Every other Monday when my kids return from a week with the ex, I follow the same routine as I wait for my children to step off the bus.

I pace. I wait. I pace. I wait some more. Then I see them, squeal to myself, “Holy shitballs…here they come!” and sweep them up in my arms for a giant bear hug.

And, without skipping a beat, I check to see if their eyes have been replaced by buttons.

If you’ve seen Coraline: You SO know what I’m talkin’ about…

If you haven’t, let me explain: My guess is, Coraline author Neil Gaiman may have just a few repressed, bat-shit crazy childhood memories involving a Marilyn Manson doppelganger for a stepmother and the promise of a Utopian new life that turned über-ugly once reality set in.

Just guessing.

I mean, check out the physical similarities (and if you’re new to this blog and perhaps confused as to why this is significant, you may need some of the backstory … here):






(You have to admit: creepy, right?

The eyes…the lipstick…the skin color…the hair?!?!)

But apart from the ominous side-by-side comparison, this classic book-turned-Tim-Burtonesque movie reveals even more dangers lurking in the “other” household. The “other mother” lures Coraline into a perfect home filled with perfect promises and perfect toys and perfect food. Only to be promised a perfect life if she herself promises to disavow her real parents.

Oh, and replace her eyes with buttons.

But it’s just a small price to pay. I mean, come on: They’re just eyes. Who needs the windows to the soul when you can have buttons affixed by thick black yarn and a pointy needle? A little blood and eye spooge spurting and gushing all over the place never hurt anyone, I’m sure.

So you can imagine my relief when my kids returned to my house yesterday, sans buttons. Oh, but there were feathers.

Yip, you read that right: feathers. Like the kind worn by the See-and-Say animals that go “tweet tweet.”

And this is not cluckin’ funny. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

You see, friends, last I checked: My daughter did not have feathers. Eight years ago, I did NOT give birth to a baby chick, or a duck, or a pigeon, or a sage grouse — or even to Lola from the Copa or Lady Gaga, for that matter…that I recall (and granted, I may have been just a wee bit out of it due to the utter and complete lack of any medication during the aforementioned birth of my bouncing featherless bundle — not even a hospital-issued, $489 Tylenol. So I could be mistaken).

Nope. Just checked the baby pix. No feathers.

Then why does my 8-year-old daughter have feathers semi-permanently affixed to her head? Like she’s channeling Steven Tyler on American Idol?

See those purty little feathers? (Undated Handout photo)

Here’s the deal. We’ve already been down the road called “You can’t make this shit up,” along which my then-6-year-old daughter’s gorgeous long hair — without my knowledge — was hacked into a style that eerily and EXACTLY matched my ex-husband’s then-girlfriend’s chopped ’do. The woman he had left me for, just months prior, mind you…

We’ve already ridden the crazy train to cheerleading, when the ex and his then-new wife signed up my daughter without my consent — oh, and forgot to mention that Marilyn would be the cheer coach. Silly, pesky little details…

Now, my friends, we’re heading down a new road. Or rather, two roads running side by side that never converge. Which the ex and Marilyn are trying to make the next BIG idea, parenting version. It’s called “parallel parenting.”

And guess where this term came from: Mediation, God bless it.

So whilst in mediation, which was simply AWESOME , thank you for asking…Mediator Man, our fearless leader, “introduced” us to the concept of parallel parenting.

This was after he admitted that he hadn’t read a single word of this very blog, which was a critical point of contention in mediation (if you’ll recall, the ex is taking me to court in part to stop the blog).

This was also after he admitted to not having read one single word of the cases between us.

Nope, in fact absolutely no reading, no research, no preparation was undertaken in advance of either of our mediation sessions. It’s akin to a teacher walking into a first class without a lesson plan. Or an astronaut flying the Space Shuttle without spending time in the simulator.

Or me, posting a post without so much as pondering what to posit in the post.

Look! I'm just like Mediator Man. If he were a blogger. Shooting blank blogs. (And yes, that's Ariel at the top of my screen. She's my favorite Princess. Don't be a hater.)

But Mediator Man, in all of his infinite and omnipotent yet clearly generic knowledge, knew absolutely nothing just enough about our complicated case to suggest the concept of parallel parenting as a solution to our predicament.

And then, they were off: It was like the firing of the starting gun at the Kentucky Derby, because this one concept was all the ex and Marilyn needed to justify their actions of the past few years. Suddenly, all I saw before me was a landscape of horses’ asses, running at breakneck speed toward what they perceived to be the finish line.

And they definitely think they won the big prize, post-mediation, because they got a shiny new term to wear and flaunt and show off to all who care (and I’m guessing that’s not many). Seriously, self-proclaimed “writer” Marilyn has even penned her very own blog on her very own website about parallel parenting and how the term may just represent her eternal parenting salvation. It’s right next to the post with the meatball recipe she borrowed from MY DEAD GRANDMOTHER.

But guess what? They’ve got it all wrong. (Parallel parenting, that is. Not Gram’s meatballs. Those, they got right.)

Parallel parenting does not imply that parents go off and do whatever the hell they want, completely free of consequence and interaction. It does prescribe a type of parenting in high-conflict situations that minimizes communication (I’m all for that) but still necessitates an exchange of information when important. And when done the way it’s supposed to be done, there’s a chance it might work.

The way the ex and Marilyn are doing it? SO not working.

And why not, you may ask? Because of things like my daughter returning to my home…well, feathered. Yes, it may seem trivial, and it’s certainly not the most egregious affront or even close to the only affront, which I promise to detail in more detailed details in Part 2.

But here’s the bottom line: Said feathers are semi-permanent. And they definitely alter her physical appearance. And I’m her mom, dammit, and I should have been consulted before she was taken by her step-mom to have a metal clamp affixed to her beautiful hair that will remain there for the next 8-10 weeks.

Now, as I’ve already alluded: There’s much more to share. In fact, just writing all silly-stream-of-consciousness, I’m up to a whopping 6 pages in notes…so I decided to spare you all the dissertation. You’re welcome. Instead, I’m now offering a cliffhanger and seeking your feedback.

So tune in next time — same bat-shit crazy place, same bat-shit crazy channel.

And until then, a few questions to inspire conversation…because inquiring minds want to know:

  1. Would you be upset if your 8-year-old child came home from a week at your ex’s home with his/her physical appearance altered — which happened without your knowledge? Or am I just loopy?
  2. If you could offer one piece of advice to the ex or Marilyn, it would be…
  3. Your thoughts on parallel parenting? Or on eyes being replaced by buttons?
  4. Was I simply expecting too much that Mediator Man should have — oh, I don’t know — read our cases?

And now we know, by the way: Feathers are the new buttons. Remember, you heard it here first…trend-setting blog that this is…