Barf Boy

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Even God enjoys a good sitcom every now and then. I know this because, while I haven’t yet managed to syndicate my own “Debra Rich” tv show, I am a walking breathing sitcom that delights god every time he/she/they tune in. (And I’m making the conscious choice to end that sentence with a preposition.So deal.)

For as long as I can remember, people have compared the odd characters and situations of my life to a well crafted sitcom. As a student of fine television comedy, I’ve often thought of my life in the genre of classic situational comedies like The Dick Van Dyke show and I Love Lucy. But I have to admit that much of my current chaos feels a lot like “My Crazy Ex Girlfriend,” minus the musical interludes. My soundtrack to my life isn’t a bunch of clever riffs on Broadway showtunes. It is instead an annoying, ever-looping, instrumental version of “Abba Dabba Dabba Said the Monkey to the Chimp.” (Longer explanation to follow…someday. Suffice to say, this song mysteriously plays everywhere I go every day of my life.)

Season 227 episode 11

I board a plane from Seattle to Phoenix where I am producing a big fundraiser gala and Cabaret for “Kid in the Corner,” the foundation to which my life has become dedicated.

I am traveling alone over New Years because I cannot take care of 25 performers, a full tech staff, and oversee this important event with children in tow. While my kids (14 and 18) are older and very responsible. I chose to leave them home in the hopes of avoiding awkward family drama and distracting everyday disfunction.

All seems well as I settle into my roomie Premium class window seat on, my now least favorite airline on the planet, Alaska Air. I watch as others board and clumsily hoist their carry ons in the newly constructed overhead compartments which continue to shrink with each economical redesign. Suddenly I notice two parents, about my age, overly happy and perhaps even a bit intoxicated. They are leading two young boys, nearly the ages of mine, behind them. I notice that the younger boy, maybe 11 years old, seems a bit anxious and out of sorts. The father, a boisterous, designer clad fellow who emits the air of a realtor or other sales related executive points the younger boy to the middle seat next to me. “But dad,” the kid stammers. “I don’t feel so…”

“You’re fine,” says Pops who then pushes the older boy down in the aisle seat of my row. “You and your brother can play on your Switch. It’s only a 2 and a half hour flight.” Then he and wifey, whom I assume is the mom, grab a couple of exit row premium seats a few rows back.

Full disclosure, this feels a bit off to me. I leave my kids at home in order to focus and perhaps even relax a bit. But I immediately find myself burdened with someone else’s even younger duo. I talk myself down though because I am not responsible for these two kids and this serendipitous situation provides me with a great chance to test out my new “not my problem” approach to life.

The flight attendant approaches shortly after take off and offers me a glass of ice water. As I reach for the refreshing liquid, young boy #1 projectile vomits all over himself, the seat, and me. Suddenly this has become my problem. We all seem immobilized as if we’ve been shot by some villainous time freezing weapon. After a few seconds, I snap out of my paralyzed state and call to the parents, three rows behind me, “Your kid is sick. He just threw up all over.”

When dad insists “No, he didn’t.” I sense that this is going to be a stressful trip. Flight attendant is still under the frozen time warp spell. I snap my fingers and yell, “He needs something to clean this up.”

She looks at me as if she has never encountered a nauseated traveler before. Then she reaches into the seat pocket in front of the boy and hands him a plastic, waterproof barf bag. He is perplexed but attempts to wipe up some of the copious vomit puddle in his lap and covering the seats and armrests.

I call again to the oblivious parents, “He needs help.” Then I suggest to the less than  competent attendant that she get some rags or paper towels. Dad arrives in time to lambast the child for barfing on purpose as the rest of us glare at him in disbelief. Next mom appears in giggly apology, “It’s nothing,” she assures all of us, “he does this every time he flies.”

“NO HE DOESN’T,” snaps dad. “He’s never done this before.”

“What are you talking about, hon.” inquires mom, “He does this on every flight.”

At this point, I feel entitled to the rage, frustration and disbelief that are flooding my psyche. Kid gets cleaned up and mom replaces his soaked tee shirt. Other flight attendants have brought over more useless barf bags and a few cocktail napkins to clean up the remainder of the liquid. I excuse myself to go throw up in the lavatory because this is BEYOND GROSS!

There are of course no open seats anywhere on the plane. So I get to stay in the stench for two more hours. Evil dad forces older son to sit in disgusting vomit seat so he can occupy the aisle seat and barf boy ends up back with mom in a clean seat.

Again, I try to convince myself that suffering is a state of mind and that I am free to choose happiness and acceptance or struggle against the reality of my present circumstance. Noxious odor makes it more challenging to remain blissful in a tightly confined airbus with vomit dampened clothes, shoes and lap top case.

I find solace in fantasizing about stripping out of every disgusting item on my person, dumping them into a soapy sanitizing washing machine cycle, and showering off this  hideous film of stranger scum. My form of relevant meditation. I breath in as I imagine the hot droplets of water careening over my scalp and body. Breath out as I envision myself covered in sudsy Pureology shampoo and body scrub.

As we begin our descent, I look back at the boy and feel true compassion for this horrifying experience. I smile at the mom and begin to say something as the kid’s face shifts from pink and rosy to pale and viridescent. And as he violently vomits across his mother and nearby seat mates, I acknowledge my success in creating another hilarious episode of God’s favorite sitcom which I’ve begun to recognize as my true purpose in life.

Here’s to being picked up next season!

Baby on board

 

maxresdefaultAs a young 20 something back in LA, there was a story on the news about a woman leaving her beloved Schnauzer in a hot car in the middle of July, only to return and find the poor creature no longer alive. I remember brainstorming with an artist pal about how we wanted to make a social statement about this kind of horrific act. So we came up with this live art installation concept. We were going to call it “Baby on Board” and we were going to glue an infant car seat on the roof of his Volkswagen Jetta, stick a life like baby doll in it, start driving, and observe the reactions from everyone on the road.  We roared as we imagined panicked motorists with rolled down windows screaming and pointing at us as we sped along the PCH.

As a responsible human being and a mother of two boys who are my life, I am horrified to think that I even momentarily thought this was a clever idea. I remember back in the Arizona summers when you would hear tragic reports about busy, stressed out parents who actually left their babies in the back seat while they frantically went into an office or lunch appointment.

I lived in fear of making an unforgivable mistake like this due to sleep deprivation, “mom brain,” or just some momentary lapse of attentiveness.

I often became paralyzed with grief over stories like these. Friends of mine were concerned and would ask about my overwhelming depression at those times. I would tell them that I understood how a parent could accidentally do something like leave their beloved child trapped in a hot car and only realize it hours later. For me, I lived in deep gratitude every day that I didn’t make some kind of disastrous mistake like that. As a working, stressed out mom, it seemed all too easy to suddenly lose focus and watch as one by one each of my proverbial spinning plates crashed to the ground.

Once in a while another mom might nod in agreement and tell me that “she got it.” But for the most part, anyone I confided in about this told me that I was crazy and that they knew I would never do something  unspeakable like that. But some other parent somewhere, had done just this and had to try to live with themselves for the rest of their miserable life. It was a staggering thing to ponder. (Full disclosure, I am also the woman who recognizes how thin the line is between my happy little suburban life and a few bad financial decisions that land you in Tent City. )

I learned to not share this particular insecurity with other parents. It tended to dramatically reduce the number of mom groups to which I was invited. But I realized that I was right. Tragedy can befall any of us. And yet, most people were so afraid of accepting that reality, they simply dismissed the possibility that anything as careless and shameful as forgetting to take your kid out of the car could actually happen to them.

I tell you this story because Wednesdays are early release days here in Seattle. We’ve just moved into a new house to be in the right high school district (no open enrollment out here). Unfortunately, we are no longer on a bus route for my 8th grader to get to and from his middle school. So I’m back with full time driving duties and frankly, I’m seriously out of practice.

Today over lunch with a friend,I lamented my new chauffeur duties  and checked my watch repeatedly, telling her I had to have enough time to get to the bank, the dry cleaner and pick up my son at 3pm. We departed around 1:30 and I popped into the bank to make a deposit.

As I left the bank, I saw I had received several texts from my son inquiring about my whereabouts. Then a few minutes later, another text came in asking who was en route to pick him up. Then finally, a text that just read, “Um…hello???”

Suddenly the reality that it was Wednesday flooded into my consciousness. I became frantic and texted him back that I was on my way. “Are you okay?” I texted. “I’m an idiot.” “I forgot it was Wednesday.” But nothing I could say could quell my horror.

I got to school at 1:47. He was casually hanging out under a tree reading a book. He had been there for exactly 22 minutes. But to me, it felt like 22 hours. I wrapped him into my arms and apologized over and over again. He put on a brave front. “It’s okay, mom. I figured eventually someone would notice I was gone.”

I took him to Baskin Robbins for ice cream and bought him a giant Hulkbuster Funco Pop. If he had asked for the moon, I would’ve found a way to get it for him. He played it up with his big blue eyes and sad pouty face. He was having fun with me.

I told him that this was definitely the moment that would drive him into therapy someday and to please understand and explain to the therapist that this hideous event had nothing to do with my love and devotion for him. Instead it was an illustration of my inability to do anything right as a parent and that he should never think I didn’t cherish him in every imaginable way.

“You do a lot right, mom,” he said, “And I love you. But it is kind of fun to have my own chocolate muffin moment.” He was referring to a vacation where I woke up starving in the middle of the night and scarfed down his older brother’s chocolate muffin. I’ve never been able to live that down. “I guess everyone has a chocolate muffin moment,” he sighed.

I felt parental shame wash over me anew. But then I realized something huge. “Well, most people have those muffin moments when they’re too little to fully comprehend them,” I pronounced. “Luckily for you, I waited till you were 14 and had the smarts and sophistication to handle it, before I traumatized you.”

It really is all in how you look at things, isn’t it?

The inconvenient tinkle truth

One more reason to put down the friggin' seat!

One more reason to put down the friggin’ seat!

I love Target. I doubt they could do anything offensive enough to make me close my purse and boycott their establishment. So the ongoing hoopla over their gender neutral bathrooms seems more than a little silly to me. Plus, given the state of our current economic woes, the idea of a campaign targeting an institution that carries merchandise from high-end manufacturers like Dyson and Cuisinart, while also offering a plethora of products like Bud Lite, Alpo and Suave, seems wrong to me on so many levels.

Frankly, I don’t really care which bathroom anyone uses or with which gender people identify. I am enthusiastically in favor of allowing everyone to use whatever public bathroom they need when they need to use it. I mean, just think of the mess we will have to endure if any one group feels unwelcome and resorts to urinating on the sidewalk or, Heaven forbid, defecating along the side of the road.

But at a certain point, I must draw the line. If you eliminate while standing, put the friggin’ toilet seat down when you’re done! It is disgusting to have to handle a urine-stained toilet seat from a woman’s perspective. (I know it’s very politically incorrect to suggest that I speak for an entire gender. But I think it’s nasty, and I’ve never met a woman who relished the opportunity to touch, hoist or handle a slovenly seat previously sprayed by a sloppy stranger.

As an actor, I am used to sharing facilities with all types of folk. But several times I have had to bring up the annoying seat lowering negligence to male cast mates or careless crew members. I have discovered, however, that the majority of both men and women consider it uncouth and ill-mannered to leave the seat up. This is an issue all genders find rather revolting.

Again, I realize it is high risk these days to speak honestly about such a delicate topic. But I feel I owe it to society to address this despicable elephant in our public bathrooms.

Look, I’m a wife and a mom. I live with three Y chromosome individuals. But I taught them from the very beginning that if they intend to live in the same house as I do, they’d better put down the seat down after each and every turn in the toilet. It’s really not that difficult to train the males in your life on proper potty protocol.

And while I’m at it, I hate to sound critical. But as more and more restrooms are converted to co-ed, I’m a little appalled by the splashes of yolk colored puddles that seem to sit at the base of every public toilet I visit. I’m not pointing a finger, but we women don’t miss the bowl. That’s all I’m saying.

Come on, America. We have the first woman ever running for president. It’s an exciting time for our sex, even if we do only take home .77 cents to every dollar earned by our male counterparts. But we have power in numbers. We must insist on equal rights for all public bathroom users. Congress passed the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, in 1919. Women were officially welcomed into every position for which they were qualified in our military just this past January of 2016. Our strides continue to be bold, courageous, and powerful. But it is deplorable that the issue of seat lowering has not been championed and brought to the forefront.

I for one am ready to lead the charge. I am not afraid to speak loud and proud for all of us who relieve ourselves on our derriéres. We are not second class citizens. We demand respect in the bathroom and will not rest until each and every penis wielding person uses common sense values, compassion, and consideration when in the presence of a public toilet. So put the damn seats down!

Now who’s with me?

The art of parental consequence

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“Mom, have you seen my monologue for the school play?” My 15 year old son, Levi, asks in a quasi panic mode. “No,” I reply. “Did you leave it on the floor of your room?”

“Yeah, I did.” He’s already starting to sound a bit sassy. “It was here this morning when I left for school.”

“Oh, bummer.” I say, trying to muster up all the empathy I can find. “I must’ve tossed it when I threw out everything on your floor this morning when I gathered up your sheets for the laundry.”

“You threw  it out?” He whined, “How could you do that? Now I wont be able to audition for the school play. I can’t believe you would do that.”

“Gosh sweetie, I am so sorry. I can’t always tell what’s garbage and what’s important. Maybe it would be better for you to pick up your room on a daily basis. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll figure something out.”

Levi moped around the house for the next few hours periodically  giving me dirty looks whenever I crossed his path. I remained upbeat and detached. I was in teacher mode and I could not let my emotions get involved.

Finally I see him scurry into my office to use my computer. He furiously types in something and I watch his eyes light up. “Got it.” He says victoriously. I couldn’t resist. “Got what, hon? What did you find?”

He then goes on to explain that he went to the play publisher’s website (Samuel French) and searched for the title of his school play, “The Elephant’s Graveyard.” by George Brant. “Luckily,” he tells me, “They had a few sample pages of the script and my monologue was in the sample. Isn’t that awesome?”

“Your monologue was in the sample pages?” I disbelievingly replied. “You’re kidding. Well…that’s great. Just great.” He printed it up and went ahead memorizing and putting actions to the words for his upcoming audition.

Now normally I want to see my kids succeed. I want them to be happy, to do all of their homework, to get good grades, and of course to be cast in the school play. But I was seething. How does a kid get this lucky? The audition is tomorrow. He loses the monologue which he needs for the audition. I try to teach him a valuable lesson. But the one page he needs seems to magically appear for him to save the day and undermine the lessons I’m so desperately attempting to instill within him. What’s a parent to do?

One week later:

Levi didn’t get the callback for the school play. He was moderately disappointed. I feel slightly responsible. But the truth is he didn’t prepare and that wasn’t because of me. Maybe next time he’ll work harder, start earlier and be more responsible with his materials. Or…maybe he’ll just join the speech and debate club which will probably serve him better in the long run.

Secret Porn

 

imgresI resent Victoria Secret. I really do. I didn’t used to. I mean all the time I was single and even when my kids were little I enjoyed voyeuristically paging through my VS catalogues and imagining myself lounging in soft silk pajamas or underdressed in a matching fuchsia lace bra and panties. But suddenly the catalogue looks very different to me and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Yesterday I went to the mailbox to pick up the usual suspects; bills, bills, and more bills.
I admit I haven’t looked through the catalogue in years. As a working parent it’s hard to find the time to indulge in perusing anything that doesn’t have an immediate need or pose some kind of an instant threat. But dazed by the 110 degree heat, I melted into my car and paged through the VS book with the AC blasting.

After a few pages of scantily clad blonde bombshells I realized that my old friend was no longer welcome in the confines of my home. My once enjoyed bathtub soaking companion, dear readers, is pornography at this particular juncture. The sexy undergarments, the bare backs and shoulders, the frolicking fresh-faced, barely teenage youngsters who populate the pages, these images are woefully inappropriate for the 14 year old young man I have living under my roof.

Suddenly I wonder if my husband enjoys looking through the catalogue. I have to inquire, I think, although not entirely certain I am ready for the answer. But other questions race through my mind. Maybe I should openly give the book to my son. Maybe this offers a healthy way to explore his budding sexuality. There are no hidden PlayBoy magazines under a bed in my house, no dog-eared Hustlers hiding in linen cabinets. Maybe the Victoria Secret catalogue is today’s version of acceptable pornography where young men learn to yearn for unrealistic objects of desire with Barbie-like bosoms, rock-hard abs and lengthy, lean, airbrushed legs. Maybe I should walk into the house and hand over the VS catalogue as if it were a right of passage, an appropriate learning tool, a sexuality text book of sorts. Or perhaps I should just leave it lying around somewhere, half hidden, half in plain sight. Allow my son to discover the visual contraband by himself. After all, that seems less…weird. I mean mom-sanctioned porn is just…icky. Right?

Or maybe I should just shred the darn book and allow my son to grow into the man he’s going to be without having to aid and abet the situation. I mean, surely he will find his own images to gawk over without me having to provide the pleasurable materials. Maybe I should casually toss it into the recycle bin, all the while knowing that it will be hunted out and removed from the refuse pile and relocated to my son’s messy bedroom for timely usage.

Why is sexuality such a weird subject for parents to talk about? I feel awkward just bringing it up. I wouldn’t go out and buy pornography for my kid. But here it is, tasteful, marketable, enticing, boldly just waltzing into my home via the front door. Do I destroy it? Share it openly? Discuss it’s attraction and fairly unrealistic images of the female body?

I thought being a parent was supposed to get easier as kids get older. I don’t know where I got that. Maybe I’ve just been telling myself that to get through it. It surely isn’t the case. Bigger kids, bigger problems. Once again, I find myself wondering if I’m even up for the task.

Walk between the raindrops

imagesI’m sitting at my computer writing. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and there is a sudden and torrential downpour that seems to appear out of nowhere. I’ve just poured a cup of tea and for a moment I’m enjoying the beauty of the rain, the wet wind that brought it in and my toasty state of comfort as I sip on my Earl Grey. Then suddenly it dawns on me that Eli, my 11 year old is getting off the bus from school right about now and will be drenched to the bone after running the 3 blocks from the bus stop to our house. OMG, this is a job for Super Mom!

I bolt away from the computer, grab my keys, wallet and flip flops and run out to the car to save my son. Sure there have been numerous rainy days when I’ve been at work or in meetings at this exact hour. Granted Eli has managed to run home in the rain on multiple occasions and not met with any serious harm. But it is this moment that I convince myself is the make or break moment of motherhood. “A good mother,” I think to myself, “Will race to her son and whisk him out of the elements and into her warm dry SUV.”

I speed to the bus stop like an expectant father whose wife is about to give birth. I will get there before my poor helpless little boy has to step into the cold harsh rainy reality that awaits him. As I pull around the corner I see the bright yellow school bus approaching. “Yes,” I think with great pride in myself and awe in my maternal instincts. Eli steps slowly, cautiously off the bus. The other children follow him close behind. Surely he will see my Bali Blue vehicle stopped right next to the school bus. He looks at me and I think I see deep disappointment in his eyes. “But I’m here,” I want to say to him. “I got here just in the nick of time.”

Then like a flash he is off, racing away from me towards home. I honk. He continues to run, as if he is literally trying to avoid me.  “I’m faster than him,” I think and I speed up to catch him. I roll down the window. “You don’t want a ride home?” I ask pleadingly. “Nah, mom. I want to run in the rain with my friends. See ya at home,” he says and I watch him as he laughs and dances under the big wet droplets of rain with his pals.

I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to dance in the rain, to appreciate the adversity of inclement weather, to know that it’s okay to get wet sometimes because you are going to dry off in the end and the sheer act of getting wet can be fun and satisfying in and of itself. Sometimes we grown ups worry too much about frizzy hair and drenched sneakers. As famed greeting card mogul Vivian Greene once said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Thanks for reminding me, Eli. I love you to Pluto and back

Naughty? Not! Parents are heroes!!!

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I like to write about my kids. My eldest son, Levi, is totally into it. When I write something that isn’t about him he mopes around like a wilted Lily. But my younger son, Eli, would rather remain quietly hidden amongst the desert Lantana than be singled out in print. When they were younger it was easier. Now that they’re 14 and almost 11 I feel like I have to ask permission before I write or publish anything personal. It’s seriously cramping my style.

But this time I found a story about good parenting that isn’t my own. It isn’t my own because I don’t have the guts to be a really good parent. If you’re not living under a rock you’ve likely heard about the parents who sent back their 11 year old son’s Nintendo Wii U Console with Super Mario Kart game with the following reason “Son was put on the naughty list, had to watch it being returned.” It sparked a flurry of comments on Reddit and all across the net, most parents claiming it almost abusive to humiliate the child this way. Um…am I the only sane parent left on the planet? This is brilliant!

Christmas presents are a privilege, not a right! If these parents found their child’s behavior to be sub-par, they had every right to return his Nintendo Wii U Console with Super Mario Kart game. What is wrong with parents today? Abusive? I’ve been reading the comments on Imgur where the boy’s folks posted the image above. Some said that since the boy had already opened the gift it was too late to send it back with the “naughty” note. Too late? I’m sorry, but in my world if your kid misbehaves and you want to take away something he’s had for the past 12 years, I don’t have a problem with it. It’s ridiculous how manipulated we parents have become. We don’t want to “shame” our kids or cause them any pain, blah blah blah. When kids are rude and disrespectful we give them our iPads and tell them to keep quiet. That’s the real messed up message we send, present company included.

Take back your role as parental leader and guide. If you see this move as some kind of parental abuse of power, get a backbone. This is good old fashioned parenting at its best. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s inspiring. In fact, I’m going to pry my kids’ kindles out of their grimy little paws right after I post this. Bah humbug!

Who peed in the vacuum cleaner?

Sure, you think you can trust Fido around your appliances...

Sure, you think you can trust Fido around your appliances…

Okay, I admit my life is far from boring. But every once in a while I would like something to be “normal” in my world. Well, I guess that wont be happening today.

So we got this really cute vacuum cleaner as a gift. (It’s a long story). It’s called a Bumble Bee and it’s a hot little yellow and black Miele canister vac. It worked great…the first time I used it. Then, about a week later, I went to use it again and it wouldn’t even turn on. I thought maybe it was the bag because these little vacuum bags fill pretty quickly. Of course I didn’t have any new bags so I had to order them from Amazon and wait two days…blah blah blah.

Cut to yesterday. I put in the new bag and the vacuum still doesn’t work. So I call Miele to see what’s up. They say it’s under warranty and send me to this vacuum repair shop on Scottsdale Road and Shea. I drop off the Bumble Bee this morning and wait to hear from Sean about what the problem is. Around 4:00 I notice that Sean has left a message. But when I retrieve the message I am literally dumbstruck.

I think he says on the message that my vacuum motor was destroyed by urine. I play the message again. Surely I misheard him. Urine? Nope. That is definitely what the man said. And surprisingly, urine is not covered under the warranty. It’ll run over $300 to fix this stupid sucking machine. I call back immediately. But Sean has left for the day. I am in a tizzy. How can my vacuum motor have been destroyed by urine? That is outrageously weird.

I ask my kids if either of them happened to have urinated on or near the vacuum cleaner. Both vehemently deny any urinary involvement. Now I am looking suspiciously at my dogs. I truly cannot envision a scenario in which this ridiculous situation makes any sense at all. My adult dogs haven’t peed in the house in years. Plus, how did the guy determine that it was urine? Did he send it to a lab? Do they have some kind of dip stick at the repair shop? Does this happen often? I mean, listening to the message, the guy sounds sort of ho hum, like “…oh, it’s urine…so the warranty isn’t going to cover the new motor.” Like this sort of thing happens on a daily basis.

I am dismayed and baffled at the same time. I call back the manufacturer and explain the strange diagnosis. A very nice young man, Danny, puts me on hold for a long time, I suspect he is trying to stop laughing and recompose himself. He tells me he will get to the bottom of this but it may take several days and serious supervisory involvement. He urges me to wait on the repair until I hear from him.

More to come as the saga unfolds…

Captain AmeriMom to the rescue!

DSC_3355Senator, I am no June Cleaver. I don’t claim to be a spectacular parent. If anything, I see myself as overwhelmingly flawed and barely able to maintain a home, organize a family, and see to it that my kids get wherever they’re supposed to be at any certain time on any given day. So when my 10 year old son, Eli, announced that he wanted to be Captain America for Super Hero Day, which happened to fall on Halloween this year, I thought, “Oh well, here’s another lost opportunity for me to come through as a mother.”

I had a busy schedule the day before Halloween and Eli’s pronouncement seemed like an overwhelming burden for which I had neither the time nor the money to shoulder. But at lunchtime I found myself at a Party City store combing the aisles for Cap’n America. To my good fortune, there was a child-sized costume for $19.95 and a shield for only $24. Wow, what a bargain. I could buy one or the other and still have money for groceries. We’re living on a strict, Dave Ramsey type budget these days and I’m looking at $30 in my wallet to get us through to the 10th of November. Okay, be responsible. I cannot spend $44 on a tin shield and flimsy muscle tee that he’ll wear once and discard. No. I am not gonna do it.

I successfully left Party City and went on to my lunch and afternoon meetings. But with an extra 15 minutes and Good Will right across the street from my 2pm, I thought I’d duck in and see if there happened to be a slightly used version of my sought after super hero. No such luck. But for $1.99 I picked up an old dart board and a red shirt and threw them in the back of my car.

I couldn’t wait to get home and start working on my creation. I googled Captain America, looked at the picture and concluded that this was a hopeless endeavor. Then, in spite of myself, I grabbed some old t-shirts, a bottle of fabric glue and pulled out my painting supplies. I spent the next three hours recreating the Captain America ensemble I’d downloaded from the internet.

For those of you who don’t know Eli, let’s just say he can be hard to please. If 99% of his day goes well, he’s the kid who focuses on the 1% that didn’t. So as I worked I couldn’t help but wonder how he might react to my home-made outfit. I imagined multiple scenarios, kind of like my own version of Borges “Garden of Forking Paths.” In one, Eli sat weeping as he gazed upon my makeshift costume. In another, my happy little boy stood toe to toe with a cadre of 5th grade bullies taunting him that he looked nothing like Captain America. My final parallel universe shot two decades into the future. I envisioned Eli, in therapy, as a grown man, feeling overwhelming remorse for rejecting his mother’s costume and consequently her love so many Halloweens ago. There was no version of reality that could have predicted Eli’s actual response.

It took me a moment to realize that someone was watching me. I looked up and saw Eli standing in the archway of my office staring at my creation. “Whoa, mom,” he sputtered. “That is the coolest Captain America costume EVER! I love it! Thank you so much for

working so hard on it.” The genuine delight and appreciation in his eyes filled me with so much joy I could hardly contain myself. I told myself to act cool, to not appear too needy. “Oh…I’m glad you like it,” I replied trying to sound indifferent. “Just threw it together for ya.”

He wore the costume all day at school and couldn’t wait to hit the streets for trick or treating in the evening. On the way home from school he told me over and over again how much he loved it. This was a massive victory on my front. But just as I began to celebrate my success he piped up from the back seat, “Mom, there’s just one thing I need to tell you about the costume.” I felt the full weight of disappointment descend as the wind slowly seeped from my sails. “Yeah?” I tentatively acknowledged, “What is it?” “You’re gonna need to reglue a couple of the stripes on my t-shirt,” he smiled. “Cause I am definitely wearing this costume next year!”

Ode to Oxy-Clean




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728bd38f67a206f93744ac6a8fc053bfFor my son, Levi’s, 14th birthday his grandmother (AKA Bubby) took him out on a clothes shopping spree. She bought him an entire wardrobe of adorable shorts and cool t-shirts. Now everyday my son gets ready for school and looks like he just stepped out of a Macy’s catalogue. (It’s maybe not Abercrombie and Fitch to which most teens might aspire, but he looks great to me and feels positive and happy each morning as he strolls to the bus stop.)

Cut to: Yesterday. I’m doing the laundry. (Do I need to say that this is my least favorite job on the planet?) I do tend to scoop up whatever piles are lying on my children’s floors and stuff as much as I can carry into my huge front-loader. After the 59 minute hot wash cycle I mindlessly transfer the wet load into the dryer, hit high heat and run for the computer. It wasn’t until I began to unload the dryer that I realized, yet again, that my darling son had left a red ink pen in his pocket. The brand new cargo shorts he’d gotten for his birthday were covered in ink splots as was the entire dryer drum. Luckily no other clothes seem to have been affected. But I was literally sick over it.

He’d worn these beautiful shorts once. Now they were totally ruined. I contemplated how to ground him, whether to berate him, how to somehow make a valuable lesson out of the senseless waste. It’s not like he hadn’t made this mistake before. We’ve had broken pencils that have clogged up the dryer and cost us an expensive visit from the GE repairman, erasers that have stopped up the washer drain, etc… I talk till I’m blue in the face. I know the answer is to let my boys (14 and 10) do their own laundry. At least I wont be so distraught by their carelessness. But every time I try to adopt that kind of hands-off policy, I end up caving after their rooms get inundated with dirty laundry and neither of them seem to care that they’re wearing filthy underwear for the fourth day in a row. I get the “Love and Logic” thing that says, eventually they’ll decide to do their own laundry or their peers will avoid them because of the stench. But I can’t seem to let it get to that utter point of disgust.

I tried Oxy-Clean stain spray on the shorts. My mother-in-law swears by it. But the bright red splotches didn’t even fade. I figured it was hopeless. I mean I’d already washed and dried the shorts in high heat thereby sealing the ink stain into the shorts, a cardinal no-no in stain removal strategy. I showed the shorts to my son and threatened to show his Bubby. “Please don’t!” he begged. “She’ll be so mad at me.” “But why did you let this happen?” I beseeched. “I don’t know, mom,” he sadly replied. “I just forget that I put things in my pocket. I don’t do it on purpose.”

I’d gotten my answer. I can’t say that it made me feel better. But it did remind me to lighten up a little. I suddenly remembered my fourteen year old self defending my carelessness around leaving the second floor lights ablaze as I bounded out the front door for the 10 zillionth time. My poor father just standing in the doorway, a look of perplexity on his face. “I just forget, Dad. I’m really sorry.” And I was. I didn’t mean to hurt him or make what mattered to him seem totally insignificant. It just wasn’t a priority and nothing he said or did could change that. Maybe that’s the sad truth. As much as we parents try, we can’t infuse our children with a sense of adult priorities and a willingness to meet those priorities. They are, after all, still kids. Eventually they’ll move out and we’ll miss their dirty laundry, left on lights, and unmade beds. That just seems to be how life works.

But there is an incredibly happy ending to this woeful tale. You see, I thought about dying the shorts red since they were already spotted with the deep crimson ink. At least the shorts would be wearable and the waste of good money would be reversed. But instead, in a fit of passion, I dumped a capful of bleach into the slop sink, stopped up the drain and immersed the shorts beneath a two inch layer of milky colored Clorox. When I returned the next morning, the ink spots were virtually gone! The khaki green color of the shorts hadn’t faded one iota. But the ink was barely visible.

Emboldened by my Clorox ingenuity, I then started to rub out the remaining hint of stains with a combination of Shout and Oxy-Clean spray. With each vigorous rubbing, the stains seems to lighten until I truly couldn’t see them anymore. What an accomplishment! I had managed to rid my son’s shorts of all remnants of red ink. I felt like a million bucks. And then it hit me — hard. I am actually rejoicing giddily over a laundry accomplishment. Dear God, what has become of me? I’m a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Michigan, an award-winning journalist, an accomplished professional actor and spokesperson. But I am literally elated to have gotten a stain out of my son’s cargo shorts. My, how the years change one.

The bottom line is this: No matter how hard we try, we are destined to become our mothers, our fathers, and all of the practical guides and guardians we railed against vehemently in our youth. “Turn off the lights!” “Empty your pockets!” “Don’t leave the empty box of Nutrigrain bars in the pantry!” Whatever your personal bugaboo, sometimes it’s easier to simply acknowledge that kids make mistakes and truly it wont be long until you’re all alone in a big house, with extra closet space and barely enough laundry to do a single load. Appreciate the ink spots while you can. And yes, celebrate the small successes and unexpected Oxy-Clean triumphs with jubilant adandon. Life is too short to ignore your victories, no matter how trivial they may seem.