Over the Rainbow

OverTheRainbowBack in early July, I was on the edge. By Aug 1, I had reached the end of my rope. About a week later, I lost my grip and then sailed clear over the rainbow. And now, I’m headed off the deep end and picking up speed.

Why, you ask.

Because of the Wicked Witches. You know East, the misguided fashionista with the socks and dress shoes; and her sister West, eerie pallor, voice that could cut glass; or as they’re known in our house, the five TVs and the pile of laptops, tablets, and smartphones diabolically strewn about the kitchen counter, respectively.

Let Me Explain

I don’t just have smart phones. I also have smart kids. This is not a bragging point. It’s a lament. And come August, it’s a cry for mercy because as any parent with smart, and therefore insatiably curious and pathologically verbose children knows, smart kids are the universe’s gift to smart-mouthed parents, and the idle days of summer are when it really likes to drive the point home.

If you’re at all familiar with my column, then you know I have a pretty smart mouth. And if you’re new, please review all previous posts. Then hold onto your hat and take solace in the fact that I get EXACTLY what I deserve: two adorable members of the lollipop guild who indiscriminately absorb every wacko tidbit of celebrity gossip, opinion disguised as fact, marketing jingle, sound bite and piece of media-sponsored crapola they can get their sticky little, iPad-wielding hands on. They’re like super-sponges sucking up whatever touches them with no regard for logic, taste, or propriety.

Note I said, absorb, not process. No child can actually process the terrifying horde of cultural jetsam heaving all over the Internet and TV on a daily basis. Instead like baby birds, they expect me to swallow it all for them, and then spit it back into their little heads in small digestible bites. Problem is that by end of summer, I choke.

Caitlin and Botox and Trump, Oh My!

Beginning just after dawn and continuing well past the witching hour, my little ones lob a Technicolor tornado of surreal, often confused questions at me rapid-fire:

  • Do Caitlin Jenner’s kids still get to call her Dad now that he’s turned into a Kardashian? Would Daddy let us? Can we ask him?
  • Why are the women in the Schick commercial standing behind those weird shrubs? What does gardening have to do with shaving?
  • If getting Botox in your head stops you from having to wash your hair after the gym, would getting it in your whole body mean you never have to take a bath again? Can I try it? Is it expensive? More or less than what’s in my college account?
  • Do you think Josh Duggar is Honey Boo Boo’s real dad? Or maybe Jared the Subway guy? Wait… Are they the same person?
  • Does Donald Trump really like his hair or is he just being stubborn about combing out that rat’s nest? Why doesn’t his mother make him? Would you?
  • Is Ashley Madison Ben Affleck’s nanny or his wife? Which one did he cheat on?
  • Do you think Miss Piggy and Kermit will get back together? If they did, could they use IVF to have a baby? What color would the baby be? Mom, where’s the pink and green paint?

My heads spinning, I escape to the bathroom with my little dog George and my iPhone to Google methods for growing poppies under children’s beds.

Pay No Attention to the Woman Behind the Shower Curtain

Ok, I hear you: Who was it that gave them the iPads and TVs in the first place? Way back in rosy June, who jauntily declared to her wary husband that there’s no such thing as bedtime in summer? Who purchased that online subscription to Vanity Fair because it featured pre-split, pre-rehab and therefore decidedly more attractive Jon Hamm than current boozing, fear-of-commitment Jon Hamm? Who taught those little munchkins to read? And to talk for that matter?

Me. All me. I don’t have a cowardly, tin leg filled with straw to stand on.

I could try to drop a house on my five TVs and pour a big bucket of water over that pile on the counter. I mean if I’m going off the deep end, I might as well take whatever I can with me. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure my editor won’t accept fingernail etchings on the wall of a padded cell as copy, so I’m going to have to think.

Outside the Shoe Box

I happen to have a fabulous pair of ruby red shoes made by the wizard himself, Jimmy Choo. And while I can’t click my 4-inch heels together without risking serious bodily harm, I can slip them on, shut my eyes, and repeat:

There’s no place like school… There’s no place like school… There’s no place like school…

Hey look! Just like magic, here comes the big yellow school bus that will take my children to the place where all their questions will be answered…

At least until 3 o’clock when the damn thing circles back.

Happy September and Welcome back to the Bus Stop!


NJ Horror Story

The Scream from Inside

In the immortal words of Stu in The Hangover Part II: I have a demon in me.

No, I don’t have a penchant for hookers. This is much, much worse. I am possessed by the Demon of Brutal Honesty, a monster whose mere presence can turn an innocent and virtuous social exchange into a violent, blood splattered horror show.

I try to control her, but I can’t. Or more like I think I can, but then she jumps out when I least expect it.  Like some horror flick heroine standing on the front lawn in her nightgown calling for her recently dismembered boyfriend (“Jimmy?”) and desperately clinging to the idea that Jimmy’s fine and the arm she found on the front porch belongs to someone else– perhaps a high school prankster with with easy access to cadavers– I’m in denial. Then I catch a glimpse of my reflection in someone else’s eyes and it hits me like a chainsaw.

She’s heee-ere.

But it’s too late. The massacre has already begun.

Let me explain

Last week, I attended a cocktail party where I met a gentleman with a very obvious and very recent hair transplant— recent as in 30 or so stitches and staples across his forehead. I sensed danger and considered making an exit with the excuse that’s been working for me since 9th grade gym class– cramps. But of course I didn’t because then there wouldn’t be a story. Besides we were only talking about 80’s sitcoms, not exactly a shed full of machetes and hockey masks.

What could possibly go wrong?

Family Ties, Silver Spoons, Diff’rent Strokes and its glorious spinoff, The Facts of Life— please hold while I enjoy a mental montage of a young, mulleted George Clooney in plaid (if you’d care to join me and need an assist, click his name and view the slide show on GQ)– we should have been as safe as houses. (Perhaps an abandoned house on a dark lane after our car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, but I digress.) And we were, until we got to Growing Pains. (This is the point when our heroine hears a scream and decides to check it out. “Jimmy, are you out here?)

Now, a non-demonically challenged person would have mentioned the little known fact that Boner, played by the late Andrew Koenig, was the son of Walter Koenig, Chekov on the original Star Trek. Then she would have made the conversational layup to discuss Alan Thicke’s woebegone son, Robin. (Watch for a post called Bad Miley Mojo: how twerking Miley-Cyrus-infested teddy bears creates bad karma.) And then speaking of bats crazy, she could have easily segued, did you know that Kirk Cameron allegedly became a born-again Christian during the filming of Like Father, Like Son because he witnessed Dudley Moore having a delusional episode and believed he was in the presence of God?

But no, our heroine does not put on pants and a bra, grab a bat and a swig of Daddy’s brandy to do battle with the demon. Our little brain trust chews her hair and wanders half-naked into the tool shed with how she recently heard that Kirk Cameron** suffers from male pattern baldness. (“Jimmy, why are you wearing a hockey mask?”) And that she really admires him for just embracing it because it must have been such a blow to have been famous for all that sexy, curly hair– Remember those Tiger Beat covers?– and then to just lose it all. She wonders aloud if it was this narcissistic injury that drove him to such bizarre religious zealotry.

(“Jimmy, put down that chainsaw. This isn’t funny any more!”)

But, she continues, good for him for NOT DOING ANYTHING STUPID TO HIS HEAD!!!!

Primal shrieks of terror. Blood splatters across the screen. End scene.

(Let me know when you uncover your eyes.)

The aftermath

The entire guest list was just about to run screaming into the cul-de-sac when the man touched his head and smiled. Then he spoke:

I couldn’t agree with you more, Mrs. Fisher. I had some benign tumors removed a few weeks ago and I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would do this to themselves voluntarily. I still look like Frankenstein, but for a while there, I felt like him too. You’re very funny. Let me introduce you to my bride…

Then he laughed.

Honesty demon thwarted. Party guests cheer. Roll credits.

The stinger

Now that I’ve voluntarily chained myself to the basement wall with my laptop and a box of Krispy Kreme donuts and you’re feeling deliciously safe, I want you to recall that I spent the last 30-something years topside and in that time, I spawned…

Through me, the demon could only strike down one or two people in her physical presence, but the new generation has enhanced capabilities, social CGI if you will. Through them, the demon can use a single MMS, tweet, Facebook or Instagram post to annihilate millions.

They’re cute and they walk among you, so beware:

Honesty may be a b-tch, but assumption is the mother of all f-ck-ups.


** The demon will use a lie to expose a more brutal truth. Kirk Cameron is not actually bald. 

Bacon Happens

BaconHappens2I had an epiphany this week while standing in front of the organic meat case in ShopRite: No matter how it’s sliced, bacon doesn’t really come from the supermarket. Whether it’s a pig, a cow, seven whole grains on a mission, or a scientist at Kraft who works with that orange powder (Look for my forthcoming piece, Dying for Mac & Cheese: the extreme sport of food science). The truth is that something or someone had to die so I could live. Despite all the fancy packaging, super-marketing, and propaganda to disguise this fact, dress it up, and convince me otherwise, there’s no getting around reality. Bacon happens.

Let me explain

My oldest child is about to enter the age of “this will look good on your transcript.” All around her the pressure has been mounting. Grades, activities, sports, music, charity, leadership—more and more I’ve been hearing these words batted around the carpool lane along with, “Which high schools are you applying to? Or are you just going to go public?” The “Tiger Mothers” are on the prowl, and I gotta tell ya, the livestock is lookin’ nervous.

At first glance, the goals seem positive, loving even. We only want our children to be well rounded or pointy, as they say in admissions department, to be really good at lots of things or the absolute best at one thing. We believe that’s the route to the best high school and the best college, and eventually the best job, partner, house, etc. We gave our children the gift of life, and we want that gift to be the best. (By definition a gift that includes suffering, failure, defeat, humiliation, pain or death is pretty crappy—as in Christmas stocking-filled with ebola-crappy.) It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and we don’t want our children to end up as bacon or whatever the hell is in Beggin’ Strips.

But despite Stephenie Meyer’s claim in Twilight, pain-free immortality doesn’t come with an Ivy League diploma. (For the Twi-challenged, Edward wanted Bella to go to Dartmouth BEFORE he turned her into an immortal.) Plus I called Dartmouth admissions. And guess what? Not only does bacon happen, it happens even to the best of us.

From farm to circus

Every afternoon the roads are filled with our SUVs and minivans, all stuffed like clown-cars with nitrous-powered rollerblades, harpsichords, flaming juggling balls, heli-skis, string theory textbooks, kids and parents all jumping through the same flaming hoops because somehow we’ve all gotten it into our heads that life in the circus is better than life on the farm.

But is it?

A life dedicated to the entertainment of the mob is, at best, a soulless existence. (Watch Gladiator if you don’t believe me.) And at worst, it’s a lifelong exercise in physical and psychological torture. (Google Michael Jackson for more info or click his name to link out to the NY Times article on his death.) And if that doesn’t deep-fry your Twinkie, let’s consider what happens to the animals who can’t jump any more or won’t. Hint: it involves the purchase of a farm where the slops are laced with Propofol.

So if the farm and the circus ultimately bring us to the same savory end, why do we do the things we do? For love of the activity or in the name of some misguided delusion that bacon only comes from the pigs who didn’t apply themselves? I have to ask myself:

  • Is my son practicing his accordion 19 hours a day because he loves carnival music and dreams of having a monkey crap on his shoulder while strangers throw coins at him on a subway platform? Or is it because music helps with math and will make him well-rounded?
  • Is my daughter beating the snot out of her accordion-playing brother because in addition to that God-awful music, he makes burp and fart noises in the background whenever she FaceTimes her BFF? Or is it that Harvard has an obscure female boxing team and if at 5’ 2” she can throw a punch like Manny Pacquiao, she’ll be pointy?
  • Are my children skipping recess and gym to take astrophysics and quantum mechanics because they’re Star Trek-obsessed and hell-bent on building a warp drive engine in the backyard out of spare lawn mower parts and an Ironman nightlight? Or is it just to show an admissions committee that they’ve been ready for college-level hoops, I mean work, since grade school?

In all cases, I hope it’s the former, but I’m mom enough to admit it’s probably the latter. And so the time has come to strip away the wrapping that makes life seem so rosy and perfect and consider what I’ve really given my children.

The Present

Take away the lovely packaging and super-marketing about what might be, and we’re left with what is, i.e. the present. Children shouldn’t be round or pointy because life will never be smooth enough for them to roll or shoot through it with ease. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

In the immortal words of Winona Ryder,Reality bites,” so, kids, let’s drop astrophysics and quantum mechanics, throw that God-awful accordion into the fireplace*, and get out the frying pan.

Bacon happens, so Mama’s gonna teach you to fry eggs!

*She seems to truly enjoy hitting her brother, so that will no doubt continue.

For more on this topic, check out Excellent Sheep: the miseducation of the american elite and the way to a meaningful life by former Yale professor William Deresiewicz

(Originally published and reposted from http://www.parenthoodnj.com)

Coffee Table Books and Gasoline

CoffeeTableBooksThey say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but that’s crap. The road to hell is paved with coffee table books.

Like you, I’m a 21st century American woman, the progeny of baby boomers, a generation who according to Stephen King could have changed the world, but instead invented the Home Shopping Network. I was born to shop. I’ve spent my entire life and most of my money on furniture, décor, bric-a-brac, trinkets, novelty items, souvenirs, ingenious kitchen gadgets likea turbo-charged melon baller and propane-powered pastry bag, fake plants, live plants (Well, live plants with a death wish. Look out for a post on why my house might be designated Plant Hospice by the American Horticultural Society) and way too many coffee table books.

No one ever reads coffee table books. Their only purpose is to sit still, look pretty, and spread wide if a guest shows the faintest interest. They’re the whores of home ownership. It’s my job to lay them out and make sure they’re clean enough for strangers to touch, and that’s why I’m in hell. I’m the damned whoremaster. But no more!

Let me explain
For the past few weeks, I’ve been bingeing on late night TV, mostly reruns of Hoarders: Buried Alive and my newest obsession, Tiny House Nation.

Hoarders has been around for a while. I’m sure you’re familiar. Crazy people in filthy houses– filthy as in I-found-your-dead-cat-stuffed-behind-the rotting-feces-laden-fridge– on the verge of being condemned who reply to the cat news with statements like: Don’t throw out that body. I need it for the dead cat quilt I’m planning to make.

So cool.

But Tiny House Nation is new and it’s a small-screen revelation, crazier than Dating Naked, and requiring way bigger balls. People, like full-size grown people with kids and jobs and pets, build a 150 square foot “house”—for the mathematically challenged that’s a 10’ x 15’ room—throw away 90% of their belongings, 100 % of their privacy, and then LIVE IN THE DAMN THING!!!

So crazy, but it got me thinking about my situation…

Pretty, big, and a little nauseating
I live in a pretty big house on a pretty big piece of property. And well…it’s pretty… and big. But do I really need all this?

I mean we only range from 4 to 6 feet tall. We’re just not that big. And we gave up all the big, space-eating hobbies years ago– yurt construction, mechanical bull riding, and combine demolition derby.

Plus we’ve been together since we were teenagers and still, nauseatingly enough, do that obsessive romantic Bella-and-Edward-always-have-to-be-touching-each-other-thing. Every night, I watch TV in my husband’s lap. The two of us take up no more than 18 inches on the corner of an eight-foot sofa in a 576 square foot room with 3 club chairs, 4 (count ‘em!) coffee tables (stacked with coffee table books), 2 ladder-back chairs, 3 barstools, and 1 ottoman. That’s a lot for two people who sit on top of each other and two kids who prefer the floor.

Surrounding the big house we have a big lawn. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. We’re not farmers. We don’t have any animals to graze. (Notthat you could with the cocktail ChemLawn uses. We’d probably end up with 9-headed sheep, but I digress.) The point is all we’ve ever done with our big lawn is look at it… ‘cause, you know, it’s pretty.

“But what about the children?” you say, sounding eerily like my mother-in-law. “They need to run, play, be free.”

I agree, but they prefer the park because it’s got other kids. Not to mention the endless bike paths, the acre of state-of-the-art playground equipment, soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and a duck pond. All we have at our house is unnaturally green grass that may or may not cause birth defects in sheep.

“Slow down, Sweetie,” you say, this time sounding more like my mother. “It’s pretty.”

Ok, but what’s my house going to do with its good looks? Attract another house filled with crap, get married, and have baby houses filled with more crap? Isn’t that what spawned mobile parks? That’s just taking the lid off.

The road back
In Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (What? I channel-surf during commercials.), there’s a scene where a father tells his troubled adult daughter about hell and the good intentions crap.

When she demands, “What about the road back? What’s that paved with?” he sagely tells her, “Humility.” And with that, she begins to let go of her baggage.

It’s a pivotal scene and I love James Garner (I’d follow him and his nifty notebook anywhere), but I’m afraid humility just isn’t going to cut it this time. I need something with a little more kick to wipe this big-ass slate clean.

The latex gloves are on. The dumpster is here. And the Salvation Army has been called. It’s time to dump the hoard (starting with the slutty coffee table books in the middle of my big carcinogenic lawn), dowse it with holy water, recycling stickers, or gasoline—whatever’s handy—and just let it go.

I wonder if a 6’ x 9’ cell counts as a tiny house. They let you blog in prison, right?

(Originally published and reposted from http://www.parenthoodnj.com)

The N-Word

I have something to tell you and you’re not gonna like it. (This is the line I’ve been using to break-up with boyfriends since the 7th grade when poor Matt G. gave me gladiolas instead of tulips for Valentine’s Day—a fatal mistake in any relationship. It’s not very poetic, but it speaks truth and cuts to the chase, which are two things I’m obviously now trying to avoid by blathering on about break-up lines and old boyfriends.)

No, I’m not breaking up with you. I’m making a confession, revealing something dark and ugly about myself, bringing to light the hideous blight upon my soul at the risk of being shunned from upper-middle class, American housewife society like some rebellious Amish kid on TLC begging to return to piety and barn-raising after a glorious year in the back alley of a Pittsburgh strip club.

I’m risking it all, sacrificing myself on the altar of public opinion, giving up my socially acceptable, soccer-kit-toting existence so that you, my faithful readers, might live. Ok… enough stalling… Here goes.

I use the n-word. I use the n-word A LOT.

Like every day, all the time, in all kinds of situations. I use it with my husband. I use it with my kids. I use it with my parents, with other people’s parents, with coaches and teachers, baristas and preachers. I use it with cheerleaders and girl scouts and junior varsity fire-breathing clubs peddling baked goods outside my grocery store to raise funds for pom-poms, vests, and fire extinguishers. I’m the Sam-I-Am of the n-word. I’m Jimmy Buffett’s blender with the lid off spewing the n-word all over Margaritaville. (Quietly of course. Politely. I’m not one to make a scene.) But on any given day, in any situation, I’ll just whip it out and spray the n-word all over the nearest person and without any guilty aftertaste. I’m shameless. I admit it.

In fact, I’m going to use it now. Ready? (If you have a heart condition, you may want to close your eyes.)


NO, I won’t volunteer to make 400 pounds of gluten-free orange play-doh for your Halloween party. NO, you may not install a zip-line from your bed to the bathtub. NO, I’m not going to join the amateur tackle Mah-Jongg charity league. NO, I won’t reschedule my root canal for 6 AM, so you can make your tee time. NO, you may not build your own harp in the garage. NO, we’re not getting a Narwhal for your fish tank or a Kimodo dragon for the back yard. And NO, you may not have any pet that requires live food. No, No, and once more with feeling… NO!

My name is Christen Fisher and I’m an upper-middle class American housewife who says NO on a regular basis.

Are you shocked?
Are you horrified?
Are you renouncing our friendship?

Tearing up the virtual contract between writer and reader, blogger and commenter?

Are you titillated? Tempted?
…maybe just a little?

It’s September and this post is obscenely late. You want to know why? Can your heart take it? It’s because I didn’t say the n-word enough. Well, NO more.

Attention fellow Carpool Mavens, Basketball Betties, Soccer-Mom She-Ras with autumn calendars that make the president’s schedule look a little sparse: I implore you to give it a try. Let go of the guilt. You know you want to. Do it tonight. Do it all night. Let’s start a revolution!

****Unless of course, it’s cocktail hour, in which case I’d like to revise my answer please.

(And now back to your regularly scheduled blog posts.)

(Originally published and reposted from http://www.parenthoodnj.com)

In The Cracks

MOMWhen my editor suggested I put my “unique spin” on an old topic, “how to get stuff done with kids,” I replied honestly: Short post. I don’t. I know one of us thought that was funny.

Let Me Explain

I’m a writer, and like most writers who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, I live for stories in any form—TV, movies, books—but as kid, it was movies. I was obsessed. I wanted to be Ally in The Karate Kid, Cindy in Can’t Buy Me Love, Casey in Mad About You, or Sloane in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. In short, not unlike a lot of teenage girls, I wanted to be the girlfriend, the object of some boy’s desire.

I watched those movies again and again, studied hard and eventually got the part, more than once actually. Five proms, one town beauty pageant (which I ironically won with a poignant essay about identity), and four years of college later– where in addition to getting the guy, I wrote and studied literature– I gave up a room of my own for a house in the suburbs.

My Oh Sh-t! Moment

Then one day I was watching a movie when my newborn’s diaper exploded all over my lap, and it hit me like a ton of… well, you know: Ally, Cindy, Casey, and Sloane are terrible characters, profoundly limited and underdeveloped in every way. They may be objects of desire, but that’s all they are, objects.

Ferris ran off to succeed in business without really trying; Daniel-san is now a clumsy sad-sack on Dancing With the Stars (Watch for post entitled: Why Dancing with the Stars should be called Dancing with the Black Holes); Not sure what happened to that Joey guy; McDreamy is a brain surgeon and all I’ve done is have his baby! Wait a sec—two of his babies! I was alone, covered in shit, and only just now reading the fine print of my deal:

As you age, you will receive an automatic demotion to sit-com mom, an existence as limited and underdeveloped as your previous role, but with no reason or occasion to ever be desirable. In addition, love is not returnable; he’s not a kid anymore—karate or otherwise—and neither are you; he may not always be mad about you; and you’re the mommy. There are no days off.

Did I really sign my life away to become some trite brunette who loves Raymond and his vague kids?

The Options

I told myself not to panic. I’m young. I have options.

  • I could do what Ally did: Ditch Daniel or whoever the heck Tom Cruise played in Cocktail and run off to Vegas to become a hooker. I might have to endure a horrific gang rape or two, but eventually I’ll get promoted to Crime Scene Investigator specializing in blood splatter. I already have a lot of experience in vomit and poop splatter. How different could it be? Whore to star is a well-worn path thanks to the Kardashians, but the whole thing seems a little outside my comfort zone.
  • I could consult with Mr. Miyagi. After all, he took on Hilary Swank in that horrible sequel. I could paint some fences, polish some cars, and do some crane kicks on a rowboat to learn balance. Of course Pat Morita is dead. I doubt he’s taking on new students.
  • Then I thought of Carl Jung. (No, not the coke guy Johnny Depp played. That was George Jung.) I mean Carl Jung the analyst. There is a book by one of his female colleagues called The Way of All Women. It details the rewards and pitfalls of being a woman, including this sense of being typecast, and stresses that a woman should seek to develop all facets of her personality. While each woman will choose to focus more in one area than another, like career instead of motherhood or vice-versa, she should not be limited by her choice. In other words, she should strive to be both Tom Cruise’s girlfriend and a Vegas prostitute (Are you listening, Katie Holmes?), or in my case, a wife/mother and a writer.

But, my lovely editor says, the question wasn’t if we should do something, it’s how. How do you get stuff done with kids?


No, not the kind you smoke. I hear it takes your life up with it. And not the kind I like to make, although that too has its place. I’m referring to the crack that occurs in each day. It may not be a whole room of your own, but it’s enough space to fit in a little of yourself: like in grocery line where I email myself story ideas and snips of dialog; on the nights when I can’t sleep so I sit at my desk sketching out novel chapters and writing children’s stories; or at the bus stop where I write my illustrious blog posts.

Motherhood is a long phase, but it is just a phase and there will be life after it ends. I try to look back fondly on my time playing “the girlfriend,” cherish the role I have now as wife and mother, and look forward to the Meryl Streep/Diane Keaton days ahead. And in the meantime, I keep writing even if it’s only in the cracks.

(Originally published and reposted from http://www.parenthoodnj.com)

Bar Maggots

IMG_1179In high school, I experimented with fruit flies. It was gross and a complete waste of time. Fortunately, I’ve blocked most of the memory. In college, I experimented with bar flies. It was an immersion program, and yielded similar results, including some memory loss. But after school ended, I assumed my education through insect experimentation was over as I suspect most people do, save the rogue entomologist or committed alcoholic. And it was, a recent weekend when I discovered education never ends.

Let Me Explain
My husband and I belong to a dating service called HowAboutWe. It finds and recommends dates for us to go ON, not WITH—get your mind out of the gutter and watch your prepositions—in the NY/NJ-area. So far, we’ve taken a class on graffiti art, attended the Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival, and played Drag Queen Bingo. Recently, we toured a distillery in Brooklyn.

As you’ve probably figured out, I’m no teetotaler, but in a pinch you could sub straight Drano for gin in my cocktail and I probably wouldn’t taste the difference. This was more of a husband-centric date. He went to Drag Queen Bingo, so I tour a distillery. Quid pro quo, Clarice. Quid pro quo.

Anyway, after the tour, we were invited to the distillery’s adjoining bar to enjoy the two free drinks that came with our booking. The bar was swarming with the types of bearded and floral romper-clad hipsters one expects to see on a Saturday night in Brooklyn. What we didn’t expect was the line of strollers against the wall or the woman nursing her infant in the unisex bathroom who replied, “No prob. Just pee,” when I tried to spare our mutual dignity by offering to come back later.

The buzz in the place was too loud for my husband and I to have a meaningful discussion about the stroller anomaly or my unique unisex experience. We only managed to crack our favorite Reese Wither-cism: “Look at you. You have a baby… in a bar,” and have a laugh before the deafening horde forced us back into parallel observation.

The Hypotheses
Over dinner—in Manhattan at a grown-ups-only steakhouse—we attempted to explain these phenomena. I offered that our own kids had been seen many a time running around the bar of our local tavern while we waited for a table. But, my husband pointed out, this place had no dining area and no food offerings whatsoever, except for the one in the bathroom, but that service seemed only available to a select crowd. And if it wasn’t, that’s a topic for another blog. (Look out for a Breast is Best for Everyone: how to solve world hunger according to The Grapes of Wrath post in the future.) There was also the Lena Dunham doppelganger who took an embarrassingly long time to tie a cherry stem in a knot with her tongue, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone eat what she was offering.

My husband countered that it was, “probably just World Cup Soccer shit.” Since not everyone speaks his particular brand of shorthand, I’ll translate: People in apartments don’t always invest in wall-size flat panels like we do in the suburbs, Honey. And even if they do, their walls are a lot smaller. Having 30 of your Vuvuzela-toting besties over to watch the match is probably a violation of the lease, if not the fire code. But, I quickly pointed out this place had no TV and no Wi-Fi. Hell, even the cell service kept showing up as E. I don’t know what that means, but it’s probably not the network.

Infinite Possibilities
Over the courses of a delightfully quiet dinner, our list of possible explanations expanded exponentially reaching far into spheres political, psychological, and medical.

  • It’s some kind of government-sponsored thing we’ll soon be reading about in the journals—Urbandaddy and New York Magazine. No child left behind, so let’s move… to a bar.
    It could be a members meeting of the FAA– Future Alcoholics Anonymous—because a shot of prevention is worth a pilsner of cure.
  • Or scientists have decreed that by putting a toddler down on a sticky-for-God-knows-what-reason barroom floor or nursing your infant next to a clogged, and therefore foamy, urinal you’re exposing it to a level of bacteria so pervasive it will force the immune system to function at a superhuman level so that the next generation will be able to leap tall venereal diseases in a single round of antibiotics without running the risks of vaccination.
  • The possibilities are infinite, but let’s go back to high school and consider Occam’s Razor (yes, I took AP classes): the simplest explanation is usually…

The Correct One
This was a bar, not a restaurant, not a sports bar. Just a bar. With a buzz. And all that bar buzzing means these creatures are barflies, unrecognizable to me because I had never before seen them at this stage of their life cycle. Those babies on the floor and next to the foamy urinal are not anomalous. As the progeny of their barfly parents, they are precisely typical. Being baby barflies or barflies in their larval stage would make a bar their natural habitat.

What do you call larvae in a bar?**

See? The learning never stops.
**Note: for those who failed Bio, see title for answer.

(Originally posted and republished here from http://www.parenthoodnj.com)

Deep-Fried Twinkies

The toughest part of being a parent isn’t the sleepless nights, the never-ending expenses, the time constraints, the fact that your childless friends never get it, or the fact that you never get any. All of that is more or less tolerable. You get used to it. Besides, there’s always an activity you can sign up for like luge for preschoolers or mommy-and-me fire breathing lessons, where a group of parents will inevitably form an impromptu support group to help you bear those crosses with cocktails, if not grace.

The toughest part, the part that will deep-fry your Twinkie, is the paperwork.

Let Me Explain

It’s mid-June. By suburbia standards, I’m behind the eight ball when it comes to summer camp sign-ups. In general, I like my 10- and 6-year-old to run free like wild horses. Lots of good turnout keeps them mellow and happy, but Momma needs some sanity — not to mention time to generate an income stream to support their bucolic existence — so we do local half-day recreation camp.

This should be an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy proposition—a form, a check, shaken until ice cold, and served with thin slice of lemon. Note I said SHOULD BE, not was. Because it wasn’t. It took me two days, 55 phone calls, two trips to the doctor, a half a bottle of vodka, and it’s not over yet.

First, the camp application—yes, application– was longer than all of my college applications combined. Granted, I only applied to schools that didn’t require an essay or mission statement, but I digress. I dutifully filled out page after page refraining from a rant about why they needed me to write my phone number 900 times like it’s a password and if I don’t write it the same way, the fraud police will show up and lock me out.

Next, I ran to the doctor for copies of my children’s vaccination records. This one I get, public health and all that. I was tempted to check the religious exemption box, but then I noticed it said: proof of religion required. We’re Catholic so the only vaccination we oppose is one that prevents you from putting money into the collection basket. Plus, the proof has to come from a doctor. I’m not sure how a doctor attests to one’s religious beliefs, but again I digress. (Keep an eye out for a Dr. Oz: Cult Leader and Spawn of Oprah post in the future.)

And then came the kicker: a form to be filled out and signed by a physician stating that each child has recently been examined and is certified to have no allergies, asthma, a third eye, no more than 11 fingers or toes, or a forked tongue, and is therefore permitted to participate in outdoor activities.


Not to pull rank, but I am their mother. Isn’t it my job to know these things? Better than anyone? Including the doctor I interviewed and hired—and could fire– to look after the health of said children who incidentally once LIVED inside my body for almost an entire year? Shouldn’t I grant permission?

The Twinkie

I have a child with a summer birthday who has not had a wellness check in almost a year because… HELLO… she’s well. And they can’t use her last check-up because the pediatrician who performed the exam died.

No Joke. He actually died. He was lovely man and a testament to his profession. God rest his soul.

Anyway he’s dead, and it’s illegal for the new pediatrician to sign off on my child’s health based on the dead pediatrician’s chart. He would need to do that himself. Yes, someone actually said this to me.

“So,” you say, sounding annoyingly like my husband, “Just get her wellness check done early so you have legit paperwork.”

Because, Smartycat, insurance won’t cover a wellness visit until AFTER her 11th birthday. Apparently, years ago parents went willy-nilly with wellness checks and cost the medical establishment a fortune. Those careless bastards ruined it for the rest of us.

The Deep Fry

So I have to pay a doctor or resurrect one—Hey! Would that qualify as proof of religion?—to certify that my child is permitted to play outside for a couple of hours, but I can sit that same child in front of a screen with a steady supply of deep-fried Twinkies and Fanta for 23 hours out of the day without anyone’s permission for free? Really? And we wonder why childhood obesity is skyrocketing in this country.

The Final Solution

When I went back to the camp director and read her this post, she graciously suggested the new doctor and I write and attach to the application separate, but equal letters attesting to following:

The original doctor is dead.
Based on the dead doctor’s notes alone, it appears my daughter is fit to play outside.
She will be examined by the new doctor after her 11th birthday and a record of this exam will be sent to the camp.**
With luck, she said, this is will suffice.

I am now kneeling in the Catholic cemetery in East Hanover…working on the letter. What? It’s quiet here.

**Note: My daughter’s birthday and subsequent wellness exam will occur AFTER CAMP ENDS FOR THE SEASON!!

(originally published and reposted from http://www.parenthoodnj.com)