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We didn’t really have the money. Or it might be more accurate to say we had the money but we knew we should probably save it like real grown-ups do to put toward buying a house, or purchasing bookshelves that aren’t held together with duct tape or funneling it into an account to pay for our toddler son’s future therapy bills.
But instead, we said screw it and blew it all on a spur-of-the-moment beach vacation.
And here’s why:
It was growing dark on our first night in a little beach town in Maine. Walking through the quaint downtown, we saw a fudge shop and since calories don’t exist on vacation, we decided to buy an obscene amount to counteract the obscene amounts of deep-fried things we had just got done eating.
The friendly teenage boy working the counter gave us samples to try and made small talk and made faces at our toddler and it was all very Norman Rockwell-esque until I ruined it all.
“How do you resist the temptation to eat fudge all the time?” I asked him.
“Who says I resist it?” he replied.
Hahaha. We laughed. He laughed. Even Riker laughed. And then cue awkward moment in 3…2…1…
“Well, you look REALLY good.”
…crickets chirping…tumbleweed rolls by…
“Yeah. Well, here’s your fudge.”
As we awkwardly left the store and headed back to our hotel, I turned to my husband.
“Did that sound…?”
“But I just meant he’s in good shape.”
“I mean, that I would weigh 400 pounds if I worked there.”
“Oh, I knew what you meant. I just don’t think he did.”
“So it sounded…”
“So, to sum up, it appears like a creepy woman in her 30’s just hit on a teenage boy in front of not only her husband but also her son.”
“So…does this make me a cougar?”
And then we burst out laughing again. Even Riker (although I suspect his laughter had something to do with the epic poop we would soon find out he was busy taking in his Little Swimmers).
That right there. That story. That’s why we dipped our tired and grubby little paws into our savings account and splurged on a three-day trip to Maine. Because I can guarantee that THAT story will eventually become family lore. The vacation photos that everyone points to and says “Wasn’t that the trip where Mom hit on a poor kid that she could practically breastfeed?” And everyone will laugh. Even me, once I’m done whacking everyone in the back of the head.
Because that’s what families are; a series of stories all lived together and then told and retold and embellished (“No, I was not massaging his chest when I said it!”). And for far too many months, the plot of all our family’s stories contained work, dinner, Netflix on the couch while doing more work, repeat and too little else.
Study after study has been released lately on the recent American tendency to avoid taking vacation days, or if they are used, it’s for a “staycation” where you do all the boring things you don’t have time to do when you’re busy doing all the other boring things you need to do. This is due to a lot of reasons but a good chunk, I’m assuming, is because people are so overworked they can’t afford to miss any work and, as in our case, a lack of funds to even afford a proper vacation.
And sitting here typing this, I can already name two dozen other things that the money probably should have been used for instead.
But I don’t feel guilty. Not even slightly. Even if the rent check will be a little late this month.
Because, sure, we have nothing tangible to show for all the money we spent other than all the sand we dragged home that will remain in our house until the day we die and seven extra pounds each and that white touristy sweatshirt I bought that Riker promptly got mac and cheese stains all over. But that story and those memories and that mental image of the relaxed smile my husband gave me (the first relaxed smile I had seen in quite awhile) as we clinked our beers together in some beachside dive will last much longer than new bookshelves.
Plus, Riker can just pay for his own therapy. I mean, that’s what allowances are for, right?
Guys, I don’t want to alienate any of you, but I can officially say that I now “summer in Maine” like the rich people do. So please no longer make direct eye contact when addressing me, peasants.
Ok, ok, busted. We’ll actually be slumming it in a small motel by the beach for barely three days, so technically I guess you could say we’ll be “slummering in Maine.” But you can bet your ass we’ll be drinking our boxed wine with our pinkies up as we converse in our best haughty country club accent (you know, where you say elitist things without moving your lower jaw and laugh like a creaky door).
And a vacation is a vacation is a vacation. No matter where or for how long. The only thing that matters is that you spend the whole time posting enough selfies that all 933 of your Facebook friends are super annoyed.
Of course, before any vacation comes pre-vacation prep. And this horrible ritual almost makes going anywhere not worth it. This is doubly true when you are traveling with children. Because children need a lot of things. And whatever they don’t need, they WANT or they will just DIE. In fact, it might actually be easier to just detach their entire room from the house and drag it with you.
And packing all their ridiculous stuff is just the beginning. For example, we happen to be leaving tomorrow so here is my To-Do List for today:
- Write newspaper column. About something funny. Or just be lazy and shoot off 700 words about your To-Do List.
- Buy jean-wearing, Converse sneaker sporting, flannel shirt obsessed husband swim trunks and his first pair of shorts ever and shoes that don’t require socks.*
- *Also remember to wrestle black socks away from husband when he tries to sneak them into suitcase. Use as much force as is necessary, including frying pan head whacking.
- Clean house for dog-sitter, a lovely young lady we
kidnappedasked nicely to watch our neurotic dog. And I mean, really clean. Like scrub the toilet and tell the hobo who lives in the southwest corner of the kitchen he needs to vacate for a few days level of clean.
- Clean out the car trunk, which still contains (among many other fascinating artifacts from our life) a box of severely molded party favors from our wedding.
- Charge camera batteries.
- Find battery charger.
- Find the camera the batteries belong to.
- Go to store and buy enough snacks to feed multiple pee-wee football teams even though there are only three of us (and one is a toddler) and we’ll only be gone 2.5 days and the place we’re going to is only an hour and a half away and has literally dozens of stores and restaurants within walking distance but no matter because we still need an entire cooler-full of all these snacks because it’s not really a vacation without six economy-sized bags of Bugles although no one really knows why other than that’s the way our parents did it and their parents before them and who are we to question the tradition of the Great American Beach Vacation.*
- *Also buy more snacks at the gas station on the way out of town. Just in case.
- Find passport because I just realized my license expired. Which you wouldn’t think would be a big deal since I’m not the one driving and I’m 34-years-old and have the bags under my eyes to prove it. But you’d be wrong. Because, funny story, this whole traveling without a valid I.D. thing also happened five years ago because I’m an idiot and keep assuming licenses are valid forever. But you know who doesn’t think it’s a funny story? Bartenders and car rental associates and the T.S.A. and hotel managers and that blonde lady cop.
- Shave. Ugh. Shave it all.
- Go to liquor store and purchase reasonable amount of booze since the aforementioned toddler will be passed out by eight, essentially chaining Mommy and Daddy to the confines of the motel room. Plus, we’ll need something to wash down those 56 packages of peanut butter crackers we brought.
The good news is that if I survive today, it’s nothing but sand, sun and surf for the foreseeable future.
Minus those predicted thunderstorms.
You can’t believe it’s lunchtime again. Wasn’t it just lunchtime yesterday? And the day before that? How many times does this kid need to eat?
But so goes the life of the parent of a toddler.
Only, the thing is, this lunchtime is different. This lunchtime, you’re already hour 16 into your new diet. That stupid, stupid new diet you Googled and pledged an oath to after not insignificantly injuring yourself on that deceptively sharp pork chop bone at dinner last night.
But what? Like, you were supposed to waste food? There was still a slightly visible morsel left clinging on there. And people are dying, man. Of hunger. That bandage on the upper right side of your mouth is proof you have a heart and care and stuff.
And so, you make lunch. Again. A semi-acceptable lunch (depending on who you talk to as long as who you are talking to is not Sienna, mom of Coco, from the playground) of corn on the cob, peas, applesauce and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for junior. And a plate of vegetables (a.k.a. tasteless dirt fruit) for you.
Within 10 minutes, you’ve already inhaled your carrots and hummus* and assorted green crap (crap meant quite literally here as, at some point, some cow probably defecated on all these things).
*Fancy word for “not ranch dip.”
Which means, you have a good 45 minutes left of sitting at the table just staring at The World’s Slowest Eater as he happily smears ketchup into not only his hair but also his ears. Which, luckily, gives you plenty of time to reflect on just how hungry you are. And you ARE hungry. You’re starving. I mean, look at you. You’re wasting away. You’re practically a stick figure.
And then there’s that last dino nugget. Just sitting there. All lonely on his plate. Getting colder with every passing second. Chockful of delicious fat and salt and cancer-causing chemicals that magically makes boring, old chicken taste like deep-fried unicorn.
He wouldn’t even notice, you reason to yourself. Look at him. Completely oblivious. Too busy leading the corn on the cob on a Viking-esque raid against the defenseless peas. Smash. Smash. Smash. Meanwhile, the nugget sits all alone in the southwest corner, completely undefended. You should eat it just to teach him a valuable military strategy lesson.
No. No! You would never do that. My god. Stealing food practically from your child’s mouth! What kind of monster are you?
EXCEPT…”technically” the nugget is nowhere near his mouth. I mean, he doesn’t seem to have any interest in it or anything. It’s so bad for him anyway. The only reason you gave him the dino nuggets is because it’s the only way you could force some protein down his tiny adorable throat. And he’s already eaten four of them. You eating that last one would only make his lunch all the more healthy.
No. No! My god, woman, think about what you’re proposing here. He’ll want that last nugget. You know he will. Just as soon as he’s done drowning the defeated and maimed peas in applesauce. Rise above this. Find some willpower, lady.
Just one taste, though. A tiny bite. Just to make the temptation go away. And he can have the rest.
But then, without even realizing it, you look down in horror and see the nugget is gone. And you are chewing. And then swallowing. And it’s too late now. That hormone-stuffed, vaguely shaped Tyrannosaurus Rex is already halfway to your stomach.
Maybe he won’t notice.
And that’s when the crying begins.
Now, you have three options here.
Option 1: Confess and Bribe
“Baby, Momma’s so sorry. She didn’t mean to. It just…happened. And, I mean, I’m not trying to pass the buck here or anything, but really, it’s society’s fault for making me think I have to be skinny. So, in a way, you could say it was Vogue magazine that ate your nugget. Now let’s go get you some ice cream!”
Option 2: Straight Up Lie
“I don’t know what happened to your last nugget, honey. Maybe you ate it? Yeah, I think I remember seeing you eat it. By the way, and this is in no way related to the missing nugget, but I’m totally buying you a new car when you turn 16.”
Option 3: MacGyver Your Way Out
“Don’t cry, sweets. Momma is just going to reach down into your onesie and see if we can find…yep! Look here! A perfectly good half-eaten nugget stuck between your Buddha belly and chest. Oh! And 13 more peas! And soggy Cheerios from yesterday. See, no reason to cry.”
The thing to keep in mind here, terrible though your behavior has been, is that he’ll never even remember that this happened. So relax.
That is, of course, unless you’re the idiot who posted the whole thing on the Internet to live on for all eternity.
I don’t know if you guys have been keeping up with the news lately, but according to the headlines I’ve been skimming on Twitter, robots are poised to take over all our jobs. Or something like that. I never actually click on the links because as the mother of a toddler, all I really have time to read are listicles about how to lose 10 pounds in 10 days.
(Note to the editors of Huffington Post: If you really want to keep people informed, you should start combining the relevant news of the day with the fluff. For instance, I would totally read a story with the headline “Scientists have finally created artificial intelligence and also, here are 8 fruits with anti-aging properties”).
It sounds scary, I know. But I, for one, am not worried about the day the robots inevitably take over the world because as it turns out, they are just as incompetent as us humans. I know this because I just spent the last hour sparring with a completely incompetent automated menu robot for the electric company.
And, contrary to popular belief, it’s actually incompetence that is the real job generator in this country.
For example, let’s say you work at a company with the incredibly creative name of Company Inc. Your boss’s boss, Pete, hired your boss, Tim, because they “know” each other through networking (networking, of course, being a fancy word for how dumb people keep getting promoted). Now Tim is utterly incompetent. But Pete can’t just fire Tim. Their kids go to the same tennis camp, for crying out loud. So, to pick up the slack caused by Tim’s incompetence, Pete hires Carol, who happens to be the wife of his golf buddy, Tad, for a brand new position with a fancy title like “associate manager of operations” that sort of indicates she’s also your boss but not really but kind of but not really but it doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t stop her from acting like she’s your boss anyway.
Carol is also incompetent. Sales go down. Your workload doubles because no one besides you knows how things work.
Starting to feel the heat from his bosses, Pete decides the best move is to fire Tim and Carol and promote you.
Ha! Kidding. That would actually make sense.
No, Pete decides to hire a 21-year-old “social media liaison” named Kimi because obviously the problem is brand recognition. Kimi is also your boss. You think. It was never really made clear. But she sure as hell acts like your boss during her bi-weekly presentations on dumb crap like “Utilizing Twitter Hashtags For Maximum Penetration Into Untapped Markets.”
Meanwhile, Tim gets a huge bonus for bringing his frat brother, Winston, on board to be the new assistant manager of associate operations. Winston is also your boss, or at least that’s the way it comes off when he informs you that you will be taking a retroactive pay cut because times are tight in the company right now and there is simply no more room in the budget. The good news, however, is that they are making you a part-time employee so they can take you off the company’s insurance plan, meaning you’ll have more time to spend with your children.
So, obviously, as you can see, there is a direct correlation between incompetence and job creation. You now have four direct bosses. Four people who had jobs created specifically for them because the person hired before them sucked so hard.
Anyway, what was my point? Oh yeah, I was trying to pay my electricity bill and there was a glitch on their website and so I had to deal with one of those automated menu robots on the phone and it was horrible and blah blah blah.
But the point is, the robot was just as incompetent as any human. It couldn’t help me. And 67 minutes later, when I finally got a human on the line, they were able to resolve the issue thoroughly and efficiently.
Ha! Kidding again!
No, Lydia was unfortunately unable to help me, so transferred me to her manager Raj, who was unable to help me, who transferred me to his manager, a fast-talking, angry woman whose name was something like Pffffftboobra (or so it sounded when she shouted it at me) and so on and so on.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m not worried about robots taking over all our jobs. Because no matter how sophisticated we make the robots, they’re still being built by humans who have no less than four idiot bosses breathing down their necks. Meaning the robots will be deeply flawed because Tim, Carol, Kimi and Winston will continually come up with unnecessary “improvements” for you to add to the system just so it looks like they actually do something all day.
Which means the customer will always eventually need to talk to a human.
Which is really for the best considering only a human brain can truly appreciate the vulgar and curse word ladled rant from an exhausted mom of a 16-month-old (who is screaming in the background) about how all she wants to do IS PAY HER FRACKING BILL, YOU $#&^ing MORONIC &@!%ing DILLHOLES.