20 Things To Be Thankful For in 2020

I’ve been reading a lot of pretty mom blogs lately. You know, those blogs written by moms with shiny hair and actual fruit bowls on their tables? (Filled with fruit they actually eat.) The moms who have probably never told their preschooler “oh, bite me” as a rebuttal during an argument. (She won, by the way.) The moms who actually earn money from their writing? (Dirty accusing glare to all the people not reading this.) 

And right now, all the pretty mom blogs are doing a “what I’m thankful for” post. All of which have some version of this sentence: “This year, perhaps more than any other year, it’s important to focus on what matters most in life and remember that we should be thankful for these things, not just on Thanksgiving day, but every day.” 

Pfft. LAME. 

However, they’re not wrong. This has been a rough year for all of us. So maybe it couldn’t hurt to focus on what really matters, even though it goes against the very most basic core of my entire personality. 

And thus, I present, the 20 things I’m thankful for in 2020.

  1. My health. Which is good. Despite my body being composed mostly of coffee and whiskey.
  2. My husband and our two wonderful children. They mean everything to me. It’s so nice to have everyone home all the time, working and learning remotely. And I mean, all the time. All the time. ALL. THE. TIME. And even though the little one threatened to kill me the other day (it was veiled but it was definitely a death threat) we couldn’t be closer. So close. All the close. 
  3. A roof over my head. And it doesn’t even leak. And below that roof are walls and floors. Filled with mice. City mice. Who will never leave because nothing scares them and they are much, much smarter than we are. Although I haven’t ruled out making them chip in for rent.
  4. My dog, Buffy. Who at 15 is alive and healthy(-ish) and still loves to go on walks. I know you’re expecting me to say something snarky here about him but honestly, what kind of monster makes fun of a beloved elderly dog that has been a constant companion and who has farts so rancid they make rotten eggs smell appetizing. 
  5. Nature. Majestic, beautiful nature. So majestic and beautiful that I don’t even mind the mountains of Claritin I have to snort like cocaine every morning in order to step outside.
  6. Technology. For all it has done, especially during this pandemic, but mostly because it has allowed me to lock myself in the attic and have happy hour over Zoom with my friends while my children wail and bang on the door. 
  7. Speaking of which, my friends, both near and far. All of whom don’t bat an eye when my humor goes to a dark, dark place. 
  8. The sound of my children’s laughter. 
  9. The sound of my children sleeping.
  10. The sound of my husband yelling at my children because they won’t listen to me.  
  11. Wine.
  12. Did I say coffee yet?
  13. Food. Because it’s good. I don’t know. I’m losing steam. Twenty is a big number. 
  14. Oh! Peace. That’s a thing that’s always on these lists, right?
  15. Deep fried stuffing balls. They are the best thing I’ve ever created in my life (my kids coming in at a really close second though). 
  16. Alton Brown’s Thanksgiving turkey recipe. 
  17. Alton Brown.
  18. Oceans. They’re super cool. 
  19. That 2020 is slowly marching toward its death. 
  20. All y’all. The ones who read these ridiculous things week after week. And on purpose, no less. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of the pit where my heart should be. 

Stickin’ it to the man (and everything else)

Hey, here’s something you might not know. According to historians it was the ancient Egyptians who invented stickers. Archaeologists have actually found remains of sticky paper plastered on Egyptian market walls that were used to display the price and description of goods.

Here’s another fun tidbit. Modern stickers got their start from a man going by the very fancy moniker of Sir Rowland Hill. He invented an adhesive paper in 1839, which eventually led to the first postage stamps. 

Oh, and, amusing little fact, another man with an excessively fancy name, R. Stanton Avery, is credited with inventing the first self adhesive label in 1935, leading the way for the sticker as we know it today.  

All of which is a very long way to say I don’t know why all these people listed above hate me and want to ruin my life. All I know is that they have been very successful in their endeavor. Because stickers are indeed destroying my life. And my home. And my wardrobe. And whatever little bit of my sanity that is still sticking around. (HA! GET IT! “STICKING”! HA! HA!). 

OK, fine. Maybe you’re right. Maybe all these people had no idea the destruction and havoc their invention would wreak on my small little world. But even so, just because you can invent something, doesn’t mean you should. So screw you, anonymous, innovative Egyptian merchant! I hope you drowned in quicksand or however ancient Egyptians typically died back then. 

They’re just everywhere. Stickers on the walls, the floors, on every stuffie, on at least half the books. Oh, and on me. All over me. My arms, my legs, my clothes, my shoes. One minute there is a child sweetly asking to sit on my lap and the next I am covered in stickers from head to toe. With everything else, they have the fine motor skills of a drunk baby panda, but give these kids a sheet of stickers and they suddenly have the dexterity and rapidity of a seasoned neurosurgeon. They could cover the entire world in stickers in roughly 45 minutes. 

I don’t even know where these stickers are coming from. How are my kids keeping their supply line going in the middle of a pandemic? They’re not even in school. We’ve been doing remote learning since September and the city has been on some level of lockdown since March. Is there a neighborhood black market for stickers that I am unaware of? Did they finally figure out my Amazon password? 

WHO KEEPS GIVING MY CHILDREN STICKERS?

That last question isn’t rhetorical. I want names. Addresses. Lists of weaknesses and biggest fears. I will have my revenge. 

You know, back in my day, we had respect for the sticker game. We played with them the way God intended, by moving them from the sticker sheet immediately to our sticker album. And there they would stay for all eternity. There was none of this free range sticker nonsense the youth believe in today, just putting stickers wherever they feel like whenever they feel like. 

And I hear you. I do. It could be worse, you’re saying. It could be the dreaded (*whispers*) glitter. But nope, I disagree. I would actually prefer glitter. Because while glitter never, ever goes away, the worse that will happen if it gets all over me is that I will look like either a stripper or a fairy and honestly, I’m fine with both. 

But stickers? I get covered in those bad boys and 1. when I rip them off it also rips off my body hair and 2. they always end up still stuck on my clothes after I put them in the wash, leaving their weird residue all over everything. And this may come as a shock to some of you, but I am not the type of mother who is going to Google “how to get sticker residue off of clothes” and then actually try to get the sticker residue off of the clothes. I am the kind of mother who gets angry and curses and then just walks around in clothes with permanent sticker residue on them because I am tired and lazy. 

I don’t really have an ending for this rant. Other than I WILL FIND YOU NEIGHBORHOOD BLACK MARKET STICKER DEALER. You can run and you can hide, but I will FIND YOU. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take a butterknife and try to scrape the stickers off our hardwood floors and the ceilings because the little one has discovered she can climb all the way up to the top of the unsecured bookcase now. 

Where’s My Coffee? A Remote Schooling Pop Quiz

Q: If I wake up at 7 a.m. and remote schooling starts at 8:30 a.m. for my first grader and 8:45 a.m. for my preschooler, at what time will I take my first sip of coffee? Please show your work.

A: 9:07 a.m. Because the children got up at 6:59 a.m. and began immediately fighting and demanding things and the dog pooped all over the only carpeted area in the house and everyone wanted something different for breakfast. Carry the one nerve I had left over.  

Q: If I am helping one child with a math assignment in the dining room and then the other one yells for my help during her small group live instruction in the bedroom, where will I eventually find my coffee after a frantic search?

A: On top of the bookshelf in the hallway.

Extra credit question: Will it still be hot?

A: Nope. 

Q: What is my favorite brand of coffee to make at home?

a. Starbucks

b. Dunkin

c. That fancy one I can’t pronounce 

d. Any that finally finds its way into my hands. 

Q: Where do I most often find my coffee?

A: In the microwave. Where I warmed it up 40 minutes ago.

True or False: Whoever finishes the pot of coffee has to make a new pot.

True. RYAN. 

Q: If my preschooler is having a meltdown because she can’t cut out her shapes perfectly and my first grader is going on another angry rant about how he hates school and he knows everything already so why does he even have to get on Zoom, will I slip out to the front porch or the back porch to enjoy five minutes of peace with my cup of coffee?

A: Trick question. They discovered that’s where I hide last week. The answer is now the basement. 

Q: During the afternoon, if I scour the entire house for 20 minutes for my coffee but still cannot find it, where is my coffee?

a. The coffee never existed in the first place because I am going insane. 

b. An interdimensional portal that opened up because it’s 2020.

c. Does it even matter? It’s just easier to get a new cup and find the old one six months later when it has grown fur and possibly consciousness. 

d. In the bathroom where I optimistically brought it an hour ago in the vain hope of finding two minutes to brush my teeth.

True or False: Some people don’t drink coffee. 

False. Probably. Who are these people? And what mystical elixir do they drink to prevent familial homicides? 

Q: If it’s a half day Wednesday and both kids have different schedules and extra long Zoom sessions, what will you find in my coffee mug?

A: Correct. The answer is indeed whiskey.

Q: What is an appropriate amount of coffee to drink in the year of our Lord 2020?

A: ALL OF IT. 

Essay Question: How is coffee made?

Little caffeine fairies collect the magic beans in the enchanted forest and give them to dragons, who roast them. They are then collected by really hip dressed baristas and distributed to the masses, who mix it with hot water to make that bewitching hot bean potion that keeps the world running with its life-giving and slightly addictive properties. 

Kitchen confidential

Due to my position as a feral housewife who writes about her family, I am often asked by people what advice I’d give to someone who was unsure about having children.  

OK, technically no one asks me that question but it seemed like a good opener and I have been itching to use the phrase “feral housewife” ever since I encountered it on a random Internet meme. But if someone DID ask me this question, my answer would be this: 

Are you ready to make three meals a day, every day, for probably the rest of your life, only to have each of those meals verbally eviscerated by tiny personal versions of Gordon Ramsay? No? Then get you a dog and prepare to live a happy, peaceful life. 

If yes, my sincerest apologies in advance. I recommend stocking up on boxed wine and designating a drawer in your fridge as your “stress cheese” drawer now before you even get started. 

See, no one warned me and my husband that children expect to eat all the time. Nor that they also hate any and all food. Oh sure, our friends and family might have mentioned their children were “picky” eaters but we, in our sweet, innocent naivety, didn’t realize “picky” is code for “eats three things but not really even those things.” For example, my children only eat chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and fish sticks (but not THAT kind of fish sticks, the other kind). Oh wait, sorry, they also say they like pizza. Except they don’t really like pizza. My first grader only eats the crusts and my preschooler makes me scrape off all the toppings and sauce so she can eat the dough underneath. Because they are monsters. 

Adding insult to injury were all the parenting books we read (ok, the one parenting book we kind of skimmed) that insisted family mealtimes are of the utmost importance for a child’s development without ever once mentioning that the majority of those family mealtimes would be spent arguing over how the pasta smells gross and the meatloaf looks like dog poop. 

Then there’s all those pesky doctors insisting on the importance of children eating a varied diet full of different vitamins and nutrients in order to be healthy. LIES. All of it. My children are somehow still thriving and with a seemingly endless supply of energy despite not knowing the difference between a tomato and a watermelon. 

They don’t even have scurvy and I’m pretty sure they should have scurvy by now. My daughter licked an apple six months ago and it’s the only vitamin C she’s had since. I’m not saying science is wrong. I’m a big believer in science. I’m just saying that while man cannot live on bread alone, little boys apparently can because science simply cannot compete with the stubbornness of children. 

I used to enjoy cooking, you know? I found it calming and at the same time creative. I found a quiet joy in chopping and a contentment in coming up with new menu ideas. A chef transforming ingredients into life sustaining works of art for the people she loved.

But now? I am merely a sweaty, red-faced short order cook, taking the same orders in a gruff manner day after day and barking out names of dishes for my husband to whisk away to our unhappy regulars.

It’s exhausting. 

Perhaps that’s why it all came to a head a few nights ago. Maybe that’s why after enduring meal after meal greeted with that same look of disgust and disappointment on their faces, I lost it. Or possibly those selfish little picky weasels had it coming. 

Whatever it was, I snapped. Over an hour making dinner from scratch, all of which was greeted with groans and anger. ANGER. They didn’t just not like my food, they were angry I would even present it to them. 

So I did the scariest thing a mom on the edge could do. I swallowed my own rage and looked coolly at them. Then, in my calmest voice, I said…

“Fine.”

And their dinner went into the trash can. 

Dramatic, sure. But not if you view it in context. That context being my first instinct was to throw open the window and hurl the plates even more dramatically through it. 

Oh, you should have heard it. The howling, the wailing. How could I do that?! What will we eat now!? We were going to eat it, we swear! Can you make us something else?

To which I answered, easy, nothing, don’t care, nope. 

Now, I’m not naive enough to think that this little episode will change much of anything. But when it comes down to it, that’s not the point. The point is it felt really, really good and I’m smiling even now as I type this and remember the look of horror on their little faces. 

And now I can go back into the kitchen with a bit more serenity, a bit more of the old me who loved cooking. Because should they keep complaining, I still have my “dramatically throws food out the window” bit. Then, after that the roof. Eventually I could hire a crane and drop the plates from there. 

The possibilities are endless, really. 

Blame it on the alcohol

Guys, I did something stupid. Something really stupid. 

I got drunk last night and paid off a student loan. 

I’m not even sure what came over me. It was so reckless, so impulsive. I mean, what was I thinking? We are in the midst of a pandemic. Democracy is crumbling. Corruption is rampant. All our institutions are teetering on the edge. We are staring down the possible beginning of the end. 

And what do I do when facing the apocalypse? Drunkenly make a mature, responsible decision for the future and start paying off debt like there’s actually going to be a tomorrow. 

I admit I’ve always been a bit self-destructive but this is a new low, even for me. I’ve gone so far around the bend of self-destruction that I am now self-helping myself into a better credit score during ARMAGEDDON. Which really shows you the depth of self-loathing I must harbor. What idiot finally decides to get their shit together but only once it probably doesn’t matter? 

I’ll give you a clue. She’s super hungover right now. 

Maybe I should have seen it coming. I have been drinking more lately, the stress of *gestures widely to everything* getting to me. But I thought I had it under control. I never thought it’d come to this. That I would actually use our hard earned money for something that didn’t provide instant gratification. 

Yet the details keep coming back in bits and pieces this wretched morning. It was my second, no, my third drink of the night. OK, yes, we all know it was my fourth, shut up. My husband was giving the kids a bath. I was alone with my laptop. It started so innocently. I just went in to pay off my monthly statement. Something I’ve been doing since I graduated in 2004. Maybe on a different night, maybe on a sober night, things would have been different. But on this particular evening, when my eyes passed casually over the remaining balance, unseemly thoughts started forming. 

“Gee, that number actually looks manageable.”

“Golly, like I could just pay it all off.”

“Right now.”

*hiccup*

“God, how I hate paying this bill every month.”

*burp*

“What if I just…”

And then I just. This is what you get when you abandon bottled wine and start buying boxed wine because it’s less judgmental.

It’s 2020, goddammit. The world is literally on fire. I should be spending any and all income on overpriced Renaissance Festival dresses I only get to wear once a year. I should be tracking down how to buy my own llama. If there was ever a time to justify the purchase of a pimped out RV I absolutely cannot afford, THIS IS IT. Seriously, nothing is guaranteed anymore. LET THE BACCHANAL BEGIN! 

But oh no. Not me. 

Sigh. 

I really expected more of myself. 

Actually, no I didn’t. Because honestly, what else can you expect from a woman who started running after the birth of her second child, not to get in shape, but to punish her body and mind for convincing her that having two kids would be easy. 

LIARS. 

But all this does lead to the more distressing issue of this is what I do when I’m drunk now. That’s how I celebrate my lowered inhibitions now that I am on the cusp of 40. By NOT buying overpriced candles I can’t afford in bulk after chugging craft beer with an irresponsible alcohol content followed by purchasing $60 worth of food from the local pizza place, which I eat until I want to die.

Who am I? What kind of grown-up monster have I become? 

I haven’t even told my husband yet. I’m still too ashamed. Is this the same woman he fell in love with? The same one he married? The carefree girl who would get drunk in bars and then blow the rent money on giant stacks of books and boots with varying amounts of fur? Followed by ordering $60 worth of food from the local pizza place, which she ate until she wanted to die? 

I mean, what’s next? Texting people back in a reasonable amount of time? Starting a college fund for at least one of the children, whoever ends up being my favorite? Finally tracking down my social security card which has been lost inside this house for almost a decade? 

It’s enough to make a gal want a drink. 

But at least this time I can take comfort in knowing that no matter how drunk I get, I won’t be able to pay off my second federal student loan on a whim since it has a much, much higher balance because college is ridiculously unaffordable.

Cheers. 

Ode to the Mystery Bruise

Oh, Mystery Bruise

There you are, yet again

And there have you always been 

For at least as long as I can remember

Which, granted, isn’t that long

Ever since my memory was obliterated by the incessant demands

Of tiny, adorable humans 

They who sprung loudly from my loins

Ginger haired and exhausting

My mind now filled to capacity 

Each and every day

With tasks both mundane and material 

That are involved when raising juveniles not quite yet delinquent

Big. Purple. With a hint of bluish tint

Ringed by an unholy yellow 

You loudly announce your presence, oh, Mystery Bruise

With every disrobement 

With every bathroom trip

There was a time when my thigh was flawless

(Stubble notwithstanding)

Oh, twas a sight, ye youthful femur o’ mine

Alas, now the top of that ham 

Is the heart and hearth of your home

Oh, Mystery Bruise 

Whenceforth you came? Why do you stay?

I have heard tale of your existence in others

On the side of the hip

Or the shinny shin shin

Enfolding the feminine forces in this world

Who already fight all kinds of unseen battles 

Every day, and every sleepless night, and every in-between

Yet your mystery grows, Mystery Bruise

Your origin a puzzle wrapped in an enigma

Smothered in a conundrum and sprinkled with mild violence  

Did it happen when a toddler used my body as a trampoline?

Or when a preschooler made of all points

Used me as their amusement park?

Are you the result of that stupid end table

I keep running into?

Or perhaps from that time I bumped into the steps while running to stop the children from hitting each other

With actual weapons? 

Is it all the bile rising up to the surface from all the curse words I swallowed?

Or from all the screams I buried down deep

Each and every time they howled how they hated me

Because the grilled cheese had the wrong cheese?

(As if any cheese any time any place could ever be wrong)

Is it the homeless ink from every lost chapter I never wrote

Because as soon as they see the laptop they lay across me like pampered cats?

Or mayhap you are just a reminder that I am human, Mystery Bruise

And not just a mother

That I am not merely put on this Earth for their every whim and desire

The point is, oh, most mystifying of contusions

You’ve always been there for me

Rarely changing

Just staring up at me every time I shower 

A constant and only slightly concerning presence in a chaos-filled world 

A reminder of some permanence in an ever shifting reality

Or maybe you are simply a visible representation

Of the bruises concealed in my heart

Your mottled surface itself an ode to the mysteries of the soul

An ever-present monument of why we love and fight so hard  

No matter the reason, nor the cause

I want to thank you, oh Mystery Bruise

For always being there

Which I believe I already mentioned

But you’ll have to forgive me, for it has been a rough week

Of Remote Schooling

Of Life

Of 2020

And of simply being stretched too thin

Which is why I am hiding in the bathtub with my computer

A little (lot) drunk and singing your praises

Because you are here and yet need nothing from me

Oh, Mystery Bruise, your silence speaks volumes  

When the future seems too cucumbersome

The other day, my 4-year-old daughter came tearing through the house, her tangled hair flying wildly all around. She slammed to a stop in front of me, her eyes wide and bright, and promptly shoved two strange green objects directly into my face. 

“MOM! We got gherkins!”

“Wow, that’s amazing, baby,” I said while internally giggling because gherkin has always sounded like a dirty word to me since it rhymes with merkin and deep down I am forever 13-years-old.

“We’re going to eat like cakes tonight!” she proudly declared.  

“Or maybe like kings,” her 6-year-old brother deadpanned. 

“EAT LIKE CAKES!” she bellowed excitedly again while running manically around in circles with the gherkins held high above her head.

The point of this adorably heartwarming story? My family has successfully gardened. Like some kind of coven of dirt wizards. We took a bunch of tiny seeds and stuffed them haphazardly into the ground and remembered to water them like three times but mostly ignored them and BEHOLD. We have grown our own food! Well, gherkins. And cucumbers, which are technically food even though they taste like water that is whispering the word “lawn.” We also successfully grew some sunflowers, so if you are ever in the mood for a pickle and cucumber salad sprinkled with sunflower seeds, come on over. But hurry. I only have enough for like three of you. Maybe two and a half. Also the lettuce never sprouted, or the tomatoes. Or the dozen other seeds we stuck into our much too small gardening box so they had to fight for survival Mad Max-style. The pumpkins thrived for awhile but then got a fungus or something according to the half-hearted Googling I did. 

Anyway, back to the point. 

There is one. 

I’m assuming. 

We’ll see.

Anyway, all in all, it weren’t too shabby for our first time gardening, if I do say so myself. (You can read about how it all began here). In fact, all this successful mastery over the land makes me wonder what else I could learn to do for myself. You know, if civilization eventually collapses or something (not that it will *hysterical laughter hysterical laughter hysterical laughter tiny sob*). I mean, I read “Little House on the Prairie” as a kid. And “Hatchet.” And spent an entire summer obsessed with “The Island of Blue Dolphins.” AND I’ve seen the 1985 Canadian made-for-TV-movie “Anne of Green Gables” starring the inimitable Megan Follows no less than 140 times. I’m practically a pioneer woman already.

All you really need are the basics. And there’s, what, like only four or five of them, right? 

For instance, food. BOOM. Done. Pretty much mastered. 

Oxygen? Already know how to use it. Next. 

Shelter? This one does seem a bit more involved. And possibly out of my league. Mostly because of the paperwork involved. I can likely figure out four walls and a roof and a massive walk-in closet. But I’ll probably have to get a permit or something. Something will likely have to be notarized. Which sounds like a whole thing. Also I don’t have money. Maybe I’ll just keep renting for the moment.  

Now clothes on the other hand, that I know I can handle. I’m old enough that I was forced to learn to sew by public educators. Of course, I only learned how to sew one thing so my family will all be wearing ill-fitting shorts that fall unflattering just below the knee. But they WILL be clothed. Partially. 

And, perhaps most importantly of all, alcohol. Because if the apocalypse does come, and I somehow manage to survive, I cannot make small talk with a bunch of smug doomsday preppers while sober. So, let’s see, I’d need grapes for wine, potatoes for vodka, hops and barley(?) and wheat(?) and organic carbonization(?) for some craft beer. All of which I assume you just mash up together and wait a hot minute and it magically turns into quality libations. 

So, see? We’re all going to be fine. FINE. Just fine. If my family can make it, so can yours. 

But, just as a back-up plan, please vote this November.  

Readin’ & Writin’ & Ah Whoopsie Daisy

This past summer, my children became obsessed with a little book series called “Captain Underpants.” It’s a bunch of illustrated children’s novels that takes potty humor to the next level. Which meant I was giggling right alongside my children because I’m really just two 6-year-old’s standing on each other’s shoulders in a fashionable trench coat pretending to be an irresponsible adult.

Oh, how cute, I’d think to myself every time I’d see my 6-year-old with his nose buried inside one of the 100-plus page books. He’s pretending to read them. Like a Big People! He even went so far as to occasionally ask me what a word was. 

“What’s this word say, Momma?”

“Diarrhea, sweetie.”

So. Adorable. Until the day I realized he was ACTUALLY reading these books. We were getting ready for our nightly storytime and I turned to chapter four, where we had left off the evening before. 

“Oh no, Momma. We’re passed that,” he said as he grabbed the book and started flipping toward the back. “We’re here.”

Here being chapter 20. 

20! 

“No, love. We only read the first three chapters last night,” I patiently replied as the wise and worldly mother than I am. Kids are so enchantingly dumb, am I right?

Then my tiny human, who was a baby only yesterday, summarized chapters four through nineteen.   

“Wait, you can really read?” I asked in a voice so incredulous that even a recently graduated kindergartner could pick up on it. 

“Yeah. Duh.”

I was floored. Then elated. Reading has always been more than a hobby to me. It is life itself. It has shaped who I am and what I do. In my humble opinion, there is nothing better than sitting down, grabbing a book and spending hours hallucinating stories on the dead souls of trees. And to think that my son is now setting forth on this same incredible journ…

AND OMG OH CRAP DAMMIT CRAP. 

My son can read. And apparently pretty well already. He’s probably going to be reading big words any day now. Big words like “butthead.” As in that one column I wrote where I called him a butthead. Or that one when I was pregnant with him and I called him a swamp demon. (And that was the nicest thing I called him during pregnancy).

He’s going to read about how I always stole his chicken nuggets when he was a toddler and then gaslighted (gaslit?) him into believing he ate them all. And he’s now going to know I don’t know the correct past tense of gaslight. 

There was the column that explains how I violated child labor laws and the one that mocks him for not learning how to crawl sooner. He’s going to know just how lazy of a mother I really am. And how much I actually drink. AND THE SECRET LOCATION OF MY EMERGENCY CHOCOLATE.

And now his sister is now in preschool. Where they will also likely teach her how to read with absolutely no regard for how it affects me.

Oof. I can picture it now. When my children realize the full implications of having a humor columnist for a mother. 

Them: What made you think you could write about us?

Me: Thirty-six hours of labor? A jacked up bladder? The fact you gave me a mystery bruise on my thigh when you were a toddler and it still hasn’t gone away?

Them: Well, did you at least make a lot of money by exploiting your children?

Me: *super awkward pause*

Them: YOU’RE NOT EVEN RICH AND FAMOUS!?

Me: I am rich…in love. Wait! No, come back. Come on. Kids? KIDS?

Not to mention that now that they know, they’re probably going to catch onto my methods pretty quickly.

*during big family fight while having Thanksgiving dinner*

“Mom! Are you taking notes right now?”

*me, peeking from behind my laptop* 

“Nooooooo…”

*while having THE TALK with them*

“MOM! Are you live tweeting this!?”

*me, peeking from behind my cell phone* 

“Noooooo…”

*dad falls off ladder & needs an ambulance*

“Mom, call 911!”

“Already on it, honey! …now listen, Sharon, did you say your name was? I’m going to need a full transcript of this call. Just want to make sure I get all the details correct later. Right, so, first of all, the sound he made, like the yell Goofy does when he falls from distant heights. You know. A-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo. Freaking hysterical!”

“MOTHER!” 

In the end, I think I’ll just explain it to them this way: No matter how much you love your children, every parent occasionally thinks and says ridiculous things about their own offspring. But only a select few of us are dumb enough to write it all down and put it on the Internet. And unfortunately, your mother is just that dumb. And while what you post on the Internet theoretically lasts forever, thus potentially ruining your lives, what if– and just hear me out here, kids– I make it up to you with a selection from my emergency chocolate collection? 

The Unprecedented

Salutations, precious scions. 

I am writing this to you from the distant past. My greatest wish is that it reaches you one day. That the Internet, for all its immeasurable beauty and hideous flaws, still exists. Although only Amazon knows what will happen between now and then. 

Where to start? Perhaps the beginning. 

Another morning dawns. Gentle purple receding from the open wound of pink as tides of orange begin flowing in on a sea of puffy pillows. If there is one thing in The Unprecedented that hasn’t changed it’s how beautifully a day can start. It’s almost enough to make up for the fact that the rest of the day will be just like all the others.

Almost.

In our Quadrant, the disease threat has lowered significantly but is ever looming. We are still in the earliest stages of Limited Phase 3. Restrictions abound. Face Coverings are still required. Droplet has become a dirty word. 

We try to make the best of it, however. My mask is flamboyant and covered in sequins. On the Hard Days, I secretly pretend I am a superhero. Captain Extra. Why not? Fun is in short supply here in The Unprecedented. It’s important to steal joy whenever we can. 

They have finally allowed us to consume some of our rations at the Eating Houses, although only in the Outside Zone. Many have rejoiced at this development but this has slowed down the neighborhood Banana Bread and Sourdough Black Market. No one has dropped off an extra loaf on the porch in weeks. I suppose it was inevitable. After all these months, baking can no longer compete with the allure of Doom Scrolling on our devices. 

The Libraries have also opened albeit in Limited Capacity. If you stand in the Outside Zone, the Blessed Ones will gather the books you desire and place your Bag of Knowledge within the appropriate Social Distance Sector for you to pick up once they have retreated back within the safety of the doors. This small gift from the Re-Opening Committee is like a breath of fresh air when one is drowning. 

The Remote Learning begins soon. The Educators have exhausted themselves preparing, faced with an impossible task. They are most noble, rising above and beyond and then beyond some more. Although I confess if I never come across the phrase “student log-in information” again it will be too soon. Cursed be thy passwords.

Those of us tasked with the homeside of Remote Learning have made a silent pact that Happy Hour will be whenever it is needed. We shall let the boxed wine flow unimpeded by the morality of who we were in the year of Two Thousand And Nineteen. Time and Units of Alcohol have become utterly meaningless in The Unprecedented.  

Some of the people have begun forming Pods. Humans, now and forever more, are social animals. It is much needed, especially for The Small Ones, who have turned feral and have begun rejecting pants.  

I confess, there are days when it all seems much too bleak. I do not know where we would be if we couldn’t turn to the Narrative Visual Arts for comfort. All hail the Streaming Services! Praise be to Hulu! 

It is uncertain if we shall ever return to living in precedented times, but, lo, through the swirling maelstrom of this accursed New Normal, we humans still manage to adjust. Adapt. Evolve. Just like we always have. It is this thought, late at night, when the Insomnia strikes again, that brings a small measure of comfort. The thought I cling to as though to a dream, while images hazy with the mists of nostalgia begin wafting up from my subconscious. 

Of the Before Times.  

Back when Personal Space was something one took for granted, not something that was bitterly fought for and doled out like currency among one’s own family. Back when we worshipped such frivolous things as precious metals, instead of the life-giving force of Alone Time. The utter bliss of an Empty House. Only in The Unprecedented could Working Remotely be both a blessing and a curse. 

Such fools we mortals are. To not appreciate what we had while we had it. In another timeline, one that had not descended into its darkest depths, I would be forcing my Small Ones to brush their teeth right now and stuffing them into their Before Times clothes. Ones with actual buttons and zippers, instead of the ill-fitting mixed textile sacks we have grown accustomed to. My Quarantine Partner would be heading to work in the Away From Here while I walked the offspring to School. Then I would head to the Local Coffeeshop up the hill, for a pastry and a giant coffee and cloth-free conversations with friends.

But now. 

Now. 

There is no danish. Only Zoom. 

Alas, I regret nothing. It has to be done. To protect the Vulnerable Ones.

In the end, let it be known there is still hope. There is always hope. If there wasn’t, I would not be writing this to you now. Humor is our preservation and Compassion is our weapon. After so much Devastation, I only desire, above all, that We can get our Shit together enough so that You, the future generations, may thrive.

Pandemically yours, 

Your Great Elder, 

A’rill Brandolor

Breakfast for Dinner: Recipe for Disaster

SCENE: A messy living room, littered with the dead bodies of an epic battle between the Naked Barbies Battalion and the Funko Pop Regiment. Two young children, a boy and a girl, ages 6 and 4 respectively, are dramatically lying on the floor among the ruins.  

A Mother, late 30’s, comically full wine glass in hand and giving off strong swamp witch vibes, enters the room. 

Mother: Hey guys! What’s going on? 

Son: We’re BORED.

Daughter: SO BORED.

Mother: Ah, well, don’t let me interrupt. Just wanted to let you know I was going to do something different for tonight. What do you guys think about breakfast for dinner?

Son: What’s breakfast for dinner?

Mother: It’s, you know, when you have breakfast for dinner. 

Son: I don’t understand.

Mother: Breakfast. For dinner. I’ll make eggs. Sausage. Oh! Homefries! 

Daughter: But we already ate breakfast. 

Mother: Yeah. I know. But this is breakfast for dinner. 

*sound of crickets*

Mother: It’s fun. 

Son: Why?

Mother: Why is it fun?

Son: Yeah.

Daughter: Yeah. 

Mother: Because…it’s different. It’s, I don’t know. Breaking the rules. Eating breakfast food at night. We’re culinary rebels. Also, bacon. 

Daughter: Can we have chocolate for dinner instead?

Mother: No. 

Daughter: But chocolate is fun. 

Son: But you always say we can’t have macaroni and cheese for breakfast.

Mother: Yeah. And?

Son: And you said we couldn’t have macaroni and cheese for breakfast because it’s not a breakfast food but now you’re saying we can eat breakfast food for dinner. Were you lying?

Mother: No. Look, it’s just something fun.

Son: Macaroni and cheese is fun. 

Mother: We’re not talking about macaroni and cheese. We’re talking about dinner tonight. 

Son: OK. But can we have macaroni and cheese for breakfast tomorrow?

Mother: No.  

Son: Can we have macaroni and cheese as breakfast for dinner tonight?

Mother: No! Look, you guys aren’t getting the whole spirit of this thing. 

Daughter: There is always chocolate. Everyone likes chocolate. 

Son: I don’t understand. What are the rules!? 

Mother: It only goes one way. You can have breakfast for dinner but not dinner for breakfast.

Son: Why?

Mother: Because a society has to have rules or it falls apart. 

Son: Society is dumb.

Mother: Yes, it is. 

Son: So we can have macaroni and cheese?

Mother: *let’s out primal scream*

Daughter: Gummi bears are also fun. 

The Father enters the room, oblivious. 

Father: Hey gang, what are we thinking for dinner? 

The Mother drains her wine glass. She lets out an impressive burp. 

Mother: Pizza. 

Son: Yay!

Daughter: Yay! 

Father: Again? 

Daughter: Can we get chocolate pizza?

Mother: I’m going to get more wine.

END SCENE