Not So Happy Meal

Happy Meals do not make me happy. In theory they seem like such a great idea—food and a toy in a little box with some puzzles, games, or jokes on it to keep the kids busy for a little while. And yet, they suck.

My kids almost can’t fathom that when I was a kid, Happy Meals weren’t something you could just order any old time. They were “for a limited time only,” and came along in connection with a movie or special event that informed the toy. Not so different from the way they’re presented today, but instead of having a Matchbox or Beanie Baby offering when there was no movie or other promotion, there just weren’t Happy Meals. I tell them this story, and then they ask me what it was like when there was no indoor plumbing, and dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Smartasses.

Then someone at McDonald’s woke up and realized that if Happy Meals were available all the time, kids would clamor for them all the time. That’s when things got complicated. When they were available all the time, McDonald’s started taking some heat for not offering “healthy” options, but still luring kids in to eat their food, so they found some “healthy” things to include. That meant that for awhile I had to poll my kids every damned time we went there—did they want the apples or fries? Did they want white milk, chocolate milk, juice, or soda? To say nothing of the initial hamburger/cheeseburger/nuggets option. So that’s 24 possible combinations, times 4 kids equals way too many fucking choices. The lottery odds have lower numbers than the count of possible Happy Meal permutations for my kids.

Now of course they give you both apples and fries automatically, but just last week I discovered that now they’re offering a choice of either apples or a GoGurt. Just shoot me. I didn’t even bother telling them that was an option. They just got the fucking apples.

McDonald’s used to be terrible about the toys. For a long time there was a Toy of the Week and if you didn’t get it the week it was offered, tough shit on you. Ever told a four year old who saw the toys in the display at the drive in, or in the lobby, tough shit you’re not getting Donkey from Shrek because that was last week’s toy? Yeah, I bet that went over well. Then it seemed they changed that, and sent a shipment of everything at once, but then you’d order four Happy Meals and they’d give you four different toys. Seriously? WTF? Come on, McDonald’s. It’s bad enough that I have to listen to the same two lines of dialog from Sulley that sounds like it was recorded through a set of walkie talkies, but to have to listen to them fight over who gets Sulley and who gets Mike  is just the limit.

Eventually they started giving out the same toy in every meal. I don’t know if enough parents threatened to beat the shit out of McDonald’s CEO, or if someone who works for McDonald’s took their multiple kids there for a Happy Meal and discovered that they did this, vocalized the problem, and a change was made at the corporate level, but I do know that now they put the same toy in every bag or box, at least at my McDonald's.

Thing is, my kids are too old for the toys. They’re at that age where they’re old enough to want them, but not old enough that the toys can hold their interest for longer than it takes them to consume a cheeseburger (2.6 minutes, give or take). When they were little, they’d bring them home and add them to the basket of forty thousand other Happy Meal toys, and Remy the Rat and the Madame Alexander Wicked Witch of the West doll would often find themselves in the same imaginary scenario. But now they’re too old to play like that, so they get the toy and fondle it for seven or eight minutes until they’re done with their lunch, then leave it in the car for four months.

Yes, you. I hate you all.

Photo credit: Photopin cc
They have what I think of as Trade Show Mentality. You know, you go to someplace where lots of companies are giving out stuff, and you must have one of everything. In spite of the fact that “one of everything” = three pens with various logos, five magnets with calendars on them, plus twenty seven “stress balls” in various shapes and sizes. The industry name for this stuff is “special products” but behind the scenes it’s referred to as “trinkets and trash.” You take this crap home and it clutters up your house for the next four years until you toss it out, but the desire to possess it in the moment is almost overwhelming.

Beyond the toys, Happy Meals no longer offer enough food for my kids. The boys especially are getting into the never-mind-a-plate-give-the-kid-a-trough-and-a-bucket-of-milk-with-a-straw stage, so they want the Happy Meal plus five supplemental items. It’s not so much the cost of this that bothers me—I’ve never bothered to calculate how much the Happy Meal components would cost if you bought them a la carte, so I have no idea if a Happy Meal is cheaper or not. What bothers me is that the more stuff you order, the greater the chance McDonald’s will fuck up your order. You’re with me here, right? If I can order two number whatevers with Cokes, plus two extra cheeseburgers with just ketchup, there are only three things they have to keep straight—what sandwiches, what size drink/fries, and nothing but ketchup on the cheeseburgers. If I order one cheeseburger Happy Meal with just ketchup, one with McNuggets, one with juice, and one with chocolate milk, plus two cheeseburgers with just ketchup, the opportunities for them to fuck up my order are almost countless. And based on my previous experiences, the temptation is just irresistible to them.

For now they still occasionally demand Happy Meals, and I usually give in and buy them, along with the twenty dollars in additional food. I let them have their moment with the toys, and as soon as they walk away from them, I take them and toss them in the recycling. I’ve never had a kid come back a day later and say, “Hey, what happened to that Mario Kart toy car I got yesterday in my Happy Meal?” The day will come when the orders will be simplified and McDonald’s won’t be able to screw them up. Who am I kidding—of course they will. Some things never change.

Humilation in Knoxville

I hate it when I get home at the end of the day, look in the mirror, and discover a little black thing lodged in my teeth. I always think, “Well, it was way off to the side. The seventeen people I had meetings with, or talked to face to face for the last four hours probably didn’t even notice.” Yeah, sure. But the worst of it is that none of those people told me about it. What’s the reluctance? When have you ever pointed something like that out to a good friend and had them snap, “Fuck you, bitch. It’s there on purpose.” I get it—our embarrassment comes with empathy—we know how we feel when the little green thing happens to us, and we’re reluctant to cause someone else similar embarrassment. But holy hell people, suck it up and tell me when there’s a poppy seed in my teeth. Fortunately, some people do overcome their own feelings and help a gal out of a potentially mortifying situation.

A million years ago I had a job as a Client Services Manager for a marketing software company. That may sound fun or impressive or glamorous (or not), but what it really meant was that I went out to our customer sites and figured out how they were using our software so we could improve it, and help them improve how they used it. It was actually dull as dandruff, and meant that I had to do a lot of flying, which I loathed (and still do).

I was on my way home from a trip to Knoxville, TN. I had been visiting HGTV, which was still in its infancy (and, may I say, had the bitchiest marketing person I’ve ever encountered—Tamara, wherever you are, I hope the Starbucks closest to you sucks, and I totally heard you say you didn’t want to give me a t-shirt, and therefore fuck you), and I was at the airport waiting for my flight. The dress code for client visits was “professional,” and since I had come directly from their offices, I was wearing a blouse and skirt in the same pattern (so it looked like a dress). I would describe the skirt as, “swirly.” Because of the dress code, I was also wearing panty hose (UGH). I slipped in and used the restroom, checked myself very carefully, and skipped out across the concourse to sit down in a row of chairs across from the ladies room.
I hadn’t been seated for more than a minute when a kindly looking grandmother type came and sat down on the edge of the seat next to me. She placed her hand gently on my forearm and leaned forward anxiously, clearly the bearer of distressing news.
“Honey,” she said in a low voice with a sweet Southern drawl, “your skirt’s tucked up in your panty hose.”

The scene of my humiliation


“Oh, thank you,” I stammered, humiliated and no doubt blushing fire engine red, but managing to extricate the skirt from the waistband of the hose with a lot of unladylike wriggling and squirming, which I’m sure made it look like my underwear was the best place I could think of to hide my pet hamster so I could get it through security unnoticed. I prayed that my swirly skirt was voluminous enough that the two sides of it covered my backside as I tripped from the door of the ladies room to my seat (it was possible, but, let’s be honest, probably wishful thinking).

This is not why I was squirming
“Well, I had to tell you, honey,” she said, kindly. “It happened to me one time. At church. And no one told me.”


I was appalled. I mean, I was in the Knoxville airport. I’m confident I’ve never seen any of the people who were on that concourse that day again since. (I could be wrong—maybe last month when I was walking through LAX there was a woman I passed at one of the United gates who nudged her friend and said, “You see that insane looking woman yelling at the four kids to keep it moving so they can get to Disneyland before Labor Day? Well, I totally saw her underpants in the Knoxville airport fifteen years ago.”) And even if I haven’t ever seen them again, it was still super embarrassing.

But that poor woman who came to my rescue—she had to go back to church the next Sunday and face an entire churchful of people who had gotten a good long look at her Hanes for Her. And not one of them said anything to her about it. Can you imagine? Mingling with the rest of the congregation after the service, having a cup of coffee, shaking hands with Pastor Brooks and complimenting him on the sermon, arranging to meet Mabel Ogelthorpe and Viola Hightower for cards on Wednesday. All with her skirt tucked up in her hose, and her panties plainly visible to everyone.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’d have switched religions.


Tiptoeing Toward Twitter

I joined Twitter in 2008 and probably logged in four times between then and about two weeks ago. At the urging of a friend, I recently reengaged with the app, and I’ve become a pretty zealous user. It took me a long time (six years, it would seem) to recognize the advantage Twitter has over Facebook.

The primary advantage for a foul mouthed asshole like myself is that the people on Twitter are more accepting of profanity than my Facebook friends. Partly this is because they don’t actually know me as a real person, whereas my Facebook friends are people I’ve met and humanly interacted with. While some of them are fully aware of my cursing habits, some are not. My 101 year old grandmother is on Facebook, and this causes me to censor both the subject of my Facebook statuses, and my vocabulary. I’m sure she doesn’t think I’m a saint (she's old, not stupid), but I don’t know that she realizes how really fucking profane I am.

I don’t love the 140 character restriction. If you’ve spent any time over here at all (or if I’ve commented on a blog post of yours) you may gather that brevity is not my greatest strength. This is undeniably true. You would be excused for thinking that I get paid by the word and/or that as long as I have something to say, I will continue to live (which means I am clearly immortal because I never shut up. I suspect it’s pretty much hell being married to me). Initially it was the 140 characters that was a deal breaker for me. When Facebook offered me 6000+ characters (although none of them could be combined in a pattern that would make them profane), why should I try to confine my thoughts to 140?

But then one day, when my children were being hideously obnoxious, and I was starting to give careful consideration to the pros and cons of incarceration on charges of murder (three meals a day that I didn’t have to cook, no requirement that I use Outlook or sit in a cubicle, the possibility that I might be granted the privilege of solitary confinement—which would mean peeing WITHOUT ANYONE SCREAMING “MOMMEEEEEEYYYYY WHERE ARE YOU!?!?!?!” from four rooms away), a thought occurred to me. “I never thought I’d say this” I tweeted, “But I love Twitter. I have somewhere to go where I can say my children are acting like SUCH ASSHOLES.” A love affair began.

It is possible, of course, for me to take advantage of Facebook’s post length by posting my more verbose updates on this blog’s Facebook page, which is  linked to Twitter (and which my grandmother also doesn’t know exists, so profanity is acceptable over there as well). But I often wonder how frequently people click through on those tweets. The first sentence has to be pretty a pretty solid hook or I’m sure people just ignore it. I try not to have more than one, or at most two, tweets a day link to Facebook.

Now I post my profanity-laced tidbits, and have discovered some fun side games. I had a good time with the “book/song mashup” hashtag (“Gone with the Dust in the Wind”) and had a great time with “less interesting books.” “Uncle Tom’s Condo.” “Indifferent George.” “The Legend of Sleepy Harold.” I know—I crack myself up. I wasn’t the only one with good ones on that either. Two of my favorites were, “Charlotte’s Web Browsing History,” and “The Scarlet Lecture,” both of which were titles I had tried unsuccessfully to do something with. “Bram Stoker’s Spatula” was pretty good too.

The things I don’t like about it are obviously not enough to keep me from using it pretty enthusiastically (I went from a handful of tweets to 800+ within about two weeks). But there are things that bother me about it. First, there are a few people that are a little strange. Some are awfully familiar, and others post tweets that indicate a possible lose screw. Or twelve. I’m a lifelong paranoid freak, and I have a few trust issues when it comes to strangers. That location thing is turned off, and on Twitter I try not to reveal any personally identifying information. No kid’s names, no landmark names (“Here I am at the Empire State Building, which is six blocks west and one block north of my apartment building, where I live on the third floor in the northeast corner!”), no significant details. There’s not even a real picture of me—it’s a cheesecake. Although for all anyone on Twitter knows, I am a cheesecake (you are what you eat, right?). With, you know, opposable thumbs. Granted, a really dedicated stalker could probably find me one way or another, but let me assure anyone who thinks they want to stalk me that I am really dull. Really dull.

I’m also a complete freak about correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I have a facial tic that kicks in when I see things things like “ur” and “u,” and it takes a lot of self-control on my part not to correct things like “him and me.” Don’t even get me started on “you’re” versus “your.” In composing my own tweets, if I can’t get the whole thought into 140 characters without using abbreviations common among fourteen year olds, or omitting too much punctuation, I’ll find something else to write.

My use of Twitter is for humor (given the serious and thoughtful nature of my output here, that comes as a shock, I know). As I am here, over there, I’m just looking to provoke a laugh. If you want inspiration, or even rational thought, I’m not your huckleberry. Want a laugh and have a slightly sick, twisted, sometimes dirty sense of humor? We’re going to get along fine. I’m not a philosopher. I’m not in business to make you feel better about yourself, or see the world as a shiny happy place. If that’s what you want there are tons of people out there who do just that. Oprah, for instance. In case you couldn’t tell, I am not Oprah.

Just to be clear, this is not a picture of me

There are a few people who follow me who I suspect will either stop shortly (or just “mute” me) because our perspectives are so radically different. Unless it’s meant sarcastically, shit like “No experience is ever wasted. Everything has meaning,” is not the sort of thing you’re going to read from me on Twitter. In fact, that kind of thing provokes serious eye rolls from me. (I actually tweeted about that very saying earlier--it read: "Seen on a coffee cup: 'No experience is ever wasted. Everything has meaning.' First thing that flashed into my mind: 'Seriously? Fuck you.'") If I wanted to read fortune cookie fodder, I’d buy a bag of fortune cookies. But I roll my eyes privately. Everyone uses social media in their own way. Live and let live.

Until about two days ago, my husband had no idea I was even on Twitter. He just happened to walk behind my computer at just the right moment. He knows about my Facebook obsession, of course, but hadn't a clue I was on Twitter. He gave me that look that says, "Seriously? It's come to this?" And I'd be embarrassed about it, except that later that evening I was sitting on the porch while he was watering the garden, and he was fiddling with his phone in the hand not holding the hose. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, "Candy Crush." Seriously? It's come to this? I kind of felt like we both discovered the other was cheating, but there were no people involved--just applications.

So for now I’m having my fun with Twitter, and it may end up being something of a fad, but I’m pretty devoted to Facebook, so perhaps not. Sometimes I feel a little like I’m whispering into a hurricane, and no one is listening, but other times I get a response, so that’s OK. Plus it’s not like I’m producing nuggets of indispensable wisdom (see above about how I’m not Oprah). I read somewhere that 40% of all tweets on Twitter are classified as “pointless babble” (which seems a rather unkind, if accurate, description, but OK). I got the impression that the company making the announcement was a little surprised by this finding. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s only 40%. I mean, it is Twitter, for god’s sake. When our civilization is brought down and anthropologists sift through the smoldering rubble that’s what remains of our once proud society, and they stumble across Twitter, they’re not going to read the tweets by Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan and say, “Clearly, this was the repository for the wisdom generated by their finest thinkers; an elite assemblage of great minds sharing their insightful reflections on matters great and small.” But I do sort of hope they’ll be impressed with my offering of “Mastering the Art of French Verb Conjugations” to #lessinterestingbooks.

In case you wanted to swing by Twitter and check out my profane "pointless babble" I'm @qwertygirl.
The Facebook page for this blog is

Blog Hop!

First I want to thank Stacey for choosing me to participate in this tour. I’m flattered, because I’m in some amazing company with some very talented and very funny bloggers, many of whom I admire a lot (but not in a weird, stalker-y way, just in a wow you guys are amazing and I’m totally not creepy I swear way). I hope you’ll make yourself at home and take a look around while you’re here (you can even go ahead and take a peek in the medicine cabinet—we’re all friends). Thanks for stopping by!

What Am I Working On?

Right now I’m focused on this blog, so I have probably ten or twenty posts in various stages of development. I have a thumb drive that has them all on it, along with tons of notes and fragments of ideas. If I were to lose it, I’d probably just shrivel up and blow away. My husband keeps asking me why I leave the house every morning clutching this thing in my fist. Because it’s my brain, that’s why. My life is sort of ruled by my D: drive these days. I hit “save” a lot.

How Does Your Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

Not to oversimplify it, but because it’s mine.

I think the things that set every writer apart are their viewpoint and their voice. Just like if you ask five people to describe an accident they witnessed you’re going to get five different stories, so it is with asking five different writers to describe their experience as a parent, or their vacation, or a trip to the grocery store. You’re going to get five different points of view, with emphasis on what each person regards as important or noteworthy. I like to point out the amusing, the ridiculous, the obnoxious, the aggravating (and, more often than not, make fun of it). But what sets it apart is that it’s also colored by my experiences, which are threaded through my narrative (and which, hello, are riveting, of course).

And with five writers, they’re going to tell you about their experience in their language, with their metaphors and cultural references. It means that every single person blogging about the insanity we’ve undertaken in becoming parents, and the roller coaster that has become our lives (I think mine most closely resembles Space Mountain—I feel a little dated, the noise is deafening, and I have no fucking idea what I’m doing or where I’m going because I’m totally in the dark) is completely unique and therefore has intrinsic value. Yet we’re all able to relate to each other, and I love reading someone else’s blog and thinking, “YES! ME TOO! You totally nailed how I feel!” I hope I connect with people the same way. And if they get a laugh out of it at the same time, that’s even better.

This has been especially true for me finding so many parents with kids who are ADHD or have other behavioral or neurological conditions that often prove challenging to parents. I have one with ADHD, one with ADD and, as I discovered through my readings when they were diagnosed, I am ADD. In 1983 we didn’t have ADD. We had “kids who don’t pay attention,” or “kids who won’t apply themselves” (guess what I heard for the 3,249 years it took me to get through elementary, middle, and high school?). To find so many other parents who think, “Dear god why is this child such a nightmare to parent?” and be completely honest about their emotions and thoughts about it has been a huge help. I feel like I found a community of people who get me, and whom I get. And it’s always great when you feel gotten.

Why Do I Write/Create What I Do?

When I was about three, I wrote this: “Wunc ther was a grl who had oranj eys. She was a very werd grl” (“Once there was a girl who had orange eyes. She was a very weird girl.”) The scrap of paper with that plus the picture I drew of the girl on it is floating around my house somewhere. I should probably frame it. That’s my first known output as a writer. As a kid I read (I learned to read very young) and wrote all the time. I wrote mostly stories, both for school and for fun, and at one point I remember writing a screen play for an adaptation of Beverly Cleary’s “Fifteen” (and yes, it’s still under copyright, so it’s a violation, but only if I try to do anything with it; if it just sits in the box in my attic, it’s not hurting anyone).

Combine with this a childhood spent on the fringes, and battling depression. I was never particularly “popular” (whatever that means), and in fact went through periods where many of my classmates actively disliked me (I don’t know why—maybe it was just my perception. I like to think I wasn’t a complete asshole as a child, but maybe I was. Maybe I still am. Maybe my classmates were). As a result, I’m sort of needy and crave validation, but I’m usually too shy to ask for it for fear of rejection. I already had a sense of humor that I used as a weapon in my fight against depression, but I learned to employ sarcasm (and profanity) as well, which protected me from the assholes. I didn’t learn not to care what people think until I was quite a bit older (like, about two years ago), but I could act like I didn’t, and that got me to adulthood.

Once I had kids, and realized they were going to drive me to drink (more) if I didn’t have some outlet for my feelings about my inadequate parenting skills, I started posting on Facebook about it, sharing my frustrations with the world, but with humor to try to make myself seem less pathetic (not sure it always works). I would run into people I’m friends with on Facebook and they would say, “You’re the funniest person in my Facebook feed.” I was always genuinely flattered (and deeply grateful for the validation), and decided to take it to the next level and elaborate on my inadequate parenting experiences.

How Does Your Writing/Creating Process Work?

Many of my blog posts grow out of Facebook statuses. Sometimes a single status will have enough “backstory” for a post (“Wallowing in Their Own Filth” started as a status about my kids’ refusal to change their underwear, and they’re sufficiently slovenly in their personal habits that it was easy to expand on that topic). Other times I’ll find four or five statuses with a similar theme, and weave them into a post. Sometimes I’m inspired by something someone else writes—as Stacey said, my school carnival post grew out of something I read on her blog. I also carry two or three notebooks that I scribble things down in—overheard conversations, random amusing thoughts that are totally out of context but for which I might find a context, silly words and phrases.

Once I have an idea, I panic. Just kidding. I get something, anything down “on paper” (because of course it’s not paper, it’s Word). I’m to the point where I have to “compose” on the computer. I can use paper for notes, but it’s all in a Word doc from there. I’ll bounce around from one topic to another over the course of several days to several weeks, working on the one(s) I have ideas for, adding a couple of paragraphs, hitting save, and moving on to another one, depending on my mood. I do most of this on the ferry on my way home from work. I have a half hour ferry ride, and in the afternoon I’m on an earlier ferry than the ones my friends are on, so I have a chunk of uninterrupted time to work. Sometimes I try to get some work done on the weekends, but we all know how that goes (“Mommy, can I have a computer turn?” “Mommy, when we go to the store today, can we get…” “Mommy, can you get me down a bowl?” “Hey Mommy…hey Mommy…hey Mommy…”).

When a post is “complete” it will sit on my thumb drive for anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so. I’ll go back and read it and reread it, constantly tweaking it, both the content and the syntax. I have a bad habit of using the word “that” when it could just as easily be removed, so lots of times I’m deleting errant instances of “that.” I’ll find typos (places where my brain hustled my fingers on to the point that I dropped a word or words), and occasionally delete sections, or rewrite parts (for instance, this post will be “finished” probably three to five days before I post it, but I’ll edit it twenty times before that).

Then I hit publish. Then I hit “refresh” a lot to see if you lovely people are stopping by to say hi. Like I said, I’m kind of pathetic and needy that way.

OK, so that's me! Now, to introduce the next three bloggers who will tell you about how their writing process works, allow me to introduce Jeannette from Mommy Needs a Martini, Kelley from Kelley's Break Room, and Cassandra and Momus from the team-written blog, The Next Delusion. Each of these lovely folks sent me a bio, their social media links, and links to two posts so you can get to know them. Here, in their own words, is a little about them:

Jeannette Bellesfield is a married, full-time working Mommy to two girls (born '10 & '12) whose life consists of work, diapers, bottles, stories, naps, craft fails, power struggles and, of course, martinis over at Mommy Needs A Martini.
Social Media Links:

The Day I Met Jacob:
Fairies in a Jar...?:

The Next Delusion
Cassandra: I am in my mid-forties with a daughter in college and a 10 year old son.  Somehow I find myself working as a data analyst despite my love of words and deep mistrust of all things numeric. Over the years I have engaged in a variety of delusional behaviors to enable me to pretend that someday my life will involve more than statistics and PowerPoint. I blog about my life, my delusions, and all of the things that either irritate me or make me anxious. My goal when I sit down to write a post is generally to make Momus laugh.
Momus:  I am slightly later into my forties than Cassandra, which is a fact she reminds me of on a weekly basis. I have two daughters, aged 14 and 11 who are so much smarter than I ever was (or will ever be). Like Cassandra, I have followed a wayward career path, with training in psychology which somehow morphed into data analysis. I blog about my endless missteps in life, my character flaws (I field nominations for those), and a variety of skewed perspectives.  My goal in writing a blog post is for Cassandra to still be speaking to me after she reads it.  Anything else is a bonus.
Two Nuns and a Giraffe Walk Into a CVS:

You can follow Cassandra on Twitter at @TheNextDelusion

Kelley's Break Room

Kelley's Break Room is a humor blog meant for everyone: mothers, fathers, single women, single men, teenagers, the elderly with good eyesight, highly developed infants and your neighbor on the left. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post and she has been a contributor to NickMom since 2011. She is a co-author on the popular book, I Just Want To Pee Alone. She was named in Mashable's 2013 "17 Funny Moms on Twitter" list and has appeared in the Huffington Post's "Best Parenting Tweets" list several times. One of her tweets was also read on The Steve Harvey Show in May 2014 by Steve Harvey himself! She has appeared on Great Day Houston, Houston's Fox 26 Morning Show and on the NickMom TV show Parental Discretion with Stephanie Wilder-Taylor. In her a professional life, she is a speech-language pathologist in a hospital and a public school. She's been married since 1999 and has two sons born in 2004 and 2008. They can all sort of make her crazy.

My links:
Go check out these awesome bloggers!

Bad Sport

I’m a terrible sports mom. I don’t mean I’m not supportive of my children in their athletic endeavors. I am—I want them to get good exercise, do well and be proud of themselves, understand what it means to be part of a team, and I want them to have fun. After the game we talk about what they did well, how they could improve, and how important it is that everyone played well, not just if the team won or lost. I’m just terrible at the during-the-actual-event stuff.

In the first place, I have no understanding whatsoever of the details of the rules of any sport. For all I know, you have to say “Mother, May I?” before you throw the ball back into play in soccer, and if the runner in baseball has his fingers crossed when he gets tagged, is he actually out? A lot of this is because I find sports boring as shit and don’t follow any of them. Plus I never participated in organized sports as a child. I took gymnastics once for about six weeks, and I rode horses all through high school, but neither of those involved fouls or outs or goals or anything. So things happen on the field or the court, and I’m not sure if they’re good or bad. Or if they matter at all. You’d think by now I’d get it, and to an extent I do (you can’t watch 8000+ hours of soccer without figuring out a little of what the hell’s going on), but the finer points of every game escape me.

I’m also not one of your gung ho sports mommies. I don’t stand on the sidelines and yell, “Go, Badgers!” or “Stay with it!” or “Nice D!” (which, it took me a really long time to figure out, was not one mom calling to another on the other side of the field with a compliment about her recent breast augmentation, but means, “Nice defense”). Shit I can barely remember which predatory animal my kids’ teams are named after, much less be expected to cheer and shout and generally make an ass of myself in their support. Besides, I’m just as likely to get the team name wrong (“Go Wolves! I mean…Cougars! I mean…Wildcats! Whatever!”). So you expect me to be able to recognize when they switch from playing offense to playing defense? I clap when my child’s team does something good (I know it’s his team, and I know it’s something good based on the reactions of the other, more enthusiastic parents of his team mates around me). I’m just not one for making a spectacle of myself. Besides, I never want to be that parent screaming in a voice that would crack a mirror while all the other parents stand around and roll their eyes at each other, wishing that parent would shut the fuck up.

Pretty sure it's one of these
Because I have no concept of how to play…any sport, really, I’m also never going to be that parent yelling instructions to every kid on the team. You know the one I mean—usually a dad (but I’ve heard moms who do it) who wants to tell not only his or her kid, but all of the kids the best time to pass, how fast to run, when to shoot. And they do it through the whole fucking game. I can’t believe the kids even hear these instructions, much less think to act on them. I’ve never figured out why these assholes don’t sign up to be the coach, if they know so much. Or, you know, shut up. Either one is fine with me.
I have a further confession that may brand me as a complete asshole, but I have to say this: I actually don’t care about the performance of any kid but my own. If your Connor or Madison plays well, that’s great. I’m happy for you. But don’t expect gushing congratulations from me on the goal/run/out s/he was part of. Because let’s be honest, if my kid wasn’t part of it, I probably wasn’t watching. The best you’re likely to hear is “Wow, Connor/Madison played a great game!”  I don’t mean that maliciously. It’s not unkindness on my part, it’s complete apathy. I really only pay attention to what’s going on when my kid is participating. The rest of the time I’m reading my book or catching up on Twitter (read: writing tweets about how annoying all the hyper enthusiastic screaming sports parents are and/or how fucking uncomfortable the bleachers are, and that my butt is now asleep. Because Twitter cares very deeply about my butt. It told me it did).
It also seems like most sports events are held either first thing in the morning, or during cocktail hour. I am a morning person—7 a.m. is sleeping way in for me, and always has been—but that doesn’t mean that I want to hop out of bed and scurry off to some playing field or other. I like to read, write, maybe watch a little Amazon Prime, have a Diet Coke. You know, relax. The only thing that would make it acceptable for them to schedule some damned game or other at 9 a.m. on a Saturday is if the concession stand sold Bloody Marys. And I can assure the local Little League that parents would stop grumbling about games at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday if they could get a beer while they watched their kid miss every catch that was thrown to them for 90 minutes straight.
I’m sure the other parents think I’m a complete slacker, too, because I never volunteer to be scorekeeper, or wrangle equipment or anything. I volunteered in the snack shack exactly once, and that was one of the biggest nightmares I’ve experienced since I left the food service industry 25 years ago. A tip: if you’re forced to work the snack shack, sign up for the first shift of the day (assuming this is 9 a.m. or so). If your team’s snack shack serves anything remotely resembling real food, under no circumstances should you sign up to work between 11 and 2. You will be serving the “lunch crowd” consisting of 185 starving nine year olds whose parents were too busy running from one event to another to get them lunch, and agreed to get the kid a hot dog (and some fries and a pretzel and three Laffy Taffys and a Kit Kat and a Gatorade and a bottle of water). The day I did it many of the Little League teams were having “end of season” cookouts, so the pressure was reduced, but even with that I still left the snack shack smelling like a deep fat fryer, having flashback nightmares to my days working in a carry out serving barbeque sandwiches and tuna melts to construction workers.
So between not getting it, not caring about 80% of what happens on the field, and being perceived as not jumping in to do my part, I am a horrible sports mom. I’m sure other parents see me sitting there on the sideline with my magazine, or playing with my phone, and think, “You’re what’s wrong with parents today.” And they may be right, but I’d rather have them judge me as a bad sports parent (since they’re not entirely wrong) than have them rolling their eyes, wishing I’d shut up for just two seconds.

Early Onset Senility

I work for a great woman who is understanding and supportive about my never ending issues with my kids (orthodontist appointments that make me come in late, homework that requires me to leave early, kid illnesses that prevent me from coming in at all). Even better than that, she’s about my age, and grew up in the same part of the country I did (Middle Atlantic states, for those of you playing along at home), so we have a lot in common, and many of the same cultural references. Our weekly half hour one on ones are a quick recap of what’s going on in my work world, and up to twenty five minutes of chat about one thing and another.

Sometimes it’s work-related—gossip or other news, but more often than not, it’s personal. We’ll talk about what we did over the weekend, or something that happened with one of my kids, which will lead us down a path of reminiscences about when we were kids.  Sometimes it’s current events or celebrity gossip. We’re kind of all over the map. We swear a lot.

This week we had something happen that happens all the time—there was something celebrity-related we were discussing but couldn’t remember certain details, and as a result, we sort of talked around in a  circle, pulling on pop culture threads until we got it, kind of like those lame piñatas with the bazillion curling ribbon strings intended for really little kids, where they’re supposed to pull one string at a time until some kid pulls the right one and a cascade of Dubble Bubble gum  and Jolly Ranchers comes cascading down on their heads (and why do people always put such sucky candy in piñatas? Hello, chocolate? Not even little kids would pick Jolly Ranchers over chocolate).
It started with my recounting how one of my twins had stomach flu over the 4th of July weekend. He’d barfed on Wednesday, but seemed fine on Thursday, until my husband took them to Dairy Queen. He ate a cone, then promptly horked it all up in the parking lot (the kid, not my husband). There’s a town near us that does their fireworks on the 3rd, and we were going to take all four of them that evening, but after the puking I said this one needed to stay home with me. Especially after I called the doctor and they confirmed there was a stomach flu going around—I didn’t want him to give it to anyone else at the fireworks display. And as for staying home myself, I was totally OK with it. In the first place, fireworks bore the snot out of me (oo…ah…whatever; you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all) and in the second place, I find it weird that this town does them on the 3rd. It’s my private little protest that I don’t normally get to exercise because my kids want to go see the goddamned fireworks (oo…ah).
So he and I stayed home and he watched The Little Rascals. It came out in 1994, and stars exactly no one you’ve ever heard of, and is one of the stupidest movies ever released (any of the fucking talking dog movies might be a contender here—you know, the ones with the golden retriever puppies who save the world with nothing but a chew toy and a shit ton of nauseating cute). The sad thing is, if the success of the movie was based on the adult cast alone, it might have stood a chance. Whoopie Goldberg, Daryl Hannah, Mel Brooks, Lea Thompson, George Wendt. The only two of the kids in it you’ve ever heard of are the Olsen twins, who were billed as “Twin 1” and “Twin 2” and showed up in possibly two scenes. But this movie is one of my kid’s guilty pleasures, and the fact that he had a couple of hours at home alone without any siblings expressing their damned opinion of what should be on the TV gave him a chance to watch it.
> = < ?

It's a toss up. They're both pretty much made of suck.

My boss wasn’t even aware that they’d made a movie of the Little Rascals, so she looked it up on IMDB, remarking as she did so that Mel Brooks had recently died. Thus it was that we had this exchange:
Me: “No he didn’t,"
Her: “Didn’t he?”
Me: “I don’t think so…”
Her: “Oh, no, it was his wife who died not long ago.”
Me: “Um…umm…Annette Benning!”
Her: ”…”
Me: “Right?”
Her: “No…   …Anne Bancroft"
Me: “Oh right! Well, I got the initials right. Annette Benning is married to…um…”
Her: “Uh…”
Me: “Carly Simon…I mean, you know, the song…”
Her: “Right, the one that dated everybody…”
Me: “Um…”
Her: “Warren Beatty!”
Me: “Yes!”

We decided that this is what happens when you get older. You can’t think of things, but you can think of all the things around the thing, or related to the thing. We do this all the time. We’ll be talking about a song, or a movie, and we can’t think of the primary piece of information, but we can remember half a dozen tangentially related facts, so we bounce them back and forth between us like so many ping pong balls until sooner or later something strikes a live synapse in one of our brains and we triumphantly spit out the answer, proud of our ability to sort through the dates in American history, punch lines to blond jokes, and old phone numbers stored in the cluttered recesses of our aging memories along with whatever pertinent information we were hunting for. It seems like this is the only way we can remember things—by playing a sort of Early Onset Senility version of Six Degrees of Separation.
When I got back to my desk, I got curious. I didn’t remember hearing that Anne Bancroft had died. I loved “The Graduate” and I remember seeing “The Turning Point” when I was about nine. I had always thought she was so lovely, and such a really excellent actress. Plus I love Mel Brooks (“Blazing Saddles” is just awesome—“Are we awake?” “We’re not sure…are we black?” “Yes, we are” “Then we’re awake…but we’re very puzzled” I mean, that shit is genius). I looked her up on Wikipedia (the source of all wisdom). Wikipedia is the best friend of those of us who suffer from Early Onset Senility. For the curious, she died of uterine cancer in 2004, two months after her son and daughter in law had a son (I thought it was nice that she got a chance to at least see her grandchild).
I went back to my boss’s office a little while later.
Me: “So I started wondering when you said Anne Bancroft had died recently, and looked it up on Wikipedia.”
Her: “Yeah?”
Me: “For the record, she died in 2004. Ten years ago.”
Her: “…”
Me: “Right?”

The fun never ends with Early Onset Senility.

Confessions About Kid Movies

It’s fairly common as a parent to not be wild about one’s children’s televisual selections. Children seldom express an interest in the most recent Academy Award nominees, nor light but charming rom-coms staring the Hunk of the Moment. However, I must confess that in ten or so years, there have been a few movies that I’ve bought for my kids that I’ve secretly enjoyed. Sometimes not so secretly (“C’mon guys—let’s watch ‘Franklin Goes to School’ again, you wanna?”). It's sort of like admitting that you really liked your toddler's Gerber Fruit Puff things, or that, as much as you  may roll your eyes when the song comes on the radio (every seven and a half minutes), you really do clap along with Pharrell and know what happiness is to you. This may not be an exhaustive list, but it has the potential to be vastly humiliating, and that’s what counts, right?

Pooh’s Heffalump Movie
This was the first one I found myself urging my oldest (who was the only one old enough to watch DVDs when it came out) to watch again. “How about Pooh’s Heffalump Movie?” I’d say hopefully. Since he was young and easily led, and not yet aware of the concept of an “ulterior motive,” he’d often agree. I’m not really sure what about this movie I found so delightful. Maybe the voice of Lumpy, which was voiced by some child with a little piping British accent. As a rule I scorn the idea of gratuitously giving characters British accents because the producers theorize that it makes them charming and endearing (lookin’ at you, Peppa Pig), but in the case of Lumpy, it worked for me. Also, as I once said to a babysitter when expressing my fondness for this particular movie, the fact that Carly Simon did all the songs made it a bit easier to take. (I was not charmed by her response: “Who?” Fuck it.) “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” eventually found its way into the garage sale box, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for it.

Scooby Doo and the Curse of the Tiki
You know, or something like that. The plot involved The Gang going to Hawaii (for…some reason. But as always with The Gang, it was a good reason—they were visiting someone’s uncle. Or cousin. Or godparent. Those kids had more family scattered across the globe, all of whom owned condos and vacation homes and shit that they were just itching to have people come stay in, than any five people you will ever meet). And there was a beach, and people were being scared away from it by the “wikitiki” and there was something about some damned resort being built nearby. It was in all ways your typical Scooby Doo story line, with an explanation of what “poi” was thrown in for good measure. For the life of me I couldn’t tell you what about this was appealing.

It was actually bad Scooby Doo, because it was when The Gang had become so two dimensional and nineties-afied.  But you have to give them credit for being willing to stick to the formula. I mean, seriously? How many people have pointed out that Scooby and his friends should just have stood their ground when the weird scary bad guy showed up the first time, and refused to run screaming. Then when the weird scary bad guy got tired of jumping around yelling, they could rip off the asshole’s mask and discover it was Old Man Jenkins. It would have made every show and movie about 80% shorter, but they would have been about four thousand percent more believable.  Finally the disc became so scratched that I threw it away. This was before I realized the video store near our house could clean them so they’d play again. I sort of regret having done that.

Franklin Goes to School
The last time I watched this (although to be fair I didn’t really watch it as much as listen to it, and it was probably the last time I will ever get to experience this without the shame of actually picking it for myself and secretly watching it, terrified of being discovered, not that I would do that) we were in the car returning from a short vacation, and I insisted it be on the video player, because I couldn’t stand the idea of listening to whatever the hell the other choice was. About ten minutes in, one of my kids announced that he was “making some notes” on this movie in a small notebook he’d found in the seat pocket. “So far,” he informed us, “I have ‘stupid’ and ‘babyish.’”

Well, OK, but as kids cartoons go, Franklin is pretty tolerable. I’ll admit that I find it odd that only Franklin has a name, and the rest of the creatures are referred to by their species (“Bear,” “Goose,” “Beaver”) and the fact that, with the exception of Snail, they all have opposable thumbs, or something that passes for an opposable thumb, even when the creatures they are do not in real life (and sure, I get it, it’s easier to have them be able to do “human” things, but then why didn’t Snail get an opposable thumb? Even Goose got super flexible wings that are almost as good. I mean, if you’re going to go unrealistic, just go for it, man), but those are small things. The characters are polite to each other, the story is one that kids can identify with: a familiar teacher is replaced by a substitute for an extended period of time, and that substitute is different—the kids would say weird—but they find a common interest over which to bond (in this case, soccer), get used to one another’s ways, and forge a nice relationship. This is another one that I think has made its way out of my house via yard sale.

My oldest was the right age for Cars, and I think he liked it pretty well, but nowhere near as much as I liked it. As a result he had every one of the cars (Lightning, Mater, Chick Hicks, etc, along with every possible permutation of them sold—Radiator Springs Lighting when he had the white wall tires on, Dynaco Lightning, old Mater, new Mater, you name it), as well as play sets of the various buildings in Radiator Springs. Every Christmas and Birthday for about two years he was showered with Cars toys. We had Cars slippers, Cars sunglasses, Cars sippy cups.

Then one afternoon when my oldest was about 7, I was walking through the kitchen, and I noticed a strange smell. I had preheated the oven for something, and the strange smell was coming from there. Since it was a brand new oven, I couldn’t imagine what it was. I opened the oven door to find a Lightning McQueen slipper that had been put in to roast by one of my younger boys. I tossed both slippers, and realized it was kind of the beginning of the end for our family and Cars. The attempted cremation of Lightning was a sign I couldn’t ignore. Also a sign that we needed to have a little chat about appliance safety and not playing with stove.

Toy Story
Both my husband and I justify letting the kids watch Toy Story by saying, “But Andy is playing with his toys at the beginning of the movie! It’s almost like a…a documentary with a subliminal message! ‘Play with your toys—be imaginative!’” Yeah, sure. At the end of the day it’s still a fucking movie and they’re still just watching TV. But they do have the Andy’s Room/Pizza Planet play set. Although they’ve pretty much outgrown it. Oh well, since they’ve pretty much outgrown the movie, too, I guess that doesn’t matter. This is one I watch on weekend nights when my husband is out of town, they’ve gone to bed, and I’m exercising my adult privilege of staying up late.

Naturally the list of children’s movies I couldn’t bear is much longer than this one (see: Time, Land Before and Squarepants, Spongebob), but these few I really did like. Now they’ve moved on to The Disney Channel, and all they want to watch is “Jessie” and “Austin & Ally” (would those two please get on with it and just admit they like each other, for fuck’s sake?). And, seriously, are there 327 Shark Boy and Lava Girl movies? Or is there just one that’s 46 hours long? I really can’t tell, but Shark Boy and Lava Girl is sort of like Disney’s version of 1990s cable and their obsession with “The Man From Snowy River.” Any time you turned on Cinemax, they were showing it. Of course, they do like “Frozen” (which is not necessarily a good thing, although I can take it in small doses), and they’ll watch the Brady Bunch on DVD with me (maybe don’t ask about that one), but I expect the next time I happen to catch one of their movies and realize it’s something I’d actually willingly watch again, and even kind of like, is a ways off.

Rats. No Really. Rattus norvegicus.

Rats are assholes. You probably already knew that, but I’m restating it, just in case anyone out there was thinking, “On the other hand, maybe rats aren’t so bad…” No, rats are assholes, period. I say this because there is a community of them that apparently thinks my car is a mobile toilet, parked in the driveway for their convenience.

As a point of clarification, we live in a semi-rural area, with lots of natural habitat for rats and other wildlife. We have deer and pheasant, as well as coyotes, that also live near us. So the fact that we have rats living around our house is not really cause for alarm. Well, other than that the assholes are getting in my car, of course.

This is not the first time we’ve had a problem with them. Two years ago we went on a fairly lengthy car trip over New Year’s (and let me just go on record as saying that never again will we drive seven fucking hours over mountain passes, through throngs of holiday weekend skiers, to stay two nights—two nights—at a resort, no matter how fancy or nice or amazing it is. Fuck that shit). While we were out of town (of course) the car started acting up. If we dropped under 40 m.p.h. while we were driving there was something that would kick in and not allow us to accelerate back up again. We’d have to turn the car off to reset this thing. Guess how fast you can go when you’re in holiday traffic on snowy mountain passes? Not over 40 m.p.h., that’s how fast. So it was something of a nightmare getting back.

We managed to limp home, and the next day my husband took the car to the dealership to be repaired. The guy told him that rats had nested in the car engine, and chewed through some wires, which caused the problem. I’m sorry, that was rats? I didn’t know whether to laugh or throw up. He said he was doing four and five of this kind of repair a week, because in our particular minivan model there was a very easy way for the rats to get into the engine, and apparently a rat or rats who are bigger assholes than most rats had spread the word. So four hundred dollars later, we had a rat-free car.

 That's the little fucker. He cost me four hundred bucks. He's dead now.

The guy at the dealership recommended some moth balls in the engine compartment, because he said rats don’t like the smell of camphor. I didn’t bother pointing out to him that neither do humans. So my husband went out and bought some, and stuck them in the car. The first time I got in to drive it after that, I had forgotten about the moth balls. I sniffed.
Me: “What’s that weird smell?”
Kid: “I don’t know, but it smells like a porta-potty.”
Then I remembered the moth balls.
Me: “Oh, right—Daddy put moth balls into the car to keep away the rats. Well, that’s great, but now I feel like I’m driving the world’s biggest Randy Kan.”
Plus, anyone else see the foreshadowing in that child’s remark? It’s like the rats heard him and went, “ may have something there…” Assholes.
Fast forward to earlier this week, while my husband is doing something productive and undoubtedly tool-related in the garage, I am standing in the driveway with a glass of wine (like you expected me to be doing anything else). As I’m standing there, I see a rat run over to one of our cars, and shimmy his nasty little ass up into the engine. Mother. Fucker. I shriek for my husband, who sends me to his office to get a pellet gun revolver we have, while he grabs the air compressor out of the garage. I open the hood, and he goes back eight or so feet with the pellet revolver and squats down in the position assumed by cops just before they yell, “Cover me!” to their partner and rush out into the crossfire to kill the bad guy. (To answer the question this presents, no, there is no way in hell Axel Foley was going to hit the rat on its way across the yard. I’m pretty sure he intended the revolver and the stance as intimidation devices, trying to scare the rat into giving serious thought to just who he was messing with. Like the rat was going to care.) On his command, I spray the air into the engine, scaring the little bastard out. He (the rat, not my husband) runs across the driveway, and ducks down into hole in our retaining wall, which is clearly his nasty little burrow. My husband watches where he goes, then proceeds to fire half a dozen pellets into the burrow, unquestionably hitting nothing. I think he just wanted an excuse to fire the pellet revolver.
So here’s what I don’t get—he’s clearly got a place to live. What’s he doing in my car, other than pooping? It’s summer, so he’s not seeking warmth (which was the explanation offered by the dealership in January two years ago). There’s no food in the area—two years ago there were some leftover pumpkins from our Pumpkin Fling that they were eating, before climbing up into our cozy warm car engine. So I can only conclude that this shithead of a rat is using our car as a toilet. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a little stash of male rat’s magazines in there if we were to take the whole thing apart. Dirty little creep.
I hope he’s made out his will, because I have purchased rat poison. My neighbors had (and may still have) rats in their crawl space, and set all kinds of traps—snap traps and sticky traps. None of them worked. I don’t know what their rationale is for not wanting to use poison. Their kid is old enough not to eat it (he’s 10, and doesn’t go into the crawl space anyway), and they don’t have any pets who might get into it. The hell with it, I say—fry, you little bastards, fry.