Category Archives: Love

Box Spring Hot Box

It was the title that came first. It floated up from the mysterious depths of my sleep deprived brain, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a terrible night. 

Or arose like a zombie. That wanted to eat my brain. Was eating my brain. Or something. 

I’m so tired. 

Anyway, the point is. What is the point? Oh, right. The point is I know what you’re thinking. What is up with that title? It’s a funny story actually. It was the title that came first. 

Wait, I already said that.

OK. Where was I? There I was, trapped for hours, trapped in a hell of my own making, when it came to me. 

Box Spring Hot Box.

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Heh. That’s really funny, I thought to myself. Although now that I’m writing this, it’s not quite as clever as it sounded at 3 a.m. It’s mildly amusing at best. But if I change it now then I have to rewrite the whole beginning and no one is really going to read this anyway except my mom so…moving on. 

What is a box spring hot box, you ask? Well, it started out fine. Sweet even. A tale as old as sleep. I was gently nudged out of a deep slumber by the horrifying sensation that a presence near me was breathing heavily. My eyelids fluttered open to behold an extra from Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” staring at me. Confusingly, this tiny devil mumbled something about having a nightmare and so I resisted the urge to dropkick the creepy face long enough to wipe the sleep out of my eyes and realize the monster was my own child. 

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So I let him crawl into bed with us. Just for a minute, I said sternly, both of us knowing that I am a gigantic liar, lair, stained pajama pants on fire. 

So he hopped on up, laying on top of the covers and immediately taking up more real estate than was necessary for a 45-pound body. Meanwhile I scooched closer to my husband, who was blissfully snoring away on my other side, the covers wrapped around him like a tortilla. Meanwhile meanwhile, the dog, disturbed by all this commotion, sighed exasperatedly and scooched over as well, moving to lay at the bottom of my feet. 

It was nice at first. Cozy. For a moment I even started to think I understood why all those hippies insist the entire family sleep in the same bed. I was surrounded by love. 

And body heat. I was surrounded by all the body heat. Why was everyone giving off so much heat? Who decided 98.6 degrees is a reasonable number? It’s a ridiculous temperature for a human body. Why can’t we all be a balmy 77? 

It was hot. So bloody hot. And I was trapped under the covers. I tried squirming out but was blocked by the headboard. The dog was blocking the southern exit and there was also the irrational fear that I would get stuck midway and end up roasted to death, cooked by my very own family.  

Why didn’t I just wake one of them up, I hear you asking. Well, well, well, aren’t we just FULL of questions today. 

Sorry. I’m a bit cranky. I don’t know if you heard but I didn’t get much sleep last night. 

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Anyway, waking up either my son or husband so that I could crawl out would have been the logical thing to do. Hence the problem. You’re talking logic. Logic at an illogical time during an illogical year. And, let’s face it, with a ridiculous specimen of a woman. 

To my credit, I did briefly flirt with the idea of waking one of them up. Actually, I was so hot I downright seduced the idea of shoving them onto the floor full force just to feel fresh air on my body again. But then I looked over at my loud snoring burrito, who had been working round the clock from home for months. Stressed and exhausted. Then I turned my head to look at my very own Vitruvian Man, just splayed out in all his tiny glory, who has been struggling with a world that doesn’t make sense and nightmares of Mommy and Daddy getting sick. Even the hellhound at my feet, even if I was willing to crawl out that way, is about to turn 15. He’s been such a good boy, even though his hips hurt and we kept bringing babies home from the hospital without ever once consulting him. 

They all deserved sleep. Peaceful sleep. Or so it seemed in my muddled mind at 3 a.m. 

So I lay in my box spring hot box for the rest of the night. Alternating between analyzing my latest dream (playing basketball with Brad Pitt, where he kept making baskets by throwing the ball from behind his back all while discussing the writing of James Agee, whom I have never read) and replaying every embarrassing moment from junior high (which are numerous and still not funny to me yet). 

Then, like a rainbow after the storm, my husband grunted and farted and I knew the long night had ended. I would soon be free. He was a mere yawn and unselfconscious scratch away from being awake. 

And the point to all this is…

What is the point? There is a point. I came up with it somewhere around paragraph three. I need more coffee. Oh yes, the point is, I yelled at my kids today. For picking their noses and not cleaning their rooms like I asked. I was snippy with my husband, who made the mistake of standing there. I even had a very stern talking to with the dog who keeps aggressively shedding. 

And so the point is I wrote this to let them all know how much I love them. Even when I’m cranky and tired and yelling. Love comes out in many different and often strange ways. Ways like staying up half the night because you just want the ones you love to find as much peace as possible in this world. 

Although next time, I think I’ll just kick one of them to the floor and show them my love by getting a good night’s sleep myself. 

I’m losing (not that I’m keeping score or anything)

Considering my ten year wedding anniversary is coming up, I felt I should probably write something about it. Because LOVE! And BIG DEAL! and stuff. So I spent two hours staring at a blank page while deftly avoiding destroying my keyboard with Cheetos finger dust. 

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I need inspiration, I eventually says to myself. TO THE GOOGLE. And as usual, it did not disappoint. So many women with very white teeth and very tall boots are just bursting at the seams to tell you all the secrets to their happy marriage. With their blogs featuring pithy titles such as “10 Lessons I’ve Learned in 10 Years in Marriage” and “What Marriage is Like After 10 Years” and “How We Keep the Romance Alive After 10 Years of Marriage.” 

You guys ever read a marriage anniversary blog? If not, allow me to sum up ALL OF THEM. 

“I married Jeff (or Jason or Jaysen or Jaxon) on a beautiful beach in some exotic locale that you probably can’t afford. And wow. What a journey it’s been. We didn’t know a lot back then but we knew we loved each other. 

Make NO mistake, however. It takes work. With his demanding but highly successful career and my vanilla writing that is somehow pulling in six figures and with raising our three extremely symmetrical children, our marriage is far from perfect. I mean, I once almost FARTED in front of my husband! Can you imagine? 

No, we aren’t perfect. But we are perfect for each other. We’ve been through so much together, from middle class status to upper middle class status to that time I got bangs. Oof. Through it all, though, we’ve grown closer. Everyone told me when I got married that it would be hard but I love my spouse now more than I did 10 years ago.”

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The one thing, however, that all these anniversary blogs agree on (once you get past all the shiny hair photos) is that to make a marriage work you cannot keep score. If you do, the score will never be even and there will never be any winners. Only resentful losers. 

It’s one of the few things I actually agree with them on too. Because I’ve been keeping score since Day One and it turns out I’m the resentful loser. 

Yeah, I’m LOSING. He is decidedly the better partner. Because I married a handsome overachieving jackass.  

My 10 year anniversary gift from him? Three days alone in an adorable cabin in the woods far away from our family. If you’ve ever had small children (or been within three feet of small children) you’ll understand what a tremendous and thoughtful gift this is.

I made him a coupon book featuring drawings of stick figures doing naughty things.  

You know what this guy did after Christmas? Cleaned and organized our gross, messy attic. A task I had been meaning to do for half a decade. A task that I had been dreading. A task that was taking up valuable mental real estate in my head. And then…poof! Done. Marked off the list without me having to even ask. 

Meanwhile, I once saw a spider in the house and very intrepidly killed it via drowning it in a gallon of bug spray. Did I mention this was on my husband’s desk? And then when he got home after a long day of work, I immediately yelled at him from atop the dining room table “There is a drowned spider corpse on your desk and I need you to get rid of the body and clean up the crime scene!…oh no, sweetie, you’re going to need way more towels!” 

He supports my dreams. Even the dumb ones. And I don’t mean in the “yeah, I totally support that, babe!” and then immediately goes back to scrolling on their phone way. That’s my method of support. I mean he gives me the time and space to pursue them. 

He’s the better gift giver. He’s the better baker. He’s the better nurse. He’s the better cleaner (like, he mops…what?).

He’s the less dramatic one. He’s the one with no history of gaslighting. He’s the one who has never made me feel guilty for being human. (And I am deeply, deeply human). 

He’s just better at…marriage. 

So, to sum up, I got a caring, hard working, supportive partner and he got someone who growls if you try to take the remote away from her. 

But at least I’m better at one thing. I am by far the smarter one. I knew enough to not marry a loser. 

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Good thing I’m not one of those sentimental moms

I vowed long before I ever had children that I would never be one of those overly sentimental mothers. You know the kind. The ones that make keepsakes out of their children’s teeth and first baby curls, like some sort of socially acceptable child body part hoarder. The ones who ugly cry at their kid’s preschool graduation ceremony (like that’s actually a thing, an actual important event). The ones who “ohh” and “ahh” and frame little junior’s drawing of a green horse that looks, let’s be honest, like a terminally ill Jabba the Hutt.

But not me. Nope. I mean, come on. The whole POINT of having children is to raise them and then get rid of them. To turn them into fully functioning adults who can deal with their own boogers and climb off the couch in a manner that doesn’t resemble a skydiving incident gone horribly wrong. Yet these weepy parents want to keep their kids in some sort of infantile limbo, nostalgic for the days when their precious babies hollered from the bathroom “mom, come wipe my butt!”

Pfft. Pathetic.

And then…

And THEN…

You knew there was an “and then” coming, didn’t you? Of course you did. You’re not an idiot like I am.

And then I had children. 

My son, my eldest, needed a haircut. His first. Too many “stop chewing on your hair” reprimands and running into the wall boo-boos because his bangs were blocking 87 percent of his vision finally pushed my hand. Not that I was putting off his first haircut or anything.

That would be too sentimental.

I waited until the morning of the day he was going to have his pictures taken by my photographer cousin. Not that I was waiting until the last possible moment or anything.

That would also be too sentimental.

It just happened to work out that way. And don’t you dare think for one second that me scheduling the hair appointment to coincide with a trip to visit family in my hometown in Ohio (800 miles from my current home in Boston) just so my high school friend would be the one to cut Riker’s hair had anything to do with sentimentality. It didn’t, ok? 

It didn’t.

It was simply because I couldn’t stand the thought of some stranger’s dirty, disgusting hands pawing through my baby’s pristine ginger curls and heartlessly chopping them off like they DIDN’T EVEN MATTER. Like they weren’t made from the most precious stuff ON EARTH.

And yes, I’m sure that the fact that I asked Samantha if she could cut me off just ONE of his curls as a keepsake might look, from the outside, like a sentimental request. But I was just being practical. In case, you know, something, god forbid, ever happened to Riker and we needed a sample of his DNA to give to a mad scientist who would then use it to create Riker’s identical clone.

And sure, then asking her to cut off another keepsake curl might seem a bit ridiculous, but hey, you never know. Something could always happen to Riker’s clone and it’s always good to have a backup-backup plan.

And ok, fine. Perhaps asking for that third curl to also be cut and gingerly wrapped up in plastic was overkill. But what if, I don’t know, a fire destroyed the first curl and then a plague of hair-eating locusts destroys the second one? What then, huh? Am I still being overly sentimental? Or just incredibly reasonable and forward-thinking?

So, plainly, as you can see, I have kept to that vow I made long ago to never be one of those overly sentimental parents. Even now with Riker about to turn 6 and my youngest preparing to go to preschool next year and the fact that I can’t remember the last time she fell asleep on my chest and that he no longer gives me a hug and a kiss before walking into his classroom and tomorrow they will both be leaving for college and they’ll never call and then move across the country from me and I’ll never see them but maybe next year, Mom, and the cat’s in the cradle and some crap about a silver spoon or something…

…Sigh…

And all of that will be just fine by me. Just fine. 

I have my shrine of baby curls, a creepy pile of preserved baby teeth and that damned ugly Jabba horse drawing to keep me company.

 

A glass of astronaut juice

She wasn’t my grandma. I should probably start with that. Officially she belonged to my cousins. The matriarch on their father’s side. 

But Grandma Knapke’s screen door always opened just as wide for me as it did for her verified grandchildren. On those blazing blue summer days, the five of us would spill out of the van and pour into her house, stirring up small whirlpools of chaos and sound in our wake. 

She was a small but vital part of my childhood, her face looming large in my memory. And her laugh. That very distinct laugh is forever seared into my brain. I loved that laugh. I remember wishing I was funnier as a kid just so I could hear that laugh more often. 

This was the angel who introduced me to Tang. The drink of the astronauts. Flashy space juice. It was the most exotic thing I had ever had. No one in my life up until then had loved me enough to let me have Tang. Grandma Knapke let me have it by the pitcherful.  

Her house smelled completely different from my biological grandma’s familiar smelling house. It smelled foreign and therefore fancy in my eyes.

My very intense but short-lived skateboard career began and ended in her driveway. 

She took a bunch of us into town one day. Her hair was in curlers, secured in a hair net. She didn’t care. That was the day she became my personal hero. 

Her kitchen is the kitchen I always think of when I’m reading a book and the characters are standing in a kitchen. She’d probably be surprised to know it was featured in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” and “Little Women.” 

I remember one lunch in particular, a mob of us sitting around her table. My plate was piled comically high considering I was 7-years-old. She cocked an eyebrow at me and said “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” I nodded sagely at her, like I knew what that meant. I had no idea what she meant. But I remember thinking how wise she sounded right before I spent the rest of the day with an agonizing tummy ache.  

I got the news a few days ago. Grandma Knapke passed away at the age of 93. Leaving behind a large and loving and wonderful family.

And one freckled stray whose eyes are still too big for her stomach. 

It takes a special kind of person to open their doors to kids that aren’t theirs. To make them feel loved. Make them feel like they belong. It’s hard being a kid. It’s so easy to forget that as an adult. Which is why kids need all the open doors and hugs and special astronaut drinks as they can get. 

I was luckier than most. I had the best grandma in the world. But I also got a Grandma Knapke. A woman who took in an only child whenever she showed up and made her feel like one of the pack. 

And as I get older, and raise my own family, I can only hope I have it in me to emulate her love and spirit. That in the end there is a person who, when they hear my name, thinks back with a smile and remembers sitting at my table in perfect happiness. Fancy astronaut drink optional. 

 

38 Things I’ve Learned in 38 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preschool teachers do not get paid nearly enough.

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

Never punch down. In comedy or life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re never too old to wear a tutu.

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

I’d rather be strong than skinny.

I’d rather be happy than rich.

I’d rather be immortal than dead.

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

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

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

Fruit doesn’t belong on pizza or burgers.

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

Spiderman should always be played by an actual teenager.

You will regret not being in the photos.

You can never have too much sunscreen on hand.

Admitting you’re wrong isn’t a weakness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I MEAN JUST LOOK HOW GORGEOUS HE IS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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.