Oh my gourd, she murdered a pumpkin

I was 33 when I murdered and mutilated the dead body of my first pumpkin.

I know. I know. How did I ever manage to make it this far in my life without committing veggiecide? I mean, ripping out the slimy entrails of innocent gourds is practically a rite of passage in this country. Even kindergarteners are handed a knife and told to stab a pumpkin in the face.

Well, it’s a long story, kids. One that I’m probably going to make even longer because my editor wants at least 800 words.

It all started with my childhood…

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When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to go trick-or-treating. This had less to do with child abuse (as I VERY vocally insisted to my mother back then) then (as I realize now) it had to do with the time period. See, back in the early ancient period known as the ‘80s, everyone was afraid that 1. all teenagers were involved in satanic cults and 2. those satanic cults spent all their time stuffing razor blades into mini Kit Kat bars. Add on top of that the fact that most of my extended family felt Halloween glorified the Devil and I lived in a place where non-working tractors outnumbered people four-to-one (making for quite a long hike just to score some free yet probably non-name brand candy), and you have the perfect recipe for a Halloween-less youth.

Not that I was completely deprived. My aunt threw a great party every year on the night before Halloween, complete with costumes, bobbing for apples and big piles of razorblade-free candy. We just couldn’t call it a Halloween party. Because it wasn’t. Because Satan is always watching.

And there was one year when I was a teenager that I did actually go trick-or-treating. But that was really just more of an excuse for 11 of us to jump into a completely unsafe car while in costume and drive around while smoking cigarettes and sharing a bottle of Boone’s Farm (which tasted like gasoline and haunted watermelons). I did also attempt during this time period to participate in that other time-honored Halloween tradition, the haunted house, but at the first sign of a chainsaw I threw up my hands, yelled “NOPE!” and sprinted back to the car.

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As I got older, I spent a few years doing the “get drunk at a bar while wearing a costume that would make your feminist grandmother cry” Halloween tradition. I also would dress in “costume” for work, but usually only as a gypsy or Amy Winehouse since neither required me to really change my hair. Or my outfit. Or the amount of eyeliner I usually wore.

So, as you can see, my relationship with Halloween has been spotty at best. Which is why I probably never decorated my house for the holiday, inside or out. And why I haven’t worn a costume the past few years (unless you count my standard “Gypsy Amy Winehoue” everyday look). And why I quickly lose my enthusiasm for handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.

“Oh look, another Iron Man and Elsa from ‘Frozen.’ How original. Take your Snickers and go. You disgust me.”

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But now…well, now I’m a parent. And that has made all the difference this year. Suddenly I’m all in the holiday spirit, like the love child of Martha Stewart and Elvira.

Which is how I came to commit my first veggiecide. A task I took a bit too much glee in judging from the horrified look on my husband’s face.

Hey honey, could you maybe not laugh maniacally while holding that giant knife and pulling out the pumpkin guts. It’s…uh…it’s creeping me out, babe.”

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I’m even finally using the Halloween kitchen towels my mother-in-law got me years ago. I mean, I use them the rest of the year too. (What? Suddenly I’m a Rockefeller who can afford enough kitchen towels to not use the seasonal ones year-round?) But I’m using them now too. On purpose.

And, best of all, I already bought my son his costume (a baby chicken outfit because 1. it was on sale and 2. we want to save the Chucky costume for next year when he can walk and hold a bloody knife better) and plan to take him for his first trick-or-treat outing at what his dad calls “my work’s Halloween thingy event for children or something.”

Yes, I must say, making up for all that lost time has me downright giddy and we still have a week to go until the big day. In fact, I may even dress up in costume this year. As Zombie Gypsy Amy Winehouse. Which won’t even require makeup since I haven’t had a full night’s sleep my son was born.

 

 

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Mommies don’t get sick days

I regret a lot of things. The fringe vest I wore for my seventh grade school photo. That time I asked for a “pixie haircut” and instead spent half of my junior year in college walking around with a mullet. Pretty much all of 2004.

I even regret things I haven’t done yet, like when I finally finish this six pound burrito sitting right beside me. I’m going to eat it all. I know this. I’m going to hate myself for eating it all. I know this. And yet, I’m still going to do it. Because…well…burrito. I mean, come on.

But in the seven months that I have been a parent, I have never once regretted my decision to bring a loud, tiny human into this world. Not even when he projectile pooped onto my hand. Not even when a too vigorous game of “Super Baby!” led to him puking directly into my mouth.

My.

Mouth.

Not even when I spent an entire night awake lying on the floor of a hotel while Riker slept on my chest because it was the only place he would fall asleep in that strange room (and I was too afraid to lay in the comfortable bed for fear of falling asleep and rolling over and crushing out his little life with my gigantic milk boobs).

But then…then Thursday happened.

Oh, Thursday.

Thursday Bloody Thursday.

Or, to be more accurate, Thursday Mucousy Thursday. (And you are welcome for THAT visual).

Yes, on Thursday, I was sick. Nothing too serious. Just your typical “I’m going to lay here on the floor until I die” illness. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Except that this was the first time I had been sick while also legally responsible for keeping a baby alive, which is harder than you think considering all babies are born with an innate death wish. As far as I can tell, once kids pass the six-month mark, all their bodily effort goes into trying to fall from high distances onto the floor so that they can eat whatever object it is on the floor that is guaranteed to choke them.

(I’m assuming this death wish is also why my son tries to stick his fingers into the mouth of whatever super scary person I am sitting next to on the subway).

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Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had to take care of a baby while sick or hungover or while missing a vital limb, but if you haven’t, let me elaborately describe it for you using all my writerly tricks I’ve learned over the years:

It sucks.

It sucks so hard, you guys.

And mine was just your average cold combined with typical parental sleep deprivation. It’s not like I had the flu or Ebola or that mysterious disease I always came down with on Mondays when I was in high school that forced me to stay home and miss out on wonderful educational opportunities such as a chemistry test.

Still, when it takes all your physical, emotional and mental energy and focus to take care of a child, even losing one-fourth of that energy and focus to a cold is devastating. Because the kid still needs fed, needs changed, needs 52 games in a row of the peek-a-boo-esque “Where’s Mommy!?!”. And worst of all, that cold is not going to stop your baby from rolling directly under the gigantic, non-flat screen TV and kicking it with his surprisingly strong legs (because “Tempting Fate!” happens to be his second favorite game right after “Where’s Mommy!?!”).

We managed, of course. Because you have to. Because somewhere underneath all that phlegm and mucous is the maternal instinct, still operating, still forcing you to care where your baby is at all times. But it wasn’t easy. That day falls in-between the “all-day high school track meet where it was 34 degrees and my uniform was a glorified swimsuit” and “driving ten hours to New Orleans with a champagne hangover the day after my wedding” on the Hardest Day Of My Life So Far scale.

In fact, we spent most of it lying on the floor, him repeatedly trying to roll over to the dog so he could pull all of Buffy’s hair out and then eat it and I holding haphazardly onto his leg while convulsing oh-so-sexily with wet coughs and sneezes.

The low point, by far, was when I handed him his Fisher-Price hammer and begged him to kill me with it.

“You can claim self-defense! People read my column! They already suspect me of being an unfit mother! Plus, no jury in the world would convict you what with a face like that! Just do Mommy this favor. Put me out of my misery.”

I’m pretty sure he would have done it too, if he wasn’t distracted by a sudden, overwhelming need to try to fall out of his high chair so he could eat the candy wrapper on the floor.

I still don’t regret having my son. But after Thursday, I do regret my lack of independent wealth so I can hire someone to play “Where’s Random Caretaker!?!” with my son while I ride high on a Nyquil train to All-Day Sleepytown when I’m sick.

 

BREAKING NEWS: White girls love fall

I don’t know who the first white girl was to publicly declare how much she loves fall, but if I ever find that idiot, I’m going to strangle her with the string from my totally comfy Urban Outfitters’ hoodie. She’s ruined everything for the rest of us.

Everything.

Because now, thanks to her and all her idiot friends, the new national pastime is making fun of white girls who love fall.

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Oh sure, you could argue (and you would, in fact, be correct in arguing this) that us white girls brought it on ourselves. What with our “first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season!” selfies and our daily “Finally time for boots and leggings! Squeeeee!” Facebook posts. Our mid-June tweets of “Is it fall yet? #ugh #readyforsnuggleweather”. Our arty Instagram of a lone red leaf held up against one of our eyes while we coyly look up and to the left with the other eye.

So yes. Yes, on some level we deserve this ridicule.

But ultimately, making fun of ALL the white girls who love fall is not OK. Because, one, us white girls have feelings. Lots and lots of feelings. That we have to tell you about. All the time.

So, please, don’t make us have more feelings.

And two, we’re not all like that. For instance, I love fall. I also happen to be a white girl. But I am not a white girl who loves fall.

And yes, it is an important distinction.

Do you think this Aprill spelled with two L’s wants to be lumped in with all the Britanni’s spelled with an “i” and Megyn’s spelled with a “y”? That I want to wear vintage T-shirts featuring books I’ve never read or bands I’ve never listened to underneath my infinity scarf (an infinity scarf that is just one of the 67 in my collection)?

Do you think I want to race to my closet as soon as September 1st arrives and pull out my favorite vintage sweater while wrapping both of my hands around a mug of green tea and sighing contentedly while I look out a window? Or that I want to curl up with a good book and read all day as soon as the temperature drops below 70?

Do you think I want to spend hours scouring Pinterest for fall-themed craft ideas; ideas that I will never, ever do but nonetheless share on social media like I totally did do them? Or that I want to eat only gourd-flavored baked goods for every meal for the next three months?

No. No, I don’t. I don’t want to do any of this. I don’t want to be a part of this cliché.

But I do. And I am.

I wasn’t raised this way. I was raised in a home where hoodies were merely something you threw on when it got cold, where coffee was something you drank black, where fall was simply just another season. My mom didn’t own Ugg boots or oversized, non-prescription, black frame glasses. No one in my family drank beer that was any flavor other than beer. The only candles that burned inside our house were birthday candles.

Do you think when I was a little girl growing up in the 90’s, wearing my torn flannel shirt and my purple lipstick with my Nirvana CD blasting from my gigantic boombox, that I dreamed of someday becoming that white woman who lights 43 pumpkin candles on chilly nights and asks her husband to cuddle on the couch in their “jammies” while they watch a “Girls” marathon on HBO?

No. Hell no. That little girl would kick my ass with her Dr. Marten boots if she knew what she became.

But I just can’t help myself. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture. If I was brainwashed by the powerful pumpkin farmer lobby in Washington or if Eve herself made an apple scented candle with the forbidden fruit before she took a bite and then knitted a cozy sweater out of fig leaves.

All I know is that, as much as I try to fight it, I love all this fall crap. And now, courtesy of Brittani and Megyn and Jyssycah, I am the butt of several thousand Internet jokes.

So thanks a lot, ladies. You just couldn’t keep quiet, could you? Couldn’t just let us white girls continue to worship this time of year secretly in the privacy of our own homes. Had to blast it out all over the Interwebs, complete with winky faces and penguin emoticons (even though PENGUINS have absolutely NOTHING to do WITH FALL!).

I swear to God, I’d throw this Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte in your faces…

…if only it didn’t taste so good.

…(Sip)…

And now, for an intimate look inside marriage

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Catwoman loves my hair

You know that old saying, “This is why we can’t have nice things”? Well, my husband and I are the poster children for the phrase “This is why we can’t do nice things.”

We are, to put it nicely, casual people. We’re the Gap of couples. The Olive Garden of lovers. The Netflix of man and wife.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. In fact, we prefer it this way. There is no shame in our footie pajama Saturday night game. But it does make for several rather interesting “fish out of water” tales from time to time.

For instance, take our recent trip to New York City. See, even typing that previous sentence felt weird. We’re not the kind of people who say “our recent trip to New York City.” We may live in Boston, a fairly major U.S. city, but we’re still the kind of people who say “our recent trip to Target.”

My husband, however, causal though he is, happens to be a very talented artist and designer. On a lark, he had entered into a poster contest for the new FOX show “Gotham” and ended up winning, scoring us a free mini-vacation and tickets to the New York premiere of the show.

And it was going to be fancy. Not fancy-fancy, but fancy enough that Ryan had to borrow a suit and I spent hours scouring my closet, trying on different things and asking him things like “would it be inappropriate to wear a dress to the premiere that has a curse word on it?” Not to mention the fancy driver who was going to pick us up from the airport in his fancy car and the fancy Manhattan hotel with its fancy shower that didn’t have any major clogs (like SOME showers I know) we would be staying in.

All this for two people who don’t know how to tip a doorman or a driver without looking like huge dorks. (In fact, my husband’s preferred method is to just loudly state “Here.” while awkwardly stuffing a fistful of cash into their unsuspecting hands).

Luckily, we clean up pretty good when absolutely forced to, so we made it to the “Gotham” premiere without embarrassing ourselves too horribly. I even made it up the five flights of stairs to the post-premiere party in five-inch heels without stopping halfway through (just lying breathless on a step, telling people to “just leave me here, go on without me, remember me when I’m gone”) like I really, REALLY wanted to.

Now, as far as I can tell, the main goal of a movie or TV premiere party is to skulk around the room until you weasel your way close enough to one of the stars to ask them to take a photo with you. Unfortunately, Ryan and I are those people who like to think we’re above having our photos taken with celebrities. That’s what we tell ourselves, at least. Yeah, we’re way too cool for that. What with our own personal websites and curse word dresses and all. They’re just people, people. How lame.

In reality, however, we are totally those people who want our photos taken with celebrities. We’re just too scared to ever actually ask. So instead we just awkwardly stood around, drinking our fancy drinks that we awkwardly grabbed off some waiter’s tray and awkwardly sipped while trying not to cough because it was a grown-up drink and we’re used to “cocktails” that have pop as one of the main two ingredients.

Even the liquid courage from our fancy, grown-up drinks didn’t help. It did, however, help us come up with an ingenious idea. One that we call “reverse photobombing.” We sat at a table, camera phones at the ready, and when a celebrity (or pretty much anyone with really, REALLY straight teeth) walked into the background, we would take a photo.

Ahem…

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Needless to say, we were quite proud of our cleverness.

And drunk. We were very, very drunk.

But then, while my husband and I are snapping photos and giggling like a bunch of third-graders who just stumbled upon a stack of nudie magazines, suddenly the young actress who plays Selina Kyle sits down at our tiny table. She’s close enough for us to touch her. Close enough for us to touch her in such a way that we could get slapped with a restraining order. We immediately both give each other “The Look.” The look that only couples who have been together long enough to know each other’s bathroom schedule can give one another. Here was our chance.

He looked at me and with one raised eyebrow silently said “Should we ask her to pose for a photo?”

To which I looked at him and with two raised eyebrows (because I can’t raise just one because it’s a stupid skill I can’t master no matter how much I practice in front of the mirror) silently answered “Nope. I’m still too chicken shit.”

I did, however, work up the nerve (after downing yet another drink) to say, directly into her face, “You were wonderful in the show.”

And then, dear reader, and then, she looked at me, and directly into MY face said, “Thank you so much. I love your hair.”

Naturally, being the mature and sophisticated 30-something woman that I am, I calmly yanked my husband’s arm out of its socket and said “CATWOMAN LOVES MY HAIR!”

To which he lovingly replied, “You’re not being nearly as quiet as you think you are being right now.”

And so, the moral of this long, rambling, semi-pointless story is this:

Catwoman loves my hair. And that’s pretty much all that matters.

Eat your disgusting, mushy vegetables

It happened inexplicably. One minute, he’s just fine, chowing down on some mushed carrots like it’s his job. Which, considering he’s a baby, it technically is his job. (Sleeping and throwing toys on the floor, of course, being his leisure activities). And the next? He’s crying and creating a fuss like I’m forcing him to eat pinecones. Or worse, Arby’s.

Yes, feeding time in our household has become pure chaos. For the past few weeks, the simple act of putting a spoon into a mouth has turned instead into one giant game of mental chess, with both parties creating moves and countermoves to outwit the other. Both with goals that are diametrically opposed to one another. My goal being to make sure more food gets in him than on him. And his goal being, apparently, to starve to death.

It didn’t start out this way. When he was first introduced to baby food, he loved it. He even made adorable “nom-nom” noises and yelled at me when I wasn’t shoveling it in quick enough.

But then…(sigh)…then I made the worst mistake a mother can make.

I bragged.

I told everyone how well he transitioned and how we didn’t have ANY problems feeding him. I even dared to say that oh no, he wasn’t a messy eater at all. Downright clean this baby was. Hardly needed to wipe his face afterward. And adventurous too. Willing to try anything new.

If you are a parent, you know exactly how quickly everything went to hell after that.

To some degree I get it. I do. I mean, I’ve smelled those jars of pureed vegetables. They smell like elementary school humiliation and death. There is no salt or sugar or anything that makes life worth living added to them. And there’s a reason the rest of America only eats sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. And only then because we’ve mixed them with 52 pounds of marshmallows.

So, yes, I can understand my son’s resistance to eating these jars of carrots and green beans and squash. But baby cannot live by breastmilk and formula alone. Which means at least three times a day, we sit down across from each other, temporary enemies, and commence to play Baby Food Chess.

He starts out with a classic, the Passive Resistance Mouth Clamp Maneuver, where not even the most liquefied of food could squeeze in. Heh. Nice try, kid. I may have been born at night but it wasn’t last night. I counter with the Make Him Giggle Then Shove It In There While His Mouth Is Still Open move.

Seeing that I’ve stepped up my game since last time, he busts out the advanced Sudden Left Turn Strategy, where right as the spoon is about to go into his mouth, he suddenly turns his head, thus making his cheek take the brunt of the garden vegetable medley. Hmm. You’re cleverer than you look, junior. But you forget that with my brains, I also have brawn, and so I counter with the Gentle Yet Firm Head Clamp maneuver, where I hold his head steady with my massive Mommy claw.

Getting frustrated, he uses the Eat It But Spit It All Back Out Onto Mommy move out of sheer desperation. But he forgets he tried that yesterday and today I came prepared. I counter with the Paper Plate Shield held up to my face.

He knows he’s losing. I can see it in his eyes. Soon I will break his spirit, my need to not have him starve to death being stronger than his need to avoid disgusting overcooked carrots. But he’s got one last surprise up his onesie:

The Full-On Fist-Flying Red-Faced Tantrum.

Damn. He’s good. He knows he’s got me backed into a corner. Because sure, with his mouth opened that wide, it’s easy to shovel food in there. But the result of that is that he chokes. Coughs. Sputters. And while technically it’s impossible to choke on pureed food, he puts on a good show. He knows this is my weak spot. Making me feel like I’m potentially doing him harm.

That sly little devil.

The Mommy in me quickly squashes down the Master Strategist in me. I stop feeding him. Checkmate. He’s won this round.

But the joke’s on him.

The menu for dinner?

More carrots.

 

World War Z, Part Two: The Crawling Dead

Guys, GUYS, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but it appears the zombie apocalypse is finally upon us. And not to alarm you even more, but it seems that no one, not even babies, are safe from these undead fiends. These undead fiends who are technically illegal immigrants. Oh yeah, I said it. Since they’re legally considered dead, that renders their social security card invalid, which means they are in this country illegally. Eating the brains of tax-paying citizens and taking victims away from hard-working American serial killers.

Where is the outrage about that, Congress?

Oh, proof? You want proof, eh? Well, how’s this for proof:

My baby is a zombie.

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I mean, how much more proof could you need?

I started noticing the signs a few months ago. At first I thought he was just your standard, run of the mill cannibal. Because obviously, as a mom, that is the first place your mind goes when your innocent baby starts sprouting teeth and biting anything that moves. And I admit it. I blamed myself. Oh sure, there is some debate within the scientific community about whether or not there is a cannibal gene or if the people-eating lifestyle is a choice. And while I fully believe that cannibals are born that way, I did once eat some mystery meat from an unlicensed food truck while I was pregnant, so who knows what damage that did. And I’m sure my son being inundated with news stories about all those face-eating bath salt junkies didn’t help.

(But that’s what you get when the mainstream media obviously has a pro-cannibal agenda).

Luckily, I soon realized how silly I was being. Of course my child wasn’t a cannibal. He loved pureed carrots, for crying out loud. It was much more likely he was in the beginning stages of werewolf-ism. He definitely howled like one. And by the claw marks on my arms, he definitely scratched like one. Naturally I was very saddened by this, considering we live in a world where vampires dominate pop culture; almost all of them unaware but still benefitting from vampire privilege. I mean, how many books have you read or how many movies have you seen where the werewolf plays any part other than the bad guy or a lowly side character?

But just when I was about to resign myself to a life of keeping my child in a steel cage three days every month when the moon was full, my son bit me. Hard. And soon after, I started noticing symptoms of my own. I was tired all the time, sleepwalking my way through most of the day. I hungered for red meat, as opposed to vegetables. I really, REALLY wanted to bash the brains in of people who blocked the grocery store aisle as they stood there for 20 minutes trying to decide between the two-for-one Cheerio sale or the buy-two-get-one-half-off Lucky Charms deal.

And sure, yeah, I was that way before he bit me too. But I was also that way AFTER he bit me. So…you do the math. One plus one obviously equals zombie, people.

While I’m not sure exactly when my baby was bit by a zombie, thus effectively ruining our lives, I am sure of at least one thing: I will always love him. Even when he is biting me. Or crying because I won’t let him bite me. Or crying even louder because I won’t let him bite the dog. Or screaming because his sharp set of zombie teeth are coming in. Or not sleeping because his zombie teeth are coming in.

And that quack doctor who told me his behavior is all perfectly normal for a healthy teething baby of six months can go to hell.