Senior Baby Pictures

Riley’s school “invites you to participate in this tradition of love by sending us a photograph of your student when he/she was a baby, along with a message.” These fucking Catholics. Don’t they know I’m dying here over the start of his Senior Year?

For some reason I chose today to comb through old photo albums for just the right picture. Here’s the winner:

While I look at baby pictures, I also look at pictures of a fresh young mommy and I know what she’s NOT thinking. She has no idea that she doesn’t get to keep that perfect blue-eyed, drooley baby in her house forever. You may be saying of course. But I’m dead serious. It never fucking dawned on me that he would be leaving me.

I know you’re saying he’s not really leaving and it’s not forever; he’ll be back for vacations and in four years our economy will be a hot mess and he’ll be unemployable and living with us unable to support himself. But it’s different.

Some days I may only have five minutes of conversation with him between school, work and his social calendar. But it’s enough. Because he’s under my roof. In my possession.

And then there are the nights that he blows off friends to stay home and watch Bill Maher or a movie with Dave and me. Or the evenings he lingers at the dinner table long after his brothers have excused themselves to have political conversations with us or bring us up to speed on school and friends and college apps. Or the hugs passing in the hallway or the random sushi dates with just him and me.

But now it’s closing time. He is my horcrux. A part of me is slowly tearing away. It’s time. He’s ready. He should. I probably have about 360 days to live in the present and stop this lamenting.

I have no regrets. For me it was perfect. If it wasn’t for him, too bad. There are no comment cards at checkout. Take it up with your future therapist.

An All-Star Baseball Team For 6 Year Olds, WTF?

The permission slip came home about 3 weeks ago. Sign here if you’d like your son considered for the All Star Team. THE 6 YEAR OLD ALL STAR TEAM!

We declined to return the form for two reasons. First and most importantly, our son doesn’t love baseball. He complains about having to go to practice. At first I used to drag him because “you’ve made a commitment to a team”. I stopped forcing him to go when he reminded me I didn’t even ask him if he wanted to play, I just signed him up. Well played, Son.

The second reason we didn’t sign and return is because this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve played All-Star and Summer Ball. We’ve disrupted family plans, sweated our asses off in bumblefuck locales, and contended with heat stroke and repetitive injuries. And that was for a kid that LOVED the game. The kid that cried when he made his first All-Star Team (that league didn’t field a team until 10 years old) and we told him he couldn’t play because he had to go to Italy for a pre-planned family vacation. And I mean SOBBED. Because he had to go to ITALY.

Today I got a call from the little person’s coach. They’ve gotten lots of signups but not from kids that “should really be All-Stars”. The league “loves” our son. His words, not mine. Any chance he’ll play?

Poor Coach. There isn’t enough body armor in the world to protect him from the verbal onslaught that ensued. And I like this guy.

My points are as follows:

  1. Criteria for a “good” 6 year old is that he has the most basic of skills. He can throw to a target, catch a ball and make contact at bat. In reality, only about 15% of each roster has these skills. At this age, the divide between those that can and those that can’t is quite apparent. So yeah, it’s exciting as hell when something baseball-ish actually happens. Spoiler alert: those capabilities will even out over the next 2 years.
  2. It’s about to get hot. Africa hot. Small bodies are not well designed to regulate their core temperatures. Putting them in long double ply pants, suffocating polyester jerseys, oh and hats, out on a dusty field that radiates heat is probably not endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  3. They just played 3 months of baseball. That feels like a lifetime to a 6 year old. Extending the season is a recipe for burnout.
  4. It was mentioned that this is supposed to be a reward for the better players. Hey guys, that’s what the “game balls” were for. Let’s call it a season and move on to lounging by the pool.
  5. This is about parental bragging rights and nothing more.

The league offering the program and the parents participating are fueling our sports obsessed culture to the detriment of our children. I can find no redeeming quality to tacking on an All-Star tournament for this age group. Disagree with me? I’d love to hear you give me a good reason that isn’t really a cover for your ego.

There’s A Little Beverly Goldberg In All Of Us

We’re pretty loosey-goosey with curfews and rules for Riley. After all he’s 17½ years old and will be off to college in about a year. He’s proven himself trustworthy and for the most part, seems to be forthright about where he’s going, with whom and what debauchery ensues. My only request is that he check-in when he gets home so that I may avoid waking up in a panic at 3am to make sure he’s in bed.

So when he came into our room on Saturday night, I reflexively said hi, how was your night, I love you. He answered, “I’m sorry to wake you but I’m having an asthma attack and I can’t make it stop.”

I sprang up in full action mode, assessed how much medication he’d already taken, started the steam shower and grabbed the nebulizer. As we got him somewhat stabilized, Riley commented that he hadn’t had an attack like that in more than a decade. He was right. So much for growing out of it.

A wave of anxiety welled up in me. What if this happens while he’s away? I’ll have to send him with a nebulizer and medication. I told him I hope he has an awesome roommate that will stay up with him until he can breathe. If not, he’ll have to go to the hospital/urgent care/student health center. Whatever. Just please don’t take a chance.

And then Dave broke the tension, “I feel like we should put on a Blues Clues or something.” Indeed. How many nights had we been up with him at 4:30am distracting him with a VHS tape? Yes, our Blues Clues collection was on VHS.

I never upgraded the mask for our nebulizer. So our man-child sat upright in our bed with a fishy mask that barely covers his nose and mouth. Bittersweet to say the least.

Finally the steroid and albuterol fully nebulized. He was better with only a slight wheeze now. I asked him if he wanted to go back to sleep with us so I could, you know, monitor his breathing. HE SAID YES! I threw my arms around him and told him I’m terribly sorry he feels like he’s suffocating but this is the happiest night of my life!

So I slept with one ear open and listened for changes in his breathing. Around 6:30am he announced he was going back to his room. I don’t wish him any ill that would again require my comfort, but I did feel a pang as my baby left my bed, maybe for the last time. A parting gift from the universe.


The Only Babies That Should Be Allowed In The Senate Are The Ones We Voted For

I’m more than a little bugged at the media swooning over Tammy Duckworth bringing her 10-day-old infant to the Senate floor. And the self-congratulatory praise of her colleagues has me wanting to spit up. I think we should get a few things straight about this “historic” occasion.

Children do not belong in the workplace. Period. Nobody can get a fucking thing done with a baby around, whether it’s laundry or the Trans Pacific Partnership.

I actually think this sends a terrible message and sets back Family Leave progress. Those initial months are best spent bonding with a baby. Just because you’re wearing it, doesn’t mean you’re paying attention to it. Senator Duckworth is actually telegraphing to new mothers everywhere that you better get your ass back to work. It’s more important than your child.

And she’s being terribly unfair to herself and her body. She just spent 9 months growing another human. That depletes every ounce of energy and nutritional stores you’ve got. You are exhausted after delivery and then if she’s breastfeeding, the leeching doesn’t stop. If she delivered Caesarean, she’s recovering from major abdominal surgery. If she delivered vaginally, she’s gushing fluid and blood. “Hey Mitch, what time’s the vote?”

Going right back to work doesn’t prove she’s tough. It doesn’t make her one of the boys. It isn’t some altruistic overture to serve her constituents. It’s selfish and self-serving. A photo opportunity that demeans the enormity of the birthing and mothering experience.

The infant will be in good company, surrounded by crybabies and people shitting themselves. I’m sure they distribute Depends like Academy Award swag up on Capitol Hill.

On second thought, being a United States Senator is the perfect job for bringing your infant to work. You’re not expected to accomplish anything anyway.

*This post was magically completed despite having to wipe an ass mid paragraph, having to feign interest in a toy garbage truck stuffed with Legos and answering questions as to how I think garbage men smell at the end of their shift.

The Side of the LAPD Cruiser Does Not Say “To Serve and Protect Your Shitty Little Animal”

I live in a part of Los Angeles known affectionately as The Valley. Our neighborhoods line the 101 freeway and shot to national prominence as the poster child for 80’s culture with the exaggeration of a stereotypical valley girl through film originally titled, Valley Girl, and song, innovatively named, “Valley Girl”. Like, oh my god, have a unique thought and like picking on us, is like so lame.

The Valley grew in population and housing expansion in the 60’s and 70’s as many of my parent’s generation made a mass exodus from cold locales and city dwellers sought larger property for less money, less traffic and an increase of generally 15 degrees in temperature from “The Westside”.

It used to be a pretty nice place to live. Now all the vampires walkin’ through the valley move west down Ventura Boulevard.

Frankly, it’s a total shithole now. Like way worse than Haiti or El Salvador. I regularly drive past homeless encampments that rival Skid Row, see needles in my Trader Joe’s parking lot and read of car break-ins and robberies of my neighbors daily. But my house still costs a fortune.

Perhaps the only positive result of this decay is the banding together of neighborhoods. Through the use of apps like NextDoor and sharing Ring videos, people have become vigilant in alerting their neighbors of possible threats.

But because people suck, even the best of intentions go awry. Now I get pounded with the stupidest alerts. Look, I’m the first to make a person question the purpose of their existence if they have had the gall to walk through my closed gate, posted with do not enter unless I know you signs and ring my doorbell. But I also realize most of these people are trying to make a living, not casing the joint. But heaven forbid a person of color is soliciting door to door ‘round these parts, we’re going to get an alert. And people do not censor themselves. I repeatedly read the phrase, “doesn’t look like he ‘belongs’ around here”. It’s like my dad must be the group administrator.

Also fun are the limitless coyote alerts. Yes folks, you live in the basin of the Santa Monica Mountains and there are hungry and thirsty animals seeking sustenance. This is not newsworthy. They were here first. Keep Fiffy and Mr. Kitty inside if you are not intending to serve snacks during cocktail hour. Honestly, I favor the demonstration of natural selection. Does the world really need this many Bichon Frises?

However yesterday’s alert takes the cake, “Coyote spotted corner of Woodlake and Erwin just now about 10:30 PM Tue. Called 911 who are worthless…

The side of the LAPD cruiser does not say “To Serve and Protect Your Shitty Little Animal”. While I am disheartened at the deterioration of my community, I am also so hopeful that the tape of that 911 call will be released soon.

We’re Here to Pump You Up!

Due to the hard work and generosity of my dear husband and the relative absence of my school-aged children, I have the time to schedule my life a bit like a summer camp session. Under the guise of “improving” myself, I spend quite a lot of time in exercise classes and other sundry activities.

I could just go to the gym, jump on a treadmill and figure out some plan for lifting weights, but I need a little more structure than that. So I rely on the expertise and encouragement of instructors to keep motivated. It’s just that some of their catch phrases irk me a bit.

I’m not a huge fan of yoga although I am coming to appreciate it more and more. Part of my issue is that you are supposed to be undergoing something deep and meaningful. These are “experiences” I try to avoid.

Yoga instructors always have a sing-songy quality to their delivery that I find neither relaxing nor calming. I’m particularly put off by the phrase, “If that’s available to you today.” It’s supposed to make you feel better when you can’t wrap your arm through your leg, up around your neck and pick your own nose. How should I know if it’s available? Is there a particular season? Is there a list I have to get on? Was I supposed to sign up? Are you just being a dick and keeping it from me?

My spinning instructor has a couple of doozeys. My second to least favorite is, “find the mountain you need, not the mountain you want.” Let me be clear, mountains are not on my wish list. And I’m not going to have some magical emotional breakthrough because I turned the dial on the STATIONERY bike so far to the right that my quads snap. Did I mention the bike is standing still?

His other go-to is, ”good morning!” It’s not an initial greeting. He repeats it no less than 5 times during the hour. What he really means is, “Haha, that sequence fucked you up. You cannot moderate your competitiveness and you followed all my instructions. You’re in pain and dangerously close to myocardial infarction. “

It also triggers a Groundhog Day type loop if Groundhog Day had been a horror flick. I imagine his bleach bond pixie punim, accentuated by lash extensions, repeatedly rolling over next to me and waking me up from a deep sleep. I try to scream but my mouth is covered with duct tape.

My horse trainer likes to tell me, “ride the horse to the jump”. This instruction usually follows an instance where my horse has decided to be a total asshole and has refused said jump. Look, I’ve pointed a 1500 pound animal towards a fixed object. My expectations are that I’m going to hang on for dear life and that fucker’s gonna jump. If I’m still on his back, one point for me, I’m riding.

I’ve also been giving meditation a go. I’m not going to deny that there are some noticeable benefits, however sitting quietly while trying to quash the deluge of random thoughts I have at a rate of 10,000 per second is, well, let’s just call it an opportunity for growth. This one guru always begins with, “sit and know that you are sitting.” My ass is touching the ground, what the fuck else would I be doing? Maybe this meditation shit isn’t working.

Gun Control, Abortion and Freedom of Speech, Oh My!

WARNING:  PLEASE read this with your intellect, not your emotion. I have thoughts. Not answers. But I welcome, no I crave, thoughtful conversation.

POLICY STATEMENT:  I like shooting guns. I would own some if I didn’t have children in the house. I would feel safer. I believe there should be a limit to what guns can be privately owned and by whom.

I believe that a woman has the right to choose what happens to her own body. The legality of abortion was legislated almost 50 years ago. Limiting a woman’s access to care is unlawful.


Yesterday, a photo of 7,000 pairs of children’s shoes on the Capitol lawn went viral. The shoes represented the estimated number of children killed by any kind of gun violence since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. It was a chilling sight.

I was instantly reminded of the drive I used to make down I-35 from Austin to San Antonio where rows of white crosses were installed to represent aborted fetuses. It was a chilling sight.

Each of these displays is a constitutionally protected expression of political position, highly charged with emotion. When I saw the shoes, I was overcome with grief and fear and disgust that our children are at grave risk: at school, at places of worship, at concerts. When I came upon the crosses, I was enraged and repulsed at the judgmental display thrust in my face.

But is there a difference? I’m worried that maybe there isn’t. Yesterday’s realization was that someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum feels just what I do but in reverse.

Some news articles referred to the architects of the Capitol demonstration as activists. I had FB friends refer to it as “powerful art”. I doubt they would have been as complimentary of the white crosses. But wasn’t the intent of each of these displays to invoke emotion to spur legislative change? Doesn’t each expose a truth?

At the end of the day, the intended purpose of a gun is to kill. You can try to mitigate the end result by saying guns are sport. But when you go to a firing range, you are shooting at targets outlining bodies. If you go hunting, you are there to bring down an animal. I wish gun enthusiasts would acknowledge that truth and that the tools of the trade should be limited and controlled. All you have to do is go to any firing range in any city and you will know by instinct that there are people standing next to you with the capability and intent to leave you with a closet full of empty shoes. They should not own guns.

And here’s the bitter pill that those of you who share my views must swallow. The purpose of an abortion is to end a life. You can argue viability, but when you’ve heard a heart beating at 7 weeks, it’s tough to deny the statistical likelihood that this little fucker will be able to wake you up in the middle of the night 1000 times before his 7th birthday. I think the argument to protect Roe v Wade and to increase access to abortions would be strengthened if we acknowledge the truth that electing to bring a child into the world is not always emotionally, financially or physically the responsible choice. But it should be a choice.

These issues are certainly bigger than the bullion I’ve concentrated them into. I know this is all rife with slippery slope arguments and as I acknowledged above, I HAVE NO ANSWERS. I discuss these two issues together, not as any kind of moral equivalency, but only because of my personal emotional response to two demonstrations.

I look forward to your thoughts… I think.

I Am An Addict

I am an addict. And I have hit rock bottom.

My addiction has made me sick, weakened me to a place where I can barely function. For so long I refused to address the true underlying cause of my illness, instead just managing the symptoms. Overmedicating for temporary relief but returning to my state of dysfunction because the high was so good, so tasty. I have few vices. I deserve this.

My addiction is wheat and sugar. I know you just laughed a little. You’re used to me being funny so it’s okay. But I’m not joking. Somehow, somewhere, my body went into hyper speed attack mode and the resulting imbalance has left me with almost debilitating sinusitis and asthma. I have no sense of smell, possibly a blessing with three sons. But also, no sweet scent memories of my last infant. I rarely sleep the night through without waking up sneezing and wheezing and coughing. I am constantly clearing my throat, blowing my nose and huffing on an inhaler. I spend my mornings with a hacking cough, clearing my lungs as if I am a carton-a-day smoker with pneumonia. I am in a state of chronic illness.

I have tried every internet potion, vitamin concoction and nasal inhalant and rinse. I have had sinus surgery. I have even swabbed my nose with Kimchi juice. Seriously. Because I read internet testimonials that promised a cure. Just to avoid giving up tuna melts on bagels, pasta with meat sauce, nightly ice cream sundaes, and yes, probably my elixir of goodness, bourbon.

I went about two weeks without the white stuff. Flour and sugar, come on. And there was marked improvement. I was sleeping a full 8 hours, waking up without black circles under my eyes. I was able to breathe through my nose and I no longer produced copious amount of mucous and phlegm. My sense of smell seemed to be lurking there somewhere but wasn’t quite back. It was definite progress. So I started adding things back in.

Wait, I can’t bullshit you. That sounds like I had half a piece of toast. I actually consumed 7 beignets covered in powdered sugar in one sitting, a hot dog, burgers, pizza, Coca-Cola, tons of pasta, heaping helpings of lasagna and several consecutive days of after-dinner sundaes (Trader Joe’s Vanilla Ice Cream with Hershey’s new 5 ingredient chocolate sauce. Trust me on this.) culminating with easily half a bottle of bourbon at an Oscar party, all over the course of a week.

And I am so sick. Again.

Here’s the rub. I may have been a casual partaker of illicit substances at times in my life. I can take it or leave it. Even with my love of the all things brown and distilled, I can easily go weeks without having the desire to imbibe. But with savory carbohydrates and cold sweet icy desserts, I have no moderation switch. My inner voice says it’s a reward I’ve earned. I don’t do anything “bad” so I’m allowed this outlet. And my metabolism has condoned the excess. I don’t mean to brag but it’s all still the right size in the right place, no matter what I eat. Let’s face it. I’m relatively vain so if my eating habits had made me fat, I would have certainly been more motivated to curb my piggyness.

But I am so tired of suffering and not recovering. I am not exaggerating when I tell you how truly miserable I feel. All the time. Imagine having your worst cold. For eight years. And not knowing if you would ever be healthy again. It’s exhausting and depressing.

So I’m coming out to you to hold me accountable while I hop back on the wagon. Be my sponsor and feel free to comment with your own vices. I’m here for you. Also, I take tremendous pleasure in the suffering of others. Not really. Just don’t leave me hanging out here alone in the Forest of Truth.

Not Exactly a Win for Tenacity

I’ve missed you. So sorry for the radio silence. But I was completely derailed by losing my blog journal.

I was on a flight home from New York and wrote two entries. They weren’t final drafts by any stretch of the imagination but they were thoughts out of my head and on paper.

I remember standing up to deplane and seeing my pencil still in the seat pocket and thinking that was strange. Clearly not strange enough to recheck if I’d squirreled away anything else. I was tired and couldn’t wait to get off the stale Influenza Incubator. Especially because I was in a panic, legitimately so, having not made time to get a flu shot yet this year. The year of the pandemic. At least my kids would make a killing with a GoFundMe campaign.

And I was sick of my seat-mates. I was sandwiched in the middle because I made my arrangements last minute and because I was too cheap to “upgrade” my seat. Why the fuck should I pay Delta more money to sit in a seat that still doesn’t have enough legroom for my gargantuan 5 foot body?

The strange woman on the aisle appeared to be on a self guided tour of the US, party of one. I couldn’t read the Japanese on her phone but the Hollywood Walk of Fame is fairly recognizable. Clearly the snack pack food was a novelty. It required close up examination and tiny nibbles to decipher. I’m certain you have salt and sugar in your country. Just eat the fucking crackers and chocolate squares. And she refused to get up when our row companion had to pee…4 times. So I had to straddle 26D. At least I had the opportunity to experiment with front or rear facing. For the record, one is no less awkward than the other but each is deserving of a tip.

Molly Millennial with the weak bladder was on the window. She was thoughtfully engaged in a business plan for her olive oil business. She was enthusiastically attempting to convince her audience, venture capital I’m guessing, that she and her partners fulfilled the critical void of helping pretentious assholes like her determine the perfect olive oil for their palate. It’s a real website. Yes I looked it up. And she’ll probably get $100 million in funding, enough to buy antibiotics for her recurrent UTI until she learns to pee after sex, while I’m here being a non-writer because I’m sulking about my lost journal.

Which brings me back to my point. It’s not that those blogs were going to knock your socks off or anything, but in my feeble mind, they were supposed to be the next two.

I’ve tried everything. I went back to LAX and spoke to the baggage claim lost and found. They were so unhelpful I’m not convinced they aren’t just passengers that couldn’t find their flight to Des Moines. I emailed some central clearing house for lost items. A lovely man, Robert, and I have been corresponding. He is quite sympathetic but he may just be a Russian bot with comforting AI.

So this is me ripping the band aid off and starting again. I hope you’re still along for the ride. Maybe make me feel better and tell me what has derailed you from untold riches and world-renowned fame.

I May Have Verbally Assaulted a 13 Year Old. You Would Have Too.

I consider myself well-read, well-informed and current on the issues facing our society. I’m sensitive to the plight of the disenfranchised. I’m woke, as the young folk say.

But I have been living in an echo chamber; believing that while I may have an occasional debate over economic issues or foreign affairs, most people around me in my comfortable liberal LA neighborhood have similar social views to me. Well I was wrong.

I picked up my son, Aidan, and three of his friends from school. My 17 year old son, Riley, was along for the ride. All of them had a half-day and I was putting in my time as nice/cool mom, springing for In N Out Burger. On the way, Aidan’s friend, we’ll call him Dumbass to protect the innocent, struck up a conversation with Riley. Dumbass had seen Riley when he and his father and uncle had dined at Riley’s employment.

Dumbass felt the need to explain which man was NOT his father and then floated some comment about his uncle being “special”. Aidan started laughing so there was no way I was letting that go without an explanation. “What’s so special about him?”

You should know Dumbass has a distinctive yet hauntingly familiar speech pattern. I can’t wait until his friends discover Beavis and Butthead. This kid is toast. In this case, I will fully support the bullying that ensues.

There was an inordinate amount of uhs, grunts and wells. I thought maybe the uncle was intellectually challenged so my blood was starting to boil. But when he finally spit it out, “He’s a homosexual”, I felt the ends of my hair ignite. Riley was sitting in the front seat and I heard him mutter under his breath, “ohhh shit”. He knows me well. Ding Ding.

Here’s a sampling of our exchanges:
Me: What’s special about that?
Dumbass: Well, uh, duh, um the bible says it’s wrong?
He actually phrased it as a question. “Son, there ain’t no draft no more.” “There was one?”

Me: Is your uncle a good person? A kind person? Is he loving towards you and your brothers?
Dumbass: Uh, duh, well, um, yeah.
Me: Then why do you care who he’s fucking?
I brought out the big guns. And I’m not sorry. I wanted him to feel embarrassed. Trust me when I tell you that Dumbass’ mom does not drop the f bomb. Pretty sure she doesn’t do the f bomb either.

Me: You understand that people are born with a genetic map that dictates who they find attractive.
Dumbass: Huh?
Me: Gay people are born gay.
Riley: Not all girls.
Me: Stop watching porn.
Me: You know there’s some evidence that homosexuality can be an inherited gene.
Dumbass: Wait, no. My brothers and I aren’t gay.
Me: But one or more of your children may be. None of my children have red hair but I’m pretty confident one of my grandchildren will be a redhead.
Now I’m starting to worry that Dumbass and his brothers are being subjected to conversion therapy.

Dumbass: I know people are homosexuals but I just don’t want to be friends with them.
Me: Why?
Dumbass: It’s disgusting.
Me: So when you meet someone, you’re not wondering if they are smart or interesting or funny. The first thing you want to know is who they have sex with? Do you think that’s appropriate information for you to have?
Dumbass: Duh, um, well no.

The friends got in on the act.
Friend 1: So if we’re still friends when we’re like 35 and I decide to turn gay, we won’t be friends anymore even though we’ve been friends for like 20 years?
Me: You don’t turn gay, but good effort.

Friend 2: I wouldn’t care if one of my kids were gay. I’d love them no matter what.
Me: That’s right. That’s good parenting. You love your children unconditionally.
Aidan: (Laughing) Love is conditional in Dumbass’ house.
Wow. That is a sad and probably accurate truth. Ugh, I should be kinder to this poor kid. Afterall, this isn’t his fault. He has been programmed with this garbage. I’m thinking it’s time to back off. I’ll have at least the next 4 years of high school to turn this kid around. Also, his parents are litigating attorneys and they know where we live.

We finish lunch but I can’t let it go completely.
Me: Did you just eat cheese on top of meat?
Dumbass: Duh, uh, yeah, why?
Me: The bible says you shouldn’t have.
Cheers erupt from the peanut gallery.