Category Archives: Holidays

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. 

My Thanksgiving Google List

How big of a turkey do I need?

Idiot proof recipes for Thanksgiving turkey

What is a brine?

Is a brine necessary?

Things I can brine a turkey in besides a bucket

Is Alton Brown single?

Pictures of Alton Brown

Alton Brown’s wife

Did Guy Fieri die?

People you’d be surprised are still alive

When are grocery stores the least crowded?

How late is Trader Joe’s open?

Why are there so many people in the world?

How expensive is it to have Thanksgiving catered?

Should I buy a backup turkey?

Videos of how to remove turkey guts

Do gutless turkeys exist?

Thanksgiving cocktails

Thanksgiving cocktails you can make with simple ingredients

Thanksgiving cocktails with three or less ingredients

Wine with the highest alcohol content

That funny Thanksgiving song, not the Adam Sandler one

That funny Thanksgiving song about jail

Thanksgiving playlist ideas

Thanksgiving sweaters for dogs

Thanksgiving sweaters for women

Thanksgiving sweater sets for families

How to make sweet potatoes not suck

Why do people put marshmallows on sweet potatoes?

Recipes for normal potatoes

What is the point of parsley?

Why aren’t there more Thanksgiving movies?

Forgot to thaw turkey

Are turkeys microwave safe?

Can you blow dry a turkey?

Recipe for cheesy vegetable dish, possibly included cauliflower?

How to trick children into eating Thanksgiving dinner

Good responses to ‘I don’t want to eat this’

How to make vegetables taste like not vegetables

Thanksgiving sides you can deep fry

Recipe for deep fried stuffing balls

Recipe for deep fried stuffing balls not on a food blog site featuring long stories

How can you tell when a turkey is done?

First aid for minor burns

My discount meat thermometer melted?

Difference between oven safe thermometers and not oven safe

Can I still eat a turkey if a thermometer melted on it?

Pizza places open on Thanksgiving

 

Welcome aboard, plebs

Good morning, passengers! Welcome to Every Airline Flight 525. We will begin boarding in just a few minutes but please stand by for a few pre-flight announcements.

It looks like we are scheduled for an on time take-off, although that will likely change once everyone is onboard and trapped. It does seem we are overbooked today so we ask that our customers be prepared to unceremoniously be bumped to a much later flight even though you have a connecting flight in Washington D.C. We apologize for this inconvenience but have the utmost confidence that no one will be of much help getting you where you need to go. 

Onboard we will have a variety of complimentary beverages and snacks available during the flight. So please enjoy those two swallows of Diet Coke and three tiny pretzels. Of course this only applies to those of you who bought our basic economy seats. First class and economy plus customers will be given something much, much better which, fortunately for the peasants sitting in the back, you will get to glimpse as you awkwardly pass by them during boarding. 

We also have a variety of alcoholic beverages available for purchase if spending $13 on a tiny bottle of vodka that isn’t even big enough to give you a buzz is your idea of a good value. 

For those of you who have a middle seat, please be prepared for the other two people in your row to be seated first and then be super annoyed when they see you that you didn’t have the decency to die on the way to the airport, thus giving them more elbow room and a place to put their gigantic parkas. Middle-seaters should also be advised that you will have to pee about ten minutes after take off but will feel too anxious to ask the aisle person to move again and will spend the rest of the flight in pure misery. There will be plenty of bathrooms once we reach our destination but all of them will have a long line filled only with old people and women with multiple small children in tow. 

Speaking of boarding, we here at Every Airline have a very strict boarding pecking order because classism is our creed and motto. We are now inviting those passengers who require any special assistance and anyone traveling with small children to begin boarding. Yes, even ahead of the rich people. But only because we’re pretty sure it’s required by law or something. For those of you boarding first, please do not make eye contact with the pompous lady who has been hovering near the gate for over an hour and is angry that just because you have a toddler you get to go ahead of her. She is clearly one of our Premier Select Members Plus and as such feels superior to you in every way. Please also note that she is married to the angry man who was indignant when the poor airline worker told him his carry-on, which was clearly a full-sized suitcase, had to go below in the cargo hold. 

We will now begin boarding our Gold Circle Elite customers, which are somehow different from our Premier Select Members Plus customers. For those of you in Boarding Group 5, please stop standing around like you will get on this flight anytime soon. Sit down and pretend to read that overpriced John Grisham book you just bought at the airport souvenir store. 

We are now inviting any veterans or current active military members to board even though the pompous lady is now audibly huffing and looking around with her best “don’t you know who I am?” face.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been informed that all the overhead bins are already full since no one checks baggage anymore because we charge a ridiculous fee for it. Although feel free to hold up the entire line trying to stuff your gigantic overloaded carry-on up there anyway. 

Since we are a bit afraid that the pompous lady is going to have a heart attack, we now invite our Premier Select Blah Blah Blah customers to board. As well as Boarding Groups 1-4 because the only thing our Select Elite Whatever membership gets you is the illusion of prestige.  

Finally we invite Boarding Group 5 to board but most of you already did, sneaking in with the rest of the passengers. 

We here at Every Airline know you have your choice of airlines and are happy that you choose to spend $377.34 to be treated as a criminal and a second-class citizen by us. Please enjoy your flight. Which I have just been informed has been delayed. 

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. 

Who deserves a vacation?

Of all the titles I thought I’d have throughout my life, Illicit Vacationer was never one of them. And yet, here I am, with my Instagram feed defiantly full of photos of me and my family cavorting on a beach in Maine.

In my defense, I didn’t read Michelle Singletary’s piece in the Washington Post titled “If you’re in debt, you don’t deserve a summer vacation” until after I got back. So, you can imagine my surprise that I somehow managed to get away with sneaking off to the shore without my student loans grabbing me by the ear and hauling me back home while they lectured to me about financial irresponsibility.

If you haven’t read the article, it’s all right there in the headline. But it’s the “deserve” that got me the most. Interesting word choice, considering that the vast majority of Americans are in debt. Luckily, she clarifies what she means by “debt” with the definitely not condescending sentence “I’m sorry to tell you that you don’t deserve a summer vacation if you’re a hot financial mess.”

Ah. Thanks, Michelle. Hot financial mess. Got it. So…everyone then?

But perhaps my favorite bit was when she goes on to say you don’t deserve a vacation even if you saved up for it. Because we should all be using that money to pay down our debt. Because, honestly, how long is it going to take you to become completely debt-free? What, 30, 40, years? You can vacation in your 80’s.

In HER defense, though, she does graciously offer a solution to us mere commoners, us plebs who frivolously spent our stagnant wages on unaffordable higher education, child care, housing, working vehicles and medical procedures. That solution being, of course, the luxurious and also definitely not condescending concept of the “staycation.” Because everyone knows how relaxing it is to hang out in your filthy house that you hang out in every other day of your life. But, as she so kindly reminds us, don’t spend your valuable time off cleaning and attacking that mile-long to-do list. You’re on vacation, afterall. Act like it. Just step around the piles of laundry and dog vomit.

But enough of Michelle’s Very Helpful Tips for the Working Poor. Let me tell you who I think “deserves” a vacation.

Everyone.

Everyone deserves a vacation. Full stop. Everyone is stressed out. Everyone is busy to the point of exhaustion. Everyone is struggling, in some way or another.

I’m sure even rich people get stressed out from time to time. I don’t know, maybe their third Porsche didn’t start today and now they have to have their butler take it to the mechanic and it’s become like a whole thing. I get it, man. It’s rough.

Which is why we all deserve a break.

Do you know what’s so amazing about vacations? It’s somewhere away. Away from home. Away from your problems. Away from the world’s problems. Just for a bit. Just long enough to breathe and take in a lungful of life.

Because by being away, you get perspective. Say, perspective about how you were not put on this Earth merely to work hard and pay your bills.

And you don’t need a big fancy vacation for this perspective. All travel changes you for the better. We only went an hour and half away. In the off-season. For only five days. Because that’s what we could afford. Most of the time it was 55 degrees and rainy.

But it was heaven. Because it was away. Because it was the four of us, laughing and exploring and eating absolutely nothing of nutritional value and remembering that in the grand scheme of things, all the rest of it is just the small stuff. Life is big and should be treated as such.

Because do you know who deserves a vacation the most, in my opinion? My children. They deserve to run around on beach when they’re young enough to scream in delight and slight terror every time a wave touches their foot. They deserve carefree days full of sandy kisses and sticky hugs that leave their lollipops hopelessly tangled in their mother’s hair. They deserve the pure joy that can only come from hopping in the car and setting off for destinations unknown with happy parents.

Debt will always be there. Even if I finally do pay off all my current debt, my car is 14-years-old. We’ll need a new one soon. At some point, someone will break a leg, or get really sick, or need surgery. Eventually, we’d like to own a house instead of renting. Someday my kids will likely go to college. There will always be more debt.

But you know what there won’t always be more of? Time. This time, right now. Where my kids are young and my husband and I are less young but still young enough to chase them through the streets of a charming seaside town with delight.

I can guarantee you that when all of us are on our deathbeds, we won’t be thinking “man, I’m so happy I got all that debt paid off, what a life well-lived.” We’ll be thinking instead about how we sat and watched the waves on a freezing beach that one day in May. And then we came back to our little oceanfront cottage and made s’mores by the fire, with a peace settling upon us that was interrupted only by spontaneous hugs that left fragments of sticky marshmallow hopelessly tangled in my hair.

So, take that vacation, my friends.

You can’t afford not to.

 

A (rented) room of one’s own

They looked bigger in the pictures online. The rooms. My compliments to the photographer.

The pictures also managed to somehow downplay the whole floral aspect of the room. Which is quite the accomplishment as well. Did you ever sleep over at your grandma’s house in the 1980’s? It looked just like that. Complete with the four-poster bed and the beige, eternally out-of-date, carpet. And, of course, the floral wallpaper. The floral curtains. The chair in the corner covered in clashing floral upholstery.

I didn’t even know flowers had it in them to be so aggressive.  

But this room, it’s mine. For two nights at least.

My husband kicked me out of the house. The beautiful bastard. He had silently watched for months as the daily grind wore away at me, chipping relentlessly at those parts of me that were buried underneath the gargantuan title of MOM.

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He watched and watched and then said enough. Take three days. Go somewhere. Just you.

There were a thousand reasons not to go. Seven hundred of them, at least, being things that had to be done IMMEDIATELY. He let me spout off a mere handful of these reasons before interrupting me with perhaps the two most beautiful sentences ever uttered in the English language: “I don’t care. You’re going.”

As I type this I have a Harry Potter marathon on the supernaturally tiny TV they provided. I’m reclining on a ridiculously comfortable bed (with floral bedsheets) surrounded by books and graphic novels and back issues of magazines and newspapers that I wouldn’t be able to finish even if I had three months.

I keep waiting for an interruption. For a knock at the door. For a feral howl of my name to reach my ears. For…anything.

It never comes.

I’m so happy.

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Remember your room from childhood? From when you were a teenager? How it was your sanctuary? The place you could dream in, wonder and plan who you would become. It was perhaps the only place where all the possibilities and all your potential was allowed out in the open.

It has been a very long time since I had that feeling.

“What are you going to do?” my friends asked me when they heard I was temporarily running away from home.

Nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing.

Or perhaps everything.

I don’t know and it’s delicious.

In the end, I do things. And then I don’t do things. And then I think about doing more things but just lay in my beautiful but possibly haunted rented Victorian bed for a bit longer because sometimes just thinking about doing things is better than actually doing them. I keep checking the time. An old habit from my old life, with kids. It’s going slow, the minutes and hours crawling forward, in no hurry to get anywhere. I briefly debate stealing this precious clock.

And then, perhaps the most magical thing of all happens. I start to miss them. My family.

It has been a very long time since I’ve had that feeling.

It’s lovely.

And, I now realize, vital.

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I don’t know how I can ever repay my husband for this gift, for these three days he gave me to remember who I was, who I still am, underneath all the MOM. And to remember all the reasons I decided to take that title in the first place.

But should he ever feel the need to run away from home, I know a place.

 

Honest Christmas Letter

Greetings, friends and family and people I barely know anymore but still have your addresses saved so what the hell!

I hope this year has been good to you (she types like she hasn’t stalked over half of you on social media late at night with a glass of wine in her hand…definitely-not-creepy haha!).

It’s been a wonderful year here at the Brandon-Huddle household. At least I think it has. If I’m being completely honest, I can’t remember what it was like before the Vague Plague swept through our house, reducing all of us to coughing, feverish, snotty shells of our former selves. You know, that mysterious illness that hits one family member and then passes through all the rest until the first one finally gets better right as the last one is coming down with it, thus passing it back onto the first one, on and on and on until none of you can remember what it is like to breathe through one nostril anymore, let alone two. It has no name but is somewhere in-between a cold and the flu. Unless, of course, the man of the house gets it, in which case it is a Very Serious Case of Almost Certain Death.

But although our collective health is currently drowning in a tsunami of snot, everything else is a fantastic mixed bag of tragicomedy.

Ryan is working hard as usual. Some would say too hard. And by some I mean me. Awkward haha! Because I reach a certain point in the evening where I simply cannot “mom” for one more minute. But at least he’s smart enough to know that if he walks through that door past six he is to have a bottle of wine tucked under his arm for me. Maybe also a cheeseburger. And a taco.

But it’s not entirely his fault. You gotta make a living, right? Kids are expensive. And he’s really good at what he does. Plus, during those brief twelve minutes we have together in-between the kids going down and us passing out on the couch after watching the opening credits of “Sabrina” on Netflix, we are reminded how much we love each other as we grunt and stare vacant-eyed into the other’s rapidly aging face.

As for myself, I completed a half marathon this year, which has been a dream of mine ever since my friend Emily texted me “wanna do a half-marathon?” and I drunkenly texted back “hellz yesh!” The race was awful. Just truly awful. Why do people like to do this? What is wrong with them?

But the point remains that I did it. Which I now tell anyone standing within earshot.

I’ve also been keeping up with my writing. I’m even trying my hand at writing a book. Which means I rapidly swing from “I can do this, I can totally do this” to “I’m an idiot. What is a plot? Whet r werds?” on a daily basis. I definitely think I need new hobbies.

This has also been a big year for our oldest, Riker, who started preschool this year. He loves it. Now. In the first few weeks there was some atomic-level leg clinging during drop-off but now he can’t stop talking about school. At least I think he’s talking about school. His stories aren’t always coherent. They pretty much start somewhere at the ¾ mark and then jump backward toward the middle with a brief glance at the beginning while the ending has apparently escaped through some window, never to be heard of again.  

Allow me to share his latest. It’s so cute. I think…?

“So then Ethan is a bad guy, but a friendly bad guy, and we chased the ghosts on the swings and Mrs. Ferris says, but Momma, it’s always important to share, and remember, Momma, when you first get to the classroom, we have to do our arrival jobs so we walk quietly and carefully to our cubby and put away our things and then sometimes Elena hugs me too hard and I don’t like it but that’s ok and now I’m a big boy, not a baby, which is why the vampires were hiding in the closet.”

Speaking of babies, our baby isn’t a baby anymore. Mae turned 2 in July. She is just turning out to be a fantastic little person, albeit one who drinks what has to be an unhealthy amount of bath water. We are a bit nervous about her arch-villain tendencies but, as they say, raise the children you have, not the children you want. Even if they scare you a bit.

And last, but certainly not least, is our dog Buffy. He’s 13 now! Can you believe it? I certainly can but then again I am constantly reminded thanks to his old man dog farts, which are numerous and aromatic, to put it politely. But the vet says he is in great shape and super healthy and only charged us $600 to tell us that.

All in all, we realize how lucky we are with our beautiful little family and a roof that only leaks sometimes over our heads. Although if anyone is wondering what to get us for Christmas, a nap would just be fantastic.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

Apparently the Tooth Fairy got a tax break too

Considering my oldest child is only four, I admit I’m still fairly new to the parenting game. However, I’m not so new that I don’t already have unnecessarily strong opinions on how the rest of you are doing this wrong. (Oh, shut up, you know we all do. The second that baby came out of my body I was immediately critical of how the doctor was holding him.)

Now, let me clarify, I don’t care how you raise your children. I don’t care what you feed them. I don’t care what they watch or their “screen time” limits or if they do chores or how you discipline them. I don’t care what you name them or if they’re on a leash or free range or home schooled or fancy private schooled or even if they are buttheads (because, hey, my kids also have butthead tendencies).

I don’t care about any of that. You are the expert when it comes to your own kids.

But there are certain things that affect all of us parents. Certain things that we are all in together. And some of youse guys are completely ruining it for the rest of us.

Take the tooth fairy, for example. When I was a kid, the going rate was a quarter per tooth. So, you can imagine my surprise when I was scrolling through Facebook and discovered that some kid got an electric train set from the tooth fairy.

AN ELECTRIC TRAIN SET. For sitting there and letting a body part fall out of his head. And not even a useful body part that can be studied for science or something. Just a gross useless one covered with the ghost dust of a thousand dead Goldfish crackers.

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Even worse, I found out the current monetary rate for a baby tooth is now apparently $20.

Twenty American dollars.

Do you know how many teeth there are in those little heads? Well, me neither, but it’s a lot. Who are you people? Don’t you have bills? Student loans? Is Grandma footing this expenditure?

I mean, I could understand if this was like a limb fairy or something. I can see giving them $20 for an arm that falls off. They only have two of those.

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“Oh, but it’s my choice what I give my kid from the tooth fairy,” I hear you other parents haughtily declare as you spread diamond jelly on your artisan bread in front of your shrine to Gwyneth Paltrow in your newly renovated kitchen.

But it’s NOT your choice. Not this. Because do you know what happens when your adorable Sharpay gets an electric train set from the tooth fairy? She tells all the other kids and then they come home to us demanding to know why they only got a dollar. And let me tell you, answering “because the tooth fairy hates you” is NOT the correct response no matter how annoyed you are by their whining. In fact, there is no good response to that.

It’s the same thing with Christmas. You want to get little Luxx an iPhone for Christmas? Great. Fantastic. I don’t care. But don’t say it’s from Santa. Because not all “Santas” can afford iPhones and/or think a 6-year-old should have one. Take credit where credit is due and make the jolly fat man give them a ball or some stupid crap.

And then there’s Easter. Can someone please tell me at what point Easter became “Christmas: The Sequel”? For the past five years, I made a drinking game out of scrolling on social media and taking a shot every time someone posted a photo of the loot their kids scored from the Easter Bunny. We’re talking tricked-out bikes. Barbie Jeeps. Tickets for Disney World. And, again, iPhones because Apple must give massive discounts to mythological creatures.

Needless to say, I’m usually drunk within 12 minutes.

Just give them a basket of sugar and some gross eggs and call it a day, other parents. Come on.

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And yes, I do understand that we all have to somewhat keep up with inflation. I don’t even think they make buffalo nickles anymore or where you would find a ha’penny. But they’re kids. They have very little concept of modern economics. We can underpay them. They have no idea. And they are very unlikely to form a union considering most of them haven’t even fully mastered the spoon yet.

So let’s keep it simple. Kids shouldn’t be able to afford a semi-fancy bottle of wine because they lost a tooth. They should be able to buy gum. And not the good gum either. That crap that taste like fruit-flavored chalk.

Because childhood is already inherently magical. And because children actually like that disgusting cheap gum. And because it’s hard enough to parent without raising kids who expect high-end luxury goods for simply being kids.