm, despite the new battery. The fourth also seemed not as loud as the first two. The fifth, as soon as I put the battery in the little motherfucker, caused all of the alarms in the house to immediately begin sounding. And, of course, when I tried to take the goddamn battery out, the little battery door was stuck and I had to run around the house like a lunatic trying to find a screwdriver to wrench it open while all of the alarms sounded for the fourth time that morning. I consider that one yet another victory for not throwing myself in front of a bus.

Clearly, I thought, I had three bad smoke detectors. Two sad ones with insufficient alarms, and one angry one causing all of the rest to go off. I took a sharpie and marked two of them with an “S” and one with an “A”, so I wouldn’t forget which were which, and headed to Home Depot to buy replacements.

At Home Depot, I was told by Wilford Brimley and Don Knotts that they don’t sell the brand of smoke detectors I have in my house, because they’re only sold to contractors and home builders.

Me: OK, so… I have to replace them ALL??

Wilford: No, you can buy this brand we have here. But see how yours have a yellow wire and these have a red wire?

Me: Yeah…

Wilford: You’re going to have to strip the wire and pigtail the red and the yellow together when you install them so they still talk to each other.

Me: Um… I think this might be above my pay grade.

Wilford: Oh I don’t doubt that, ma’am, but it’s not rocket science.

Don: Heh, heh. You just need to pigtail that sucker. But make sure you turn off the main breaker. It’s not that difficult.

Me: Pigtail. Main breaker. Ok.

When I got to my car with three new smoke detectors I would have to ‘pigtail’, I looked at my phone and realized that I didn’t have a missed called because the cell service is so spotty in Home Depot, but I did have a new voicemail. From the manufacturing company. That said, “Please call me back at this number”, and when I did, I got the same voicemail message I had before.

This was clearly Phase II of the testing. It was designed to evaluate intelligence. Someone not bright enough to find a solution and then immediately subjected to taunting by elderly hardware store employees would likely crack from frustration and humiliation, retrieve a semi-automatic weapon from their car and spray the inside of the Home Depot with bullets and body parts. I also nearly failed this round.

Phase III of the testing is the government’s crown glory achievement. It targets their biggest concern and the problem they’ve found is most prevalent in dragging America down off its pedestal of Awesome: laziness. Phase III is rather brilliant, I have to admit. In Phase III, all of the people who were thwarted by one or all of the roadblocks to fixing the smoke alarms:

  • Step ladder is too short to reach tall ceilings
  • No access to the correct brand
  • Lack of electrical knowledge
  • Unwillingness to pay an electrician $100/smoke alarm to replace them
  • Would rather watch bad reality TV

will give up and simply live without smoke detectors. Eventually, they’ll forget to unplug their straightening iron, light the ant traps in their bathroom on fire and burn their house down with them in it, thus, naturally selecting themselves from the planet.

Currently, there’s still a strong possibility we’ll fall victim to Phase III.

 

 

*They write their names on our property in permanent marker. They wander around asking to play in our yards. They accidentally murder indigenous creatures. They let their smoke alarms go off for no reason at all hours of the night.

How to Catch the Halloween Spirit

Halloween is a pain in the ass. Pumpkin carving is messy and time-consuming and mostly just reminds you you’re terrible at arts and crafts. Your kids really only want to dress up as whatever costume comes with the biggest and most dangerous looking weapon. A trip to the Spirit store makes you feel like you’ve just exposed your children to the most degenerate elements of humanity: stripper slut from Sons of Anarchy costume around one corner and realistic looking human organs covered in red slime around the next. Sure, this is where you go to get the TMNT costume your five year old has been begging for, but it’s right next to a chainsaw dripping with blood. Also, watch where you step. You don’t want to accidentally activate the enormous animatronic spider that will jump out and kick off a lifetime of arachnophobia in your 3 year old. Add to all that the fact that brainstorming a costume for yourself that’s fun, not offensive and doesn’t have the word ‘sexy’ in the name seems futile. Oh, and finding candy wrappers in the laundry for weeks after you thought you eradicated the candy supply makes you want to strangle someone.

Yep, Halloween is kind of the worst. Except: it’s also totally the best. Don’t worry, it’s ok if you’ve gotten bogged down in the minutia and lost the Halloween spirit. It happens to the best of us. I’m here to help.

Five steps to remembering why you LOVE Halloween:

Step 1: Buy your favorite Halloween candy JUST FOR YOU. 

Remember when you were a kid and you had to just hope someone in your neighborhood wasn’t a cheap ass and would be handing out full Butterfingers? Well now you’re an adult and you can buy your own goddamn Butterfingers! And this time of year it’s seasonally acceptable to just have a bag of your favorites in your drawer at work. You’re not a fatty, you’re in training for the big day.

Step 2: Dig out pictures from Halloweens past and post them on social media.

This year is a particularly special Halloween because it falls on a Friday (which I read in a Meme only happens once every 777 years). So not only do we not have to worry about being hungover at work the next day, but the day before is Throwback Thursday! We can spend all day posting pictures like this:

Halloween TBT slutty WWW

 

And remembering when it was age-appropriate to dress like a slutty Wicked Witch of the West.

Step 3: Bust out the weird gothy accessories you occasionally randomly purchase.

Spiderweb fishnets you have no idea where you got?

spiderweb fishnets

 

This is the week to wear them!

Awesome skull scarf you once considered wearing to a funeral but then decided you’d be the only one who would think it was funny?

skull scarf

 

It’s totally not weird the week of Halloween!

(Don’t wear them together, though. Then you just look like you put on your slutty pirate costume a day early:

slutty pirate

 

It’s not ok.)

Step 4: Watch a marathon of Roseanne Halloween episodes on the TVLand channel.

This is one of the more important steps to regaining the Halloween spirit and is not to be missed. If you can watch three episodes of Roseanne, Dan, Jackie and the kids dressing up fantastically and elaborately and being assholes to each other and everyone around them in sadistically hilarious ways without feeling moved by the Halloween spirit to share it with everyone around you… well then you’re dead inside (and not in the cool, zombie way) and I can’t help you.

Step 5: Last, but not least, read this entire thread of scary stories.

I read half of them yesterday and the other half today while I was home alone. I had to take breaks because it started to be terrifying to go into the garage or upstairs by myself. It seemed clear there were like 80 ghosts hiding in both of those places. Even though we’re the original owners of this house.

Some of the stories are lame and some are horrifying. I think it makes them all so much more fascinating that they’re all told by people who believe what they’re telling implicitly (but I’m also kind of a voyeur).

I’m a fairly firm skeptic, so I don’t really have any spooky stories, but I do have in my possession the Ouija Board we used when we were 16 to contact the spirits in my BFF’s house. It’s possible we got in touch with River Phoenix once, after he ODed. I swear it wasn’t me pushing the pointer thing, despite the fact everyone suspected me. I think it might have been Amanda, though. I also one time did Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board at the 9th grade cheer sleepover and I was the person being lifted. I had my eyes closed the whole time as they chanted and felt them lift me off the ground. After a few minutes of the feverishly whispered chanting, I peeked, saw the ceiling inches from my face, screamed bloody murder and they dropped me. But I think that was physics, not poltergeists.

Those are my only paranormal experiences. But if you have any good ones, feel free to leave them in the comments. Even though I’ll be sure there was a logical explanation, I assure you they’ll make me check behind the shower curtain in the bathroom before I pee.

That should do it: Go forth and spread the Halloween cheer!!

So Many (First World) Probelms

UGH, this week. Fuck this week. This week has been the worst.

To begin with, I got into it with a friend, and the whole thing left me feeling wretched, questioning myself and shame spiraling, as almost everything does. What could I have done to avoid the whole mess? Kept my mouth shut more often? Had fewer opinions? Having fewer opinions would certainly solve quite a few of my life problems, I thought to myself. Maybe that’s the key to all my happiness and a completely drama-free existence: LIVE AN OPINION-LESS LIFE.

I pondered how this would work practically. I guessed I would simply give fewer shits. Contemplate fewer issues. Take no stands. Carpet around the toilet in a listing I’m showing? I’m not offended. I’m not visualizing the horror show a UV light would reveal. It’s fine! Some people prefer it! Arizona rooms? Could be cute! Pleated pants? Why not? Watching sporting events? Count me in!

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how very opinionated I am. I’m filled with opinions. My entire molecular structure is composed of opinions. My opinions have opinions. If I jettison my opinions I’m pretty sure I’d end up like Renee Zellweger, 2014. I’d show up at events and people would be all:

Who’s that? She looks sort of familiar…

Oh, that’s Elizabeth Newlin, you remember her.

NO IT IS NOT. You’re kidding, right? 

No, I’m totally not. She seems different, right?

She’s totally unrecognizable. I don’t even believe you that it’s her. It’s not that she looks bad… but that’s totally not her at all.

Oh but it is. She just did… something. I’m not sure what. But yeah, she definitely doesn’t seem the same.

Sad.

Yeah. Or at the very least, weird. 

So apparently I just have to get used to drama.

Then, on Tuesday I had an appointment to get my hair colored, and I was all excited to freshen the blue or possibly even go with purple instead, but my hair girl’s grandfather died, and because it’s apparently all about her, she had to reschedule. I mean, couldn’t he have held on until the day AFTER I got my hair done? It just like really ruined my day.

Also, Real Estate is not my goddamn friend this week. One of my buyers made not one, not two, but THREE OFFERS on the same house and we managed to get beat out every time. I feel like there may be a voodoo doll involved on this one. I maybe need to be cleansed with a burning bundle of sage to chase away the bad spirits. And I got the call yesterday that a listing I have under contract is falling out because the buyer is selfish and went and lost her job, so she can’t get the loan. WHY DOES EVERYTHING ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME, GOD??? First the hair appointment and now this??! One person can only take so much.

Plus, we have ants. In our master bathroom. On the second floor. Tiny little ants milling around my makeup and jewelry, where there is no food or anything even remotely food related. I can only assume they’re ants who ride the special bus.

About a week ago I bought one of those sets of ‘ant bait’ things. This is how the box says it’s supposed to work:

ants

Which, at this point, I’m finding very convenient… for the ant bait company.

So let me get this straight: The little guys crawl in to the ant bait thing and take the food back to wherever their home is to die, right? So I won’t actually see any dead ants, because it’s not a trap or anything? I should just see ‘fewer ants within a few days’, right? Meaning it’s completely impossible to prove or disprove the efficacy of the ant killing of this product?

Awesome. Because it’s been a week and I’m not seeing ‘fewer ants’. I’m seeing exactly the same amount of ants, which is like 8 more at any given time than I’ve seen wandering around on my counter previously. Also? I’m pretty sure they could not possibly care less about the little flower shaped ‘ant bait’. See?

ant giving no fucks

 

If there’s something in there they want to eat, shouldn’t there be like an organized line of them heading in and trooping out? I saw A Bug’s Life; those motherfuckers are militarily trained. They find the food, they gather the food. These dudes in my bathroom are on Rumspringa or something, wandering around, seeing the sights. No one’s going back to the hive (hill? I guess I should have paid more attention during that movie) to tell them where to get the good stuff. I call bullshit. I’m pretty sure they’re selling weird little empty flower shaped pieces of plastic in packs of four for $6, and I got scammed.

And to top it all off? I went to put away towels in the bathroom the boys all share this morning and found this:

dried TP blob

 

Yep, that’s a wad of toilet paper someone dunked in the toilet and threw at someone else, which apparently got stuck too high up for them to reach and dried there. Because I live in a frat house. With low-IQ, vacationing ants. And my hair isn’t cute. And I’m failing at my job and mired in drama.

So, fuck you, this week.

Mic Check

*Testing 1, 2, 3, testing*

Sorry, I wasn’t sure this thing still worked. It was just kind of sitting in the corner getting dusty. Every time I walked past it I felt a little guilty because it seemed kind of lonely. And eventually, abandoned blogs get that creepy, sort of stale and haunted vibe. Eventually they start to smell.

But don’t worry. This is no abandoned blog. It’s just a slightly neglected, malnourished one. It needs a hug and a good meal. It needs a shower and a shave and then it will be all fixed up. We’re working on it. We’re sending it to rehab, but that’s a process, you know. Sometimes it doesn’t take the first time.

Anyway, content has been sparse (sorry, non-existent) because I’ve been super busy dying for like a really long time. Dying sucks all my will to do anything but watch Bravo, sleep and weigh myself (Look, I lost another pound! I wonder if I’ll ever like food again?). I don’t think it was Ebola, because my eyes weren’t bleeding, but I guess it’s possible, because I have been to Texas, and I hear that’s how you get it.

After almost two weeks of misery and a cough that was making me mentally ill, I went to the doctor. She said she thought it was bronchitis or maybe pneumonia. I like to tell people it’s pneumonia because they make that face like they’re horrified to be standing near me and then immediately try to contort it into sympathy for my condition and hope I don’t notice. But the truth is, the doctor did a chest xray for pneumonia and treated me with the antibiotics and inhaler for pneumonia, but never actually called back with the results, and it seems like if it actually was pneumonia she would have told me.*

The point is, I’m feeling better now. I’ve even been eating the last few days. I told myself I’m using this as a spring board to a healthy diet and I’m totally going to maintain my new svelte figure. I even bought new jeans (which is the logical thing to do right after you’ve been sick). But then I ate waffle fries dipped in Nutella for lunch, so I guess we’ll see.

I’m heading to circus class tonight for the first time in a long time and I’m afraid it’s going to be a painful and pathetic showing. Everything from my appetite, to my ability to stay away during daylight hours, to my alcohol tolerance seems to have atrophied, so I can only imagine my circus muscles have as well. My goal is not to puke.

I am, however, determined to get all of my necessary functions back up to speed. I just need to take a deep breath and jump back in to climbing, inverting, running, drinking wine and writing until I’m back to normal. Please forgive my pathetic lack of direction and competence in all areas until then.

While you wait patiently for me to regain my composure, can we please contemplate, together, the skill with which my son’s school photographer captured his hair?

Ben freshman pic

 

I mean… it’s almost sculptural. It’s like she caught him precisely mid-flip. The entire left side of his face is gently caressed by a rolling wave of hair. I’m surprised there isn’t a tiny surfer riding the curl down to his nose. Bravo, Photographer. This gem will inspire family fun for decades, I can already tell.

 

*The doctor’s office called A WEEK AFTER the chest xray to tell me it was positive for pneumonia and ask me if I’m feeling better. I told them if this was 1843 I’d be dead.

Near Death Experience

This was supposed to be my catch-up week. Last week Jason was out of town and Gray was home sick and we had family visiting from out of town so I got a little behind on stuff I would totally normally be doing like dusting, tracking my milage for my taxes and saving for retirement. This week I was going to catch up on all of the things I’ve just been too busy lately to take care of. I was going to wash the outsides of my windows! I was going to eat organically! I was going to fold the socks in the single sock pillowcase in the laundry room! I was going to try on all of my clothes and actually get rid of all of the shirts that make me look fat even when I don’t feel fat at all. I was going to get so much done this week.

But then I got sick. In the middle of the night Sunday I woke up in that weird state of freezing but also on fire. Like if I could take off my skin and use it as a heating blanket I would be perfect. Of course, after going downstairs to get flu meds and extra blankets I woke Jason up and asked him to feel me so he could witness my misery. Yep, you’re sick, he said.

It’s a brutal flu. No stomach sick, but the standard aches, fever, chills and general inability to cope with the world that accompanies. And it’s lasted FOREVER. I’m on day four and I’m still layering meds to survive. First I take Aleve Cold and Flu that’s supposed to last 12 hours. But by hour 6 or 7 I’m starting to shiver and feel achey, so I take a Dayquil, because it’s acetaminophen and Aleve is aspirin and I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere you can do that without fucking up your liver (don’t tell me if that’s not true because I’ve already been doing it all week and then I’ll just be paranoid my liver is going to explode any second). For awhile I was alternating the Aleve and a Tylenol severe cold and flu I found in our junk drawer of medicine, but then I realized the Tylenol stuff expired in 2013 and ever since someone showed me this video:

I’ve felt really nervous about taking expired meds. Because it’s one thing to die, but it’s completely another to die for a reason depicted in the song, Dumb Ways to Die. So Dayquil it is.

The point is, I was probably going to write my award winning novel this week and finish that baby quilt for my nephew who’s almost 2.5 that I started before they found out they were having a boy, but instead, I’ve spent most of the week in bed, watching Beverly Hills 90210 and Gilmore Girls on Netflix (did you hear I’m famous now because of my tweet about Gilmore Girls? Yep, Stephen Colbert invited me over so we could celebrate our tweets making the NYT, but I couldn’t go because I was sick) and suffering bitterly.

Today I got up, DETERMINED to feel better. I mean, it’s been FOUR DAYS of this bullshit. I haven’t worked out since last Saturday. I can feel my muscles atrophying. My kids are over their mom being a lump on the couch and even Jason stopped calling or texting from work days ago to see if I was feeling any better (there’s only so many times one man can hear, “NO. I’M DYING.” before he’s done asking). So I showered and brushed my teeth and put on makeup and resolved to eat actual meals and cook dinner for my family, if nothing else. I came downstairs to handle some work emails and read some internet for a bit before heading to the grocery store.

The longer I sat, the crappier I felt. I’d taken the 12 hour Aleve at 6am, but by 11 I felt horrible. I had a raging headache and just wanted to go back upstairs and sleep for a week. But, like I said, I was determined to shake this off once and for all, so I gathered my stuff and went to the store to get food for dinner. I gave myself a little, you can do this, suck it up, pep talk in the car, took a deep breath and entered public life once again. Once I’d been in the store a few minutes and was up and walking around, I actually felt a little better. My headache disappeared and I wasn’t as sleepy as I’d been. I decided I was probably being a hypochondriac and I should suck it up and I would feel totally better by tomorrow morning.

I got home feeling almost cheerful and walked in the house carrying my groceries. As soon as I stepped through the threshold, the smell of gas hit me in the face. I went over to the stove and found one of the burners fully on (just gas, no flame). Apparently I’d been sitting all morning in a house slowly filling with gas. Which could possibly account for the headache and sleepiness.

I’m not sure how it happened (it’s possible Jason decided he’d had enough of a wife who did nothing but ask him to feel her head to see if she still had a fever and decided this would be quicker than divorce), but I TOTALLY ALMOST DIED, right?* Like Sylvia Plath, practically. Except hers was intentional and motivated by deep emotional turmoil, and mine was just normal dumbassery. Maybe they should add this one to the song.

 

*I did some reading and it takes a LONG time to kill you with the gas coming out of your stove these days. Mostly it just smells horrible. So it’s possible my headache and sleepiness was from the smell I didn’t realize I was smelling.

A Lesson Learned is an iPhone Earned

Our eldest, the 14 year old boy genius, the one we’ve planned to live off of in our old age because he’ll have discovered a sub-sub-atomic particle or written a novel more beloved by condescending hipsters than Infinite Jest, jumped in the wave pool at Big Surf with his iPhone in his pocket a couple of weeks ago. He was at a friend’s birthday party and was dropped off back at home after while we were still out. When we got home, he was in bed and the phone was on the kitchen counter in a ziplock bag with no more than 25 grains of rice placed carefully on top of the screen.

It’s possible we should revise our retirement plan.

But the point is, he’s now without a phone. We’ve decided it’s not in his best interest, as a developing human, for us to simply purchase him another phone. Yes, it was an accident, but even accidents have consequences, we wanted him to learn. Of course, we’ve learned they mostly have consequences for us, as we now get texts from random numbers that say things like, I left my guitar and history project in the backseat of your car, can you drop them off at the office for me? And it’s not like I can call him and yell at him, because I’ll just get some random kid who’ll have to relay the Your mom’s totally pissed at you message, likely the next day when he sees him, and by the time Ben gets home I’ve forgotten I wanted to yell at him for being irresponsible.

So, in order to facilitate the process of getting him a new phone without just bailing him out, I put together a list of additional chores he can do to earn extra money to save up for a new phone. I figured if I can have him do things that will save me time and things he will eventually benefit from learning anyway, it will be a win for all. Thus, we’re currently paying him $1 to take out the trash, $2 to do the dishes at night, $5 to cook dinner, and $2 to ride the school bus that picks him up in our neighborhood a full hour and 40 minutes before school starts in the morning, even though we live 4 miles from the school.

I’m not going to lie: teaching a 14 year old how to cook his favorite meals has not made my life less stressful. If he’d focus less on his standup routine and more on not cutting his goddamn hand off, I maybe wouldn’t have to drink an entire bottle of wine while I sit at the counter and spend 2 hours talking him through Sesame Chicken Noodles. So far, though, that’s where we’re at.

That said, I feel like this plan is really starting to work out for both of us. Two nights ago, Jason was at the gym and I was home alone with the kids. I went into the downstairs bathroom to pee and spotted an enormous spider in the crack between the door jam and the wall, behind the door. I mean this thing might have been related to the dog spider in that video. Because I’m a really good parent, I determined it was an excellent learning opportunity for Ben. When he’s a grown man with a girlfriend or wife with a paralyzing fear of arachnids, it will be vital for him to know how to handle this variety of situation. No time but the present to learn.

So I, as you do, when you’re teaching your child valuable lessons, climbed up on the counter in the bathroom, as far as I could get from the spider while still keeping it locked in place with my eyes (if you let them out of your sight, they run and hide in your bed under your pillow) and yelled to Ben in the living room, “BENNETT! IF YOU COME IN HERE RIGHT NOW AND KILL THIS SPIDER I WILL PAY YOU $5.”

He came in, assessed the situation and agreed to the deal while I explained the terms and conditions. “You have to actually kill the spider and dispose of it’s remains to earn the $5,” I told him. “If you try to smash it and miss, and it gets away, I will deduct $5 from your new phone fund.”

“OK, but what if I just don’t try to kill it at all?” he asked.

“You get nothing, but I won’t take money away from your fund. I’m just saying it makes them madder if you try to kill them and fail, and then they won’t rest until they wake you up by crawling on your face at night, so YOU BETTER NOT MISS. OK?”

He agreed.

Then I explained the Newlin Family Super Secret and Highly Technical Way of Dealing With Creatures We’re Afraid Will Jump On Our Faces If We Get Too Close. I’m not going to go into great detail here about just exactly what the method entails (because it’s super secret), but without giving away too much, I will say it involves a tape ball and a long stick.

Once he had assembled the proper equipment, Ben readied himself for battle. By this point, his middle brother had joined the audience, standing on the toilet behind him. I remained standing on the counter*, because someone had to be the grown-up in charge.

Ben took a deep breath, pointed the tape ball on the stick end of the broom at the gargantuan spider, and rammed the beast. Unfortunately, the end of the stick was bigger than the crack the spider was in and the tape wasn’t rigid enough to squeeze in there and kill it. Instead, the spider got a little bit mashed and ran down the wall onto the floor.

At this point, because I felt like it was important for Ben to have the experience of keeping a cool head while dealing with someone who is hysterically unhelpful, I screamed bloody murder. Luckily, I’d prepared him for the vengeful wrath of an injured spider (and his own monetary deficit), so rather than dropping his weapon and running, Ben flipped the broom around to the brush side and beat the monster until the broom literally fell to pieces and the spider was clearly no longer of this world.

It was a really successful parent/child experience, I think. I’m probably going to write a parenting how-to book.

kill spider chart

Yep, that’s my handwriting on the end. It’s hard to write sideways when you’re flushed with terror-adrenaline.

 

*Don’t, worry, I cleaned the counter of all of my foot germs after all of this was over.**

**No. I totally didn’t.

The Power of The Ombre’

Me (seeing my sister walk out dressed for lunch and shopping last Sunday): I like your shirt. I was totally thinking about wearing a chambray shirt too, today. I’m glad I didn’t, that would have been awkward.

Sarah: This is a “chambray” shirt?

Me: Yeah, that’s what they call those thin denim shirts.

Sarah: Huh. Learn something new every day.

Sarah (later, at lunch): I’m like pretty bitter at JLaw right now ever since I cut my hair like hers and it turned out to be a super high maintenance hair cut that never looks anything like how she does it.

Me: I tried to tell you…

Sarah: YOU DID NOT. You said it was cute.

Me: I said it was a cute style, but that she has a team of people who do it for her.

Sarah: That sounded a lot like, ‘You should totally get yours cut like that’ to me.

Me: Next time I’ll be less diplomatic.

My mom: Sarah, you should get an ombre’. They’re like super in. You’d look really cute with one.

Sarah (rolling her eyes): Mom, my hair’s not long enough for an ombre’.

Me: It would be more of an ‘om’.

Me (later in the dressing room at Anthro): This is a really cute shirt, right? I should totally get it, shouldn’t I?

My mom: YES. It’s super you. You have to get it.

Me: And it’s a chambray! Sarah, we can still match!

Sarah: That’s not just a chambray. That’s an ombre’ chambray.

Me: OH MY GOD, YOU’RE RIGHT.

And that’s how I stumbled on to the secret mystical power of The Ombre’. It turns out, The Ombre’ has the ability to make anything it rhymes with significantly more awesome than it already was. I submit to you as evidence:

A chambray shirt + An ombre’

chambray-shirt                  ombre_hair

= An Ombre’ Chambray

chambray ombre

 

So much better, right? But wait, it doesn’t stop there:

Laundry + An ombre’

laundry                 ombre_hair

= Ombre’ Laundry

laundry ombre

An entree + an ombre’

entre                   ombre_hair

= An Ombre’ Entree

entre ombre

Andre* + an ombre’

andre                    ombre_hair

= An Ombre’ Andre

andre ombre

I know, right? I just blew your mind. This is a clear case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It may even work with things that don’t rhyme, but as this is untested, I can’t guarantee anything. Wield the power of the The Ombre’ wisely.

*Yes, this is a guy Jason used to work with who’s named Andre. No, I didn’t ask him if I could steal his picture off Facebook. Yes, I think he should be flattered I spent 2 hours photoshopping Christina Aguilera’s hair on to him.

Survival of the Circusiest

Have you guys heard? The preppers were right; the world is definitely descending in to chaos. This is it, guys. It’s the big one. I’ve seen not, one, but two signs of the apocalypse in the last 24 hours:

1. It’s raining like a whole lot in Phoenix. No, like really a ton. Things are getting super wet that are normally completely dry. People are freaking the eff out. My sister texted a picture of the orchestra pit in her auditorium at the school she’s an assistant principal at, full of water. Cars are under water on freeways. Most everyone I know is working from home, or just standing at the window, mesmerized, wondering how people who live in Seattle ever get anything done because the rain is absolutely fascinating.

Of course, Jason was super irritated and eye-rolly about the whole thing this morning because he’s from Portland and rain is more scared of him than he is of it.

But the point is: This shit is not normal. And it’s clearly a sign of the end of days.

2. FORMAL SWEATPANTS ARE A THING. I went to lunch and shopping at Kierland yesterday with my mom and my sister and in several of the stores sweatpants ($75-130 sweatpants) were displayed like they’re not just for wiping chili cheese frito dust off your fingers on when you’re too sucked into binge-watching Breaking Bad to get up after you ate an entire bag yourself. It was like the clothing industry got together to play a big April Fools joke on all of us: No, totally, you should pay $100 for what you can literally walk into your closest Walmart and pay $7 for and look equally schlumpy in. Except it’s not April and these lunatics are fucking serious. Really guys? Toile print sweatpants? For wearing in public? Are we animals?

This can mean nothing but that we’ve outlived our usefulness as human beings on this planet and the Universe is about to clear the slate and start over.

So, you know, make your peace with your chosen deity(ies), take stock of your personal survival talents, and always remember, don’t eat the white or cream colored berries.

Anyway, mostly I’m really blogging to post the promised video of my aerial performance at my circus school’s student show this weekend. In general, I felt good about how it went. We had a little tangle at the beginning, that (of course) had never happened in rehearsal before and felt like it took about 17 minutes to resolve, but in watching the video it seems to go by pretty quick. I also rushed the ending because I was nervous that we were out of music. But I did nail the effing front walkover at the beginning with no stutter-steps (I’ve been working on that for weeks. It looks shitty when you burble your feet a bunch as you step out) and the rest was mostly clean, too.

And best of all? IT’S OVER!!!

 

 

The Market Rate for Gold Stars

What’s going on this week in The Newlin House?

Well, Jonas has been struggling a little bit with first grade in the behavioral department. You know, because he’s kind of a lunatic. I don’t really think he’s acting radically different from how he did last year in kindergarden, I just think his teacher was too young and new to really pull me aside and say, Listen, he sometimes acts like a sociopath and we need to do something about it. His teacher, this year, however, is more seasoned, so we’ve put in place a system of checks and balances to track, punish and reward his behavior and get him back on track.

As a result, Tuesday evening he had to sit out his skateboarding class as punishment for his behavior that day in class. Instead, while his brother skated, he and I read:

sam and the firefly

You can tell where this is going, right? Sam’s giving it away the whole plot right there with his judgy crossed wings.

If you don’t know this one, it’s about an owl (Sam) who meets a firefly (Gus) and teaches him how to write words in the air with his firefly light (it was originally published in 1958, before science was really a thing, I think). So then Gus (because Gus is kind of an asshole) uses this skill to trick people. Specifically, the first thing he does is cause a huge traffic accident at an intersection:

sam and gus 2

Me: So what do you think about what Gus did here?

Jonas (his eyes lighting up with glee after seeing the mayhem Gus caused): I think it’s awesome.

Me: But it’s dangerous! He wrecked all of those cars! Someone could have gotten hurt!

Jonas: Yeah, but it’s a really good trick.

Me (worrying this is what it felt like to be Jesse James’ mom): Jo, I want you to be the kind of person who makes good choices. Who doesn’t want other people to be hurt. I want you to know right from wrong and resist the urge to make trouble just because you can. You don’t want to hurt people or see them get hurt, right?

Jonas: Mom…

Me: Yeah?

Jonas: It’s not a real story. It’s pretend.

Me: Right. Ok. Moving on.

He’s had decent days the rest of this week. He’s probably not actually a sociopath. He just has the potential to become one. Don’t worry, I’ll hug it out of him.

Last night we went to Curriculum Night, at the school, or as I like to call it, The Humiliation Party. In not just one of their classrooms, but in both Gray and Jonas’s classes there were ‘All About Me’ posters lining the walls. They had pictures of their families, descriptions of their hobbies and dreams, self-portraits, the whole shebang. There was one for each kid. Pretty much. You know, except for our kids. Neither of them had completed the assignment or mentioned it at home. Jo wasn’t even sure he’d ever received it but was quick to reassure us it was optional (it wasn’t). Gray went silent and still while we interrogated him about why he didn’t have one up, refused to acknowledge the questions and tried to change the subject (he may have a future in politics).

After we saw the classrooms, there was a firework show out on the back lawn to celebrate the school’s status as an A+ school. Jason and I sat at the end of one of the benches while Gray and Jo ran around with their friends.

Me: There are kids who just do their shit like all the time, aren’t there?

Jason: Apparently.

Me: Why have we never had one of those kids? I mean, we have THREE. You’d think, just even statistically speaking, we’d have a reasonable chance that one of them would follow fucking directions without us screaming at him, right?

Jason: You’d think.

Me: Every day I spend like 2 hours working on fucking homework with them. I read to them, we talk about math. I poured half a container of salt into a plate and had them draw spelling words with their fingers today! It was a mess! I don’t do this because it’s fun for me! But I did it. And I read the teacher emails and I communicate with Jo’s teacher several times a week to check up on his behavior. But not once did Gray, Jo, or Jo’s teacher say, Hey, there’s this All About Me poster… and now we show up tonight and we’re the assholes whose kids didn’t bother to do the poster. And our abject failure is right there on the wall for everyone to see!! And I didn’t even get to read about what their hopes and dreams are!!! AUGH.

Jason (patting my knee): I know, babe. I know.

Me: Is it our fault?

Jason: Probably genetically speaking it is.

But then, when the fireworks started, Gray came and sat next to me on the bench (even though there really wasn’t enough room for him in that spot) and Jo pushed his way between Jason and me. So we were a family of four (Ben stayed home to work on homework) squeezed into seats for two, which was sort of nice. And I realized if kids who act out occasionally and who don’t always do their homework didn’t exist, all the other ‘perfect’ students couldn’t realize their potential as humans who follow the rules and do what is expected of them. Without my kids, they wouldn’t get their gold starts and accolades. And really, that’s all those things are in elementary school. I don’t want my entire life judged on how I acted between the ages of 5 and 12, either. I mean, I looked like this for godsake:

uglyduckling

 

As we were leaving the fireworks, a cute little girl in front of us turned around, spotted Jo and ran back to him throwing her arms around him and yelling, Hi Jonas! He rolled his eyes and said, Hi, Macy. It made me feel a little better. Not everything is about gold stars.

***

In other news, I’m performing in a student show at my circus school this weekend. It’s my very first aerial performance and it has the potential to be a total shitshow. I’m doing a duo on the silks with a friend I’ve been taking classes with for the last year. We choreographed it and have been rehearsing for a couple of months. We even ordered costumes online (because if you’re gonna perform in a circus show, you goddamn go all out):

chandelier outfit

 

I’m fairly terrified about the entire thing. Not really that it will go horribly wrong. Mostly that it will be mediocre. Which, you know, it probably will be. I’m a 36 year old mother of three pretending I’m in Cirque Du Soleil; mediocre is probably reaching for the stars. But the idea of putting all of this time and energy into a lackluster (at best) display is pretty humiliating and completely demoralizing.

So I’m trying to shake off the feelings of foreboding and live in the moment. The dress rehearsal went really well, which either means it’s all going to be fine, or it was a terrible omen because a bad dress rehearsal means an amazing opening night, so the converse has to be true. One of those.

I’ll post the video next week so you can help me determine which it was.

Why I Run Relays

I’ve done four of these relay-type races now (3 Ragnar Del Sols and a Hood-to-Coast) and without fail there’s been a point in each of them where I ask myself: Self, why? Why?? WHY IN GOD’S NAME DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?”

It’s usually between 1 and 4a.m., after I’ve stopped drinking fluids because the horror of peeing in a dark porta-potty (or ‘honeybucket’, as they’re called in Portland) is too much for me to bear and I’d rather die of dehydration than from my bladder bursting. It’s when I’ve been trying to sleep sitting up for an hour or so, but have only succeed in self-inflicting scoliosis and encouraging my knees to harden into permanent right angles. It’s when, if I’m in van 1, it’s just about time for me to struggle into my third sports bra of the last 24 hours (if I’m in van 2, it’s only my second, which is almost even more disheartening) and stick my feet back into my shoes that haven’t even dried out from the last time I’ve worn them.  It’s when I’ve eaten little besides runner muchies, I’m sleep deprived, terrified of what I might encounter in the pitch black, and worst of all (yes, WORST OF ALL), I have to leave the warm confines of the (stinking, but warm!) van, only to immediately begin shivering and then run between 4 and 8 miles. In the dark. The cold, cold, murdery dark.

This last relay (Hood-to-Coast, the original relay upon which all other relay models are based, in its 33rd year of existence) that moment came in the wee hours of the morning  while we were sitting in a dead-stop, turned-off engine traffic jam just outside of some godforsaken Oregon town named Mist. Mist, was, appropriately enough, covered in terrifying, Stephen King-ish, killer-creature-obscuring mist, and completely devoid of cell service. So this time, not only was I exhausted, sore, starving and freezing, I was also pretty sure we were inching toward the apocalypse, and I couldn’t even tweet about it.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking if I had 2 braincells to rub together I’d quit putting myself in that situation. You’re thinking I knew good and well what I was getting into and I should stop my bitching. You’re thinking what this chick says at 3:19:

And you’re not wrong. It’s kind of insane. But it’s also the only type of race I’ve had any interest in repeating. I’ve run one half-marathon, one color run, one obstacle-coursey (try not to die) thing, but four relays! Why do I keep coming back to this torturous mistress? Am I just a masochist at heart?

I’ve been mulling the whole thing and I think I’ve actually figured out what the great draw of these are for me. No, it’s not the free hand sanitizer you get with every visit to the porta-potty.

The reason relay races are so great isn’t despite of the misery they involve, but rather, because of the misery. Not just the misery part, of course, but the misery in direct juxtaposition with the joy they also involve. Which, really, if you think about it, is what’s enjoyable about running, itself. It’s awful, with the sweating and the joint pain and the chaffing, but then, for a minute, sometimes only after you’re finished, your body is humming, you feel amazing, and it makes it all worth it, right?

The same is true of a relay race. In 36 or so hours, it encompasses both the lowest lows and the highest highs. Sure, you wake up after 45 minutes of “sleep” in a moving vehicle with something crusted on your face and you don’t know if it’s salt crystals from dried sweat, drool, or Nutella with pretzel dust from your midnight snack. But you also lay in the sunny grass at a rest stop and listen to someone you didn’t even know 24 hours before tell the filthiest, most hilarious joke you’ve ever heard.

It’s that the horribleness actually makes you appreciate everything wonderful so much more. A dirty, unisex, gas station bathroom is magically transformed into a beautiful thing, merely because you have the luxury of washing your hands and it’s not a porta-potty. Miller Light out of a can on the side of a road is better than champagne, simply because it means you’re done running.

In 36 hours you hate everything and everyone, but then you love everything and everyone. You experience the full spectrum of human emotions, sometimes all at once, even, during one horrible, beautiful, hilly, terrifying leg of the run.

I guess I run relays because they make me feel things. Which I sort of like.

 
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