There’s a tradition in this area of Jersey that after the prom, the kids go down to the shore for the weekend. The parents rent the house for the kids, hire a bus to get them there, and fill the house with food and refreshments. No adults are in the house. Recipe for disaster? Sometimes.

We went to a meeting of the parents in Jonah’s group to discuss the logistics of this enterprise last night. Who should stock the fridge with food? Which parents would rent a hotel room nearby to check on them periodically throughout the weekend to make sure that nobody has passed out in a pool of their own vomit? How much should we chip in for a common fund for pizza delivery?

Also on the agenda was the issue of whether or not we should provide them with beer and wine spritzers.

With the story of the dead frat boy from Penn State on all of our minds, we hashed things out. Should we buy them beer? Bud Light, after all, is better than vodka. It reduces the risk of them getting caught for buying stuff on their own. But the risk of a lawsuit if something goes terribly wrong was on everyone’s mind. The risk might be small, even arguably very small since all our kids are perfect (not), nobody wants to contemplate losing their business or their house. Would the 18-year olds in the house be liable if the 17-year olds does something stupid?

I think that everyone, including us, has no problem with a seventeen or eighteen year old having a Corona Light at home on a Saturday night. If the kid can enlist and die in a war in Syria, then he/she should be able to have a Corona Light. But the laws are the laws. And there was little confidence that the kids will be slowly sipping their beers at the shore house. So, no beer.

Ugh. It’s all so messy. The kids are up in arms and are battling us over this issue.

One Tale of Grit

Last month, I was at Jonah’s track meet waiting for his race. It was one of those big messy meets with a dozen teams and lots of heats that included freshman, JV, and varsity. The freshmen get their own races, because the boys especially haven’t hit puberty yet. Their little skinny legs can’t keep up with the older boys.

When the gun went off for the 4 x 800 JV race, two teams pulled out in front immediately. Those towns specialized in track and field and even their JV runners were great. The other five teams loped far behind. One team, in particular, was terrible. Their runners fell further and further behind. By the time, it came to the last runner on the relay, they were a full lap behind the two really great teams and a sizable distance away from everyone else.

I watched that last runner starting his leg of the race and felt bad for him. It’s pretty miserable to be so far behind everyone else. Getting lapped is humiliating. It’s depressing to still be running, while the officials are waiting for you to finish, and the runners for the next race are anxiously pacing waiting to line up to run. Hundreds of parents are watching you alone on the track.

Even from far away, I could see that the last runner was terrible. He was slow and had an awkward stride that had to compensate for a huge butt and hips. As the runner came around the track closer to me, I could see why. He was genetically a girl. His shaved head couldn’t hide the hips and the butt.

Testosterone is a real bitch. Guys are always faster than girls, because they’ve got it. Freshman boys don’t have it, so that’s why they get their own races. This runner didn’t have it. And this runner was so curvy that he wouldn’t have even been a good girl runner.

As the runner came around for the second lap, the lap that he had to take entirely by himself, I cheered wildly. Go! Go! Go! You’re almost there! How much courage does it take to defy genetics, so you can do something that you really, really want to do?

After the JV race, the varsity runners ran. Jonah breezed by in 2 minutes and 3 seconds and then promptly ate a second lunch of the day.


SL 688

Currently, at the home of Apt. 11D, the big kid is upstairs constructing his promposal by gluing chicken wings on poster board. Yeah, I have no idea either. (For those without high school kids, a promposal is an invitation to the prom, which is a grand gesture that is captured on your buddies’ iphone and broadcast to thousands of friends and acquaintances on social media.)

The little guy is griping about being forced to practice his drum rolls, because he thinks drum rolls are boring. When hubby get home at 7, he will first inspect his tomato plants before he says hi to me. I finished work for the day and have an easy dinner planned. Steve requested Taco Tuesday. Taco Tuesday means I have time for Blog Tuesday. Here goes:

Not all heroes wear capes. This guy did a half marathon without training. He got over his worries about finishing the race by downing a beer at every mile point.

Is there something icky about Obama collecting $400,000 speaking fees?

We finally caught up to the latest “Americans” and now can tweet about the latest episode at the same time as the rest of the world. Thank God. I need another series to binge watch. I’m thinking about “Big Little Lies.”

Scary story about plastic surgery on your neck. I regularly google “saggy neck” and “turkey neck,” so I related to this woman.

Middle class families are stressed out by the crap in their house. I’m stressed out by chicken wings and promposals.

Managing The Hats

I’m juggling three different freelance jobs, as well as the usual family, local politics, and house responsibilities. I have a lot of different hats. I should probably focus on one job, but I like the variety. Every week, I pick out one goal for the week. Last week, I wrote an essay and sent it out. This week, I had a ton of kid management and local chores, so I didn’t plan any writing. I’m mostly done with those jobs, so I’m gearing up for next week’s writing project.

It’s sometimes hard to wrench myself out of the details of the kid’s schedule and school board meetings and think about life outside of the five block radius around my house. It especially hard when my little plants are starting to poke their heads out of the soil; they need some love and attention. On a rainy damp day, I would love to just read my book in the living room armchair. But I have a good article in the back of my head that’s nagging me. I do need to write it up and send it to the Atlantic.

Let me blog this morning to get back into the swing of things.

Sunday Before the Late Mass

I’ve got some pulled pork happily steaming away in a dutch oven. The laundry is spinning and humming in the other room. I have a plan for tomorrow — rewrite an essay for a new publication and get back to the running. Last week, I dashed out an article about the Supreme Court in a couple hours and then monitored its “shares” and “likes” on social media for several days. We had three parties this weekend, so we’re feeling fulfilled and popular. I’ve got to feed the guys and check in with the Apt. 11d peeps in the next fifteen minutes before we drive to the church for 6:30 mass.

(And now returned to the blog post on Monday afternoon.)

I spent the morning working on an essay. It’s something different for me, so it’s taking too long. Not bound by the Atlantic formula, I’m drifting around and rambling. It’s going to take a week to get this puppy in order.

One of our three parties this weekend was out in the Rockaways in Queens — a little strip of land at the southern most part of New York City in the harbor. Residents have a beach front house, but still take the A train to midtown Manhattan, which is cool in theory. The neighborhood is mostly Irish and Italian cops and firemen, whose homes have been passed down through the generations for a 100 years. The houses range from shacks to crazy, tacky mansions with statues of Greek gods on the front lawn. I hear that the hipsters are making it cool again, but I didn’t see the bearded ones there this weekend.

The party was at a friend’s brother’s house. He bought a two family house and is making enough from the AirBnB in the second unit to coverage the mortgage. I would like to be a property mogul someday. I guess we need to get the kid through college first.

With Jonah committed to our state college, we’re starting to make other plans. We’re meeting with a kitchen cabinet contractor on Tuesday. He’s got to choose a dorm and get a job for the summer. We’re trying to find a good camp for Ian. Our vacation is going to be simple this summer – a trip to North Carolina to visit the in-laws with a long detour in the mountains.

We’re slowly transitioning from a life that is centered around our kid’s school to a new life that is less anchored to the community. Which is odd, because two of our parties this weekend were in town with people that we met through Jonah. Ian was loving the evening folk mass so much that I’m going to make some phone calls to get him into the band. We’re becoming more rooted in our community, just as we have fewer reasons to be here.

The houses of Jonah’s friends are already on the market. Nobody wants to live here with the high property taxes, once the kids are gone. It’s cheaper to live elsewhere. But now I’m finding reasons to stay. We still have Ian in an area school, and there’s a new kitchen. Jonah’s imminent departure has opened up all sorts of questions and possibilities and change.

Selling Out

Let’s not talk about Donald Trump today. Because unlike the federal government, things at home are clicking together rather nicely.

I’m now juggling three writing gigs that together add up to adequate compensation and interesting work that is super flexible. I’ve got the green light to do some necessary repairs on the house. Hello, white subway tile in the kitchen! I’ve got the kids mostly set for schools for next year. Well, we have an excellent Plan B for Jonah in case his Plan A doesn’t work out. Ian’s new school is great and will take care of him until he’s 21. I do have to figure out the summer special ed camp situation, but that’s a small potatoes worry.

What’s a neurotic girl to do when things are working out nicely? Not a damn thing. Find a corner to read a book and sip a glass of wine, maybe. And cook big vats of food for people. Last night, there were twelve for meatballs and pasta. We’ve done pizza and beer. Spontaneous stew night was good, too.

I’m in between work projects right now. It probably won’t last more than a day or two, but right now, I’m enjoying the fact that I know that there will be work coming soon, but it’s not here yet.

I never planned on becoming a freelance writer. It sort of landed on my lap when my Plan A fell apart. And it’s not entirely one thing. There’s the serious writing work that isn’t too far off from academic writing. That’s not a shocker. But then there have been other job offers that have absolutely nothing to do with my training. Last summer, I got a call from a huge advertising company that needed help with their toilet paper client. That one didn’t work out. Drat. I enjoyed feeling like Peggy Olsen for a week or two.

Now, it’s a hugely privileged thing to take on these jobs. Steve’s got the health insurance and the proper salary. My job will buy the white subway tile and the wine for the spontaneous stew parties. My friends who depend on their freelance gigs to pay the rent are stressed by the instability of work. For me, it’s fine.

A few months ago, a teacher in town told me that her brother was one of James Patterson’s ghost writers. I guess there’s a small cottage industry of ghostwriting best sellers. The teacher said that her brother had a great lifestyle. He has a good contract that brings him a huge chunk of the royalties. So, he lives in a big house in Connecticut, writes for five hours a day, and then play golf and rides his ponies for the rest of the day.

The guy must be pretty talented to do this job. I can’t imagine that anybody could walk off the street and pump out a best seller. I’m sure that he started off with dreams of having his own name on a serious novel, rather than writing formulaic flippery that is sold in airport gift shops. But ghostwriting is working out for him. If he wanted to, he could still work on his own projects in the afternoon.

I’m not there yet, but with the kids settled for the time being, I’m piecing together a new career.

The Timer Went Off

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors; How a Filibuster Works; Hard Work Matters More than Brains

Jonah’s college acceptance letter has triggered the reality that he’s going to be gone in six months. I have six months left to parent, before he’s gone. He’ll be on his own. And there’s so much left to teach him.

Why Smart Girls Are Better Than Cheerleaders; Why You Should Never Rinse Pasta After You Finish Boiling It

There’s still so much that he doesn’t know, and I don’t have much time. The ten minute drive to his high school is the only time where he’s captive, strapped in the car, forced to listen. I babble using the morning news as the entry into topics that we never talked about before. I have to give him a crash course on life. How did I forget to teach him the difference between the House and the Senate?

The House Writes the Budget Because the Founders Thought that the Branch That Was Closest to the People Should Have the Most Say Over Money and Taxes

Yes, he’ll have to figure out a lot of this on his own, but I could have taught him this earlier. I wasted time. We were too caught up in the details of life — the homework and the soccer practice. And then his friends and cellphone shouted me out.

Your Great-great Grandfather Was a Famous Oboist; Was Napolean Really Short?; Never Put a Red Sweatshirt in the Washing Machine With White Undershirts

He’s undercooked. How is going to fare on a college campus that first semester without this information? This is what happens when a neurotic parent and former college professor starts to panic. She lectures.