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Throwback Thursday: Barbie Serial Killer

Barbie Dolls.  I had them.  Lots of them.

I also had the Barbie car, the Barbie patio set, The Barbie piano, the Barbie horse…..

My father built me a beautiful doll house for my Barbies, which my mother painted, wall-papered, and furnished.  It was lovely and I spent hours playing with them.  (I don’t actually want my daughter to play with Barbies, but I’ll cover that in another post.)

There were three things that I loved to do with my Barbies:

Stage them in various scenes from my favorite Broadway musicals.  This was difficult because I only had two Ken Dolls.  Sometimes G.I. Joe had to stand in as Curly in Oklahoma.  When re-enacting Into the Woods, Brunette Ken played the Baker, Cinderella’s Prince, and the Wolf, while Blonde Ken covered the parts of Jack, Rapunzel’s Prince, and the Narrator.  I think, for Les Miserables, I may have also had to “borrow” some Transformers from my brother for a rousing Mattel rendition of “One Day More.”

Me, with the "Ladies who Lunch"

Me, with the “Ladies who Lunch”

Murder them.  Ok, so maybe playing happy housewife did not appeal to me.  Having Barbie stand in the kitchen or take a nap in the upstairs bedroom of her dream house was boring.  Instead, one of my Barbies would pretend to befriend my favorite Barbie (a redhead whose name was actually Midge) then betray her in some way.  Perhaps she would steal Midge’s jewels or kiss Brunette Ken when Midge wasn’t watching.  Midge would respond by first beating the crap out of Barbie, then finishing her off by stabbing her, running her over with her car, or shoving her off a cliff (i.e. my bed).  Sometimes I even smeared them with lipstick so they’d look all bloody.  Midge killed so many blonde Barbies that I’m sure she qualified as a serial killer.  I blame this on my father, who didn’t see it necessary to censor any of his television watching that he did in our playroom (because that’s where the recliner was).

Launch Them.  My brother and I are not particularly close, but if there’s any memory we can bond over it’s this one.  After knocking off too many Blond Barbies, Midge got her comeuppance when, one fateful day, my dog chewed off her foot.  She was no longer attractive to me as the femme fatale, so instead my brother and I took some yarn from our mother’s craft drawer, tied it around her neck, swung her in a big circle off our second-story deck and let her fly.  Because he was younger, it was his job to retrieve her from whatever field she landed in.  We learned that she would fly farther when she was naked and that, if you whipped the yarn too violently, her head would pop off and it would take you several minutes to figure out where it landed.

Good times.

If I ever decide to see a therapist, perhaps I should mention my Barbie playing habits. It may reveal a lot about me.  On second thought….

On the Brink

This is me.Louvre

It is July 2001 and I am 22.  I have recently graduated from college, ready to join the “real” world.  But first, I think I’ll stop and soak my feet in the fountains of the Louvre.  Sure, why not?   Just look at how relaxed I am.

(Also, try not to notice how my arms are bent really weird so they look like they’re inverted…..Did you look?  Ha! Now you can’t un-see it.  Weird, right?  I’ve tried to avoid bending them like that since my senior year of high school when I was sitting on the heater in my AP English class and Chris Rash told me I had freaky, weird-bending arms and it grossed him out.  This, from a guy who would snort a string up his nose, cough one end out of his mouth, and pretend to floss his brain – and who also had a last name that was something you got from Poison Ivy or unprotected sex. Anyway, I must’ve forgotten about my freaky arms for this picture.)

I don’t even really know the girl in this picture anymore, and she certainly doesn’t know me.  I don’t remember what I was thinking in the quiet of this captured moment, but I’m sure it wasn’t about mortgages, diapers, grading, or any of the things that occupy my mind today.  She’s almost unrecognizable.

I don’t have that many pictures of myself that I like, but this is one of my favorites.  Artistically, it’s not really that good of a photo and I look like any other 20-something American female tourist in Paris, but I smile whenever I come across it in my photo album.  That afternoon, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I was a blank slate.  Unemployed, unmarried, and unencumbered by adult life.   Even more, I like to think that the girl in the picture – the one who spent the summer of 2001 traipsing around Europe instead of job searching – would be really happy to meet me.  She would be pleased with how we turned out.

I’m sure we all have things we would like to say to our younger selves.  Personally, I would simply tell the girl in the picture, “Everything is going to be wonderful.  Don’t worry about it.  Enjoy this moment.”Parisb-horz


Camping for the Non-camper

My parents never took our family camping because my Mom considered camping to be the opposite of a vacation.  After all, you have to pack lots of the things you’d use at home (kitchen supplies, toiletries, linens, clothing, etc.), drive them to the campsite, unpack them, use them, pack them back up to leave, take them home, unpack them, wash them, and re-pack them again for their regular use.  Why go through all that when you can just stay home and not have to pack or unpack anything?  Not to mention, there’s the cooking while not in a kitchen and the sleeping while not in a bedroom.  Millions of people camp all over the country every year, but we were never among them.  As a result, I’ve tended to side with my mother when it comes to opinions on camping.

Jim, on the other hand, has always had romantic notions of camping.  His parents didn’t take him camping either, but he attended many years of church camp where he slept in lean-tos and cooked over an open fire.  He counts those experiences as some of his favorites.  So, it’s no surprise that he’s been eager to take our family camping. I finally agreed to give it a try last summer when we found out that some out-of-town relatives were planning to tent camp at a nearby campground for a few days.  I figured we could join them and try it out. If we didn’t like it we’d only be a few miles from home.

As it turns out, the week we selected was the hottest week of 2012 – 100 humid degrees each day.  We were tent camping and we didn’t even have a fan.  In addition, we were camping during the week, so Jim had to leave each morning to go to work, leaving me with a 5-year-old and a 7-month-old in the sweltering heat all day.  The first night, a thunderstorm so intense that it washed out some local roads rained down upon our little campsite.  Between the rain, the heat, and the loud neighbors I barely got any sleep.  It was not the charming camping experience I had been sold, and I made my own promise not to tent camp again.  A month later, when the opportunity arose, we purchased a cheap, used pop-up camper.Camping

This weekend, we camped again at the same campground and it was a completely different experience.  Despite the unseasonably cold temperatures (low 40s at night), we were cozy and snug in our quiet, heated camper.  All four of us slept soundly in our separate beds that were not on the ground.  We had a refrigerator to keep our food cold and a stove and griddle (for Jim) to cook on.  It was wonderful.

There’s a term for my kind of camping: “glamping” or glamorous camping.  We still get to enjoy all the fun of campfires, hiking, and fishing – not to mention the community aspect one finds at a campground – but we don’t have to sleep on the ground or watch our tent get blown over by the wind.  Besides, it’s not like we’re alone, you know.  Three quarters of the campers in our campground this weekend were in campers larger and cozier than ours.

So, now I’m definitely up for all the “glamping” Jim can throw at me.

(I’m also up for ignoring the mountains of campfire-smelling laundry in my basement).

Here in the Middle

Professionally, the past week-and-a-half has been one of the most rewarding I can remember.  As my students and I travelled through a musical vortex of concerts, tours, adjudications, and field trips, I was constantly reminded how almost-human middle school students can be when they put their minds to it.  My students performed beautifully and behaved wonderfully, and they were excited to do their best.  They even brought home a trophy for their “superior” singing.  Weeks like this past one are what get me through on the days when I’m certain all of my students are the spawn of Satan.

Some of my students

Some of my students

If you are (or have been) the parent of a middle school student, I’m sure you have some idea of what we go through here in the middle.  Now, take those three years – the ones from 11 to 14 – and loop them over and over.  Remember how you keep (or kept) telling yourself that this is “just a stage” and your child will quickly be through it?  For us, it’s a never-ending, three-year-long Groundhog Day of early adolescent drama, attitude, laziness, and insecurity that can sometimes last for up to 35 years.

And we love it.

Few people who graduate with education degrees throw their caps in the air and announce “my dream is to work in a middle school!” Personally, I thought I was going to be a high school or university choral director and direct advanced singers through the great choral masterpieces.  Like many, however, I stumbled into middle school and discovered that it’s where I fit the best.  I love how middle school students have a constant nervous energy that can often be channeled to achieve great beauty (and, yes, great mischief).

Yesterday, I watched the video of our spring concert with my students and they filled out questionnaires detailing the strengths and weaknesses of our performance.  At the bottom, I asked them if they thought they had grown as a singer.  Most said “yes” and gave details, such as “I am better at singing harmonies” and “my range is much wider.”  My favorite, however, came from one of my boys, who wrote:

“I have improved this year because at the beginning of the year I wasn’t actually singing.”

Sometimes, here in the middle, such small victories mean as much as a trophy.


Understanding Depression

Following the birth of 1yo, I was blessed to be able to take 8 months of maternity leave.  We scrimped and saved so I could stay home with our new baby and really bond with him. It was wonderful.  However, about half-way through my leave, I started to slide into a late-onset post-partum depression.  I could still function and complete daily tasks, but the world went gray.  It was so hard to explain to my husband or my family.  I still did all the mom things a mother with a newborn and a 5yo were supposed to do, but all I really wanted to do was space out.  I was a zombie. I longed for my next opportunity to go to bed and shut off.  The day I returned to work, my fog lifted.  What that says about me is a loaded question for another post, but I was relieved to have found myself again.

Depression was new, unfamiliar and awful.   Here I was, surrounded by so many blessings and yet I was empty inside.  Still, my depression was mild compared to the depression under which some people suffer for years.

Recently, Allie, from the blog Hyperbole and a Half, posted about her 19 month struggle with  very severe depression.  If you have ever had a family member or loved one who struggled with depression, I highly recommend that you read this.  It explains depression so clearly in a way that I couldn’t.

Click HERE to read this wonderful post.

Happy Mother’s Day (my minions)!

Happy Mother’s Day to anyone and everyone who has ever mothered someone -sons, daughters, nieces, grandchildren, neighbors, cats, dogs, fish, or fowl.


A conversation with 6yo in the parking lot of the restaurant we went to for Mother’s Day dinner:

6yo: Mommy! Your shadow looks like a minion!

Me: A Minion? Cool!

6yo: Wait, I really meant a midget.

Me: It’s not really polite to call people midgets, lets stick with minion – I like that.


Something I learned about 1-year-olds today:

When they want their older sister’s ice cream, you can trick them with a plate of whipped cream.


Abercrombie & Fitch: Why is Anyone Surprised?

When I was in 8th grade, the Esprit brand was all the rage, as was Benetton. The uniform of all who cared about conforming was a sweatshirt with “Esprit” emblazoned across the front, high-top sneakers, and an awkward-to-carry, wind-sock-shaped Benetton bag.

I would be proud to say that I, at the age of 14, was above all of this commercialism but that would be a lie. I wanted to fit in, too. Unfortunately (although in hind-sight I feel differently), my mother refused to pay for anything simply because it had a brand name screen-printed across the front.

So, I saved up my babysitting money and finally procured one knock-off Esprit sweatshirt at an outlet and a Benetton bag that may also have been of questionable origins. The first day I wore them to school, the number of “I love your sweatshirt!” comments I received was overwhelming and also eye-opening for me. Thanks to my parents, I knew deep down that I was selling out. Without the brand name, I was wearing a sloppy, faded blue sweatshirt. The only thing that separated me from the girl in class wearing the plain, blue, no-brand sweatshirt (who was often referred to as “scum” in our early 90’s prep lexicon) was six little red letters.

Anyone who is surprised by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries’s recent comments about only marketing to attractive, “cool” people either grew up apart from this kind of marketing or is simply extremely naïve. It is also naïve to think that the CEOs of other companies that depend on teenage pressure to conform to brand-name purchasing (Aeropostale, Under Armour, Hollister, American Eagle) don’t have the exact same mind-set as Jeffries.

The success of these companies says more about us and our children than it does about those companies. Daily, I see 12 to 14-year-olds march through middle school hallways proudly wearing a shirt that says they belong, merely because of the brand-name emblazoned on the front. The desire to fit in (and for our children to fit in) is strong enough to convince people to purchase clothing, despite the fact that it looks old and worn-out and sometimes even dirty, simply because of the brand. What company wouldn’t want to perpetuate this mind-set when there’s so much money to be made?

I think Mike Jeffries is a total ass, but I don’t blame him and companies like his for this social condition. These companies exist because of us. They exist because we foster an idea in our children that you are what you own – that paying a lot for a ratty hoodie makes you more valuable than the kid whose parents bought his sweatshirt at Walmart. Shame on Mike Jeffries, but shame on us as well.

Fortunately, I was saved by my parents values and the grunge movement of the mid-90s. Thanks to Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, we could happily shop at thrift stores and borrow our boyfriend’s flannel shirts and still be accepted. Granted, we were following a trend, but one more focused on who we wanted to be and less on what we wanted to buy.

Me, in 9th grade, rocking the looney tunes basketball T-shirt I stole from my younger brother.

Me, in 9th grade, rocking the looney tunes basketball T-shirt I stole from my younger brother.

To this day, even though I do fit into the clothing in those name-brand stores, I will not buy them. I will not buy them because of what it says about me and who I want to be (and because anyone my age trying to rock an Aeropostale tiny-tee is just trying too hard).

In the interest of full disclosure: In college, I did work in the Gap for a while. I did own one Gap sweatshirt that I bought off the clearance rack for $5 and subsequently got grease on it shortly afterward. I hung onto it for another decade to wear around the house. It was one of my favorite comfy sweatshirts.


Buckle Up Your Bowling Balls

When I was little, my aunt had a car that spoke.  Remember those?  If your car door was open, the car would say (in its 80’s robot voice) “Your door is ajar.”  I think it also said other things, but I don’t remember them.  I spent most of the time opening and closing the door while it was parked, so “your door is ajar” is what I remember best.  It was as though I was in my own personal episode of Knight Rider – except that I didn’t drive anywhere and the voice didn’t sound like Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World or John Adams from 1776.

"Your door is ajar!"

“Your door is ajar!”

Considering we had talking cars in the 80s, you would think all cars today would be equipped with Siri-type personal assistants who could also help you solve crime.  Instead, my car just nags at me with an annoying beep every time I leave something heavy on the passenger seat.

Today, I had to transport some heavy equipment from my first job to my second job.  I stacked it all on a cart and wheeled it out to my car.  When I opened the back hatch, I found that Jim had left his bowling balls in the back.  By bowling “balls” I mean an entire suitcase of bowling balls that Jim needs to take with him every Monday night because one ball just isn’t enough.  I couldn’t fit the equipment in the back without moving the balls, but the only place I could put them was on the floor in front of the passenger seat.

This wasn’t a problem until I got in my car at the end of the day.  Apparently, the 50 lbs. of balls, shoes, and rosin were enough to set off the passenger seat sensor that tattles on anyone who sits in the seat without buckling.  It started off as a slow “beep…….beep……..beep.”  The longer I drove, the quicker and louder it got until it was all, “BEEP…BEEP..BEEP BEEPBEEPBEEEP..BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!!!!”

Really, Toyota? This is the automotive equivalent of “Mom! He’s touching me! Stop touching meeeee!!!! Mooooooommmmmyyyy!!!!”

It’s 2013.  By now, my car should be brewing my coffee and cutting my hair.  At the very least, cars should politely clear their throats in an “ahem” fashion instead of rudely beeping at people who are perfectly capable of choosing whether or not they wear their seatbelts.

Get on that, car designers.

Stop Staring At Me! (My Demon Eye)

I have no idea what happened. Saturday morning (as I was lounging on the couch playing Candy Crush level 79 for the 14-millionth time) 6yo came over and told me, “Mommy, your eye is really red.” Figuring I had rubbed it when I woke up about 30 minutes earlier, I wasn’t concerned.

Later, when Jim came home for work, he immediately asked me, “Did you throw up last night?!”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because your eye is all bloody!”

Finally, looking in the mirror, I saw something that looked kind of like this, although more blotchy:eyeball

Since then, the blood has been floating through the whites of my eye on a journey to wherever it is that blood goes when it bursts forth from its vessels. In the meantime, I have been experiencing reactions ranging from disgust to concern.

All day on Monday my students were all, “Oh my god! Like, what happened to your eye? It’s so gross!”

Middle -schoolers are too savvy to believe you when you tell them your husband poked you in the eyeball with a fork. However, they were also skeptical when I said I didn’t have any idea how it happened. It was as though they figured I was doing something unseemly over the weekend and didn’t want to tell them. While that would make the whole thing a lot cooler, I don’t even have a good story to share with my grown-up friends.

Since I take everyone in my family to the doctor except myself, I turned to the internet for a diagnosis. As it turns out, I have a subconjuncitval hemorrhage. I think. Apparently, if there is no pain or oozing (of which there is none, I swear) it should go away in a week or so.

If I’m wrong, expect a post in a week or two about how I went blind because I depend on the internet to diagnose giant bloody hemorrhages in my eyeball.

P.S.- Why on earth is Hemorrhage spelled with only one m, but it needs two rs and an extra h? The h I can handle, but the extra r seems excessive.