What parents really want for Christmas

Christmas is great, isn’t it? Magical when you’re a kid. A celebration of the beautiful life and beautiful lives you’ve created when you’re a grandparent.

And a red and green tinged tsunami that destroys your home, your finances and your sanity when you’re a parent.

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Ah, yes, ‘tis truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Of course, don’t get me wrong. I still love Christmas. The endless excuses to drink booze alone is enough to make any self-respecting writer love this holiday.

I just hate that I’m the one in charge of making it happen now. The decorating, the cooking, the gift buying, the logistics of holiday travel…sigh. And no matter how much I bribe my toddler, he refuses to take over the responsibility.

Is it any wonder that this time of year turns all of us parents into stressful balls of burning rage?

So, with that in mind, I decided to create a list of what we adults of the parental persuasion really want for Christmas this year. Because, sure, another sweater is nice, but the ability to go into a store without any meltdowns over a 99 cent candy bar is the gift that keeps on giving.

And so…ahem…

Number one with a bullet: A nap.

Number two with a tomahawk: Another nap.

The ability to wrap presents without a dog or cat lying on the wrapping paper.

The ability to wrap presents without losing the scissors every 30 seconds. Ditto the tape. And that stupid pen. IT WAS JUST HERE.

To lose 10 pounds every holiday season while still eating an entire cheeseball on the couch as you watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” for the fifth time.

A working eggnog fountain (with extra bourbon) in the kitchen.

Pets and small children who consistently admire the Christmas tree from a three foot buffer zone.

Mandatory shock collars for people who whine about the war on Christmas and Starbucks holiday cups.

Actual snow on Christmas. And then we just fast forward to the month of April.

That your child forgets that VERY BAD WORD they think is hilarious to shout in public.

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No lines. None. Not to buy gifts, not to see Santa, not to get overpriced holiday-themed lattes in allegedly controversial cups.

Stabbing the Elf on a Shelf in a violent fit of rage and then burning the carcass in a cleansing ceremonial fire without scarring your children for life.

To hear “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” just once without someone pointing out how creepy and rapey it is.

A worldwide shortage of batteries.

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A worldwide surplus of wine.

Not getting further into debt.

Christmas tree lights with anti-tangle technology and a lifetime guarantee for each individual bulb.

Time to read all those books you got last year as presents.

A machine that dresses your children in winter gear so they can go play in the snow while you sip coffee and flip through a magazine.

Bags under your eyes that don’t look like you had to pay the extra airline fee because they’re so heavy.

Socks. (Seriously, I’m out).

More time to cuddle with your kids, less time cleaning up their room and explaining why we don’t take the marker and color all over Momma’s unattended watch when she’s in the other room.

Old school office Christmas parties with free booze and lampshades.

Old school office Christmas bonuses.

World peace or whatever. I guess.

But mostly, a nap.

When your online life is a hot mess

You know, it used to be back in my day (oh yes, I’m officially old enough to use that phrase unironically now) that you were only in charge of keeping one life in order. Or at least keeping it from turning into a major dumpster fire. All you had to do was keep a roof over your head (with only small-to-medium leaks tops), food in your fridge (30 plus containers of old takeout completely qualifying) and a little bit of money in the bank (at least $4) after paying all your assorted bills.

Beyond that, if you really wanted to get fancy with your adulting, you just needed health insurance, a pet (or kids, or anything that looks cute in a tiny sweater) and a close circle of family and friends you saw in person from time to time.

And I was doing a fairly decent job at keeping this one life in order. I had kept my kids alive, had a non-expired driver’s license (I think…?) and even paid taxes that one time.

But now? Pffft. Now we all have two lives.

Two.

Two lives we are in charge of keeping from imploding. And I don’t know about you but I was barely keeping afloat with the one involving the ancient lo mein noodles I just ate for breakfast.

My online life is a hot mess. Just completely in shambles. If it were a house, it’d be featured on an episode of “Hoarders.” If it were a TV character, it’d be Liz Lemon. If it were a celebrity breakdown, it’d be 2007 Britney Spears and 2013 Amanda Bynes COMBINED.

Take, for example, the fact I have multiple e-mail accounts, all of which have thousands of unread e-mails because does anyone check their e-mail anymore? And on the extremely rare occasion when I do check them, all the thousands of unread e-mails stress me out so I immediately log off and pretend it doesn’t exist. Until I get an alert that someone has hacked my e-mail, in which case I will spend 25 frustrating minutes trying to change the password, only to finally be successful and then immediately forget the new password. And some of these e-mail accounts have my maiden name and some have my married name and since I go by my maiden name it’s extremely confusing to everyone and the whole thing makes me want to cry into a pile of stamps while venting my frustrations to that Nigerian prince who is just super understanding.

I have roughly 500,000 photos languishing in folders across 23 different devices (some of these devices dating back to almost 20 years because, again, I is old). All of which I am likely never to see again (and if I ever do, the bulk will be pictures of cheese and extreme close-ups of my toddler’s nostrils).

In a similar vein, every piece of writing I’ve ever done since high school is also spending time in technology purgatory, trapped forever on old computers that belong in a sad, old person museum instead of the corner of my attic.

I have three Skype accounts. Three. Because I kept forgetting what I put as my username (unicornglitter_96? mermaidsugarpants?) and it was just easier to start a new account than trying to hack into my old account. Added bonus, if you held a gun to my head right now and asked for just one of my Skype usernames, I’d be dead instantly (joel_mchales_wife321?).

I have ancient accounts on MySpace and LinkedIn and Tumblr and Pinterest and Path and Vine that I haven’t deleted yet because frankly, I don’t know how nor care to learn.

Even watching TV now requires a password thanks to Hulu and Netflix and HBO Go (HBO Now? HBO I’m only here for “Game of Thrones”?). Passwords I never, ever remember. Nor does my husband. Leaving us both to look franticly for that Post-It I wrote down all the passwords on which we can never, ever find.

Instagram. Amazon. Twitter. Snapchat. Facebook (which guilt trips me into wishing 1,378 people I don’t know a happy birthday!!!!!! Emoji cake! Emoji martini! Emoji poop!).

All a mess.

Sigh.

And the hackers. Oh, the hackers. They love me. Because I am the perfect combination of lazy and technologically incompetent. At this point, I am on a first name basis with Todd, the dude in charge of identity theft at my credit card company.

In my defense, it is fairly easy to let your online life get out of control considering it’s out there floating in Internet space or whatever and not in your fridge gathering mold and possibly a conscience. Out of sight, out of mind and whatnot.

But I really should try to get my technology house in order. And I will. Right after I find that stupid Post-It with all the passwords on it.

 

 

 

I got thanks coming out the wazoo

Hey, have I mentioned how much I love Thanksgiving? Because I do. Oh, so much. And not just because it’s a holiday where it’s acceptable to drink all day.

This year in particular I’m looking forward to because it’s the first Thanksgiving where our whole family is complete. Both kids are now officially out of my uterus and I plan on having no other occupants in said uterus unless my husband wants brutally whacked with a frying pan. So, I am just filled to the brim with the Thanksgiving spirit (and here soon the Thanksgiving spirits).

Which is why I wanted to make a list of all the things I am thankful for this year because there are just so many. For instance…

Not being pregnant like I was last year when I almost puked on three-fourths of my husband’s lovely extended family.

Not being pregnant like I was last year so I can drink wine before I’m required to stick my hand up a strange turkey’s arse.

Not being pregnant like I was last year so I can eat my famous cheeseball again, soaking up all the delicious possible listeria guilt-free.

Not being pregnant like I was last year because, surprise!, I hate being pregnant.

And in non-non-pregnant things to be thankful for:

Joe Biden memes, which I suspect might be the only thing holding the country together at this point.

Not leaving my house on Black Friday but snarkily tweeting about it from the comfort of my couch.

Both my kids are beautiful and healthy and think Momma is just the greatest. Even when she’s having a bad day and isn’t.

Finding friends who like and accept me regardless of my cliché love of pumpkin spice.

That panty hose are no longer a thing.

I know I say this every year, but toilet paper, because, I mean, think of the alternative.

Being an adult and as such having the freedom to have ice cream for breakfast! And a wheel of cheese at lunch! And a beer whenever I want! As long as I do all those things while hiding in the bathroom from the rest of the family!

That moment amidst the chaos when you’re handing your small children back and forth with your significant other because one needs fed and the other needs a diaper change or whatever the reason, and your hands briefly touch while exchanging the kids and you feel so connected, so bonded to them. And you become more than just a team. You become a tribe. And the love is so strong in that brief moment that you almost can’t stand it.

Basil ice cream (it’s a thing and it’s amazing).

That when I look at my children, I’m still blown away by the fact they are mine and I get to keep them.

Accidentally stumbling upon a recipe for Deep Fried Stuffing Balls while looking up Thanksgiving ideas and feeling a swell of pride at being an American in a year where being an American was extremely difficult.

My family is finally at the point financially that we can afford to get two toppings on our pizza. Three, if it’s a special occasion.

There is going to be a revival of “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix (and more broadly, that we live in a time where the end of a beloved TV show isn’t necessarily the end).

Tiny, chubby baby feet that you have to use all of your willpower not to bite because they are the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen and for some reason humans always want to bite really adorable things.

My stupid dog. God, I love that stupid dog.

Our son isn’t even close to being potty trained yet but at least he is to the point where he can tell us loudly in public that he is “GOING POTTY RIGHT NOW, MOMMA! YAY!”

Having the power in the palm of my hand to reach out to other moms, other writers, other rabid fans of the TV show “Supernatural.” All of those things can be extremely isolating and I can guarantee I’m not the only one who has found a haven online to help get me through the bad days. For all our handwringing about how technology is turning us into a bunch of zombies, at least we are bunch of zombies with online friends who understand what we are going through.

Strangers who randomly tell you to have a Happy Thanksgiving.

And on that note, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Another annoying post defending Thanksgiving

Guys, I love analogies. I love analogies like how bad writers love a good cheap gimmick. Which is why I want to begin this particular column about my love of Thanksgiving with the following cheap gimmicky analogy:

Congratulations, everyone. We have all turned Thanksgiving into the classic middle child of the major holidays.

See, at one time Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal in America. But now, jammed in-between the ever-growing juggernauts of Halloween and Christmas, it always gets overlooked. And sure, just like so many other middle children, it’s maybe not as fun as Halloween or as exciting as Christmas, but it’s still a good, solid holiday.

Now, Halloween obviously plays the role of the oldest child, not so much for any particular trait per se, but because it comes first in the calendar year and I really need this analogy to work. Although, if I really stretch it, Halloween could be like your high-achieving cheerleader daughter who suddenly goes through a goth phase and dyes her hair purple and only wears black and starts getting C’s because she’s focused on writing her death poetry. And also she starts getting drunk, like really drunk, while wearing sexy Harry Potter uniforms.

And Christmas is clearly the beloved youngest child, who can do no wrong and no one ever tells it no, which is why it has turned into a spoiled brat that sucks up all of Mommy and Daddy’s time and money.

Poor Thanksgiving. The quiet peacemaker. It’s just trying to get the whole family together at the table for nothing other than good food and good, but strained, conversation that is desperately trying to avoid bringing up politics. Would you like more mashed potatoes, it quietly but excitedly asks. Or maybe some of the turkey that took 18 hours to prep and cook? Or any of these other eleven side dishes?

Except, no one hears it. Because there’s Christmas, screaming in its highchair for more attention and throwing poinsettias at everyone, while Halloween mopes and snacks on the giant bowl of leftover candy that is mostly just yellow Starbursts and generic Tootsie Rolls at this point. Thanksgiving just wanted one day that is focused on them but no, because not only is Christmas making a scene but Christmas also had to bring over its rowdy, juvenile delinquent friend, Black Friday. And now everything is chaos and everyone is at the store because Black Friday conned them into thinking that getting into fistfights over cheap flats screens and environmentally irresponsible Keurigs was a great idea.

And so poor Thanksgiving just sits there alone at the table, sullenly eating a turkey leg and drinking wine straight from the bottle (which they will replace because Thanksgiving is a polite, responsible holiday…as long as no one brings up politics).

Well, I, for one, refuse to let Thanksgiving drink that wine alone. One, because I have never turned down a glass of wine in my life. And two, this holiday is worthy of our love and attention.

I love Thanksgiving. LOVE it. I loved it as a kid when the women of my family would shoo me out of the kitchen while they mysteriously made magic happen. And I love it now as an adult when I’m the one in the kitchen mysteriously making moderate-to-severe knife cuts and a whole symphony of curse words happen (and somehow, magically, edible food).

Everyone gets all dressed up but goes absolutely nowhere, just looking hella fancy while hanging out in the kitchen. There’s no stress to look skinny in a sexist costume or pressure to find the perfect gift for a husband who thinks “whatever, you know what I like” is an acceptable answer to the question “what do you want for Christmas this year?”

The only goal for the whole freaking day is just to devour food that has been bathed in almost illegal amounts of butter. To drink wine and watch a parade and talk about the weather with your uncle for an uncomfortable 12 minutes because it’s a topic least likely to bring up politics.

There’s no pressure to have a good time, even, or to make it a magical day for children. It just is what it is. The only thing you’re required to do is give a list of things you’re thankful for and even then you can lie because, I mean, who’s going to know?

So, guys, I think we all should apologize to Thanksgiving for our benign neglect of it. It truly deserves better. A prominent place on the fridge to hang its construction paper turkey hand art.

Christmas will just have to learn some patience. *ducks as another poinsettia is thrown at her head*

Mama said there’ll be days like this

Now before I say what I’m getting ready to say, let me say first that I realize I am hardly the first person to ever say this. Thousands, or hell, probably even millions of other people have not only said this, but said it much more eloquently and with far less booger jokes than I ever could. But after the week I had, I feel one more time is absolutely necessary. So, here it goes.

This stage of life is hard.

Oh, so hard.

Not that all stages of life don’t have their hard parts. They do. I remember the hard days possibly even more clearly than the not-hard-days of my carefree childhood. Because even in the happiest of childhoods, there are still monsters under the bed and playground bullies and a big, big scary world to navigate while only having a waist-high view of the big picture.

But this particular stage…oof. It can feel like a battle. A battle that you aren’t even trying to win anymore but just trying to summon up the will to show up for day in and day out.

War may be hell but raising small children is setting up permanent residence there.

OK, OK, yeah, that one went too far. Sorry. I love my life and my children and could not have engineered a more picturesque family life if I tried. Most days I look around and can’t believe my incredible luck that I get to be surrounded daily by the most amazing people to ever walk this planet.

I’m just so tired, you guys. Oh, so tired. And no matter how great your life is, there are bound to be bad days. And sometimes those bad days stretch out for an entire week. And all this week I’ve been dealing with a sick baby and a sick toddler and a partially incapacitated husband who was trying his best but was also sick and still trying to do his job and work on a freelance project in his spare time. To top it all off, my stupid dog is getting old and was diagnosed with a heart murmur and arthritis and I love my stupid dog so much and if anything ever happened to him I would DIE.

Again, sorry. As you can tell, I tend to get dramatic when I’m tired. No, YOU need to tone it down, missy!

There were doctor appointments and vet appointments and a million miles walked around the house in the middle of the night trying to soothe a miserable infant. There were too many tantrums to count and too many meals that had to be made and too many arguments about stupid, little things and too many loads of laundry and dishes and too many boogers being wiped on my jeans (fine, mustard-stained sweatpants).

There were just too many tiny creatures needing tender, loving care and not enough of me to go around.

And it all culminated on Friday afternoon when I had to pick the dog up from the vet but since we only have the one car, I had to walk there with one kid strapped to my chest and pushing the other one in the stroller. The dog was straining with all his might against the leash and the baby was crying again and I was unsuccessfully trying to steer the stroller with one hand and the diaper bag weighed a million pounds and my back was aching from the dog’s constant pulling and then the dog zigged when I zagged and I dropped the leash and he took off running and it was the ultimate nightmare scenario. I’m trying to chase him beside the incredibly busy road while also trying not to jostle my 4-month-old too much or tipping over my toddler in the stroller. Meanwhile, visions of my stupid dog as bloody roadkill kept flashing before my eyes.

Long story short, I finally do catch the dog. And then I just stand there. And cry.

And cry and cry and cry.

Cars zooming past, baby still crying, dog still straining, toddler asking repeatedly “what’s wrong, Momma?”

And yet, all I can do is stand there and cry.

So, why do I bother sharing this horrible moment in my life? Simply to remind those of you who are in a similar boat, who are juggling kids and stupid, beloved pets and jobs and obligations and deadlines and aging parents and house buying and internal demons and external hazards and an aching back and a budget that never seems to stretch enough while in the background a steady hum of news reports declaring the end of the world is nigh plays continuously, that you are not alone.

This part is hard. But you showed up for today. You may or may not be wearing pants, but hey, you showed up. Better yet, you managed to sneak in some snuggles and a game of tickle monster and an almost coherent conversation about dinosaurs riding in rocket ships.

We’re going to get through this. Just like how I eventually wiped away my tears and continued on my way home, we’ll all eventually dust ourselves off and keep going.

And in the meantime, let’s all take a moment to breathe deep and look around and soak it in. Because one day all the noise will stop. All the chaos will stop. All the craziness will stop. And we’re going to miss it. You know we will. And we will wonder what we were ever complaining about in the first place.

 

Checklist for road tripping with small children

  1. Run to the store to buy juice boxes, goldfish crackers, raisins, assorted cheaply made toys designed to be hurled into the backseat at the first sign of a tantrum.
  2. Eat all the leftovers in the fridge, even the questionable ones, over the three days leading up to the trip. The ancient pizza, the fossilized Chinese food, the milk on the verge of going bad, the giant vat of bean soup everyone hates but mom keeps making because it’s cheap and has at least a 2 percent nutritional value. Eat it. Eat it all.
  3. Do everyone’s laundry because every single person in the household only wants to bring the outfits they wore for the past five days.
  4. Run back to the store because you just realized you are out of dish soap and need to run the dishwasher before you leave.
  5. Spend 45 minutes looking for suitcases in the attic.
  6. Realize suitcases are still in the corner of the bedroom where you left them the last time you took a trip and still contain the dirty laundry from said trip.
  7. Unpack suitcases.
  8. Do laundry. Again.
  9. Run back to the store AGAIN for Little Swimmer diapers because the hotel has a pool. Pay $10 for an entire pack even though you will likely only use one. Cry briefly in the car.
  10. Gather all the chargers for everyone’s electronic devices. Keep removing chargers from the pile of chargers because everything needs to be charged.
  11. Look up route on Google Maps. Cry again.
  12. Drop dog off at the dog-sitter’s house, who you found off of Rover.com after surfing the website for five whole minutes. Feel huge waves of guilt you are abandoning your dog with a complete stranger. Try not to look too concerned when she opens the door and looks 12.
  13. Run back to that godforsaken piece of crap store AGAIN because the Little Swimmer diapers were the wrong size for your toddler. Also fork over another $10 for another pack because what if your freaking 4-month-old wants to swim too? Give $3 to a bum in the parking lot so you can take a swig from his brown bag whiskey.
  14. Pack. Or more precisely, try to fit basically everything you own into every suitcase, backpack, tote bag and ridiculously large purse you own.
  15. Drag all the luggage to the car the night before. Play the world’s least fun game of Tetris.
  16. Start drinking heavily.
  17. Wake up hungover at 4 a.m. Throw everyone in the car with their pajamas on. Get snippy with your significant other over whether the coffee pot is still on.
  18. Run back into the house to search for Mr. Doody, the stupid stuffed monkey your toddler can’t live without. Give up search after 20 minutes. Go back to the car and see your toddler holding Mr. Doody.
  19. Try not to murder your significant other when they ask if you checked the coffee pot while you were in there.
  20. Climb into the driver’s seat.
  21. Re-enact Ryan Reynolds’ car scene from “Just Friends.”
  22. Calmly put the car in reverse.
  23. Take a deep breath as you pull onto the highway and both children immediately start crying.

Checklist for the return trip home

  1. Hurl everything into the car.
  2. Throw suitcases into the corner of the bedroom and unpack eight months later when you need the suitcases for another super fun family bonding trip.

I’m running away from home

If you would have asked me 10 years ago what I saw myself doing in the future, arguing for 23 minutes with a toddler about appropriate places to poop would have been fairly low on the list (which, by the way, the bathtub, Momma’s bed and the dairy aisle at the grocery store all equal Not Appropriate for any of you toddlers out there reading this).

Winning the Pulitzer Prize, divorcing Orlando Bloom so I could marry Ryan Reynolds, sailing on a fancy boat with a clever name like Ship For Brains; all of these answers would have probably come tumbling out of my mouth (No, YOU were a delusional 25-year-old!).

Even jail wouldn’t have been too outlandish an answer (No, YOU have issues with authority!).

But running on a trail with actual running shoes when nothing was chasing me and/or I wasn’t trying to make it to the liquor store before it closes? That wouldn’t have even made it ON the list.

Running for fun? Pffft. In my book, those two things are mutually exclusive. Much like, say, a delicious vegan meal or a funny Kevin James movie.

And yet, here I am, sweaty and gross and begrudgingly emitting an aura of health because I just got done with a run. A run I did ON PURPOSE.

It all started because after I had my second baby my body was 80 percent mush. And, to be honest, I’m not really comfortable in my own skin when I’m above 75 percent bodily mush. So, as much as I hated it, I gritted my teeth and ran (well, did a weird walk/sad jog hybrid before working my way up to my current level of just a sad jog).

But then a funny thing happened. I started to look forward to these runs. So much so, in fact, that I was actually willing to do them at 6 a.m., watching the sun rise while my perky ponytail swished back and forth like I’m goddamn Kate Hudson in some rom-com. Not because I started to like to run. Oh god, no. It’s the worst. But because that 45 minutes hoofing it around the park gave me an escape from my kids.

I love my kids. Of course I do. You know I do. Just like I know you love your kids. Children are amazing human beings we occasionally want to murder.

And so that we don’t murder them, we do insane things like literally run away from home (albeit temporarily).

The best part is that even though my main motivation while running is that at some point I will stop running, all this exercise is helping me get back to myself. To the person I was before I considered a trip to Target by myself as a luxurious vacation.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the demands of parenthood. To remember that you are not just a glorified sippy cup re-filler and breathing boob milk dispenser. Having children changes you to your very core but it doesn’t erase your former self. That person is still in there, waiting to come out occasionally so they can look around and say “why the hell are we running?”

Running helps me remember that I’m a complex person with interests outside achieving the perfect brown color on a grilled cheese sandwich. And on the other end of the spectrum, although I have yet to feel that mythical runner’s high, I have experienced what I call “cranial radio static.” This is when your brain just stops and there’s no thought; just music and pavement and your feet going one in front of the other and heavy breathing and chaotic jiggly butt movement. And as a mom and a writer and a woman who keeps up with the news in 2016, anything that helps you turn off your brain even for a short while is a miracle.

But most importantly, now that I have kids, I want to be healthy enough that I live forever. I want to be the unbelieveably old lady with the leather face that says wildly inappropriate things at Christmas about losing her virginity and terrifies her infant great-grandchildren because she looks like the Crypt Keeper and sounds like Marge Simpsons’ sisters. But she don’t care. Cause she lived through both 9/11 and the Kardashians.