Go play with your sister. That’s why we had her.

Guys, we’re going to have to change the meaning of the word “natural.” It’s either that or stop referring to anything related to motherhood and parenting as “natural.”

Take breastfeeding. Feeding your child with your very own body. It’s often claimed this is, and I quote, “the most natural thing in the world.” It is not. It is semi-aggressively shoving a sore and tattered body part over and over into your tiny baby’s piranha mouth until they finally latch on correctly. Which they have no idea how to do and you have no idea how to get them to do. Which is why you’re both crying and screaming while your husband and your mother and the lactation specialist all crowd around and take turns violently squishing said sore and tattered body part into various shapes in a vain effort to help.


Then, even when they get older, eating does not come naturally to children. Nor does eating natural foods. Every day is another scene in the ongoing play “Here’s Food, Little Humans!” And every day ends in the same climatic final scene, with the kids yelling, “Oh no, we can’t eat that! That has actual nutrients in it! We demand Cheetos with some Play-Doh dip on the side!”

Sleep? Pffft. Forget it. Getting a kid to sleep “naturally” in their bed requires months of training, semi-professional ninja skills and, when all else fails, sacrificing a small goat to the deity of your choosing.

Kids even turn bodily functions into an absurd struggle. There is nothing natural about potty training. Even animals know not to crap where they sleep. Humans have to be rewarded with stickers and candy for months, sometimes years, before they finally relent and agree that yeah, sleeping is easier when you don’t have a pantsful of poop.

And there is nothing, NOTHING, natural about the unholy and indescribable agony you feel when stepping on a child’s Lego, which I imagine is its own level down in Hell. Just a big ‘ol round room where the floor is covered in Legos and Satan tells you “you can leave as soon as you find a corner.”  

But perhaps the one that surprised me the most is that siblings don’t naturally know how to play with each other. At least my kids don’t. A fact I have oh-so-delightfully been discovering as they get older.

Every day I practically have to introduce the two.

“Oh, Riker, you remember your sister, the tiny creature who ruined your awesome only child existence? Why don’t you see if she wants to play Stormtroopers?”

“Mae, this is your brother. He also thinks it’s fun to spin around until you want to puke, unlike me, your mother. How about you ask him to spin around for 27 minutes straight?”

And every day, they both tell me the exact same thing.

“No! I want to play with YOU, Momma!”

If I am anywhere in the vicinity, forget it. They basically treat me like a portable playground, just clinging and swinging from any body part they can grab onto while I desperately run past on my way to the bathroom or the kitchen or the basement to do exciting things like shower or cook or find a dark corner to inject sugar and carbohydrates directly into my veins.

I just don’t get it. They’re only two years apart. And yet, the oldest seems to view his sister as merely a pet, but like a pet with mange and rabies and thus a pet that should be avoided at all costs.

And I always thought the younger sibling was supposed to worship the older one, following them around like some moon-eyed pet. Not my daughter. Nope. She always seems to be plotting how to overthrow her brother, as though he were an heir to some fabulous kingdom. Even though I keep reminding her that our kingdom is small and in debt and has a wonky dishwasher that is on the fritz. 

It may be time to admit that my two beautiful, smart, funny, kind, wonderful children are duds in the sibling department.

But hey, it’s not like the only reason we had two kids is so that they would have someone to play with. We also had two kids so they can pool their money when they get older and send me and their father to a top-notch swanky retirement home.



Dating your spouse & other unfair adult things

For a 10-year-old who used to fantasize about going on elaborate dates with Jonathan Taylor Thomas to an almost excessive degree, I grew up to be a not very romantic adult. Take Valentine’s Day, for instance. I’ve never been a big fan. I don’t like a holiday dictating when I should shave my legs.

Or Sweetest Day, for that matter. What is this thing? Valentine’s Day 2: Buy Harder?

Not that I think there’s anything wrong with romance, per se. I’m just more a believer in spontaneous romance. The unexpected slow dance in the living room. The bouquet of flowers on a random Monday. The “I’m bringing pizza home for dinner!” text.

Followed by the “And beer!” text.

Which probably explains my whole “thing” about date night.

See, kids, when a man and a woman love each other very much, they spend a boatload on tulle and fancy almonds so they can get married. And then they do a special hug, which results in children and never being able to pee alone again. And, after awhile, although the man and the woman still love each other, they kind of forget they are actual human beings and not just cogs in a butt wiping factory.

Which is why date night was invented.

If you talk to most parents, they will say that hiring a babysitter and going out for an evening is vitally important to your relationship so that you and your partner can reconnect and remember that at one point you could carry on an entire conversation that didn’t involve the words “poop” or “smear” or “we’ll probably have to move, that smell is never coming out.” And I’m not here to argue that. I agree with date nights in theory.

It’s just in the execution that it’s flawed.

When you have kids, especially young kids, it doesn’t matter if you want to go out or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re exhausted or not in the mood or already had big plans to eat an entire cheesecake while watching “Cougar Town” once the kids were asleep. You simply force yourself to go out if and when some idiot agrees to watch your adorable, ridiculous children (who just invented a game where you chase them around with a flashlight for six hours straight).

Which is why my husband and I went on a date night last week when my mom was visiting from out of town. The last thing we wanted to do was reconnect. We wanted dual naps while an IV dripped vodka into our veins. But what did we do? We went out because, hey, we had bagged us an idiot.

Now, I don’t know how your date nights usually go, but ours usually follows the same script. The conversation always starts off awkward.

Me: Hey.

Him: Hey.

Then we actually look at each other and it gets even worse.

Me: Have you always had that much white in your beard?

Him: When’s the last time you brushed your hair?

Then we spend a few minutes venting.

Me: If your daughter takes her diaper off one more time, we’re not paying for her college.

Him: He keeps headbutting my crotch. I know I can’t do it back to him but, seriously, just one time and he’d probably stop.

Then it gets lame:

Me: God, I’m so tired.

Him: So tired.

Real lame.

Me: I mean, just so tired.

Him: How long have we been gone?

Me (checks watch): 12 minutes.

And then we remember that alcohol exists.

Me: I’ll take a bottle of Merlot.

Bartender: To share?

Me: Hahahaha

Him: What is the closest thing I can pour into my mouth? I’ll take three.

Bartender: Uh…

Which quickly leads to things like:

Me: I am going to finish my novel this year. I’ll write nights, weekends, whatever it taks.

Him: Yes, you need to. I’ve always thought so. You’re talented even if you don’t think so.

Me: Well, so are you! Look at all you’ve accomplished so far. All you do for us, it’s just…

Him: Well, I couldn’t do it without you by my side. *cheers*

And later:

Me: I LOVE YOU SO #$%@*&^ MUCH.



And that is ultimately why we drag our exhausted, bedraggled asses out on date night. Even if we don’t want to. Because in the end it is necessary. Because it works. Because before all of us there was a we. A we with hopes and dreams and passions and unique personalities and a much higher tolerance for alcohol.

And sometimes we forget.


I’m telling my mom on you.

I like to think I’m a mature person. Mature-ish at the very least. Especially since I became a mother. Because when the world hands you a screaming, leaking lump of fragile human clay and expects you to keep it alive for 18 years, you grow up a bit in spite of yourself.

I can now even say the word Uranus without giggling.


But let me tell you, the first time I heard my own mom scold my misbehaving kids, telling them they better behave and listen to their mother or else, I gloated. Oh, I gloated so hard.

(Internally, of course. I am mature-ish, afterall.)

But you could not have wiped that Cheshire Cat grin off my face with a jackhammer.

“Oh yeah,” I thought to myself. “Memaw just put the smack down on you. Who’s a stupid poopy-head now, tiny humans?”

I’m not necessarily proud of this. But then again, I’m not necessarily ashamed.

It can be lonely at the top of the family hierarchy. Heavy is the head that wears the crown made of macaroni your offspring made you at day camp. And nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to disciplining.

Now that my kids are 4 and 20-months-old, respectively, my days have devolved into one long verbal parade of “no.” Oh look, there’s the “Knock It Off” float. And the “Please Stop” marching band. And the “Don’t Do That Again” men in the funny hats riding the tiny cars.

And, perhaps my personal favorite, the “And That’s Why We Don’t Stick Our Hands In The Toilet” cheerleaders.

It’s exhausting. Especially because you have to constantly be vigilant about disciplining. And correcting. And punishing. One tiny little inconsistency and BOOM. The whole wobbly stack of cards your authority rests on comes crumbling down.  

Because small children are relentless. And merciless. And love nothing more than finding a loophole in your disciplining and squeezing their squirmy little tooshies through it.

So, when someone else with familial authority steps in and disciplines your children while simultaneously giving credence to your own parental authority, it feels like one of those deus ex machina moments in a book or a movie, where the hand of God comes down and fixes everything.

At least for the next 15 minutes.

This is particularly a big deal for me since both my mom and my husband’s mom live far away. Which can make it feel like my husband and I are ruling on a remote island that is constantly under threat of a coup from the restless peasants. Just last week they were screaming “LET US EAT CAKE!” while trying to bang down our bedroom door as we huddled under the blankets, clinging to each other.

But when either one of our moms comes to visit, oh…oh, it’s like watching Cleopatra riding into the city with her giant army of weaponized cookies and stickers, ready to take over and restore order.

Because grandparents, and especially grandmothers, enjoy a different sort of authority. Parents, by necessity, usually end up becoming dictators. Otherwise chaos reigns. But grandparents are more like benevolent royalty. Since they are a degree removed from the children, (unlike us dictators who are forced to live side by side with them), Grandma and Pop-pop can show up, shower them with jewels and snickerdoodles, and earn their obedience without any bloodshed.

And it just so happens that my mom is in town this week for a visit. Which is why I am out in a coffee shop right now writing this, disastrously mixing up my political and historical metaphors in peace, instead of strolling the hallways of the gulag that was formerly my house.

What’s going on inside my house right now? I have no idea. And better yet, I don’t care. Because a divine parental authority even more ancient than mine has taken over.

And for this week I say, hell, let ‘em eat cake.


One thousand birthday hats

Here’s an interesting question you’ve probably never been asked before: Did you know it was possible to be bad at celebrating?

Me neither.

And then I had kids.

My children are awful at celebrating. Just terrible. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. They’re hopeless. They’re even bad at those faux holidays like National Talk Like A Pirate Day (you should hear their sorry excuse for a pirate accent).

I’m hoping it’s just their ages but it’s getting to the point that I’m slightly worried this may turn into a permanent part of their personalities.

Take this past Christmas, for example. First of all, I had to wake them up. A baby and a 3-year-old. I woke THEM up. The only day of the year their sleep-deprived mother would happily get up at 4 a.m. and they decide it’s the only day of the year they want to sleep in. And then, after every present they opened, they wanted to STOP and actually play with that gift instead of ripping into all the other brightly wrapped packages like demented honey badgers. You know, like the rest of us red-blooded Americans do with our presents.

Before that was our anti-climatic Halloween. After getting candy at maybe six houses, my oldest proclaims “ok, let’s go home now.” I mean, who does that? A tiny human dressed like a Viking riding a dinosaur apparently.

And don’t even get me started on Thanksgiving. Eight hours of cooking only to have both of them eat a roll in under three minutes and ask “can we have pie now?”

And those are the major events. They’re even worse at the holidays on the JV squad.

On St. Patrick’s Day, they didn’t want to leave the house. My red-headed children. On the holiest day of the year for redheads. Those selfish un-fun offspring of mine also refused to wear the tiny leprechaun outfits I bought them even AFTER I explained that Mommy and Daddy might be able to score a free beer at a pub if they would just play along.  

Valentine’s Day? Forget it. Same with Easter. Last July, when my youngest turned one, it’s like she didn’t even KNOW it was her birthday. And neither could care less about the fact their mommy and daddy will be celebrating eight years of marriage this month without any attempted murder charges on either of their records (no small feat, thank you very much).

It’s not entirely their fault, I suppose. I mean, children are perpetually living in the present and feel they deserve cake at any given moment. So, it’s understandable they just don’t “get” the big deal about special days. (Whereas us adults are caught in a horrific loop living between the past and the future, skipping the present entirely, and feel guilty eating cake even if we do deserve it. Which is probably why we do love holidays and birthdays so much. It forces us to act like kids for a day.)

Plus, in all fairness, my youngest just figured out was an elbow was so the intricacies of societal celebrations might be a bit above her paygrade.

But next weekend will be the real test. My oldest will be turning 4-years-old. The first birthday he’ll probably remember and the first that he gets to have opinions on.

So far, the outlook isn’t great seeing as how I’m currently more excited than he is. Here is how our conversation about his birthday plans went:

Me: What do you want for your birthday, baby?

Him: Oh, um, how about some presents?

Me: Sure. Yeah. Any specific ones?

Him: No. Just some presents.

Me: Awesome. That’s really helpful. What kind of cake do you want?

Him: Oh, um, how about carrots?

Me: Like, carrot cake?

Him: No.

Me: So, you want carrots instead of a birthday cake?

Him: No. I want cake.

Me: Well, that clears everything up. Anything else?

Him: I want a birthday hat.


I’m still determined though to make it the best birthday ever. Because even if he may not get the big deal, I do. His life deserves to be celebrated in a big, big way. Because he is amazing. Because he is smart and wonderful and kind and funny. Because the world is a better place with him in it. Because the beginning of his life marked one of the greatest days of my life. And because every day since that first day has only gotten better.

Now, does anyone know where I can buy a thousand birthday hats?


To Whom It May Concern (yes, you)

I didn’t want it to have to come to this. No one ever does. Love means never having to hire a lawyer. Or at least it should.

But, alas, here we are. It is indeed regrettable but unfortunately necessary at this point.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you, dear children, that you are in violation of our prenatal agreement.


Actually, you’ve both been in violation of various parts of it for quite some time now. Remember Section 1, Subsection C, Paragraph 2? Thou shall not give the mother stretch marks?

(Note: I don’t really know much legal jargon so I just mixed in a bunch of Biblical vocabulary to make it sound more official. Also I was getting high on cheeseburgers every day during the drafting of the original document so I can’t really be held responsible for my state of mind at the time).

Well, I do have stretch marks. Lots of them. My hips look like they’ve been mauled by a cranky tiger.


But since you both kept up your end of the Principal Birth Accord and came out healthy and with the appropriate amount of digits, I’m willing to waive the Stretch Mark Clause. Especially in light of the fact that you have both remained healthy and have kept all the aforementioned digits in excellent condition. (Although I do feel it pertinent to remind you at this juncture that Section 5, Paragraph 6 forbids those digits from coming within three inches of the nasal area).

However, I need you both to immediately cease and desist with any and all public tantrums. A fetus is able to hear inside the womb starting at around 16 weeks, so I know you heard me when I said “you are never allowed to flop on the floor, kicking and screaming, while occupying space on public property.” This is what’s known as a verbal agreement, kids. Which is legally binding.


Which means that last week, when the two of you threw a simultaneous tantrum inside the grocery store because you both got the exact same number of stickers from the cashier, which made Defendant No. 1 mad because, and I quote, “I wanted more stickers than her,” and made Defendant No. 2 mad because, and I quote “MORE ‘DICKERS, MOMMA,” you were in violation of Section 8, Subsection K, Paragraph 2, AND Paragraph 7 (the latter of which specifies that any and all tantrums may not be about something ridiculous and/or dumb).

And did you or did you not kick my bladder in acquiescence when I asked you to agree that thou shalt never complain about what I cooked for dinner? Let me refresh your memory: You both did. Hard. In fact, one of you agreed so heartily that I peed myself a little.

And yet, almost every meal that is not composed of just a giant bowl of ketchup is met with a resounding chorus of whining and various other dramatic theatrics. Meaning you are in violation of Section 10, Paragraph 37, also known as the “Shut Up And Eat It” stipulation.

And I think we can all agree that last night’s flagrant disregard of Section 17, Paragraph 1, commonly referred to as the “No Pooping in the Tub” restriction, was highly regrettable and caused no small amount of distress, both mentally and physically, for all involved.    

As is noted in great detail in Section 26, Subsection F, Paragraph 3 through 119 of the Prenatal Agreement, I love you both very much. Which is why, despite these unpleasant legal matters, I am still willing to act as your Maternal Unit with the priviso that you reread and reacquaint yourself with the particularities of Section 45, also known as the “Knock It Off” contingency, and Section 48, also known as the “So Help Me” eventuality.

Cordially Yours,




(Based on a true…and disgusting…story)








Everything is cold & dead & stupid & I hate it

I’ve been sitting in this coffee shop for exactly 46 minutes now. And yes, I see you over there, Annoying Hovering Couple, with that dual stink eye you’ve been giving me for the last 17 of these 46 minutes in the hopes I might feel pressured to hurry up and finish my business here so you can have my table.

But the joke is on you. Because I can’t think of anything to write and so will probably die here at this table. So take that croissant you pronounced in the uppity French manner and shove it.

Ugh. Sorry. I’m just in a foul mood. Is there anything worse than January? Well, yes. I mean, torture is pretty high up there. Human trafficking. War. Extreme drought. Animal cruelty. That gross YouTube guy. Culottes. People who put raisins in chicken salad.

But January comes in at least a solid 770 on the list of Worst Things.

It’s cold. Everything is dead. There’s only one major holiday and you spend it hungover.

The bills are starting to roll in from Christmas. Nothing fits because of those ten (fine, 12) pounds you gained over the holidays. Everyone keeps bragging about how they’ve already done their taxes while you’re over here like, it’s not even May yet. And then they correct you and tell you they’re due in April but you don’t care because you got a mad case of Seasonal Affective Disorder and everything is stupid and dumb and ugly and stupid and I hate it.  


And there are still two months of winter left to go.


I know. I know. First world problems and all that. I’m trying to see the bright side. I really am. I even flirted with the idea of giving that Danish idea of hygge a whirl. Because lighting a candle and wearing a big floofy sweater will solve everything. But then everyone on the Internet kept arguing about how to actually pronounce hygge and I got annoyed and started drinking copious amounts of wine while randomly yelling out “I’m doing Hoo-GAH!” until my husband made me go to bed.

Honestly, it wouldn’t be that bad if I could just curl up in bed with seven blankets and read a good book. Which I would read for all of five minutes until finally giving up the facade and just binge-watching all the seasons of “Arrested Development” for the third time on my laptop.   

But I can’t. Because I made the seemingly well-thought out decision to have children.  

Don’t get me wrong. Having children is great.

In the summer.

When you can go places and do things.

But in the winter? Before they’re old enough for school? Having children is inhumane.

Every morning, there they are, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and not caring that you got drunk practicing hygge the night before. Eager and ready to do things no matter how crappy it is outside. Happy and healthy and impatient for you to throw out a bunch of creative and imaginative and educational crap that their spongy little brains can soak up.

All of which I am happy to do.

In the summer.

And most of the early fall.

But all I want to do right now is hibernate in my blanket fort.

Sigh. Luckily, my love for my children is slightly stronger than my hatred of January. Which is why I took down the “No Kids Allowed” sign outside my fort. And why I will suck it up and smile and throw out a bunch of creative and imaginative and educational crap for their spongy little brains to soak up inside our fort.

Because I am a good mom.

And also because I’m trying to distract them from the fact that I am clinging to their tiny little furnace bodies for warmth.