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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….

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).

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.

Eww! Is This Really a Thing?

In our local paper, there is a section devoted to anonymous people calling in or emailing and complaining about whatever has their pants in a twist that day.  This morning, I read the following entry from a local woman:PB

I’m totally disgusted by people who when they grocery shop, feel the need to open bottles and jars of food products, sniff the contents, close it back up and put it back on the shelf for some poor innocent to buy. I recently opened what should have been a new jar of peanut butter, only to find that the inside seal had been opened and the peanut butter was turning green. These people must have been raised in a barn, to not know that by opening these containers you are allowing contaminants to enter, thus allowing anyone who might eat them to become very sick or even die. I once saw a woman in a local supermarket going through each different brand of spaghetti sauce, opening, sniffing and placing it back on the shelf. This is stealing, you are ruining the product and not paying for it. This is one reason food prices continue to increase. This is a form of shoplifting and anyone who sees someone doing this should report them to the store manager. If not to catch the person, to at least remove the product from the shelves so that someone doesn’t end up sick. 

Do people really do this?!?!?!?!??!!                     That’s craaaazzzyy!

I have seen people eating things in grocery stores, then not paying for them.  I have found items in the wrong place, left there by someone too lazy to just hand it to the cashier.  But I’ve never come across someone smelling the food, then closing it back up.

Also, In defense of people who grew up in barns, I think they would be the most likely to consider the rate of decay of perishable items, since most barns do not contain refrigerators.


To those in Boston….

I wanted to blog about something funny tonight, but I just can’t.  My heart isn’t in it.

So, instead, I would like to offer my support, thoughts and prayers to those injured in today’s explosions in Boston.

One of the casualties was an 8-year-old boy.  Several of the wounded were runners who had just finished their race only to have their legs injured to the point of needing amputation hours later.

Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense.  Sometimes, you just can’t think about the awful parts of living or you’ll break.

Prayers for everyone who has broken today.

Selfies, Candids, and Zombies

After waiting months for one nice day here in NEPA, we’ve finally been blessed with a few days in the 70s.  Because of the particularly long wait, people have been desperate to get outside, and it shows.  I live in a university town, so there has been the annual parade of short shorts with tank-tops (still April, people). Gusty winds have been blowing frat boys’ shirts off all week.  The poor guys have been forced to play Frisbee in the park with only their shorts on (bummer, I know).  Zombies must also be on the increase, because people are running everywhere.  Really.  Every time I drive somewhere, I have to dodge several potential future zombies.  I’m pretty sure I could out-walk a zombie without breaking too much of a sweat (unless it’s one of those Resident Evil zombies who can run), but people are probably just trying to get a good head start so they can stop and pick up some extra pick axes at the hardware store.

As I was driving past the park yesterday, I spotted a young man and woman near a bench.  The young woman was looking wistfully to her right.  At least, I’m assuming she was wistful.  She was wearing sunglasses, so it’s hard to be sure.  The young man was taking her picture with his phone.  I’m guessing her intentions were to get a picture of herself enjoying the nice weather at the park for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever because they were both being still for longer than a candid photo reasonably would have taken.  There was definite thought going into this picture.  The fact that she was posing as though she wasn’t posing didn’t struck me as unusual, but seeing it from my car did cause me to think about how odd it is that people do that.

I tend to think of non-professional photos as images captured from real life: someone blowing out a birthday cake, a child running to first base, a baby trying to eat his feet.  Group pictures, although intentionally set up, are meant to look that way so that you can see a picture of yourself with your cousins years from now. With the advent of social media, however, it seems that more and more people (myself included) are almost creating a second life with our pictures – one of images we wish had happened naturally.  Our social media lives are becoming an embellishment of the ones we actually live.  There is a difference between a boyfriend snapping a picture of his girlfriend gazing at the river and a girl posing like she’s gazing at the river for a picture.  She didn’t live that moment, they created it.  How much of what we put out there for others to see is not our real lives, but our lives as we’ve created them in photo?   Furthermore, what does it say about us that we don’t think pictures of our real lives are interesting enough to be shared with others?

I often read or hear (and sometimes espouse) annoyance at the birth of the “selfie” – shots people take of themselves with their phones to post on social media.  At least, with a selfie, people are being upfront: “this is me, taking a picture of myself, so you can look at it.”  candid4There seems to be something sadder about a picture that says: “I’m posing like this so that you think this is how I spend my time naturally, even though I’ve been looking around this tree trunk at nothing for thirty seconds and I’m sucking in my stomach.  Also, I live in Sepiaworld.”

To prove my point, here are some shots of me that are totally candid and NOT AT ALL set up.  This is my real life, baby:

Me, writing a check

Me, writing a check

Me, taking out the trash

Me, taking out the trash

Me, brushing my teeth

Me, brushing my teeth


Some Stories Just Need to be Told: Groundhog Edition

The opportunity to tell my story about bludgeoning a groundhog doesn’t always present itself.  Fortunately, now that I have a blog I don’t need an invitation.  If you’re a good friend of mine, you’ve most likely heard this story.  You may even be able to tell it yourself.  Perhaps you already have…….

To really appreciate this story, there are a few things you must know about me:

1. During the summers while I was a college student, I worked third-shift at a potato chip factory.

2. I grew up on a farm, but I’m really one generation removed from actually being a farmer. I didn’t actually have to do any farm work, but I did grow up around farm work being done. As a child, I hung out in the barn while the cows were being milked.  I rode on the tractors, but I didn’t drive them.  I can shoot, but I don’t hunt.

One summer morning, after getting home from a shift at the potato chip factory, I decided to take a shower.  I say that like it took some consideration, but really I had to shower every morning before I could stand to do anything else.  After 8 hours of putting bags into boxes, with potato chips vibrating on belts all around me, I was always covered in a layer of grease that smelled like old French fries.  If you felt my hair, you would think I was responsible for frying every single chip myself with one of those fry baskets they use at McDonald’s, but no – it was merely residual grease.

This particular morning, as I was getting out of the shower, I heard our dog (really my brother’s dog) barking outside.  Brandi, a beagle mix, was not the brightest of dogs.  She was always super happy to see anyone or anything.  She loved people so much that whenever she got loose she would come to the front door to tell you all about it with a look on her doggy face that said, “Hey there people!  I can go anywhere now, so I thought I’d come tell you because I’m so excited!” Although she was part beagle, she didn’t howl very much – in fact, she hardly barked.  So, it was surprising when I turned off the shower and heard her barking frantically.  I wrapped a towel around myself and looked out the window.  There, in our garden, was Brandi standing snout to snout with a groundhog.  It was a stand-off between two small furry creatures.  I watched to see if Brandi would snap at the groundhog. Both of them just stood there looking ready to pounce, not actually making a move.        645px-Doggroundhog

If you’re not that familiar with groundhogs, you may think they are cute.  I guess they can be when they sit up on their hind legs and act like they have people-hands.  When it comes to farming, however, groundhogs are right up there with coyotes on any farmer’s most wanted list.  Not only do they regularly destroy small gardens, but they can dig large tunnel systems beneath fields that can collapse beneath the weight of a tractor and swallow it into the ground.  In my family, groundhogs were considered to be large, troublesome rats that should be eliminated whenever possible.

Chances are this particular groundhog had decided to burrow somewhere in or near our garden, possibly even laying a litter of cubs.  Still, this groundhog was in an area that was specifically designated for the dog – an area that should have reeked of dog in her little groundhog nose.  I started to worry that the groundhog was rabid.  Why else would she be so brazen?  I called my father at work to see what I should do.

“Dad,” I said.  “There’s a groundhog about to attack the dog.  Should I shoot it?”

“No, you’ll wake up your Uncle.”

At the time, my mom’s brother was visiting.  He was working a swing shift, so he was also on a nocturnal schedule.  While all this was going on, he was sleeping – right through the incessant barking.  Looking back, I’m thinking that my Dad didn’t really care if I woke up my Uncle.  He probably just didn’t trust me to not shoot the dog by accident.

“Go out in the garage and get a shovel and hit it on the head,” my dad instructed.  “Oh, and put on some boots, just in case the groundhog tries to bite you.”


I was worried that the dog would be bitten by a rabid groundhog at any second, so I didn’t want to take the time to pick out an outfit and get fully dressed.  Instead, I threw on my red bathrobe.  My hair was dripping and I’d hardly had a chance to dry off my body.  Furthermore, it was summer, so the only boots I could find were some fuzzy snow boots my mom kept in the back of the coat closet.  They weren’t exactly hunting boots, but I didn’t think a groundhog could bite through them. I slipped them on and quickly headed to the garage.

Once I got outside, I could really hear the fierceness with which our gentle dog was barking and growling.  Inside the garage, where my dad kept several shovels, I found one that seemed light enough to swing quickly, but heavy enough to do the job.  I grabbed it and headed to the garden.  The groundhog and the dog were standing four feet from each other.  Now that I was closer, I could hear the groundhog clicking her teeth in warning to the dog.  I didn’t see any foam around her mouth, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t dangerous.

Had I been a real farmer, I would have clobbered the groundhog right there.  Unfortunately, although I grew up on a farm, I didn’t really have in me what it takes to handle situations like this. If anyone else had been home (and awake) I would have let them handle it.  I hesitated.  I wanted to shoo away the groundhog, but I was afraid it would run at me instead.  I stood there in my bathrobe and snow boots, hair dripping, gripping my rusty shovel and hoping one of them would eventually get tired and walk away.

Suddenly, the groundhog leaped forward and snapped the dog on the nose.  The dog yelped in pain and, without thinking, I screamed and slammed down the shovel – right on the groundhog’s head.  She shook for a moment, and then slumped, immediately lifeless.  One blow was all it had taken. My heart was beating in my ears and adrenaline was making my hands shake.  Of course, that was the moment the dog decided to get brave.

She scooped the groundhog up in her mouth and took off.  Not knowing if the groundhog had been diseased, I couldn’t let the dog chew it apart.  I spent the next five minutes chasing the dog around the yard, trying to get her to drop the dead animal.  Finally, she dropped it to get a better grip and I pushed her away with the shovel.  I scooped up the groundhog and carried it far into the neighboring field.  I probably should have buried it, but that was certainly not happening.  I was tired from working all night.  I was sweaty from chasing the dog – despite having just taken a shower.  Not to mention, I was one belt slip away from standing naked in a field with a dead groundhog.  So, I left the carcass in the weeds and went back in the house.

I supposed I should have felt some remorse for bludgeoning the groundhog, but I didn’t.  Despite my reservations as I stood there waiting for the stand-off to end, I hadn’t had to think twice about it when the time came. With a clear conscience, I went back in the house, put on a T-shirt and shorts, and crawled into bed.  Perhaps I had more farmer in me than I knew.