Raging Dull

By all reasonable accounts I should be on Cloud Nine* today. The Kansas City Royals, my lifelong team, bereft of a championship for 30 years, won the World Series on Sunday. All I have to do is think of Eric Hosmer’s mad dash home to tie Game 5 in the ninth inning, and I get a huge smile on my face or start to tear up. Instant happiness. Last night I went to see Jim Gaffigan in concert with my husband, oldest son, and BFF. We had a great time. He was fantastic. Quote from one of our favorite bits, “Is this worth it?”

But someone today served me up a full-on slice of rage with a side of loathing and an indignation chaser. Literally everything is pissing me off. Granted, even when I’m even-keeled I don’t easily suffer fools, but that’s not usually something that turns my day upside down.

Alex had some questions about the show this morning. “What did he talk about?”

Me: “Hot Pockets.”

Alex (eyeroll): “Did he talk about airline food?”

Me: “No.”

Alex: “Good. Because that is getting REALLY old.”

Eight years old, going on…me. I think that sort of sums up what’s wrong with me today. I don’t have any patience for anyone who is rehashing the same old shit. What set me off started before I’d even left my house this morning – a fairly innocuous comment on a post about the Gaffigan show my friend tagged us in on Facebook.

“…looks like youre hanging out with a bunch of Weiners!”


For the record, my name is Jennifer Weiner. Pronounced “WINE-er.” When I write I use my maiden name for my byline so I’m not confused with the relatively prolific author of the same name. Jennifer Weiner has done rather well for herself, so it wouldn’t be terrible, but no need to create undue confusion. Receptionists at medical offices often ask me if I’m her. Note to Jennifer’s publisher – receptionists at medical offices must be very into “chick lit.” I sense a marketing opportunity. You’re welcome for that free bit of insight about a key demographic. I read Jennifer Weiner’s first book, Good in Bed, a title for which I suffered a fair amount of grief. It was okay, and that’s not a knock against her, but it’s a genre that’s just not really my thing.

I digress. The “weener/weiner” comment is just so ridiculously unfunny. I mean, could you pick any lower hanging fruit than making an obvious joke out of someone’s name? It’s not my name. I wasn’t born with it. My kids get mocked for it constantly. My oldest son, now a sophomore in high school, used to be terribly bothered by it. A baseball pitcher, he intentionally hit a kid once as a 12-year-old when he heard the kid call him “weener” before a game. When I found out why he hit the kid I wasn’t even mad. I was impressed with his control and situational awareness. He’d cleanly retired the first two batters, then plunked the kid with precision on the first pitch with two outs. Now he embraces the taunts, lets his friends call him “penis,” which has taken away all the power of the chirp. You can do that as a 15-year-old who lifts weights and is unafraid of anyone. It’s a little different for younger kids who haven’t developed any coping mechanisms.

I don’t know this person. She’s probably perfectly nice, but her comment annoyed the hell out of me. Not because I was offended, but because of how fucking immature and stupid and preposterously unclever it was. If it were a good joke, I probably wouldn’t have cared. I respect a well-timed and funny insult at my expense. But I have no tolerance for the trite and cliché. I later replied to her comment with a single word. “Hilarious.” She “liked” it. That angered me even more. Because that remark was dripping with sarcasm. And it went completely unrecognized.

The check-out lines at Target over my lunch hour were long. And things went from bad to worse because when it was my turn, the slow cashier handling my lane was replaced by the chatty cashier. I always purposely avoid this woman’s lane. She’s worked there for eons, and she insists on commenting on every item you purchase. I plastered a smile on my face, and prepared for her shtick. As she slid the pizza crusts, pizza sauce, and mozzarella cheese across the scanner, I assumed the crash position, bracing for impact.

“Makin’ some pizzas?”

Oh. My. God. Are you some kind of fucking psychic? How the amazing Kreskin did you know that? No. Way. That was. FAN-Tastic. Seriously, chills.

“You know, there’s a recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust. I haven’t tried it, but I need to. I need to stay away from the carbs. The cauliflower is low-carb. I’m supposed to be on a low-carb diet, but everything is made outta carbs! I’m a diabetic. My sugars are just way out of control. Crazy high. I see you got that 25% off apparel coupon on Cartwheel. Lady in line earlier didn’t know about it and I told her all about it. She didn’t have the app and went over to customer service and set it up. I used mine the other day.”

This is a test, God. Right?

Mercifully that exchange ended. In the parking lot a cute two-year-old boy was not being controlled by his mother, and slowly walked right in front of my car as I was trying to leave. Move out of my goddamn motherfuckin way, you little bastard. (My God I’m watching too much Veep. I have Selina Meyer mouth.) Before going back to the office, I decided I needed a little pick-me-up, so I stopped at Starbucks for some iced tea. Ran straight into a brick wall of upselling purgatory. 

Barista: “So are you having anything for lunch? A hot sandwich? Fruit parfait?”

Me: “No, just tea.”

Barista: “That comes sweetened, but we can make it unsweetened by special request.” 

Me: (Special request? That sounds overly complicated. Do I have to fill out a goddamn form or something? We’ll leave the sugar out of your tea, but only after you complete Schedule 2530-IT in triplicate.) “Unsweetened, please.”

Barista: “For only 50 cents more you can upgrade your Grande to a Venti.” At this point she’s waving cups at me.

Me: “Fine.” (If that will end this transaction. Please.)

Barista: “Anything else for you? We have fresh gingerbread cookies out of the oven!”

Me: “No thanks, I’m good.”

Barista: “Do you like music? We have the new Andrea Bocelli CD.”

Me: “That’s ok.” (I haven’t listened to a CD since 2006. Do they still make CD players? You don’t grind the coffee with a mortar and pestle, why are you selling CDs?)

Probably I should not be allowed around anyone for the rest of the day, for the safety and well-being of everyone involved. Unfortunately I have a meeting tonight, and I have to deal with my own children, which is always interesting. Thank goodness it was dark when I drove home at 5:00 in traffic. That’s always a mood booster.


*What is Cloud Nine anyway? What right does Cloud Nine have to be so damned haughty? I bet it just kissed ass all the time, and probably backstabbed the hell out of Clouds Five and Seven to attain its exalted position. Cloud Six is all, “That was my idea, bitch. Thanks for sharing the credit.”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015

Forever Royal

2015WorldSeriesTonight is the first game of the World Series. Let me clarify. Tonight is the first game of the World Series, which for the second consecutive year, includes the Kansas City Royals. To the untrained eye that may not be of significance, but to a lifelong baseball and Royals fanatic, it’s a scenario that has been, for many years, beyond comprehension. Last year’s trip to the World Series was like a dream. Now it just feels like a long, soothing drink of cool water after an exhausting drought. In short, amazing.

Despite years of measured optimism by some sports media, it was impossible to bank on the Royals’ unparalleled farm system eventually paying dividends. We watched too many homegrown prospects turn into elite players, even superstars, only to be traded or outright released when keeping them around became too expensive for the Royals meager pocketbook. Carlos Beltrán. David Cone. Danny Tartabull. Johnny Damon. Jermaine Dye. Zack Greinke. Bitterness and cynicism smothered hope.

For someone who grew up listening to the perpetually contending Royals as a kid on a transistor radio before going to bed on many a summer night, culminating in a glorious World Series win in 1985, the long slide into oblivion has been a decades-long exercise in frustration. So many Royals moments are lovingly stored in the scrapbook of my mind, and were taken out periodically to review lustfully when watching an endless string of losing records and mediocre talent. Anyone remember Sal Fasano? Gil Meche? Pat Tabler? Wally Joyner? Bob Hamelin? Jimmy Gobble?
Those snapshots are what sustained me as a Royals fan. My brother and I were watching the game on TV on the hot July afternoon when George Brett came tearing out of the dugout like a freight train when his seemingly game-winning home run was recalled after Billy Martin and the evil Yankees complained about a little known rule about pine tar on a bat.

I worked at my small hometown radio station in high school, a Royals broadcast affiliate, and loved game days when I’d put the game on the air from pre-game through the scoreboard show, recording promos and post-game wrap-ups. Sometimes when listening to announcers pause for a station identification, I reflexively recite, “You’re listening to Royals baseball on KRSL/KCAY, Russell, Kansas.” Admittedly though, there were more than a few Saturday night shifts during the regular season when a long-running or extra innings tilt pushed past my normal 10pm sign-off, cutting into the time I’d be able spend with friends until my midnight curfew, and I’d root for just someone to win in the name of finishing the damn game so I could leave.

George Brett has been my baseball hero for as long as I can remember – the day he retired was essentially the day my childhood ended – but Bo Jackson was simply the greatest physical specimen of an athlete I’ve ever seen. When he announced he was undergoing treatment for a hip injury I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if I knew it marked the beginning of the end. In college I worked at a hospital where the orthopaedic surgeons who handled sports medicine for the Kansas State University athletic teams were always doing rounds after a full caseload of routine hip replacements and knee scopes. That evening I was working in the admissions office, and stopped one of them on his way back from the surgical floor. I asked him if he’d explain Bo’s injury to me. From what he’d seen in news reports, he said even with the best possible surgical outcomes, that a return to the MLB as the same unstoppable force he’d been seemed unlikely. It didn’t matter. The organization wasn’t going to wait around for him and pay his salary to rehab. Bo Jackson did return to baseball, but the doctor was right. He wasn’t the same player during two partial seasons with the White Sox.

There were some high points during the long wait for the return to the post-season. I was at Kauffman Stadium for the Major League debut of Brian McRae, son of 1980’s great, Hal McRae. He hit a double. My friend, Terri, and I waited around like groupies after a game watching ESPN interview Mr. Brett after an exceptional day at the yard, and swore he was looking right at us the whole time. And when Johnny Damon was called up in 1995 at age 19, I knew he’d be a superstar when I first saw him go from first to third with the graceful speed of a greyhound. That 1995 season they played pretty well. I spent a lot of time at the stadium, heading there after work, buying a ticket for a crappy seat and scampering down lower after the first few innings when it was evident that there would be plenty of empty space. By that time Kansas City had bailed on the Royals, which for me was sad. This is when I grew to despise the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City had been taken over by a sea of obnoxious red and yellow. Royal blue was nowhere to be found. I enjoyed watching former Minnesota Twins Greg Gagne and Gary Gaetti play outstanding baseball for KC, to the chagrin of my Minnesota friend and die-hard Twins fan, who later became my husband.

When I moved to the Twin Cities it was before video on demand or satellite radio. I missed the familiar voices of Denny Matthews and Fred White, and struggled to adjust to baseball in a new market. We returned to Kansas City for games periodically, and I’ve remained true blue, but have raised four boys who have grown up in Twins Territory. I can’t fault them for being Twins fans. They’ve had Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, and Johan Santana. Not to mention some winning seasons. All I had was fond memories of Willie Wilson, George Brett, Mark Gubicza, and Dan Quisenberry. Ironically the Twins have had their own struggles with losing players who’ve gone on to tremendous success. And now when my 15-year-old cheers for the Royals, he’s accused of being a “bandwagon jumper.” To silence his detractors, he proudly posts photos of himself at the K as a five-year-old.

There was a point in time, maybe during a brief Twins play-off run, perhaps after Joe Mauer personally answered letters that two of my kids wrote him, which I thought was an incredibly kind gesture, that I almost picked up a Twins t-shirt for myself. It was right there in my Target cart. And I walked maybe an aisle or two with it in there when I stopped, and thought, this is not who I am. And I returned it to the display. My kids can wear their Twins gear, and I’ll support them, but I couldn’t turn my back on the Royals after all this time.

It’s odd to be invested in October. I’m not used to the butterflies. But whatever the outcome, this team is just so much fun to watch. All year. Not that I wasn’t proud to be a Royals fan before, but when someone notices the signed Eric Hosmer card on my desk at work, or comments about the blue KC visor that I wear when I walk my dog, or shouts out to my sister and me while we were wearing Royals gear in New York during the ALCS, I smile a little bit bigger these days, not sheepishly, and say, yeah, that’s my team. Always has been, always will be.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz  2015

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