Category Archives: funny

A Nightmare in Elm Trees

It was a cloudless blue day in late summer. The kind of blue that made the heart ache with possibility. The kind of day made for adventures. 

And it was in that spirit of happy potentiality that the little family began packing up their car for a weekend away in the woods. Backpacks full of toys, a small suitcase filled with hoodies and bug spray, a cooler loaded with beer and marshmallows. The father grunting as he loaded the trunk, the children squealing and chasing each other, the mother watching fondly but also desperately trying to remember what she forgot because it was definitely something. 

How could they possibly know under that perfect sky that they were walking into a horror story? (Other than the fact it’s the premise for an entire genre of horror stories?).

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The drive passed quickly and uneventfully. The cabin was small and cozy. They only had one neighbor in this isolated part of the New Hampshire woods. A lone man wearing flannel staying at the other cabin across a copse of trees. The mother joked that he looked like Ted Bundy. The father laughed. Because it’s all fun and games until someone gets murdered. 

For now, it was peaceful. Quiet. Which is probably why the mother was able to hear it. Barely perceptible, but definitely there. She had just sat down and opened her book when a low moan rose up out of the woods. She looked around but when she didn’t see anything, decided to ignore it, managing to read three whole sentences before hearing it again. Only it was a little louder this time. 

“…oooooooommmmmm….”

“Hello?” she practically whispered. “Is…is someone there?”

The woods answered back with the light rustling of leaves in the wind. After a few more moments, she turned her attention back to her book. Finding time to read was a luxury and she refused to waste it. But just when she had finally relaxed, releasing the tension in her shoulders that had been there since the birth of her oldest, there was that sound again. Louder. Much louder. An unearthly wail. 

“MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!” 

No. No, it can’t be, she thought. But it was. Suddenly, like a pop-up book from hell, her two children appeared on either side of her, loudly complaining that they were already bored. 

They had only arrived 20 minutes ago. 

The mother screamed. 

Meanwhile, the father was in the cabin unpacking. Although beautiful late afternoon sunlight filtered in through the windows, the man couldn’t shake the black, foreboding feeling that something wasn’t right. He checked and double-checked all the bags. Everything seemed in order. When suddenly…

“Honey!” he screamed in terror. “We forgot the graham crackers!” 

There are some who say the inhuman wails of the children upon learning this news could be heard as far away as Vermont. 

After that, it was as though the children were possessed. “S’MORES!” they screeched while clawing, grabbing, tearing at their parents with small but freakishly strong hands. “S’MORES!”

Somehow the father managed to escape, fleeing in dread to the car. Twenty minutes later, he was running blindly through the streets of the only nearby town.

“Help! Someone help! I need graham crackers!” His words echoed off the empty buildings. “PLEASE! I left my wife alone with the kids! I don’t know how long she can hold out!”

By the time he returned, a box of horrifyingly overpriced crackers in hand, he found the children dancing around the fire, having gone completely feral in his absence, dirt smudged on their faces like so much war paint. The mother lay in the fetal position to one side, quietly whispering over and over again “he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon…” 

Quickly, the father got to work, roasting marshmallows but trying in his panic not to burn them. May the good Lord have mercy on his soul if he burned them. With shaking hands, he assembled the dark snacks that had turned his children into unrecognizable fiends. But just as quickly as he made them, the children tore into them like a pack of wolves, quickly disemboweling the father’s careful work, discarding the crackers and marshmallows over their shoulders and only eating the chocolate. 

“MORE.” they bellowed. 

The parents quietly wept. 

A few hours later, determined to salvage this family trip, the parents announced in perky but trembling voices, “let’s go for a walk in the woods!” To their surprise, the children agreed, chocolate still ominously smeared across their faces. And for a few glorious minutes, it appeared all might be ok. The children happily scampered ahead, collecting acorns and pine cones. They even let out a few genuine laughs of delight. 

But then the couple made the fatal mistake of enjoying themselves, triggering in the offspring all their most evil and depraved impulses. Because while the children typically loved nature, could spend hours staring at a dead leaf while in the city, they could not stand that very same nature when their parents paid $100 for a cabin completely surrounded by it. 

“This is dumb. Can we go home?”

“My feet hurt. Will you carry me?”

“I SAW A BUG!”

“Can we get an Uber?”

“I hate trees.”

“Did you bring any s’mores? I WANT A S’MORE!”

The parents didn’t die that day. But there are some who say they can still see the ghosts of their expectations haunting the woods to this very day.

On the plus side, the family never did get murdered by their neighbor Ted Bundy. Likely because the children scared him away. Even serial killers have their limits. 

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Lisa Frank & the other loves of my life

I don’t have much proof. I’ll admit that right off the bat. But just hear me out. I’m starting to suspect that my son is not my child. 

I mean, sure, he acts just like me (NO WE’RE NOT DRAMATIC, HOW DARE YOU!) But he was born via C-section. I couldn’t see anything past that weird blue screen they put up, not even them pulling a human body out of my human body. Who knows what happened down there? And, yeah, ok, my husband claims to have witnessed it but he could be part of this whole conspiracy. So, really, who’s the crazy one here? 

Because the biggest piece of evidence is that my son (“allegedly”) starts kindergarten in a week. And he is not excited. At all. According to him, after one year of preschool, he’s all set education-wise.

“But Momma! I went to school last year, remember? I learned everything already.” 

And I know. I know what you’re thinking. Maybe he’s just scared. But that doesn’t seem to be the case either. Yesterday I sat him down and started going off on this whole heartfelt spiel about how I was terrified on my first day of kindergarten and, funny story, was actually sent to the corner on my first day of school (I was framed basically and that’s all I’ll say about it and Amy knows what she did). But he stopped me, while I was mid-monologue and teary-eyed, with a wave of his hand. 

“I’m not scared. I just don’t want to go.”

The boy isn’t even excited about getting new school supplies. SCHOOL SUPPLIES, guys. 

“Do you want to get a new backpack for this year?” I nonchalantly asked him last week.

“Nah. I’ll just use my old Paw Patrol one.”

“Well, we can buy you other things.”

“Nah.”

“But have you ever smelled a fresh notebook? Or lovingly held a new box of crayons? All sharp and unused and full of potential? Want me to buy you a Trapper Keeper?”

“What’s that?”

“The single coolest invention of all time.”

“Nah.”

WHO IS THIS CHILD? I’m not going to lie. A good 30 percent of the reason I had kids was so I’d have a legitimate reason to wander up and down the school supply aisles, creepily smelling notebook paper. But now the girl who was once too school for cool has a son who is too cool for school. It’s like a super messed up Dr. Seuss story. 

I loved school. I was that kid raising their hand going “ohohoh, pick me!” I was that kid who joined everything. T-ball, volleyball, basketball, track, one ill-advised year as a cheerleader, school plays, band, Spanish club, yearbook staff. And yes, I was probably that kid you hated and rolled your eyes at. 

Not that school was always great. It had the typical amount of suck. There was some hardcore psychological warfare going on in third grade among my clique of friends. And then again in fifth grade. And half of sixth. I spent grades four through nine in one long awkward phase. (Tenth grade I was also pretty awkward but had at least learned how to pluck my eyebrows so there were officially two). Once a boy asked me out as a joke. Twice I tripped in the cafeteria, spilling my food and dignity everywhere. And I can’t count the number of times I got busted for falling asleep in class (one, because I was asleep and two, because it was almost always in math class). 

Yet the good still outweighed the bad. And I earned a life-long love of learning. Of challenging myself. Which is what I was hoping for my own children. They don’t need to get straight A’s. Or get involved in sports. Or fake their way through Spanish well enough to become vice president of Spanish club (el gato esta en la microonda!). But I do want them to use this time to try it all, experience it all, learn it all. To discover who they are and what they can do. 

Alas, my son is not me. Nor is his younger sister. Which is something I’m trying to keep in mind as we step blindly into this new phase of their lives. I can’t make them love school. I can’t make them see with 20 years of hindsight what lies before them. 

What I can do, though, is be their cheerleader (albeit an admittedly bad and inflexible one, just like when I was in school). And I can be there for them when things get hard, and then they get easier, and then everything changes and it all gets hard again. And I can listen to them when they have a bad day, a bad teacher, a big bully. 

And most importantly, I can impart my hard-won wisdom onto them that these years are only a small window of time where they can carry around a Trapper Keeper without looking like a crazy person. 

 

Tired.

I’m tired. 

But don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those pieces where the author spends 800 words telling you just how much MORE tired they are than you. (Although I only got two hours of sleep last night. Not that it matters. Because, again, this isn’t THAT piece). 

See, I know you’re tired too. We’re all tired. The whole world is tired. None of us are getting enough sleep and all of us are under more and more pressure to do more during our waking hours. 

Which is why, I suspect, we as a society have turned tiredness into a competition. We all feel guilty that we aren’t doing more so we try to win the only contest we can: Who is more tired?

Person 1: “I’m so tired.”

Person 2: “Me too. I only got five hours of sleep last night.”

Person 1: “I only got four.”

Person 2: “Did I say last night? I meant for the whole week.”

Person 1: “I meant for the whole month.”

Person 2: “I basically haven’t slept since I was a child.”

Person 1: “Must be nice. I haven’t slept since I was literally in utero.”

Person 2: “Really? I couldn’t even sleep in there, what with that constant beating of mother’s heart.”

I don’t know how we got to this point. Maybe it was the Internet, connecting us all to the world 24/7. Maybe it was the rise of social media, connecting us all to each other 24/7. Or perhaps it’s just hard to get a solid eight hours when the world feels like a dumpster fire. But whatever the reason, it appears there is some fierce competition for the title of “Most Tired.” Because you can get into this competition with pretty much anyone. Take moms, for instance. 

Pregnant woman: I’m so tired. 

New mom: HAHAHAHA…just wait until they are born. 

Mom of toddler: Aw, that’s cute. Mine is mobile and can open doors and has opinions. 

Mom of teenager: Well, I haven’t slept since mine got his driver’s license. 

Mom of multiple teenagers: I’M TECHNICALLY DEAD. 

There’s also the generational tiredness rivalry. 

Old person: I’m so tired. My angina and trick knee kept me up all night.

Middle-aged person: I was up worrying about taking care of my aging parents and my growing kids. 

30-something: My career is killing me. 

20-something: I work three jobs and have no money and no future and the Arctic is literally on fire. 

College student: I had to pull an all-nighter for exams and then work all day at my unpaid internship.

Teenager: I had to pull an all-nighter for Fortnite. 

Everyone: Oh, shut up, Kyle.

Teenager (sulkily): I won, not that anyone cares.  

There’s also usually a romantic partner daily exhaustion war. My husband and I are experts at this. 

Husband: I had to finish 57 projects today and re-do the entire website and fight the crowds for the train home. 

Me: I had to drag two little kids all over town while dealing with 23 tantrums and 15 meltdowns and I have insomnia and I need to finish my blog about how much more tired I am than you and everyone else in the world.

(Again, NOT that this is all about how much more tired I am than you, dear reader. Even if it’s true, it’s not the point). 

And then there is all the situational tiredness. The bad job tired. You ever had a bad job? It’s exhausting. There’s the bad relationship tired, where your brain basically turns to mush rehearsing all the things you should say to your crappy partner but never do because you’re just too tired. Or the financial problems tired, where you trade sleep for calculating which limbs you can sell to make ends meet this month. 

And that’s all just the level of tiredness you feel when everything is going fairly well in your life. It’s a whole new level of fatigue when you are, say, battling a chronic disease. Or a mental illness. Or raising a child with special needs. Or dealing with racism and sexism and bigotry every day. Or struggling in poverty. Or…yeah, you get it. 

We’re tired. 

So who wins the award for most tired? I mean, clearly it’s me. Although the rest of you put up quite the battle. Which is why I’m going to pull a Cady Heron from “Mean Girls” and break apart the crown and give us all a piece of the title. 

And as for any solutions? How do we stop being so tired? Truthfully I have no idea.

But I’m sure I’ll be up all night thinking about it.

 

 

What’s in a name?

People often spell my name wrong. This is usually through no fault of their own but rather because of an impulsive decision I made as a young girl. One of those passionate and spontaneous moments of childhood that only happen in childhood because sometimes when you’re nine you know yourself better than when you’re on the cusp of 39. 

For those of you who don’t know, or never noticed, I spell my name with two L’s. I changed it in the third grade because every parent in the early 80’s in western Ohio thought April was just a super terrific name and, as a result, there were what felt like hundreds of us in my small elementary school. Technically at least seven. Most importantly, three alone just in my class. Tired of being April B., I decided to set fire to the old me and emerge from the ashes as Aprill. 

Aprill! Yes! Because Aprill is so much more exotic than plain old boring April. April was a month. Aprill was a force of nature. Aprill could do anything. Wear her jeans pegged! Rollerblade without a helmet! Know all the lyrics to a Tupac song! (And not the radio edit version!) With a name like that I was destined for big things. Like becoming the first supermodel doctor archaeologist who wrote novels on the weekend. 

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Granted, not everyone was on board with this change. My teacher repeatedly marked my grade down on all my spelling tests because I spelled my name “wrong.” Nevertheless, I persisted. Unfortunately so did she, which is why I got a C in spelling that year, but I think I made my point. 

Because eventually everyone did forget that April B. ever existed. Soon I was known as Aprill, that girl who puked on the playground that one time! (It was hotdog day. It wasn’t pretty). 

And thus things remained until last week when I went to Starbucks, where I discovered I hadn’t been nearly ambitious enough with my name change all those years ago. Because right there, on my cup, staring back at me in black and white, was the most beautifully unnecessary way yet to spell my name. 

“Aperal”

APERAL. I mean. What? 

I’ll admit I laughed at first. Even shared it on social media to get some laughs and also show everyone that I am a very important writer who writes very writerly-like at Starbucks with all the other important writerly writers of our generation. 

But, and I’m not proud of this, but it got me thinking. What if that was my name? What if I was Aperal? And if I was, who was this Aperal? 

I mean, sure, Aperal looks like a cross between the name of prescription drug with horrible side effects and a fancy drink women in their mid-40’s order at two in the afternoon. But you have to admit it’s memorable. 

I’ll tell you one thing, Aperal is probably not the kind of person who only wins arguments in the shower. Oh no, Aperal would win them right then and there and while completely dry.  

When someone asks Aperal what she does for a living, she wouldn’t go “oh, I’m kind of a writer.” Oh no. She’d say “I’m an award-winning columnist.” And then she’d probably do something really cool like chug an entire martini and throw the glass into the fireplace (because Aperal is the kind of person who is always casually hanging out by fireplaces). 

And Aperal would definitely have the nerve to get a pixie haircut and dye it platinum blonde like Aprill has been wanting to do for years.  

Aperal probably doesn’t have insomnia either. Nope. You’d never catch her slowly eating an entire block of cheese dipped in guacamole by the glow of the refrigerator light because she hasn’t got a good night’s sleep in three weeks and nothing matters anymore. 

Aperal can probably get into her sports bra without pulling a muscle and knocking over a lamp. 

Aperal could send a text without agonizing over its content until she got a reply. 

I bet Aperal even knows how to French braid. Like some kind of hair wizard. 

And when Aperal’s kids misbehave in public, Aperal would get them in line by turning into a stern but lovable Mary Poppins as the entire playground looked on in awe, as opposed to growling at them and whipping out her Darth Vader voice, terrifying everyone within hearing distance.

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Sigh. It does sound nice. Completely reinventing myself again. To become that better version of myself that is hiding underneath all the ketchup stains and undereye bags. 

In the end though, Aprill, for all her faults and pretentiously referring to herself in the third person, isn’t that bad. And Aperal, for as amazing as she sounds, wasn’t the one who built this life from the ground up. A life full of mistakes but one I’m happy to call my own. 

Besides, wasn’t it someone famous (Aperal would probably know) who said “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”?

So, I think I’ll stick with remaining Aprill for now. 

But I’m keeping Aperal in my back pocket. Just in case I’m ever casually hanging out by a fireplace. 

 

Comic books didn’t prepare me for this

I’ll be honest. I never gave much thought to my lap. Which is sad really, considering it is the most powerful part of my body. 

Oh yes, that squishy fleshy chair I can make appear and disappear at will is literally the seat of my power. (Pun COMPLETELY intended). 

I don’t mean this from a muscular standpoint. Or politically. Or even aesthetically. No. I mean from a supernatural perspective. The second I even attempt to sit and form this lap, it mystically summons, from far and wide, small children.

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Small, bony, wiggly children. With their weaponized elbows and butts and knees. Who then must sit on my lap immediately and are willing to fight each other to the death for the privilege. (A fight to the death that happens, you guessed it, right there on my lap).

It doesn’t matter what I’m doing while in possession of this lap. Eating? Clearly the appearance of my lap at the dining room table meant I wanted to eat this taco while maneuvering around a toddler’s head. Working on my laptop? Obviously by sitting I was inviting my kindergartner to hop on up and “help” by maniacally pushing buttons and erasing everything I’ve written. Disabling a bomb? Pffft. Whoever heard of someone doing that WITHOUT a pile of children on top of them?

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Likewise, environmental factors matter little. A Fourth of July party in 101 degree temperatures with a humidity equivalent of one thousand swamps? Hey mom, seems like a perfect time to sit on you and sprawl out every inch of my 40-pound frame, unfolding like a sticky octopus. 

There is one very important rule, however. Whatever you do while sitting on my lap, the one thing you absolutely MUST NOT DO is sit still. Because that would be ridiculous. 

But it’s not just my lap. This is a latent superpower pretty much all moms discover they have, which is why you rarely see a mom sitting. We know that as soon as we do, our laps will be swarming with children. Most likely our own but it’s far from unusual to find someone else’s kid squatting there. Like a beacon, it calls to them. 

Small child No. 1: “Do you feel that? A mom in the close vicinity is getting ready to sit and relax.”

Small child No. 2: “Oh no, that won’t do at all. We can’t allow her to enjoy herself. Let’s go!”

*pitter-patter-pitter-patter-pitter-patter*

See, that’s the thing about laps. It’d be one thing if this was all based on love. If these children just wanted a good cuddle. Who doesn’t love a good cuddle? But that is not what the majority of lap sitting is. No. This is about ownership. Property rights. My kids sit on my lap to stake their claim. “This exhausted worn out husk that was formerly a person is my property!” their bony butt declares every time it plops down. And it’s always a plop. Never a gentle perch. Or even a moderate plonk. Although sometimes, when you least expect it, it’s a flying leap. 

And once they’re on there, very little can pry them off. Property is, after all, nine-tenths of the law. 

“GET OFF!” I’ll roar.

“Wiggle even harder!” they hear.  

“I have to pee!” I’ll plead.

“Let’s move this party into the bathroom!” they assume. 

“Can I just have five minutes to myself?” I’ll ask.

“Fine, fine, clearly what you need is for us to now migrate to your back and put you into a chokehold,” they reason. 

Every once in awhile though, just when I’m reaching my threshold and wondering if woman can live by standing alone, these kids legitimately need a lap. A nightmare scared them. A friend hurt their feelings. A day at the beach exhausted them. 

Or, the best possible reason, their love suddenly grew too big for their little bodies to contain and they had to release it by getting as close to me as humanly possible. 

Which is why we moms put up with all of it. Why we risk the bruises and the plops and the lack of any semblance of personal space. Why a mom’s lap is always open.

Because when words and band-aids and security blankets fail, a mom’s lap can tell them, instantly and in no uncertain terms, that they are loved. And they always will be. And it’s all going to be ok. 

And in the end, that’s a pretty amazing superpower to have. 

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Welcome to Thunderdome

When I was in high school, I read “Lord of the Flies.” Good book, I thought. But totally unrealistic. 

Kids aren’t like that. 

And then…well, then I had a child. 

Worse yet, after having that child, I decided to have another child. Meaning I now had children. Plural. More than one. Creating, blindly, siblings. Because in my baby fever, I was so obsessed with if I could, I never stopped to think if I should. 

And now every day of my life is spent pulling apart two feral creatures who are trying to rip each other to shreds. Of all the things I was woefully unprepared for as a parent (and there are a lot), the savage sibling fights is the one that perplexes me the most. 

Part of this might be because I spent most of my early life as an only child. My mom had me when she was young so it was only after 17 years that I finally got a sibling. By that point, I was more like the fun auntie than any kind of sister. My role was to roll out of bed, play with him for a little bit and then run off with my friends to hang out in a cornfield and definitely not illegally drink bad, warm beer.  

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So I never got the traditional sibling upbringing. And, sure, I also grew up with a lot of cousins. There was plenty of fighting there. But it was different. With cousins, there’s more of an involuntary manslaughter vibe. With siblings, it’s premeditated.  

Were they born mortal enemies? I do remember on the day my daughter was born, my son’s little toddler fingers immediately found the soft spot on her skull and he tried pushing it in. That should have been a pretty big red flag of what was to come. 

It’s not like I favor one over the other. I ignore them both equally. Is it the age difference? Everyone told me, oh, two years apart is the perfect space between ages. I can only assume now they meant the perfect ages to inflict similar wounds on each other. 

And, trust me, they can turn anything into a weapon against the other. This one time my son nibbled on a Dorito until it became a neon orange shiv and then he stabbed his sister with it. She, being a bit more old-fashioned, once threw a giant rock at his head. He pushed her into a pool last summer. Last Thanksgiving, she jumped off the couch and landed directly on his face. 

As for reasons why they fight? Well, breathing is a popular one. He got the purple sippy cup. Her leg accidentally touched his. They both got the EXACT same numbers of M&M’s. One day they both punched each other in the face because they got into an argument about goats. 

I’ve seen barroom fights in dive bars that were more civilized than the fights that break out at the dinner table night after night. 

Truly, we don’t give kids enough credit. We treat them with such gentle hands, talk about how innocent and loving they are. But I’m pretty convinced my kids would straight up slaughter each other if only they could figure out how. Thank god they have awful hand-eye coordination and hardly any upper body strength. 

Because nothing stops these fights. I’ve tried intervening. I’ve tried bribery. I’ve tried distraction. I’ve tried “let’s sit down and talk about our tiny murderous feelings.” No matter what, five minutes later, one is chasing the other with a hammer (where the hell did she get a hammer?) because he called her stuffed kitty cat stupid. 

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It’s exhausting. Which is why I’m currently trying the benign neglect method of our ancestors, just pretending I don’t hear the screams of attempted bloody murder, but making sure I’m close enough should I need to rush anyone to the emergency room. 

Say what you will about the parenting methods of the 70’s and 80’s, but I now know why they always sent us outside. 

Plausible deniability. 

 

A Review of my Son’s Imaginary Restaurant

It’s a tired old trope and yet still remains a true one. When it comes to so many ventures, it’s all about location, location, location. 

Which is the one thing my 5-year-old son’s recently opened restaurant has going for it. Situated conveniently right in the heart of my living room, this one-couch eatery specializes in unique dishes that are as creative as they are inedible. 

Aptly, or perhaps ironically, named Restaurant, the place has what can only be described as a homey vibe with a shabby chic aesthetic, heavy on the shabby. On entry, you are greeted by a riot of colors and smells, none of which are food related. The cleanliness also left something to be desired for this particular reviewer but the other patron, an elderly canine named Buffy, didn’t seem to mind. 

The owner and head chef (and host and server) Riker revealed to me that he had only recently taken an interest in the culinary arts. Prior to opening Restaurant, he had his sights set on becoming a ninja astronaut. Alas, the lack of experience and passion showed. The service alone was, to say the least, wanting. 

“What do you want to drink?” he demanded soon after I sat down. 

“How about a Diet Coke?”

“We don’t have Diet Coke.”

“You don’t have Diet Coke at this imaginary restaurant?”

“Nope.”

“OK, what do you have?”

“Um…coffee or tea.”

“I’ll take coffee.”

“Actually, we don’t have coffee. Do you want tea?”

Deciding to try my luck instead with their wine list, I summoned the sommelier, who happened to be the owner’s younger sister. At only 3-years-old, she was on the younger side of wine experts and it quickly became evident she had only gotten the job because of family connections. 

“Could you recommend a red, miss?”

“Red what?”

“Red wine.”

“Can I have some?”

“No.”

“Can I have pink wine then?”

The conversation quickly went off the rails from there. Resigning myself to the fact that I would just be thirsty throughout this entire meal, I was surprised, and somewhat wary, when the chef eventually presented me with a pink teacup that sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” incessantly. 

“Here’s your coffee.”

“I thought you said you didn’t have coffee. Also, this is empty.”

“OK, it’s root beer.”

Restaurant’s signature dish is pizza. (Although entree options are subject to change with little to no warning). With no menu in sight, I decided that would likely be my best bet. Even bad pizza is still pizza. Or, at least, it had been up until now. 

“I’d like to order a pizza, please,” I informed the chef. 

“Oh yes, pizza. Pizza has sauce and cheese. And crust. And…um…do you want mushrooms on it?”

“No.”

“Well, you have to have mushrooms on it.”

“Pretty sure that’s not how this works.”

“It is.”

“Oh.”

The kitchen, a converted bedroom in the back of the house, came alive with the sounds of clanging toy pots and pans and what definitely better not be my expensive William Sonoma kitchen utensils stolen from a certain drawer. Luckily, I didn’t have time to ruminate on this long since my dish arrived quickly (under two minutes, in fact, by my count). On the down side, it resembled nothing even vaguely pizza-like. The crust looked like a slab of cardboard (mostly because it was cardboard). The sauce looked suspiciously like Play-Doh covered in dog hair but at least it was red. I was informed by the chef that the “cheese” on my pizza was definitely cheese and not a blank piece of paper. And yes, there were mushrooms as well. Plastic mushrooms. Plucked straight from the toy aisle years ago in the Kmart region of the Northeast. 

“Here’s your pizza!” Chef Riker announced while delicately placing the dish down on my crissed-crossed lap.

“Oh…wow.”

“Take a bite!”

Wanting to retain a fragment of my professionalism, I did as I was told.

“Mmm…this is…interesting.”

But the chef had already disappeared, pitter-pattering off to do more important chef stuff one can only assume. Or perhaps to scold the improper behavior of his sommelier, who was at this point crawling around on the floor meowing and yelling “Momma! Look! I’m a kitty cat!” 

Unsure what to do next, I sat there uncomfortably while my fellow patron at Restaurant started barking and making quite the ruckus. Likely because his pizza didn’t turn out as he expected either. 

To my relief, Riker soon returned with a towering stack of Legos.

“I forgot your dessert.” he apologized. “Here you go. It’s ice cream!”

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the ice cream was as unpalatable as everything else had been. 

“So, what do you think of my restaurant?” Riker asked, standing there with hope in his eyes and a stolen whisk in his hand.

“Best meal I ever had, chef.”

Absolutely.

It was a tradition we had started a few years back. Whenever someone in our family had a birthday coming up, they got to choose whether they wanted gifts or an adventure. Since I had just reached Level 38 in the game of life, I felt an adventure was in order. I have stuff. A ridiculous amount. I wanted memories. 

We didn’t go far. Adventures don’t always require distance. My husband and I Googled our little hearts out and found an idyllic seaside town not even an hour away. It had all the requirements.

1. A beach. 

2. A place close to the beach that sold alcohol.  

Better yet, we found a quirky little inn that still had rooms available. An inn that was the perfect blend of charming and yet definitely haunted, but haunted by the ghost of Lorelai Gilmore. I immediately fell in love. 

It was everything a small getaway should be. Even the constant sibling fighting added an air of authentic vacation whimsy. 

“Ah, we’re going to miss this when they get older.” I sighed to my husband as we sat on the beach and watched our daughter throw sand directly into her brother’s eyes.

“Yes, these moments when they’re still small enough to lack the strength to actually murder each other are truly magical,” replied my husband as we then watched our son retaliate by hitting his sister over the head with some driftwood. 

Alas, all good things must come to an end. As we were packing up to leave the following morning on our second night there, the whining started. Right on time. 

“But MOM! We don’t WANT to go HOME.” my 5-year-old wailed, splayed dramatically on the bed. 

“MOMMA! Can we live here now?” my almost 3-year-old helpfully chimed in as she mimicked her brother’s splaying.

“Guys, you know we have to leave tomorrow.”

Simultaneous groans. The only thing they had agreed on the entire time. 

“Can we stay just one more night?” 

“Yeah, can we?”

Pffft. Who did these kids think they were dealing with? Not in the mood to argue about this for the next 45 minutes, I decided to throw the hammer down, saying the two words universally known to decimate the hopes of youths everywhere. The verbal nuclear option, if you will. 

“Absolutely not.” 

And that was that. 

Until it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that at all. Because out of nowhere, my husband whipped out a homemade missile defense system built out of only three words.

“Are you sure?”

Was I sure? WAS I SURE? Who did this guy think he’d knocked up on multiple occasions? Of course I was sure. We couldn’t possibly stay one more night. We had to get home and…do things. Like…important things. Important things like…THE DOG. Yeah. We have a dog and there is no way…

“I mean, we could see if the dog sitter can stay one more night.”

But…

“And the owner mentioned to me earlier that he doesn’t have the room booked again until next week.”

But…

“And I know what you’re thinking, but we can afford it. I worked all that overtime last month.”

But…

“What do you think?”

What did I think? What did I THINK? I think the mom part of me was holding up a giant banner over my brain that said “ABSOLUTELY NOT.” As she so often did. Because the mom part of me is inundated with 300 ridiculous requests a day. Can I jump off the roof? What if I wear a cape? Can we have candy for breakfast? Can we put makeup on the dog? Can we lick this old gum on the sidewalk?

So, “absolutely not” was the only possible answer to all of these. It was a survival technique really. But, because of this, how many times did I say no to things just out of sheer habit?

And that’s when I heard her. The non-mom part of me. The part of me that was slowly being smothered underneath the pile of unfolded laundry in my soul. She was straining to be heard as she whispered “what if you said yes?”

Meanwhile, while my brain was short-circuiting, the three of them were standing there, staring at me expectantly.  

“Well, I guess there’s no harm in seeing if the dog sitter can stay one more night,” I finally sputtered out. 

She could. 

“But I doubt the owner will just let us stay another night at the last minute.”

He did. 

Again, six eyes stared expectantly at me. 

“So can we, mom?”

“Yeah, can we?”

Can we? What would one more day mean? One more trip to the beach. One more dinner at a place where the wine paired perfectly with deep fried everything. One more day to make memories I will probably forget but Instagram will remember forever. 

“Honey?”

I stared back at them. I smiled. And I decided then and there to drop my bad habit like a bad habit. 

“Absolutely.”

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38 Things I’ve Learned in 38 Years

Well, it’s my birthday. Again. And it’s a big one. The Big 3-8. I am now as old as Homer Simpson (at least in season 8). No, I’m not crying. You’re crying. SOMEONE BRING ME A BEER AND A DONUT. 

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If I’m being honest, though, I don’t really mind aging. I’ve learned so many things this past year. Wise things. Sensible things. And so, so many useless things.

All things I would now like to generously share with you…

The easiest way to deal with grass stains on your children’s clothing is to not care that your children’s clothing have grass stains.

If someone says “hey, smell this!” do not, under any circumstances, smell it.

I know there are people out there who don’t drink wine. I don’t understand them but I do think we should still try to love them.

Speaking of love, if you truly love someone, show it. By texting instead of calling.

Preschool teachers do not get paid nearly enough.

Growing older makes you realize what the truly important things are in life. I’d pay way more money for an uninterrupted nap than I would for diamonds or gold.

Never punch down. In comedy or life.

Take photos and videos of your kids when they are at their worst. Then look at these every time your ovaries start whispering “hey, there’s still time to have one more baby.”

I’m young enough to still hate the taste of martinis.

I’m old enough to now like the taste of gross stinky cheese.

In that brief moment when all your laundry is done AND put away, all things are possible. Revel in this moment before it ends.

We should all jump on the saving-the-planet bandwagon. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? We succeed and our grandchildren don’t have to live in a dystopian hellscape?

It’s ok to look your age. Looking young is not an accomplishment. It’s a result of genes or lots of money or an extremely boring life. Or all three.

Hating pop culture is not an acceptable substitute for an actual personality. Shut up and let people like stuff.

No means no, stop means stop, let Mommy finish her coffee means LET MOMMY FINISH HER COFFEE. 

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Most people have no idea what they’re doing. Don’t let their confidence fool you.

The good thing about exercising is that if you do it for so long, you become addicted to it. The bad thing about exercising is that if you do it for so long, you become addicted to it.

It’s ok to laugh uncomfortably at funerals. Unless it’s your funeral.

It’s a small world. It’s an infinite universe.

You’re never too old to wear a tutu.

You’re also never too old to climb trees. (You will, however, be sore for days afterwards).

I’d rather be strong than skinny.

I’d rather be happy than rich.

I’d rather be immortal than dead.

It’s not important to love the same things your partner does. But it is important to hate the same things.

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The last thing all pets should see before they die is your tear-streaked face. We owe it to them to be there until the very end.

One of the best things you can do for your sanity as a parent is to teach your kids how to swing on the swings all by themselves.

Fruit doesn’t belong on pizza or burgers.

No one likes the person who points out that tomatoes are a fruit.

Spiderman should always be played by an actual teenager.

You will regret not being in the photos.

You can never have too much sunscreen on hand.

Admitting you’re wrong isn’t a weakness.

Take pride in your unread emails. It beats panicking. (1,300 and counting!)

Smile at little kids, have a conversation with a lonely elderly neighbor, invite the mom sitting alone at the playground to have a nip from your flask. We could all use more positive human interaction.

Teach your children to be the kind of people who love the smell of old books.

You don’t have to be good at something to pursue it. If you love it, do it. Take it from an extremely mediocre photographer.

Speaking of things people aren’t good at, I am not good at math. Here’s to hoping this is the 38th thing. Because I am out of useless wisdom to impart. Did I mention cheese yet? Cheese is good.

I’mma let you finish this preschool graduation, but first let me say…

Ladies and gentlemen, parents and loved ones, distinguished guests and, especially, educators just white-knuckling it until you’re finally free for the summer…welcome. And thank you for that wonderful introduction. Granted, I realize no one technically introduced me since I just hopped up here and grabbed the mic, but hey, no one has full-body tackled me yet and I’m having some Big Feelings right now, so I’mma go with it.

I am truly honored to be here today. So honored, in fact, I even put on my good leggings. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Riker’s mom. That’s him. Right there. The most adorable little boy in the world. Wave hi to everyone, Riker. Oh my god, will you just look at those red curls of his? You know he had a full set of those red curls when he emerged from my womb? Even the doctor was impressed. He was so little back then…and perfect…and time went by so fast…*sob*…no, no, I’m fine *sniffle*.

Now, I’ll admit, before I had children, I thought the idea of a preschool graduation was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. Like, congratulations on learning what a triangle is, kid. Here’s a diploma for blowing your nose correctly. But then I became a mom. And soon realized the dumbest thing I ever heard was the theme song to the children’s show “PJ Masks.”  

More importantly, however, I realized how wonderful the idea of this graduation ceremony really is. And not just so I can take 500 photos of my kid standing on a stage picking his nose. But also so I can then share all those photos on social media and shove them down the throats of people I barely know in real life.

I MEAN JUST LOOK HOW GORGEOUS HE IS.

In fact, you all look gorgeous today. With your tiny dresses and your little button-up shirts…and…oh, look at that one, she has a flower in her hair…I just can’t…*sob*...oh no, I’ll be alright, Mrs. Ferris. Sit down. No, really. I’m not done yet. I said SIT DOWN.  

I want to tell all you children how proud we are of you. You’ve come so far. Remember the first day of school? All that crying and clinging and whimpering? And you kids were pretty upset too.

Look at you now though. So much more mature. So much more independent. So many new curse words in your vocabulary (sorry, other parents, that’s…that’s mostly on me).

Even though you guys are just starting out on your life’s journey, it’s important to remember on this special day that the road to success is filled with no parking signs. And permit parking only signs. And those indecipherable signs that say you can only park here on Tuesday from 1 a.m.-5 a.m. Which reminds me, if anyone sees a 2004 red Hyundai with a gray hood being towed, please let me know. We are definitely parked illegally out front because for some reason this school has the world’s smallest parking lot.

But no matter where the road takes you, dear graduates, my advice is to follow your passion. Unless that passion is to pick your nose. Knock that crap off. RIKER! I mean it, mister! And as you prepare to enter the real world, a world where there is only one snack break and no longer two snack breaks, remember this: there will always be more snacks over the horizon. Be patient. The world is full of snacks. And should you ever find yourself in an unbearable snackless situation, look for the nearest grandparent. They will immediately find you a snack. They don’t even have to be your grandparent.

And so, in conclusion, let me just end with this quote from the inimitable Dr. Seuss: Do not hop on pop. Or mom. Seriously. Stop it. It hurts our backs.

Oh, and one more thing. I know it’s only 8:30 in the morning but the next time you guys have one of these things, maybe put in an open bar or something because some of us are having a LOT of emotions right now and a Bloody Mary or three would really help ease the…oh, and it appears my husband is now trying to pull me off the stage…hang on, honey, I’m almost done…I just…*sniffle*…you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Riker…you and your little sister, who I lost track of like 20 minutes ago and…HANG ON, RYAN…and …I know you’re going to do wonderful things and…WAIT, WAIT, STOP PULLING…oh, just look at Riker’s little horrified face! I made that face with my lady parts…OK, OK, I’M LEAVING…

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