SAHMs Club

At a recent dentist appointment, the receptionist smiled kindly when she discovered I was a stay-at-home mom.

“I could never do that,” she said. “I just couldn’t sit around all day.”

The irony that she was, in fact, sitting was apparently lost on her. As was the fact that for a SAHM, getting your teeth scraped is like a fricking trip to the spa.

But I get it. Before I became a member of SAHMs (Stay-At-Home Moms) Club, I too thought life without paid employment would be a breeze.

No more monster bosses or psychotic co-workers. No office politics, boring meetings, deadlines or demanding clients.

Instead, as a mom I would sit at home with my children all day in a euphoric maternal bliss, reading books, sharing cuddles and occasionally baking s—t.

And don’t get me wrong: SAHMhood has those moments. But they tend to be lumped in between unclogging toilets, killing silverfish, sniffing various pieces of furniture  to pinpoint the source of the urine smell and attempting to fix appliances my daughter thought would run better with the help of glue sticks.

I’m not complaining. This was my choice and an option I am lucky to have. Although this idea that all working mothers would be SAHMs if they could afford it is ridiculous. I know many moms who flat out knew they didn’t want to do the stay-at-home thing and more power to them.

I’m only a SAHM because my kids need me to drive them places. Once they hit 16, I’m thinking of getting my own place.

As for this, “It’s the hardest job in the world” riff, I don’t know. Being a parent is hard, full stop. Staying at home with your kids doesn’t somehow up the ante. The most challenging parts of having kids — the sleepless nights, the constant concern, the anxiety over whether you’re getting it wrong — are there whether you escape to an office every day or not.

And “escape” is probably the wrong word. It’s not really escaping if you’re heading to a job. Unless you are whooping it up with three-martini lunches. In that case I want in.

But just as working parents are actually working, so are SAHMs. I laugh at the term “ladies who lunch” because I hardly ever eat sitting down, let alone in a restaurant. (Also because it sounds vaguely dirty. Amiright?) If you have the time to take a mid-day meal that lasts long enough to become a verb, then you are obviously one of those SAHMs who gets a lot of help around the house, so, you know, f—k you.

Even if most people get that taking care of kids is work, they assume that the days when they are in school are somehow days “off.” I’m not sure why, as I get a grand total of four hours between dropping off the second kid and picking up the first.

I know what working parents are thinking: DO YOU KNOW WHAT I COULD GET DONE WITH FOUR HOURS? The answer is yes, because that’s exactly what I’m doing.

The SAHM of school-age children is like a well-oiled machine, primed to attack a list of chores with the speed and determination of a puma, racing against the clock because she knows there’s no way she’ll be able to scrub cat poop off the shower tiles once her kids get home because she’ll be too busy refereeing a fight over a crayon that’s really not about the crayon but about her offspring’s need for reassurance that she loves them equally even though she has at various times considered listing them both on eBay.

Occasionally I have an abbreviated lunch with a friend. I diligently go to the gym every month. But for the most part my day is spent checking off a to-do list that includes scraping boogers off the couch and killing the roach I promised my son I would capture and rehabilitate so he could keep it as a pet and call it “Cocky.” (“Cocky already had a family,” I’ll explain later, having flushed the f—ker down the toilet.)

And while it’s not easy, I think it’s easier than having to get all those things done and handling the stress of paid employment. Maybe when I’m less sleep deprived the challenge of holding down the home front and dealing with a crazy boss won’t seem so difficult. I doubt it.

What I don’t get is why people think it is such a glamorous position. I never once went the office with peanut butter on my clothes, something I can’t say about my life as a SAHM.

But I’ve decided not to fight the stereotype of the pampered SAHM. Instead I’m going to play up to it, making loud announcements in public such as “I’ve been sleeping until noon every single day and I’m still tired!” or “Now that I get my bon-bons delivered, I no longer have to DVR ‘Days of Our Lives’ while I run to the store!”

Ha-ha! If only. The cat just puked. Gotta go.

What people think my life as a SAHM looks like. (Photo by Rebekah LaCount,
What my life as a SAHM actually looks like: the ill-fated Cocky. (Crappy photo by me.)

Like white on ice

Until recently we haven’t been able to make the sort of outings most families take for granted. Dietary restrictions have made eating out impractical, and sensory overload has ruled out activities such as bowling or fairs.

So when we made our first successful trip to the movies over the summer, I almost cried. This was in part because my children could finally enjoy a normal pleasure of modern childhood and in part because the movie was just awful. The way people rave about children’s movies, I assumed they were all really great. As I sat in the darkened theater watching cartoon characters try to out-hyper each other for laughs, I realized reviewers must have been speaking comparatively. As in, “Wow, unlike that severely irritating piece of crap I went to see last month, ‘Finding Dory’ was good enough that I didn’t want to blind myself with a plastic straw!

It was also interesting to find out that a local church holds its services at that movie theater, a revelation that prompted so many questions. Do they keep the concession stands open? Does the pastor say things like, “If you can feel Jesus in this climate-controlled, stadium-style theater, raise your delicious 64-ounce beverage in the air and say, ‘Amen!’”?

When I found out Disney on Ice was coming to Charlotte, I thought this would be a chance for us to try another fun, “normal” outing. My children were excited because anything Disney makes them happy, although they didn’t understand how a story could be told through skating. (They weren’t wrong.)

So we left our little suburban enclave and headed into the city, where the lobby of the sports arena had been transformed into a copyright extravaganza. Everywhere vendors hawked Disney dolls, shirts, light up wands, glow sticks and — I kid you not — $15 snow cones. We settled for the cheapest item on offer, popcorn, which was so salty I could only eat an entire box.

The show itself was just, well, bizarre.

It started with a group of manic-looking, fresh-scrubbed young skaters warming up the crowd, wearing what I suppose would be considered hip hop clothes, dancing hip hop moves, striking hip hop poses. We’re urban and super cool! seemed to be the message. In a completely non-threatening way!

Next a cheerleading squad skated onto the ice, their costumes garish, their hair styles exaggerated. The one African American skater in the cast wore an enormous afro wig.

This led into a skit about a little girl who played hockey or something, I wasn’t really paying attention because I was trying to shake the last of the popcorn out of my box. There was something about how the little girl might let down her team, which logically led into a brief reenactment of “Beauty and the Beast.”


“This is boring,” my daughter proclaimed.

She was right and wrong. I mean, there was no plot whatsoever, and the segues between scenes were patchy, but ice shows have really upped their entertainment ante. Ariel went arial, spinning high above the ice, and Merida let fly a pyrotechnic arrow, which pleased my Scottish husband no end.

I spent the whole first half trying to sell the show to my daughter (“Holy crap, it’s Cinderella!”), but it was no use. Following the Dadaesque first act finale, during which the hockey girl suddenly reappeared and scored a goal while the Disney princesses skated to “We Could Be Heroes,” we made the group decision to leave.

Shedding the layers that had kept us warm in the arena, we emerged into the 87-degree Carolina sunshine. My children love being in the city. Even though we live only a few minutes from downtown, we are worlds away from the bustling crowds and buildings that reach to the sky.

We took our time walking back to the car, my son naming all the hotel brands (his latest obsession) we passed.

“That’s the Hyatt,” he said, “and there’s a Hampton Inn. The Embassy Suites is new.”

Not a block from the arena we came upon the boarded up doors and windows of a building. We had seen a bit of this on the drive into the city, damage left over from the riots that had erupted in Charlotte the week before, when police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, an African American man.

Although news outlets from around the world had descended on Charlotte to cover both the peaceful protests and the violent outbursts that followed, to us, the events seemed remote. When relatives called asking about the riots, I would glance out my window at blue skies and green lawns, the loudest sound made by the weed whacker of a neighbor’s lawn guy.

As I stood in front of the boarded facade, I was mesmerized by the murals someone, or more likely, a group of people, had painted. There were mini black-and-white portraits, and a life-sized weeping angel. Messages such as “Show up for peace” and “Vision without action is merely a dream” were painted across bright backgrounds.

On the corner by the murals, a police officer on a motorcycle blocked off one of the city’s main roads. The motorcade of someone important was about to pass, so we waited in the hot sunshine along with lines of cars on either side of the road.

“Who is it?” my son asked.

“Someone famous,” I answered.

“Taylor Swift???” he asked and his sister gasped.

A quick smartphone search revealed it was Hillary Clinton, making good on a campaign stop she had postponed the weekend before at the request of Charlotte’s mayor because of the riots.

Presidential candidates don’t travel light, and we watched as black SUV followed black SUV down the road, tailed by white staff vans. Once they had passed, the police officers rode off on their motorcycles, motorists started their cars, and we started walking back toward the parking garage.

The show was over.

I wish this piece offered some sort of resolution about the police shooting here in Charlotte. It doesn’t. It’s merely an observation about the many worlds we live in in this country. I’m sharing photos I took of the murals because I found them powerful and compelling:




What the fudge? 5 reasons to hate KidzBop. (If you really need them.)


My children were recently introduced to KidzBop, and I’m ready to cut someone.

For those fortunate enough not to get the reference, KidzBop is a series of CDs/radio station/musical empire made up of children singing sanitized versions of the latest pop hits. Its popularity is based on the fact that a) apparently children get a kick out of hearing other children sing, and b) parents feel more comfortable letting their children listen to music in which all profanity and references to sex and drugs have been omitted.

I know what you’re thinking: what a g——mn f—king brilliant  idea.
And it totally is, the producers deserve a lot of credit for their genius. Part of me will always grateful to them for keeping my kids entertained in the car so I didn’t have to spend every trip to the store playing “I Spy,” especially since my daughter makes up her own rules.

Charlie: “I spy something that starts with ’b’.” 

Me: “Bus?” 

Charlie: “No.” 

Me: “Bush?” 

Charlie: (giggling) “No.” 

Me: “Building?” 

Charlie: “No.” 

Me: “I give up. What is it?” 

Charlie: “A kite!” 

Me: “I hate you.”

That said, there is plenty to hate about KidzBop. For example:

They remove the one element that makes pop music tolerable

Many of the children on these albums have beautiful voices. Others are related to the producer. Therefore songs that were mediocre in their original form because of an artist’s ability to turn crap to brass with great vocals become downright unbearable in the KidzBop cover. As a bonus, you can be guaranteed these songs will be your children’s favorites, meaning you’ll have to listen to them over and over.

Their lyrical changes are arbitrary. And suck.

In the song “Summertime Sadness,” they change “I got my red dress on tonight” to “I got my new dress on tonight.” This makes sense if they are concerned with the color’s association with sex and passion, but then in Taylor Swift’s “Style” they change “I got that red lip, classic thing that you like” to “I got that red dress, classic thing that you like.” So which is it, KidzBop? Is a red dress tawdry or not? Or, is it tawdry, but red lips are even worse? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, KIDZBOP?

In Swift’s hit “Blank Space,” they change “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream,” to “Darling, it’s a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” Because presumably that one attribution would alert children to the fact the song is about a bats—t crazy chick who fools men into sexual liaisons only to make their lives hellish because it’s super fun.

I got news for you, KidzBop: although “Blank Space” is a dark, inappropriate song (unless you peel back the layers and see it’s Swift’s way of poking fun at the tabloid version of herself) the lyrics are so opaque that most children have no idea what it’s about. Hell, my kids have seen the video — which, as I’ve mentioned on this site before features a lingerie-clad Swift sticking a knife into a cake filled with blood — and think it’s a lighthearted comedy about a girl who likes ponies and smashing things with golf clubs, both of which seem totally normal hobbies to them because they are 6 and 7.

KidzBop, if my children can see the story play out right in front of their eyes, and not have the slightest idea what’s going on, what makes you think they need you to change the lyrics? You could have recorded a video of the KidzBop kidz singing the original lyrics in clown costumes dripping with blood and my children still wouldn’t pick up on the fact that “Blank Space” is about some seriously dark s—t.

Sometimes their changes make the lyrics even less appropriate.

Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” is an amusing and empowering take on the issue of body image, in which the singer proclaims she’s proud of being a curvy woman. She even gives different body parts code names, meaning kids can actually sing along without figuring out that the whole song is about T and A. (That is, unless THEIR DAD explains it to them.)

However, there are some parts that could be considered racy, and KidzBop went ahead and changed them. Only problem is, they made them worse.

In the original version, Trainor sings:

“My mama done told me

‘Don’t worry about your size.’

She said ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’”

In the KidzBop cover, an adolescent boy croons:

“My mama done told me

‘Don’t worry about the size.’”

When I first heard this I almost choked on my coffee. Wait, are we still talking about butts here? Because it sounds an awful lot like they just suggested —

“She said ‘Don’t let it keep you at home in your room at night.’”

Well for crying out loud, KidzBop, you just made a crude but fun song downright filthy. Because what other body part would make a boy withdraw to his room at night in shame because it is too small? A PENIS, that’s what, KidzBop.

Even my son realized something was up and asked:

“Worry about the size of what?”

“His face,” I answered.

Yeah, KidzBop, you’re lucky I’m quick on my feet. If he had been even a couple of years older he would have been cracking up because you just threw a d—k reference into a song about T and A.

They bother with songs that, just, no.

Some songs have a few inappropriate references. Others are just a whole boatload of substance abuse and humping. And like a drunken frat boy who who doesn’t know his own limitations, KidzBop continuously goes around punching above its weight.

Let’s take that memorable Pit Bull classic, “Timber,” a tale of two club goers circling each other in hopes of a casual sexual encounter. (Actual lyric, “I’m slicker than an oil spill. She says she won’t, but I bet she will.” RO-MAN-TIC.)

Instead of saying, “Whoa, there’s just nothing kid friendly about this song. I’m going to comb through some of Taylor Swift’s B sides for more material,” KidzBop tells itself, “I can do this,” and records a cover that is basically the second verse and the chorus ad nauseam.

Gone are the lyrics detailing how Mr. Bull prefers his women “Face down, booty up,” and “Twerkin’ in their bras and thongs.”  Instead, they skip any context and go right to the bragging verse, in which a bunch of prepubescent kids inform us they’re “Blessed to say, money ain’t a thing.” Oh good. Because I was worried about how Kyle was going to pay his bail when he hits 18, ages out of the KidzBop franchise and knocks over a 7-11 to make his life seem interesting.

Go home, KidzBop. You’re drunk.

KidzBop trains children to sniff out the inappropriate

One day at the grocery store, my son stopped in his tracks.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “That song just got the words wrong.”

One of his favorite tunes was playing over the PA, except it wasn’t the KidzBop version. He stopped and looked up at me, appalled.

“What’s a thong?” he asked, wide eyed.

It became like a game to him, his brow furrowed in concentration as he picked out each reference to sex, drinking, genitalia and violence.

And this is perhaps why I hate KidzBop the most. Before my children discovered KidzBop, they happily listened to pop tunes without paying any attention to the lyrics. Now they are like heat-seeking missiles when it comes to the inappropriate, prone to shouting out questions such as, “Why did she open the front door naked?” and “Why does the woman call the man on his cell phone, late night when she needs his love?”

KidzBop, if you were a person, I’d kick your ass.


Those awkward first (play)dates

cropped-image4.jpgPlaydates are a necessary evil of modern childhood. It’s not like the old days, when kids ran wild through the neighborhood with their friends and then booked it home when the streetlights came on.

These days many parents are afraid to let their children roam outside unattended. This is either because a) they have seen too many Lifetime movies about child abduction to think rationally (that’s me), or b) they find themselves stymied in their attempts to encourage a healthy independence in their children by well-intentioned, idiotic bystanders who confuse perfectly acceptable parenting practice with abuse. The woman who got arrested for letting her 9-year-old daughter play at the park without her comes to mind. As does the woman who was reported for allowing her three children to play in their own fenced-in backyard while she did laundry inside.

Thus, for many kids, spontaneous social interaction with their peers has been replaced by what amount to appointments, planned with the skilled coordination once reserved for military maneuvers. (“We have swim lessons at 10 but we could do 11.” “We have a birthday party at 11. How about 2?” “Her brother has occupational therapy at 2 and then T-ball.” “How does November look?”)

Of course, you can always play with your children yourself, but if other households are anything like mine, that involves some seriously weird s—t. My son’s idea of a good time is to chase me around the house pretending to be the ghost of a dead piano teacher. (“You must practice!”) Or there’s the one where we leave mean notes for each other, a game that started one day when he scrawled on a notepad, “Dear Mom, I hope you get fat!

Pretending to be indignant, I wrote back:

If I get fat, I’ll sit on you until you barf!

Giggling, he wrote:

If you make me barf, I’ll put it all in your bed!

I wrote:

If you put your barf in my bed, I’ll wait until you are asleep, sneak into your room and spit into your open mouth.

Eyes wide, he looked up.

“Are you serious?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Am I?”

As you can see, the need to get my children around normal people is very real.

But the problem with setting up a playdate for your child is that you are often forced into a date too. Since few parents are willing to drop their kid off at a stranger’s house, you and a rough acquaintance are obligated to make conversation while your children bang around the house and occasionally come streaking through the room butt naked in a fire fighter’s helmet.

To be fair, it’s not always bad. Sometimes, you meet the other parent, hit it off right away and think, “Wow, we should have drinks sometime,” or, “I bet you’d be great in a bar fight.”

Other times the whole thing lags, the conversation falls flat (“Have you lived in this house long?”) and 45 minutes into it you awkwardly check your watch and say, “Well, we should get out of your hair.”

The worst is when you know in advance that you’re not going to like the other parent. I recently endured this when my son set up a playdate with a boy we met at the park. To call his mother uptight would be a kindness. What else can you say about a person who screams like a banshee when she catches her 7-year-old scaling the jungle gym and then follows it with a manic singsong, “Sweetie, get down from there! Ladders aren’t for climbing!”


Since they were coming to our house I had the added displeasure of having to clean, which meant shoving every toy, piece of paper, marker and stuffed animal in sight into the hall closet.

When they arrived the boys took off upstairs, leaving me to make constipated conversation with this woman in the kitchen. It wasn’t long before the boys ran in saying they couldn’t find our Candy Land game.

I went to look upstairs while they searched downstairs. Not surprisingly, the box was in plain sight on the book shelf in Jack’s room. The same room the boys had just been playing in for 20 minutes.

“Found it!” I called from the top of the stairs, and then stopped when I saw the boys digging through the hall closet while the mother stood nearby, staring at several pieces of paper. She then looked at me, her expression wary and confused.

Looks like I wasn’t the only one who had found something. In her hands were several of the notes Jack and I wrote to each other.

“Oh, those!” I said, running down the stairs to see her clutching one that read: “Dear Mom, I hope you die soon!” in magenta marker.

“That’s just a little joke we have with each other,” I said, as Jack grabbed the Candy Land box from my hands. “See, in the next one I tell him that if I die I will come back as a ghost and scare him until he pees his pants. Ha-ha!”

Her eyes grew wide.

“It’s really just a joke,” I mumbled. “I mean, like, that other one? I wouldn’t, you know, actually defecate in his shoes.”

To suggest that the playdate ended poorly would be an understatement. To speculate that we won’t be having another playdate with this young man any time soon would be sensible.

At the end of the day, that’s probably for the best. I know at least 10 other moms who are much more fun to hang out with, moms who would have laughed those notes off and maybe even joined in the game.

Maybe not.


Why DWP (Driving While a Parent) should be, like, a thing

Don’t text and drive. Don’t drink and drive. Hell, in some places they warn you having a cold can affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Why, then, is it legal to drive as a parent?

You want to talk impaired state of judgment? I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since 2008. I ate half a granola bar and slammed a Diet Coke for breakfast. While driving. My wits are so dull I often can’t pick the correct “mouseketool” on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. (“Could a glue stick help us reach the highest shelf?” HOW THE F–K SHOULD I KNOW, MICKEY? Do I look like a, um, you know, an astro-physical engineer to you?)

You want to talk distraction? I have two champion talkers in the back seat. The questions, taunting and arguments would throw Earnhardt off his game. Think it’s easy trying to navigate rush hour on the highway with one child belting “Let It Go” in your ear while screaming at the other one, “Put your penis away NOW!!!”?

I may not talk on the phone or text while driving. But I have done everything short of prepare a three-course meal while piloting that two-ton death machine. I can pour juice into cups clutched between my knees, shoot the correct lunch to each child over my shoulder and dutifully accept handfuls of chewed food that have been returned to sender, all while making a three-point turn and digging for change because a toll is coming up.

The fact that I am chauffeuring around the two most precious beings in my entire existence makes me, shall we say, hyper aware of how crappily some people choose to operate their cars.

This doesn’t make me a safer driver, just a really angry one. I have such bad road rage my children think our car is voice activated. Now that they’re old enough to repeat after me, I have the added distraction of trying to mumble my expletives instead of shouting them at the top of my lungs.

Not that it works.

“Did you see another dipshit, Mommy?” my son innocently asked the other day, after I quietly cursed a flaming scrotal sack who had just cut across three lanes of traffic to keep an urgent appointment at the Kwik-E-Mart.

Of course, DWP will never become a prosecutable offense. Like it or not, parents have to get places and if we had to wait for the day they were well-rested and recharged enough to operate a motor vehicle, it would never come.

This doesn’t mean I’m not tempted some days to flag down a cop and beg her/him to take me in. Because I hear they have beds in jail. But no children.


No, that Star Wars stuff doesn’t belong to my husband

Another day, another visitor to the house asking, “Is your husband a big Star Wars fan?”

Nope. The “May the Force Be With You” throw pillows, Darth Vader soap dispenser and framed print of Calvin and Hobbes dressed as Han and Chewbacca are all mine, baby.

Not that I blame people for thinking I “let” my husband put “his things” around the house. Although females seem well into the Star Wars franchise these days, people tend to think of the die-hard fans of yesteryear being male.

To an extent, I get it. There were hardly any women in the originals, and the fight scenes did involve men waving giant phallic symbols at each other.

But the original Star Wars movies also had everything a girl growing up in the 70s/80s could want.

Imagine, if you can, how it felt for a child (me) who’d only seen women in TV and the movies look hot and acquiesce, watch Princess Leia blast a hole in the wall and shout “Somebody has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, fly boy!”

Holy f*&$#@g crap DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?

Apart from Daisy Duke, who, let’s face it, was T and A with a CB handle, and Jem, who was truly outrageous, the women I saw on TV and in the movies were heavily made up b-words who spent more time fighting each other than the actual evil in their midst.

Not Leia. She went toe-to-toe with the frickin’ Darth, a guy so huge he could have crushed her like an empty Capri Sun pouch. While Joan Collins and Linda Evans were flinging actual mud at each other on Dynasty, Leia was trading jabs with Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin  (“I thought I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board” — hell yeah, girl!).

She was more like the women I knew in real life: fierce, tough and not dripping spackle from her face. She also always maintained her composure. (Well, except for when she told Tarkin the rebel base was on Dantooine and that snarky SOB still demonstrated the Death Star’s might by blowing Alderaan to pieces. But her reaction was completely understandable. I mean, it was her home planet and that explosion caused such a disturbance in the Force, what with all the millions of voices crying out in terror and then suddenly getting silenced and everything, who wouldn’t have lost their s—t? I mean, come on.)

But Leia wasn’t the only character to love. How could you not warm to Luke, the whiny little blue-milk-drinking dork who ended up getting wise and jacked and saving the whole freaking universe. Or Chewbacca, so tough and hairy on the outside yet so tender and generous on the inside. Yeah, Obi Wan was kind of a kill joy and Han could be such an a-hole at times, but you eventually came to love them.

And it’s not just the characters. Those films featured some of the best music ever written, some of the most exciting story lines ever conceived, and hands down the best shots of an exploding space station ever recorded.

You didn’t watch those films, you lived in them. From the minute the opening track played you were transported to a world beyond the stars where, even if things weren’t always fair, they made sense.

You didn’t have to feel guilty for hating the bad guys, they didn’t even have faces. Or they were British.

The underdogs were actual dogs. Or bears. Or whatever the hell the Ewoks were supposed to be.

Princesses were spies, farm boys were warriors. You went from the breathtaking vistas of the desert in the first film, to a snowy tundra in the second, to a redwood forest in the third.

Why would any of this appeal only to boys?

I think the stereotype of a nerdy man reliving his childhood fantasies through his action figure collection is a handy one for people to throw around. For me, having a touch of a galaxy far, far away around me is a comfort, and a bit of harmless fun.

My husband, not so much. He’s never seen Star Wars. He thinks the movies look dumb and feels I’m tremendously lame for loving them so much. That’s okay, because he watches UFC, which is, by actual laws of the universe, lame, because it features grown men sticking their heads in each other’s groins and crying.

So, next time you are tempted to think of Star Wars as a “boys’ toys” franchise, keep in mind that, as three of the most incredible films ever made, they have something for everyone, even the ladies.* Especially the ladies when you consider the good looks and smooth lines of Lando Calrissian, a CCAILF (Cloud City Administrator I’d Like To, um, Friend) if there ever was one.

*Yes, three. The prequels are an abomination. The Forces Awakens is okay.


The other “c” word

Sometimes, it can be really helpful to talk about your problems.

My husband recently discussed our daughter’s cancer with the gas company and wouldn’t you know it, the next day a crew came out and fixed the gaping hole they had left in our yard a year ago. Never mind that they should have fixed it anyway or that they had been promising to for months. Tragedy got the ball rolling when nothing else worked.

Although effective, his strategy did cause some confusion when I asked how he had changed the company rep’s mind.

“I used the ‘c’ word,” he said.

I stared at him.

“You called her a c—-t?” I asked.

His eyes went wide.

“I told her our daughter has cancer.”

Oh, yeah. That “c” word.

Three years ago, our daughter was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of 18 months. A type of pediatric cancer, neuroblastoma either grows aggressively or just lingers, sometimes taking years before it dies off on its own. The doctors are hopeful our Charlie has the latter. Already she has endured 12 rounds of intensive chemotherapy, six rounds of less intensive chemo and six surgeries. She is now off treatment and the tumors aren’t growing. As a family we’ll be holding our breath for a few years but as far as having your child get cancer goes, we are the lucky ones. (Don’t tell the gas company, though. They owe us.)

Please understand, I am not trying to make light of this disease or anyone’s struggle with it. It’s just that I’ve had a long time to deal with this, and crying inconsolably on the floor curled in a fetal position gets old after a few weeks. I’m also aware that any time I talk about Charlie’s cancer, I’m really only telling part of the story. She is the one who has been fighting this and one day she’ll be able to tell the story herself, no doubt much better than I can. But for right now, I’m the one who can type and the only perspective I can share is my own.

In the beginning, I didn’t want to talk about it. Talking about it made it real and I didn’t want it to be real. It was easier to tell a few friends and family members and have them relay the news to those who needed to know.

Once she started treatment, her condition was obvious to all but the criminally stupid. She lost her hair and was painfully skinny. Of course, logic is no impediment to some, such as the old man smoking a cigarette in front of her doctor’s office who reprimanded me for her appearance.

“Why would you shave that poor child’s head?” he demanded.

I looked pointedly at the sign behind his head that read “Pediatric Oncology and Hematology.” Nothing. Tempted to say, “She lost a bet,” I instead explained in small words what should have been obvious. (Why, you might ask, would anyone smoke in front of a children’s cancer clinic? Sadly, her doctors share a building with cardiothoracic surgeons, so it’s not unusual for the pediatric patients to run a gauntlet of carcinogenic smoke to get to treatment. Whoever came up with that brilliant office sharing arrangement should be shot.)

But if I was out without her and saw people who didn’t already know, I wouldn’t tell them. It just seemed like an awkward thing to bring up in, say, the aisles of the Food Lion. (“Jack just started transitional kindergarten and Charlie is battling cancer. OMG, is that the new Hamburger Helper?”) The few times I did share the news were — bad. People got upset, understandably, and I felt lousy for ruining their day. Also, once people know they feel inconsiderate talking to you about anything else. Trust me, sometimes you really want to talk about something else. Anything else.

But once she was through the worst of her treatment and the tumors had stopped growing, it became easier to talk about her condition. Perhaps it was because I didn’t feel the need to escape it as much myself, and it’s easier to share good news than it is to punch people in the gut with tragedy.

Also, I am proud of her.

I shy away from the term “cancer survivor.” For one thing, she’s not in remission, but also it seems like an insult to those who have passed away from the disease. There were many amazing children she met during her treatment — Gabby, Carter, Pieter, Miranda — who were just as fierce in their struggle and endured more in their tender years than any human being should in a lifetime. They didn’t lose their fight against cancer. The treatment stopped working. The cancer found a new way to grow. Unfortunately, cancer is a powerful, indiscriminate dick — it wouldn’t pick on children otherwise — and has an enormous capacity to change the rules and overcome whatever is thrown at it. These children didn’t lose their struggle any more than Charlie won hers. She simply got lucky.

And yet…

…and yet that child put up the fight of a lifetime. Before she could even take her first steps she had been pumped full of poison and poked with needles and sliced open in three different places. She endured weeks of confinement to a hospital bed when she should have been learning to walk, vomited for hours when she should have been figuring out her favorite foods.There were times when I looked at her and felt like saying, “It’s okay if you want to give up. I don’t want you to, but I would understand.” But this baby, this child in diapers who slept with her fingers entwined in my hair every night and cried when the end credits rolled on “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” found some way to keep going.

You better be damn straight I am proud of her.

Sharing her condition also helps explain her developmental delays. Although she has recovered physically from the chemo and is the size of a strapping 5-year-old, developmentally she is somewhere between the ages of 2 and 3. Or, in the words of a little turd at her ballet school, “She talks funny. She’s wearing a diaper!” (“You talk funny!” I wanted to shout. “And your mother is an alcoholic whore!” Instead I chirped, “She’s just catching up!”)

There are times when I would like to talk about it even more. For example, those instances when she’s throwing a tantrum on the floor at Target — she is mentally a 2-year-old, after all, and 2-year-olds excel at tantrums — and I get the stink eye from some old bat who forgets what it’s like to be a parent. In those moments I would love nothing more than to shout: “She has cancer! What’s your excuse for being socially awkward?” And then maybe spit on the floor. I don’t know, that feels inappropriate. I could probably get over it, though.

But it was only recently that I discovered the best use for sharing her story.

Even though I can be private about some things — say, my child getting treated for cancer — for some reason complete strangers feel free to tell me things they really, really shouldn’t.

“I always wanted kids,” said the cashier at the Container Store to me one day, for no apparent reason. “But my first husband didn’t want them and then my second husband, well we tried and tried and then it turned out he was sterile.”

Um, I’ll just take my receipt. Please?

I am convinced it has to do with my red hair. When you are a redhead, you always remind people of someone they know. (Ugh, and it’s always the ex-wives. Ginger ladies, please, stop getting divorced so much, I’m begging you.) As a result, they are always taking small talk to places it just doesn’t belong when you are around.

But now I have a wonderfully powerful weapon against that, which I only realized on a recent outing to TCBY with Charlie.

We had barely taken our seats when the bearded youngster behind the counter started talking.

“I almost didn’t make it to work today,” he said.

“That’s too bad,” I said.

“Yeah, it was really bad,” he continued. “It was, like, emergency bad.”

I cringed.

“My girlfriend was bleeding everywhere?”


“And we thought she might be having a miscarriage?”


“We had to go to the hospital and everything.”


“We really want this baby, which surprises everyone because we are so young.”


“I’m really sorry,” I said and don’t get me wrong, I was sorry. It just seemed like there might have been someone more appropriate for him to talk to about this. Someone who knew his first name, for example.

He nodded.

“We won’t find out until Monday whether she lost the baby.”

And then it hit me: fire with fire.

I turned to him and pointed at Charlie.

“She has cancer.”

He stared. Silence ensued. A cricket rode past on a tumbleweed  and I went back to eating frozen yogurt with my daughter.

Yes, talking about your problems can be pretty helpful indeed.


This post originally ran a year ago. I am rerunning it now to mark the one-year anniversary of my attempts at blogging. Many thanks for everyone’s kindness and support.


The pet that wouldn’t die

I wish the family pet would just die already.

Oh, calm down. I’m not talking about a loving dog who has been a member of the family for years, or a sweet kitty who warms our hearth every night and purrs my children to sleep.

No, I’m talking about a fish. A stupid, lousy, neon orange fish I bought for $6.99 two years ago, who, in my defense, I’m pretty sure wants to die as well. In fact, I’m convinced this animal would have long ago dispatched himself to the giant Pet Smart in the sky if he could only figure out how.

As a parent, I wanted my children to have an “easy” pet, like a gold fish, so they could learn three important life lessons. The first is what is involved in caring for another living being. The second is that they are not ready to care for a dog. The third — well, I’m getting there.

I should have known things wouldn’t go according to plan when we went to the pet store and my children zipped right past the humble gold fish and stopped before a tank of fish in screaming neon colors.

“These ones!” my son cried, and my daughter began jumping up and down. Who was I to disagree?

I should have disagreed. In fact, as the Person in Charge, I should have made a hasty retreat out the door when Jana, the Very Serious Fish Attendant, starting piling enough equipment into my cart to wire a small command center, all while giving me detailed instructions on the many things I would need to do to keep these fish alive.

She looked me up and down.

“These are very delicate fish,” she said. “We have a very high standard of water quality.”

I nodded, suddenly aware that I must be wearing my T-shirt that said TOTAL F—ING MORON, because she was looking at me like I had just drooled on her.

“We also have a very generous exchange policy,” she continued smugly. “If either fish dies in the first 72 hours, bring it back for a new one. All we ask is that you bring a sample of the water from your tank so we can determine the issue.”

“Does that happen a lot?” I asked.

“Yes,” she responded.

“Why the hell do you sell them?” is what I wanted to ask. Instead I smiled and nodded.

Three hours later, after I had prepped and set up and arranged their tank to incredibly specific instructions, bright orange Jack (named by and for my son) and bright green Walter (named for his best friend) were swimming happily. My children watched them rapturously for an entire 20 seconds before asking me to put on the Disney channel.

True to Jana’s word, the next morning Walter the Fish wasn’t looking so hot. This had me worried, as Walter the Human was coming over to play, and I didn’t know the extent of psychological damage it would cause him to see his namesake nose down in the gravel.

When Walter arrived, he and Jack ran off to see the fish before I could stop them.

“Boys,” I called out, “keep in mind Walter the Fish is kind of sick. He caught a cold and he’s not feeling well.”

When I reached Jack’s room the boys were standing nose-to-glass with the aquarium, watching Walter’s lifeless body floating belly up at the surface.

Walter the Human looked at me with a 5-year-old’s unwavering authority.

“He doesn’t look sick to me. He looks dead.”

“HA-HA-HA! Walter, don’t be so SILLY!” I cried shrilly, fooling no one. “He’s just sick. SICK!”

Walter shook his head.

“Jack, your fish is totally dead.”

“HE’S NAPPING!” I shouted, flicking his body away from its crash course with the gurgling filter.

That night, after my husband had surreptitiously managed to replace Walter the Fish — (“See, he’s all better!”) — I did some Internet research on our new pets.

It turns out the breed — which I will not name for fear of a lawsuit — is trademarked by a company that creates them specifically for their garish coloring. This means that, like all creatures of strategic breeding, they are high maintenance and more susceptible to all sorts of ills. These fish would be dead within a few months, according to several unauthorized pages.

This actually cheered me up. By now it had become clear the level of care these creatures required was beyond my children’s capabilities, and instead of becoming a lesson for them on how to take care of something, the fish became simply two more bodies in the house I had to feed and clean up after.

Every week I siphoned one-third (no more, no less) of the water from their tank using a length of tubing from the hardware store and a turkey baster. I added fresh water and pH-balancing solution. I delicately scrubbing the sides of their tank and dutifully changed their air filter after soaking the new one in lukewarm water to dislodge any carbon particles from the outside.

This didn’t mean I loved the things. They were just fish, after all, who seemed terrified of my kids and only interested in me because I fed them.

I’m not even sure how long it took me to notice Walter the Second was missing. It simply occurred to me one day that I hadn’t seen him in a while and so I scanned the tank for his little green body. Noticing that the pirate ship ornament had fallen over, I reached in to lift it up.

I found Walter. All 527 pieces of him. The poor thing must have become trapped when the ship had fallen over. There wasn’t even a body to bury, just a billowing cloud of neon green fish parts that needed to be scooped from the water while Jack the Fish swam in frantic circles.

“How do we tell the kids?” I asked my husband that night.

“If they don’t ask, don’t tell them,” he answered.

“But this is the most important part of pet ownership for a child.”

He looked at me in confusion.

“What is?”

“Death. Everyone knows that you get pets so kids can learn about dying.”

I could have sworn he inched away from me.

“What are you talking about? Where did you even come up with that?”

“V.C. Andrews.”

For anyone unfamiliar with the reference, V.C. Andrews was an author who wrote a number of disturbing books devoured by teenage girls (and really weird adults) in the 1980s. The plot lines revolved around things like incest, emotional abuse and inherited wealth. Kind of like the American Girls.

In addition to some horrific scenes now etched into my psyche, the books imparted the knowledge that pets teach children about death.

My husband, wise man, conceded that was one way to look at it, but suggested it would be easier to teach kids about dead pets when said pets weren’t in tiny pieces on their way to the local sewage treatment plant.

He was right, which meant I had just missed my second opportunity to teach my kids about death. Damn.

At this point, to make this parenting venture pay off, I need Jack to pass away at a convenient time, in one piece, so I can sit my children down and gently explain the circle of life while soft music plays.

But of course, this is NEVER going to happen. That’s because this fish is obviously some sort of anomaly, a freak of nature sent by the universe because the Powers That Be decided that the circus that is my life needed another ring.

His life expectancy was six months and he is still alive two years later. He has outlived two companions and survived the stress of moving to a new house, the water in his tank sloshing on the floor of my car as I drove 15 mph, old ladies blowing past me giving me the finger.

He has become my earthly perdition. My children will be off at college and I’ll still be siphoning his water and scrubbing his tank with arthritic hands. My grandchildren will glance at him when they come for visits before asking for the Disney channel. I’ll probably even have to make provisions for him in my will, because I have a feeling the earnest little f—ker is going to outlive us all.

But despite how much I want him to die, I’m not about to kill him.

What kind of heartless, crazy a—hole do you think I am?


Six reasons you don’t want your child getting that “super” head lice going around. (If you really need them.)

The number of states battling outbreaks of “super lice,” (strains resistant to the insecticides in over-the-counter treatments) has grown to 25, according to scientists with the American Chemical Society. This means more and more parents will be battling mutant vermin for control of their children’s heads — and their own sanity — in the coming months.

If you’re not already suitably terrified, let me help you out. My 5-year-old daughter recently became infested with super lice and generously passed them along to me. It took us two months to get rid of the little bastards, and to say the experience was a nightmare would be an understatement. And I sat through the movie Ishtar.

Here are six reasons why you should be stocking up on wine and soiling yourself at the thought of your kids bringing them home:

1. Like glitter and drunk party guests, they are nearly impossible to get rid of.

You will try any and everything to get rid of them, but, like the bad guys in the movies, they always come back. That’s because they are impervious to most methods of extermination and reproduce constantly. By masturbation. (Okay, I made the second part up but that’s how it seems.)

2. All methods to get rid of them are equally distasteful.

Your choices include putting insecticides that probably won’t work on your child’s head (gulp) and/or massaging essential oils into his/her scalp. Apparently, lice don’t like the smell of tee tree oil mixed with rosemary and peppermint oils, which is frankly not surprising since the result is a scent I call “Satan’s Butt Crack.”

Another option is to coat your child’s hair with cheap conditioner and rake through it with a nit comb to get all the bugs and their potential offspring out. Raise your hand if your child enjoys getting his/her hair washed, let alone combed for an hour every day. If you did raise your hand, use it to hit yourself because you are LYING.

The method that finally worked for us involved 16 ounces of Cetaphil and a hair dryer. My daughter lives in fear of noise-making appliances, so you can imagine how much fun that was.

3. Despite what you may have heard, your child can pass them along to you.

Can’t get lice after puberty? Lice don’t like curly hair? Hair washing prevents the spread of lice?

Anything you’ve heard along those lines is a myth. As someone who is extremely post pubescent and has lots of curly hair, let me be the first to tell you they will come for you. And guess what: they prefer clean hair.

It’s a short crawl from your child’s head to yours during a cuddle, and the more adventurous bugs on your child’s head will gladly make that trip. As a consequence, you will wake up feeling something crawling on your head and find bite marks on your neck and ears.

Which brings us to:

4. It’s beyond disgusting…

There are bugs crawling through your child’s (and possibly your) hair. You will sometimes see them moving. When you comb them out, they will attempt to crawl away. ACROSS YOUR KITCHEN TABLE.

5. …and kind of embarrassing.

There’s nothing like having body parasites to make you feel like an unwashed social pariah. It’s just so century-before-last, as in, surely we curtailed this problem when people began bathing regularly and women got the vote. It’s like having a condition only a character in a Dickens novel would have, like scurvy or fatal syphilis.

6. Once they are gone you will spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder. Literally.

Every time your child scratches his/her head or you detect your own follicular tickle, you will become convinced that the nightmare is starting. All. Over. Again.

If you are unfortunate enough to become infested, I recommend something called the Nuvo Method. It ain’t fun but it was the only thing that worked for us.


A very dear family I know recently lost someone very dear to them. Suddenly all those annoying inconveniences of parenthood seem trivial and it’s hard to get emotional over things that, in the long run, really don’t matter.

So of course this is when the website Blunt Moms decides to run a piece I wrote a while back about an issue that seemed so important to me at the time: mom-against-mom bullying. The article, which made my blood pressure soar as I wrote it but now barely stirs my pulse, can be found here. (I know I’m not doing a great job of selling it, but if you have any opinions on the “Mommy Wars,” it might be worth a read.)

It’s early for resolutions but so what. All those canned expressions, “Don’t take any moment for granted,” “Hug your little ones close,” and “Put down the damn cell phone,” have never seemed so apt. When it comes to dealing with non-family members, do as Jesus admonished and try not to be a dick. (It’s been years since I read the gospels but I remember the gist.)

Lots of love to the families I know — and there are sadly way too many — who will celebrate the holidays without a beloved child.