It’s impossible to open those damn produce bags!
As 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?
“Mom, he’s got a gun!” I hear my 17-year-old son, Levi, scream from the den where he’s doing his homework. I race to him faster than a cheetah pursuing a wildebeest. When I get to the den, Levi’s sitting on the couch, his computer open on his lap, the television blasting. My 14-year-old son, Joe, (not his real name because he refuses to allow me to mention him in anything I write), is calmly sauntering past, his hand in the pocket of his basketball shorts.
“What are you talking about?” I scream at Levi for practically causing my untimely demise. “Why would you yell something like that?”
“Because it’s true, mother,” he insists in the condescending tone that only a snarky teenager possesses. “It’s in his pocket.”
I look at Joe as he pulls a 4-inch neon orange Nerf gun out of his pocket. “What, this?” Joe innocently inquires.
“Levi, that is a Nerf gun. Did he shoot you with it?” I ask trying to find some hint of reasonable concern.
“Well, no,” Levi conceded. “But that’s beside the point. It is still a gun, mother. And we do not play with guns in this house.”
“Um, last I checked,” I say with my own intimation of snottiness, “I was the parent, and I make the rules. But thanks so much for your input.” I begin to walk away in a huff.
“Mom,” Levi yells, “This is a really serious issue. Please do not walk away.”
I immediately turn back and sit down on the couch next to him. “Levi,” I ask, “What is the serious issue?”
“Gun violence!” He asserts aggressively. “Teenagers are shooting up schools because they don’t understand the distinction between play guns and real guns. How do you know Joe isn’t stockpiling weapons under his bed?”
“Well, first of all, he sleeps in a loft. Secondly, I’m 100% certain Joe knows the difference between a Nerf gun and an AK-47.” I turn to Joe who is staring at his brother in complete incredulity. “Joe,” I ask, “What is the difference between the Nerf gun in your pocket and a real gun?”
“This is idiotic,” Joe too has the air of an annoyed adolescent. “Um…one is a toy, and the other is a weapon that can actually kill people.”
“My work here is done,” I quip and turn on my heels.
“No!” Levi insists. “I am uncomfortable with him having a gun in this house. I do not feel safe here.”
“You don’t feel safe here?” I ask.
“No, I do not,” Levi insists. “You and he are part of the problem in this country. You are perpetuating the cycle of gun violence by treating this issue so flippantly. I cannot live in a house where gun violence is condoned.”
Now I’m seriously irked. “OK,” I counter, “First of all, no one in this house condones gun violence. We do not own guns. We are not plotting to form a militia and take over the government. We don’t hunt. But I’m totally comfortable with your brother having a Nerf gun, Foam Blaster, or even a Super Soaker. And even though I always prohibited you both from playing with toy guns as toddlers, you both used wooden blocks, LEGOs, and even plastic bananas as pretend guns from time to time.”
I applaud the sincere commitment these young people have made to fix what is clearly broken in our society. Their passionate voices need to be heard. But I worry that blurring the line between reasonable judgment, and hyperbolic rhetoric will undermine the critical message they are trying to send.
I told Joe that he could use his Nerf gun in the privacy of his own room, but that he needed to keep it out of any common areas since his brother was so uncomfortable with it. My compromise infuriated both boys for its perceived insufficiency and unfairness. But that’s my job as a mom, to always be the most unpopular person in the room. And just so you know, I do my job well.
My 12 year old son, Levi, will be starting middle school in August at a brand new public school. We’re all excited and nervous and trying to figure out how life operates in this totally unknown environment. Up till now, he’s been highly sheltered by our local private Jewish day school.
There’s a steep learning curve here and I admit it is causing us some anxiety. LIke the other day, for instance, he was perusing the district web site and confronted me in a panic.
“Mom,” he voiced fearfully, “It says on the website that kids are prohibited from carrying backpacks on campus.”
“Levi,” I responded with a doubtful glance, “That’s ridiculous. I’m sure you didn’t read it accurately. I mean, how are you supposed to carry your stuff to school? Picnic basket?”
He assured me that what he had seen had been real and urged me to call the district office to confirm it. His anxiety was growing and I figured that calling the office was the perfect way to allay his concerns. “Hello,” I started to the kindly woman who answered the phone, “I’m a parent of a new student who will be coming to your school in the fall and my son saw something on your website about backpacks not being allowed on campus. I know that sounds rather crazy. So I just wanted to check and make sure that he misunderstood whatever he thought he read.”
“Um…I’m not really sure what to tell you,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “Can you hold for a moment?” Then she disappeared for like three minutes and I waited, wondering if she was using the same trick my insurance company uses every time I call to check on a benefit. I like to call it the “indefinite hold tactic.” It’s when certain organizations systematically put you on hold forever, knowing you’ll eventually get so frustrated you’ll hang up and decide it’s easier to just pay whatever remaining balance they insist you still have, even though you’ve already paid them three times already. But I digress.
Finally she returned, “The backpack rule is a campus by campus decision and I’m afraid no one at the district can give you the backpack requirements for an individual school. You’ll have to wait till the school reopens for the school year to call and inquire about it.”
“But…I mean…Are you saying there may be some rule against students carrying backpacks?” I’m stammering at this point because this sounds as silly to me as if she told me that number 2 pencils were being outlawed.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to call the school after July 22nd,” she curtly ended the conversation.
Baffled by this, I started to do some research and found that yes, backpacks have been items-non-grata at schools across the country for over a decade. Huh?
I found articles as far back as 2003 explaining the dangers of backpacks containing concealed weapons, drug paraphernalia, even bombs. The answer to some lunatic potentially stuffing a bomb into a backpack? No more backpacks. Maybe it’s me, but that sounds like the most inane answer to school violence and drug abuse that I have ever heard.
But that wasn’t all I discovered. There were other equally lame reasons for prohibiting the dreaded back carriers. The Academy of Orthopedic surgeons had come out with some declaration a few years back about the risks of long-term back and neck injuries and posture problems from kids hauling around overweight backpacks.
Other schools had outlawed backpacks because, and I’m not making this up, they proved to be dangerous threats to teacher safety both inside the classroom and in the corridors of learning. Apparently, teachers find themselves tripping over backpack straps on a regular basis during the school day. They also complain that they have been severely injured in the hallways by backpack-clad youngsters racing from one class to the next.
OK, now I am deeply sensitive to teachers’ needs. Teachers deserve all the credit, gratitude and respect we can give. Their jobs are important and critical to our society. However, this is a little bit silly, don’t you think? I mean, are they sashaying down the aisles between desks while reviewing the Spanish American War? Tap dancing around the classroom as they pose thought-provoking questions about Odysseus? Kids can’t carry backpacks because teachers are tripping over them en masse? Maybe we need to have an in-service day focused on cautious strolling protocol.
And one more question: in what, pray tell, are our children supposed to carry their personal items, notebooks and other school supplies? Hefty trash bags? One girl somewhere out East faced this very dilemma and started carting her load around in a plastic, yellow sand castle pail. Come on! We have got to get a grip. Yes, someone hid a pressure cooker in a backpack and murdered innocent victims. That’s deplorable and hideous. But banning backpacks wouldn’t have stopped the Boston bombings. Believe me, they would have found another way to hurt people. That’s what evil people do. They figure out ways to destroy and ruin good, unsuspecting people’s lives. We need to address evil, not the outward accoutrements of it.
We didn’t ban underwear after the underwear bomber tried to blow up an airplane. We can’t outlaw every single item that some sick, twisted cretan uses to accomplish some heinous activity. We just can’t. It would be like…like…like…trying to eliminate peanuts from every elementary school in the country. Oh wait, we have done that.
The news is so terrible these days. Kidnapping in Cleveland. Bombing in Boston. Murder in Mesa. I can’t take anymore. I feel like I’m living under a fog of darkness. Somebody, please bring me a bouquet of sunflowers and some stevia lemonade to brighten my day. And how exactly are we supposed to talk to our kids about this stuff?
Look, I know that some people say there really isn’t more bad stuff happening today than in decades past. It’s just the media mayhem that magnifies everything. But I’m sorry, I don’t remember all this crazy shit happening when I was a kid. Did I just not know about it? Really? How can that be? My kids, and my youngest is 9, hear all the gruesome details about almost every tantalizing media-hyped tale that circulates. Was it different in the 70s and 80s? I do kind of remember tuning out totally in the 90s. It was a very hip, boho way to go for an actor in Chi town. “The news is so negative,” I would lament in what was probably Chicago’s version of a valley girl twang. “I just choose not to allow those thoughts into my psyche.” Dear Lord, how many things from our past come back to embarrass the hell out of us. At least I never got a tattoo. (JK. I know they’re totally mainstream nowadays.)
But I cringe when I read the story about those three girls locked up for a decade. Nobody knew. This Castro guy was a fine, upstanding neighborhood fellow. The youngest girl was his daughter’s best friend. How are we parents supposed to combat that kind of evil? That is definitely the most horrifying part of this ordeal. That some sick, twisted bastard who holds an ordinary job and hangs out with people on a regular basis could manage to hide three girls and a baby without anyone ever suspecting anything. And who can you trust? Pedophiles lurk everywhere. I want to stop trusting everyone I know and everyone I meet. I mean, why has it taken me 12 years to meet anyone in my neighborhood? Hmmm??? Maybe because they’re all hiding something and don’t want to interact with me which might tip me off to the captive whatevers locked in their basements.
I tell my kids not to go in a car with anyone they don’t know. But I wouldn’t think to tell them to avoid their best bud’s daddy. For crying out loud. How can we keep kids safe? They can be “stranger danger” savvy and still end up missing for 10 years because some disgusting cretan, who masquerades as a normal, upstanding member of the community, abducts them on the way to the playground or coming home from the bus stop. I really can’t take this.
We need to hold fast to our children. Unthinkable evil exists and it could happen to anyone at any moment. I think I might be having a panic attack. Does anyone know if the odds of having your offspring abducted is better or worse than winning the lottery?
My 12 year old son, Levi, has anxiety issues. This isn’t a secret. So to those of you who might suggest that I’m exposing some kind of family skeleton, I want you to know that I always check with my family first before airing our dirty laundry in public. As long as they’re okay with it, I figure it’s fair game for public consumption.
That being said, the other day at school his math teacher sent him to his homeroom classroom to make copies for her during class. He happily complied and set off to do so. Apparently, only seconds after leaving the classroom, word got out about a ponytailed, pistol carrying stranger at a school a few blocks away. Our school went into immediate lockdown. I’m not talking “drill.” I’m talking serious, “we’re in a different kind of world after Newtown” lock down. So while Levi haplessly skipped across campus, everyone else bolted their doors, pinned up paper to cover the windows and huddled in bathrooms, closets and corners.
Levi thought it was more than strange when the door to his classroom was locked. Even more odd were the darkened windows that left no view to the inside of the room. He looked around and noted that no one else was anywhere within sight. Hmmm? He remained calm and clear-headed though and knocked softly on the door. Luckily, his teacher slyly squinted through a side gap in the papered window. Then, like an episode of “The Munsters,” the classroom door opened a crack and a hand emerged, grabbed my son, and dragged him into the room. It wasn’t until after he was safe that he felt the anxiety of the situation catching up to him. But to his amazing credit, he held it together and was able to talk himself down and maintain control of his emotions.
Maybe there’s something wrong with me. But I find the irony of this inane confluence of events staggeringly comical. I mean how is it possible that my kid, the one with severe anxiety issues, ends up on the wrong side of a lock-down, only days after the most gut-wrenching massacre in our nation’s history? I guess it’s okay to find humor in the irony since no one was hurt and nothing bad really transpired. I can’t even contemplate the real devastation that could have occurred had a copy-cat ventured onto ours or a nearby campus. Maybe the humor is simply survivor’s guilt or some kind of defense mechanism to protect myself from the overwhelming pain etched into our souls by last week’s horrific destruction.
Sometimes it’s just too painful to contemplate the very real risks we endure every day as we try to live our lives, watch over our families, and protect our precious children. And so to all who suffered a loss in Connecticut, our hearts ache over your pain. The nation grieves along with you and sends love, strength and healing to you.
May you all be blessed with a sense of peace and may God bring comfort to those in mourning who must now learn to accept the unfairness of life as they struggle to live without the earthly presence of someone so deeply cherished.
OK, so they pay some marketing group a boat load of cash to come up with a name like “iPad Mini?” Did they not think that people would shorthand it as “mini pad?” Which only leads me to ask what we should now call a regular sized iPad? That’s right. It’s a “Maxi pad.” I mean, seriously, nobody thought of that? Or else they did and were simply not deterred by the menstrual connection? Really?
Look, there are a host of poorly named products out there. There’s everything from Pee Cola to Barf laundry detergent. But most of the real doozies are from other countries and sound funny to us but really make sense in a different language. But for a company like Apple to just sort of miss this one seems like a colossal failure in the marketing research department.
The last product I remember with an equally bad name was the little chocolate chews my mom used to pop to help her stay slim. They were called “Ayds.” Remember them? Of course once the AIDS epidemic took center stage, the diet candies lost their appeal and left the marketplace.
I once found a guy in the phonebook named “Al Coholic.” No joke. I called him on the radio and asked him live, on-air, if he’d found it troublesome to go through life with a name like that. He said he had no idea what I was talking about. Like “Al Coholic” was just as vanilla a name as “John Smith,” which given Mr. Smith’s heroic notoriety, is sort of amusing since his name has come to stand for the epitome of unremarkable, trite and ordinary.
When we first were convinced that my youngest son, in utero, was going to be a girl, I thoughtfully presented the name option of “Leah” to my husband Mark. He just stared at me in disbelief. “Lay-a-Gettleman?” he quarried, “”That’s not a name, it’s a sentence.” I had to admit he had a point. I just hadn’t thought of it.
Which brings me back to the whole Kotex thing. I mean sure, people make mistakes. We’re all human. But when you’re a multi-billion dollar company, like Apple, you sort of expect more. Unless…maybe they’re going after that ever-so-elusive, older, female demographic. I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe they deliberately named their new device after an outdated feminine hygiene product to try and attract the gals who grew up using those “mini pads.” Now that is ingenious.
Expand the market share from dweebie, gen-y males to mature, married chicks, 54 plus. Hmmm???? Clever move. Boy those guys at Apple are ahead of the curve.
Do you need to feel better about yourself? Seriously, I watched a tv show the other night and I realized that whatever problems I have, they are MINUSCULE compared to problems out there in the world.
I hate to sound like an old fart, but tv has really sunken to a new low. I watched this show called “Strange Addictions” on TLC because my only other viable options were the Kardashians and Bill O’Reily. I couldn’t stomach either of those. Not surprisingly, this show deals with people who have strange addictions. They basically define an addiction as something that distracts a person from the real pain in his/her life. Last night they profiled 4 addicts.
The first was a man addicted to his “synthetic partner.” Basically, this odd little guy was living with a human size (quite beautiful) doll with whom he was deeply in love. He spent all of his time with her. He loved conversing with her and described her as open, loquacious and clever. He was rather shocked though, by her surprising bashfulness during the television interview. He ate every meal with her. Fortunately her dietary needs were negligible. He even slept with her, and yes, I mean that in every sense of the word.
I felt badly for this man. But he kept insisting that he was perfectly happy this way, that his “girlfriend” kept his loneliness at bay, and that there are hordes of other people out there enjoying the benefits of “synthetic relationships.” Really? That’s kind of alarming.
Next up was a woman addicted to her blow dryer. (I’m not making this up.) She needed to have it with her as some type of security blanket. But the key component to this addiction was her inability to fall asleep and stay asleep without having the dryer turned on and lying next to her in her bed. I’ve done a bit of research and there are actually a lot of people who suffer from this addiction. There have even been documented tragedies of fatal house fires that began due to blow dryers catching fire in beds or on carpets. But even this dangerous reality could not sway this woman from sleeping with her nighttime hot air machine.
There was a young woman addicted to tanning. It was scary and sad, but not all that uncommon. But the final segment featured a woman who was addicted to eating coach foam. This was truly tragic because the synthetic fibers were poisoning her insides. But all I kept wondering was, “How does an addiction like this start?” I mean, what prompts someone to begin chowing down on her sofa? I’ll admit I often find myself too tired to meander over to the fridge during Jimmy Kimmel Live. But I’ve never even contemplated digging into the couch for sustenance. Frankly it sounds kind of primitive and cannibalistic to me. I mean, my couch is like part of my family.
Anyway, the point here is that you may be suffering. You may battle depression, feel enraged by society, yearn at times to strangle your two small children, but in reality, there are people out there eating couch foam, sleeping with their hair dryers and having sex with mannequins. Come on, how bad is your life really?