Mom is always right, even when she’s wrong

To my dearest, dearest children,

You two are the light of my life. I love you both so much. Which is why I’m writing this even though it’s…difficult. Very difficult, in fact. For me. Your mother. To admit this. But it’s important you know this so…

Sigh…

Listen up and listen hard because you will never hear this ever again.

I was wrong.

Long exhale…

BUT I AM RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE. AND ALL FUTURE THINGS. ALL OF THEM.

However, ok, yes, I was wrong about this ONE thing. You guys were actually wonderful on our recent vacation.

I spent all that time moaning and whining about how awful I expected you guys to be; the likely sleepless nights we’d share, the public tantrums you’d likely have, the running off and disappearing into the ocean you’d likely do, tarnishing my reputation as a mom forever.

And then…nothing. You guys behaved. Not only that, you were charming and sweet and loving. It was like living in one of those old black-and-white photos of the Kennedy family on the beach.

Now, in my defense, it’s easy to assume the worst when it comes to children. Because I’ve seen your worst. On multiple occasions. And I think we can all agree that when it’s bad, it’s BAD. So bad. All the bad. And neither of you is shy about proving it.

There’s the dual meltdowns in restaurants where I have to scream to the waitress over your screaming “AND THE KIDS WILL HAVE A GRILLED CHEESE AND I’LL HAVE AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS, THANKS!” The waiting in line at the store where you’re hitting each other but not the normal little kid hitting. Oh no. The “reenacting scenes from ‘Atomic Blonde’” level of hitting (no more playing with the remotes anymore, by the way, kids). And, my personal favorite, the night-night time “I don’t want to brush my teeth!” freakouts that end with me screaming so loud I’m worried my neighbors now know what kind of mom I actually am.

But nope. None of that. This vacation was everything a vacation is supposed to be. Fun. Exciting. Even, believe it or not, a tad bit relaxing.

I mean, you slept. You both slept. Through the night. Every night. You slept so well, in fact, that I was worried you had maybe both been replaced by changelings. (Luckily a third glass of wine made me realize that I was totally ok with raising the changelings instead of you as long as they kept up these fantastic sleeping patterns.) 

You didn’t complain about the food. You even ate some of it. Which allowed me and your dad to eat. And eat we did. We ate everything. We ate whatever is the scientific amount of calories you can eat in one sitting without dying. And we did it three times a day. Every day.

You occupied yourselves. You played together. Without us. Which allowed us to sit back and drink the aforementioned wine from the big fancy box we had brought like the big fancy people we clearly are.

You were polite to every cashier, every waiter, every little old lady who stopped and gushed over your red hair for 15 minutes.

You were…simply wonderful.

Which leads me to the conclusion that, clearly, the key to an amazing vacation is to dread it. (And to put that dread into writing. And post it online. For all to see.)

And as such, I look forward to dreading many more vacations with you.

Love,

Momma

 

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An imagination vacation of utter relaxation

It has been a long, hard winter. Followed by several weeks of spring that were a long, hard winter. Followed by one nice day. And then two more weeks of snow.

On top of this, my husband has just finished a huge project at work. He worked nights, weekends. For months, he was either at work or at home working. At one point he got so stressed out he stopped talking in complete sentences.

Neither of these things, of course, registered with our kids, who still wanted to do things and learn things and go places and, in general, needed constant parenting even though we were a man down and living on Hoth.

“Can we go outside, Momma?”

“No, baby, there’s a snowstorm.”

“Can Daddy take us outside?”

“No, baby. Daddy is crying in the kitchen and stress-eating frosting straight from the can.”

Which is why we are taking a much-needed vacation in a few days. I mean, we NEED this as a family. NEED IT. Everyone is snippy and crabby and a few other highly descriptive words I can’t use because this is a family website.

So, we are heading to a cottage resort on the Maine coast. I even sprang for the fancy big cottage. With an ocean view. And a fireplace. And a porch. And separate bedroom for the kids. A separate bedroom that hopefully locks and is soundproof.

As I’m sure you can guess, I cannot wait. Here’s how I imagine it will be:

Everyone will wake up in a great mood on the morning we are supposed to leave. The sun will be shining and birds will be singing and then the little singing birdies will help me get the kids dressed. In fact, the morning goes so smoothly that we realize (as we coolly and calmly climb into the car) that we have time to go out to eat for breakfast. Which is how we find that adorable diner with the sassy waitress who entertains the kids so my husband and I can actually eat our food and drink our coffee and have a conversation instead of shoveling it all in and grunting at each other.

The kids will then immediately fall asleep in the car until we arrive at the cottage (which is even bigger than we thought) and the weather will be 75 and sunny every day with a light breeze.

We will spend our days wandering through the quaint little town and walking along the seashore and eating too much food and drinking too much beer and buying frivolous things we don’t need because, hey, we’re on vacation.

I will read at least three books and finally make a dent in that giant magazine pile that’s been building for months.

Every night the kids will immediately fall asleep in their SEPARATE bedroom at 8 p.m. while my husband and I sit on the porch and drink even more adult beverages and talk about everything and nothing and make-out like gross teenagers.

And, of course, I will take a thousand photos and look back upon this vacation as one of the best times of our lives.

Sigh. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Yeah. Except, I have gone to too many places with my kids to delude myself into really believing all that. So, here is how our vacation is actually likely to go down:

We will leave the house approximately two hours late because of multiple pants-related tantrums. Breathless and sweaty and irritated, we will shove the kids into their car seats as they cry and we curse under our breaths. Once we are finally on the road, I will start hurling handfuls of Cheerios into the backseat because the kids won’t stop whining about how hungry they are. About 45 minutes in, we will have to turn around because one of them forgot their woobie even though they were reminded 12 times not to forget their woobie.

Back on the road, AGAIN, we will keep turning up the radio to drown out the “how much longer?” whining from the oldest and the hysterical sobbing from the youngest.

The cottage will be much smaller than we thought and the weather forecast will predict rain the entire time we are there. Possibly snow. And as soon as we get our luggage out of the car, the kids will start complaining about how bored they are. When I angrily snap back at them “I don’t care,” the youngest will get her revenge by throwing all my books into the toilet.

The kids will play on the beach for exactly 14 minutes before wanting to move onto something else, both oblivious to the fact they are covered head to toe in sand. After cleaning them up, we will try to go out to eat but never actually get to sit down at the same time because the youngest keeps figuring out how to get down from the highchair like some tiny rabid Houdini and the oldest chooses right now to poop his pants.

Very soon after this we’ll say screw it and head back to the cottage where we’ll put the kids to bed early and open a bottle of wine and start a fire in the fireplace. As soon as the glass hits our lips, our daughter will start crying. Which wakes up our son. Who also then starts crying. And they’ll both end up in bed with us. Where they kick and squirm all night. And my husband and I end up awake but unable to move for the next eight hours, just laying there in a hell of our own making.

And, of course, I will take a thousand photos and then leave my cell phone in the bathroom of that restaurant, which I will only remember as soon as we are back home.

Sigh.

But THE POINT IS we are going on vacation. Where, no matter what, memories will be made.

And hey, in just a few short decades, we’ll only be able to remember the good ones.

Hopefully.

 

House Hunters: Normal People Edition

Now that I’m in my mid-30’s, I like to think I have a good handle on my strengths and weaknesses. For example…

Strengths:

Writing good-ish.

Keeping my children alive.

Playing beer pong.

Weaknesses:

Pronouncing the names of fancy wines

Eating only one doughnut.

Buying a home.

It’s that last one that I’m now having to confront (she types while dipping her third doughnut into a glass of unpronounceable fancy wine). See, I am a lifelong renter. I’ve lived in three states, moved into six different places, and throughout it all I’ve managed to dodge this Great American Milestone.

On purpose.

In fact, very few things in this world make me more exhausted than even the mere thought of buying a house. It’s just so involved. So complicated. So very, very boring. The whole home owner rigmarole doesn’t interest me in the least. I’m horrible at interior decorating (every room should just be filled with overloaded bookshelves). I’ve never gardened (my windowsill basil plant left a suicide note). And I’ve survived quite well thus far not knowing what any tool besides a hammer is.

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If it were up to me, I’d just move into an abandoned library and leave it as is. Each kid would get their own shelf to sleep in and I’d build us a couch out of Stephen King paperbacks.

Speaking of kids, I made two of them. I made HUMANS. From SCRATCH. And it was still less painful and panic-inducing to me than buying a house is.

Because for all the incomprehensible things my kids do, they have never asked me for a $43,000 down payment. Or asked me to figure out what the hell an escrow is (not a bird, in case you were wondering, like I was).

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I mean, it’s a house. Shelter. One of humanities basic needs. We used to just murder a bunch of trees and stick ‘em on top of each other and be done with it.

But trying to procure one now (especially when you live on a budget that includes arguments over how many paper towels someone just wasted because paper towels ain’t cheap, RYAN) is completely overwhelming.

The whole process needs to be vastly simplified. Here’s how it should go, in my opinion.

See a house.

Tell whoever I see first at the bank, hey, I would like that house.

Pay us this reasonable amount every month for 30 years, random bank clerk responds.

OK, great. Where do I sign?

Here.

Move in.

BOOM. Done.

But no. We need a real estate agent and an appraiser and a bank loan officer and a mortgage lender and a mortgage broker and a home inspector and an insurance agent and then there is the seller and the seller’s agent and the title company and zzzzzzzzzz…

And that’s not counting all the research we have to do first into the neighborhood and the crime rate and the school district. Followed by all the competing bids we’ll have to make against all the other parents who also researched that same good neighborhood with the low crime rate and the decent school district.

Oh, that we could just continue renting forever. Or start squatting in an abandoned library.

But, sigh, the kids. Our kids. They deserve roots. They deserve a community and a good school they don’t have to leave because our rent skyrocketed and we had no control over it. They deserve a place to permanently call home.

I want to give them these things. I really do. I just don’t know why I have to go through 24 people sporting garish blazers first (at least three of whom will be named Sharon) in order to make that happen.

I love where we live now. But short of me marrying our landlord, which my husband for some reason is vehemently opposed to, there is no guarantee we’ll be able to stay indefinitely.

So, as they say, let the house hunting begi…zzzzzzzzzzzz

 

Insomnia is the new black

You know a fun time to start thinking every thought in the entire world? From 2-5 a.m. Although 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. is also fantastic. Or, on really special occasions, both of those time frames in the same night.

How many baby wipes do we have left?

What’s the date? When are taxes due?

I forgot to clip the dog’s toenails again. Poor baby. He’s practically walking on stilts.

How can Anna Faris possibly have moved on from Chris Pratt already?

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Just laying there in bed. All snuggled up. All quiet and calm. While your brain races around like its been soaking in a solution of bath salts and Red Bull.

I don’t care what my husband says. I’m still pretty sure I could outrun a bear.

I should sign up for another 5K. See if Emily wants to run with me.

Man, when is the last time I talked to Emily? It’s been…months. She probably thinks I’m an awful human being.

Oh good, now I’m going to painstakingly analyze every female relationship I’ve ever had one by one to search for signs of just how awful and selfish I am.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve suffered from insomnia. It’s happened periodically for months at a time throughout my life. Even as a kid I dealt with it. But this current bout is particularly cruel since both my kids are now sleeping consistently through the night. So, of course, now that I finally can, I can’t.

Insomnia. Is that a good column idea? Probably not.

What was the name of that mom I met on the playground again? Sounded something like Blippy? Or maybe it was Karen? Ugh. Why can’t everyone in the world just wear name tags?

Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook. Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook. Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook.

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The bags under my eyes are so heavy I have to pay an extra baggage fee every time I fly in an airplane. I’m having trouble finishing my sentences because my brain is on auto-pilot. In fact, my 4-year-old has gotten really good at finishing my thoughts for me.

Me: Honey, please finish your…um…

Riker: Food?

Me: Yes. Thank you. And then put your plate into the…thing…the place…

Riker: Kitchen?

If I fall asleep RIGHT NOW, I can still get a solid three hours. Sigh. Breathe. Relax…

Where did that giant mystery bruise on my thigh come from? I wonder if, when you die, along with learning all the mysteries of the universe, you also get a montage of all the times you got a mystery bruise and what actually caused them.

Speaking of montages, how do I stop this memory that just arose unbidden of that time I got really drunk when I was 29 and made an ass out of myself?

It sucks being bad at a necessary biological function. I don’t want sleeping pills. I want to be able to hear if my children need me in the middle of the night. And life isn’t worth living if I have to give up coffee. So right now I’m just trying to ride it out. Clinging to the hope that the insomnia will end on its own soon.

I know I don’t have to pee now but I probably will in roughly 17 minutes so maybe I should just get up and go now.

I should really change all my passwords again. Except I don’t know any of my current passwords.

I’m going to die before I watch all the shows I want to and before reading all the books in the world. That’s so DEPRESSING.

Maybe insomnia is a good column idea.

Chris Pratt should marry Aubrey Plaza in real life. That would show Anna.

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I now dread going to bed. I know the only thing that awaits me is tossing and turning. Racing thoughts. Irrational anger at the quiet snoring of both my husband and my dog.

And then there’s the whole pretending to be a functioning human being the next day.

But I guess it could be worse. It could be…um…the…

Uh…you know…

Hey, Riker! Come over here…

Important brain thoughts from an exhausted parent

I have a confession. I’m supposed to be writing right now. Which, yes, “technically” I am. I am “technically” stringing together letters into words and those words into sentences.  

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t really want to be writing right now. My brain is mush. Just a mushy, mushy, leaky puddle of its former self. This has been a particularly trying week and my children have sunk their adorable tiny little teeth into my skull and sucked out all the good bits. All that’s left is the part that instinctively knows when they are trying to climb up the unsecured bookcase and the part that knows the theme song to “Golden Girls.”

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In fact, I’m starting to suspect that part of the deal when you become a parent is that you help your children’s brains grow by sacrificing your own.

And so today, well, today I just don’t have it in me to write a coherent 800 words on some amusing and absurd aspect of life. I barely had it in me to brush my teeth this morning.

Which is why the bulk of this column is just going to be unrelated random musings because that’s all the poor, overworked, single brain cell left functioning in my head can handle right now.

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So…*drums nails on keyboard*…y’all want to talk about coffee? So good, right? I lost count but I’m on something like my seventh cup. I wonder who was the first person who looked at a coffee bean plant and said “How would it taste if we burned the crap out of this and poured hot water over it?” Whoever it is, they deserve a holiday and a fancy parade. Screw Columbus. Let’s have Coffee Inventor Day.

You know what else is awesome? “Jessica Jones” on Netflix.

I don’t have a follow-up to that. Just that it’s awesome.

How come you never see wild hamsters? Unrelated but equally important, what is nougat? I mean, it’s in candy bars, but what IS it?

Here are some important geographical observations:

Everyone in the Northeast eats a lot of ice cream in the winter.

There hasn’t been an official vote, but I’m pretty sure Mountain Dew is the official drink of my home state of Ohio.

If you want to start a fight in the South, try casually suggesting that sweet tea is gross. (And start running the second you see someone’s grandma taking off her earrings).

By my count, 80’s fashion has come back no less than four times since the actual 1980’s.

Does everyone hate the substitute meteorologist who occasionally fills in for the regular meteorologist on their morning TV news show or am I just being ridiculously unfair to Barry and his stupid face?

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The other day I overheard two young women talking. The one was telling the other “I, like, literally, and this wasn’t my choice at all, but I literally watched him play video games all night. And at one point he told me, ‘you seem bored.’ Like, yeah, I’m bored.” And it took every ounce of willpower I had not to whip out my best Tina Fey impression and yell “that’s a dealbreaker, ladies!”

Then, after I walked away, I almost turned around to do my best “he’s just not that into you” Miranda Hobbes impression but managed to stop myself again. Because I’m a grown-up.

God, I hope she doesn’t marry him.

And lastly, I recently found out that Madeleine L’Engle, the famous author of the “A Wrinkle in Time” series, had three kids, had her manuscript rejected 30 times before it was published and had almost given up writing on her 40th birthday because she was still not pulling her own weight financially even after all the hours she spent writing.  

So there is some tiny sliver of hope for all of us hardworking creative souls out there who are drowning in parenting responsibility but are desperately still pursuing our own passions while wading those choppy waters every day. It’s hard giving up nights, weekends, whatever meager free time we have. But we keep going. Even on the mushy brain weeks. For a very important reason.

That I can’t think of right now.

But probably because your heart is true and you’re a pal and confidant.

 

Beggars can be choosers

Do you have pearls on right now? If so, prepare to clutch them…

I no longer care what my kids eat.

Oh yeah. I said it. And I mean it. This nose ring and these tattoos aren’t just for show. I’m a rebel mom. (slowly pulls off motorcycle helmet and shakes out hair)

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I. Don’t. Care. You hear me, world? I DON’T CARE.

OK, OK, I do care. Of course I care. I’m a mom. (sets down motorcycle helmet and puts on cardigan) I’ll care about what my kids eat until the day I die. In fact, my last words will likely be “are you eating enough vegetables, honey?”

However, I did have an epiphany recently that means I will no longer fight with my kids over what they eat at dinner. (takes off cardigan and puts on cardigan decorated with skulls!)

I was 35 the first time I tried cream cheese on a bagel. My whole life, up until that fateful day, I had dutifully been spreading butter on my bagels. Like an idiot.

I have two college degrees, am a voracious reader, spent years working as a journalist, and literally thought cream cheese on a bagel was icky for no other reason than I decided it was icky one day as a small child despite having never tried it. And I held onto that belief for multiple decades despite the whole world telling me it was one of the most delicious combos ever dreamed up by humans.

And when I finally did try it (AT THE AGE OF 35), it was so amazing I literally stole the other half of the bagel from my 3-year-old son.

Worst of all is that this is just the latest in a series of foods I finally tried as an adult that I spent my whole life thinking were icky.

I was 21 before I tried coffee (and 27 when I tried it black for the first time).

I was 25 before I tried hummus.

I was 28 when I first tried guacamole.

And the first half of my 30’s has been busy trying and falling in love with crab rangoon, artichoke hearts, falafel, spinach dip, reuben sandwiches and all the cheeses outside of the “colby” range.

So, I no longer care what my kids choose to eat off their plates. Because, honestly, how can I expect them to have a more reasonable attitude toward food than I do? A grown woman who still has never tasted a mushroom (AT THE AGE OF 36) because the word fungus makes me cringe?

“But, Aprill!” I hear you yelling at the screen as you clutch those pearls. “You don’t want your kids to end up like you, do you!? Isn’t that all the more reason to force them to try stuff?”

And yes, you’re right. I don’t want my kids to be 35 and just realizing that cream cheese is the delicious glue that holds our entire society together. However, my mom once forced me to eat a tomato when I was six and we had a three hour standoff over it and it became a core memory and one that I tell everyone about and I still, to this day, hate tomatoes and refuse to eat them. So, that method isn’t always foolproof either.

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More importantly, I’d much rather my kids have a sane mother, a mother who is not angry and frustrated at every meal, than for them to have a diverse palate. I no longer want to be the mom who hijacks dinner over a bite of corn. Because that is what every meal was starting to feel like. A hostage situation. With exhausting and tedious negotiations. It got to the point that everyone was starting to dread meal time.

Which is why I’m taking dinner back. I want to sit around and talk about our day and laugh and joke and relax. I want breakfast to be a bonding experience and not a waterboarding experience. I want to hand them their lunch plates and when they say “I don’t want to eat that,” I simply respond “OK, just eat the other stuff” and BOOM. We move onto other things.

It’s a gamble, sure. My kids will likely end up with scurvy. But then again, pretty much all of parenthood is one giant gamble, isn’t it?

In the end, having a bowl of peas on the table that everyone ignores is a pretty small price to pay for wonderful memories sitting around the kitchen table with the people you love.

And besides, peas are icky.