Category Archives: Love

A chocolate cone with M&M’s, please

I took my kids to get ice cream today.

That’s it. There’s no punchline. There’s no funny anecdote. No moral. No bittersweet ending. No big lesson.

Just…I got ice cream with my kids today.

My son, who is 5, chose chocolate. In a cone. With M&M’s on top. He was emphatic about that. Lots and lots of M&M’s, please. I suspect it was the please that made the women behind the counter add extra, turning it into an M&M cone with a hint of ice cream.

My daughter, who is 2, then chose chocolate. In a cone. With, and here’s the twist, M&M’s on top. Lots and lots, pwease. The counter woman practically dumped the entire M&M bin over her cone.

My son ate his like someone twice his age. Methodical. Minimal stain damage. A mature grasp of the melting-to-dripping timing. He even sat on his napkin so it didn’t blow away, an advanced outdoor eating move, if I do say so myself.

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My daughter ate hers like a feral baby wolf. Just ate it with her entire face. Napkin? Who has time for that? By the time she was done, she was more chocolate than girl, inside and out. Luckily, most of it wiped off when she ran to me and gave me a big, sticky, spontaneous hug.

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And that’s it. Then we went home.

We didn’t even talk about anything interesting. I remember Riker was telling a rather long story about a robot who could turn different colors, which led to Mae telling me an even more disjointed story about how she was a robot cat who loved purple.    

So why am I even bothering to write this down, to share this with you? To be honest, this one’s more for me. I want to remember this moment. How small their hands looked holding those giant waffle cones. How big their eyes got when they took that first bite. The way the sunlight glinted off their red hair. How good the spring breeze felt.

When you first become a parent, you never think you’ll forget anything. They lay that baby on your chest and that moment is emblazoned on your mind and heart like a tattoo. And so you think it will always be like that. That you’ll remember every beautiful minute with them from then on with complete and utter clarity; the way they yawned, the way they smelled, the way they grasped your finger in their iron grip.

But you do forget. No matter how hard you stare at them, no matter how many photos you take, the moments still slip away on the relentless tides of time.

I don’t even remember what my daughter’s first word was anymore.

I’m always writing about my life, my family, my feelings, my failings. But in-between all the writing, all the reflecting, all the making-sense-of and making-fun-of, in-between all the updates and photos and pithy comments, is ordinary, boring, old life. Like today. A day that was full but ultimately added up to nothing because life doesn’t always make a good narrative. There was no epiphany, no greater meaning gleaned from anything.

There was only ice cream.

But I don’t want to forget it.

So, today, I took my kids to get ice cream. And it was a glorious, chaotic, loud, exasperating and beautiful mess.

The end.

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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.

 

Because who doesn’t want aluminum for a gift?

Well, well, well. I never thought it’d come but here it finally is. At the end of this month, my husband and I will be celebrating our ninth wedding anniversary!

…yay…!…?

Yeah. I know. Not that exciting.

I mean, ten years, yeah, of course. That’s a huge deal. You made it an entire decade. It’s the…copper anniversary? Bronze, maybe?

Holy crap. I just looked it up. It’s the tin or aluminum anniversary. Also, I stole a glance at the ninth year gift. It’s willow or pottery. I mean…what? Who made these rules? (Because my guess is it was either an extremely practical woman or an extremely clever man).

“Thanks for putting up with my farts for ten years, honey. Here’s some tuna.”

“Aw, the dolphin-safe kind. Just what I always wanted. Thanks, darling!”

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Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes…

But nine years? Eh. At nine years your anniversary plans are likely squished in-between giving your kids lice treatment because there was another outbreak at preschool and a meeting with Todd, your semi-dodgy accountant but he’s the only one you can afford.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for marriage and am personally very happy my husband and I are still going strong. (I don’t want to brag or anything, but I am not the easiest person to live with).

It’s just that after nine years of building a life together, the building part is mostly done and now it’s just a whole lot of maintenance. Maintenance that sucks up all your time and energy and money. Especially when you throw children and careers and pets into the mix.

Take, for example, this very moment right here. I am attempting to type this sentence with a two-year-old squirming on my lap while my husband texts me about his crazy morning at work and I text back “Crap! We need band-aids and juice boxes. Can you get them after work?” And then my 2-year-old almost breaks my laptop and I yell at her and she starts crying and the dog starts barking and my husband texts me back he has a late meeting but will as soon as it is done.

That is what nine years looks like.

Nine years is spending 27 minutes trying to figure out who can take which kid to their dentist appointment.

Nine years is silently and mutually agreeing to ignore the awful noise the dishwasher makes every time it’s turned on because there is no money in the budget currently to fix it.

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Nine years is yelling at each other in strained voices about the ridiculously high vet bill and then 30 seconds later, in a perfectly calm voice, bringing up which cake you should get for your son’s birthday as though nothing had happened. Because sulking is only for couples with the luxury of free time.  

Nine years is “hey, come look at this…should I go to the doctor?”

Nine years is constantly forgetting to kiss each other goodbye but always remembering to get extra pickles for them when ordering take out.

Nine years is a horror movie and two bottles of wine on Valentine’s Day.

Nine years is mostly communicating via memes when apart.

Nine years is a truly impressive Tupperware collection.

Nine years is “I did your laundry. It’s in a giant pile on the bed.”

Nine years is a truly comfortable silence. Interrupted by a truly impressive fart.

Nine years is realizing all that sugary sweet marriage advice you got at your wedding was useless. Never go to bed angry (um, then we’d never sleep). Never keep secrets from each other (those secret stashes of fancy chocolate are the reason my family is still alive some days). Would you rather be right or married? (I’m never wrong so it’s a moot point, Aunt Carol).  

And, if you’re very lucky, nine years is wanting to do all this god-awful mundane business of living– the bills, the cleaning, the obligations, the never-ending youth soccer games, the grocery shopping, the novella-length kindergarten registration packets– with no one else but them.

I love you, Ryan. And I can’t wait to clean out the kids’ closets this weekend with you.

Which reminds me…

Get some wine at the store too.

 

Jon Snow isn’t the only one who knows nothing

My oldest child is about to turn 5-years-old.

But don’t worry. This isn’t going to be “that” article. You know, the one where the parent is shocked, absolutely SHOCKED, to discover their child continues to age according to the rules of linear time.

I have to be honest. I’ve never experienced that phenomenon where I blinked and my baby suddenly wasn’t a baby anymore. The only thing that happens when I blink is my eyeballs get moistened so that I can more clearly see my children standing in front of me loudly demanding a hundred different things.

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So no, this birthday is not coming as a surprise to me. My son looks like he’s five. He talks like he’s five. And he acts ALL kinds of five.

“Momma, can I have a cookie for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Cookies are unhealthy. Now eat this equally unhealthy Pop-Tart slathered in icing and hush.”

“But I want a cookie. Why can’t I have a cookie?”

(repeat for 45 minutes or until I start hurling Pop-Tarts like ninja stars at everyone in the family)

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This lack of surprise at the aging process could also be because I am the lucky (or cursed, depending on your view of children) parent who stays at home with my kids. So I get a front row seat to their growth on a daily basis. Both the giant leaps forward (the first day he left the house without his beloved security blanket, Woobie) and the tiny baby steps toward independence (the first day he buttered his own toast with approximately half a tub of butter). In fact, if anything, I am too present for my children considering that at any given moment I can give you detailed descriptions of both of their most recent bowel movements. (Oh, how them babies love showing me their poopies.)

Not that his upcoming birthday is completely free of angst, of course. As it just so happens, his birthday coincides with the fifth anniversary of my becoming a parent. Which leads us to the very puzzling question of: How is it possible I’ve been doing this for five years…and I still know nothing?

I mean, sure, both my kids are still alive. I have at least mastered the bare minimum parental requirements. But motherhood is continually throwing me curveballs and not only do I not know how to hit them, I can’t even find the friggin’ bat because it is likely buried under my kids’ ever-growing militia of stuffed animals.

My daughter’s hair is ALWAYS tangled. Half the time my house is out of soap and band-aids. My son is obsessed with zombies because I gave him a very vivid description one tired night when he asked me what they were. And there is never anything in the house they are willing to eat because they forgot to tell me they now hate all their favorite foods.

Even the positive moments have a caveat. Just the other day my son told me that when he grows up he wants to be strong like his Momma. Aww. Sweet, right? Except then he added “Yeah, and when I’m all grown up like you then I can drink Diet Coke and wine.”

Positive role modeling. Nailed it.  

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Shouldn’t I be better at this by now?

Take the whole purse thing. I know plenty of those moms who always have whatever you could possibly need inside their purse. And whenever I marvel at the fact that they had an extra set of gloves, cough drops, a healthy snack AND portable Merlot in there, they always respond, “well, I’m a mom.”

Yeah, well, I’m a mom too and yesterday we were outside and my son’s nose started dripping snot and he asked me for a tissue and I had absolutely nothing resembling a tissue on my person and so I shoved my sleeve in his face and said “use this.”

Plus, I NEVER remember to bring my flask to school functions. Like some kind of noob.

Sigh.  

Then again, I’m holding out hope that most of us parents are faking it. Right? Guys? None of us know what we are doing? Anyone? No? Hello?

Eh.

Regardless, on my son’s birthday, when we are busy celebrating his existence, I’m going to take a little moment to also celebrate that despite it all, my children seem happy. And that no matter how many times I mess up, they still somehow love me.

And that, God willing, I will have many, many, many more birthdays to celebrate with them even though I forgot to pick up the stupid cake from the bakery.

 

           

 

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!

 

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 eating snacks and daydreaming about which snacks I’ll eat next.  

Yes, despite the mountain of stress that comes from modern living and trying to balance work and raising a family, life is pretty 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 little girl 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 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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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.

Of course I’ll be devastated but soon it won’t even matter because as a lone female jogger who only has the time to run either super early in the morning or late at night, there is a 104 percent chance I will be murdered and my body found by some wayward youths skipping school. Wayward youths who immediately call the police, who then stand over my dead body saying fake science stuff while looking at my corpse over the rim of their wicked cool sunglasses. And then 43 minutes later we all find out that it wasn’t the first suspect who killed me but the third person they suspected.

Wait. No, you’re right. That’s silly. It’s much more likely that a bunch of vampires did me in. Or a Satanic cult.  

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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 we can probably still make this marriage 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. Of course I know it is. Yet I still can’t help feeling I am somehow undeserving of all this happiness. Life doesn’t work this way. Not according to my TV. I am dangerously close to having pretty much all I’ve ever wanted. And, I mean, 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.

 

 

Dating your spouse & other unfair adult things

For a 10-year-old who used to fantasize about going on elaborate dates with Jonathan Taylor Thomas to an almost excessive degree, I grew up to be a not very romantic adult. Take Valentine’s Day, for instance. I’ve never been a big fan. I don’t like a holiday dictating when I should shave my legs.

Or Sweetest Day, for that matter. What is this thing? Valentine’s Day 2: Buy Harder?

Not that I think there’s anything wrong with romance, per se. I’m just more a believer in spontaneous romance. The unexpected slow dance in the living room. The bouquet of flowers on a random Monday. The “I’m bringing pizza home for dinner!” text.

Followed by the “And beer!” text.

Which probably explains my whole “thing” about date night.

See, kids, when a man and a woman love each other very much, they spend a boatload on tulle and fancy almonds so they can get married. And then they do a special hug, which results in children and never being able to pee alone again. And, after awhile, although the man and the woman still love each other, they kind of forget they are actual human beings and not just cogs in a butt wiping factory.

Which is why date night was invented.

If you talk to most parents, they will say that hiring a babysitter and going out for an evening is vitally important to your relationship so that you and your partner can reconnect and remember that at one point you could carry on an entire conversation that didn’t involve the words “poop” or “smear” or “we’ll probably have to move, that smell is never coming out.” And I’m not here to argue that. I agree with date nights in theory.

It’s just in the execution that it’s flawed.

When you have kids, especially young kids, it doesn’t matter if you want to go out or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re exhausted or not in the mood or already had big plans to eat an entire cheesecake while watching “Cougar Town” once the kids were asleep. You simply force yourself to go out if and when some idiot agrees to watch your adorable, ridiculous children (who just invented a game where you chase them around with a flashlight for six hours straight).

Which is why my husband and I went on a date night last week when my mom was visiting from out of town. The last thing we wanted to do was reconnect. We wanted dual naps while an IV dripped vodka into our veins. But what did we do? We went out because, hey, we had bagged us an idiot.

Now, I don’t know how your date nights usually go, but ours usually follows the same script. The conversation always starts off awkward.

Me: Hey.

Him: Hey.

Then we actually look at each other and it gets even worse.

Me: Have you always had that much white in your beard?

Him: When’s the last time you brushed your hair?

Then we spend a few minutes venting.

Me: If your daughter takes her diaper off one more time, we’re not paying for her college.

Him: He keeps headbutting my crotch. I know I can’t do it back to him but, seriously, just one time and he’d probably stop.

Then it gets lame:

Me: God, I’m so tired.

Him: So tired.

Real lame.

Me: I mean, just so tired.

Him: How long have we been gone?

Me (checks watch): 12 minutes.

And then we remember that alcohol exists.

Me: I’ll take a bottle of Merlot.

Bartender: To share?

Me: Hahahaha

Him: What is the closest thing I can pour into my mouth? I’ll take three.

Bartender: Uh…

Which quickly leads to things like:

Me: I am going to finish my novel this year. I’ll write nights, weekends, whatever it taks.

Him: Yes, you need to. I’ve always thought so. You’re talented even if you don’t think so.

Me: Well, so are you! Look at all you’ve accomplished so far. All you do for us, it’s just…

Him: Well, I couldn’t do it without you by my side. *cheers*

And later:

Me: I LOVE YOU SO #$%@*&^ MUCH.

Him: YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING! AM I TALKING TOO LOUD?

Me: NO, NOT AT ALL.

And that is ultimately why we drag our exhausted, bedraggled asses out on date night. Even if we don’t want to. Because in the end it is necessary. Because it works. Because before all of us there was a we. A we with hopes and dreams and passions and unique personalities and a much higher tolerance for alcohol.

And sometimes we forget.

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