Friday, September 28, 2012

Sluts and Stuff

Here is my latest column in Philly Mag, about slutty Halloween costumes. And a little about Harry Potter. And a lot about me being insane.

The idea was sparked when a mom-friend of mine said to me on the playground, "I want to keep my kids as young as I can for as long as I can." Ever since,  I think about that quote once a day. At least. I think of it even more so lately, because five-year-old Drew has taken to singing one particular song, over and over. And over. And not just at home. In the car. In the grocery store. On the soccer field, where it's usually punctuated by a cartwheel. Always loud. Lots of vibrato.

This is the song: "I'm sexy and I know it."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Into The Lion's Den

I got an email yesterday morning from an editor at Newsweek's The Daily Beast asking if I wanted to write something for them about what it's like now to tell people I went to Penn State. Here was my first thought: "Are you freaking KIDDING? I am SO not getting into this."

I knew that, no matter what I wrote, there would be people attacking me, personally. That's what happens when you write about yourself. I know this. Well. And as much as I act like, "It's all part of the biz," it is hard to read. The more I write about about personal stuff, it gets slightly easier to hear that you're an "idiot" or to "Shut the fuck up." But this is a whole different ballgame, pun intended. This is kids being raped. This is a massive cover up by people I've met, people I've interviewed. This is my school, which I never really identified with, until now.

And that's what I wrote about: "I Went to Penn State, But Don't Pity Me."

Here's what some of the commenters are saying:

"I pity you as you could not get into a better school."

"This is a thoroughly idiotic and fairly insulting article."

"Get over yourself."

And, of course, that old chestnut: "Shut the fuck up."

People ask me why writing's hard. This is partly why. And this is also exactly, precisely, completely why it's important. And why, despite wishing often that I was back waiting tables where I was never told "you're NOT a victim," it's worth it to put yourself out there to say something that's true to you. As one of my friends once told me, "If people are hating on you, you must be doing something right." I hope so.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cupcake Wars

Okay. So I haven't posted in over a year. I had another baby, 'kay? Because that's what you do when you're almost 40 and can't throw away the baby stuff in your have a baby. Right?

Anyway...if I hadn't started writing a new column for Philadelphia Magazine called Suburbanista, this would totally have been a blog post. it is...what happens when a no-cupcake-rule clashes with mothers-who-make-cupcakes. There was no blood far as a know.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I'm Gonna Cut You

The first time our three-year-old Drew said it, my brain shot into immediate rationalization mode.

In line, I convinced myself. She means, “I’m gonna cut you IN LINE.”

Because, really, what could be a worse offense to a three-year-old? There she is, at daycare, waiting by the door to march to her classroom, beaming because she’s the “line leader” (which is akin to being God), and then...some other three year old cuts in front of her, dashing her hopes, her dreams, her chances of sitting on the all-coveted “rainbow square with the pink stripe” on the circle-time carpet.

Of course, I decided. That explains it. That explains why, moments ago, when I told her that we had to turn off The Fresh Beat Band because it was time to eat dinner, she said, “If you turn it off, I’m gonna cut you!”

I decided this in the roughly 20 minutes that Thad and I stood there in the family room with our mouths hanging open, not breathing, picturing ourselves in 10 years visiting Drew on Saturday mornings at Juvy.

I leaned towards Thad and whispered, “She means ‘in line,’ right?”

“Right,” he answered in his “no, your butt doesn’t look big in those pants” tone.

What else could it be? As far as we know, there isn’t a gang problem at Tiny Treasures Learning Academy. We don’t sit down as a family, with popcorn and Capri Suns, and watch reruns of Prison Break. We don’t even let the kids hold the plastic knives in silverware packets from fast food restaurants, which themselves are barely capable of cutting a McDonalds pancake, much less a mother who has wielded control of a TV remote.

Then it happened again: “If you don’t get me chocolate milk, I’m going to cut you!”

And again: “If you don’t read me six more books, I’m going to cut you.”

And again: “If you don’t get me a face-to-face with Justin Bieber and his people, I’m going to cut you.”

Friends came over for dinner. Because they don’t have children, they laughed very, very, very hard as we told them about Drew’s threat du jour.

“We think she means ‘in line,’” I told them. They looked at me as if I was suggesting that the only thing wrong with Linda Blair was that she had a touch of flu.

We sat down to dinner. It was just after New Year’s, so we were eating pork and sauerkraut--“Nature’s broom,” as my grandmother used to say. That meant that the adults had knives on their very festive New Year’s napkins. I walked in from the kitchen with the kids’ plates in my hand to find Drew sitting in her booster chair, holding one of the serrated knives, waving it in the air as if she were a Ginsu salesman. Or a serial killer. One of the two.

I grabbed the knife out of her hand and started to laugh in that exaggerated way parents do when their kids do something terribly unexpected and terribly bad, like threaten to stab dinner guests.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha!” I said. “Ha, ha, ha...she’s so...I just don’t...I mean…ha, ha, ha!”

The next morning, I asked Drew. Finally.

“When you say, ‘I’m gonna cut you,’” what do you mean?”

“With a knife,” she said, then paused before she smiled in her “silly mommy” way. “Nooooo. Not a knife,” she corrected. I felt relieved. We wouldn’t have to buy her a straightjacket after all.

Then, she clarified: “With scissors.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Slow and Steady My Ass

You’re going to throw up. You’re going to throw up.

I chanted these words to myself, praying that the mere Statement of Fact might somehow alter the inevitable course of events about to transpire as the girls and I walked up the ramp to our very first ride at Storybook Land near Cape May, New Jersey.

We’d driven an hour and a half to get here, filled with the promise of storybook princesses and strange animatronic storybook dwarves that, upon pushing a button, would sing and dance and repeatedly bend over from their strange animatronic storybook waists. What more could we ask for? It was just a tiny, wooded amusement park that catered to kids under six. I assumed there’d be a train, bumper boats, one of those airplane rides you make go up and down by pushing and pulling on a metal bar.

Maybe a carousel.

Maybe a very small Ferris wheel.

But not this.



Not … The Turtle Twister.

I tried to stop the kids, but it was too late. They’d already slid into the deep cove of one of the green cars shaped like a turtle head. They left a space between them for me, my thighs instantly becoming one with the black pleather, which smelled of oil, funnel cake, and the ghosts of vomits past.

“What if we need to stop?” I asked the 16-year-old who, between texting about very important matters like how she wields the awesome power of making people puke on themselves, lowered the bar onto our legs and locked us in.

“Just yell,” she said, and then pressed the big red button.

Immediately, I flashed back: Haggarty Park playground, circa 1977, that metal merry-go-round, that neighbor girl pushing the merry-go-round, those very orange BBQ potato chips. All of it going around. And around. And around.

Compared with The Turtle Twister, that merry-go-round was a Lazy Susan.

“This is sooooo funnnnnn!” I yelled, laughing way too loud as our turtle swished uncontrollably to the left, trying to convince the girls that this was, in fact, fun, and not what happens when people die.

“Yaaaay!” 5-year-old Blair yelled and, because she is her father’s daughter, she meant it. The car, at the time, was in a tail-spin, rotating 14 times, 15 times, 16 times at such speed that the centrifugal force pushed us against the back of the car. I swore my skull had started to expand. I let go of the bar and reached my arms out in a T, bracing my hands flat against the inside of the turtle’s cheeks, as if my arms alone could stop the pain.

“Wheeeeee!” I yelled, thinking about only two things: The very orange BBQ potato chips, and Drew. Because Drew wasn’t not yelling “Yay!” She was not yelling anything. She’d folded in on her little 3-year-old self, crouching into my right side, surely wondering how a mother who claimed to love her could possibly allow The Turtle Twister to exist in what she’d just discovered was a cruel, cruel world.

“Close your eyes,” I whispered to Drew.

“Soooo fuuuun!” I yelled to Blair.

“It’ll be over soon,” I whispered to Drew.

“This is coooooool!” I yelled to Blair, certain that, since we'd been on The Turtle Twister for approximately 37 hours, barf was nigh. I calculated our speed, the spin, the likelihood of splatter.

Then I heard it…the clang of the engine turning off. The speed of the ride slowed. Our turtle did not. It kept twisting. And twisting. And twisting. Even when we came to a stop, the turtle refused to release us, twisting and twisting until the 16-year-old grabbed hold of the edge of its green turtle mouth and forced it to submit.

Blair didn’t want to get off.

I didn’t either, but for entirely different reasons.

Drew didn’t know what she wanted, not until the girl lifted the bar and reached in to grab her hand and help her climb out. Drew did not take the hand, but stared into her eyes, long and hard. She blamed the girl. I could see it. It was wrong to blame the girl. And I might have explained that to Drew, if I wasn't so happy that she was blaming the girl, and not me. Blame that girl! Evil turtles! Evil girl! But blame alone wasn't enough for Drew. She had a message to deliver.

“That," she told evil turtle girl, "was not fun.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scorn on the Fourth of July

It wasn’t clear to me, really, how to prepare a two-year-old for sitting outside, on a blanket, in the dark of night, in a place you’ve never been before, with lots and lots of other people you don’t know sitting all around you, on blankets, waiting for someone or something—you weren’t sure which, exactly—to shoot explosives into the sky.

Poor Drew.

She didn’t understand. She didn’t think she needed to. We were her parents. We wouldn’t put her in harm’s way. We always brought a sweatshirt in case she got cold, a snack-bag filled with Chex Mix, a built-in lap where she could sit, which was where she was, safe and warm on Daddy’s lap, on the blanket, in the dark, in the neighborhood park, when she caught her first glimpse of the end of the world.


How would she know this gigantic noise at a volume she never even knew existed, which caused every person she could see to drop back their heads and stare stonerly into the black sky, was the start of something good?

“Wha dat?” she asked. No one answered. There was no time to explain. Everyone on our blanket—mommy, daddy, two grown-up friends, 4-year-old big-sister Blair—was already calculating a solution to the problem at hand: Enormous four-story-tall sequoia blocking view. Must move.  


Drew covered her ears this time, then looked up at the tree, suddenly back-lit by firecracker light, making it look like a massive alien monster…that was on fire.

“Look there! THERE!” she heard Mommy scream, as I pointed to a small clearing—a clearing I knew that every mother on every blanket in the shadow of the sequoia from hell had spotted, and was strategizing a way to transport her brood to it.

Drew watched as Blair, like a 36-pound bullet in purple monkey jammies, sprinted off in the direction her mother was pointing. Toward the sound. Toward that glowing monster tree. For all Drew knew, she would never see her sister again.
“Go! Go! Go!” She heard her mother yell, as Daddy scooped her up under his arm, his other hand dragging the blanket like a wounded comrade. Mommy cut hard to the left, blocking out a family of five with an unnaturally small dog, then to the right, zipping past an old couple that couldn’t figure out how to fold up their portable golf chairs.
“Follow me! NOW” her mother yelled again. And we all picked up speed, sweaty and desperate, leaving our half-drunk water bottles, our snack bags of Cheese-its, our Bud Light Limes we’d snuck there in Styrofoam cozies, heading toward the clearing, as if running for the last helicopter out of Saigon.  
Then Drew saw Blair, standing in a small patch of grass, looking up to the sky, her mouth hanging open, arms stretching out into a T, as if her tiny wingspan could save enough space for us all.   
Daddy set Drew down, and she grabbed her blankie, which was truly the only thing she could count on in life anymore. She trotted over to her sister, and looked up. And she saw it. She saw it.

Her thumb dropped from her mouth and the word snuck out in a whisper:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Birthdays Are My Weakness

We had our first-ever birthday party for Blair last weekend. Her first real birthday party. At a place. That we paid for. With lots and lots and lots of money.

For the past five years, I’ve been feeling like a turd in a punchbowl, while Blair opened invitation after invitation, year after year, for the capital-B-Birthday Parties my friends were throwing for their kids. The first birthday at Gymboree! The second at Little Gym! Three at The Discovery Museum! Four in the Oval Office for a marbled quarter-sheet with Barack and Joe!

The most exciting thing I’d done? Invited kids to the house to decorate party hats with pipe cleaners. At least I made lunch. (The rainbow Jell-O mold took almost a whole day, but I couldn’t have looked at myself in the mirror if I’d skimped my little Blair out of having both a purple layer and a violet layer.) All along, I told Thad: “Five is a special year. We’ll make five special. We’ll blow it up at five.”

And blow it up we did.

The plan: Fourteen girls. Two hours. A place called Enchanted Dreams—Blair had never been there or even heard about it or even knew such a place existed outside of Orlando—where kids get to dress up in princess costumes, and not those crappy, flammable, dollar-store ones, but satin and silk flower-girl-level gowns with bows and lace and ribbon and sparkles that likely cost more than my wedding dress. Three staff—THREE!—would run the entire party, singing songs, teaching the hula, making a personalized necklace for Blair with beads that all of her friends “made wishes” on.

In the end, it would cost $500. But it would be epic.

When I sent out the evite, my friends wrote back, excitedly:

“Which princess are you getting?” I immediately felt turdlike again. Not only had their daughters been to parties at Enchanted Dreams before, but they’d been to parties where the parents opted to hire someone to dress as a Disney Princess for the low, low additional cost of $119.

“We’re not having a princess,” I said.

“Oh,” they said.

Turd mom. Mom turd. Turdy turdy turdy.

But, then, the day arrived. And Blair walked through the front door of Enchanted Dreams, past the huge sign, surrounded by balloons, that read, “Happy Birthday Blair!” And she put on a pink flowered dress with pink butterfly wings and a pink jeweled tiara. And her friends came and got dressed in ribbons and satin. I tried to help Blair into another dress, but one of the women on the staff said, “No no! You don’t have to do anything! Sit down! Relax!” Just before I walked to the back of the room where the other moms were snacking on cheese doodles, Blair whispered to me: “This is the coolest.”

I thought it was the coolest, too. For about a half hour. Then, as I watched my mother tiptoe around with the video camera, capturing "Blair’s Fifth Birthday Party" across the room, it suddenly seemed to be happening 100 miles away. Blair was over there, doing her thing. We were over here, not a part of it. That’s where our lives were heading. It was inevitable, I knew. It would happen soon. In five years. In three. In two. Sitting on the white lacquered chair, eating a piece of princess cake that I didn’t even cut, I thought to myself, Not yet.

“What was your favorite part?” I asked Blair as we drove home in the minivan.

“The cake!” she said.

“I mean, what was your favorite part of the party,” I asked.

“The presents!”

“What about the party part? The dress-up? The songs?”

“I wish it would have been funner,” she said.

Next year, I thought to myself, it will be. Cake. Presents. Pipe cleaners. The works.