Category Archives: Humor

The Road Trip, Part Two: Even Trippier

 

Previously, on the “Chick Writes Stuff” blog…

Parent 1: “Hey, let’s take a road trip in our tiny car with two small children and an aging dog!”

Parent 2: “Brilliant!”

Thirty seconds after leaving the driveway…

Parent 1: “This is awful.”

Parent 2: “This is the worst idea we’ve ever had.”

One hour later…

Parent 1: “JUST THROW MORE DORITOS AT THEM!”

Parent 2: “IT’S NOT WORKING! THEY’RE DODGING THEM! OH GOD, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

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(Read Part One here)

One week later…

Hello, everyone. How are you? Good. Good. Glad to hear it. …Oh, me? I’m…fine. Everything’s fine. Just sitting here calmly at my computer, typing industriously away. Because everything is fine…now.

Plus the doctors say the constant twitching of my left eye should taper off any day now so there’s that.

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Of course, in hindsight, it wasn’t like our trip was ALL bad. There was a swimming pool at our hotel. That was fun. And I was smart enough to bring wine with us. That was REALLY fun. Yup. Really, really fun all the way until…bedtime.

Have you ever been unfortunate enough to sleep in the same bed as your child? What am I saying? Of course you have. You’re a parent. Which means that you already know that when children are small (and sometimes even the not-so-small ones), there is nothing they love more than sleeping with one foot up a parent’s nose and the other shoved in-between some parental ribs. They are also big fans of the game Musical Bed Positions. Because if they don’t move every three minutes while sleeping they die. At least that’s what I’m assuming based on the evidence.

And then there is the 2 a.m. stage whisper of “Momma! Is it morning yet?” Which wakes up their sibling, who also stage whispers “It’s morning! Can we get up? I need juice! And a cookie!” Which makes the other one go “I WANT A COOKIE TOO!” Which results in a dual meltdown after they are both informed by a gruff parent voice that NO ONE is getting a cookie and everyone needs to go back to sleep.

But it’s all worth it when you are forced awake again at 5 a.m. by your child’s creepy ghost face breathing heavily a mere half-inch from your face and then have to immediately deal with the fact they don’t understand live TV.

“Momma! Turn on the TV!”

(sleepily) mm-kay.”

“What is this?”

“A commercial.”

“Can you fast forward it?”

“No.”

“Can we watch a different episode?”

“No.”

“Can we watch a different show?”

“Only if you want to flip through 40 channels three times to find something else with no guarantee of finding something better.”

“Well, this isn’t fun.”

“You never would have survived the ‘80’s, kid.”

I really shouldn’t complain, though. The end result of all this was that we got to spend a wonderful week with my family in Ohio. Doing exotic things like napping while someone else kept our kids alive and eating homemade food someone else made and thoroughly enjoying those little moments where someone else yelled at our kids.

It was like a Norman Rockwell painting. But with more screaming and hitting.

Except I am going to complain. Because when it was all over…we had to come back.

I was determined though, DETERMINED, to make the best of it this time. Even with the awful snowstorm we drove through for three hours. And the windshield wipers that started malfunctioning. And the unsalted road before us that became a super fun slippery asphalt coil of death!

Hahahahaha! Road trips, man! Such a great American tradition! Right!? RIGHT!? They’re just the best! Hahahahaha!

The good news is that after what seemed like two hours past eternity, we finally arrived to our beloved home, with all our hearts and bladders full to bursting.

Only to find out that we did not currently have a toilet in said beloved home because the bathroom remodel the landlord scheduled while we were gone wasn’t finished yet.

But that, my dear friends, is a story I’m saving for my lawyer when I inevitably snap and start running naked through the streets laughing maniacally.

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How to survive a road trip with your family (Part One)

Spoiler alert: You don’t.

Sure, you’re still alive. Technically. But you come back changed. Different. Hardened. You are not the same person who optimistically climbed into that tiny Hyundai Accent with your husband and two kids and elderly dog, all bright-eyed with dreams of adventure and bonding and Instagram-worthy shots of the highway.

You are now a survivor. You have been to hell and back. And let me tell you, Dante had it easy. He never had to help a toddler with diarrhea in a dirty rest stop bathroom. I can still hear the screams. “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING…NO. STOP. WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? DID YOU JUST STICK YOUR HAND IN THE TOILET? NOOOOOOOO…”

And the torture isn’t just limited to the road. In fact, it begins long before the traditional road trip opening ceremony of stomping from room to room looking for the lost car keys. (Because why would the car keys be where you left them? That would be silly. Then you would actually leave on time.).

No, see, for every road trip there is a person who is designated as the Carrier of the Mental Load for the group. This is the unfortunate soul who is responsible for remembering everything that everyone could possibly need for every single possible eventuality. Clothes for every weather scenario. Favorite toys and blankets. Second favorite toys and blankets in case the first ones get lost. Swimsuits for the hotel pool. Sippy cups. Extra wipes. Extra diapers. Tissues. The night-night book. Dramamine because last time the back seat looked like a scene from “The Exorcist.” Two coats, per person, because it is likely to be 70 degrees one day and a blizzard the next. AND DON’T FORGET THE CHARGERS. ALL THE CHARGERS. DID YOU PACK YOUR CHARGER? WELL, CHECK AGAIN. WE ARE NOT BUYING ONE FROM A GAS STATION. YOU HEAR ME?

Even the dog gets his own bag. Dog food. Dog treats. Rawhide bones. A bottle of water and an empty bowl. His favorite toy, Lobstah Killah. His second favorite toy, Mr. Disemboweled Stuffed Squirrel. His arthritis medication that you can never get him to take but bring with you so that you can more confidently lie to the vet at his next visit.

Do NOT mistake this as a position of honor. It is not. It is the quickest way to destroy your brain without the help of illegal drugs.

But take heart. If this position falls to you, just know that someone else (hint: your significant other) will be designated as the Master of Luggage Tetris. This is the person who has to take the various shapes and lumps that all your Very Vital Vacation items have been stuffed into and fit them into a tiny car trunk. This is also not a position of honor, which is why cursing is allowed.

(Please note that the same person can’t do both jobs without permanent brain damage. Don’t be a hero and take it all on yourself.).

Once you are finally in the car, the typical rules that regulate our lives no longer apply. For example, you can never have enough snacks. Let me repeat that. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH SNACKS. Buy ALL the snacks. It doesn’t matter if they don’t all get eaten. They won’t. You will waste so much money on these snacks that never get eaten. Hundreds of dollars. Thousands, possibly. But it doesn’t matter. You would pay double, TRIPLE, that amount for any object that can stop multiple children who all decide to have meltdowns at the exact same moment. They will eat three Doritos out of that family-sized bag and then dump the rest on the floor and you will still spend the rest of your life thanking the God of Doritos for his divine intervention. You will get to a point where you are hurling SnoBalls like grenades into the backseat just for one moment of peace. You’ll let them snort straight sugar through a straw on the back of their Dr. Seuss book. And at every stop you will buy more snacks. Because snacks are the dam holding back the raging river of your kids’ “BIG FEELINGS” that you do not want unleashed in that tiny tin can you call a vehicle.

Naturally, as a result of this, your car will eventually become one of the scarier episodes of “Hoarders.” Half empty coffee cups as far as the eye can see. Happy Meal cartons that are breeding like rabbits under the seats. Chips and half eaten snack cakes littering the floor ankle-deep. Let it go. Do not worry about it. If it gets too bad, just ditch the car in a river a few miles from your destination and call an Uber to take you the rest of the way.

Of course, snacks does not mean liquids. Do not, under any circumstance, give liquids to anyone in that car. If you do, no one will be on the same pee schedule.

Actually, scratch that. Even if you purposely dehydrate everyone, giving out one capful of bottled water every four hours like you are stranded on a desert island, you will still have to stop every 14 minutes. Yup, that’s right. They can’t even make it 15 minutes. The good news is that this gives you plenty of opportunity to buy an overpriced charger on your way out (that, it will turn out, doesn’t work with your phone).

Luckily, all of this will be forgotten when you reach your first destination, the hotel right off the Interstate. Because that’s when the real nightmare begins.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Ways to unsuccessfully deal with insomnia

 

  1. Watch something. But not something too interesting. But also not so boring that it allows your mind to wander. Maybe something you’ve already seen but enjoyed. Preferably where at least one character has a British accent and is trying to solve a crime.
  2. Read something. Same rules apply.
  3. Eat something. Because, hey, it’s there and what else have you got to do?
  4. Count something. Sheep seem to be pretty popular, followed by minutes (“if I fall asleep now, I can still get 3.5 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off”).
  5. Argue something. In your head. Obsessively. Finally find a way to win that Facebook argument from 2015.
  6. Take something. Tylenol PM, perhaps? Or that melatonin that has never ever worked but yet you still keep a giant bottle of it by your bed? Does children’s benadryl work on adults?
  7. Rearrange something. Because you’ll definitely be able to sleep once all your bookshelves are ripped apart and then put back together in a slightly different organizational pattern.
  8. Worry about something. Like every single bad thing that could happen to your children.
  9. Eat something again. It’s now 3:30 a.m. Screw it.
  10. While you’re at it, watch something else. Maybe a 90’s sitcom will do it.
  11. Pray for something. Perhaps divine intervention from the deity of your choosing. Or an anvil to fall from the sky and onto your head, finally knocking you out. Or modern science to prove that sleep is unnecessary for survival.
  12. Scroll something. Sure, they say to avoid technology when you can’t sleep but you aren’t going to sleep anyway so may as well stalk that girl from seventh grade who used to bully you.
  13. Wake something. Like your husband. Who is peacefully sleeping right beside you in the most obnoxious manner possible. Misery does love company…
  14. How is he still sleeping? If you poke him any harder he’ll likely have internal bleeding.  
  15. Sigh.
  16. Clean something.
  17. Eh, never mind.
  18. Daydream something. Maybe cue up that one about marrying Chris Pratt (after your husband dies and you mourn the appropriate amount of time, of course).
  19. Plan something. May as well use all this time productively. Just a quick 36-point plan to improve every aspect of your life.
  20. Is there any cheese left?
  21. Research something. Like how insomnia causes premature aging. Then get up and slather more moisturizer on your decrepit face.
  22. Drink something? Warm milk? Ugh. Gross. No. Then maybe just a small glass of whiskey? Nah. It’s practically morning.
  23. Write something. Like, say, a list of all the futile ways you can try to combat insomnia.

I know how this ends.

Despite the fact that I’ve pretty much made a career out of complaining, I must confess that lately things have been going well. My preschooler is slowly realizing that preschool won’t kill him. My 2-year-old has yet to burn down the house or train the dog to do her nefarious bidding. My husband and I are going strong, united in love and mutual exhaustion.

Financially we started from the bottom and now we’re here, the stage where we can afford name brand mustard again. My self-esteem is at an all-time medium. And I’m even able to carve out time for my hobbies, like running and pretending to write while really just daydreaming about the speech I’ll make when I win a Pulitzer.

Yup, despite the natural stress that comes from working and trying to raise a family, life is pretty damn good currently.

Which is why, naturally, I keep waiting for something bad to happen.

Look, I know how this plays out. I’ve seen how this movie goes, how this TV episode is scripted. If an unhealthy amount of binge-watching TV has taught me anything, it is that happiness is suspect. Your life will ruined if you are too content. So, when I step outside myself and look down at my happy little family, doing our happy little thing, I can’t help but wait for the ominous music to start.

Observe, if you will, this montage of tender moments: The mom singing the baby to sleep. The older son giggling as he’s tossed into the air. A goofy dance party in pajamas. The parents throwing up a cheers with glasses of wine after the children have finally gone to bed.

You know who else sees this montage? The serial killer watching us menacingly from the window. And as I go into the kitchen to get more wine, HE SLASHES MY THROAT.

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Crazy, you say? Far-fetched? Eh, you’re probably right. It’s actually much more likely that I’m hanging out at the playground with my mom friends and suddenly there is a natural disaster. POSSIBLY FILLED WITH SHARKS.

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And then, on the slim chance that my kids and I are the main stars and thus the only ones to make it out alive from the shark tsunami, one of them is likely to get kidnapped on our walk home when I bend down to tie what is left of my shoe. And I know exactly who did it too. It was the quiet neighbor who lost her baby years ago and was driven mad by the loss and now wants TO RAISE MY CHILD AS HERS.

Or, you know, it could be a vampire.   

Although, to fair, it’s equally likely that I’ll be the one attacked by the vampire, seeing as how they can’t resist a lone female jogger.

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Sometimes I even look over at my husband suspiciously. He’s so loving. So patient. So forgiving of all my faults. Because, and here comes the shocking ending, HE WAS THE SERIAL KILLER LOOKING AT US FROM THE WINDOW ALL ALONG. Any day now I know I’m going to stumble upon his collection of severed heads in some long neglected corner of our house.

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(Although I’m pretty sure if he IS a serial killer, he is one of those serial killers who only kills other serial killers. So, like, we can probably still make this work).

(Unless he does slash my throat in the kitchen because it turns out I have a split personality and UNKNOWN TO ME, MY OTHER PERSONALITY IS A SERIAL KILLER.)

Ridiculous? Sure. I know it is. But I can’t help feeling I am somehow undeserving of all this happiness. Life doesn’t work this way. I am dangerously close to having it all. Who gets everything they ever wanted?

Murder victims on crime dramas, that’s who. They’re all perfectly happy until, you know, they’re dead.

Which is why I find myself looking lovingly down at my wedding ring and then I immediately look up, panicked, waiting for the inevitable phone call telling me my entire family has died in a suspicious car crash.

I guess I’ll just have to take solace in the fact that the tragedy is likely to turn me into a heroic vigilante, hellbent on avenging their deaths.

Or, you know, maybe I could turn the TV off every once in awhile and just enjoy my life.

 

I survived the first week of school (and all I got was this lousy blog)

I was ready for the tears. I knew they’d come. From him. And me. Oof, so many tears. So much ugly cry. An absurd amount of snot leaking from our faces.

I was ready for the fear and the anxiety. Again, on both our parts. This is a huge change. Since the day he was born we’ve been by each other’s sides and now…well, now the real world was wrenching us apart.

And I was ready for the guilt. The guilt of abandoning my precious first-born to the unfeeling ABC factory that is pre-K. I had already been torturing myself with this guilt for weeks beforehand. He’s so little! His backpack is bigger than he is! He’s not ready! This is going to scar him for life! No one loves him like I do! Who the hell are these teachers!? They could be serial killers for all I know! Or worse, people who legitimately like kale!

What I wasn’t ready for, however, was that we had to do it all over again the next day. And then again. And then again.

School is exhausting. For the parents.

No one really warns you about this. And maybe it’s not this way for every kid. But my kid is the kind of kid who doesn’t like things. Things like other people. Other kids. Anything that is even slightly new. He made up his mind at 8-months-old what he liked and he’s pretty much stuck with that list since then.

And it’s a very short list.

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So, before 8 a.m. alone, I have to be a cheerleader and a prison warden and a life coach all rolled into one.

“But school is so much fun, honey! All those cool new things you’re learning! You’re doing so amazing!”

“If you don’t march into this bathroom and brush your teeth in the next 30 seconds, I’m putting you in solitary.”

“Fear is just the body embracing change, sweetie. Or something. Look, your feelings are valid. OK? Never doubt that. But also, we’re late so can you feel them while also putting on your shoes?”

If I had to do a brief breakdown of our week, it’d look something like this:

Day One:

“Momma, I love you so much! Please don’t leave me!”

“Oh baby! I’m so sorry! I have to! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!”

*go home and sob in the fetal position while clutching his baby pictures*

Day Two:

“Please don’t leave me again! I love you!”

“Oh baby, I know you’re scared but you can do this. I’ll be back before you know it.”

*go home and Google home schooling options while sniffling*

Day Three:

“MOMMA! Stop leaving me! Please stay! PLEASE!”

“Yeah, I can’t. You’ll be fine though. Love you.”

*use crowbar to gently but firmly detach him from my leg*

Day Four:

“Mommy! I don’t want to keep doing this! Let me stay with you!”

“Nope. OK, bye.”

*already scrolling Yelp for nearby breakfast places*

Because as draining as starting the whole school routine can be, physically, mentally and emotionally, at a certain point you just have to get over it. This is the new normal for us. Life has to go on. We have 174 more days of this. Followed by 13 more years of this. And then probably college once we sell off some pretty major body parts in order to afford it.

Oh no. I started crying again.

Anyone know if liquor stores have back-to-school specials?

 

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.

 

But I still can’t define irony

You know how when you have kids and you look down for just a second to tie their shoe or pick up their Legos and the next thing you know it’s five years later and everything is different and you have no idea what is going on outside of your living room? Well, I just looked up and somehow, between getting knocked up with my first child and celebrating the second birthday of my youngest child, every single person I have ever met has jumped, to varying degrees, on the personal improvement bandwagon.

Everyone is on the path to wellness.

I mean, I scroll through Facebook and they’re signing up for 5k’s in droves. They’re posting 6 a.m. gym selfies. It’s been four months without a cigarette and two years without a drink and nearly half a decade since that demon gluten has touched their lips. They’ve changed their entire way of thinking about food and diet and sustainability and are consuming whole foods they got at Whole Foods. They’re eating like cavemen and dinosaurs and feeling amazing. AND they lost 17 pounds on whatever a keto is.

The ones who used to complain about people complaining about them smoking are now the ones complaining about the people smoking. They’re meditating and traveling and replenishing their souls. They’re politically active and raising money for charity AND doing it all while raising politically active, charity-minded families.

Because they have all turned into time management GODS. They work eight hours, maybe ten, hell, sometimes twelve, and then go home and record a podcast, or an album, or both, which they do while also sewing quilts, which they sell on Etsy, which they in turn use that money to pay for the food and medicine all the rescue dogs they are fostering need.

If it sounds like I’m making fun, I’m really not. I think this collective transformation I’m witnessing whilst splayed out on my couch is amazing and life-affirming and inspiring. I just felt a little out of the loop because one, I was in survival mode with my small children for so long that it’s hard to imagine everyone else doesn’t also buy cookie dough and wine in bulk. And two, I’m old enough to remember what counted as “wellness” before Goop and Instagram came along.

Sit down and let Auntie Aprill give you a brief “wellness” history lesson, kids. See, when I was a kid in the 80’s, being healthy meant eating giant tubs of pretzels and then burning those calories off by half-assedly participating in one of the 78 VHS workout tapes you owned. In the 90’s, no one even ate food. All our nutrients came from Diet Coke and cigarettes and our only exercise was ripping very elaborate holes in our jeans that we all claimed were from legit wear-and-tear. And none of us could afford therapy so we just watched “Reality Bites” over and over and over again. 

In the early 2000’s, wellness consisted of wearing gaudy pink tracksuits with “Juicy” written on the butt and taking over the recommended dose of those diet pills Anna Nicole Smith was shilling. We also cut down our indoor tanning time by, like, a fourth, because cancer or whatever. By the time Obama was in office, we were mixing our vodka and Red Bull with a dash of vitamin water like the responsible adults we had become and, as long as we were doing less drugs than Lindsay Lohan, we pretty much considered ourselves in good shape.

But now, well, now people are striving to get healthy in actually healthy ways. Long term ways. Scientifically proven ways. In ways that address their physical, mental and emotional needs.

It’s a potent idea. So potent, it’s even rubbed off on me. ME. The person who used to consider binge-watching “My 600-lb Life” as exercise because, hey, I wasn’t ON the show or anything. But, now that I have kids, I want to live forever. Even more importantly, while I am living, I want to feel good and be present and be content. For them. And my husband. And me. (WELLNESS!).

Which is why I signed up to run a half marathon this October. And it’s why I drink more moderately now (although it’s a Boston moderate, which is still enough alcohol to kill your average Californian). And it’s why I cook most of our meals. From INGREDIENTS. And why I’m busy making outlines for the books I want to write. And why this summer I didn’t sign my children up for anything and we just explored and traveled at our leisure. And why I’m saving up my money, not for things, but for experiences. And I’m reaching out to my friends more because loneliness is a silent killer. I’m even donating to the occasional goddamn charity.

22-year-old me would hate 37-year-old me.

But screw her. I feel better. I do. I ran almost seven miles Sunday morning. And then went gallivanting around the city with my family. And then still had the energy to go out to a coffee shop and write for a couple of hours before heading home to put the kids to bed. And then I collapsed on the couch, exhausted. But a good exhausted. Life’s too short for unhealthy coping mechanisms.

All in all, I’m quite proud of myself. Of all of us. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Which is also why I won’t feel guilty when, as soon as I post this, I’m going to mix this can of Diet Coke with some whiskey and watch “Reality Bites.”

You know, for old time’s sake.