Why do people send their kids to summer camp?

Because they can!

Summer vacation, Day 1: Spend an hour getting a 4-year-old and an infant ready to leave the house. Drive to the pool. Marinate in pee water for 30 minutes while you rock a cranky infant.

Tell 4-year-old to stop drinking pee water as you ponder the odds of all of you getting that parasitic diarrhea-causing infection you read about a few weeks ago. After the third time, pack up and leave because you're not feeling lucky.

Four-year-old has a psychotic break because she doesn't want to leave. Wonder whether 11:30 am is too early to start drinking. 

Summer vacation, Day 2: Spend an hour getting a 4-year-old and an infant ready to leave the house. Drive to the temporary amusement park near your house. Realize it doesn't open for four hours. Your pre-schooler devolves into tears because she was promised rides. Cite some Buddhist bullshit about the nature of suffering and expectation. (The wise Siddhārtha Gautama once said, "Suck it up, buttercup.") 

Go back when it opens and realize your kid is tall enough to ride three rides. Wonder why the boat that goes in a slow circle has a height requirement.

Pack up after three rides while she bursts into tears because she wants to ride all the rides. Agree that, yes, you too wish this sucked less.

Guide her through the park, past the "hand-dipped corn dog" stand, secretly grateful that you do not have enough cash to make that a reality. Listen to crying because you're not buying junk food. Wonder why everything wants to give you an Oregon Trail death. 

Summer vacation, Day 3: Plan to let both kids watch TV all day. Everyone will be happier that way, 

Memorial Day and Self-loathing

I spent a long time deciding whether to fly my American flag today. I’ve done it every year in memory of soldiers who didn’t make it home, and in honor of my father, who did. He gave four years of his life to World War II, then had the luxury of dying as an old man. He was so proud to be an American, and proud of his service to the world. I was proud of him, too, and proud to be part of the next generation of Americans. 

But I’m not proud to be an American today. I won’t go into details. You know why. We’re a petty, mean-spirited, apathetic people, collectively, and we like it that way.

Before it comes up, no, I won’t move to Canada. Mindless jingoism isn't a requisite for American citizenship -- at least not yet. Besides, if we’re not eager to embrace millions of people running for the border, I doubt Canada is, either. 

America is us, and we suck. But I’m going to fly the flag, because I’m not flying it for America. I’m flying it for the people who died in service to big ideas.

Even as I write this, I’m not sure I’ll post it. I’m not sure I want to deal with the shit-storm that comes from failing to genuflect appropriately on this high holy day of the military industrial complex. If you’re reading this, it’s because I got drunk and decided I had too many friends. 

A few of the dead were brave and true and died like paladins. Some would have died robbing a liquor store if military service hadn’t given them a hero’s end. The rest fall somewhere in the middle. They weren’t avatars of virtue. They were generous and loyal and stupid and hypocritical. They drank too much and donated to charity and volunteered in soup kitchens and beat their kids. They were human, and all of their lives meant something.

Today, I raise a flag and a glass to those crazy, brave, stupid, brilliant, racist, violent, peaceful people who died not necessarily because the cause was righteous, but because we told them to.

I fly my flag as a reminder that their deaths are on us -- not on our government or our military, but us as a free people who make monstrous choices. 

What’s the point of all this? I don’t know. Remember, I’m drunk and I hate having friends.

Technology has helped me be more antisocial, and it’s glorious

There was a time when people were forced to interact with each other socially – on the train, on the bus, at the supermarket, in the doctor’s office. People would make small talk as they waited for other things to happen. Small talk is when you tell people how much you enjoyed that sandwich you just ate, and they tell you what their kids are doing in school, and you pretend to be enjoying yourselves while you both secretly pray for an end to it all.

Life before cell phones was a nightmare. 

                                                                 I'd rather not.

I’ve never been chatty with strangers. It’s not personal. Most people are just fine when you get to know them. But getting to know new people on the fly takes energy I just didn't budget for, and if I have to spend that energy on spontaneous small talk while I wait for a train, that means I have to borrow it from somewhere else, and that makes me crabby.

All of these “technology is making us more antisocial and the world is going to end” articles are being written by extroverts who don’t understand the simple pleasure involved in being left the fuck alone.

Before my cell phone, I had an iPod. Before my iPod, I had a Walkman. Before my Walkman, I carried books and magazines around with me. Before that, I probably fished for treasure in my diaper. I don't know. That was a long time ago.

But now I can listen to music or read or do my banking or talk to people who are not right in front of me. We can both contribute as much as the number of fucks we’ve allotted for the conversation allows.

That’s why I love social media. Yes, it’s often a cesspool of humanity, but that cesspool is as demanding as I let it be.

I remember the few times I was cornered in conversation on the subway in NYC. It was never a rewarding back and forth. It was always some douche-bucket glomming on to someone too polite and anxious to tell them to fuck off. I’d sit there for 20 minutes, held hostage by conspiracy theories and (usually) right-wing rants. It’s like if Sean Hannity suddenly appeared next to you, monologued his entire show at your face, then disappeared without letting you say a word.

Other times, social interaction involved strange men telling me to smile.

Now I can pretend I don't see people. If I get really into what I'm reading, I can actually not see them, which is even better. 

I love living in the future.  

'Murica: F*ck yeah!

Last week, I took Aurelia to the pool. When I got there, I checked the exits and worked out what I might do if someone started spraying bullets. I decided I'd run for the farthest exit from the gunman, with Aurelia, scaling the fence if I had to.

I also decided that we'd both probably die. The expression "like shooting fish in a barrel" applies. No good guys with guns in the pool. 

Today, I dropped her off at camp. She'll be under the care of strangers all day -- longer than she's ever been. I told her about all the fun she would have and the friends she would make, and I promised to pick her up at the end of the day. I double-checked that we had her lunch and her water bottle and Uncle Pig, her favorite stuffed animal, and her blanket, because she's 3, and she still takes naps.

I also wondered what I would do if I came back to collect her body instead of her pig.

What if I never heard her voice again? What if I had to arrange for a tiny coffin to hold her tiny, broken body? What if I had to tell my husband his baby was dead? What if people in handmade angel costumes had to shield me from protesters as I mourned the loss of everything?

I'm told this is freedom. 

I don't want to hear your argument about why we need unrestricted access to weapons of mass destruction. I've heard them all. We've been having this conversation for decades, and we will continue to have it for decades more, after the next massacre, and the next, and the one after that. Because American exceptionalism means being the only developed Western nation incapable of doing anything to protect our own people. Your argument is boiler-plate. Take it elsewhere. 

No, really. I'll delete your comments. Take that shit to Twitter where it belongs. 

In the meantime, I'm sorry to all the pre-schoolers. We really should have sorted this disaster out by now, and that's our fault. I'm an American with the power to vote, so I carry some of the burden. 

Yay freedom. 

She wants grapes, with a side of utter insanity

Aurelia and I had this conversation this morning. 

Aurelia: Aurelia's hungry.
Me: What would you like to eat?
Aurelia: I want food.
Me: Clearly. What specific kind of food would you like to eat?
Aurelia: I'm hungry.
Me: Would you like more grapes?
Aurelia: No more grapes.
Me: Well, what else would you like? Cheese?
Aurelia: No. I want food.
Me: Aurelia, I'm rapidly going insane. What do you want to eat?
Aurelia: I'm hungry.
Me: Here, have some more grapes.
Aurelia: No, I don't want grapes.
Me: <deep breath> OK, then what would you like to eat? Please name a specific food you would like in your mouth.
Aurelia: I'll have...grapes.



Katerina Kittycat is a monster

We did so well for so long.

Devon and I didn't let Aurelia watch TV until she was just shy of 2 years old. I'm totally on board with the idea that kids need to be doing things, not watching screens. 

But the sweet, sweet allure of being left the fuck alone for 30 minutes at a time is hard to resist. 

Aurelia watches Mickey Mouse cartoons. She watches "Sesame Street." She watches "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood."

Oh dear God, how she watches "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood."

If your kid does too, you'll understand this conversation. If yours doesn't, or you don't have kids, ignorance is bliss. 


Should I take a toddler to the park or just throat-punch myself?

You probably ask yourself that question all the time. I know I do. That's why I'm here to tell you what taking a toddler to the park is like. Because I care. 

1. Get your toddler dressed. Brush her hair and teeth. This process will involve an hour of coaxing, pleading, whining and crying, until you finally resort to time outs. It will take an average of six minutes in a corner before she decides to let you put her goddamn pants on. 

2. Ask her whether she needs to go potty. She says no. 

3. Put her in her car seat. Ask her whether she wants her sippy cup. She says no.

4. Get in the driver's seat. Listen to her whine because she wants her sippy cup. Try to give her her sippy cup, but she's too busy whining about wanting her sippy cup to take it. She both wants her cup and doesn't want her cup. She exists in a personal state of flux that allows for both of these things to be true at once. Eventually, she starts whining about some indeterminate thing she won't verbalize. 

5. Decide that if you have to listen to this whining the entire way to the park, you are going to off-road your car right into the retention pond near your house. Get out of the car and let her sort that shit out privately while you screw around on your phone. 

6. She finally stops whining. Get in the car and drive to the park. 

7. Arrive at the park and ask her whether she has to go potty. She says no. 

8. Spend 5  minutes wandering back and forth between the swings, the sandpit and the slide while she talks about playing with things but doesn't actually play with anything. 

9. Watch the panic in her eyes as she pees her pants. 

10. Run to the restroom in case there's more. Also, she might be shitting herself, too. There's no time to waste sniffing her ass on the playground. Run, run, run!

11. Sigh in relief that it's only pee. Pull up her pants. 

12. Drive home. Morning at the park called on account of pee. 

13. Drink heavily at 11 am. 

That time we weren't really robbed

A loud crash from downstairs sent me and Devon scurrying out of bed last night at 1 am. The crash was followed by another, then another, like someone tossing our stuff around the kitchen.

The cat was with us, so for once, she wasn't being a furry little jerk. 

Devon grabbed his sword (yeah, for real), and I grabbed my trusty craft scissors, because those things could gouge an eye out, at least.

I cursed the fact that I had worn nothing to bed but a t-shirt and underwear, like some horror-movie noob. It was like I was asking to be a blood-stain on my own walls. 

We inched toward the stairs before we heard another crash. With bated breath we waited, but everything was silent for many long seconds.

I dialed 911 but didn't press send. Devon yelled at our thieves to get out of our house, and we pondered what to do next. 

We eventually decided he was going to go downstairs with his sword and his mad ninja skills. He worked at Ren Faire when he was in college, so it would be fine, I convinced myself. I was going to wait upstairs and defend the spawn. 

I felt like a dirtbag letting him wade into battle alone, but I knew I might need to gouge someone's eyes out while I bought enough time to call for help. Aurelia's total crap at being a ninja. 

In the worst case scenario, I would avenge him. With craft scissors.  

Then Devon saw it -- the shelf that had crashed to the floor. The mounting tape had slowly given way, dropping his wallet and our pocket knives and keys to the ground before it finished its descent. 

Embarrassing, but still better than a home invasion. 

Miscarriage: The gift that keeps on giving

A week after the miscarriage, everything seemed to be better. The bleeding had tailed off, and I was feeling much like my old badass self. 

I say this to explain why I was moving heavy rocks from one side of the yard to the other in an effort to deal with the erosion all this rain has caused. 

That night, I started to bleed again, just as heavy as the previous week but a lot more painful.

I wonder whether this was the day I finally ejected the Embryo That Just Wouldn't Let Go, but it's hard to say. It's difficult to separate all that gunk from all that other gunk when you're flushing it down the toilet like a goldfish. 

Anyway, I was supremely glad I hadn't traded that Percocet prescription for cash when I experienced two hours of contractions and bled like a geyser. 

If geysers fired off blood instead of hot water and steam.

You know what I mean. 

Devon wanted to go back to the ER, especially after I passed out again.

Shut up. Brushing your teeth is hard work.

But the nurse-midwife we called suggested I put some ice packs on my abdomen and stay home if everything else was generally OK. Devon woke up every half hour to make sure I wasn't dead because he was sleep deprived already and sort of crazy. 

I think he likes me. 

I was better again the next day, and we tentatively looked forward to a weekend in which I didn't ruin all the towels. 

Six weeks later I felt fine, but I was still bleeding. Turns out the Embryo That Just Wouldn't Let Go still wasn't done. I scheduled the D&C (a minor surgery where they go in and remove all the dead-baby bits) for this past week, and everything seems to have gone fine. 

Twilight anesthesia is the weirdest thing. I was in the operating room for about 40 minutes, during which I was placed in stirrups, probably had conversations and might have even made cocktails. I have no idea because I remember none of it.

I'm not complaining. 

I feel good and am hopeful that this miscarriage is finally over. I'll go back in two weeks for a follow-up to make sure.  We're both ready to be done with this.

Diary of a miscarriage (aka, How I Am Just Like Elvis)

If I’m honest with myself, I knew the baby was dead as soon as I saw the ultrasound image. With my daughter, now 2 years old, the heartbeat was fast and obvious.

This time, all was still.

The technician noted that the baby was measuring 8 weeks. It should have been 12 weeks.

Devon asked whether that was bad. I think he knew, too, but we were both hoping for a different answer.

I cried when she said the words out loud.

The doctor came in, and we shifted from talk of genetic testing to how I wanted to proceed with the miscarriage. Clearly, my body wasn’t taking care of business on its own. We could have waited it out. Another option was dilation and curettage (D&C), a minor surgical procedure that empties the uterus of what they call “products of conception.”

That sounds neater than “rotting embryo corpse,” I guess.

This wasn’t our first miscarriage. We lost the first one, before Aurelia, at 6 weeks. We barely knew I was pregnant before I suddenly wasn’t, and the miscarriage was obvious. I started to bleed, and then it was over. I got pregnant again three months later, and it was as easy as pregnancies go. I delivered via c-section after 52 hours of labor (seriously), and we all moved on.

I got pregnant this time after two months of trying, and we assumed the best. I felt great. I had minor discomforts that were abating as I inched toward my second trimester, just like with Aurelia.

It felt like a mean trick. Miscarriages should happen right away, not leave you planning nursery colors while you carry around a dead baby for as long as a month.

I opted to take medication to induce the miscarriage. My first miscarriage wasn’t all that painful, and I would take my chances.

I had been planning a solo weekend trip to the mountains before we got the news. We decided to make it a family trip, and I would take the meds when we got back.

The weekend was bittersweet. Devon and I were sad, but we are almost sociopathically pragmatic. We have a great daughter, and we have each other. We would no longer be welcoming a Christmas baby, but we could try again. If we never had another, that would be OK too. We’re good at rolling with change, and life is too precious to dwell on such disappointments.

And I cried again, because fuck it, I’d had two glasses of wine and I could if I wanted to.  

After the wine and more conversation, Devon and I retired to bed to tell dead-baby jokes.

We aren’t right in the head.

I’m wandering into controversial territory calling it a “baby.” If you backed me into a pro-choice corner, I wouldn’t use that word. It was an embryo. It never even made it to the fetal stage. It was small enough to slip away unnoticed in the blood I dropped in my toilet.

I’m not mourning a person. I’m mourning the empty double stroller that existed in my head. But I will keep calling it a baby because the baby that existed in my head was real enough to me.

When we got back from our trip, I took a dose of misoprostol, according to my midwife’s instructions. It was time to get this over with.

I popped some Tylenol and waited. Two hours later, at 5 pm, I started to bleed. It was a light flow and not all that painful, so I left the Percocet untouched. By 11 pm the flow was heavier but still not very painful.

I went to bed.

I woke up at 1:30 am dizzy, nauseated and soaking wet. Devon is better at relaying the next few minutes because my memory is sketchy. I sat on the toilet and gushed what felt like a keg of blood out of my hoo-ha. Then I woke up face down on the tile with my underwear around my knees.

I passed out on the toilet! I was a rockstar!

I had that thought much later. In the moment, I remember Devon yelling at me. He sounded pissed. In hindsight, he probably wasn’t pissed.

Then I woke up again, this time lying on my back. I wondered whether he would just let me sleep there, because the tile was nice. I liked the tile.

We went back and forth over whether I should go to the emergency room. I didn’t want to go, but it’s hard to convey authority when you can’t stand up, and Devon was like, “Bitch, please.” So I contemplated shimmying down the stairs on my butt to get to the car, but it quickly became obvious that I was having terrible ideas.

Devon called 911, and I sat cross-legged on the carpet in my blood-soaked underwear and his Game of Thrones t-shirt. I focused on sensory experiences: the towel pressed against my thighs, the street light filtering through the window, Devon’s voice talking to the dispatcher, Aurelia calling to me from her crib.

I’m grateful she couldn’t see the bathroom from her room.

Two paramedics arrived quickly. By then I was able to walk down the stairs with some help, so I got into the ambulance with no further drama. One paramedic set me up with a saline IV and some oxygen. Devon followed in the car with Aurelia.

We waited in the ER for several hours. I sang songs to Aurelia to pass the time. We talked. We played with our phones. Time passed slowly. I felt a little ridiculous for being there. I was feeling much better.

I realized I’d forgotten my shoes. At least the paramedics had reminded me to bring pants. Thanks, guys!

I went through the expected gamut of tests: ultrasound, ekg, pelvic exam, blood tests. I was clotting well, and, while I was still bleeding heavily, it was within the normal limits of what you’d expect for a miscarriage. It wasn’t entirely clear why I hit the tile, but I was fine now, and they were sending me home. The ER doctor gave me a prescription for Vicodin that I added to the Percocet that I never took.

Despite the fireworks, this was proving to be the most painless miscarriage ever.

We got home at about 5 am. While Devon put Aurelia back in her crib, I cleaned the blood off the bathroom tile, covered the blood-soaked sheets with a clean towel and fell asleep.

I spent the next day tired and sometimes dizzy, but there was no more drama, and by the following day I was mostly back to my old self.

The concept of “normal” is a strange one. Aurelia still needs to eat breakfast and dump marbles all over the floor. Devon has gone back to work, back to what normal is for him. We lost a baby, and I scared the piss out of him, and a day later everything was pretty much as it was before.

So it goes.


Please comment and share!


Gamer chat logs of the rich and famous

Donna: Can we play "Kill the Jedi" tomorrow?
Me: Indeed. Jedi MUST DIE!
Donna: They've been safe for, like, 4 weeks. They've had time to build up their goody-two-shoe battle plan. 
Me: We'll have to kill four times as many. 
Donna: They must be squished! Peace is a lie! There is only passion!
Me: And cake. There is also cake. 
Donna: More cake than anyone could eat, 'cause that's just how we roll in the Sith Empire. 
Me: The Jedi are all, "Cake in moderation! Moderation!" While they are moderating, we are eating their cake. 
Donna: Pussies. 

You suck at everything

If you’re like most parents, you have a sneaking suspicion that you suck at everything. That’s because you do. Without the media, you wouldn’t even be aware of all the ways in which you are crushing your child’s dreams.

It’s not entirely your fault. Your parents sucked at everything, too -- and their parents before them. You come from a long line of incompetent breeders.

But there's hope. Your parents and grandparents didn’t have the Internet to set them straight. I’m here to tell you all the things you’re doing wrong so you can try to suck less.


Feeding your kids every day

Humans can survive for more than three weeks without food. Mahatma Gandhi, at 74 years old,  survived 21 days of total starvation.  

Is your kid better than Gandhi? I didn’t think so.

Gandhi: Better than your kid since 1869

Gandhi: Better than your kid since 1869

Feeding your kids every day is like burning money -- money you could be using to fund your whiskey habit, or, if you must, a college fund. The other benefit: If you stunt their growth, clothes and shoes last longer. And everyone loves a tiny kid. Just ask Gary Coleman.

When it comes to finances, play the long game.   


Letting your kids out of your sight, ever

Science has proven that there’s a pedophile behind every tree. Look outside your window now. You see that tree? There’s a kiddie diddler standing behind it right now just waiting for you to blink.

Pedo Bear wants to meet your middle-schooler. 

Pedo Bear wants to meet your middle-schooler. 

I know what you’re thinking: You already drive your daughter the half block to school, attend all playdates and birthday parties, and witnessed your 16-year-old son lose his virginity. (You let them cover themselves with a blanket. You’re not a pervert.) What more can you do?

I bet you’re getting some sleep at night, aren’t you? Are you some kind of stupid?  In 2002, a 14-year-old girl named Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her very own bedroom in the wee hours of the morning.

This happened in Utah, not in some God-forsaken place like New York City, where people live when they WANT their children to be kidnapped by hobos.  

This nightmare could have been prevented had her parents sacrificed the luxury of sleep.

If you have kids in multiple rooms, forget about taking shifts. One of you must be with them at all times. If you’re a single parent or have kids spread across more than two rooms, hire help, but not until your night nanny has submitted to a full background check and urine analysis.

Don’t make children if you don’t want to take care of them, people.   


Sending your kids to school

We all know that kids are terrible creatures, and when you put them together in large groups, exponentially terrible things happen, like bullying and dodgeball and Katy Perry. Enrolling your kids in school will kickstart their inevitable decline toward meth addiction, because literally every school in America has failed our children. Even $10,000-a-year pre-schools are just holding pens where our spawn grow ever fatter and more unthinking, like sheep being led to the slaughter.

Yummy, yummy slaughter.

Mmmm. Lamb.

Your baby. 

Your baby. 


All of this might make a person think, “I know! Homeschooling is the answer!” But it isn’t. Folks, homeschooling is never the answer -- unless your answer involves turning your kids into emotionally, socially and academically crippled right-wing fundie nutjobs. How can your son learn his place in the pecking order if he doesn’t get beaten into a stringy pulp by his betters? How can your daughter learn to cope with embarrassment if that menstrual mishap in her white jeans doesn’t make it all over Instagram?

So if we can’t send them to school and we can’t educate them at home, what’s a correct-thinking parent to do?

Simple: Educate your kids in the school of hard knocks, like our grandparents.

Is your kid better than your grandfather, who killed Nazis with his bare hands before settling down to a life of farming and taming wild beasts with his manly glare? I didn’t think so.

The only thing you have to fear is this guy. 

The only thing you have to fear is this guy. 

Don’t be a pussy. Patriotism and hard work are all you need.

I am the mom on her cell phone at the playground, and I’m not sorry

I know what you’re thinking. You’re filled with pity for me and my toddler because I’m tooling around on Facebook while she plays by herself. If only I understood how precious and fleeting childhood is, I wouldn’t be chatting online while these irretrievable grains of sand slip through my fingers.

You think my daughter is bereft of love and affection based on this brief snapshot of our lives. You imagine her gazing longingly at other families and wondering how her life might have been.

You think I shouldn’t have had a child if I can’t tear myself away from my electronic binky for five minutes.

Some of the more brain-damaged among you think my daughter would be better off in foster care, where her risks of true neglect and abuse would skyrocket, than to have a mother who doesn’t gaze adoringly at her as she goes down the slide for the 47th time.

I know what you’re thinking because you can’t stop talking about it on Facebook.

I don’t claim to be intervening in a friend’s personal crisis or answering an important email about a dying relative. Sometimes I am doing those things, but not today. Today I am looking at funny pictures of cats.

These pictures are hilarious. Seriously, you’re missing out.

I am also keeping half of my brain on my daughter, because, frankly, looking at photos of cats doesn’t take that much attention. I am paying enough attention to notice her get pushed down by some bigger girls, and I intervene. Their father is not on his cell phone, yet he doesn’t notice his kids picking a fight with a baby. I’m told only parents on phones are so easily distracted, so I’m not sure how this is possible. I go back to my cats when she is off examining wood chips, because she doesn’t need me for that. 

I am a stay-at-home mom. Aside from mooching off my husband’s talents and sitting around on my expanding arse all day, I spend a lot of time interacting with my daughter. We nurse in the morning. She is 2 years old and still nursing, which is no doubt scarring her for life in its own way. I make her breakfast and we play. She helps put the clothes in the dryer. We go to the grocery store, and she puts the food on the conveyor belt. We take a toddler class at the rec center. She helps me cook. She helps me recover from all of her helping.

In short, my toddler is surgically attached to my backside 11 hours a day, 7 days a week. During the brief snippets of time in which she is content to be on her own, I am delighted to be doing something the fuck else. 

I accept that this period of our lives will pass, to be replaced by something else. She will morph from a toddler into a pre-schooler, into a big kid, into a teenager, and finally into a woman, and I will miss every stage even as I embrace the new one. I will not, however, get sucked into pre-emptive mourning. Living in the moment doesn’t mean grasping desperately at those moments, trying to capture them like fireflies in a mason jar.

I also accept that you are a better parent than I am in every way. Your capacity to love is unmatched. Your child will grow up to be attractive, smart, affectionate, successful and good at shuffleboard. The best I can hope for my daughter is that her father’s love will compensate for my failings enough to keep her from a life of prostitution and simmering rage.

Please pray for us.

Grocery shopping isn't for the weak

If you have a toddler, or have ever had a toddler, you know trips to the grocery store are the stuff of nightmares. Not Friday the 13th-style nightmares. I mean the kind of nightmare where you are slowly being eaten alive.

By leeches.

Leeches playing the recorder.

Below is a rundown of how this mundane part of my life has changed since that fateful day I gave birth to a pint-sized sociopath.



1.       Drive or walk to the store.

2.       Stroll the aisles leisurely, checking produce for freshness and reading nutrition labels.

3.       Linger over the cheese selection, trying to decide whether I want to splurge on a small chunk of high-quality bleu cheese.

4.       Pay for my groceries using the coupons I clipped.

5.       Drive or walk home with a song in my heart.

6.       Put away my groceries and move on with my day.



1.       Spend 10 minutes looking for her shoes. Find one boot. Decide shoes are overrated and put on her socks.  

2.       Wrestle toddler into the car seat with promises that we will go to the playground later. I know I am lying. It’s raining and cold, and I might never find her shoes again.  

3.       Drive to the store.

4.       Find her socks somewhere between the seats and put them back on her feet.

5.       Race up and down the produce section checking items off a list that somehow got soggy in my purse. I don’t even want to know.

6.       Listen to toddler repeat a billion times the names of all the food she sees. Assure her a billion and one times that she can eat a banana when she gets home.

7.       Correct her repeatedly for trying to open the strawberries. Finally have enough of her shit and put the strawberries on the shelf under the cart.

8.       Get halfway down the meat aisle when she says she has to pee.

9.       Walk to the other end of the store, help her go to the bathroom, then resume shopping.

10.   Get back to where I left off when she says she has to pee again. Repeat step 8. Discover she doesn’t really have to go.

11.   Get back to where I left off when she announces she has to pee again. Decide I’d rather scrape shit off of her pants than walk back to the bathroom one more time. I am not leaving this aisle without bacon.

12.   Walk up and down a few aisles, informing her that we do not need every last thing that looks appealing to her. Keep her from eating everything in the cart. Grab the things I need, barely glancing at prices, and not at all at nutrition labels. I could be spending $25 on a package of hamburger rolls made of cancer. I just don’t care.

13.    Surprise, surprise. She needs to pee again. It’s been long enough now that I decide to take her.

14.   Joke’s on me: She doesn’t really need to pee.

15.   Listen to incessant whining about all the food she wants to eat right now, knowing she won’t touch it once we get home. Illicit food is the best food.

16.   About to get on line when she announces she has to pee again. Since we are getting in the car soon, I take her. To no one’s surprise, she does not really need to pee.

17.   Pay for my groceries quickly, pleased I didn’t misplace the rewards card or accidentally steal the strawberries still under the cart. This is as good as it gets for me.

18.   Wrangle all produce and living creatures into the car and drive home. Listen to toddler repeat the word “walk” over and over until my ears bleed.

19.   Sing the ABCs song. It’s the song I sing in lieu of the “shut the fuck up” song.  

20.   Get home. Find her socks somewhere between the seats and put them back on her feet.

21.   Toddler flips out because I won’t give her strawberries, as I will be making lunch in a few minutes. Give her a time out. Resume putting groceries away.  

22.   Toddler decides she wants her shirt off. I try to help her get it off, but she won’t let go of the sleeves. She both wants the shirt off and doesn’t want the shirt off. Finally I get it off.

23.   She says she has to pee again. I help her go to the potty. She does not really need to pee.

24.   Put away more groceries. Give her another time out for freaking out about not getting cookies.

25.   Toddler decides she wants her pants off. It’s naked-toddler Monday!

26.   She says she has to pee again. Surprisingly, she does.

27.   I give her another time out. It doesn’t matter what it’s for. I realize I’m just phoning it in. My soul is empty, but my pantry is full. 

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Not literally tomorrow. Seriously, don't die tomorrow.

Sometimes I’m philosophical about death. I think of the circle of life, death making way for birth and all that. Flowers are born from seeds, and they die to be reborn as more flowers.

Not today. Today, fuck that kumbaya crap.  

I want my mother and father back. I’m looking at pictures of an uncle who died of cancer recently, and I want to hear his voice again. I saw him seven months ago. He wasn’t a healthy man then, but you’d  have been hard-pressed to tell by looking at him. I wasn’t there at the end, but I remember what mom looked like, so I can imagine it. I want them all back, and I want the new people, too, because I’m a greedball, and as long as I’m wishing, I’m going to wish big. I’m going to shake my tiny fist at the stupid poopy-headedness of it all, and then I’m going to put my fist down, because that’s a lot of shaking, and I don’t work out.  

Today, I don’t want to pretend this all ends well in some chick-flick way where we learn something valuable at the end and become better people for it. Mostly, it just sucks and you pack it away somewhere because there’s other shit to do. Then you write the narrative where you’re the hero of your own story, and you come out wiser and stronger for it, because we like endings that mean something.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. Not really. Sometimes I do, when it’s nice to stop missing people so much and just pretend. I can’t bring myself to pretend full-time, though. Religion would make this stuff easier, but once you’ve stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy, you can’t ever go back.  

I told Devon that he’s not allowed to die before me. The worst thing about my uncle’s funeral wasn’t saying goodbye to him: It was watching his wife, my aunt, cry beside his body, crushed under the weight of too many losses. With many of her siblings and her friends dead and her own advancing cancer, her world has gotten very small. Devon pointed out that, statistically, he is likely to die well before me. I told him that if he kept talking like that, he was going to die a lot sooner than he expected.

I’ll be fine tomorrow. Life is too short and precious to dwell infinitely on the inevitable end of it all. But today I am going to dwell. And probably drink wine. 

I am, in fact, a paper cup.

In light of Leonard Nimoy's recent death, I went looking for "I Am Not Spock," a book Nimoy published in 1975. These were my search results. 

I decided not to buy the book. As much as I appreciate Nimoy's talents and am sorry he's gone, I wouldn't plunk down 60 bucks on my own autobiography. 

Potty training can kiss my chubby ass

You might be thinking, “What the hell, Dirty Hooker? You’ve been gone for nearly two years and you come back with that?”

Yeah. Sorry.

I had a baby and struggled to find anything interesting to say before I acknowledged what might have been obvious to y’all from the beginning: I was a vapid, mindless void. 

I didn’t have post-partum depression. I just had a two-year-long case of being fucking dull and unimaginative. That might still be the case, but I do want to write again, and a couple of people have asked me to. I’m a praise whore, and a cheap one at that.

I didn’t want to be a mommy blogger -- not because I have anything against mom blogs.  I read a bunch of blogs written by talented women with interesting ideas. I couldn’t imagine adding to the volume of information already out there in any meaningful way.

But I blog about what I live, and I am a stay-at-home mom now.  Of course, I’m other things, too. I read books and play video games and drink whiskey. But most of my day is defined by caring for a toddler (and drinking whiskey), so that’s what occupies most of my thoughts.

It’s a good life, just not a sexy one.

The other difficulty I face in writing is that my life is relatively free of conflict. My primary challenge involves listening to a small person repeat the word “apple” 6 billion times without selling her to hungry cannibal clowns. It’s a much different world from caring for my terminally ill parents, burying them, cutting off family members who made me miserable, getting laid off, and moving 1600 miles away.  Now I live in a great house, I’m happily married, and I have a kid I adore.

As hilarious as stories about Alzheimer’s and cancer are, I’m glad my life is no longer a country-music song.   

My challenge now is to write about ordinary days that revolve around things like potty training.

See, I got back to the point eventually. 

Scott Adams might want me to die, if I weren't so indecisive

Dilbert creator Scott Adams posted this blog entry recently, about his hope that his father, who was suffering from Alzheimer's, would die soon, and how he hopes anyone who opposes assisted suicide follows him. (Note: His father has since passed.) I have mixed feelings about assisted suicide, and you've heard it all before, so I won't bore you with more debate. I'm not worked up about what Adams wrote. They're the words of someone who's suffering, and I'm glad his family has finally found some peace. I can say with certainty that I wish I'd let my father die sooner. If any of my family and his close friends are reading these painful words, I hope you can understand. Dad was a good man and I loved him deeply, but it was way, way, way past time for him to go.

In April 2010, I approved surgery to clear a bowel obstruction. I didn't know it was a bowel obstruction. His doctors said it could be anything from a hernia to cancer, and they wouldn't know for sure until they opened him. I felt like an asshole letting him die from a hernia, so I said OK. He couldn't approve the surgery himself because he had Alzheimer's and didn't understand what was happening to him. He struggled while a nurse and doctor intubated him. I held him still while I stroked his hair and hoped I was doing the right thing.

I wasn't. I was profoundly wrong.

It happened nine months after my mother died, and I wasn't ready to let go. My weakness consigned him to another nine months of misery and pain, after which he finally died from another bowel obstruction.

I got a second chance to make things right after the surgery. His heart started to fail, and his doctor suggested a pacemaker. I could have said no. I should have said no. But after putting him through bowel surgery, a pacemaker was no biggie, right? Except that his body desperately wanted to die, and I robbed him of the chance to do it quietly.

Medical care for the chronically ill, and especially for the elderly, is a slippery slope. One thing leads to another, and eventually you find your father hooked up to a machine that's keeping his kidneys functioning and wondering how the hell you got there. It's like a TV movie of the week. One minute you're drinking wine coolers in your high school parking lot and the next you're a washed-up junkie snorting blow off a hooker's ass.

I said no to the last surgery, but I wasn't in charge at that point, so he went under the knife one more time. My biggest fear was that he would recover, in the sense that "recovery" meant more misery as he slogged toward the inevitable. I was relieved when he died a few days later. He never woke up.

Maybe assisted suicide is the way to go. Maybe it isn't. I'm still not sure. I'd settle for the ability to back away from lost causes. For the most part, I followed his doctors' advice. The decisions were overwhelming, and I held a helpless man's life in my hands while everyone around me, doctors included, suggested treatments that would extend his life -- and his suffering. It was easier with Mom. With a prognosis of three months to live (she died in two), it was easier to back away. It's a relief to hear someone say "enough is enough" when the grieving people around you are begging you to fight on.

Dad's been gone three years today. I'm not beating myself up over it anymore. I just hope the experience has given me a better sense of where to draw the line.

Check your fish, lest you DIE!

I'm 35 years old and I've been driving for only a year, because driving in New York City costs a billion dollars a year, not including parking tickets. So I scored another level in adulthood when I took the car in for a maintenance check. It was due for its 30,000-mile inspection, but mostly, I was worried about the fish living inside our Prius. The conversation with Devon went like this:

Me: I think there's something wrong with the car. The "check fish" light came on.

Devon: The "check fish" light?

Me: Yeah. The light that looks like a fish. There was an exclamation mark in parentheses next to it. The dashboard REALLY wants me to check that fish. I'm worried.

Devon: Sigh. I see.

Check engine Prius

I don't think he saw at all. Sometimes I think he just humors me. He said it meant "check engine," and the exclamation mark meant I needed to check the tire pressure. But that's retarded. I can barely drive, let alone diagnose problems with my engine and tire pressure. Toyota would never ask me to do something so out of my league.