Category Archives: Holidays

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 Complete with the four-poster bed and the beige, eternally out-of-date, carpet.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.

 

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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.

 

The swimming pool incident

Guys, it took me a long time but I finally found…hang on…sorry, I need a moment. I just get so choked up about it, you know? But I finally found…sigh…a friend with a pool. Like, a legit pool. In-ground and everything.

Better yet, I found this friend with a pool in time for the FOURTH OF JULY. She had a cookout BY THE POOL. I have pictures. We all look like we belong in a fancy beer commercial.

And when I think back on all those dreadful Independence Day celebrations I had to sweatily endure. YEARS of them. Just sitting there in the hot sun, water-less, hating all my stupid family and friends gathered around me with their non-pool-having asses. Yay, America or whatever. Sure, I’d love to have another beer so I can immediately leak it out of my pores, leaving me sober but with belly bloat and a slight headache, thanks.

But now…well, now, as I might have mentioned, I have a friend with a pool. And I ain’t letting her go. I mean, I wouldn’t anyway because she’s a great person, as are her husband and kids, and blah, blah, blah. But, yeah, the pool. I could find out she likes to go on Arctic cruises and club baby seals for fun while on vacation and I’d be like, cool, cool. You’re clearly an awful human being and I have every intention of stopping being your friend…in October. Mid-October at the very latest if it’s one of those really warm autumns.

There was only one drawback to this otherwise amazing, life-changing, event. Which, if you’re a parent, I’m sure you can relate. I mean, don’t you guys hate that awkward moment when your kid tries to kill your other kid? In public, no less?

We were all having such a good time too. Before, you know, the attempted murder and all. Laughing and splashing and screaming at everyone to stop splashing. My 2-year-old daughter was standing right next to my 4-year-old son on the steps leading into the pool. Then I blinked, like an idiot, and BOOM. The little one was facedown in the water.

Luckily there were multiple other parents in the pool and since every parent is a low key superhero, roughly six of them immediately dove toward her and she was scooped out of the water within mere seconds.

Still, she was hysterical. Because drowning isn’t fun at any age but especially at the age of 2. She was fine though. Everything was fine. I was cuddling and cooing and comforting and ready to chalk the whole thing up to childhood shenanigans…

…when, lo and behold, I heard one of the other kids say “he pushed her” and I instantly knew who that “he” was. Which is how I went immediately from feeling grateful that my one child was alive to worried that my other child wouldn’t be for long.

Because I was going to kill him.

It’s an interesting feeling, that one. As a mom, you’ll do pretty much anything to protect your family. Until that moment comes when you have to protect your family from your family and then you’re just angry and confused, a panting Momma Bear who is growling at everything because you’re no longer sure who to strike out at.

I’m happy to report that there were no casualties that day. Mostly because my husband took one look at my face and then quickly removed my son from the scene so as to have a chat with him about why we don’t drown our sister under any circumstances.

And within an hour we were all back playing in the pool. Because, let’s face it, you can’t let a little thing like sororicide get in the way of a good time.

If I sound a bit callous, or a bit too casual about the whole thing, it’s probably because I am. Even I was a bit shocked at how quickly I shook it off. But I learned three very important lessons that day.

One, drinking sangria your friends made that would put most frat houses to shame helps blunt the edges off the never-ending stress of being a parent.

Two, being surrounded by other parents when something like that happens, parents who have been in the trenches, parents who are hardened veterans, parents who have seen things, man, helps you realize you are not alone and that your kids aren’t the only kids who have ever tried to kill each other.

And three, in order to survive these precious but clearly hazardous child-rearing years, you have to learn how to brush things like this off. Like, oh, ha! Baby’s first attempted assassination. How adorable. Did anyone get a photo?

Because when it comes down to it, we are all raising tiny psychopaths.

They’re learning. You hear that a lot as a parent. You tell yourself that a lot as a parent. These kids, they hit and bite, they throw stuff and spill stuff, they can’t control their emotions. Because, hey, they’re learning. How to human. How to handle. How not to murder.

Which was clear the next day when my two kids were happily playing together again, no thought of murder on either of their minds. Just lots and lots of thrilling suicide attempts while seeing if they could fly by jumping off the kitchen table.

 

That Old Dad Magic

My husband once told me that what I do is like magic. He came home from a long day of work, put his stuff down and suddenly noticed that the formerly gigantic haphazard pile of mail that had littered his desk was now in nice, neat, organized stacks. How did that happen? he wondered. For that matter, what happened to all those dirty dishes? And when did those formerly filthy street urchins living in our home become the squeaky clean von Trapp children?

Oh, he told me, it must be magic. Mommy magic. The thousand little things I do daily to keep this family ship from running aground.

It was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. He truly saw what I did when no one was looking and sometimes, as a parent, that’s all you want at the end of yet another long day (besides a glass of wine the size of your face).

But dads have their own particular magic. And so, for this upcoming Father’s Day, I wanted to let him, and all the other dads out there, know that what you guys do each and every day is noticed and appreciated and loved.  

Like, for instance, how on any given family adventure, dads are the shoulder ride mules, the piggy back stallions and the sleeping toddler plowhorse, wrapped all into one.

They are the bad joke tellers. The world needs bad jokes and dads across this great nation of ours have heroically stepped up to the plate, never wavering in their devotion to that post-joke groan.

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You want grilled meat for dinner? Don’t worry. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these former cavemen from their appointed duty of artfully charring animal flesh. And they will be wearing some pretty snazzy cargo shorts while doing it. Yes, even in the winter.

They are the pool throwers. If there is a pool with children in it, nine times out of ten there is a dad in that pool who will spend the next 90 minutes hurling children down into the water with a giant splash. They do it to their own children, and your children, and all the random children who show up and get in line to also be thrown. No one knows who these kids are but it doesn’t matter. These dads never deny a kid a good throw. And these dads never complain. Even when their shoulders ache and their back is screaming.

They are always willing to do battle…with customer service. They will spend hours on hold, sometimes even holding two phones to their ears (a move my husband calls “insanity in stereo”) in order to finally talk loudly at another human being because, at this point, it’s really just the principle of the thing.

They are the mice hunters (and dead mice thrower-awayers). They are the spider smooshers and the snake beheaders. The “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT THING!?” investigators. And, in many cases, the “we are not getting a dog” nay-sayers who end up loving that ridiculous ball of fluff more than anyone.

They are the illicit snack giver, ruining tiny appetites before dinner because, hey, ya gotta let them babies live a little.

They are the turkey carvers and the toy assemblers and the resigned wearer of the Jabba the Hut suit in the family Star Wars Halloween costume.

They are the big, over-the-top, baritone finish at the end of every Happy Birthday song.

They are tall and short, thick and thin, tattooed and tie-wearing. They are the men who are gentle enough to cuddle with a newborn and brave enough to change a sick toddler’s diaper and strong enough to fix any boo-boo and loving enough to let their toenails be painted and wrestle on the floor no matter how exhausted they may be.

They are dads.

And we love them.

Thanks for all the magic, boys.

Mom is always right, even when she’s wrong

To my dearest, dearest children,

You two are the light of my life. I love you both so much. Which is why I’m writing this even though it’s…difficult. Very difficult, in fact. For me. Your mother. To admit this. But it’s important you know this so…

Sigh…

Listen up and listen hard because you will never hear this ever again.

I was wrong.

Long exhale…

BUT I AM RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE. AND ALL FUTURE THINGS. ALL OF THEM.

However, ok, yes, I was wrong about this ONE thing. You guys were actually wonderful on our recent vacation.

I spent all that time moaning and whining about how awful I expected you guys to be; the likely sleepless nights we’d share, the public tantrums you’d likely have, the running off and disappearing into the ocean you’d likely do, tarnishing my reputation as a mom forever.

And then…nothing. You guys behaved. Not only that, you were charming and sweet and loving. It was like living in one of those old black-and-white photos of the Kennedy family on the beach.

Now, in my defense, it’s easy to assume the worst when it comes to children. Because I’ve seen your worst. On multiple occasions. And I think we can all agree that when it’s bad, it’s BAD. So bad. All the bad. And neither of you is shy about proving it.

There’s the dual meltdowns in restaurants where I have to scream to the waitress over your screaming “AND THE KIDS WILL HAVE A GRILLED CHEESE AND I’LL HAVE AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS, THANKS!” The waiting in line at the store where you’re hitting each other but not the normal little kid hitting. Oh no. The “reenacting scenes from ‘Atomic Blonde’” level of hitting (no more playing with the remotes anymore, by the way, kids). And, my personal favorite, the night-night time “I don’t want to brush my teeth!” freakouts that end with me screaming so loud I’m worried my neighbors now know what kind of mom I actually am.

But nope. None of that. This vacation was everything a vacation is supposed to be. Fun. Exciting. Even, believe it or not, a tad bit relaxing.

I mean, you slept. You both slept. Through the night. Every night. You slept so well, in fact, that I was worried you had maybe both been replaced by changelings. (Luckily a third glass of wine made me realize that I was totally ok with raising the changelings instead of you as long as they kept up these fantastic sleeping patterns.) 

You didn’t complain about the food. You even ate some of it. Which allowed me and your dad to eat. And eat we did. We ate everything. We ate whatever is the scientific amount of calories you can eat in one sitting without dying. And we did it three times a day. Every day.

You occupied yourselves. You played together. Without us. Which allowed us to sit back and drink the aforementioned wine from the big fancy box we had brought like the big fancy people we clearly are.

You were polite to every cashier, every waiter, every little old lady who stopped and gushed over your red hair for 15 minutes.

You were…simply wonderful.

Which leads me to the conclusion that, clearly, the key to an amazing vacation is to dread it. (And to put that dread into writing. And post it online. For all to see.)

And as such, I look forward to dreading many more vacations with you.

Love,

Momma

 

An imagination vacation of utter relaxation

It has been a long, hard winter. Followed by several weeks of spring that were a long, hard winter. Followed by one nice day. And then two more weeks of snow.

On top of this, my husband has just finished a huge project at work. He worked nights, weekends. For months, he was either at work or at home working. At one point he got so stressed out he stopped talking in complete sentences.

Neither of these things, of course, registered with our kids, who still wanted to do things and learn things and go places and, in general, needed constant parenting even though we were a man down and living on Hoth.

“Can we go outside, Momma?”

“No, baby, there’s a snowstorm.”

“Can Daddy take us outside?”

“No, baby. Daddy is crying in the kitchen and stress-eating frosting straight from the can.”

Which is why we are taking a much-needed vacation in a few days. I mean, we NEED this as a family. NEED IT. Everyone is snippy and crabby and a few other highly descriptive words I can’t use because this is a family website.

So, we are heading to a cottage resort on the Maine coast. I even sprang for the fancy big cottage. With an ocean view. And a fireplace. And a porch. And separate bedroom for the kids. A separate bedroom that hopefully locks and is soundproof.

As I’m sure you can guess, I cannot wait. Here’s how I imagine it will be:

Everyone will wake up in a great mood on the morning we are supposed to leave. The sun will be shining and birds will be singing and then the little singing birdies will help me get the kids dressed. In fact, the morning goes so smoothly that we realize (as we coolly and calmly climb into the car) that we have time to go out to eat for breakfast. Which is how we find that adorable diner with the sassy waitress who entertains the kids so my husband and I can actually eat our food and drink our coffee and have a conversation instead of shoveling it all in and grunting at each other.

The kids will then immediately fall asleep in the car until we arrive at the cottage (which is even bigger than we thought) and the weather will be 75 and sunny every day with a light breeze.

We will spend our days wandering through the quaint little town and walking along the seashore and eating too much food and drinking too much beer and buying frivolous things we don’t need because, hey, we’re on vacation.

I will read at least three books and finally make a dent in that giant magazine pile that’s been building for months.

Every night the kids will immediately fall asleep in their SEPARATE bedroom at 8 p.m. while my husband and I sit on the porch and drink even more adult beverages and talk about everything and nothing and make-out like gross teenagers.

And, of course, I will take a thousand photos and look back upon this vacation as one of the best times of our lives.

Sigh. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Yeah. Except, I have gone to too many places with my kids to delude myself into really believing all that. So, here is how our vacation is actually likely to go down:

We will leave the house approximately two hours late because of multiple pants-related tantrums. Breathless and sweaty and irritated, we will shove the kids into their car seats as they cry and we curse under our breaths. Once we are finally on the road, I will start hurling handfuls of Cheerios into the backseat because the kids won’t stop whining about how hungry they are. About 45 minutes in, we will have to turn around because one of them forgot their woobie even though they were reminded 12 times not to forget their woobie.

Back on the road, AGAIN, we will keep turning up the radio to drown out the “how much longer?” whining from the oldest and the hysterical sobbing from the youngest.

The cottage will be much smaller than we thought and the weather forecast will predict rain the entire time we are there. Possibly snow. And as soon as we get our luggage out of the car, the kids will start complaining about how bored they are. When I angrily snap back at them “I don’t care,” the youngest will get her revenge by throwing all my books into the toilet.

The kids will play on the beach for exactly 14 minutes before wanting to move onto something else, both oblivious to the fact they are covered head to toe in sand. After cleaning them up, we will try to go out to eat but never actually get to sit down at the same time because the youngest keeps figuring out how to get down from the highchair like some tiny rabid Houdini and the oldest chooses right now to poop his pants.

Very soon after this we’ll say screw it and head back to the cottage where we’ll put the kids to bed early and open a bottle of wine and start a fire in the fireplace. As soon as the glass hits our lips, our daughter will start crying. Which wakes up our son. Who also then starts crying. And they’ll both end up in bed with us. Where they kick and squirm all night. And my husband and I end up awake but unable to move for the next eight hours, just laying there in a hell of our own making.

And, of course, I will take a thousand photos and then leave my cell phone in the bathroom of that restaurant, which I will only remember as soon as we are back home.

Sigh.

But THE POINT IS we are going on vacation. Where, no matter what, memories will be made.

And hey, in just a few short decades, we’ll only be able to remember the good ones.

Hopefully.