Category Archives: Family

Where’s My Coffee? A Remote Schooling Pop Quiz

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

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

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

A: On top of the bookshelf in the hallway.

Extra credit question: Will it still be hot?

A: Nope. 

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

a. Starbucks

b. Dunkin

c. That fancy one I can’t pronounce 

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

Q: Where do I most often find my coffee?

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

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

True. RYAN. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Correct. The answer is indeed whiskey.

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

A: ALL OF IT. 

Essay Question: How is coffee made?

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

Kitchen confidential

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s exhausting. 

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

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

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

“Fine.”

And their dinner went into the trash can. 

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

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

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

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

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

The possibilities are endless, really. 

Ode to the Mystery Bruise

Oh, Mystery Bruise

There you are, yet again

And there have you always been 

For at least as long as I can remember

Which, granted, isn’t that long

Ever since my memory was obliterated by the incessant demands

Of tiny, adorable humans 

They who sprung loudly from my loins

Ginger haired and exhausting

My mind now filled to capacity 

Each and every day

With tasks both mundane and material 

That are involved when raising juveniles not quite yet delinquent

Big. Purple. With a hint of bluish tint

Ringed by an unholy yellow 

You loudly announce your presence, oh, Mystery Bruise

With every disrobement 

With every bathroom trip

There was a time when my thigh was flawless

(Stubble notwithstanding)

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

Alas, now the top of that ham 

Is the heart and hearth of your home

Oh, Mystery Bruise 

Whenceforth you came? Why do you stay?

I have heard tale of your existence in others

On the side of the hip

Or the shinny shin shin

Enfolding the feminine forces in this world

Who already fight all kinds of unseen battles 

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

Yet your mystery grows, Mystery Bruise

Your origin a puzzle wrapped in an enigma

Smothered in a conundrum and sprinkled with mild violence  

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

Or when a preschooler made of all points

Used me as their amusement park?

Are you the result of that stupid end table

I keep running into?

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

With actual weapons? 

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

Or from all the screams I buried down deep

Each and every time they howled how they hated me

Because the grilled cheese had the wrong cheese?

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

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

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

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

And not just a mother

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

The point is, oh, most mystifying of contusions

You’ve always been there for me

Rarely changing

Just staring up at me every time I shower 

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

A reminder of some permanence in an ever shifting reality

Or maybe you are simply a visible representation

Of the bruises concealed in my heart

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

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

No matter the reason, nor the cause

I want to thank you, oh Mystery Bruise

For always being there

Which I believe I already mentioned

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

Of Remote Schooling

Of Life

Of 2020

And of simply being stretched too thin

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

A little (lot) drunk and singing your praises

Because you are here and yet need nothing from me

Oh, Mystery Bruise, your silence speaks volumes  

When the future seems too cucumbersome

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

“MOM! We got gherkins!”

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, back to the point. 

There is one. 

I’m assuming. 

We’ll see.

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

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

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

Oxygen? Already know how to use it. Next. 

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

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

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

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

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

Readin’ & Writin’ & Ah Whoopsie Daisy

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

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

“What’s this word say, Momma?”

“Diarrhea, sweetie.”

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

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

Here being chapter 20. 

20! 

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

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

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

“Yeah. Duh.”

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

AND OMG OH CRAP DAMMIT CRAP. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: *super awkward pause*

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

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

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

*during big family fight while having Thanksgiving dinner*

“Mom! Are you taking notes right now?”

*me, peeking from behind my laptop* 

“Nooooooo…”

*while having THE TALK with them*

“MOM! Are you live tweeting this!?”

*me, peeking from behind my cell phone* 

“Noooooo…”

*dad falls off ladder & needs an ambulance*

“Mom, call 911!”

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

“MOTHER!” 

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

The Unprecedented

Salutations, precious scions. 

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

Where to start? Perhaps the beginning. 

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

Almost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of the Before Times.  

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

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

But now. 

Now. 

There is no danish. Only Zoom. 

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

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

Pandemically yours, 

Your Great Elder, 

A’rill Brandolor

Breakfast for Dinner: Recipe for Disaster

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

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

Mother: Hey guys! What’s going on? 

Son: We’re BORED.

Daughter: SO BORED.

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

Son: What’s breakfast for dinner?

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

Son: I don’t understand.

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

Daughter: But we already ate breakfast. 

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

*sound of crickets*

Mother: It’s fun. 

Son: Why?

Mother: Why is it fun?

Son: Yeah.

Daughter: Yeah. 

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

Daughter: Can we have chocolate for dinner instead?

Mother: No. 

Daughter: But chocolate is fun. 

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

Mother: Yeah. And?

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

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

Son: Macaroni and cheese is fun. 

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

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

Mother: No.  

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

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

Daughter: There is always chocolate. Everyone likes chocolate. 

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

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

Son: Why?

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

Son: Society is dumb.

Mother: Yes, it is. 

Son: So we can have macaroni and cheese?

Mother: *let’s out primal scream*

Daughter: Gummi bears are also fun. 

The Father enters the room, oblivious. 

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

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

Mother: Pizza. 

Son: Yay!

Daughter: Yay! 

Father: Again? 

Daughter: Can we get chocolate pizza?

Mother: I’m going to get more wine.

END SCENE 

A van after my own heart

It’s been said that fortune favors the bold. Which, if true, would explain a lot about my life. At best, I can probably be described as casually feisty. And that’s only after an entire pot of coffee. 

So, fortune doesn’t so much favor me as ignore me most of the time and then suddenly remember I’m there, which is when she surprises me with either a slightly larger than normal tax return or a weird skin disease, depending on how she is feeling that day. 

It’s worked out fairly well so far, however. I love my life even though there is a shocking lack of money, jewels OR vast kingdoms in it. It’s also usually a pleasant surprise when things just happen to fall into my lap and work out. 

Take, for example, how my family and I recently found ourselves the proud owners of a van. A Honda Odyssey, to be more precise. From 2003, not to brag. Tan in color, in case you weren’t jealous enough. It’s a van totally suitable for a woman such as myself who firmly grabs life by the coattails and just hangs on for dear life.

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How we acquired this van is also very on brand with my lifestyle. It was already parked in our driveway. It was the van our landlord’s handyman’s right hand man, Jacob, used to haul right hand handyman stuff around in. He was all like, you guys want this? And we were like maybe? And he named a decent price. And we were like, I mean it’s already here everything.

That was big selling point No. 1. Because I personally would rather shove some butter knives slowly into my eyeballs than set foot on a car lot. 

Selling point No. 2 was that I have spent the last 16 years riding around in the car I got my last year of college. A car, may I humbly add, that now has two, count them two, working doors thanks to George and Mike down at Alewife Auto. I don’t know if any of you have ever had the pleasure of riding in a two-door 2004 Hyundai Accent but it’s basically one step above a clown car. There was barely room for me in there. Then I added a husband, a dog and two kids. Plus all our crap. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in any car with small children, but they need to take every single they own. And no less than 47 snacks. The breaking point though was our recent vacation to the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. We drove four hours each way and we were packed tighter than…well, then nothing else I can think of because nothing else in the world has been packed as tight as we were in that car in all of history. And while painfully unfurling myself from the pretzel position I had been sitting in upon arriving home, I said to myself “never again.”

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Then, what do you know, lo and behold, there was a van! Ours for the taking! Once the check clears (fingers crossed)! Fortune had briefly glanced my way again and shrugged her shoulders!

Her name is Brunhilda. Our van, that is. Because she’s going to be towing around a bunch of tiny ginger Vikings. (And yes, my friend Melissa and I came up with the name after drinking beer with a very high alcohol content). 

I haven’t driven her yet. But I did go sit inside. Y’all. Y’ALL. The sheer amount of SPACE in these things. It felt like it went on forever. Like that dolly zoom effect they do in movies where suddenly all perception is distorted. I probably could have done a cartwheel in there. If I wasn’t so scared that doing a cartwheel at my age would result in a permanent injury. 

Needless to say, I have big plans for our Big Lady. 

Road trips. 

Camping trips. 

Drive-in movie theater nights.

Carpooling somewhere, anywhere, with anyone, anytime.

Daytime mommy naps followed by daytime wine drinking. Followed by another mommy nap. 

My new writing office.

A podcast studio every Thursday. 

World’s smallest rave party. 

Live down by the river if things get worse.

The possibilities are endless. 

I’ll admit, it’s nice to be excited about something. This year, oof. This year. Well, you already know. It’s the kind of year that makes buying a 17-year-old van one of the lone bright spots. 

But hey, hasn’t it also been said that life is not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have? And what I have now is an old ass van named Brunhilda. And the name of a dude willing to paint a van mural of a mostly naked Viking woman riding a pink unicorn that is shooting flames out of its mouth. 

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An evening with Stephen King

When it comes to long-term relationships, it’s important to surprise each other every once in a while. If you’ve been together long enough, this can be done as easily as accidentally listening to your partner when they’re talking. Which is how I heard the following last night. 

“If you weren’t so scared of spiders, I’d take you down into the sewers by my mom’s house.” 

An actual sentence uttered by my husband of ten years. I haven’t listened to a damn thing the man’s said in at least three years (the “Hamilton” soundtrack just blaring in my mind every time he opens his mouth), and yet, somehow, this is the one thing that got through. Blame it on the pandemic and our isolation, but so help me, I heard it and I couldn’t unhear it, which meant I was about to get to know my husband better whether I wanted to or not.

“Say what now?” I replied, as the sound of a record scratch reverberated through my head.

“Yeah…have I never told you about when I used to hang out in the sewers?”

“You have not,” I responded, while looking around futilely for anyone else who could corroborate that this was happening. 

“Yeah, you know the drainage ditch across from my parents house? If you follow that down to Farmington Avenue, there are these two concrete tunnels, side by side. You know the kind I mean?”

“I do not. I did not play in the sewer as a child,” I said, unable to hide my smile. “But by all means, continue.”

“Well, one was big enough you could crawl through and after about hundred yards, you came to a room down there. It was a roughly seven square foot concrete room, with a bunch of drainage pipes. My buddies and I, we’d go down there with flashlights and hang out.”

You think you know someone. You think you know all their stories. Only to find out that their childhood was apparently written by Stephen King. 

“What is your life, dude?” I asked after a long pause. 

“Oh, that’s nothing. We once made a hideout out of an abandoned foundation for a house.”

HOO BOY. 

“Hang on,” I said. “I’m going to need another beer.”

I grabbed two. If Stephen King has taught me anything, it’s that stories that begin with children in sewers tend to be long.  

“It was about three feet down, with steps built in and a dirt floor. We made a roof out of broken down tree limbs so it was hidden from view. We’d steal cigarettes from the Circle K and go down there after school,” said the man I formerly knew as my mild-mannered husband. “We had a little radio we’d play. Our one buddy, he had a rough home life, he’d go there when he needed to get away. It was great for about three years and then some high school kids discovered it and kicked us out.”

“Please tell me at some point you guys poked a dead body with a stick.”

“No.”

“Did you pull a gun on the high school punks? Because they tried to steal your dead body?”

“No.”

He let out a long and well earned irritated sigh. 

“But we did build a treehouse one summer,” he added. 

“Of course you did.”

“Well, what was your childhood like?” he asked.

“Normal. Not some combination of ‘IT’ and ‘Stand By Me.’” 

“Like I already said, there was never a dead body. Seriously, what did you do in the summers?”

Oh, because apparently we were getting to know me now. I took another sip of my beer. 

“You know,” I said, “running around feral in the woods and cornfields. Minimal adult supervision.”

“So you were ‘Children of the Corn’?” 

I laughed hard. Which might also have been because I was now on my third beer. 

“I was also prom queen,” I snorted.

We both started laughing. We laughed so hard, in fact, that we woke up our young son. He shuffled out of his room in that terrifying way small children have late at night. 

“‘The Shining!’” we both shouted while pointing at him.

“What are you guys doing?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.

“Nothing,” said his father.

“Redrum,” said his immature mother.  

He very wisely turned around and went back to bed. 

And so, the point of all this is that, one, the world was a Stephen King novel long before 2020. And two, I think I’m going to start listening to my husband more. Especially while we are living through this diet version of “The Stand.” 

Turns out getting to know your family is worth it. They have lives worthy of books. 

 

The 5 stages of house cleaning with children

 

Stage One: Optimism(-ish)

Hey kids! Come here please. …Guys? Come on, I know you hear me. …BECAUSE I SAID SO. 

Don’t make me start counting. One! TWOOO…good choice. OK, now before you start groaning, hear me out. Today we’re going to clean the house! Yay! 

(Fifteen minute pause for loud whining and fake tantrums)

Wow, those are some really good points you guys made there. I’ve totally changed my mind. Of course I’m kidding. Now start cleaning. This entire house is a disaster. But hey, we can make it fun! We’ll blast some loud music and chug coffee while we do it, alright? Fine, root beer in your case. Trust me, there is nothing better than having a clean house. You’ll see. Now who wants to hear some Tupac? Ugh. Fine. Taylor Swift. 

Stage Two: Frustration

OK, let’s start with your rooms. I want you to put any toys you don’t want anymore in this bin and put any trash or broken toys in this bin. Dirty clothes in the hamper, books on the bookshelves, toys in the toy box. Yes, I know. It does sound like a lot of work. Because you guys have not cleaned anything since the last time we did this even though I tell you to clean your rooms daily. 

Look, watch how easy it is. Take this thing. Do you want to keep this? You do? This thing I have never seen you play with? It’s your favorite toy? Oh, your favorite toy of all time? That’s interesting because I’m pretty sure it’s actually half of a plastic hanger. OK, OK, OK, fine! You can keep it. But how about we put this marker that doesn’t work anymore in the bin. Oh, it’s also your favorite toy? You named it Mr. Marker? Yeah, no, sure. You have to let me get rid of this baby rattle, though. Really!? You will? Oh, good job, kiddo, I’m proud of you…Hey, why is this empty? WHO’S BEEN TAKING TOYS OUT OF THE “TOYS TO DONATE” BIN!?

Stage Three: Bargaining (Followed By Anger)

Look, guys, if we all work together we can get this done in an hour, tops. And maybe, if you kids do a good enough job, and stop with all the complaining, we can have ice cream when we’re done? I don’t know, whatever flavor is in that ancient tub in the back of the freezer. We’ll even throw some M&M’s on top. Yes, fine, marshmallows too. Just keep cleaning. 

Wait, why are you crying? Yes, you have to get rid of it. It’s one-third of a broken Mardi Gras beaded necklace. No, you do not love it. Oh stop it, it is not your best friend. You own 189 stuffies. Make one of them your best friend, alright? 

What the…is this a freakin’ SANDWICH IN YOUR LAUNDRY BASKET? 

Stage Four: Depression (Followed By More Anger)

I just wanted a clean home. Is that too much to ask? Other moms have clean homes. Probably. 

Oh, who am I kidding? What’s even the point? It’s just going to get messy again. Life is meaningless. 

No, just because I’m laying here on your floor in the fetal position does not mean you can stop. Just step around me. Well, someday when you have your own children you can lay in their filthy, gross rooms in a puddle of your own existential crisis while they pick up one single Lego at a time at the speed of molasses. 

Wait, is that…is that all the donation toys UNDER YOUR BED!? SON OF A …

Stage Five: Acceptance of Corner Cutting

Oh, just throw it under the bed. I don’t care! Let’s just get it done. No, of course we can’t just stop. What lesson would that be teaching you? Now go shove all these broken Transformers into your closet. 

(Opens bottle of wine, take giant swig straight from bottle)

Yeah, whatever, you can keep it. Go put it on top of the old washcloth pile. It’s next to the naked Barbie pile. Behind the generic Magna-Tiles pile! And when you’re done with that shove these half eaten baby board books haphazardly into your bookshelves. Well, shove harder then. 

Yup, alright. I’m calling it. We’re done. Everyone into the kitchen for some ancient freezer-burned-flavored ice cream. 

We’ve earned it.