The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

A Blog Post

See, there? I’ve had ‘Write a blog post’ on my to-do list all week. I did it, so I can check it off.

on a plane

OK, fine. I’ll write some more.

I’m on a plane to Boston for my college roommate’s wedding. (Woo super expensive technology that doesn’t even stream Netflix!) The kids started school this week (which I thought was going to be all Yeah!! Naked dancing in the house! Eating ice cream for breakfast and cocktails for lunch! Total freedom and debauchery all the time! But instead it was all Work a lot. Work some more. Drop off kids. Figure out what to feed people.) so Jason stayed home with the small people and I’m traveling alone.

TRAVELING ALONE, guys. Like… all by myself. It’s weird, right?

What? People do it all the time and some of them totally enjoy it?

hmm… I am not one of those people. Like I’ve literally never stayed in a hotel room alone before. And I feel kind of super tense about it. What if I lose the key card? I mean that’s definitely going to happen, right? How will I sleep without the snoring background noise and the cat attempting to curl up in the center of my chest? The quiet is going to keep me up all damn night, I know it. Also, who, WHO, I ask you, is going to zip my dress up for the wedding? I’m going to have to wander the halls half dressed begging for someone to help me. Not to mention the really serious problem of who is going to listen to all of the thoughts in my head for the next two days. They’ll get trapped in there, die, become septic and then I’ll get Thought Cancer. That’s how you get Thought Cancer. It’s really sad. I donated to the foundation once.

I did make some friends while I was gulping cocktails at the airport taco bar this morning. There were the two guys on their way to some car expo thing in New Jersey. One had facial hair like Aaron from Fast N’ Loud and the outlines of new tattoos on his arms. He was nice. Now that I think of it, it totally could have been Aaron. I should have asked him. Then there was a financial consultant lady flying through Phoenix home to Massachusetts. She was not. pleased. with how the bartender made her Tequila Sunrise and ordered an additional shot of tequila to pour in. At 8:45AM. I liked her immediately. Sadly, as the alcohol began to take effect she confessed to me that although she’d flown through Phoenix dozens of times she refused to step outside of the airport because of the political climate here. “My husband is Puerto Rican,” she said. “The governor here is a total racist.” She had two cell phones with bedazzled cases.

I haven’t gotten to know the lady sitting in my row yet, because we’re both enjoying the fact that there’s no one sitting in the seat between us, so we don’t have to worry about bumping elbows or anyone falling asleep and drooling on anyone else. Between the empty seat and that fact that I was ushered into some magical security line where you don’t have to take off your shoes or remove your electronics and liquids from your carry-ons, I’m pretty sure I’ve used up all of my good traveling karma for this trip and my hotel will have bedbugs or it will turn out Boston has banned Diet Coke.

But hey, I did get my hair cut and I’m wearing a new dress that my mom bought on clearance at TJ Maxx and then spent like 11 hours hand sewing the beading that was falling off back on (totally canceling out anything she’d saved). And one of the flight attendants is wearing a ludicrous wig I’m fairly entertained by. So… maybe I’ll live through this without dying of loneliness. We’ll see.

Schizophrenic Intervention

Me: So, we need to talk.

Also Me: Uh oh… this sounds serious. It’s not about the drinking, is it? Because that’s totally under control. It’s not that I have to drink, it’s that I like to drink. Two totally different things.

Me: It’s not about the drinking. But dude, you sound like an intervention waiting to happen when you talk like that. Work on your rationalizations.

Also Me: OK, then what is it?

Me: I want to discuss your goals. I’ve been doing some thinking and I feel like you’ve lost sight of your dream.

Also Me: Which dream?

Me: Your single biggest  lifelong dream, dummy.

Also Me: Joining the circus? Cause I’m totally working on that, yo. It takes time.

Me: Not joining the circus! First of all, that’s an unrealistic fantasy and you know it. Secondly, it’s been your dream for like 10 minutes.

Also Me: At least 3 years-ish! And it hurts my feelings when you say it’s unrealistic.

Me: *Snort*

Also Me: My dream to have a threesome with Christian Slater and Winona Ryder on a croquet court?

Me: Not that one either. But I think you could potentially make it happen now. I’m pretty sure neither one of them is doing much right now.

Also Me: The one about breaking the Guinness World Book record for consecutive days napped?

Me: OH MY GOD, NO. Your dream from the time you were 6 years old to write novels! Hello??

Also Me: Oh, totally. You’re right, that is my lifelong dream. I forgot.

Me: See, that’s the thing. If writing a book is really something you want to do, it needs to be one of the main focuses of your life. Instead, you’ve mostly just been telling yourself for the last 30 years it’s something you’d be really good at if you just put your mind to it, and you’re totally gonna… one of these days.

Also Me: Well… I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m just really super busy right now. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I have three kids and this whole time-consuming real estate career-

Me: And a million working out hobbies. Plus you read a ton of Jezebel/Gawker articles and still manage to have time to drink wine and watch god knows how many MTV shows at night. You have time for what you want to do and you know it.

Also Me: I’m working up to it. I’ve been writing this blog fairly religiously for four years now. That’s progress.

Me: It was progress. You’ve learned a lot about voice, pacing and cutting fat from the story to get to the action. And you’ve still got lots more to learn. But you plateaued long ago. You’re paralyzed by the idea of long form.

Also Me: I think about it all the time. I have all these ideas, but I’m afraid I don’t know enough about perspective and point of view to even get started. What if I get going and commit all of this time and energy to a project and it sucks ass because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing? What if it turns out I’m not cut out to write novels at all and I have to completely rethink my entire identity? I know I’m the only one who thinks of me as an Eventual Novelist, but it’s a fairly ingrained state of mind. If I’m not ‘Meant to Write’, I’m not even sure who I am.

Me: You need to get over that and come to grips with the fact that it is going to suck ass.

Also Me: That’s super helpful. Now I totally want to devote a large chunk of my life to a project we all know is going to be terrible.

Me: When you started running, almost exactly three years ago, was it your goal to be the best runner? The fastest?

Also Me: No, I just wanted to be able to do it.

Me: Right. And it was super hard at first, right?

Also Me: Yes. I remember the first time I got through 2 miles in intervals of running and walking. I thought I was going to die. It felt like the supreme amount of effort.

Me: And is it easy now?

Also Me: No. It’s definitely easier than it was, but it’s still, for the most part, an enormous pain in my ass to get out of bed early and I spent nearly all of most runs try to talk myself into continuing. But now I know it will be worth it in the end, and that I don’t want to lose my momentum, so there’s way less mental work on the front end to convince myself it needs to be done.

Me: Because you’re the fastest? You’re the best at it?

Also Me: No. I’m not fast at all. I’m not the super shittiest at running, but I’m not going to win any race. The physical and mental benefits are just worth it. I feel good. I feel proud of myself for doing it. I enjoy participating in events. I like being strong. I like seeing muscles in my thighs. When I want to murder/suicide my family and myself, going for a run helps. It’s a reset. It’s an accomplishment.

Me: And now, according to Map My Run (which doesn’t track your treadmill miles and you didn’t even start using until a couple of years ago) you’ve run more than 1,400 miles. You’ve spent hundreds of hours at this thing you’re only moderately skilled at.

Writing a novel isn’t one of those things anyone is just born knowing how to do.

Also Me: But S.E. Hinton-

Me: Was like 15 when she wrote The Outsiders. Yes. Some people are prodigies, but if you think she didn’t put any work into that, that it didn’t kind of suck until it was edited, molded, shaped, then you’re kidding yourself.

You’re good at lots of things, but were you fantastic at any of them the first time you did them?

Also Me: No.

Me: Your first circus class was fun, but you couldn’t even climb halfway up the silks. You were sore for days. You’ve been working at it for almost a year and you’re still only getting to where you have the stamina to do much at all in the air.

Also Me: True.

Me: So what makes you think you can write a decent novel without sucking hard at it repeatedly before you figure shit out?

Also Me: That was excessively vulgar.

Me: You know what I meant.

Also Me: Yes. I know. You’re right. If I’m gonna do it, I gotta really do it. I have to stop being so afraid to fail.

Me: You need to embrace that you’re going to fail! You need to take it to bed with you at night and get all cuddly with it and maybe even let it get to second base. Failing is how you get to succeeding! Failing is the casting director you totally have to bang if you really want to be a big star.

Also Me: Now that’s just wrong.

Me: It’s possible I got going down a road and I crossed a line. I apologize.

Also Me: Accepted.

Me: What was that running goal you were tossing around in your head the other day?

Also Me: I was thinking about how many miles I average a week normally and thinking it might be cool to make a point to run 1000 miles in a year. I tend to run 12-15 miles a week, and that would require me to average almost 20 miles a week. Which would be a significant bump, but accomplishable, I think.

Me: OK, so just for the sake of round numbers, let’s say you average 10 minute miles.

Also Me: Yeah, that’s not too far off. In the winter I’m faster, but not a ton. Like I said, I’m not what you’d call fast.

Me: So we’re talking about 10,000 minutes devoted to running for the next year, right? Which is like 167 hours, yes? You feel like that’s more than you’re doing right now, but not a ton more.

Also Me: Yes.

Me: So what if, instead, you make it your goal to devote 10,000 minutes to your novel in the next year. 167 hours with no internet or distractions, only writing, broken up into 200 minutes a week. Four 50 minute sections. That’s palatable, right?

Also Me: I guess so… although it’s hard to get 50 minutes straight without a kid/husband/client/Jezebel article bothering me.

Me: Bullshit. You already do it 3-4 times a week when you run. They can’t bug you because you’re out. You just need to make it a priority. It’s a reasonably short amount of time, you just need to schedule it in and figure it out. You might have to get up early or stay up later. You might miss a night of TV or two. You’re going to have to muscle your way through it and convince yourself, minute by minute, word by word, at first, to keep going. But it will get easier. It will become habit. You’ll start to see progress and growth. You’ll feel the benefits. It will be easier to keep going. It won’t ever get easy, but it will be worth it.

Also Me: Fuck you. Fine. I guess that makes sense. When do I have to start?

Me: Now, dummy. This week. No time like the present.

 

 

Orienting

I woke up this morning awash with the nervous excitement of a special day. In the shower I took the time to wash my hair and even shave my legs (ok, my shins). After carefully putting on makeup and curling my hair I contemplated my wardrobe. What does a hip mom wear to freshman orientation with her oldest? I asked myself. It needs to be casual and cool, but not like I’m trying too hard to fit in… Plus we’re going to be doing a lot of walking around the campus, probably, and it’s hot out, so it needs to be not too sweaty. First impressions are really important.

When I finally achieved the perfect balance of effortlessly rad and practical, complete with just the right amount of accessories, I came downstairs to find all three of my kids eating cereal around the kitchen island.

Me: OK, so while we’re gone, you’re in charge, Gray. You guys can play your electronic devices and if you find Jo’s skateboard while I’m gone I’ll take you all to get ice cream after lunch.

Jo: It was stolen, Mom. We’re not going to find it.

Gray: When will you be back?

Me: I’m not sure. And I can’t believe someone came all the way into our garage in a gated neighborhood and took only your skateboard! It has to be around here somewhere.

Ben: Well the orientation is from 9-11:30, but I’ll just text you when I’m ready to be picked up.

Me: …You… don’t want me to come with you to the orientation?

Ben: It’s not that I don’t want you to go, Mom. It’s not for parents. Parents aren’t even allowed. You have your own orientation tomorrow night. You knew this.

Me: I know, I just thought I would go to both! Are you sure parents aren’t supposed to come? You don’t have the best track record for knowing details about this kind of stuff. What if you get there and all the other kids have their parents with them? I’ve always gone with you to Meet The Teacher before! Why would it be completely different this year? I feel like they wouldn’t just randomly change the rules of parenting without warning us…

Ben: If, for some reason, I’m completely wrong and there are tons of parents there, I will definitely call you and you can come find me.

Me: Do you PROMISE???

Ben: Yes. Even though it’s not going to happen.

Jo: So Gray doesn’t get to be in charge?

So that’s why I just dropped my 14 year old off at an enormous high school all by himself and watched him self-consciously disappear into a stream of parentless teens, while I sat in my car and wondered if this is the end of… something.

It’s also why I’m leaving to go shopping and buy myself a breakfast cocktail. The little ones don’t want me, the big one doesn’t need me, and I’ve already cried all my perfectly applied ‘cool mom’ makeup off, so I might as well get drunk and buy myself something pretty.

Ben freshman orientation

Project M.E.S.A. – An Open Letter

This is the letter I’m going to send to the principal of Red Mountain High School and the Mesa Public School District regarding Project M.E.S.A. (Mesa’s Education in Sexual Awareness):

Dear Mesa Public Schools Administrators,

I’m not generally the outraged letter-writing type. I come from a family of teachers and administrators and I know you people work hard, and for the most part put lots of thought into your leadership choices. I have been fairly happy with my own MPS education (Jordan Elementary, Hendrix Jr. High, Dobson High School) and that of my three sons (Zaharis Elementary and Mesa Academy).

That said, in reviewing the Red Mountain High School registration packet I was sent for my oldest son, who will be starting as a freshman in a couple of weeks, I came across the page describing the ‘Sex Ed’ program, Project M.E.S.A., and my head almost exploded.

project MESA

 

Apparently (at least according to this description), educating our kids about their sexuality has been reduced to a plea for abstinence? Oh, and scare tactics revolving around teen pregnancy and STDs?

Let’s break this down for just a minute:

Abstinence before marriage, while widely discussed and preached, is a lifestyle only a very small percentage of the population successfully lives. The large majority of Americans will have sex at some point before getting married (even if it’s only to the person he or she eventually marries). So I have to ask myself, why would the school district make the choice to not only recommend, but exclusively support (as the program is ‘abstinence only’) a lifestyle so far on the fringe of the community?

Because Red Mountain is a public school and there’s that whole “separation of church and state” thing, I’m going to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume the choice to subject the entire freshman population to this program is not based on religious reasons.  You guys wouldn’t try to indoctrinate my kid to fall in line with your personal religious beliefs, would you? Good.

Now that we’ve ruled that out, I can only guess you feel strongly our kids shouldn’t be having sex because it’s not safe. You know what dramatic, life-altering (and potentially life-ending) things can result from people having sex and you do NOT want that for the kids under your control. Kids having kids, kids getting STDs, kids feeling pressured into sex, YIKES. None of that sounds like anything you want them involved in, so you think the only thing to do is just tell them to stay completely away from it, right?

That, I can understand. We definitely don’t want our children exposed to anything potentially dangerous or in any way hazardous to their health. We need to protect them. They shouldn’t be around chemicals that could possibly catch fire or explode… except, you know, in Chemistry class. Where they’re taught which compounds are dangerous and how to properly handle them so as not to get injured. And we don’t let them put their bodies at risk by smashing them into other people… except on the football field, where they are given the proper equipment to minimize the risk of physical harm (which the school has deemed an acceptable downside to the benefit of physical activity and social interaction). Well, and we absolutely wouldn’t want to give kids access to a large, difficult to control weapon that kills thousands of people every year… I mean, except in Driver’s Ed.

Huh, so actually, I guess it’s our jobs as parents and teachers to educate our children about situations they’re likely to encounter that could potentially be dangerous or put them at risk, and help them understand how to navigate those situations in a mature, healthy and successful manner. Yet, apparently it’s been decided that even though we can all agree sex is something our kids are statistically likely to encounter sooner, rather than later (and almost definitely before marriage), the school stance is going to simply be: Don’t do it. It’s scary and you might ruin your life or die (which could totally also ruin your life). So you should just not do it and that’s all you need to know. 

I have to say, in my opinion, the biggest mistake of all of this isn’t the school dropping the ball on actually educating kids about how to have a healthy and safe sexual relationship (although it sucks. But, in theory, the parents should be capable of, and responsible for, conveying this information. Barring that, there’s always the internet). It’s not the flagrant waste of time and resources pulling the entire class of freshmen out for four days in a pointless attempt to shame them into not participating in an activity their bodies have been genetically hard-wired to do creates (although that is also horrifying).

The biggest mistake of this is it creates a wall of mistrust between us and our teens. They already think we’re old, weird, uncool and bad dressers. All trying to sell this fairy tale about how teens don’t have sex and people shouldn’t have sex until they’re married does is reinforce to our teens we’re not honest with them. They know everyone is having sex from TV, books, music, social media and just about every where they turn. They’re not stupid. They probably haven’t ever gotten over the whole Santa Claus ruse and now, here were are, lying to them again, not trusting them to make their own choices, just slapping their hands away from the cookie jar. What we’re doing is telling them they can’t come to us. They can’t talk to us about this scary and difficult topic they need our guidance on. We’re taking the control to parent and teach them out of our own hands and forcing them to find answers on their own.

It was my first inclination to rescind my parental permission for my son to attend this seminar, but I don’t want the poor kid to be the weirdo whose mom won’t let him take Sex-Ed. He’s intelligent and mature, and I know I can have a conversation with him to explain my disagreement with the stance the school has taken and open up a dialog between us regarding sex and any questions he may have. I trust him to recognize the error of the situation and resist any indoctrination I’m sure totally won’t be occurring (right?). Instead, I’m writing this letter to voice my unhappiness with the poor choices the school and the district have made in regard to Project M.E.S.A.

Let’s all take a deep breath and trust our kids just a little bit more. Shame and fear isn’t going to keep them out of trouble, but information and a relationship built on trust just might.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Newlin, mother of Bennett Tolar, Freshman, Red Mountain High School

Spider Egg Soap and Diaper Breath

I bet you thought I was never blogging again, didn’t you? Nah, I was on vacation. Yes, for three weeks.

OK, maybe not three weeks, but totally for 9 days and then there were a whole bunch of days before and after I had to devote completely to getting both my physical and mental shit together (I almost said ‘literal and metaphorical shit together’ but I’m pretty sure that would imply that I was handling feces and no one needs that mental picture).

I’m leaving to take all of the kids to the dentist, so this is going to all be very stream of consciousness/guerrilla-style blogging. Beggars can’t be choosers, yo. And I know you’ve been sitting there begging the internet for the seedy and mundane details of my existence. So here you go:

I forgot to put a new bar of soap in the shower this morning before I stepped in, so I had to use Jason’s ‘Axe Shock Shower Gel’. It felt like I was chewing wintergreen gum with my whole body. In a bad way. And Jason has this big weird sponge thing with a long handle, because he feels it’s important to lather and scrub his entire body specifically (I’m more of a fan of lazily soaping my face and armpits and letting the soap clean the rest of my body as it runs down when I rinse it off) and I noticed that the tiny little cleansing beads from the shower gel that are supposed to exfoliate and burst as you’re washing, were trapped in the crevices of the sponge and they looked like spider eggs. So now I’ll never touch the sponge or the shower gel again.

*Mental note: replace bar of soap in the shower.*

We went to this awesome dinner at one of our favorite restaurants last night. It was a whole fantastic ‘tasting menu and wine pairing with a local wine-maker’ thing that’s probably actually too high class for us, but whatever. Food. Yum.

It was lovely, but at least three of the courses involved large quantities of garlic. As in, huge cloves of roasted elephant garlic meant to be spread like butter on thin slices of bread. And gourmet garlic flavored sausages in a bed of chilled white beans with fried chips of garlic.

The food was amazing yesterday, but this morning it tastes like I spent the night licking the inside of our trashcan after I left raw chicken in it for too long. On my (humid, miserable, soul-killing) run this morning I leaked garlic from every pore. I’ve brushed, flossed and mouth-washed every millimeter of my oral cavity and I can still murder flowers if I lean too close while exhaling. I feel very confident this dentist visit is going to go just like my last wax appointment, where I took a deep breath to steel myself against the pain and humiliation of the process, stripped, laid down on the table, and the waxer took one look at me and gasped, What happened to you! (I’d forgotten to warn her about my summer runner inner-thigh chaffing. Once I’d explained it she said, Oh, geez, I thought you’d had some terrible bike accident or something!)

So what I’m saying is I’m just gearing up for a super fun awkward conversation where I explain to a dentist I’ve never met that my breath is horrible because I’ve been eating gourmet food, not because I have a disease that makes the inside of my mouth smell like a used diaper, while he wonders if it’s true or I’m a crazy who doesn’t really know how to brush my teeth.

(Side story: one time when Jason and I were dating in college he came over after he’d been hanging out with friends smoking cigars, and he went to kiss me and for several minutes I really truly thought he had silently released the most repugnant, foul fart that ever existed on the planet, but it turned out it was just his breath. Because cigars smell ok sometimes, but post-cigar breath is worse than farts that smell like your insides are decaying.)

I just felt like the internet should know (and breath a sigh of relief) that I’m taking my kids to the dentist. So we’re not quite feral here in the Newlin house. Close, but not quite.

A Plan Gone Wrong – Jonas and the Mason Jar

So… did I ever tell you the baby quail didn’t make it? The crazy bird lady emailed me the next day and said the little guy was dead by the next morning. I felt like at least we’d done all we could.

What happened today, on the other hand, I feel more responsible for.

This morning Jonas came running inside and said, “I have a new plan!” But Jo without a plan is like my hand without a glass of wine (just unnatural), so I didn’t listen particularly carefully when he went over the details.

“You know those tubes in our front yard? The holes in the ground?” he asked.

I thought he could mean any number of holes in the ground from the drainage tubes to the prairie dog burrows or the holes they’ve dug themselves, but I was distracted by my computer and making breakfast and again, this is just sort of how conversations with Jonas go, so I said, “I guess…” and he continued on.

“I saw a lizard run into one of them. So I’m going to take jars and put them in the holes and wait, and then when a lizard runs into them I’ll flip it up and put the top on it and I’ll have caught a lizard in my lizard trap!” he said enthusiastically.

This is when I should have said, “Why don’t you show me?”

But I actually said, “Sure,” and went back to returning work emails (and by ‘returning work emails’ I mean ‘reading Jezebel’).

A little while later he came back inside and said to Gray, “I really think this is going to work!”

At that point, my ‘Jonas is doing something weird’ spidey sense started to tingle a little bit and I said, “What are you using as bait in these traps?” to which he replied, with a little bit of disappointment, “Nothing,” and I calmed down. He clearly wasn’t going to catch anything with jars stuck in holes and no bait. Even the dopey lizards around our house wouldn’t get caught like that.

Gray agreed this was not a viable plan. “Jo, what if a lizard does go in the jar, but you’re not around? How will you get it?” he asked. I nodded. This seemed like a obvious flaw to me, too.

Jo looked slightly miffed and said, “I’m going to go back out and check on the traps,” before dashing into the heat again.

As I was starting lunch for the kids he came back in through the garage door with scarlet cheeks, poured himself a glass of cold water, took a big gulp and said triumphantly, “It’s working! There is a lizard in my trap.”

I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been around the block a time or two and I’ve been Jonas’s mom for six and a half years. I know if he says he has a baby bird in the garage, there’s a goddamn baby bird in the garage, and if  he says there’s a lizard in his trap, there’s a motherfucking lizard in the trap. This was when I could tell I’d made an error in judgement. Whatever contraption he’d designed had probably trapped a gila monster or a rattlesnake and now I was going to have to deal with it.

“OK,” I told him, “take me to it.” Ben came with.

He led us down to the end of the street where there’s a medium-sized desert wash. At the house right next door to the wash he pointed to a drainage tube that was sticking out of some decorative rocks in the yard. There was a green glass mason jar shoved in the tube.

dead lizard 3

And inside the green glass jar was a fairly large, horned lizard.

“I haven’t tried to take it out yet,” Jonas said. He was obviously a little nervous about the size of the creature he’d managed to catch. But clearly, having an audience was bolstering his courage, so he reached down and began to carefully pull the jar out. I caught this part on video:

After this it all started to make a  little more sense. I’d thought he was going to put a jar in the hole with the open side up, like an old fashioned net in a pit type trap, but instead, he’d sealed off the entrance with the jar, assuming there was another end to the tube (in the backyard maybe?). Actually, though, the tubes are just buried so the water flows more easily forward, I guess, and only open on the front end. So the lizard he’d “caught” was already hiding in the shade of the tube when he put the glass jar in, and had either suffocated or cooked to death (probably the latter) after the jar had been attached.

Ugh. I know life is treacherous and death lurks around every corner for these creatures, but I’m sad we were party to the end of this little guy’s existence. And cooking to death in a glass jar? Who can imagine a more horrible way to go (besides maybe being eaten by rabid beavers, that might be slightly worse)?

I’m trying not to get too worked up over it because I know Jo felt bad and that he’s just a kid interested in animals and wildlife. I like that he’s out and about exploring the neighborhood. I’m proud he’s brave enough to sleep in the backyard alone and tries to save injured baby birds. But I guess next time he has ‘a new plan’ that involves the neighborhood wildlife I should walk it through with him.

By the time I was finished cleaning up lunch he’d caught a new friend (this time with his hands):

keiko

 

He named her Keiko. So clearly he’s not as traumatized as I am, and the wildlife hasn’t learned its lesson. Ah the circle of life.

How to Choose the Perfect Swimsuit For a Pool Party

Step 1: Gather every swimsuit in the store you could ever possibly want, even the hot yellow one-piece with side cut-outs. You never know, it might not make you look like a bratwurst being sautéed whose casing suddenly splits and guts spill out the side. Options are your friend.

Step 2: In the dressing room order the suits from Likely Horrifying to Might Not Hate Myself In It to increase your chances of ending on a positive note instead of walking out the store and directly into oncoming traffic.

Step 3: Do a rapid try-on of all of the suits and drop each into one of two piles you’ve designated, Let’s Never Speak of This and I Didn’t Throw Up When I Looked in the Mirror. When you get to the reversible corset-style bikini you were sure was going to be adorable, but somehow manages to mash the small amount of boobs you have down under the cups, while simultaneous shoving all of your fat into the space between the top and the bottom in a way you’ve only previously seen on PeopleofWalmart.com, briefly consider writing a nasty letter to the designer but decide it’s not worth your time. When you’re finished, kick the rejects under the door out into the communal dressing room space. The sales girl will understand. Ain’t nobody got time for properly rehanging suits that just humiliated you.

Step 4: Perform a second round of judging on the ones that have ‘made it to Vegas’, if you will. This time really make them perform. Give them the 360 degree treatment. Jog in place. Do a couple of downward-facing-dogs, if the dressing room permits. Get rid of anything with twee ruffles or patterns that just aren’t you. Narrow it down to the two best candidates.

Step 5: It’s going to come down to either the one that makes you feel sort of whorish, or the one that makes you feel kind of old; it always does. Try both on again and do your very best to look at yourself completely objectively. Imagine you saw you at the pool. Which of the swimsuit judgement trifecta would you lean over to your best friend and say: Damn, she’s slutty, Damn, she’s fat, or Damn, I wish I was her?

Step 6: Determine you’re fat, slutty and incapable of being objective.

Step 7: Spend 10 minutes taking a selfie in each suit and framing them side-by-side so you can text them to two friends for their opinions. Make sure to send it to friends who will:

1. Text you back immediately.

2. Be bitchy enough to point out that the suit color makes you look sallow.

3. Not sabotage you to make themselves look hotter when standing next to you.

Step 8: Once each friend has texted you back picking a different one, because they’re useless, make an executive choice based completely on what you had for lunch. If it was a salad, pick the slutty one. If it was a burger, go with the one with more coverage.

Step 9: When you’re in line to pay, send the selfie of the one you picked to your husband so he can reinforce your choice with the ‘HOTTT!!!’ he would send back even if you’d sent him a picture of you wearing the horrible corset one.

Step 10: When you get home, lock yourself in the bathroom and try on the winning suit again. Take selfies from every angle because you read that’s the way to get a more accurate view of  yourself. Wonder if you have that wrong because you’re still taking a picture of the reversed angle of yourself. Feel confused and sad about your understanding of the universe.

Step 11: Find several possibly symmetrical lumps on your abdominal region and try to decide if they’re ab muscles or bumpy fat pockets. Flex your stomach as hard as you can, then jiggle the top layer with your hands. Decide they’re probably fat.

Step 12: Flex your butt cheeks and observe your thigh dimples. Pinch your back fat. Smush your tummy together so your stretch marks look like dog jowls. Have a long inner-dialog about flaws making you human, how photo-shopping is ruining the self-image of society and that not being proud of your strong body is setting feminism back 50 years.

Step 13: Pull out the swimsuit you bought 5 years ago that someone once took a cute picture of you in. Wear that to the pool party. Never actually remove your cover-up.

You’re welcome.

Monday Night We Went Paddle-boarding…

Let’s go stand-up paddle-boarding at night on the river! they said. It will be fun! they said.

At the Walgreens ‘just over the hill’ from the river (Thomas and Power) buying water before we headed to the river’s edge:

Check out kid, Anders – So where are you guys going tonight?

Us – We’re going paddle-boarding on the the river! Fun, right?

Anders – Oh yeah? I had some friends do that as their Prom date last month.

Us – Really? That’s so cool! What a fun and unique Prom date!

Anders – Yeah… well-

Sarah (my sister) - Don’t tell us they found a snake or a dead body.

Anders – …OK…

Us – WAIT, WHAT?!! Which one???

Anders – Well you told me not to tell you-

Sarah – Was it a snake??

Anders – Uh, no.

Us – DEAD BODY?!

Anders – Uh, yes. They had to wait for the police to come. They were stuck there for hours.

Us – !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s how this whole experience started. I’m unapologetically terrified of a couple of things: creatures that live in water and the dark. These fears are probably a result of the combination of too many horror novels when I was an adolescent and the constant barrage of nature documentaries and animal reality shows about natural bodies of water with the word ‘Monster’ in the title playing on our TV by Jason and the boys. I’ve been emotionally scarred by Stephen King, PBS and Animal Planet.

That said, I do my best to suck it up because fraidy cats have no fun. When we got to the river, it was a dusky 8pm, and I was feeling confident about the experience, despite the ominous prelude by Anders, the Walgreens checkout voice of impending doom. I mean how likely was it that we’d find another dead body? Seemed like probably the Prom couple had taken one for the team and filled the dead body paddle-boarding quota for at least a little while, right?

We ditched our shoes, valuables and clothes in the car and walked barefoot through a tiny, unlit parking lot down to the edge of the water where another group was exiting. You guys will have a great time, they promised.

When we mounted the boards and paddled out to the middle of the river it was still light enough to see what color the boards were, but the light was quickly draining away. Within 15 minutes most of the sky and the water were black. This probably should have been when my survival instincts kicked in and I said, Nope, nope, nope… Imma go home and drink wine and watch the rest of OITNB. You nutjobs can swim around in the dark muck with godknowswhat, but sometimes paddle-boarding makes you feel like you’re The Messiah, walking on water. We were five ladies on an adventure! We were brave and enjoying the quiet and beauty of the wilderness at night! This was fun!

As we started off, against the current, the gal who owned the boards and was leading the excursion, explained several things:

1. The kids who found the dead body were using her boards when the incident happened. Probably the worst part of the detailed story was how the kids had flagged down a boat to notify about the body (they didn’t have cell phones on them) and for a brief period of time the boat owners decided the right thing to do was get the kids in the boat and tie the body to the back so it didn’t float away. Go ahead and take a minute to go over in your head how, exactly, that would work.

2. Last week when she was out at night with a group a fish had jumped up on the board of a chick, who FREAKED THE FUCK OUT, and fell in the water.

3. The river is really shallow and there’s lots of moss, so we should try to stay away from the mossy sections so we didn’t get stuck. Not that we’d really know where those are. (Also moss kind of feels like a dead body when you poke it with your paddle.)

4. We shouldn’t worry about the loud splashing we’d occasionally hear. It was just beavers. (BEAVERS??!)

I had worn a headlamp, but quickly realized when it was on it both attracted bugs and blinded me when my arm passed in front of the light as I was paddling and it reflected into my eyes. So I left it off and it just served to made my head sweaty.

At that point I was doing ok and mostly keeping up with my sister, whose Native American name would be, Is Good At Everything. Things were ok when I was in the middle of the group and the random splashes were off in the distance. It was fine! This was fun!

And then a ‘beaver’ (or some kind of large, murdery supernatural water creature, either/or) jumped out of the water DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF MY BOARD.

Let’s just get one thing clear: I’m that girl, in the horror movie, who gets killed within the first 16 minutes because she screams so loud it would be completely annoying to have her around any longer than that. I can’t help it; I’m a screamer. It’s instinctual. It’s probably one of those recessive traits that’s mostly selected out because it’s fucking irritating and once a man finds out you do it he’s 70% likely not to want to procreate with you, but I can’t help but shriek bloody-murder if you scare me.

And that beaver? SCARED THE FUCK OUT OF ME. My throat still hurt from that scream Tuesday morning when I woke up.

Things went rapidly downhill from there.

I was flushed with adrenaline and terror, so I couldn’t make my legs and arms stop quivering. The trees on the side of the river began to look ominous and occupied (by hungry animals? river people with banjos? dead bodies?). I tried to keep up with the group, but eventually fell behind.

And then I fell FAR behind.

Like so far behind I could only see the very last person, 50 yards ahead of me, who was also pretty far back from everyone else.

I began paddling harder, trying desperately to figure out what I was doing wrong. Should I dip the paddle down deeper? Was it facing the wrong direction? Was I just a pathetic weakling at the back of the herd who was meant to be picked off by a predator as a warning to the rest of the group? Yep. Probably the last part.

Sweat streamed into my eyes and I got caught in a current dragging me both backward and into the completely terrifying silhouette of trees on the shore that likely eat people. I dug my oar in and paddled furiously, only managing to remain stationary, staving off imminent demise until I eventually exhausted my physical resources and was dragged back into the hellmouth.

Far ahead I could hear the members of my group discussing going further. Let’s just go a hundred more strokes, I could hear them decide. Just go a little faster, they yelled back at those of us lagging.

This was when I lost whatever shit I had that was trying desperately to stay together. I just wanted off the goddamn river. I wanted to be anywhere else on the planet. The darkness felt oppressive. The moss just under the surface of the water was clearly evil. The wispy clouds blocking out the stars were coming for me. There were murderers or monsters lining the shore. River sharks waited for me under my board. The splashing beavers were aggressive and probably rabid. The dead bodies were preparing to rise up, pull me from my board and hold me under the water until I would submit and join their ranks. THINGS WERE NOT OK.

I yelled to the rest of the group, “I’M GOING AS FAST AS I FUCKING CAN! I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE. I WANT TO GO HOME!!! I WANT TO GO HOME!!!”

I feel like you think, right now, that I’m probably exaggerating, because you know me and that’s what I do. I’m somewhat hyperbolic. But you can poll the other gals on the trip and they’ll tell you that I, a 36 year old mother of three, grown-ass woman, had a nervous breakdown on the Salt River because I’m afraid of the dark and beavers, and everyone had to turn around and go back due to the fact that I could not deal.

It is what it is.

I calmed down somewhat once the group was surrounding me, but then we spent another half hour or so paddling up and down searching for the exit point, and I can tell you with great assurance that I’ve NEVER BEEN MORE RELIEVED than when I stepped on the dry dirt. Even though it was still reallyfuckingdark and I was pretty sure I was going to step on glass/scorpions/hepatitis before I got back to my car. At least I was away from the zombie beavers.

 

 

Balance, Logic, Fudge

Blogging has been difficult for me lately. It requires a certain amount of uninterrupted thought and for the last three weeks I haven’t been able to generate a complete sentence without someone asking me to make them some jelly toast or if we can go to the pool now.

Yesterday it had gotten to the point where I knew if I didn’t put together a blog post immediately, I just never would again and I would become constipated by my own thoughts until they eventually shriveled up and died inside me, poisoning my insides. (That’s what happens when you keep your thoughts trapped inside you.) So I sucked it up and put a post out, but I’m out of practice, so the process was plodding and painful.

I’ve decided the only solution is to force myself to produce until things feel a little bit more natural again. It’s the prune juice for my creative process. I just need to get it all moving until I’m regular, right?

So I’m just going to blog the inside of my head for awhile until things start to spark on their own again and I’m back in the groove (or some other defecation metaphor, if you prefer consistency). Feel free to move along if that’s not your thing. I’ll get back to attempting to construct coherent narratives eventually.

The inside of my head this morning:

Yesterday evening I took a hand-balancing workshop taught by a traveling circus couple. They were amazing. He’s Cuban and English is clearly not his first language (balancing actually might be his first language) and she’s sweet, blonde, voluptuous and bendy. He had us kick up into handstands endlessly and hold them as long as we could while he poked our legs from either side to help us stay up and demanded we stay tight or use our fingers more. She would then explain the technique and tricks in more detail while he demonstrated things that seemed scientifically impossible, but were really just the result of insane strength and coordination.

handbalancing

They taught us a trick called a crocodile, on two posts, that I don’t have a picture of us working on, but the result looks like this:

crocodile

I didn’t get my hand off the second post, but I did manage to balance with my legs and chest up for a few seconds after working on it for twenty minutes and I was pretty fucking proud of myself for it. That chick is making it look way easier than I was, but that’s definitely what I looked like in my head. With a little more shaking and sweating.

Last night I dreamed I joined a professional rollerskating performance troupe. Obviously my own psyche thinks I’m kind of insane, also.

I woke up this morning to aching arms, shoulders and abs, but I had a plan for this week and that plan included running Monday, Wednesday AND Friday morning, so I dragged myself outside even though it was already hot, humid and miserable at 5:30AM.

But the world was beautiful:

morning run

And Pandora rewarded me with my one of my favorite songs right as I set out, I Will Follow You into the Dark. Have you ever seen the video? I Youtubed it a few months ago and it managed to make me love that song and Death Cab for Cutie even more than I did before (which was like a really super lot already):

Death Cab for Cutie is one of those things that speaks to me. The songs just make sense in a simple, analytical, beautiful way. I feel that way about Alton Brown, too. You know, the chef? The way he explains The Why of food preparation by celebrating the science behind it while still appreciating the beauty of flavor just really makes me want to make-out with him. Even the 51 year old balding him. I strongly believe the powerful nature of logic does nothing but support the wonder and beauty of the world and I <3 those guys and gals who regularly turn that concept into art.

I got through my four miles a little faster than I had all week despite the heat, which just goes to prove, once again, that running is so much about your state of mind.

Today I’m doing a final walkthrough on a house I feel a little bittersweet about selling. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here before or only on Facebook and I’m too lazy to go back and look, but it’s my best friend’s childhood home. I helped her parents purchase a new home, a little further south, with a more comfortable layout for them and we’re closing on the sale of the old one next week.

You know how you always have that one friend who has a house everyone ends up hanging out at? The house that always has snacks and good places to sit and the parents don’t hassle you or roll their eyes when you come over and watch TV and drink all the sodas out of their garage fridge? That was this house. I can’t even count the number of times I spent the night or dances we got picked up by our dates from at this house. There was the one summer the cockroaches were particularly bad in Dobson Ranch, so Rebecca and I would take the rolly chairs from the kitchen table and race the creatures across the floor when we spotted one. Or the time I hosted a Ouija Board seance by candlelight (because I’m the most dramatic) and we’re pretty sure we contacted the spirit of River Phoenix. Her mom even threw me a baby shower there when I was pregnant with Ben.

So I’m a little sad to see it sold, and I think the rest of the family feels the same. But I know the new home will make my friend’s parents happy and a new family will make memories in the old house. I hope they remember to always have lemon bars and fudge in the pantry.

Summer Break – A Nervous Breakdown in Four Acts

Summer Break – Act 1 (The First Day)

Mom (eyelids popping open at 5AM on the dot with terror at the realization): THE KIDS ARE OUT OF SCHOOL!!! Shitshitshit. I need a plan. It’s going to be ok. Everything will be ok with a plan. And plans start with lists. I just need to make a list.

*Gets out paper and pen and writes Things to accomplish this summer at the top.*

First needs to be ‘Go to the Dentist’ because that’s one of those things you do in the summer to get it over with, right? Although we didn’t go last summer… or the summer before. So the point is, we really, really need to go to the dentist this summer.

Also, the little one still isn’t swimming by himself. And he is definitely too old for that shit. But every time I put him in lessons he screws around and snows the teacher and learns nothing. So I pay $175 for a month of bullshit. OK, I’m taking this into my own hands. I taught swim lessons for years in high school and college, there’s no reason I can’t teach my own kid how to swim, right? We’ll just go to the pool every day until he can swim across the pool. NBD.

What else? The middle one needs tutoring for reading and writing, so I need to get that set up and confirmed. And they each need a regular physical activity and a creative one. There’s a skateboarding/parkour gym not to far from us. I’ll look into classes there. And Mesa Center for the Arts has ceramics classes for all ages. That should work.

We also need a family “Summer Project”. I know! We’ll make a Lego/origami stop-motion movie together! It will be so fun! We’ll probably get famous after it’s done and have our own reality show about how we make movies together as a family, each using our own individual creativity and skills to create great collaborative works of art.

And of course we need to clean out and reorganize their bedrooms. Plus there will be absolutely no TV or video games until after 4PM and we are definitely not eating out. I’m going to plan all of our meals for the week and grocery shop on Mondays so we can have wholesome, inexpensive meals all summer.

I think that’s it!

  • Go to the dentist
  • Teach the youngest to swim
  • Reading tutoring for the middle
  • Parkour classes for the oldest
  • Skateboarding lessons for the other two
  • Ceramics class for all
  • Family Lego/origami stop-motion movie
  • Clean out and reorganize bedrooms
  • No TV/video games until after 4PM
  • No eating out

I don’t know what I was freaking out about, this summer is going to be great! If I just calendar everything out and allot the appropriate amount of time for each activity, we’ll be able to enjoy the summer in a fun, creatively stimulated, healthy way. This is going to be the best summer ever.

Act 2 (The end of week 1.):

Mom: Huh. So going to the pool every day is not only exhausting and time-consuming, but creates more laundry than Lindsay Lohan on a press-junket for an ill-fated made for TV Movie. And now I don’t have time to do any laundry because when I’m not driving one kid to an activity, I’m entertaining the others because I won’t let them watch TV or play video games. AND THE FEEDING. My god, the feeding. I get up and make breakfast. Once that is all picked up it’s roughly 19 minutes before it’s time to start lunch. And before I can even think about walking away from the kitchen the fruit needs to be cut up for snacks and it’s time to start dinner.

So far the skateboarding and parkour is going pretty well, but those classes are in direct conflict with my workout schedule, so that’s out the window.

Oh shit, and we haven’t worked on the stop-motion movie in days. In fact, we haven’t gotten past setting up the camera and the lights. Fuckfuckfuck. I’m instilling in my children the habit of starting projects that never get finished. I’m raising failures right now. That’s what I’m doing.

Can’t forget to clean their rooms. When will I have time to do that?? We don’t even have time for the tutoring homework!

And I haven’t made the dentist appointment yet.

I need to redouble my efforts.

Act 3 (Three weeks in.)

Mom: OK, guys, I’m going to swing through In and Out Burger and get food for lunch. You can eat it in the car if you promise you won’t spill on the upholstery. You need to pause your video games and look at the menu to tell me what you want me to order. I need to run into Walgreens on the way home really quick so I can get more wine.

When we get home you can watch TV if you want. I think there’s a Dirty Jobs marathon on. I just need you to leave me alone for a few hours. I have to send some emails and then I really need to take a nap. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted from you people and fulfilling your wants and needs every moment of every day. It’s summer, right? Naps are ok. I think naps are a summer thing. Please just don’t talk to me until it’s time to get ready to go to ceramics class. Please?

Act 4 (The end of summer.)

Mom: I’mneveraloneI’mneveraloneI’mneveralone. I just want to be alone. Like more than I want to breathe. I’m being crushed to death under the warm, suffocating weight of family-togetherness. It’s almost over, right? I think it’s almost over. I looked at the calendar and I’m pretty sure they go back to school soon. Even though we didn’t finish the stop-motion movie, they ate more fast food than pregnant Britney Spears and no one in our family has qualified for the XGames yet, I haven’t murdered any of them, so I’m pretty sure if I can just finish this out, I win at summer. Winning is what I’m doing right now. Winning in the non-homicide sense. And what more, really, can be expected of a parent?

… oh shit. We never went to the dentist.