Category Archives: Marriage

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.



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.



I’m telling my mom on you.

I like to think I’m a mature person. Mature-ish at the very least. Especially since I became a mother. Because when the world hands you a screaming, leaking lump of fragile human clay and expects you to keep it alive for 18 years, you grow up a bit in spite of yourself.

I can now even say the word Uranus without giggling.


But let me tell you, the first time I heard my own mom scold my misbehaving kids, telling them they better behave and listen to their mother or else, I gloated. Oh, I gloated so hard.

(Internally, of course. I am mature-ish, afterall.)

But you could not have wiped that Cheshire Cat grin off my face with a jackhammer.

“Oh yeah,” I thought to myself. “Memaw just put the smack down on you. Who’s a stupid poopy-head now, tiny humans?”

I’m not necessarily proud of this. But then again, I’m not necessarily ashamed.

It can be lonely at the top of the family hierarchy. Heavy is the head that wears the crown made of macaroni your offspring made you at day camp. And nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to disciplining.

Now that my kids are 4 and 20-months-old, respectively, my days have devolved into one long verbal parade of “no.” Oh look, there’s the “Knock It Off” float. And the “Please Stop” marching band. And the “Don’t Do That Again” men in the funny hats riding the tiny cars.

And, perhaps my personal favorite, the “And That’s Why We Don’t Stick Our Hands In The Toilet” cheerleaders.

It’s exhausting. Especially because you have to constantly be vigilant about disciplining. And correcting. And punishing. One tiny little inconsistency and BOOM. The whole wobbly stack of cards your authority rests on comes crumbling down.  

Because small children are relentless. And merciless. And love nothing more than finding a loophole in your disciplining and squeezing their squirmy little tooshies through it.

So, when someone else with familial authority steps in and disciplines your children while simultaneously giving credence to your own parental authority, it feels like one of those deus ex machina moments in a book or a movie, where the hand of God comes down and fixes everything.

At least for the next 15 minutes.

This is particularly a big deal for me since both my mom and my husband’s mom live far away. Which can make it feel like my husband and I are ruling on a remote island that is constantly under threat of a coup from the restless peasants. Just last week they were screaming “LET US EAT CAKE!” while trying to bang down our bedroom door as we huddled under the blankets, clinging to each other.

But when either one of our moms comes to visit, oh…oh, it’s like watching Cleopatra riding into the city with her giant army of weaponized cookies and stickers, ready to take over and restore order.

Because grandparents, and especially grandmothers, enjoy a different sort of authority. Parents, by necessity, usually end up becoming dictators. Otherwise chaos reigns. But grandparents are more like benevolent royalty. Since they are a degree removed from the children, (unlike us dictators who are forced to live side by side with them), Grandma and Pop-pop can show up, shower them with jewels and snickerdoodles, and earn their obedience without any bloodshed.

And it just so happens that my mom is in town this week for a visit. Which is why I am out in a coffee shop right now writing this, disastrously mixing up my political and historical metaphors in peace, instead of strolling the hallways of the gulag that was formerly my house.

What’s going on inside my house right now? I have no idea. And better yet, I don’t care. Because a divine parental authority even more ancient than mine has taken over.

And for this week I say, hell, let ‘em eat cake.


One thousand birthday hats

Here’s an interesting question you’ve probably never been asked before: Did you know it was possible to be bad at celebrating?

Me neither.

And then I had kids.

My children are awful at celebrating. Just terrible. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. They’re hopeless. They’re even bad at those faux holidays like National Talk Like A Pirate Day (you should hear their sorry excuse for a pirate accent).

I’m hoping it’s just their ages but it’s getting to the point that I’m slightly worried this may turn into a permanent part of their personalities.

Take this past Christmas, for example. First of all, I had to wake them up. A baby and a 3-year-old. I woke THEM up. The only day of the year their sleep-deprived mother would happily get up at 4 a.m. and they decide it’s the only day of the year they want to sleep in. And then, after every present they opened, they wanted to STOP and actually play with that gift instead of ripping into all the other brightly wrapped packages like demented honey badgers. You know, like the rest of us red-blooded Americans do with our presents.

Before that was our anti-climatic Halloween. After getting candy at maybe six houses, my oldest proclaims “ok, let’s go home now.” I mean, who does that? A tiny human dressed like a Viking riding a dinosaur apparently.

And don’t even get me started on Thanksgiving. Eight hours of cooking only to have both of them eat a roll in under three minutes and ask “can we have pie now?”

And those are the major events. They’re even worse at the holidays on the JV squad.

On St. Patrick’s Day, they didn’t want to leave the house. My red-headed children. On the holiest day of the year for redheads. Those selfish un-fun offspring of mine also refused to wear the tiny leprechaun outfits I bought them even AFTER I explained that Mommy and Daddy might be able to score a free beer at a pub if they would just play along.  

Valentine’s Day? Forget it. Same with Easter. Last July, when my youngest turned one, it’s like she didn’t even KNOW it was her birthday. And neither could care less about the fact their mommy and daddy will be celebrating eight years of marriage this month without any attempted murder charges on either of their records (no small feat, thank you very much).

It’s not entirely their fault, I suppose. I mean, children are perpetually living in the present and feel they deserve cake at any given moment. So, it’s understandable they just don’t “get” the big deal about special days. (Whereas us adults are caught in a horrific loop living between the past and the future, skipping the present entirely, and feel guilty eating cake even if we do deserve it. Which is probably why we do love holidays and birthdays so much. It forces us to act like kids for a day.)

Plus, in all fairness, my youngest just figured out was an elbow was so the intricacies of societal celebrations might be a bit above her paygrade.

But next weekend will be the real test. My oldest will be turning 4-years-old. The first birthday he’ll probably remember and the first that he gets to have opinions on.

So far, the outlook isn’t great seeing as how I’m currently more excited than he is. Here is how our conversation about his birthday plans went:

Me: What do you want for your birthday, baby?

Him: Oh, um, how about some presents?

Me: Sure. Yeah. Any specific ones?

Him: No. Just some presents.

Me: Awesome. That’s really helpful. What kind of cake do you want?

Him: Oh, um, how about carrots?

Me: Like, carrot cake?

Him: No.

Me: So, you want carrots instead of a birthday cake?

Him: No. I want cake.

Me: Well, that clears everything up. Anything else?

Him: I want a birthday hat.


I’m still determined though to make it the best birthday ever. Because even if he may not get the big deal, I do. His life deserves to be celebrated in a big, big way. Because he is amazing. Because he is smart and wonderful and kind and funny. Because the world is a better place with him in it. Because the beginning of his life marked one of the greatest days of my life. And because every day since that first day has only gotten better.

Now, does anyone know where I can buy a thousand birthday hats?


I’ll sit in the sinkhole tonight, honey

You want to know what true love is? Volunteering to sit in the couch sinkhole after a long day of work and raising kids so your equally tired partner can sit on “the good side” while you watch Netflix.

Wait, what? Oh, is that just in our house? You guys don’t all have a couch sinkhole?

Well, in that case, let me explain to all you fancy folk with your houses full of structurally sound furniture exactly what a couch sinkhole is. It’s when whatever it is that couches are made of breaks in one spot, but not completely, meaning there is now one precarious area on the couch that is lower than all the rest. And you can still sit there if you sit in it just right (although if you hear any creaking or groaning wood, freeze and stop breathing for a good solid three minutes until you’re sure it’s not going to collapse). And as long as you put down a pillow first before you sit, there is a good 80 percent chance you won’t be impaled by a broken spring.

On the plus side, having a couch sinkhole has greatly improved our children’s behavior.

Kid 1: Mom, she took my Batman! *pushes sibling*

Kid 2: No! Mine! *pushes back*

Me: Both of you learn to share or you’ll take turns sitting in the sinkhole during movie night.

Kid 1: You can have Batman!

Kid 2: No, no, you have it! I insist! *both frantically hug each other*

Yeah, our couch is old. If it were a human, it would already be well into puberty and rolling its eyes every time I talked. In dog years, it’s roughly 103-years-old. In couch years, it’s 700-years-old. A hard 700. It’s the Keith Richards of couches.  

My husband had the couch before we even met and it has traveled with us from Ohio to Texas to Boston. And so the sinkhole is just the latest of the couch’s maladies. There is the sticky and stained left side arm of the couch because a certain someone in the family that is definitely not me kept spilling martinis and wine on it when she was young and childless. Then there is the random mangy patch from where the dog kept licking that spot over and over and over again for mysterious yet very important dog reasons. And the good side opposite the sinkhole was our son’s favorite spot to sit while he was being potty trained.

And it took MONTHS to potty train him.  

We should get a new couch. We really should. In fact, we should replace a lot of things in our house. But we have three very good reasons why we don’t:

One, we have a pre-schooler and an 18-month-old, meaning anything new coming inside our home would instantly be baptized in a tsunami of juice and what we hope are chocolate stains.

Two, anytime we start even thinking of Googling the price of new furniture, a $600 vet bill magically shows up. Or Christmas is coming up…again. Or we do our taxes and discover we owe money to the IRS…again.

And three, buying big ticket household items is an aspect of adulting that bores me to death. In furniture stores, I instantly revert back into a whiny teenager. Why do we have to be here? How much longer? Just pick one already. Why is everything so expensive? Ugh. I wanna use my allowance to buy books and travel. Boo.

Sometimes I worry that we’re crossing over into pathetic territory with our couch sinkhole and our cheap rocking chair hanging on by a splinter and our almost 14-year-old red car that sports a gray hood (and a passenger side door that only opens from the inside) and our upholstered dining room chairs that have faded to a color that can really only be described as “angry pink.”

But I’ve never really been one to try to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, I’m more likely to duck and hide behind my broken-ass couch if I see a Joneses coming.

So, instead, I’ve decided I’m just going to change my entire way of thinking about this situation. Because I’m a grown-up. And I’m allowed to do that. Which is why, from henceforth, we will just be known as the quirky, eccentric family with the endearing couch sinkhole that they made a part of the family because they were too busy being eccentric and quirky to care to replace it. And eventually it will be a hilarious, quirky story my grown kids tell on first dates to the horror of the person sitting across from them.

Ah. Yes. That feels much better. Problem solved.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my 3-year-old just fell into the sinkhole and needs help getting out.


Back off, fellas, I’m taken

I am a crappy wife. I mean, I’d hate being married to me. I’m a remote hog and an unabashed blanket stealer and I have to let you know in great detail EVERY SINGLE FEELING I AM FEELING AT THE EXACT MOMENT I AM FEELING IT.


And then there’s my temper. My lethargic attitude regarding shaving. My severe allergy to replacing toilet paper rolls.

I don’t even know what the man likes on his pizza. I just always order what I want and expect him to eat it.

And yeah, sure, I have my good qualities, I suppose. I’d never cheat. Or be abusive. Or make my husband eat kale.

I’m not a monster.

But still. Take his recent birthday. I did nothing to prepare. NOTHING. Literally ordered his gift the day before. While telling him, “hey, I’m ordering your gift now.” Followed by, “it’ll be here in a week and a half” because I couldn’t even spring for two-day shipping.

There was no party. No fun outing planned. And while I did manage to interrupt my busy schedule of standing in front of the fridge eating all the good restaurant leftovers so that I could make him a birthday cake, he is technically the one who went out into the sub-zero temperatures to buy all the ingredients.

I even forgot to have the kids make him an adorable homemade card. And, thanks to the combination of guilt and laziness (which, when you get down to it, are pretty much the building blocks of my entire personality), I went so far as contemplating on deceptively forging one in their names.


Even worse is that I didn’t because my laziness is almost always stronger than my guilt.


I’m awful.

And what makes it all the more infuriating is that he doesn’t seem to care that I’m a crappy, awful wife. He never complains or whines. He never asks “did you finish all the wine last night?” or “are you re-watching ‘Twin Peaks’ AGAIN?” And he always gives me an enthusiastic round of applause when I announce dramatically and triumphantly that I finally, FINALLY did shave my legs.

He’s like a living, breathing example of “love is patient, love is kind.” Meanwhile, I am the living, breathing example of if Lorelai Gilmore had a love child with a bottle of vodka and then that love child was raised by blanket-stealing wolves.

It’s almost like the man accepts me for who I am.

I mean, who does that?

And thus we come to the entire point of this column. Happy birthday, baby. You are a saint. Married to human garbage (albeit human garbage that loves you deeply). And this is your real gift, posted on the Internet, for all to see.

A gift, mind you, which you can pull up at any time and force me to re-read whenever we get into a fight and I start yelling about just how lucky you are to have me.

Becoming human again

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married woman in possession of a few children must be in want of a life.

It took me 23 minutes to come up with that line, even though technically Jane Austen wrote it first and all I did was butcher it. (Sorry, Jane).

My amazing literary pun skills aside, I’m not kidding about that truth. Because we do. Oh, how we do. We want (and need) a full life.

Not that we moms don’t live for our kids. Because do. Oh, how we do. When my kids were first born, my whole world shrunk down to their exact height and weight. It’s a monumental change you go through when you have a child, physically, mentally and emotionally, and for the longest time, I couldn’t see anything past them. Everything took a backseat to them. Part of this is because you just created AN ENTIRE HUMAN BEING and as such are completely mesmerized by everything they do. Even farts took on a whole new meaning. Coming from their tiny butts, it was the most adorable sound in the world.

But another part of this tunnel vision stemmed from the fact that I was terrified I couldn’t do it. That I would fail. That if I took my eyes off them for a second they would get hurt. Or sick. Or kidnapped. Or, my biggest nightmare, roughly thrown into a car trunk by a kidnapper with the flu. Suddenly, I realized that THE WHOLE WORLD IS ONE GIANT, FESTERING CAULDRON OF DISEASE POPULATED BY SERIAL KILLERS AND PERVERTS AND EVIL BABY BLANKETS THAT COULDN’T WAIT TO SMOTHER MY CHILDREN.

Eventually this passed. Mostly (I still don’t trust that baby blanket). I learned that kids are tough and resilient. That they start to gain a bit of independence. Life keeps moving on. And it was around this time that I finally looked up and, to my surprise, had trouble recognizing who I was.

I felt I was losing myself. Or at least some very vital parts of myself. Motherhood is demanding and it seemed like I no longer had time to maintain the complex person full of contradictions and passions and interests that I used to be. There was only time for diaper changes and fixing fairly large household structural problems with duct tape.

I didn’t laugh as much. I was always tired. I was always distracted. Always thinking about what had to be done. Or done next. Or done next week.

Parenting can sometimes feel like a zero-sum game. You give everything you have (and happily so) to these tiny creatures so that they can have everything. You give and give and give and you love and you love and you love. There’s also some yelling and vague threatening and an army of curse words muttered under your breath, but mostly it’s the giving and the loving.

Without a chance to replenish, without a break, however, it can soon feel like you have nothing left to give. You start to forget who you are, just slowly turning into a zombie mom robot. (Although Zombie Mom Robot would make a great title for a parenting book).

Luckily I had someone to remind me. Which is how I ended up alone in Portland a few weeks ago. With an entire hotel room to myself. Just me and a bottle of wine and an extra large pizza, which I ate on a king-sized bed while sitting in my underwear and watching “Big Bang” reruns.

And it’s how I ended up attending my wonderful friend’s beautiful wedding. Which is how I ended up doing an unhealthy amount of tequila shots, which is how I ended up doing a mortifying karaoke performance, which led to more tequila shots, which led to long conversations stuffed with every curse word known to man (or woman), which led to eating late night fried chicken; all with my long lost group of best friends, relationships that were neglected but now renewed and stronger than ever.

And it’s how I ended up running a 5K last week with another good friend. Like, an actual race, where you purposefully run fast even though nothing is chasing you. My first one ever. And I ran the whole damn thing. And a week later I still feel like Wonder Woman.

It’s how I ended up dusting off my beloved camera and taking photos again. And reading more. And writing more. And drawing my god awful stick figure art again.


And it’s how I finally started remembering who I was.

All because my husband refused to let me forget. He kept throwing me on planes so I could travel and kept kicking me out of the house so I could pursue my own things, my own passions. Because he knows that being a complex person with a full life makes you a better parent.

He understood, even more than I did, what I needed.

And so here’s to hoping you have someone in your life who reminds you who you are when you forget. That you have someone who understands that sometimes you just need a hotel room of one’s own.

(I’m butchering all the classics today. This one only took me 12 minutes though. My apologies to Virginia Woolf).


Why does Hollywood keep breaking my heart?

I don’t remember the first time it happened. I’m sure I was young though. Youth is the time when idol worship is at its peak.

But I do know that since then it has happened on a fairly regular basis and yet I never grow any wiser. No matter how many times they rip my heart out of my chest and stomp on it and then run over its tattered remains with their super quiet, super environmentally-friendly, yet still super expensive cars, I keep becoming emotionally invested in celebrity couple breakups.  

Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe. Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel. Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson. Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor. Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder (a breakup so traumatic for all of us growing up in the 90’s that we’ll all be winos forever). Even my childhood heroes, Kermit and Miss Piggy, called it quits.

It never fails. They all take me by surprise (even though Hollywood’s breakup and divorce rate is approximately 104 percent) and I have to go through the five stages of celebrity breakup grief all over again.



Endless dissecting of the relationship with girlfriends despite the fact we know absolutely nothing about these people.


Reluctant acceptance.

Not all celebrity couple breakups, of course. I was super relieved when Katie Holmes finally broke up with (escaped from) Tom Cruise. And ScarJo was never right for Ryan Reynolds. (Then again, neither is Blake Lively, in my not-so-humble opinion, but what’s the poor guy to do? I’m already taken). Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner both seem like annoying, just truly awful, people. As for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston AND Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, I don’t feel bad because they’re all too good looking for me to ever feel bad for them for anything ever.

The last straw, however, was Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. This couple is the spark that started the latest dumpster fire in my broken, broken heart. I’m still in the “wine” phase of this breakup and may be for the foreseeable future. They were so perfect together. And happy. And oh, WHY, GOD, WHY? DOES YOUR CRUELTY KNOW NO BOUNDS? Where the hell is that wine bottle?

Just what is it about certain celebrity couple breakups that bother me so much? Specifically the ones involving famous people who ALMOST seem like the rest of us mere mortals, like Pratt and Faris?

Because it’s not that I worry that, well, if those two crazy gorgeous kids can’t make it work than who can? I’m very happy in my own marriage. I think my husband is sexy and an amazing father and wicked talented and I make it a point to try and touch his butt every single day. Vice versa, he makes me feel like I’m smart and confident and talented and really, really good looking, even when I’m sporting both little green Army men and chunks of chicken nuggets in my hair. And even if things did start to go south, we’re both too lazy to initiate a divorce, let alone go through with one.

No, I think what bothers me is that, like most delusional Americans, I am certain that I will be rich someday. Which I will do by writing bestselling books (speaking of delusional). You know, once I actually sit down and write them instead of sitting down and writing about how I will write them one day (or, my other favorite writing exercise, getting drunk and telling anyone who will listen how I will write them).

And when I do become rich, it seems inevitable that my marriage will fall apart. Super rich people SUCK at marriage. Famous people even more so. Super rich and famous people, like I completely intend to be, suck the hardest of all.

So, when I become a disgustingly rich and famous author, I mean, it’s basically like aiming a bazooka at my marriage license.

Sigh. I guess I’ll have to settle for only being a mildly rich and famous author. You know, where I own a yacht but not an entire island.  

Oh, the sacrifices we mere mortals make for love.