The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Category Archives for ‘Experiences’

The Weekend I Read Basket Baby

In theory, I love a four day weekend. I am always convinced I will accomplish all of the things. I mean, how can I not, with four entire days at my disposal? Four days is plenty of time to do all the laundry, update my database, send holiday cards, reorganize the pantry, buy all the Christmas presents, lose five pounds, and reprioritize my goals in life.

This is what I actually got done this weekend:

1. I hennaed my hair. I figured out this summer that I’m allergic to one of the main ingredients in permanent hair dye. It turns out it isn’t normal to get blisters on the edges of your ears and the desire to scratch the skin off your scalp in your sleep for a week after you dye your hair. So hippie-washout-hair-color-that-takes-an-hour-under-a-plastic-bag-to-set-and-turns-a-little-pink-after-a-few-weeks it is!

2. I cured myself of a debilitating crouton addiction. Jason bought two bags of croutons for the dinner salad Saturday night because he usually buys one and I eat half of it while he’s making dinner and then the salad ends up slightly crouton-anemic. He thought if he just bought two and only let me near one, we’d have plenty. So I proceed to eat almost an entire bag of croutons by myself, because I’m like a goldfish who isn’t smart enough to know when to stop eating and given access to enough croutons I will just eat until I die. (Remember the gluttony scene in Seven? That’s what it would look like if I ever accidentally got trapped in a crouton factory.) But ever since I ate almost an entire bag, and then dinner on Saturday night, I can’t even look at the empty crouton bag without wanting to ralph. Apparently it’s like being forced to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes in one sitting when you’re 15.

3. I watched all of the new Gilmore Girls episodes while high on half-doses of cold meds (I only ever take half because full doses of Dayquil make me fall asleep and full doses of Nyquil keep me awake. I’m a delicate, sensitive princess and I can totally feel that full dose down at the bottom of all those mattresses).

4. I read Basket Baby, by Kelli Donley.

Kelli is one of my oldest and dearest friends and I’m so proud to tell you that last week her publishing company sent me a gorgeous copy of her second. damn. novel. to read and promote. (You’re supposed to read the italicized words like Nathan Lane’s character in The Birdcage would, hand gestures included.) I mean seriously, how fucking amazing is that?

Let me tell you a little bit about Kell. My girlfriend, Kelli, has a plan to save the world, one act of kindness (and something she spent several hours hand-crafting just for you) at a time. When you need her, she’s always there with a baked good and a self-deprecating story to make you feel better about whatever specific misery you’re dealing with. She’s bright, dedicated, and always put together with a string of pearls or a bracelet of turquoise. Kell is one of those people who has a constant running list of things she intends to accomplish, and one by one, she checks those fuckers off. One foot in front of the other, one bite of elephant at a time, she tackles her goals with tireless ambition. Sometimes, when I have a project that seems too big, too cumbersome, too long-term to see a potential successful end, I remind myself if Kelli Donley was there, she’d divide it up in chunks, dig in and not give up until it was done.

One of Kell’s life goals (among Solving World Hunger, Baking a Flawless Souffle’, and Having a Bottle of Sauvignon Blanc Named After Her*) has always been to publish a novel. We’ve talked a million times about the struggles behind not only finding time and motivation to write, but the unlikeliness of the works to actually be published in this day and age. I have always been discouraged, but she, characteristically, marched forward, wrote one page after another, and toiled on. Kell has spent years on this project in writing groups, writing workshops, editing drafts, researching language and cultural details, pouring her heart and soul into telling her story. And hot damn if it hasn’t paid off. Basket Baby is available for purchase December 6, 2016, and she’s doing a book signing at Changing Hands in Tempe on December 9th. I’m seriously so proud of her hard work. She is, despite its cliche’, an inspiration to me.

Basket Baby is the story of a woman’s struggle to pull out of the dark pool of grief she finds herself drowning in after the stillbirth of her first child. The protagonist, Macy, a journalistic photographer, investigates the social castes of the Bolivian culture through the haze of her own loss, and tries to piece her own life back together in the process. A baby is left at a doorstep. A priest is befriended. Macy witnesses the duality of life’s beauty and its unrelenting tragedy in the rural communities she visits on her journey through the pain of her loss. Shit like that.**

You should buy Basket Baby. I knew nothing about Bolivia before I read it, and now I know at least five things. Also, my girlfriend, Kelli is beautiful and I don’t want to get too mushy or anything, but I love her and am really proud of her and what she has accomplished. (Although, it doesn’t have a single zombie in it and I feel like zombies are to stories like chocolate sauce is to ice cream: More is always better. Except that once when my sauce to ice cream ratio was like 3:1 and I made myself sick and couldn’t eat ice cream OR chocolate sauce for awhile. So maybe this story doesn’t need a zombie. What the fuck do I know?)



*I mean, if these aren’t specifically on her list I feel like they should be.

**WARNING: Not a professional book reviewerist.

Open Letter to My Friend Who Voted For Trump

Dear My Friend Who Voted for Trump,

I know you exist, as you make up roughly one out of two voters, though we haven’t discussed politics or our differing of opinions much. You know my stance, as a liberal atheist, because I’m not shy about what I post on social media, and I have a big mouth even in person, after a couple of glasses of wine. You have either also made your position clear, in a non-confrontational manner, on social media, or made a mental note not to engage me regarding your voting habits.

When we’re together, we talk about the things we do have in common. You also have a kid who flips bottles and makes you want to tie him up so he’ll stop. We’re both obsessed with Real Housewives, but only the Beverly Hills one (Erika Jayne FOREVER). I really want you to teach me your winged eyeliner technique. It’s not just superficial things we’ve related about, either. We’ve had long discussions about the importance of vaccinations. We’ve shared stories about the difficulties of marriage, relationships, and family dynamics. You listened when I needed someone to vent to about a fight with my mom. We had a conference call to discuss our one crazy friend’s MLM and how to gently tell her to shut it. When my cat went missing you sent me a heartfelt message expressing your sadness. When your grandma passed away I sent a flower arrangement.

I’ve spent most of today thinking about you.

At first I was angry and bitter. I mean, seriously, how could you? You put our country into the hands of Hitler dipped in Cheeto dust. You gave a man who bragged about sexual assault and said women who have abortions should receive criminal punishment the highest office in our nation. How much do you really hate women and minorities?

As the day wore on and the shock began to recede, confusion and despair set in. How can we possibly continue to be friends? On social media, you were proud, today. You were #blessed about the victory, and hopeful this will bring about the change you’ve been praying for for our country. The disparity between your reaction and mine sickened me. How could I be afraid the world is going to end at the hands of a madman, while you simultaneously rejoice in his leadership? Was I wrong about you all along? How could I ever have cared about you when you would put my gay friends in a position where they wished they’d stayed in the closet? My youngest son woke up this morning, and upon hearing the election results immediately worried for the safety of his best friends who live down the street, Roberto and Alejandro. “Didn’t Trump say he wants to kick Mexicans out of the country?” he asked us, and I wondered what you’d have said if you were standing there.

At one point I decided I would just need to cut ties. I’d root you out of my social network like a weed. I’d find you, and eliminate you from my diverse garden of flowers. It was the only way to maintain a healthy ecosystem, I told myself.

The thing is, though, this line of thinking is part of what got me blindsided by all of this in the first place. I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded individuals. Facebook does a good job in assisting this process. When I like a post, I see more posts similar to it. A person who I consistently affirm agreement with will more often show up in my feed. I read editorialized articles from news sources I know come from a similar perspective as me. I listen to Howard Stern on the radio in the car. I didn’t do any of this intentionally to insulate myself from other perspectives, but at some point, it started to seem like there were no other opinions. Everything coming in sounded right to me. How could anyone think or feel anything different?

But apparently, you, a person I care about and respect to one degree or another, do. You feel wildly different. And not just one of you, half of our country of you. Did you vote for Trump because you felt disrespected by the liberal media? Did you vote for him because you truly believe Secretary Clinton is corrupt and untrustworthy? Did you feel like your way of living was in jeopardy and Trump was the only one looking out for you? Were you scared voting for Clinton would create a landslide in a political direction you’d couldn’t control that would take out everything you’d been raised to hold sacred?

These are questions I don’t know the answer to because I didn’t ask them. I didn’t engage you about your political concerns or beliefs. It seemed awkward, and potentially exhausting. I read things and talked to people who reaffirmed my own beliefs. It was simpler. And now here I am, shocked, horrified, and alienated from you.

When my third grader got home from school today I sat him down and we had a long talk about the election results. Because of his age and my misguided belief Trump was going to be a mere blip on our radar, I had protected Jonas from my concerns about his potential leadership and the character flaws I was witnessing. But now that he is to be our President for the next four years, I felt like it was important to share my worries with Jo and reiterate the importance of not being a bully and being kind to other people. “When you interact with people, you need to remind yourself we all come from a different perspective. It feels different to grow up white, black, asian, gay, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, man, woman, from the city, from the country, with strict parents, with hippie parents, and a million other factors. These things all make us think differently and live life from our own viewpoint. This is a good thing. It’s important to be sensitive to all people, from all backgrounds, and not assume you know what they’re like by any of these categorizations,” I told him. As the words were leaving my mouth, the irony of the situation did not escape me.

I don’t agree, even a little bit, with what you did. I’m still dismayed by the prospects for the future of our country, and disappointed by the choice you made. I don’t even know if I’m ready to talk to you right now about why you voted the way you did. But I do know that we’re all people, born and grown with a different perspective. I can’t know what made you feel how you did growing up any more than I did my black friend who grew up in our mostly white, Mesa, Arizona suburb. I mean, sure, it seems like she and I had similar influences, and you and I have similar interests, but at heart, our experiences and challenges are different. If I’m to consider myself respectful of all humans, it’s my duty to try to understand where you’ve come from in addition to her.

Going forward, I intend to shed my anger and dismay. Donald Trump, like it or not, will be our next President. I can only add my hope to the chorus for the continued progress of this country toward equal treatment of all humans, and do my best to support causes I think will further this goal. I hope, if nothing else, you’ll unite with me in this.

Your Friend,


Why I’ll Never Miss a High School Reunion

My 20 year high school reunion is this fall. I realize this only happens to super old people, so clearly I’m experiencing an aggressive episode of Early Onset 20 Year High School Reunion. It’s really sad when this develops in someone still so young, right?

I was on the planning committee for the 10 year reunion. This was before Facebook, so I have PTSD from searching the phone book and having awkward telephone conversations with people who were less enthusiastic about reconnecting with old classmates than I was.

Hi, Sharon*?

Yes, this is she.

Hey!! This is Liz Tolar! Well, it’s Liz Newlin, now. Actually, I introduce myself as Elizabeth now, but you can totally still call me Liz. 

Um… OK?

You remember, me, right? I spent the night at your house at least twice in seventh grade… We pierced Julie’s* ears with your brother’s diabetic needles!

Sure. What’s this regarding?

Oh. Well, I’m on the 10 year reunion planning committee and I was just calling to get your mailing address so we could send you an invite to the reunion. It’s going to be great! We’re having it at Rustler’s Rooste, because we thought it sort of went with the westerny theme of having a mustang as our mascot-

OK, are you ready for my address?

Oh… yeah, go ahead. Do you think you’ll come?

I’m not sure. I’m an attorney in Baltimore now, and I have lots going on. But it’s fine if you want to send me the invite. 


So I’ve opted to be merely an attendant of the 20 year. Despite my unofficial status, I remain ardently enthusiastic about the event. I know what you’re going to say:

Uh, Liz. Reunions are lame. First of all, we have Facebook, now, so we don’t have to wait a decade to figure out if our 10th grade crush is still hot. Also, we keep in touch with anyone who’s important to us. We don’t need a random expensive party to hang out with our friends.

I get it. Reunions are not everyone’s thing. My sister and brother could not roll their eyes harder at the suggestion of attending any sort of a reunion associated with high school. I’m not trying to talk you out of your disinterest.

For me, though, reunions are not about catching up with my friends. I agree, I talk to them all online all the time now. Even if they live far away I’ve probably seen the video of them getting engaged and possibly an Instagram photo from the water birth of their first child in their backyard. If they’re local, we got pedicures last week and discussed school districts and why we haven’t murdered our husbands yet. I don’t need a reunion to keep up with the people who are important to me.

To me, reunions are like solving a riddle.

You have a favorite flower, right? Or even just a favorite plant? Let’s assume you’re not a sociopath and you do. Have you ever looked up what the seed of that flower or plant looks like? I just Googled a rose seed and a bird of paradise seed. The rose seeds are tiny, brown, and jagged. They could be mistaken for a pebble. The seed of a bird of paradise is black and round with an orange fuzzy hat on one end. They’re super cute and quirky.

Unless you’re a botanist or just a total know-it-all, if given a bucket of seeds of different types of flowers, you’d have no way to distinguish which seed would become which flower. They don’t look anything like they will eventually. You could guess, and maybe you’d get a few right (I feel like that bird of paradise seed has a little bit in common with it’s quirky eventual form), but for the most part, they don’t resemble what they will become in any way. The things we love about the flower, the vibrant colors, the texture of the petals, the large blossom with contrasting center, the intoxicating scent, etc, aren’t present at all in the original stages.

The people I went to high school (and elementary and Jr high) with are really the only group of people beyond my immediate family that I’ve gotten to see as seeds. I met them as a tiny, roundish, mostly neutral colored and unscented, object. By the time we got to high school, each was beginning to sprout and develop individual characteristics (some faster than others), but most were still fragile and careful to protect what was growing inside.

Now, 20 years later, we are an insane field of wildly different plants and flowers. The blooms are big and beautiful and fascinating (and some are batshit crazy). I love marveling at my guesses and judgements about what the seeds and sprouts I knew back then would turn out to be, and how generally wrong I was. Some of the sprouts that were so small and quiet back then turned into far more creative and brilliant flowers than I ever could have guessed. Some turned into a totally different flower than I would have predicted. Some of the plants I’ve never even heard of.

I guess the point is, I was emotionally invested in this group of seeds, so now I want to know what they all turned out like. And I want to see the field in person, not just perfectly staged online (although I have to admit some of my social media addiction is also fueled by this investment). I want to talk to the flowers and find out how their lives went and what their stories are. I want to remember sitting behind them in Spanish and thinking they were kind of a dick, but now hearing about how they are a pharmacist with two daughters they couldn’t love more.

Additionally, there is no more fertile soil for drama, gossip, awkwardness, inappropriate behavior, and drunken shenanigans than a high school reunion. And those are some of my favorite things. Hope to see you there!



*Names and personal details have been changed to protect the unenthusiastic.


38 is…

A constant battle between violently removing hair from certain places, and gluing, drawing it on, or chemically inducing it to grow in on others.

Occasionally asking myself just exactly what arrogance led me to believe, in my 20s, I was capable of bringing three (not just one or two, but three) children into the world without totally fucking them up. Like really; who do I think I am? What exactly was the plan for success here???

Still not making my bed.

Making a special trip to ULTA to buy dark brown hair spray to cover my aggressively grey roots between dye jobs, but continuing to shop in the Junior section at Target.

Being horrified about how close 38 is to 40, while simultaneously being aware in about 20 seconds I’m going to be 48, staring 50 in the eye, and wishing I could go back to 38 going on 40.

Realizing my stomach won’t ever be flat. The potential for that option has passed.

Giving fewer fucks. But still some.

Worrying more about getting injured that being dead.

Knowing that with selfies, it’s all angle and lighting; not just that everyone is prettier than me.

Peeing a little bit when I sneeze.

Not ready yet (if ever) to not have my parents for counsel on difficult decisions and situations.

Done saying “I’m too old to try that”, because fuck that noise.


Perspective on the Humiliation of a Bikini Wax

I walk in to the wax place and take a seat in the waiting area. There are two ladies who don’t seem to know each other checking out at the counter.

Receptionist to Lady 1: Would you like to make an appointment for next time?

Lady 1: No! That hurt like hell, why would I want to make another appointment?

Lady 2: You need to get a drink before you come, that helps.

Me (from the waiting chairs next to the checkout desk): I just had a margarita at the Mexican place down the street for that very reason.

Lady 2 (sitting down next to me): Did you really? That’s the way to do it.

Me: I did. It’s not really the pain that’s the problem so much that my normal girl quit and today I have to introduce a new human to my bikini area. It’s not that fun.

Lady 2: You’re right. That part is the worst. It’s the humiliation.

Me: Right?

Lady 2: Totally. You know, I had a humiliating incident recently. I mean, it was kind of a worst case scenario as far as embarrassment goes. It was… well it was actually mortifying.

Me: Please tell me the story! I need this right now. It would really help. I should have had two margaritas.

Lady 2: So I have a daughter who’s 20, and she’s pregnant. Her boyfriend is a doctor in the Marines, and it’s a good thing, it’s all fine. It’s actually good timing for them, but anyway, I haven’t met his family yet. They’re going to get married, but he just got back from being overseas. ANYWAY.

Me: Sure, got it.

Lady 2: So about three weeks ago I got sick. I thought it was that flu that was going around. I couldn’t keep anything down. I felt horrible. And I had this heat rash, up my thigh on the right side. It was awful.

Me: Yuck, that’s terrible.

Lady 2: Yeah, so it wouldn’t go away and I finally decided to go to the urgent care by my house.

Me: Ok…

Lady 2: So I go in and I’m describing all of my symptoms to this doctor and I tell him about the rash, and it turns out it’s shingles.

Me: Oh that’s awful! I’ve heard shingles can be really bad. And you can get that rash anywhere.

Lady 2: Yes! It’s so terrible. But like I said, I had the rash all up my thigh and over my hip. So the doctor needed to examine my whole business area to take a look at it.

Me: Horrifying.

Lady 2: I know, and as he’s down there, looking at my area, I glance at his name tag, and recognize the last name.

Me: Oh shit…

Lady 2: Yeah, my daughter’s boyfriend has a distinctive, uncommon last name. And his father is a doctor, too. So at that moment, I realized that my daughter’s boyfriend’s father, my soon to be co-grandparent of my first grandchild, was peering thoughtfully at my disgustingly rashy vagina.

Me (laughing so hard and loud the receptionists look up to see what we’re talking about): Wait, so he hadn’t recognized your last name?

Lady 2: No, my daughter and I have different last names.

Me (snort laughing so hard I’m tearing up): What did you do??

Lady 2: Well, I mean I felt like I had to tell him.

Me: RIGHT THEN?? While he was looking at your rashy business???

Lady 2: I was feverish. It seemed like the right time to introduce myself.

Me: Oh my god, that’s the best story I’ve ever heard in my life.

Waxer: Elizabeth? I’m ready for you.

Me: I think I can get through this now. I will be forever in your debt.

Lady 2: You’re welcome. If it helps someone, the experience wasn’t a total disaster, right?

Me: *laughing too hard to answer*

Thoughts on Marriage from MFB

I had drinks with My Friend Brody (MFB)* on Friday night. He’s one of my BFFs from church in high school (before some of us started worshipping satan**), but he moved to Wisconsin and then Illinois after high school, so I only see him every few years when he comes out to Arizona to visit his mom and stepdad.

MFB is kind of like a freight train. Once he gets started on a story or a rant, you have to hop on for the ride, because there’s no stopping his momentum, and any attempt will just get you run over. You don’t resent him for it, though, because he has good stories.

Friday night we got to talking about marriage. Generally speaking, I’m fascinated by other peoples’ perspectives and experiences regarding marriage. I’m constantly ruminating on questions like What makes a marriage successful? What causes a marriage to fail? What are realistic expectations of a marriage? Should I always like my spouse? Should I always love him? Is a lifelong commitment worth the challenges of committing for life, simply for the benefit of having a partner who is contractually obligated to have your back? Do people who say they loooovvveeee their sexy man on Facebook actually love him so much they feel uncontrollably compelled to announce it publicly, or are they mostly worried he’s sleeping with a coworker and think announcing their love via social media will remind him they’re going to cut his balls off if they find evidence, so he should stop?? So of course I was happy to let MFB rant about his married life to Jess, the woman who seems (from an old friend who’s met her a couple of times’ perspective) to have been created simply to be the perfect woman for MFB.

MFB: You know, people think my marriage is easy because my wife is a hot piece of ass. That’s bullshit, though. Marriage is hard work all the time. The fact that my wife is a hot piece of ass is completely irrelevant to the premise of my marriage. Sure, it was relevant 8 years ago, when we started dating, but now, it doesn’t matter. We have bills to pay together! We have kids to raise together! We have arguments to get through together! The fact that she’s a hot piece of ass doesn’t make any of those things easier.

(This was the condensed version of the rant. He probably said, “hot piece of ass”, “irrelevant”, and “premise” 12 times each during the entire thing. I wish I had it on video, because it was a work of art.)

Beyond my entertainment at his description of his wife, this concept that the fact that his wife was desirable didn’t impact their marriage disturbed me. I tend to assume at least part of why people get divorced is because one or both of them isn’t attracted to the other person any longer. Men “trade-up” to trophy wives after the one they married in their early 20s “lets herself go”, right? So logic follows that if you keep things high and tight and he still thinks you’re a “hot piece of ass”, life should run smoothly. I mean, if you can’t control the economy, the weather, or your children, at the very least you can hit the gym and figure out how to get really good at eyeliner to have some security that your marriage will continue to function, can’t you?

But I guess if that were true, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt would still be married. Like Baba Booey*** always says: For every hot chick, there’s a guy who’s sick of fucking her.

So of course I went home and had this conversation with Jason:

Me: I was discussing marriage with MFB tonight and he told me it’s irrelevant that his wife is a hot piece of ass. He said it doesn’t make his marriage easier. Like it doesn’t matter anymore that he’s attracted to her. It sort of bothered me and I’m not totally sure why. Do you think whether I am, or am not attractive is irrelevant to our marriage?

Jason: … uh… no? I mean, I definitely think you’re a hot piece of ass. Is that what you’re asking?

Me: No, I’m asking if whether I’m a hot piece of ass or not matters to you.

Jason: … … … I feel like this is one of those questions there is not a right answer to.

Me: I guess I kind of want it to be something you like about our marriage. Like you’re proud that you’re married to a hot chick or something. Which I suppose is fairly vain and pretty sexist, so if you don’t feel that way, I maybe need to get over myself. I’m just saying it seems like I work far too hard to stay attractive for it just to be irrelevant. Like why am I skipping donuts and french fries, and learning how to contour if it doesn’t matter?

Jason: When do you skip french fries?

Me: Probably a part of me also hopes you’ll continue to put up with my crazy if I continue to keep myself together, physically. Like I’m allowed to be a drama queen and occasionally run away with my circus friends if I keep up my end of the bargain and not let you see me putting on spanx or watch when I’m shaving my armpits. Which is also shallow and completely anti-feminist.

Jason: I feel like you’re overthinking all of this.

Me: You do definitely see me at my worst, though. You have watched me give birth three times. I couldn’t even watch me do that. Gross.

Jason (seeing this isn’t really a conversation I’m having with him, so much as myself, moving on to Instagram): Mmmhmm.

Me: Also, you’ve seen my dye my roots. That is not a good look while in progress. And you’re still married to me. I guess that’s the positive side of the lack of importance of physical attractiveness. If it was the most important thing, it would be far more work to hide the upkeep.

Jason (no longer paying any attention): I guess.

Me: I did think it was really adorable that he kept referring to her as a hot piece of ass like this was a completely indisputable fact. It was clear that even though he doesn’t think it causes their marriage to be perfect and easy, he firmly believes she’s a stone cold fox. Maybe MFB has it exactly right. I mean that’s really all anyone wants, don’t they? To possess physical beauty, but for it not to be the reason for our greatness? To be both a hot piece of ass, and loved for reasons completely irrelevant of this fact?

Jason: This is where I can change the subject and we can talk about that documentary on coffee I wanted to tell you about, right?

Me: Sure.


*I’m physically unable to mention him in conversation with Jason without using his full title. Merely “Brody” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

**I’m watching the current The Real World season and there’s this really great racist girl who is sure atheists worship satan, because she missed the part about how the whole point of being atheist is not believing in god-like figures. She’s the best.

***Howard Stern’s executive producer. I learn all my life lessons from The Howard Stern Show, obviously.

That Time We Went Camping

It’s not that I hate nature. I feel like nature actually has a lot of really great things to offer. It’s just that all of those beautiful and wondrous things are covered in dirt and bugs. Also I super love my bed. And showering. If sleeping in my own bed and taking extended scalding showers was an Olympic sport, I would win so hard they’d give me the bronze, silver, and gold. I would be the Michael Phelps of domestic comfort (but with fewer bongs and pictures of my junk).

Other things I care deeply about that tend not to exist in nature:

  • Wine glasses
  • Couches
  • TVs with DVRs full of a healthy mix of MTV reality and scripted shows*
  • Wifi
  • Outlets
  • Instagram

Plus, the last time I went camping I was 21 years old, 7 months pregnant, and still still in deep denial being knocked up was really going to have much of an effect on my life. Squatting in the woods with a giant belly to pee 47 times in 24 hours was what really started to hammer home that I was no longer the normal co-ed. I still sometimes have nightmares of that camping trip.

That said, we all have our burdens in this life, and one of mine is that Jonas was born a year and one week after the tragic and untimely death of Steve Irwin, and I feel confident his spirit was reincarnated into my kid’s skinny, asthmatic body. It’s not easy being the mother of a crocodile hunter.

So far, we’ve gotten away with letting Jonas roam the desert just outside our property line and regularly sleep in the backyard. Now that he’s eight and a half it seems almost inhumane to keep him constantly caged inside of the walls of civilization when really all he wants to do in life is raise birds so he can watch them construct a nest, use dirt for clothing, and learn to communicate with insects so he can persuade them to be his army and he their overlord.

Additionally, my brother-in-law, John, has been trying to convince us that no really, we’d totally like camping because it’s really fun and not at all terrible for pretty much the entirety of his marriage to my sister. A couple of weeks ago he gave me this spiel again when I was two and a half mimosas in to a beautiful Saturday and would have probably said, That sounds like a great idea! if he’d proposed hitchhiking to Cleveland to see a Metallica cover band. Day-drinking causes me to be very agreeable.

This is how, last Thursday, I ended up driving the Subaru up the side of a mountain on a single lane dirt road, half blind with dust and the sun, toward two nights of the first camping I’d done in 16 years.

I don’t want to paint this experience as a totally negative one. I know John really wanted it to be the trip that caused the epiphany The Newlins are camping folk, and it wasn’t entirely regrettable and unpleasant. So, I’m just gonna identify the parts of the camping trip as:

  • Stuff that didn’t suck
  • Camping lessons learned

Stuff That Didn’t Suck:

1. Even though the drive up was possibly more terrifying than one of those panic dreams where you are falling off  the cliff and never land, but you know you’re going to land and it’s going to be terrible, so you just continue in a state of unending horror for all eternity (or until you wake up, soaked in sweat), the actual campsite was lovely. We had views of Lake Roosevelt on one side, and some pretty down below place on the other. There were no other campers we saw during the 40 or so hours we were up there.

camping 2

camping 1

2. Camping food is delicious, especially if it’s a little burnt. I made breakfast burritos the night before we left and wrapped them in tinfoil. Even though the outer layer was almost charcoal when they came off the fire, they were possibly my favorite thing I’ve ever eaten. Also, the brats I preboiled and we roasted on skewers were amazing. The bacon John set on fire and almost burned down the forest with, was equally delicious.

camping 3


3. I really love dead trees, and there were several nearby that had been struck by lightning and were gorgeous.


4. Day-drinking is encouraged at camping. So are afternoon naps.

5. There weren’t any horrible flying bugs like mosquitos or gnats or anything.

Camping Lessons Learned:

1. Two non-superhuman adults is not sufficient for both setting up camp and properly supervising a 3 year old, a 5 year old, an 11 year old, and an 8 year old body that houses the spirit of Steve Irwin. While John and I were setting up the million tents required to house all of us, the boys discovered a nearby, recently used, campsite. In under 10 minutes they had collected enough small flammable material to stoke the improperly extinguished embers at the neighboring fire ring and built a full fire, which Gray used a shovel to scoop up and run over to our fire ring while the littler boys ran behind him and yelled, Look!! We built a fire!! 

Just to reinforce what occurred: As John and I looked up from the tent poles we were frustratedly trying to shove through fabric, my eleven year old son came running, full-bore, through the trees, carrying a shovel full of flames, with his long, golden hair trailing behind him, and his brother and cousins following with utter glee. It… was not a safe situation.

2. When left alone to “explore”, even in the middle of the wilderness with no sign of civilization, Jonas will somehow manage to discover and retrieve:

  • A shotgun shell
  • An intact bullet
  • Five metal canisters for a BB gun
  • A throwing knife stuck in a tree
  • An enormous bowie knife

camping 4 camping 5


So when the zombie apocalypse happens, make sure to align yourself with Jonas.

3. Peeing in the woods is legitimately terrible. Peeing in the woods in the middle of the night when it’s 35 degrees out and you’ve forgotten your glasses, and are too afraid to go out in the dark alone and blind, so you put your almost frozen contacts against your eyeballs before trudging out in the cold, to squat in the woods while trying simultaneously not to pee on your own feet and not to sit in a pile of ants is torture it should be illegal to subject prisoners of war to. Like I almost decided I should drink less wine the next night so I didn’t have to pee in the middle of the night; it was that bad.

4. When I was a teenager I read a book about a guy stuck in an avalanche. I think it was called Avalanche!, but I’m too lazy to try and find it. It was about how this guy was skiing and an avalanche buried him below like 5 feet of snow, but there was a hole at the top of where he got buried, so he didn’t die and he spent literal days trapped there under the snow like peeing on himself for warmth and eating the snow around him, etc. I don’t remember how he got out, but the point is, the dude had an insane will to live. He was like James Franco’s character in the movie where he cuts his own arm off (that was a real guy, right? Gross.)

At camping, I learned I do not have quite that voracious of a will to live in the face of cold. If my options are: A) Be super cold and miserable for days with little to no hope in sight, eating snow and telling myself to stay strong because there’s a chance someone will find me, and eventually getting rescued OR B) Chewing a hole in my own wrist to bleed out after 37 minutes of being kind of chilly just to end the misery, I gotta tell you, I’m probably going with B.

The first night at camping I spent the entire night (when I wasn’t stumbling around in the dark trying not to pee on myself) shivering in my stupid 35 degree rated sleeping bag. The next night, the wind picked up even harder than the night before, and I have to admit, knowing that eventually getting into my tent was not going to be warmer than sitting by the fire, where I was already a popsicle, may have worn down my will to live a little bit. It’s possible I threw a small tantrum, marched into my tent at 7:15PM with all of the extra blankets I could find, layered all of the jackets and socks I brought on my body and refused to come out until morning. It wasn’t my proudest moment. I really hate being cold.

Overall, the kids loved every minute. I loved some of the minutes. But more, I loved the minutes in the hot shower when I got home. I might go again, if it’s not so cold. Although, if it’s less cold, there will probably be bugs. So maybe I’ll let Jason take the boys and I’ll stay home with my couch and wine glasses, and MTV shows.


*Did anyone see the latest episode of Faking It? “I’m Switzerland. Cool, neutral, very expensive.” #Shaneismyfavoriteever #apropsofnothing

If a Mom Puts Away a KitchenAid Mixer

Me (on hold with a short sale escalation representative to complain about a stagnant short sale): Why has the KitchenAid mixer been on the dining room table next to my computer for a month?

Also Me: Probably because the cupboard it usually goes in is messy right now because of the diet.

Me: What does the diet have to do with that cupboard?

Also Me: It’s also where we keep the ziplock bags. So now, because we’re packing food to take everywhere we go for the stupid diet, there are a bunch of necessary sizes of ziplock bags and they need to be easily accessible, which is difficult when the mixer is in the way.

Me: Oh. Well the other thing in that cupboard is that enormous bowl we got as a wedding present and have literally never used.

Also Me: That’s true. I was thinking it might be helpful for like really big salads in potlucks or something, someday.

Me: Yes, but we’ve taken salads to potlucks for like 25 people and never needed a bowl that big.

Also Me: Yeah, it’s probably more appropriate for bathing toddlers in.

Me: I’m going to pull that bowl out for the donation pile, quickly organize the ziplock bags, and put away the mixer. That will really start to clear off the dining room table. And it will only take a second!

Also Me: Great plan!

*2 hours and 45 minutes later*

Gray (walking in the door from school): Mom, what are you doing??!

Me: Well, I was just going to put away the mixer, but then I wanted to put some of the water bottles that had migrated into the mixer cupboard back into the one next to it, but it was over-flowing with tablecloths. Do you know how many tablecloths we have?

Gray: No…

Me: SEVENTEEN. Do you remember the last time we used a tablecloth?

Gray: Um, no.

Me: RIGHT. Because we never use them!

Gray: True.

Me: So I decided to take all of the tablecloths out of that cabinet and put them somewhere else because it’s not like they need to be easily accessible or anything, but then it turned out there was a whole bunch of heavy platters and whatnot on the top shelf of that cupboard and they’d actually broken the shelf fastener thingys out of the sides of the shelf, and the only things holding the shelf up were the tablecloths.

Gray: Yikes.

Me: Seriously. It was totally not a structurally sound situation. So I took everything out of that cupboard and got a hammer and fixed the shelf and put everything except the tablecloths and some random seasonal chachskis back in. But then I had to find a place to put the tablecloths.

Gray: Right…

Me: I thought I’d put them in the storage ottoman we have in the great room. You know, the one with the four compartments?

Gray: Oh yeah-

Me: But it turns out I’d shoved all of the paperwork from the kitchen counter that wasn’t trash into one of those compartments last time your grandma came to visit. And one of the compartments has like a whole bunch of probably scratched and useless DVDs-

Gray: I forgot about all the DVDs!

Me: And one compartment was stuffed with toys, dirty socks, magic tricks, and a fruit by the foot still in the wrapper.

Gray: Really? Where is it?

Me: It’s old and gross! You can’t eat it.

Gray: Oh.

Me: The last of the compartments was relatively empty.

Gray: I know. I cleaned it out a few months ago to make a place for Blue to sleep. He slept in it for hours.

Me: Yeah, but it turned out we had too many tablecloths for just one compartment. So I still had to clean one out. I opted for the toys because I couldn’t cope with the paperwork today.

Gray: Well that’s good. But it still doesn’t explain-

Me: So THEN, I needed to put away the pumpkin carving tools into the Halloween box, and the Christmas platters and cheese plate in the Christmas boxes out on the shelves in the garage.

Gray: Ok…

Me: While I was up on the ladder putting the stuff back in the boxes, I realized there were a whole bunch of boxes I haven’t looked in since we moved in, 7 years ago.

Gray: Ah, I see.

Me: And that’s where I found the roller blades!!! Who even knew I still had roller blades! Also, apparently I still have my wedding dress. So that’s good. I kind of thought it was lost.

Gray: It’s all starting to make more sense.

When an Introvert Marries a Disorganized Extrovert

Me, after working out with Jason at Orange Theory Saturday morning: On the way home we should stop at the grocery store and grab stuff for the kids for lunch, and then hit up Target.

Jason: Why do we need to go to Target?

Me: To get you some cute underwear to wear for the No Pants Light Rail Ride today. Remember? We talked about it the other day.

Jason: Oh… you still wanted to do that?

Me: Yes. We’ve already had this conversation. I said I think about doing it every year, but then I get too busy and don’t buy cute underwear and I don’t end up going, but then I regret it. But this year I went and bought cute underwear! I even texted you a picture.

Jason: I remember that…

Me: And you said if I was doing it you’d do it too. But you don’t have any cute underwear to wear. So I thought we’d stop at Target.

Jason: I just don’t totally understand what the point of this is.

Me: Well, it’s like a national thing. And it has to do with Improv or something. You’re supposed to pretend like you just forgot to put on pants. It’s funny! And you know, all the Ignite people do it. Jeff will be there, and Ruth and Liesl. And there’s beers at Angel’s Trumpet House. You love Angel’s Trumpet House!

Jason: I still don’t get it.

Me: Listen, if you don’t want to do it, then don’t. I’ll go by myself.

Jason: Do you want to go by yourself?

Me: No, I think it would be more fun to go with you. Unless you’re going to be super crabby about it.

Jason: If you’re doing it, I’ll do it.

Me: So you don’t want to go, but you don’t want me to go out in public in my underwear and drink beers without you?

Jason: That’s an accurate representation of the situation.

Me: I feel like you’re going to be really grouchy.

Jason: It’s out of my comfort zone. And you constantly telling me I seem crabby isn’t helping.

Me: OK then. Let’s go to Target.


Me: Look how many options there are! You could wear Superman ones! Or beers-

Jason (looking more and more annoyed): I don’t even like beers. Why would I wear beers?

Me: There’s hotdogs, those are adorbs…

Jason: This is so stupid.

Me: Oh come on, it’s fun! You could get the Minions ones!

Jason: *look of death*

Me: These paisley ones are really cute.

Jason: Those are ok.

Me: Great! Let’s buy them and get going. We need to leave at noon.

Jason: What?! That’s in an hour and a half! I need to make the kids food and shower and-

Me: I know, I know, but it will be fine! We just need to hurry.


Jason (an hour and 3 levels more irritated later): What sort of footwear am I supposed to have on?

Me: Normal footwear.

Jason: *angry eyeroll* Normal footwear like I’d wear with pants, or normal footwear for when I’m wearing my underwear in public?

Me: I think you’re over-thinking it. I’m going to wear tall socks and boots so I stay warm. Wear one of the pairs of socks I bought you for Christmas.

Jason: This is stupid.

Me: Stop saying that. It’s fun!!!

Jason: You keep saying that.

Me: You’re ruining it for me. Do you think my underwear is too busy with this jacket or is it ok?

Jason: It’s fine.

Me: You didn’t even look!

Jason: *disgruntled sigh* I hate this.


Jason (at 11:59AM, to Ben, through clenched teeth): OK, so everyone had pancakes like an hour ago, so they won’t be hungry for awhile, but when you guys are, you can heat up the oven and put in the pizza rolls-

Ben: Wait, so how do I do that, specifically?

Jason: *head explodes from irritation about everything and everyone on the planet*

Me (from my laptop, checking the details about where and when to meet to get on the light rail): So… you’re gonna laugh.

Jason: What?

Me: I mean, you’re probably not going to laugh now. In fact you’re probably going to be super mad right now. But eventually, you’re going to think this is funny.

Jason: Just tell me.

Me: It’s not today, it’s tomorrow.

Jason: What is?

Me: The No Pants Light Rail Ride. It’s Sunday. I thought it was Saturday because there’s this Cyr Wheel workshop I wasn’t interested in taking at the aerial gym on Saturday, and Jo has class with Holly on Sunday, and we were going to Orange Theory on Saturday, so I was thinking this was Saturday, too. But I just looked, and it’s not. It’s tomorrow.

Jason: *lays down on the couch, puts his hat over his face and doesn’t speak for 10 minutes to keep himself from murdering everyone*

Me: OK, but let’s just keep in mind that this could have been way worse. What if I hadn’t figured it out until we got to the light rail? That would have been really horrifying. Imagine how mad you’d have been then.

Jason: So are we doing this all again tomorrow?

Me: No. Ben has a sleepover he needs to be picked up from at 2PM. And I have rope class until 1PM. The scheduling totally doesn’t work.

Jason: *sighs the sigh of a man burdened by all of the world’s misery*

Me: But hey, we’re totally ready for next year!

no pants ride 2016

The Sex-Ed Curriculum Meeting – Part II

Part I

I was under no illusion I was going to single handedly convince the Mesa Public School District their conservative, abstinence-based curriculum was outdated, backwards, and offensive. Especially because I’d only been appointed to a committee with the very specific (and relatively minor) job of approving new videos to be used to aid the instruction of curriculum with guidelines that were put in place 30 years ago. But, if we all stay home and say nothing, the crazies with the loudest voices win, right? So I put on my big girl pants, prepared my voice of dissent (and myself to be hated), and I went to the committee meeting.

It went both better and worse than I expected.


Committee member who is a medical doctor and grandfather of students in the district: In the first video, I’m not comfortable with the term “lips” used in place of “labia” when they are identifying the female anatomy. It’s slang. They should use the proper terminology. 

Female Sex Ed Instructor for MPS: OK, that makes sense. We can make that edit to the video. Anything else?

Me: Well, I mean if we’re talking about that video and the specific terminology, I have to say, I thought it was really strange they identified all of the anatomical external and internal parts of the female reproductive organs EXCEPT for the clitoris. Like, they just skipped over it. What was that about?

Sex Ed Lady: Oh, that was there, but we edited it out. 


Everyone else: Yeah, why would you do that?

Sex Ed Lady: We’ve never been able to get it approved before. 

Conservative Male Committee Member: It’s anatomy. I don’t know why we’d take out anatomy.

Doctor dude: As long as we use the technically correct terminology, I’m fine with it.

Me (only in my head, because it seemed to be going my way and it felt like a bad idea to go rogue so early and risk turning the conservative vote against anything I said going forward): What could possibly be offensive about that particular part of the female anatomy? Is it because it’s largely responsible for a female’s physical sexual pleasure? Why would this be a taboo concept? Are we afraid informing them sex actually feels good to women will derail the rest of the brainwashing? Have you tried not telling the boys they have a penis? Seems like the same logic.

Sex Ed Lady: So I should put it back in?

Everyone: Yeah. You definitely should.


Sex Ed Lady: What did we think about the video on The Dangers of Sexting?

Everyone: It was pretty good. 

Me: I thought it was a little female-heavy. It’s pretty much all about how girls shouldn’t send naked pics-

Sex Ed Lady: “Nudes.” The kids refer to them as “nudes.”

Me: OK, it’s about how girls shouldn’t send nudes and boys shouldn’t forward them on because everyone will go to jail and regret it for the rest of their lives. But what about unsolicited dick pics? That’s a weird kind of harassment going on right now (at least according to my friends who online date). It also needs to be addressed, if we’re talking about the pitfalls of sexting, don’t you think? Do you talk about dick pics?

Several committee ladies: *giggle at the term “dick pics”*

Sex Ed Lady: I go over that in the class discussion.

Committee member mom-type: Do you call them that? 

Sex Ed Lady: No. Let’s move on. 


Mom Lady: I liked the Flirting or Hurting video. I thought it was nice that it showed the kids examples of what is appropriate contact and what is harassment. 

Me: I thought that one was fine, except for the scene where the girl goes online and makes some kind of a Facebook page about the boy who blew her off, called Zach is a LOSER, and she writes that he’s “SO GAY!!”. This is only addressed as a “cruel insult” by the narrators. The boy’s sexuality isn’t in question, or a part of the video, and the narrators don’t label it as hate speech. As it’s used, it’s a slur and shames gay kids. It needs to go.

Super Conservative Mom who I feel like was only agreeing with me because she wanted any reference to homosexuality removed, regardless of what it was: Yeah, can’t you just take out that screen shot? Or blur it?

Conservative Dude: Well, I mean, that’s a realistic insult kids use, isn’t it?

Me: Yeah, but they aren’t addressing that it’s insensitive to gay people to use it that way. They’re actually supporting that he should feel bad about being referred to as gay.

Sex Ed Lady: Ok, so I’m going to take out the racist reference, anything else? 

School Nurse sitting next to me, under her breath: Uh, it wasn’t a racist thing, right?

Me, also under my breath: No, but I think she knows what to take out. I hope. 


Sex Ed Lady: And the final 7th grade video? The Five Essential Habits of Healthy Teens?

Doctor dude and his doctor wife: We couldn’t watch that one, our disk was corrupted.

A couple of other committee members: Us too.

Mom type: I watched it, and my problem with it is that it does a lot talking about ‘healthy eating’ and how fast food is bad, and my daughter has struggled with anorexia, and she doesn’t need to go to school and be subjected to more propaganda suggesting she should be restrictive about her eating.

Everyone else in the room: *uncomfortable and unsure silence similar to when I speak about anything*

Sex Ed Lady: Ok, I can see how that would be problematic. Does anyone else who was able to watch this one have any opinions on it?

Me: I watched it. I thought it was fine, but I don’t understand why it was included in the sex-ed curriculum. It has literally nothing to do with sex or relationships in any way. It’s mostly about eating properly, exercising, and making sure you’re hydrated. It really added to my general concern that the sex ed curriculum is less medical information and more morality training. We don’t teach that you shouldn’t overdo it on junk food in Driver’s Ed. Listen, I don’t want to take up too much time, because I know we aren’t here to debate the current guidelines, but I’m on this committee because I’m not happy with the way Sex Ed is being taught in this district, so I feel like I need to make my viewpoint clear. The concept that choosing abstinence before marriage is the ‘right’ way to live is a moral opinion; one that I do not share, and that I do not feel my kids should be subjected to in a public school setting. I am against using fear and shame to teach sex ed. 

*more uncomfortable silence*

Conservative dude: Legally, kids aren’t allowed to have sex, you know.

Doctor dude: Also, if we’ve decided, as a community that teaching abstinence is the safest thing for them, then that’s what-

Me: You know there are studies that show abstinence based sex ed DOESN’T result in fewer-

Sex Ed Lady: OK! Well, why don’t we just take this video completely out. I mostly just had it in because sometimes we go to schools and they have an assembly day and we have extra time to kill with the kids. And just having them do study hall usually doesn’t go that well… so let’s just take it out. 

(Stay tuned for Part III. I promise it’s the finale.)