Animal House Hits My House

animalhouseposter2As you approach the doorway, a headless Pokemon (Pika Pika! Pi-Ka-Chu!) flies out of a window and lands at your feet. Adrian takes a break from his potty break to greet you. Oops, sorry about your shoes… and your leg. Jake whirls by you on a Razor scooter, through the front door and onto the back porch, where he sings a surprisingly good rendition of “Burning Down the House.” Alex tries to accompany him with what’s left of smashed ukulele.

“Sorry,” he says, as he hands me the pieces and runs off. We have … had a ukulele?

Dressed in makeshift togas, Lauren and Caitlin run by with their Rapid Shoot Super Soaker Water Guns cocked, ready to take down Koss and Jared.

“No water in the house,” I shout, without the slightest delusion that anyone is listening to me. Welcome to my son’s 8th birthday party.

When I let Koss pick the theme for his party, I expected him to choose Pokemon, Sponge Bob, or Harry Potter. You know, a commercially exploitable theme that would be easy to incorporate into invitations, piñata, decorations, games, craft projects, band-aids, snacks, cake, favors, little gift bags, ribbons, tags, stickers and candy for the little gift bags.

I got Animal House instead.

Luckily, I lived in a frat house one summer a million years ago. Otherwise I would have been completely unprepared for what happens in a home invasion by seven kids with enough adrenaline to power Bolivia, Kamchatka, and Yakutsk (and that’s before the ice cream sundaes).

Many moms believe that planning a child’s birthday party requires as much tactical planning as invading a small country, more if you have to hire a magician. Since my son’s birthday is right in the middle of the summer, I tend to be a little more laid back.

OK, a lot more laid back. I let my son plan his own party. He had grand plans from the get go. A wild game of Cranium, a water gun fight, and a dance contest. It sounds pretty harmless, right?

I figured it couldn’t be any worse than letting my husband plan the party, which would have involved a few bags of chips, a couple of pizzas and a lot of beer. All serve yourself, of course.

After all, there has to be some advantage to living in the Shack besides a good school district. I finally figured it out. This is a great house for a frat party. There’s almost nothing here that I really care if they thrash. The furniture is old and falling apart, the carpet is disgusting, the yard is full of weeds, and the walls have seen better days.

So this year we decided to bite the bullet and let our son have his dream party. Did I mention he wanted a slumber party?

Not only did we let them thrash our house, and play with fire, we let them stay here and sleep it off afterward.

I use that word, “sleep” in a very loose way. I think at about 3 a.m. a few of them were sitting down. That counts, right?

It’s been almost a week, and our birthday hangovers are still hanging on. My kitchen’s recovered from the food fight, and my headache has almost gone away, but I’m still scrubbing the walls from the home invasion.

I mean this literally.

One of the more ingenious games they played was “Burglar,” which involved repeatedly climbing through the window from the front porch into the living room, throwing throw pillows, stereo equipment and knickknacks into a bag and running through the neighborhood shouting, “Have you seen Delta House?”

It’s listed under my name in the phone book.


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Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on August 3, 2007.

Aliens among us

Captain_Underpants_Talking_ToiletsOnce upon a time I imagined raising my child in an exquisitely gender-neutral environment. None of this pink for girls, blue for boys stuff. I was sure I would raise a boy exactly the same way I would have raised a girl.

Then I actually had a child.

As the epidural wore off, reality kicked in. I had joined the MOB. I was the Mother Of a Boy. Nature, nurture, schmurture. I quickly discovered how little it mattered what I did.

Koss took about five minutes to decide he liked his stuffed football better than his teddy bear and another three to decide that peeing in my face was hysterically funny.

The fart jokes started about ten minutes after that, and seven years later, I’m still holding my breath.

He had his own little alien personality from the very beginning.

I had pictured us cuddled under a bright yellow comforter, sharing my favorite books from childhood. Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?…yeah, right. Our bedtime reading was filled with Dinosaur stats and Pokemon facts. His boy-brain was so hungry for straight information, I felt lucky if our story time involved any story narratives at all.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I joined the MOB, it’s that boys are actually alien beings. Their brains work differently than ours do. Apparently anything that moves fast is cool; anything that moves fast and is somehow gross is super cool; and anything that moves fast, is gross, and remotely resembles a snort, a burp, or a fart is super duper cool.

Oh, and there is nothing funnier than laughing until milk spurts out of your nose–and if it’s chocolate milk, it’s even funnier. And if you can somehow turn spurting chocolate milk out of your nose into a competitive sport with Olympic or Guinness Book potential, then half the world’s population would forever be in your debt.

This is not just a MOB observation, it’s scientific fact.

It is actually embedded in our DNA that when we go on vacation, I’m the only one who remembers to pack our suitcases with extra sweatshirts, toilet paper, snacks, books, light bulbs, sunscreen, magazines and the directions to our hotel, while my husband, Zak, is the only one who can figure out how to fit all that stuff in the trunk of our car.

And if for some reason Zak can’t get everything to fit, Koss is right there telling him how to do it.

Just like his father, Koss loves information. And just like his father, if he doesn’t know the right information, he’ll make something up.

We call it “Male Answer Syndrome” in our house.

My mom used to call it “Diarrhea of the Mouth,” which Koss finds hysterically funny.

Now that I’ve had seven years experience in the MOB, I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised to find that Koss would rather read the Encyclopedia of Spiders than Charlotte’s Web. If somebody wrote Captain Underpants and Attack of the Farting, Spitting and Barfing Spiders, Koss would really be in heaven.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the potty humor genre has become so popular. Books with titles like The Day My Butt Went Psycho, Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, and Zombie Butts From Uranus! are somehow more attractive to boys than The Trumpet of the Swan, The Wind and the Willows, and From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

“Well duh, mom, those don’t sound very funny,” MANswers my seven-year-old son.

“Captain Underpants is totally funny,” MANswers my 41-year-old husband. “Want to smell something gross?” asks Zak, targeting a gigantic fart in our direction and immediately sending our son into peals of laughter.

Like I said, they’re alien beings.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound.