Five ways to leave town with a touch of Class.

It’s no secret that at our house, we struggle with Life.  Adulthood often confuses us, and things that go smoothly for other first-world families are constantly beating us into a messy—and generally expensive—pulp.

I sometimes imagine how dignified our life in a tribal village would be, wherein the Smith Family would no longer be hassled by such trivialities as losing our eight-man camping tent (how do you lose a whole tent?) or locking ourselves out of the house.  (Housewife Coming Home From Morning Run + Garage Door Pin Pad Still Broken After Five Years = Only Grownup Since 1974 to Lock Herself Out of Her Own House.)

Fumbling with such minutiae would be beneath us in our tribal village, where we’d be expected only to kill tigers and sew coats of the skins for our daughters’ dowries.  We’d surely pass as Respectable with only killing and sewing to focus on each day.  (Wait–did I say sewing? Looks like I’d flunk Tribal Village Life too.)

And so it is that our attempt to pack up said Life and haul it across the state has caught a few, um, snags.  Silly us, we thought boxing up the house would be the hard part.  Turns out, that kind of hassle’s for amateurs.  We like to think bigger.  So with five calender days left before the Big Move, we thought of five ways to add a touch of class to our departure.  Class (capital C) is important to us, and I’m guessing it’s important to you too—I mean, you do read this blog, and that makes a statement.  So here’s a few suggestions on how to skip town in style:

1.  Wreck the car.


This was just a little fender-bender in the mall parking lot that could have happened to anyone, but obviously had to happen to us.  (To our sixteen-year old daughter, actually, but who’s pointing fingers?)  The car is still driveable, which is a curse in disguise because none of the auto shops could get us in before we moved so we must now drive this badboy to Camas in search of some merciful schmuck to repair it.  The real treat is that the side window won’t roll up, so the local mechanic who did the estimate suggested that until repairs could be made, we do what any classy couple would do:  cover it with cardboard and duct tape. Which means that tomorrow we will be hauling down the Gorge at eighty miles an hour with an enormous gray-and-brown band-aid flapping in the breeze.  After his damning advice, the mechanic laughed—laughed—and said, “Look out Camas, here comes the white trash from the Tri-Cities!” I nodded mutely.  My darkest fears had been given voice.

2.  Bust the AC unit when it’s 100 degrees outside.

Saturday night found me, as any legit Saturday night finds me, lying in bed with Cheez-its and Feedly. Flipping through blogs and minding my own biz, I suddenly saw a large drop of liquid slide off of my nose and onto my screen.  I of course bent over to sniff it and determined that it was, in fact, my perspiration.  Touching the back of my neck and the front of my head I, realized I was pouring. How could this happen to a woman with Class?  The answer came when I checked the thermostat and saw that it was ninety-one degrees in our house.   Ninety-One.  That’s the year I graduated high school, not the temperature we’ve sold our first child to maintain around here.  I immediately asked (screamed at) the Hub to Make Everything Better.  White Knight that he is, went out in the scorching night air to tamper and tinker with some box-unit-thingy that held our life’s happiness within.  After much tampering and tinkering he returned with the diagnosis:

It Was Broken.


He Couldn’t Fix It.

At least not until Monday when the parts store opened up.  I thanked him for trying and then lovingly asked him how the crap that was gonna help me tonight?  He then lovingly responded by telling me I could—well, nevermind.  Let’s just say the evening didn’t go down well.

Nor did the next day, when we hit triple digits again.  Do you know how fun it is to get your ten-year old in a dress shirt and tie for church when it’s ninety-one degrees in your house?  I’ll tell you right now:  it’s not fun at all.  After another steamy (not in a good way) night, I woke the next morning resolved to ditch that hellhole.  And I figured the Classiest thing I could do was:

3.  Spend the day at the laundromat.


Like any woman of the world, I was instensely excited about a day at the Laundromat.  Watching hours of Golden Girls reruns while pretending to work?  I haven’t had it that good since I used to babysit my sister’s kids.  If it took a hundred-degree house to buy me this luxury, I wasn’t complaining.

But my euphoria waned a bit when I saw that it cost five dollars to wash one load.  Five dollars—just to wash!  I’d always assumed laundromats were the domain of young couples and apartment dwellers, not Wall Street tycoons.  Calculating the projected net cost of my finished loads, two panicked thoughts entered my mind:

  1. The two rolls of quarters I’d brought (twenty bucks, people!) would not be enough, and
  2. My dented van out front was suddenly very embarrassing.  Had I known I’d be spending the day with such high rollers, I’d have taken the bus.

4.  Spend the hottest week of the year staring at your empty swimming pool.

Though it’s been warm enough to have the pool open for a month, we decided to put in a new liner before we sold the house, thus deeming the pool unusable til the job was done.  Having ordered the service weeks ago, however, we figured the pool would be ready in plenty of time to throw ourselves the Self-Aggrandizing Going Away Party we’d (obviously) been planning.  But we soon learned that pool boys—and I mean no offense to any pool boys in my readership—are not the most reliable citizens of the subcontracting world.  They’re cool, sure, with their myriad tattoos and long ponytails and—what are those big gross lobe things called?—oh yes, gauges.  They are very cool with their gauges—even pool boys have their strengths.  But apparently repairing pools isn’t one of them.

So we’ve spent our last week at home boiling in our home while looking longingly out the back window at this:


No worries, though.  The PBs said they could have the pool full and sparkling by Friday, just as we pull out of town.  I hope the new homeowners enjoy it.  Which brings me to the last way you can leave town with a touch of Class:

5.  Leave your home unsold.

Just leave it sitting there with the store bought For Sale sign out front.  This will impress your neighbors because they’ll know you are a discerning seller, that you’re not just giving this heap away to anybody.  The longer the sign sits and the longer the grass grows, the Classier you’ll look.  Trust us.  We know Class.



Oh Mean Moms, do shut up.

If I read one more article, column, or blog post written by a “Mean Mom and Proud of It,” I may just get a little mean myself.  I’ve tried to ignore this ridiculous new badge of honor that’s been flashing itself all over the internet, but like a bug on my windshield it won’t go away til I pull over and wipe the little tyrant off with my own two hands.  So here goes.

As a mother, a reader, and an Advocate for the Common Good, I have a big problem with these Mean Mom diatribes because:

  • They are unoriginal.  (As of 2015, every mother on the planet is a Mean Mom.  Just ask her.)
  • They are boastful. (Though thinly disguised as self-deprecating, which is the worst kind of boastful.)
  • They are phony.  (A legitimately Mean Mom ends up under CPS watch or in jail—not on BuzzFeed.)

But the epidemic isn’t limited to the internet.  Over the last decade I’ve watched this “I’m a Mean Mom” mantra spread like a rash across playgrounds and playgroups and PTA meetings and everything in between.  I can’t bring my ten-year old boy to a church potluck without some lady informing me that she is “way too mean” to ever let her son hop across the picnic table benches the way my son is.  (Never mind that the picnic is over and he’s not bothering a soul.  Mean Moms don’t tolerate that crap on any level.)

And if you want to bring the self-righteous set to blows, just say “Tiger Mother” at your next book group and watch the blood spill.  Even the laziest mother will claim to be the next Amy Chua if she thinks that’ll mean that she’s mean.  But Mean Moms are more interested in Chua’s temper than her tactics, because this strange new status symbol isn’t about high expectations for our children so much as it is about telling them Where To Go.  (Which is, of course, the easy part.  Keeping them from Going There is the hard part.  It can be done nicely, but takes a lot longer and is not nearly as fun to brag about.)

Funny, these women call themselves mean—a behavior long deemed repulsive, especially to us nurturer-types—and yet they do so with the grandest of smiles.  For someone who’s apologizing for a character deficiency, the Mean Mom seems shockingly proud of it.

Moms used to gloat about the triumphs of their children, but now they gloat about triumphing over their children.  Instead of a “Johnny got straight As!” we hear “I kicked Johnny off the X-box—again!  He hates me, but I don’t care.”  This bald-faced lie (we care very much if our children hate us) is usually said with a giddy lilt, fingers snapping in a zee-for-ma-shun.  Johnny may have a problem with the X-box, but ain’t nobody gonna tell his mom that she has a problem being mean.

I hate to rain on the tough chick parade, but it seems to me that this whole Mean Mom business is simply a route whereby mothers can forego bragging about their children to brag about themselves instead.  Children show up in the narrative only when they can make their mom look awesome.  And oh-so-mean.


Every Sunday after church I make Ethan a peanut butter sandwich, served alongside a pile of Cheetos, and let him scoot the coffee table next to him while he sits on the couch and reads for hours.  He says it’s his favorite time of the week, but I’ve been told that he shouldn’t be eating on the couch and is certainly old enough to make his own freaking sandwich.  Clearly I’m not preparing him for adulthood.


We could blame our nation’s recent fascination with The Mean Mom on our fear of the new entitlement culture (which isn’t really new) or the success of the Tiger Mother book or our desperation to control something as uncontrollable as our children, but I think that all of those motives are too pure.

I think it’s really about—what else?—competition.

Who can be the bravest, the boldest, the brassiest mom on the block?  Who doesn’t take nothin’ from no one?  We will elbow each other out for that prize, the prize that shows the world that we may buy fake tans and fake eyelashes and fake boobs, but dangit, we’re tough!  (So tough that we use dangit as a curse word.)  Moms have competed with other moms since Sarah kicked out Hagar; our modern smackdown just comes in a different package.  If I can’t be a prettier or skinnier or richer mom than you then by golly, I’ll be a meaner one—and by some lame New Age-y logic, a better one.

The competition is, as always, driven by insecurity.  We talk about ourselves when we need to assure ourselves, and boy do Mean Moms like to talk about themselves.  More than anything, they like to label themselves:  I’m a Mean Mom!  I’m a Mean Mom!  Look at me, listen to me, I’m a Mean Mom!  This labeling is what fuels my Big Problem, because labeling oneself is so contrived and so embarrassingly self-aggrandising, kind of like referring to yourself in the third person.  (“Oh yum, Jen just loves tomato chutney!”  Try that at a dinner party and see if you’re invited back.)  People who have to tell you what they are, probably aren’t.

I have no beef with strict parenting; that’s good common sense that’s as old as parenting itself.  What I do take issue with is this newfound need to brag about it.  So go ahead, ladies—serve that broccoli, enforce that bedtime—but don’t imagine that you’re the one who invented these measures, and don’t imagine that others are interested in the fact that you’ve taken them.  Above all, please don’t imagine that any of it qualifies you to be a Mean Mom.  Strict mom, sure.  Invested mom?  You bet.  Deliberate, watchful, consistent, disciplined mom?  Noted.  But not mean.  Because if you have the time and the affluence and the freedom to sit down at a computer and write a blog post about how mean you are, then I’ll bet my whole box of junior mints that:

  • You are not mean.  (Sorry.)
  • You don’t even want to be mean.  (Admit it.)
  • And if you are mean, nobody else wants to hear about it.
  • Including me.  (see:  “Sorry.”)