Category Archives: funny

When life hands you spoiled milk, make bathtub gin

Ask any parent what their worst nightmare is and then immediately cancel any plans you had for the next three days. Because that’s how long they will take to answer you. Because parents are worried about everything.

For instance, among my top worst nightmare scenarios are:

A serial killer named Meatclaw kidnaps my children.

My daughter dies of scurvy because all she’ll eat is plain noodles. 

My son turns out to be awesome at soccer and all my weekend days have to be spent sober and pretending to like soccer.

My grandchildren will have to participate in The Hunger Games in the dystopian future, which they will lose because no one in my family knows how to shoot an arrow OR how to do a fancy side braid.

I get cancer and die. My husband, overwhelmed with grief, gets tricked into marrying my vapid, bimbo nurse Trixie after my funeral and she then raises my kids to be the kind of humans who genuinely enjoy keeping up with the Kardashians.

Prohibition comes back and I am arrested for Googling “how to make bathtub gin”.

And none of those things address the daily onslaught of new things we as parents are told to be afraid of, like haunted YouTube shows that possess children and studies that prove babies who didn’t learn Mandarin in utero will never get into college and that helicopter parenting is causing rebellious kindergartners to start snorting pure uncut sugar.

Of course, it’s not all death and delinquency and illicit moonshine runs. The mundane can be almost as terrifying when you have kids. For example, at some point on that mental list that every parent has, probably down around No. 37, is the nightmare of the missing sippy cup.

Oh god, the dreaded missing sippy cup. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s been on the back of your mind for awhile, the fact that you can’t remember the last time you saw it. And even though you’ve been known to struggle with anything above second grade math, you instantly do some fancy algebra in your head and deduce that there are two in the dishwasher, one in the cupboard, two they’re currently drinking out of and one being used as part of a load-bearing wall in the Fortress of Generic Blocks in the living room. 

Which leaves one completely unaccounted for. And after some more fancy mental calculations, you realize it’s been unaccounted for since Tuesday. And nope. Not that Tuesday. Last LAST Tuesday.

That’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is that, unlike all of the tiny missing socks (which is about 1/3 of the total tiny sock population) and all those missing pens from the junk drawer, which I imagine are living blissfully together on some tropical island with all 12,000 of my missing bobby pins, sippy cups never stay lost. Oh no. They will mysteriously show up again. Right when their contents have ripened to their peak of nightmarish horror.

And despite the fact that when you asked your children to help you find this very same cup two weeks ago and they just did a series of figure-eights around your legs while repeatedly asking “where did it go? huh…”, it always, inevitably, reappears in their little hands when it makes its grand re-entrance, not yours.

Then, when that moment comes, that moment when one of your precious angels that you spent 36 hours bringing into this world on the sheer power of creative curse words alone runs up to you with a brightly painted cup of toxic sludge, a million more horrific questions run through your mind:

What unholy concoction is now in there? And has it gained sentience yet?

How much spoiled milk can a 30-pound body take before permanent damage occurs?

What strange alchemy must take place to turn apple juice that shade of green?

Or…wait…I think this used to be orange juice?

Does grape juice ferment into alcohol after so long? And if it does, how much prison kiddie wine did my child just drink before he alerted me that he found the missing cup?

How worried do I need to be about mold, because there are no less than 11 blog posts littering my Facebook feed at any given moment about the dangers of mold growing in sippy cups?

The good news is that there is hope. More than hope, actually. There is a foolproof method to never losing another sippy cup again. And that method is to only let your child drink water from here on out.

A sippy cup full of water has never, ever been lost in the whole, long, sordid history of parenthood.

 

I’m losing (not that I’m keeping score or anything)

Considering my ten year wedding anniversary is coming up, I felt I should probably write something about it. Because LOVE! And BIG DEAL! and stuff. So I spent two hours staring at a blank page while deftly avoiding destroying my keyboard with Cheetos finger dust. 

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I need inspiration, I eventually says to myself. TO THE GOOGLE. And as usual, it did not disappoint. So many women with very white teeth and very tall boots are just bursting at the seams to tell you all the secrets to their happy marriage. With their blogs featuring pithy titles such as “10 Lessons I’ve Learned in 10 Years in Marriage” and “What Marriage is Like After 10 Years” and “How We Keep the Romance Alive After 10 Years of Marriage.” 

You guys ever read a marriage anniversary blog? If not, allow me to sum up ALL OF THEM. 

“I married Jeff (or Jason or Jaysen or Jaxon) on a beautiful beach in some exotic locale that you probably can’t afford. And wow. What a journey it’s been. We didn’t know a lot back then but we knew we loved each other. 

Make NO mistake, however. It takes work. With his demanding but highly successful career and my vanilla writing that is somehow pulling in six figures and with raising our three extremely symmetrical children, our marriage is far from perfect. I mean, I once almost FARTED in front of my husband! Can you imagine? 

No, we aren’t perfect. But we are perfect for each other. We’ve been through so much together, from middle class status to upper middle class status to that time I got bangs. Oof. Through it all, though, we’ve grown closer. Everyone told me when I got married that it would be hard but I love my spouse now more than I did 10 years ago.”

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The one thing, however, that all these anniversary blogs agree on (once you get past all the shiny hair photos) is that to make a marriage work you cannot keep score. If you do, the score will never be even and there will never be any winners. Only resentful losers. 

It’s one of the few things I actually agree with them on too. Because I’ve been keeping score since Day One and it turns out I’m the resentful loser. 

Yeah, I’m LOSING. He is decidedly the better partner. Because I married a handsome overachieving jackass.  

My 10 year anniversary gift from him? Three days alone in an adorable cabin in the woods far away from our family. If you’ve ever had small children (or been within three feet of small children) you’ll understand what a tremendous and thoughtful gift this is.

I made him a coupon book featuring drawings of stick figures doing naughty things.  

You know what this guy did after Christmas? Cleaned and organized our gross, messy attic. A task I had been meaning to do for half a decade. A task that I had been dreading. A task that was taking up valuable mental real estate in my head. And then…poof! Done. Marked off the list without me having to even ask. 

Meanwhile, I once saw a spider in the house and very intrepidly killed it via drowning it in a gallon of bug spray. Did I mention this was on my husband’s desk? And then when he got home after a long day of work, I immediately yelled at him from atop the dining room table “There is a drowned spider corpse on your desk and I need you to get rid of the body and clean up the crime scene!…oh no, sweetie, you’re going to need way more towels!” 

He supports my dreams. Even the dumb ones. And I don’t mean in the “yeah, I totally support that, babe!” and then immediately goes back to scrolling on their phone way. That’s my method of support. I mean he gives me the time and space to pursue them. 

He’s the better gift giver. He’s the better baker. He’s the better nurse. He’s the better cleaner (like, he mops…what?).

He’s the less dramatic one. He’s the one with no history of gaslighting. He’s the one who has never made me feel guilty for being human. (And I am deeply, deeply human). 

He’s just better at…marriage. 

So, to sum up, I got a caring, hard working, supportive partner and he got someone who growls if you try to take the remote away from her. 

But at least I’m better at one thing. I am by far the smarter one. I knew enough to not marry a loser. 

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I’ll see you all in the spring

I never really understood those people who claimed that time is relative. That time is not absolute and can speed up and slow down depending on where you are, or how fast you’re going, or other amorphous, discombobulating, big word science stuff. 

Then January happened. And kept happening. Wouldn’t stop happening. It was a January that lasted for seven years. It was a January aging in dog years. 

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But hey! We all survived! And before murdering anyone (I’m assuming)! It’s now the beginning of February. Winter is officially half over. Which I feel I would be much more excited about if my one child hadn’t been coughing since November and the other one didn’t currently have a low-grade fever and runny nose that is going to last until April. 

I look forward to seeing you all again in May. Possibly June. Most likely 2034 when these two apple-cheeked petri dishes move out of my house. 

Honestly, it wouldn’t be that bad if these perpetually sick children had the decency to come down with an illness that makes them want to lay on the couch all day watching TV. You know, like any decent sick person with morals would do. But nope. My kids only get the germs that prevent them from going to school or library story-time or eating normal food or doing any chores BUT leaves them with enough energy to destroy my home and my sanity and my immune system. 

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I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fighting to get all my oxygen needs through nostrils that were only 13 percent operational. I’ve been dealing with an endless line of noses running so hard they would likely qualify for the Boston Marathon. And I’ve been riding a mucus tsunami like Moana crossing the sea to return the heart of Te Fiti, which is a very apt comparison considering I have seen “Moana” 116 times in the past five weeks. 

“Mom, how come you’re not sick?” my son asked one day while casually handing me a distressingly soggy tissue. 

“Because I have mom immunity. And I drink whiskey for medicinal purposes. And also technically I’ve been sick since the day after Christmas but everything still needs to get done because life is cruel and unfair.”

“Oh. Is dad sick too?”

“Yup.”

“Where is he?”

“Army crawling to work. Y’all expensive and we need to keep our insurance.”

Everyone in this stupid house keeps breathing all the same stupid air making each other sick but we can’t leave because we’ll make other stupid people sick so we stay stupid inside trying not to stupid kill each other while our stupid germs have air orgies and make new germs that we breathe in that make us sick all over again. 

And even when we get better, we’re not really better. And if we are better we aren’t better for long. Every time my son comes home from his school filled with other walking pathogens disguised as children, I can practically see the germs gleefully jumping from his hand to his backpack and giddily lying in wait for the moment when he asks me to carry it home for him and I give in because I’ve had 42 fights with his toddler sister that afternoon alone and my spirit is broken. And then those germs jump onto my hand, supersonically shouting out their battle cries and hacking away at my white blood cells with their super tiny axes.

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Or, you know, however germs work. 

There’s been so much sickness lately, in fact, that it’s gotten to a point where I’m a bit insensitive about the whole thing. 

“What? You’re sick again?”

*child finishes puking* “Yeah.”

*sticks thermometer in ear* “I mean, you only have a temp of 102. Here’s some Tylenol and a shovel. The driveway needs to be cleared out.”

*child has devastating coughing fit* “…ok…Momma…”

“And then after we can watch ‘Moana’ again!” 

*child gives thumbs-up from fetal position on the floor*

So, like I said. I look forward to seeing you all again in the spring. When everyone is finally healthy but all our allergies have kicked back in and we spend the majority of our time sneezing in your face. 

 

Good thing I’m not one of those sentimental moms

I vowed long before I ever had children that I would never be one of those overly sentimental mothers. You know the kind. The ones that make keepsakes out of their children’s teeth and first baby curls, like some sort of socially acceptable child body part hoarder. The ones who ugly cry at their kid’s preschool graduation ceremony (like that’s actually a thing, an actual important event). The ones who “ohh” and “ahh” and frame little junior’s drawing of a green horse that looks, let’s be honest, like a terminally ill Jabba the Hutt.

But not me. Nope. I mean, come on. The whole POINT of having children is to raise them and then get rid of them. To turn them into fully functioning adults who can deal with their own boogers and climb off the couch in a manner that doesn’t resemble a skydiving incident gone horribly wrong. Yet these weepy parents want to keep their kids in some sort of infantile limbo, nostalgic for the days when their precious babies hollered from the bathroom “mom, come wipe my butt!”

Pfft. Pathetic.

And then…

And THEN…

You knew there was an “and then” coming, didn’t you? Of course you did. You’re not an idiot like I am.

And then I had children. 

My son, my eldest, needed a haircut. His first. Too many “stop chewing on your hair” reprimands and running into the wall boo-boos because his bangs were blocking 87 percent of his vision finally pushed my hand. Not that I was putting off his first haircut or anything.

That would be too sentimental.

I waited until the morning of the day he was going to have his pictures taken by my photographer cousin. Not that I was waiting until the last possible moment or anything.

That would also be too sentimental.

It just happened to work out that way. And don’t you dare think for one second that me scheduling the hair appointment to coincide with a trip to visit family in my hometown in Ohio (800 miles from my current home in Boston) just so my high school friend would be the one to cut Riker’s hair had anything to do with sentimentality. It didn’t, ok? 

It didn’t.

It was simply because I couldn’t stand the thought of some stranger’s dirty, disgusting hands pawing through my baby’s pristine ginger curls and heartlessly chopping them off like they DIDN’T EVEN MATTER. Like they weren’t made from the most precious stuff ON EARTH.

And yes, I’m sure that the fact that I asked Samantha if she could cut me off just ONE of his curls as a keepsake might look, from the outside, like a sentimental request. But I was just being practical. In case, you know, something, god forbid, ever happened to Riker and we needed a sample of his DNA to give to a mad scientist who would then use it to create Riker’s identical clone.

And sure, then asking her to cut off another keepsake curl might seem a bit ridiculous, but hey, you never know. Something could always happen to Riker’s clone and it’s always good to have a backup-backup plan.

And ok, fine. Perhaps asking for that third curl to also be cut and gingerly wrapped up in plastic was overkill. But what if, I don’t know, a fire destroyed the first curl and then a plague of hair-eating locusts destroys the second one? What then, huh? Am I still being overly sentimental? Or just incredibly reasonable and forward-thinking?

So, plainly, as you can see, I have kept to that vow I made long ago to never be one of those overly sentimental parents. Even now with Riker about to turn 6 and my youngest preparing to go to preschool next year and the fact that I can’t remember the last time she fell asleep on my chest and that he no longer gives me a hug and a kiss before walking into his classroom and tomorrow they will both be leaving for college and they’ll never call and then move across the country from me and I’ll never see them but maybe next year, Mom, and the cat’s in the cradle and some crap about a silver spoon or something…

…Sigh…

And all of that will be just fine by me. Just fine. 

I have my shrine of baby curls, a creepy pile of preserved baby teeth and that damned ugly Jabba horse drawing to keep me company.

 

A glass of astronaut juice

She wasn’t my grandma. I should probably start with that. Officially she belonged to my cousins. The matriarch on their father’s side. 

But Grandma Knapke’s screen door always opened just as wide for me as it did for her verified grandchildren. On those blazing blue summer days, the five of us would spill out of the van and pour into her house, stirring up small whirlpools of chaos and sound in our wake. 

She was a small but vital part of my childhood, her face looming large in my memory. And her laugh. That very distinct laugh is forever seared into my brain. I loved that laugh. I remember wishing I was funnier as a kid just so I could hear that laugh more often. 

This was the angel who introduced me to Tang. The drink of the astronauts. Flashy space juice. It was the most exotic thing I had ever had. No one in my life up until then had loved me enough to let me have Tang. Grandma Knapke let me have it by the pitcherful.  

Her house smelled completely different from my biological grandma’s familiar smelling house. It smelled foreign and therefore fancy in my eyes.

My very intense but short-lived skateboard career began and ended in her driveway. 

She took a bunch of us into town one day. Her hair was in curlers, secured in a hair net. She didn’t care. That was the day she became my personal hero. 

Her kitchen is the kitchen I always think of when I’m reading a book and the characters are standing in a kitchen. She’d probably be surprised to know it was featured in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” and “Little Women.” 

I remember one lunch in particular, a mob of us sitting around her table. My plate was piled comically high considering I was 7-years-old. She cocked an eyebrow at me and said “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” I nodded sagely at her, like I knew what that meant. I had no idea what she meant. But I remember thinking how wise she sounded right before I spent the rest of the day with an agonizing tummy ache.  

I got the news a few days ago. Grandma Knapke passed away at the age of 93. Leaving behind a large and loving and wonderful family.

And one freckled stray whose eyes are still too big for her stomach. 

It takes a special kind of person to open their doors to kids that aren’t theirs. To make them feel loved. Make them feel like they belong. It’s hard being a kid. It’s so easy to forget that as an adult. Which is why kids need all the open doors and hugs and special astronaut drinks as they can get. 

I was luckier than most. I had the best grandma in the world. But I also got a Grandma Knapke. A woman who took in an only child whenever she showed up and made her feel like one of the pack. 

And as I get older, and raise my own family, I can only hope I have it in me to emulate her love and spirit. That in the end there is a person who, when they hear my name, thinks back with a smile and remembers sitting at my table in perfect happiness. Fancy astronaut drink optional. 

 

New Year, New Me, New Panic Attacks

It was because I was feeling smug. The universe loathes few things more than smugness. And I was practically dripping with the stuff. 

Allow me to paint you a mental picture. It’s a few days after the new year. There I am, sitting on my couch, in my new Christmas pajamas, drinking my new fancy Christmas coffee, a halo of smugness practically hovering over my head. A head that is looking around happily at my clean house. I had survived the holiday season, if not with grace, than at least without any photographic evidence to the contrary. All the proof of my family’s mindless consumerism was organized and put away. I had decluttered the drawers and closets. I was busily filling out my new 2020 planner with reminders of vet appointments and dentist appointments and dozens of other completely awful tasks because I WAS ON TOP OF EVERYTHING THIS YEAR. 

As if that wasn’t enough, I had also started reading (heaven help me) “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” that my mother had gotten me. Because while I am not usually a big one for self-improvement, I am if it’s telling me that the secret to happiness is wearing big floofy sweaters while wrapped in a blanket and drinking alcohol. 

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No wonder the universe was gunning for me. All that was missing was the “new year, new me” Facebook post. Which I’m sure I would have gotten around to, if I hadn’t decided to go for a run (an activity that is only second in smugness to people who bike for exercise). 

So, there I go, bounding down the steps of my porch, trying to resist the urge to physically pat myself on the back, when I immediately run into our neighborhood’s garbage collectors. We wave and smile at each other before they jovially call out “Hey! You forgot our Christmas cards this year!” Which was an incredibly nice way to put it considering I have lived in the same place for eight years and I have never, in fact, remembered to tip them at Christmas. Because I had completely forgotten that that is a thing you do when you are an adult. 

I just stood there, their words bouncing off my stupid face, which was frozen into the world’s most awkward smile. The kind of smile you give when you realize what a horrible person you are and there is nowhere to hide. 

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There is no excuse. None. 

But I’m going to offer up a defense. I never asked to be an adult. It just happened to me. (And you gotta admit it’s a pretty raw deal that the only way to avoid adulthood is death). As a result, I have always found adulthood to be intensely overwhelming at times. Which is why I usually set the bar pretty low, such as “keep kids alive” and “keep wine fridge stocked.” And everything was FINE until I had to go and smugly waltz into 2020 with the attitude of “I think I’m finally getting the hang of this.”

I literally forgot an entire societal norm. I definitely do not have the hang of this. Who else am I forgetting? Oh god, the recycling guys. The mail carrier. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen our mail carrier. But now I have to go stalk around our neighborhood and hunt them down. But first I have to hit up an ATM. And find a place that still has Christmas cards. Where are my keys? I should write all this down first. I need a pen. Where is a pen? Why is there not a pen in this entire house?!

What else am I forgetting? What other adult stuff has just slipped my mind? For decades? Do we even have a retirement account? We definitely don’t have college funds set up for the kids yet. And we should definitely send at least one. I keep seeing that commercial for Roth IRAs. Do we need one of those? What the hell is it? 

I need to sign my daughter up for preschool next year. Did I miss that deadline? Oh no, and she also wanted me to put her in dance classes. Should I enroll my son in space camp or some crap then too? Where is her birth certificate? They’ll probably need that. Where are any of our birth certificates? And our social security cards! They’re probably wherever our passports are. OH GOD, OUR PASSPORTS EXPIRED!

Where’s the dog? I think his tags are expired. Probably our car’s too. We don’t have the money for any of this. I need new bras! 

Are the kids having too much screen time? I need a better skincare routine. Are my husband and I having enough sex? Should we buy a house? I eat so unhealthy. Am I already riddled with cancer!? IS ALL THIS THE FIRST SIGNS OF DEMENTIA!? 

I’M SPIRALING. I’M SPIRALING! WHY IS THIS ALL SO HARD? AHHHHHHH! THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO! HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY BE OUT OF WINE!?

*breaks down sobbing*

Well, anyway…*wipes nose on sleeve*…to sum up, Happy New Year, everyone. 

 

Thoughts whilst wrapping presents upon a winter’s eve

Well, well, well. Will you look at that? Here I am. Dragging down last year’s beat up and cobwebbed wrapping paper from the attic. Being proactive. Unlike every other year, where I wait until the last minute to do all this and end up turning into Scrooge, mumbling under my breath about decreasing the surplus population. 

Starting with my family. 

But not this year. No, this year I’m on top of it. Wrapping all these Christmas presents over a WEEK ahead of time. I should totally write a book about time management. 

OK, is this all of them then? Oof, I hope so. I don’t remember buying all this. I should really check our bank account. 

No matter though. It’s Christmas! Come on, get into the spirit. Or better yet, the spirits. Gonna go get me a glass of that gallon of eggnog I bought at the liquor store because it was on sale! Everyone’s asleep. The lights are all aglow (except for that one string that went out but I’m too lazy to replace). It’s not snowing but that sleeting is…picturesque. AND I can finally watch that ridiculous Christmas movie that somehow tries to plausibly pull off a time travel plotline about a medieval knight. 

Sigh. Yes. This is perfect.

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Alright, just going to lower myself down onto the floor here. Erg. Was the floor always this far down?  Did I always used to grunt this much? OK, where are the scissors? Scissors, scissors…ah! There they are. Sneaky little devil. And onto the first present. You know, I don’t think I’d ever tell this to anyone, but I definitely have an above average gift wrapping skill. I mean, just look at this. Such tight corners. That I’d love to tape down. Where is the tape? Tape, tape…do we have tape? Did I forget to buy tape? We have to have tape. What house doesn’t have tape? Ugh. Better go check the junk drawer. Up we go. Erg. Ouch.

OK, so we have an ancient roll of tape that is half gone. Going to have to ration the adhesive. No worries though, I’m a master. Just gonna throw some ribbon on this bad boy and a bow and BOOM. Perfection. 

I mean, look at that curly-cue. 

My family truly doesn’t deserve me. 

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OK, what’s this one? A robot unicorn? With wings? That sings? Definitely going to regret this purchase. She’s going to love it though. And look at this one. An overpriced STEM gift from that fancy catalog. He’s going to go nuts. And get so smart. And then go to Harvard and buy me a house. 

Oof. My back. Already with the back pain. Why is this floor so hard? You know what, though? Nothing a little bit more eggnog can’t solve. A little more eggy-nog-nog. Who would have thought that whiskey went so well with eggs? No one. Technically it’s gross. But it’s doing its job. Come to Momma, you. 

Alright, round two. What’s next? A sled? How the hell do I wrap this thing? It’s HUGE. Where did those scissors go? They were just here! Where the f—Oop. There they are. You know, I honestly can’t wait until Christmas morning. The kids are at that perfect age where everything is magical and…oh come on. Where did the pen go? Or for that matter, my back-up pen? Six hundred pens in this stupid house and not a single one within reach! I swear I will burn this entire place down if…oh, there it is. 

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Wait, who was this one for again? 

OK, how many more are left? Oh. Wow. Haven’t even made a dent. But how? My hips are killing me. Everything hurts. Things I didn’t even know existed hurt. How is it possible I’m only this far along? Do I even like this many people? 

And why are all these toys in such oddly shaped packages?

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So tired. More eggnog. That’ll help. And maybe one of those cookies or two (or five) that I spent all day yesterday making. 

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!? They ate them ALL? It hasn’t even been 24 hours! Those monsters didn’t even save me one. 

Alright, alright, I need to calm down. This is MY TIME. I should try to enjoy it. Although, if I’m being honest, I wish MY TIME consisted of sitting on the couch doing nothing but mocking this Christmas movie. Seriously, no one dresses like that when it’s cold and snowy out, Ms. Oh But I Wasn’t Even LOOKING For Love. No, in reality, everyone dresses like they’re a homeless marshmallow man from November to April. 

Sigh. OK, where was I? How are there still this many unwrapped things? Eh, you know what? Screw it. I still have plenty of time to wrap before Christmas. I’ll finish tomorrow. Or the next day. Yeah, it’ll totally be fine. 

Now, where’s that eggnog?

 

Not until the holidays are over

It’s understandable, I suppose. If you look at a calendar, there is December, looking on the surface just like any other month. Row after row of days, each begging to be filled up with errands and tasks and to-do lists. So I get why some people treat it just like any other month. 

But let me make this as clear as possible. Nothing is getting accomplished until after the holidays. At least on my end. 

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See, once December starts, you might, MIGHT, get one week at the beginning where I kinda sorta pretend to care and half-heartedly “do” stuff. But we have now reached a point in the season where this is no longer real life. Nothing matters anymore except things that have a decidedly Yuletide bent to them. I am now living in a snow globe filled with eggnog. Go away. I’ll see you all again in January. 

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My dentist is harassing me about making an appointment. The vet is wondering when I’m bringing my dog in for a check-up. My toddler wants me to sign her up for dance classes. Our passports need renewed. Etc. Etc. 

Look, I have to watch “A Christmas Story” AT LEAST five more times. There are cookies I need to buy from the store and pass off as my own special recipe. Not to mention, I still have to figure out which festive liqueur I’m going to slip into my coffee on Christmas morning. I’m swamped. All this constant nagging about deadlines and paying bills and what are we going to do about the leak in the kitchen and the kids need to eat something besides candy canes is fa-la-la-la-la-laing on deaf ears. 

Not until the holidays are over. 

Oh, what’s that? Do I hear what you hear when the car starts? That awful grinding sound? No, sorry. I only hear what Whitney Houston hears. A song, a song, high above the trees, with a voice big enough to block you and the rest of reality out. 

Nothing. Until. The. Holidays. Are. Over. 

Sure I’ll still send my oldest kid to school (because I’m pretty sure legally I have to). But his hygiene and preparedness are a crapshoot this far along in the month. Was I aware I sent him to school wearing two different shoes? And only one sock? Where is his homework? And backpack? Why is he quoting “Die Hard?” 

All things I will definitely address. After the holidays are over. (Although please enjoy these definitely homemade cookies that are my own special recipe). 

We’re out of toothpaste? I’ll put it on your Christmas list. The laundry needs done? What’s a few more days in those pajamas you’ve been wearing all weekend? That gigantic tower of unread mail on my desk? I’ll get to it. I swear. Right now, however, I have to drive around and look at Christmas lights and then stop at a festively decorated craft brewery where my kids will eat french fries and I will drink a beer with 12 percent alcohol called “Yankee Swap.”

That book club I want to start? The writing group I’ve already promised to start? That Christmas party I was thinking of hosting?

All of them can wait. UNTIL AFTER THE HOLIDAYS. I mean, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” isn’t going to watch itself while eating three-fourths of a large pizza. 

And come January 2, you can come bug me about all the stuff I’ve been putting off. Or the 3rd, depending on how bad my New Year Eve’s hangover is. Just get in line behind everyone else and do your best to ignore my sobbing. 

So you’ve decided to argue with a child

Oh hello. I see that you’ve decided to argue with a child. Allow me to assure you that you’ve come to the right place. I have over five plus years of experience arguing with children. Most of which I’ve lost. 

But this abysmal track record has given me a wealth of insight into the minds of these adorable little psychopaths and I would love nothing more than to share my wisdom with you and do my part in taking down as many of these tiny despots as I possibly can. Solidarity, my fellow caretakers! 

First things first, before beginning any rigorous argument regimen, there are some steps you should take to ensure your safety and well-being (and the safety and well-being of any and all children in the vicinity). If you are a pointer or tend to lean toward gesturing, some light stretching might be in order. Some positive affirmations in the mirror couldn’t hurt as well. Remember, YOU are the grown-up! They have no power over you! They weigh 35 pounds and have poor hand-eye coordination!

I also highly recommend doing some verbal exercises ahead of time since chances are high you will be dealing with rapid fire questions of “why?” and “why not?” and “but why?” and “how come?”. Personally, I find a little alcohol beforehand helps. Not too much, mind you. You have to keep your wits about you. But just enough so that my head doesn’t explode from the absolute absurdity of what’s happening. 

Which brings us to Tip No. 1. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to use logic. Children are not rational beings. They’re not even irrational beings. They are walking impulses housed in tiny, sticky, meat suits that are hell-bent on destruction and chaos. Logic merely bounces off them and comes right back to hit you in your stupid rational face. 

Tip No. 2, show no fear. Children can smell weakness with the same alarming accuracy as they can hear a candy bar being opened from four rooms away. If there is even the slightest bit of hesitation on your part, they will pounce, sink their tiny little teeth into that hesitation and never, ever let go. To avoid this, I find it helps to have a ready-made mental list of responses. Let’s try an exercise that you can practice with an adult partner:

“Can I get a cell phone?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re five.”

“Jasper is five and she has a cell phone.”

“Jasper is not my kid.”

“But I want a cell phone.”

“I want to not have acne at 38 but we don’t always get what we want.”

“I need a cell phone!”

“No, you need oxygen. The rest is just a bonus.”

“If you were a nice mom you’d get me a cell phone.”

“If I were a nice mom, I wouldn’t be Mom, I’d be Grandma.”

“Will Grandma get me a cell phone?”

“No.”

“But why?”

“Because I’m her kid and if she even dares brings this up, I will ‘but why?’ her to death.”

Tip No. 3, do not be distracted by their insults. When children feel they are losing an argument, they typically resort to verbal assault. “You’re a Mr. Poopy Peepee Face.” “I stupid hate you, stupid Mommy.” Etc. Most of these are harmless but be ready for some to hurt. Kids are incredibly adept at homing in on what bothers you most. “Yeah, well, you’re a girl so then why do you have a mustache, Mom?” 

Tip No. 4, make sure there are no loopholes. Kids love jumping through loopholes and they never, ever get tired or run out of energy. Or want a nap. Just imagine that every time you give a vague answer or agree to something (under the guise of “compromise”) that you are not dealing with a child but rather a genie or a monkey’s paw or some other supernatural phenomenon that you have to be very, very, VERY specific with. For example, to a kid…

“Let me think about it” means “Yes.”

“I don’t know” means “Yes.”

“I don’t think so” means “Yes.”

“Maybe later” means “Yes” for eternity.

“No” means “ask again in seven minutes.”

Tip No. 5, do not remind them how good they have it. Kids don’t care. Because IT IS NOT GOOD RIGHT NOW AND WON’T EVER BE GOOD AGAIN UNLESS THEY CAN DO THE THING OR HAVE THE THING OR EAT THE THING. 

Tip No. 6, lie. Yes! It is ok to lie to children. In fact, lying is the only reason adults have managed to keep our tenuous hold on the upper hand. “Oh, but I would never lie to my child,” I hear a few of you more naive parents saying. But you will. Because in order for us to remain in power, all of us parents have to hold the line. So, the park is closing, the store completely ran out of ice cream and it is against the law for kids to be up past 8 p.m. on a school night. 

And lastly, do not assume you’ve won. Ever. Just wait. Somehow, some way, this will all come back to bite you in your ass. You merely won the battle, not the war. The war is not won until you get to watch your children argue with their own kids as you secretly hand your grandkids more sugar to add fuel to the fire. 

The best mom in the galaxy

My eyes pop open like blinds that have been pulled too hard. I heard one of the kids cry, I’m certain of it. I strain my ears over the snoring duet of the dog and the husband. Nothing. Whoever it was must have fallen back asleep. 

As I lay in bed, wide awake since parental panic is the most effective alarm clock on the market, I think about the day to come. It’s going to be a good day, I tell myself. Because today I’m going to be a good mom. A great mom. The best mom in the world.  

Mary. Friggin.’ Poppins. 

(wavy fantasy lines, wavy fantasy lines, wavy fantasy lines)

Today I will get up, refreshed, and gently wake my children, both of them sleepily smiling at me as I sing “good morning!” to them. We will do our morning routine like an adorable montage from a romantic comedy, complete with a fashion show by my 5-year-old as he gets ready. As we walk to school, we’ll joke and laugh and enjoy the late autumn weather. 

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Then the 3-year-old and I will head to the library for storytime and after I will surprise her with a trip to her favorite pizza place for lunch, where we make up silly songs and she tells me about her favorite animals. She then takes a nap and I’m able to actually write my newspaper column by deadline. 

We pick up her brother and I let them play on the playground while I successfully have a 20 minute! conversation with another adult. We head home for a snack and an impromptu dance party (all of us, of course, agreeing on the music we listen to). 

Then they help me make dinner, the two of them adorably drowning in aprons. Daddy comes home and we all sit down at the table, talking about our day and discussing our highs and lows. 

As the day winds down, we read five books and they obediently clean their rooms and brush their teeth. As I tuck them into bed, my son looks at me and says “you’re the best mom in the world.” And my daughter says “no, she’s the best mom in the galaxy.”

And I walk away with a huge smile, telling myself just how lucky I am that I get to do this every day.

(wavy fantasy lines, wavy fantasy lines, wavy fantasy lines)

In reality I groan as I get out of bed (because that just happens involuntarily now) and I make coffee, menacingly standing over the coffeemaker, threatening it to hurry up or else. The kids procrastinate getting ready until the last minute despite me reminding them every five minutes that we are leaving soon. He calls me stupid and mean for making him brush his teeth and she throws a tantrum because she can’t find her favorite kitty cat stuffie (you’d think the fact I found eight other kitty cat stuffies she can take would help but no, no it doesn’t). Finally I explode.

“If you guys aren’t ready to go and by the door in the next 30 seconds, I will set all your toys on fire, so help me,” I loudly growl, my inner Darth Vader holding my inner Julie Andrews hostage in a chokehold. 

The entire walk to school they complain. It’s too cold. They’re so tired. Carry me, Momma!

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A little while later, me and the toddler are leaving the library in disgrace because she started screaming at the top of her lungs for some reason that she refuses to divulge. Trying to turn the day around, I take her to her favorite pizza place, where she runs around the entire place singing songs about poop. She then refuses to take a nap, even though she needs one, and refuses to get off my lap, leaving me to try to type 800 words of my newspaper column one-handed. 

Later we pick up her brother and the three of us end up leaving the playground in disgrace, one of them tucked under my arm like luggage and the other being dragged behind me by the hood of his coat, all of us raving at each other like lunatics. 

As soon as we get home, they both immediately ask to watch TV. When I say no, they both end up in the corner because we do not hit mommy no matter how mad we are. I tell them to go play in their rooms, which lasts for almost 10 minutes before I have to pull them apart because they’re fighting like feral weasels. Let’s read a book! I suggest, hoping to distract them. They then end up back in the corner for beating each other up again because they can’t agree on which book we should read. 

They then make a giant mess in the kitchen under the guise of “helping me cook” and I age ten years in ten minutes trying to bite my tongue so I don’t scream out of frustration. I get a text that Daddy is running late again. 

The three of us sit down to dinner, which is gross and smells like vomit apparently. Before I even manage to take my first bite, I have to yell at them to sit down in their chairs and stop sniffing each other’s butts. 

Bedtime is an hour of complaining (on their part) and threats about setting everything on fire again (on my part). 

And as I sigh and tuck them into bed, exhausted, my son looks at me and says “you’re the best mom in the world.” And my daughter says “no, she’s the best mom in the galaxy.”

And I walk away with a huge smile, telling myself just how lucky I am that I get to do this every day.