When your village lives far away

My life would make for a horrible sitcom.

Not because I’m not funny. Pffft. Please. I’m super funny. Hilarious, even. And yet humble. Oh, so humble. I’m essentially the love child of David Sedaris and some really humble dude.

And not because my life isn’t absurd. It is. Oh, how it is. The other day I spent 45 minutes sitting on the floor of my bathroom having a deep conversation with a semi-nude toddler about how every Sesame Street character goes potty on the toilet. Yes, even Big Bird.

And not even because I value my privacy. I mean, I have nude stick figure drawings of myself splashed all over the Internet. Come on.

lunch_stick

So while all the elements are there, my life would still make for a horrible sitcom. All because I’m missing that essential element of the quirky side characters.

Not that they don’t exist. They do. And they can quirk with the best of them. It’s just that they live in Ohio or Kansas or Colorado or Texas or Oregon. And whenever we make friends here in Boston, they immediately get a great job offer in New York City or Washington D.C. or somewhere out in the wilds of Connecticut. Or, like us, they have kids and then promptly drop off the face of the planet, drowning in diapers and Double AA batteries somewhere out there in the ether.

Which is how my husband and I turned into Will and Grace but without Jack and Karen (or, to be more accurate, we’re more like heterosexual Jack and Karen without Will and Grace). We’re Monica and Chandler after Season 10. Marshall and Lily if that show reflected reality in the absolute slightest. April and Andy without a Leslie Knope to continually secure us a great local job. Liz Lemon and James Marsden, but really only because I want to be Tina Fey and my husband wants to be Cyclops.

We’re Raymond without his mother. We’re the Brady’s without Alice (and the dead spouses and, like, four of the children). We’re Cougartown with the same amount of wine but only the two of us here to drink it.

There is no Kramer. I’ve seen my downstairs neighbor a total of five times in six years. And four of those times involved a half wave as he drove away in his car. Or at least I think it was him in the car.

No Sheldon. No Schmidt. No Squiggy.

Now, normally this doesn’t really bother me. It’s just the way it is. We moved, we had kids, we turned into sleep-deprived hermits. We see our loved ones’ faces on Skype and stalk them on Facebook and like 32 pictures on their Instagram all in a row. We’re making it work. And luckily, my husband is my favorite person to hang out with and our kids aren’t awful monsters. In fact, depending on how much coffee I’ve had, they can even be close to adorable.

It’s just that recently we had back-to-back visits from both our moms.

And we got spoiled.

Oh god, so spoiled.

Someone else to answer my toddler’s incessant demands for more juice! Someone to make more coffee! Someone to witness and then agree that my screaming baby is being such a ridiculous drama queen today!

We were able to have date nights! We took naps! We had a date night where all we did was take a nap!

And then woke up to more coffee that someone else made!

We got to see how the other half lives. The half that has family and friends close by. The half that doesn’t have to hop on a plane to see their village.

And it was amazing. And it was bittersweet. And it made us realize how hard this whole parenting juggling act is out here on our own.

So, if you have family close by, that helps you and offers support and brings you coffee in the middle of the day, hug them a bit tighter today. Look them in the eye and tell them thank you from the bottom of your heart. And then hand them your kids and RUN.

RUN LIKE HELL.

FAR, FAR AWAY.

And drink a beer somewhere for me.

 

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Wolverine vs. The Really Hyper Bunnies

Here’s a million dollar idea for all you budding entrepreneurial wanna-be types: Invent a self-defense class for parents of small children.

Now, to be clear, I don’t mean for situations where you need to protect your children. Pretty much every parent I know is capable of murdering someone with a rattle if they catch that person even looking at their babies wrong, let alone trying to kidnap them. Not to mention, catch us on a bad day and we may just hand our kids over with the parting words “Good luck. Don’t you dare bring them back before 7.”

No, I mean a class that will teach me how to protect myself FROM my children.

Ha! Ha! Funny, right? Except I’m dead serious. Every day with these kids is like Thunderdome. Especially with the older one. So, I need a way to disarm and subdue my 3-year-old toddler attacker but without hurting him. (Because gouging his eyes out with my keys seems a bit of an overreaction, especially since I’ll be the one footing the bill for his eye reconstruction surgery anyway).

To give you an idea of what I’m dealing with, here’s a brief rundown of his most basic fighting moves:

The Piggy Back Strangle Hold: When the victim is sitting on the floor, jump on their back (making sure your bony knees hit BOTH of their kidneys), wrap your skinny arms around their neck and cut off all air to their windpipe while giggling adorably.

The No More Siblings Head Butt: Wait until the victim is holding another child or has both hands full (say, with a giant mug of hot coffee in one and an expensive electronic device in the other), and then run at them full-force, banging your head right into the very place you came out of.

The Mosh Pit: At the end of a very long day (although very first thing in the morning will also work), hurl your entire 34-pound body with all your might at their body while they’re sitting on the couch. Do this over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. When they ask you to stop, just do it harder. It’s part of the game!

The Ol’ Innocent Hug Switcheroo: Putting on your best big-eyed cherub face, ask for a hug. Wait for them to tear up and say “of course, baby” and then bite down on whatever flesh you can get your tiny honey badger teeth on as soon as they embrace you.

The Hot Wheels Fast Ball Grenade: Ask for juice. When denied said juice, throw a Hot Wheel (or any heavy-ish toy with hard edges will do) directly at their face. (This one is particularly effective since it’s so unexpected. Give this kid a ball and ask him to throw it and suddenly he forgets how arms work. Put a metal car in his hands and watch him whip it at your forehead with deadly accuracy faster than you can say “I swear to God, if you throw that…”).

I also could benefit from some gentle yet firm ninja moves to protect myself from my tiny but freakishly strong 8-month-old daughter. I’m not saying she’s ever hit me so hard I cried, but…I cried.

On the plus side, she’ll probably never get kidnapped. Any potential abductor would immediately be laid low by a one-two combination of unexpected face smack followed by dead-on nasal head-butt.

So, if anyone out there reading this can teach me how to fight like Wolverine, but on a micro-scale (like if Wolverine was fighting some really hyper bunnies), I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

 

At the murderous teddy bear picnic

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The Seven Year Glitch

It was our seventh wedding anniversary. Which is the baby wipe anniversary, I believe. Or perhaps the Swiffer anniversary. Either way, we had no money for gifts after Googling local preschool prices. But it didn’t matter. The sun was shining. I was wearing a skirt AND non-pregnancy underwear. And my mother-in-law was in town, happily volunteering to watch our adorable spawn so we could drink wine at a restaurant while not simultaneously dodging baby head-butts for once.

It was just what two stressed-out parents of small children needed.

So, naturally, we spent most of the day in the emergency room.

What happened, you ask? Good question. I still don’t know. But to sum up, I felt like I was dying for 45 minutes and then felt completely fine. After an exam and some tests and an ultrasound, it was discovered that I had a very serious case of absolutely nothing being wrong with me. My official diagnosis was “um…your gallbladder, maybe?” followed by that shoulder shrug emoji.

It was just what two stressed-out parents of small children didn’t need. Instead of a nice dinner and adult cocktails not served in a sippy cup and a clumsy make-out session in the driveway, we have an unnecessary medical bill heading our way.

Love. Ain’t it grand?

But that’s what marriage looks like after seven years and two kids and one aging dog. Reality has replaced all the dopamine. You don’t generally have time to be all lovey-dovey. Or hell, even lovey at this point. We’re lucky if we have a free hand to occasionally high-five one another.

So, you have to show your love in other ways.

It’s saying “hey, I’ll clean up the dog vomit.”

It’s saying “make sure you eat something.”

It’s saying “I duct-taped that one part of the dishwasher so it won’t make the high-pitched noise that you hate anymore.”

It’s hearing the baby cry in the middle of the night, AGAIN, followed by hearing “go back to sleep, I got her.”

It’s hearing your partner use every curse word ever invented as they try to get said baby back to sleep and yet not judging them.

It’s hearing those three most beautiful words in the English language, “take a nap.”

It’s hearing the blissful laughter of small children who are being thoroughly entertained and distracted by another adult so you can spend six and a half minutes alone in the bathroom.

It’s making a big breakfast every morning even though you’re exhausted because it’s likely the only meal the two of you will get to eat together.

It’s the arms from out of nowhere that hug you from behind while you’re standing at the kitchen sink stress-eating cheese.

It’s laughing off the fact the other person tried to karate chop your face when you hugged them from behind because it startled them because it’s been so long since you two were able to touch in a manner that didn’t include passing a small child back and forth.

It’s coming home with a bottle of wine when you know they’ve had a bad day.

It’s coming home with a handle of Captain Morgan when you know they’ve had a bad week.

It’s springing for the extra pizza topping even though money is tight because they deserve sausage AND pepperoni, dammit.

It’s saving the last doughnut for them but they’re saving the last doughnut for you so said doughnut just sits there until it becomes inedible and you finally throw way the glazed petrified disk five days later.

It’s refraining from watching the next episode of “West World” for nine days straight because the other one is too tired to make it through an entire hour-long show once the kids are asleep.

It’s chugging coffee at 7:30 p.m. so you can finally make it through an episode of “West World” because the other one has been so patient for the past nine days.

It’s having inside jokes, which are made only funnier because you’re both suffering from extreme sleep deprivation.

It’s giving them a firm, even stern, pep talk when they dare to start to doubt themselves.

It’s carrying around two kids all day and carrying an old dog up and down the stairs and still wanting to hear about their day no matter how tired you are.

It’s going to work all day and carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and still wanting to hear all about how the baby almost crawled today.

It’s knowing that this is one of the hardest yet best times in both your lives. Which is why you rush home from work in a panic when your loved one calls and says “I think I need to go the emergency room.” And why, when you are curled up in the fetal position on the stupid floor, writhing in mysterious pain, your only thought is that you can’t die because you love all these people too much.

Happy anniversary, Ryan. I love you. And the best gift I can give you after all these years is to let you know I wouldn’t change a thing.

Also, we’re out of baby wipes.

 

White lies I told my children this week*

*or possibly just today

The sun doesn’t like it when you wake up before he does.

Mommy can’t play cars with you until she drinks ALL her coffee. It’s the law.

I’ll come help you find the green car in five minutes.

No, it hasn’t been five minutes yet.

I still have three minutes.

Maybe I’ll let you go play in the snow after breakfast.

Nope, we’re all out of yogurt.

Oatmeal tastes just as good as yogurt.

Daddy ate the last piece of bacon.

What’s in my mouth? Green beans.

You can’t eat the crayons. Look, it says right here on the box, “toxic.”

You have to poop in the potty once you turn three. It’s the law.

I can only read this book three times. Then it has to rest to regain its strength.

If you sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” more than 10 times in a row, the spider dies. Horrifically.

Netflix is broken.

Hulu is broken.

Amazon is broken.

My phone is broken.

The banana from “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” is on vacation with his wife. He’ll be back next week.

The playground is closing. We have to go home or they’ll kick us out.

You have to go in the stroller. The sidewalk is closed to kids today. Only Mommies can walk on them.

We can’t listen to Christmas music when it’s not December because then Santa doesn’t get the royalties.

Fish is just sea chicken, baby.

Nope, we’re all out of chocolate.

Broccoli tastes just as good as chocolate.

Cookie Monster LOVES broccoli.

No, we can’t watch it. Everyone on “Sesame Street” is in a very important meeting right now.

Mommy ate all her broccoli while she was cooking in the kitchen.

I will pay for your entire college education if you try just one bite of broccoli.

Nope, we’re all out of crackers.

And applesauce.

And raisins.

Dessert is for closers and broccoli-eaters.

All the water has to stay in tub or the bathroom floor will start to melt.

No, you can’t have a sip of Mommy’s juice. It’s her medicine. The doctor wants her to drink all of it.

According to my watch, it’s bedtime in five minutes.

It’s been five minutes.

If you don’t pick up all your toys, you forfeit them and they are now legally the property of your baby sister. It’s the law.

Well of course you should always be honest, honey.

Night, night! Remember, it’s illegal to get out of bed after 8 o’clock!

Confessions of “Threenage” Drama King

He’s moody. He’s disrespectful. He hates everything I do.

Yup, my little boy is growing up. I can’t believe he’s a teenager already.

Oh wait. Sorry. That was a typo. I meant to type threenager.

He’s three.

THREE.

I always thought people were exaggerating when they talked about the Terrible Twos. My angel was just that when he was two. An angel. He was sweet. Polite, even. And, oh, how he loved me. Every day was an emoji shower of hearts and googly eyes with this kid. He loved his Momma.

LOVED.

Me and my stretch marks I got from giving him life were firmly entrenched on that pedestal. And I loved it there.

LOVED IT.

So, of course, these same people had to be exaggerating about when their kids turned three. They just had to be.

They weren’t.

Not at all.

AT ALL.

My angel has fallen. Only now I’m apparently Satan.

Because no matter how many tantrums he has, no matter how many times he screams directly into my face, and no matter how many toys he hurls at my head, I’m always the bad guy these days. I am mean Mommy. A mean Mommy who yells for no apparent toddler reason. And only a mean Mommy wouldn’t let him jump off the back of the couch onto the cold, hard floor or hurl a heavy wooden toy car at his baby sister’s still somewhat soft skull.

I know he’s manipulating me. I’m just surprised it’s working so well.

And, oh, how it’s working. So incredibly well. Because he’s hitting below the belt, right straight into my uterus, by making it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he now prefers Daddy to mean ‘ol Mommy.

Now, since having kids, I’ve tried to be the mature one, no matter how much it goes against my basic personality. When my son calls me a stupid poop face, do I respond with “at least I can wipe my own butt!”? No. Except for that one time. Because I’m the grown-up now.

So as much as I want to respond with this new development in the family dynamic by setting fire to all his stupid toys and slashing his security blanket with a knife, I can’t.

Because I’m the…sigh…grown-up now.

But it’s slowly killing me.

KILLING ME.

As the mom, and as the primary caretaker, you get used to a certain level of favoritism. In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s our payment for all we do in lieu of actual money. Daddy got laid and I got 10 months (IT’S ACTUALLY 10 MONTHS) of discomfort and extreme farting, followed by a scalpel to my gut and shredded nipples and weird-smelling yellow poop in my hair. Followed by 3 a.m. feedings and hours of theatrical Dr. Seuss readings and cleaning up spills roughly every 23 minutes.

So, yeah, I get to be the favorite parent.

Except now I’m not. And again, I’m trying to be the mature one but IT’S NOT FAIR. *throws nursing bra against the wall*

Daddy is indeed great. That’s why I married him, in fact. He’s wonderful. But Daddy gets to leave and go to work.

So, by the very nature of our parenting arrangement, he always gets to be the fresh parent. The one who hasn’t had to say “stop it” 1,987 times or play “This Parent Is My Jungle Gym” for nine hours straight.

And trust me when I say I’m so happy I have a partner who works at a highly demanding job all day and can come home exhausted and yet still swoop up both kids immediately before he’s even had a chance to put down his computer bag (making sure to pet our dog in the chaos to boot). He’s a very hands-on parent and the kids love it. And the stupid dog loves it. And, of course, I love it.

Except I’m starting to hate it.

Because that’s the thing. Daddy always gets to be the hero. And I am the swamp demon who hasn’t showered and won’t let them eat cupcakes for breakfast.

But I guess it’s only fair that Daddy now gets his day in the sun. He deserves it and I selfishly hogged my son’s favoritism for almost three years.

But, still, it stings a bit.

At least until I remember I’m still his baby sister’s favorite.

But where’s my gold star?

The one thing I probably hear the most since having children? (Besides “whoa, you look tired”).

“You are so lucky you get to stay home with your kids.”

There are different versions of this, of course. All with fun varying degrees of passive-aggressiveness.

“I’d love to spend all day in my pajamas doing nothing.”

“I hope you appreciate it. I die a little inside when I drop my children off at daycare.”

“It must be nice not working a real job and having all that extra time for your little writing hobby.”

But what it all eventually boils down to is “you, lady, have it made and are not allowed to complain.”

It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s not actually luck. It’s a decision we made based on our economic reality. We are right in that not-so-sweet spot of middle class where my income would have been pretty much the exact price tag of a semi-reputable daycare facility (and trust me, we looked at all of them, including JoJo’s Discount Kid Farm).

And it doesn’t matter that it is actually just like a “real” job (albeit with a much less strict dress code). If it wasn’t a job, we wouldn’t pay other people to watch our kids when we can’t.

And it doesn’t seem to matter that in this country we treat stay-at-home moms with the same level of respect we treat line jumpers and broccoli pizza. Because Americans love nothing more than demanding a woman do something and then treating her with disdain when she does it.

Everyone still feels the need to inform me that I have somehow hit the life jackpot.

None of that really bothers me though. I spent many years as a journalist, which just did a terrific job of stomping my give-a-crap meter to death. Plus, I really do love that I’m able to stay home with my littles. They’re great fun to be around and super chill about when the microwave is dirty.

Still, there is one thing about my stay-at-home status that I do struggle with, one thing I can’t quite get over. Because the hard part is also the best part. I have no boss. No higher-ups. No co-workers or peers. No one to play witness to my day.

Which means I can be Super Mom all day. Racing cars on the floor, reading books over and over, handling potential meltdowns like a seasoned hostage negotiator. I’m goofy. I’m delightful. I’m gentle yet firm, like a white, female Morgan Freeman.

But then, about 20 minutes before my husband gets home, all hell breaks loose. Only this time, it’s the 17th time its broken loose. And…

I.

JUST.

CAN’T.

ANYMORE.

So I lose my temper. Which makes everything one thousand times worse. Meaning when he walks in the door, 4 out of 5 times, I am losing my mind and both kids are crying and the stupid dog won’t stop barking. (And that fifth time, everything is on fire and I’m calmly sitting on the living room floor drinking wine straight from the bottle).

And that’s his most common image of me. Screaming, yelling, crying, cursing, laughing manically, with macaroni in my hair and baby poop on my pants. But did he see the 147 times I didn’t go insane when it was completely warranted?

No.

No one did.

Because it’s not just with him. In public, when my toddler is walking with the speed of a sloth high on oxy, do I yell at him to hurry up? No. Even though he is slowly killing my soul because, seriously, how is it humanly possible to move this slow? No. Even though it’s 8 degrees out and my back is screaming because I’m carrying his sister, who is the world’s heaviest 15 pounds? No.

And when he asks me 33 times in a row if he can have a cookie when we’re done shopping, do I explode that 34th time? No. Or when he spills my expensive coffee even though I told him explicitly to knock it off before he spills my expensive coffee? No.

No one sees these things. What they do see, however, is when I finally do explode because he purposely hit his baby sister because I wouldn’t buy him some dumb toy he doesn’t even really want anyway. And all they see is the horrible mother holding a screaming baby and yelling at the adorable toddler who has perfected the giant crocodile tear.

It’s not fair, you guys.

No one sees the good stuff. No one sees Super Mom.

And yeah, yeah, even though no one saw it, I know it still counts and my kids will grow up to be great humans because I am a great mom when no one is looking and blah, blah, bibbity-blah. But this is 2017. If you go somewhere and don’t take a selfie, did you really go? If you walk somewhere and aren’t wearing a Fitbit, did it really count? If you prick me, do I not bleed? I do, but only because I tweeted about the random cray-cray who stabbed me. #anyonegotabandaid

I want credit, dammit. A gold star. Where are my stickers and lollipops for not biting my kid back when he bites me for the fourth time that day?

Sigh. Guess I’ll just have to settle for more wine and…ugh…an intrinsic sense of self-worth at a job (mostly) well done.