Helping The Community

Certain social media sites are so lame with their overreaching analytics. A suggestion popped up on my feed last week, noting I had checked in at the Indiana State Line on December 26, 2014. I did. Mostly just to let interested friends and family members know of our progress as we traveled home from Pennsylvania on a Christmas road trip. Facebook wants me to “Help the Community by Writing a Review.”

A review of my trip to (it was more like over) the Indiana State Line? Seriously. I noticed there are no current reviews of the Indiana State Line, and actually only 6 other people have even checked in. What would that review even look like? I wonder…

Rhoda T.

Sad to say that the Indiana State Line just doesn’t measure up to the other State Lines in the area. The trees were way less scenic than in Pennsylvania. The roads barely felt paved.

Zena H.
Ended up here because the queue at the Michigan State Line was ridiculously long. Indiana has the same rating yet there was no queue. We were sceptical at first but it was not bad. Pleasant overpasses. Signage there when needed but not overwhelming. You pay about 10 dollars more in tolls for Ohio, so this was overall a decent place with pleasant experience.

Vincent L.
If you have a predilection for Midwestern State Lines like me, look no further than the Indiana State Line. I come here weekly on business and only really ever stay on the Interstate – comprised of a fine gray Valero asphalt, sometimes topped with a delicate dusting of snowfall, four lanes for just the right amount of comoditá (comfort). So wonderful! There’s nothing quite like rolling into the Petro in Richmond after you’ve finished your amazing crossing. I haven’t been stopped yet, but the speed limit will be the death of me.

My only gripe would be that it is an expensive State Line. Current tolls are over $12.

Kalee J.
Where do I begin? Shall I start with the bumper to bumper traffic because of a trooper pulling over a pick-up on the side of the road? Or maybe the painfully awkward billboards advertising Tom Raper RV? Um, hello? Trigger warnings please. There are a lot of people that that could effect them very much seeing that. There is no craft or thought put into this State Line. Extremely mediocre for the prices, they don’t even have a median, just a slab of cement so youd be better off going to the gross county line a few miles away.

My main issue here is that they’re sign out front is extremely misleading. It led my party to believe that Indiana was the “Crossroads of America,” which was the main reason we decided to go here in the first place. Turns out when we got into Indiana there were no other American states at all, just Indiana. Not what we expected. UMMMMM… try again.

The manager at the visitor center was extremely rude and uncooperative when we raised our concern. It was clearly a miscommunication on both of our parts. The advertisement/sign was so unclear, but we could have asked more questions to clarify. However, she wasn’t about to budge on the toll. Until we made it perfectly clear that we weren’t about to pay for something we didn’t sign up for, at which point she gave us some coupons for free coffee. Atta girl. She didn’t want us getting ratchet up in her state. And believe me, we were on the verge. Her sarcastic and condesending mannerisms were completely off-putting.


Kevin L.

so disappointed as a resident of evansville. two bad state lines on both sides, and i dont know which is worse, kentucky or indiana. at least indiana has good gas stations but theyre not very close to the interstate! thats THE ONLY good thing about indiana.. is the gas stations… lets move on from there…

the scenery was some of the worst I have ever seen… the place was DIRTY…I.E. your first clue… you dont want to know whats going on back off the road. the litter, roadkill, piled up snow, fencing… all dirty …

went for a “road trip” i suppose… they give you this idea that its some kind of destination.. oh my god, one look and we all turned around.. and went back.. didn’t even want to be in the state.. raining the whole time … wow.. this was beyond BAD…

a friend got the map which was DROWNING in red stateness, couldn’t even finish looking at it.

and the whole time all we wanted was to look around, and we couldn’t even see anything until we were almost done and ready to leave… the visibility was INCREDIBLY bad…

NEVER go here. save your time and money.

it’s awful, there’s no good state lines to go to around evansville :( if someone can prove me wrong, please do. but in the mean time, someone needs to save evansville from bad trips.

Jessalyn R.
My boyfriend took me here for my birthday, and I was very impressed. I rode in the passenger side, and it was soooo good! I got to see the viaduct and the welcome signs! Their “visitor information center” is wonderful as well!

Ada K.
This place was recommended to me by 2 of my friends from Baltimore, where we are from.

I haven’t been to Indiana in awhile, so it was nice to have a place that was given the thumbs up in advance, as well as all of the wonderful reviews on social media.

I have now been twice to the Indiana State Line, and each time was fantastic. The first trip, for a Black Crowes concert. Perfection! The second trip, to see a specialist in Indianapolis for my strabismus. Awesome! My husband drove both times as I couldn’t resist seeing everything again. It wasn’t too crowded, so you could probably end up driving in at 7pm on a Saturday night with no problem, but we always check the GPS just in case. We will be back!

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015


Channeling fashion bloggers, some snarky genius on Instagram started a new account called @FashionDads. Do yourself a favor and check it out. The write-ups are satire, but I think the photos are real. Because other than JLo, no one other than dads show that much leg. Or wear that much denim. Or mustard. Or Hawaiian print.

The only thing I hate about the whole thing is that I didn’t think of it myself.

While giving full credit to the mind behind FashionDads, and to my brother-in-law for starting the trend of sniping these photos, I can’t resist a borrowing the idea for a little fun with some personal photos. These would more accurately fall into the category of NapDads. Sorry Dad. Mom says you guys are spending our inheritance anyway so it won’t matter if I’m written out of the will.








© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015





Mousetrap Car Debrief

Not really the science fair, but the same principles apply.

Not the science fair, but the same principles apply.

Earlier this month I wrote about my high school freshman’s physics assignment. Here is the sum total of what my child learned from the mousetrap car assignment: Nothing.

Ok maybe nothing is a stretch, but I know that I got more out of it than he did. Here’s what I learned from the mousetrap car assignment. I will apply this knowledge to the next set of children who go through this torture assignment. Because one of the most important pieces of any idiot group project at the office or at school is the Lessons Learned debrief. That’s where you track all your dumbass mistakes and swear on the name of all that is good and holy that you’ll walk through a river of fire before you ever put yourself through this agony again.

  1. No matter how much of a non-helicopter “do it your own damn self” parent you try to be, you’ll still end up involved with the mousetrap car assignment. Make it as easy as possible on yourself and your student. Don’t reinvent the damn wheel. Find something on Wikihow, Pinterest, or YouTube, and follow their specs to the tee. I found out way too late in the game that you can even buy mousetrap car kits on the web.
  2. Work this shit. Cameron, who will be a freshman in three years, can invest in his college education by making these bad boys and selling them down by the downstairs bathroom where rumor has it all the weed smokers linger and other illicit dealings take place. 200+ kids in physics classes at $50 a pop (a VERY reasonable price) for a completed mousetrap car would turn a nice little profit. Work it for all four years of high school? That’s a hell of a nest egg.
  3. Self-awareness is important. If your kid knows he’s not up to doing this on his own, make sure he partners up early and quickly. Go find Sheldon Cooper or Malcolm in the Middle. Or the kid with the engineer mom.
  4. Unless your child has NASA ambitions, this assignment is not about building a mousetrap car. Because who the fuck needs a mousetrap car? Toy designers have come up with working Hot Wheels cars and race tracks for a reason, namely so you don’t have to MacGyver your own ridiculous hillbillyass car toy out of Bic pens, balloons, and CDs. This assignment is about taking other people’s ideas and executing them to the best of your ability. Think that’s not a real world application? Ask Nikola Tesla how he feels about Thomas Edison.
  5. Find your minions – parents, lab partners, peers, teachers, or the people at Ace Hardware, and command them to do your bidding. This goes way beyond Physics. David might be a step ahead of me on this one.

Anyway, I still don’t know anything about physics, and I’m not sure my kid does either. Well played, Eastern Carver County Schools.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015


There Will Be Blood

Sometimes after picking kids up from three locations after school, helping with homework, making dinner, dealing with your freshman’s stupid mother effing mousetrap car project, and trying to figure out why a microwave that was working fine a minute ago just up and died, you pretty much end up phoning the rest of the night in.

Cameron: “Mom, if you type in the coordinates 52.376552 and 5.198393 on Google Earth it shows a guy dragging a body into the lake.”
Me: “Okay.”
Cameron: “Mom, seriously, look at this.”
Me (glancing at an aerial view of a deck and a splotch while cutting up strawberries): “Yeah, I don’t see anything at all.”
Cameron: “Really, it’s there. Look! I’ll zoom in. You can see the blood trail.”
Blood Trail?Me (yeah, sure, that might be a body): “Gross.”
Cameron: “I know!”
Justin: “I wanna see the blood trail.”
Cameron: “No, you can’t.”
Justin: “Why did Mom get to?”
Cameron: “Duh, she’s an adult.”
Justin: “Show me!”
Cameron: “Fine, but don’t blame me when you have nightmares.”
Justin: “Where is it?”
Cameron: “Right there, see all that blood by her head where he’s dragging her into the lake.”
Justin: “Yeah.”
Alex: “I didn’t get to see! Let me see!!!”
Cameron: “You can’t, you’re too young.”
Alex: “Well ha ha, I saw anyway.”
Cameron: “No you didn’t.”
Alex: “Yes I did, I saw the blood trail.”
Cameron: “No you didn’t.”
Alex (crying): “Yes, I did!!! Mom! MOM!!! Cameron, let me see it!!!”
Cameron: “NO!”
Alex (turning violent): “Cameron!!!! It’s no fair, LET ME SEE IT!!!”
Cameron (evading a lunge): “NO!”
Alex (jumping on Cameron): “Yes!!”
Cameron throws Alex to the ground, Alex starts wailing.

Would moms of girls ever make that demand?

Update: Upon further review, the Google Earth photo of a body being dragged into a lake is an urban legend. It’s apparently a very wet black lab whose trail of water makes a wooden dock look red. Don’t try telling Cameron this, however. He’s 100% behind the dead body theory.

Not Building A Better Mousetrap

I enjoy reading about science, exploration, and research. My grad school focus was in healthcare administration, but the human biology, anatomy, and physiology coursework was what intrigued me the most. I like to think of myself as reasonably intelligent, but when it comes to practical applications and understanding the physical sciences, I have the intellectual ability of a table lamp. I couldn’t engineer my way out of a paper bag.

I recently tried to help my sixth grader with his science assignment. It was about principles of light and reflection. I’m a photographer. I know exactly how to bounce flattering light onto a subject, how to diffuse and filter light, how to use angles to illuminate certain areas of someone’s face. I can pass the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test, which measures how the eye distinguishes colors, with 100% accuracy. I understand angles of incidence and light absorption. Can I explain how or why any of this happens? Not a chance.

“Using the information you’ve learned about the propagation of light, explain why light reflects off of a mirrored surface, but not off of a black velvet surface.”

Um, because it DOES. Duh.

Does he look like a future astrophysicist? Either way, he won't be getting much help from me.

Does he look like a future astrophysicist? Either way, he won’t be getting much help from me.

I bring this up because yesterday I received a lengthy email from my freshman’s high school physics teacher about an assignment that is due next week. In lieu of a semester test, students are to create a car powered by a single spring mousetrap. The kicker was her little paragraph insisting that this project is a wonderful way to spend time with your child, and it must be completed by the student, but parents may “brainstorm ideas, use power tools, glue complex pieces together.” (Snort!)

It’s fair to assume that David will be earning his grade, whatever it may be, completely on his own. I got to thinking about how shitty this assignment is. You know damned well that there are parents out there who are engineers, mechanics, and so forth who will sit down with their kids, and even if they are not doing the project for them per se, will know exactly what insight to offer to create the Aston Martin of mousetrap cars.

Flashbacks to my own junior high science fairs, where my mom and dad, who were business majors, and employed a certain laissez-faire type of parenting, never helped me one iota with any project, from conception to execution. So my sad little “Is It Magnetic?” project with household objects glued to a poster board and a string attached to a marginally working magnet, that was hastily rendered the night before it was due, had no chance against the exhibits displayed by the progeny of local pharmacists and professors who showed up at the Colby High School gymnasium with working nuclear reactors, prototypes for flying cars, and fleshed out proofs of Fermat’s last theorem.

“Wow, you did this all by yourself? I didn’t even know they sold heavy water at TG&Y. Nice work!”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015

For Mature Audiences Only

I attended a First Reconciliation workshop at church the other night with Alex, my seven-year-old. As we were getting out of the car, he said to me very seriously, “When I grow up I do NOT want to be a priest. Because of, you know, the terrible things they have to do.”

What terrible things are you referring to, I asked with an equal amount of curiosity and trepidation.

“Mom, duh. They have to go to people’s homes and get rid of dolls that have the devil in them.”


Someone’s brothers have been filling his head with the plot of the horror movie of the moment, Annabelle. That’s just awesome. So now he’s afraid of big dolls, and evidently thinks parish priests are routinely making midnight house calls when Cabbage Patch Kids are crying tears of blood. Thanks, guys.

As many of you know, I have four boys. They are in ninth, sixth, third, and second grades. That gap from oldest to youngest is profound. When David, my oldest, was in second grade he was nearly pure as the driven snow. Sneaking in part of an episode of The Simpsons was the most risqué thing he saw on TV. He didn’t come home after school to the lax supervision of older siblings. His parents were a constant presence. There was always an adult with him at the playground.

To say that I’ve given up on parenting my youngest would not be correct, but as opportunities arise, I have definitely outsourced some of the work. And though I have never been a helicopter parent, my willingness to allow Alex more freedom to roam has increased tenfold because there is no one younger I have to worry about following him around. So he spends more time out of my sight than his older brothers did. And he spends more time with his older brothers, which David did not do, because he didn’t have any.

And therein lies the problem. Whereas I was reluctant to allow David to watch PG-13 movies until he was sufficiently “old” enough to handle them, Alex has watched them since he can remember. Because his brothers were. What am I going to do, put on Sesame Street for Alex, risking a loud and violent uprising from the boys who don’t want to watch baby shows, or just say screw it, and let him watch The Dark Knight along with them? Wait, he’s sitting still and being quiet intently watching a bus being riddled with machine gun fire? Decision made.

So in addition to their idiot brothers showing them things like “Squidward’s Suicide” videos on YouTube, Alex and Justin are included in topics of conversation that the others never heard about until they were at least in double digits. Most of this information comes from their oracle, Cameron, my second oldest, a middle schooler, always ready to impart to his young charges completely unfiltered and sensationalized gossip that David, a self-proclaimed authority on everything, enjoys exaggerating and sharing with him. So stories and facts that are already only marginally true, are riddled with hearsay and inaccuracies by the time they make their way down to Alex.

So my apologies to any of Alex or Justin’s classmates and friends who have heard about any of the following: farting, Family Guy, high school students who smoke weed, penile cancer, the eraser challenge, steroids, bad teachers, exorcism, Michelle Obama’s school lunch changes, terrorism, Slenderman, compound open leg fractures, The League, hangovers, hemorrhoids, homosexuality, heroin overdoses, testicle injuries, youth sports association politics, doing sex, machetes, Eminem, serial killers, Adrian Peterson, e-cigarettes, new swear words, new uses for old swear words, or the truth about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa. There may be more.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Gas Pains

Know what I hate? Pumping gas. Know why? This.

Pay here or pay inside?
Push credit or debit.
Enter your zip code.
Do you want to use your rewards card at the pump?
Do you want a car wash today?
Would you like a receipt?
Select grade.
Lift handle and begin fueling.

You know what I would like to do? I would like to pump my gas. It’s 11 goddamn degrees out and I would like to get out of the wind and get back into my car. That’s it. That’s what I want to do.

A Cold War spy going through code phrases to gain entry to a safe house in Prague had fewer hoops to jump though.

“Have you seen the symphony?”
“The cat rides at midnight.”
Access granted.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Act Now, Think Later

A note to my children. I appreciate your need to ask questions, even to respectfully question authority . I encourage it. I love your inquisitiveness and curiosity. Don’t ever lose that. Critical thinking is vitally important, and I want to raise children who are independent and in-depth thinkers who scrutinize sources of information, and wonder why things are done the way they are.

That said, you still need to consider context. Allow me to offer an example. When your mother tells you, with a sense of urgency in her voice, to “go get a plunger” that is a time for action, not questions. It should be a reflex. When you hear the word plunger, you jump into action. Plunger. Action. Plunger! ACTION! PLUNGER! IT’S FUCKING GO TIME!!!

Because unless someone is telling you to retrieve a plunger from a burning building, the consequences of NOT getting a plunger will always be worse than getting a plunger. ALWAYS.

Once the crisis is resolved, there will be a debrief. THAT is the time to ask, “Why?”

So, if you must know why, here is the answer. Partially eaten celery sticks WILL clog a toilet.

And as long as we’re asking questions. WHO took the plunger out of the bathroom in the first place? I’m not even going to bother asking about the celery.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Leftover Arguments

8:00 in the morning. One kid wants pancakes for breakfast (leftover from yesterday when I was trying to be nice), the other wants leftover macaroni and cheese. Right fucking now. A heated argument over whether or not it’s gross to put fresh raspberries on pancakes. Another about whose turn it is to let the dog out. And yet one more to determine what TV show to watch. Then…the crime of the century. Justin ate Alex’s chips and cheese. The ones that sat out over night, getting stale, the cheese hardening into a rubberlike substance that only non-ionizing microwave radiation can regenerate as an edible substance.


Histrionics ensue. Demands of restitution. Accusations of targeted thievery with malice aforethought. A third party gets involved, telling both of them to quiet down, stepping on them and on someone’s stomach as the aggrieved parties wrestle on the floor. Godzilla on a much smaller scale. More crying, this time in pain.

The kid who already ate a pancake drenched in syrup and raspberries assembles a mountain of tortilla chips and covers it with an avalanche of shredded cheese. These will surely go largely uneaten since he had zero interest in them until his brother sniped them. Now they chirp each other for no reason other than to establish the upper hand going into the next fight.

“You’re stupid.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not. You are. You don’t even know math.”
“That’s because I don’t like to add.”
“Well, you should.”
“You don’t know anything about football.”
“I don’t care. I don’t like football.”
“Well, you should.”

Four. More. Days.

UPDATE: Next fight has already broken out. Over a softcover Scholastic book called Mice on Ice. Who is the rightful owner? I can’t even be the arbiter because I bought it, and several other books for them for Christmas, and I can’t recall who got that particular book. A book that no one has touched for the past three months. Now more valuable than a first edition Mark Twain, all because someone else wants it.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Love Love

I played a lot of tennis as a kid, honing my skills by using the outdoor racquetball courts at the local community college as a backboard. Not many of my friends played tennis, especially anyone in the neighborhood, so my usual partner was my little brother. He was not an especially gracious loser. A typical match with him consisted of multiple contested line calls, abrupt rule changes, scoring arguments, and fits of pique that often resulted in him launching tennis balls over the fence. Many times I would just get disgusted with him, and stop playing, which resulted in him declaring that if I “quit,” he would be the winner.

Flash forward 25 years later, and Justin has taken an interest in tennis. I love that, because it gives me an opportunity to get back out on the court again after a very long hiatus when I had tiny kids. Unfortunately the experience is eerily reminiscent of those old days with my brother, leaving me feeling exasperated, frustrated, and angry.

Yesterday morning I took Cameron (age 11), Justin (age 8), and Alex (age 7) out to hit around. The fun began when Justin insisted on playing “a real game,” despite the fact that he can only get one of five balls back over the net. Of course that is my fault because if I hit one to his backhand side, he complains vociferously. “Stop hitting it there! I can’t do LEFTY!!!” But if I hit it to his forehand, Cameron would step over and attempt to hit it in front of him, resulting in clashes over whose ball was whose.

Justin’s biggest problem is that his expectations are way too high. He thinks that even though he’s never had a formal lesson, and has only played a handful of times this summer, that he should be playing at the level of a Roger Federer or Andy Murray. And when he misses a shot, he swings his racquet in disgust, yelling at himself like John McEnroe.

We arrived with three cans of tennis balls, nine balls. At one point I used the last ball in my pocket, and Cameron hit one that rolled to the fence by the far court. I needed another ball to start a rally, but only saw the one that had been hit over the fence, still lying in the grass. What happened to all the balls? I asked Justin how many he had in his pockets. Evidently all of them, which he refused to give up, and insisted I run over and get the one that was by the fence. Eventually we coaxed him to let us use some of the balls from his pockets, but admonished Cameron when he hit another one astray. “I’m not letting you use my balls if you keep HITTING them!”

Ages ago I got clocked in the face while playing the net. The ball hit me right in the eye, bruising my cornea. My pupil was constricted for a week. That was more enjoyable than what was happening with Justin at this moment. Another car pulled up, and out jumped a dad and his two kids, an older boy who was quite good, and a kid about the age and talent level as Cameron. “Care if we join you?”

“Sure,” I said, secretly thinking, “Do it at your own risk.”

Justin then couldn’t concentrate until we retrieved our ball that was on the side of their court. “MOM! They have our ball!”

Nothing could convince him that it wasn’t a big deal, and that I was sure they’d kick it over when they had a chance. That’s when Dad started barking orders at his kids in Russian. Or maybe it was just coaching. Kind of everything spoken in Russian sounds ominous. Chalk it up to growing up during the Cold War. But Justin was intimidated, and refused to play on the side of the court adjacent to them, but of course Cameron wouldn’t trade places with him. After hitting about ten balls onto their court, I suggested we move to the kid-sized courts on the other side of the fence.

They actually did a little better on those courts, but everyone wanted to be on my side. There isn’t enough room for three people on a junior court, but every time I moved to another side, someone would follow me, and someone would cry about being left. Finally I just told Justin and Cameron to play a set by themselves, and Alex and I would hit on our own on another court. That remained friendly for about two minutes, and then the arguments about line calls, scores, etc. began. My favorite of Justin’s arguments: “It’s not fair if you hit it good and I can’t get it! That’s MY point then.”

The day came to its inevitable conclusion when each one insisted he was the winner, and Justin threw his racquet at Cameron.

Game. Set. Match. We’re outta here.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014