Category Archives: Marriage

Quarantine Letters from the Home Front

March 12, 2020

My Dearest Husband, 

It feels like yesterday I held you in my arms, only for us to be ripped apart by this cursed virus that is sweeping across the country. What I wouldn’t give to see your face again. Alas, I know you must do your duty, though it is a most difficult one, and figure out how to turn our diminutive bedroom into a viable home office. 

Though only a door separates us, it may as well be an ocean. For you are a world away, valiantly battling the Zoom app with its broken video link and internally struggling with the weighty decision of whether you care if your boss sees you in your pajamas, whilst I stay on this side, taking care of hearth and home in my yoga pants. We are walking an unknown road together yet apart, my love. But never doubt where my heart lies. 

The children send you their deepest affection and this drawing of a pirate ninja unicorn. 

With All My Love, 

Your Devoted Wife

 

March 13, 2020

My Darling Husband, 

I thought perhaps I saw a glimpse of your unshaven face shuffling around in your robe early this morn and my heart leapt at the sight of it. But by the time I called out, this specter had already refilled his coffee mug and disappeared back into the murky depths of the bedroom. Oh, my beloved, when will the world return to normal? I fear we will not come out of this as the same people we once were. 

To distract myself, I am helping our eldest learn to read. His teacher has been most accommodating, sending numerous worksheets to be printed out at home and link after link after link of educational things we ought to be doing. I admit it is most overwhelming but I find courage within myself by imagining how burdensome it is for families across this nation of ours and knowing I must do my part as well. 

Eternally Yours,

Your Faithful Bride

 

March 16, 2020

Dearest Love, 

I am trying, somewhat in vain, to remember how hard all this must be on our children. The world has gone mad and if their mother cannot make much sense of it, what chance have their young minds?

Yet, I still do not feel that is a reasonable excuse to steal all my lipsticks and paint the dog in various vibrant and long-lasting hues. Oh yes, that is indeed what your children just did. The little one also blew a raspberry in my face when I divulged to her that there would be no cookies for breakfast. 

Well, as you can imagine, it took everything I had to spare any and all rods. But as it says in the scriptures, children are a gift and a reward. Although if I do recall correctly, Jesus never had any children of his own and God stopped after one. 

I feel my delicate constitution cannot take much more of this, dearest. Which is why I drank all your beer. 

Love,

Your Temporarily Jovial Spouse

 

March 17, 2020

Dear Husband, 

As I write this, it is late morning. A dreary, rainy morning sure to turn into a dreary, rainy afternoon. Already the children have broken a chair and the hound has vomited on the rug before deciding to poop in the only room that has carpet. ‘Tis not quite the auspicious day I was hoping it would be. 

But I strive to take heart in the small things, such as it being the Day of Saint Patrick. I felt it only appropriate to participate in the festivities, if but alone. And early. 

Relatedly, we are out of wine. Also the vodka from the freezer is gone. 

P.S. Did you eat my leftovers? They were clearly labeled with my name, darling. If you wanted eggrolls, you should have ordered some for yourself when I asked what you wanted from Golden Dragon yesterday. 

Signed,

Your Hangry Wife

 

March 18, 2020

Husband,

Supplies are low and morale is flagging. I had to squash a coup d’etat when word got out that there were no more fish sticks. I know it is a fraught journey to the grocery store in these awful and uncertain times but seeing as how I am hungover (you know my delicate constitution) I feel it is essential that you go. 

I will miss you, oh husband of mine, as you embark on this treacherous voyage. But how lucky am I to have such a considerate partner who leaves behind dirty socks all over the house as a constant reminder of his presence in our life during these troublesome days. 

Regards,

Wife

 

March 20, 2020

To Whom It May Concern,

I’m going for a walk. I threw an entire box of Cheerios on the floor so the urchins should be occupied for awhile. I am uncertain of when I shall return. 

P.S. The children set the kitchen on fire.

 

My very particular set of skills is finally needed

Being a stay-at-home parent is an underappreciated job. Luckily, it’s also a job which results in a lot of expertise that has very little value outside your immediate family and involves absolutely no social standing.

Which is fine. We don’t do it for the glory. We do it because childcare costs in this country are ridiculous and out of control. (And, like, for love or whatever). 

All of which is to say that society places little worth on the ability to spend all your time with your family without murdering them, not even once. 

And then came the coronavirus. In times of great uncertainty, in times of dire need, leaders can emerge from the most unlikeliest of places. Which is why, as this pandemic is sweeping across the country and everything is closing and everyone is realizing they will be forced to spend all their time in very close proximity to their own families, with no escape, nowhere to run, me and my fellow brethren are finding that our skills are finally in demand.

Fellow caregivers! It’s our time to shine, baby! *ties hair up in messy bun and straightens sweatpants*

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Alright, now one of the most important things to remember is don’t panic. They’re just your family. You will survive this. Probably. I’ll be honest, I don’t know your family. But I’ve been stuck at home with mine for six years now and other than an extremely bloated wine budget and premature aging, I’m only mildly psychologically damaged. 

First things first though, what are you doing? Putting on real pants? Aw, that’s cute. I mean, if it makes you feel good go on ahead but, honestly, you’re probably going to regret it. Real pants just remind you that there is a real world out there, a real world that you are no longer a part of. You need something with stretch, with elastic; something that won’t judge you when you are stress-eating leftover chicken wings above the sink. 

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Of course, one of the biggest adjustments you’ll have to make is that within these walls during the day, time will cease to have meaning. Mornings will fly and the afternoon will be frozen. Minutes can feel like hours and hours can feel like regretting the decision to ever have children in the first place. For example, it should be mathematically impossible to watch “Frozen II” 43 times in one day and yet there it is, still playing in the background, for the 44th time. 

At least now with all this extra time we can sit down to a nice, big, family breakfast, I hear you thinking. But nope. You’ll try, of course. At first. But your eggs taste like poopy butt and you did the hashbrowns wrong (there’s brown on them!) and she just wants CHEERIOS and he wants butter with a side of bagel. NO! UNTOASTED! NOW IT’S RUINED!   

Time to start your workday. When I’m not getting yelled at for my poopy butt eggs, I moonlight as a writer so allow me to share what I’ve learned about working from home with children. Prepare for your productivity to go down immensely. Possibly to zero. Even if you have a home office with a door. Doors don’t stop children. Nothing stops them. Also, children can sense when you need to concentrate and/or are on an important call. This is when the little one will crawl on your laptop like a cat and the older one will burst in naked and fart on you while giggling manically. 

Hey, remember back in your former life when you had the autonomy to go to the bathroom whenever you needed to? Yeah, that’s gone. Even if you ask every single person in that household if they have to go to the bathroom before you go in there, and everyone says “no,” someone will still bang on the door within eleven seconds demanding to be let in because IT’S AN EMERGENCY and THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO GO THEN. 

If you want a snack, you either get real good at slipping in and out of the kitchen unseen or you make snacks for everyone. 

Sound? What sound? Oh, that? That’s just the 3 p.m. sibling screaming match. Right on schedule. Now, wait for it…hang on…in just a moment…yup, the elderly dog’s fevered barking in response. There’s an encore of this performance at 4 as well. And 5:15. Sometimes 7. 

Oh, don’t look so disheartened. Look, you will want to kill them at some point. Likely multiple points. This is totally normal. I mean, don’t. Kill them and whatnot. It will reflect very poorly on your parenting. But it’s completely valid to feel like you want to.

Here you go. You’ve earned this. I call it a martini but it’s just straight vodka in a martini glass.

And just think, only five more hours until bedtime. 

Tissue? 

 

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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Tired.

I’m tired. 

But don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those pieces where the author spends 800 words telling you just how much MORE tired they are than you. (Although I only got two hours of sleep last night. Not that it matters. Because, again, this isn’t THAT piece). 

See, I know you’re tired too. We’re all tired. The whole world is tired. None of us are getting enough sleep and all of us are under more and more pressure to do more during our waking hours. 

Which is why, I suspect, we as a society have turned tiredness into a competition. We all feel guilty that we aren’t doing more so we try to win the only contest we can: Who is more tired?

Person 1: “I’m so tired.”

Person 2: “Me too. I only got five hours of sleep last night.”

Person 1: “I only got four.”

Person 2: “Did I say last night? I meant for the whole week.”

Person 1: “I meant for the whole month.”

Person 2: “I basically haven’t slept since I was a child.”

Person 1: “Must be nice. I haven’t slept since I was literally in utero.”

Person 2: “Really? I couldn’t even sleep in there, what with that constant beating of mother’s heart.”

I don’t know how we got to this point. Maybe it was the Internet, connecting us all to the world 24/7. Maybe it was the rise of social media, connecting us all to each other 24/7. Or perhaps it’s just hard to get a solid eight hours when the world feels like a dumpster fire. But whatever the reason, it appears there is some fierce competition for the title of “Most Tired.” Because you can get into this competition with pretty much anyone. Take moms, for instance. 

Pregnant woman: I’m so tired. 

New mom: HAHAHAHA…just wait until they are born. 

Mom of toddler: Aw, that’s cute. Mine is mobile and can open doors and has opinions. 

Mom of teenager: Well, I haven’t slept since mine got his driver’s license. 

Mom of multiple teenagers: I’M TECHNICALLY DEAD. 

There’s also the generational tiredness rivalry. 

Old person: I’m so tired. My angina and trick knee kept me up all night.

Middle-aged person: I was up worrying about taking care of my aging parents and my growing kids. 

30-something: My career is killing me. 

20-something: I work three jobs and have no money and no future and the Arctic is literally on fire. 

College student: I had to pull an all-nighter for exams and then work all day at my unpaid internship.

Teenager: I had to pull an all-nighter for Fortnite. 

Everyone: Oh, shut up, Kyle.

Teenager (sulkily): I won, not that anyone cares.  

There’s also usually a romantic partner daily exhaustion war. My husband and I are experts at this. 

Husband: I had to finish 57 projects today and re-do the entire website and fight the crowds for the train home. 

Me: I had to drag two little kids all over town while dealing with 23 tantrums and 15 meltdowns and I have insomnia and I need to finish my blog about how much more tired I am than you and everyone else in the world.

(Again, NOT that this is all about how much more tired I am than you, dear reader. Even if it’s true, it’s not the point). 

And then there is all the situational tiredness. The bad job tired. You ever had a bad job? It’s exhausting. There’s the bad relationship tired, where your brain basically turns to mush rehearsing all the things you should say to your crappy partner but never do because you’re just too tired. Or the financial problems tired, where you trade sleep for calculating which limbs you can sell to make ends meet this month. 

And that’s all just the level of tiredness you feel when everything is going fairly well in your life. It’s a whole new level of fatigue when you are, say, battling a chronic disease. Or a mental illness. Or raising a child with special needs. Or dealing with racism and sexism and bigotry every day. Or struggling in poverty. Or…yeah, you get it. 

We’re tired. 

So who wins the award for most tired? I mean, clearly it’s me. Although the rest of you put up quite the battle. Which is why I’m going to pull a Cady Heron from “Mean Girls” and break apart the crown and give us all a piece of the title. 

And as for any solutions? How do we stop being so tired? Truthfully I have no idea.

But I’m sure I’ll be up all night thinking about it.

 

 

Buffy.

I’m writing this now, ahead of time. Before we know. I felt it would be easier this way. That I would be more level-headed, less emotional this way. Although I’m already crying so that pretty much backfired. 

Then again, is it ever possible to write about your dog without tearing up? 

The vet said we should start with a chest x-ray, which is scheduled a few days from now. To see if it has spread. There’s a small chance that the tumor on the roof of his mouth is benign but I know that even if it is, this is still probably the beginning of the end. He’s almost 14. The average lifespan of a dog is 10-13 years. We’re already living on borrowed time. 

Whatever the diagnosis, I’m a bit at a loss of what to do. Soon there will be decisions to make. Hard decisions. 

And yet, just like he always has, he trusts me. 

The thing that haunts me the most in this awful limbo between knowing and not knowing is an equally awful question. Did I give him a good enough life? It’s only now, as we head toward the inevitable end, that I’m fully realizing the nature of our relationship meant he depended on me and my family for everything. We were his world. But just like the world at large, we were a bit of a dumpster fire.

All the mistakes. There were so many. I didn’t socialize him enough as a puppy. I fed him the cheap stuff. I wasn’t consistent on training. There should have been more fetch and less binge-watching Netflix while sneaking him french fries. 

I took him on a thousand walks. It should have been two thousand.

And yet, in spite of it all, he loves me. 

I was 24 when my roommate showed me a recently rescued bedraggled ball of fluff that smelled like hot garbage. 

“You did say you wanted to get a dog.” the roommate said. 

I picked the ball up and looked in its terrified brown eyes. Sold. Instantly. I kissed the top of its furry stinky head. Regretted it. Instantly. 

“It’s a boy, you say?”

“Yeah,” he replied. 

“Remember when I said if we get a dog I’m naming it Buffy?”

The roommate smiled. 

“Buffy it is then.”

(And that is also the story of how the roommate eventually became my husband). 

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It was this male dog named Buffy who forced me to grow up. He was so smart. Part border collie. He was constantly outwitting me. He was also anxious. Fearful. Edgy. Understandably so. He had been dumped in a field in late fall. And we suspect he’d been abused before then. 

But that also made him fiercely loyal and loving. 

He even eventually forgave me for leaving him for days and then returning home with a baby in tow. And then managed to forgive me again, a few years later, when I did it all over again. I spent months ignoring him while trying to keep these tiny interlopers alive. Months yelling “stop licking the baby!” and “drop it, that’s the baby’s toy!”

And yet, he patiently waited to be noticed again, sneaking onto my lap on those rare chances when it was free. 

It’s often said that we don’t deserve dogs. That they’re too good for us. For this world. But what I find amazing about dogs is that they keep inspiring us to try. Even though we humans are basically giant bags of meat and flaws, we keep trying to deserve them. That’s how strong a dog’s love is. Strong enough to make selfish and self-destructive humans look in the mirror and say quietly to themselves “today I’m going to be the person my dog thinks I am.” 

And even though we fail in this, over and over and over again, whenever we look into their eyes we vow to try again the next day. 

My hope is that some day, some beautiful, bright day, we will finally learn all they are trying to teach us. But until then I want to say thank you, Buffy. For all the lessons. I was a horrible student. And yet, through it all, you never gave up on me. 

I’ll be damned if I give up on you now. No matter what the future holds. 

And when we finally do know what that future holds, I promise to be there until the very end, my friend. 

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Absolutely.

It was a tradition we had started a few years back. Whenever someone in our family had a birthday coming up, they got to choose whether they wanted gifts or an adventure. Since I had just reached Level 38 in the game of life, I felt an adventure was in order. I have stuff. A ridiculous amount. I wanted memories. 

We didn’t go far. Adventures don’t always require distance. My husband and I Googled our little hearts out and found an idyllic seaside town not even an hour away. It had all the requirements.

1. A beach. 

2. A place close to the beach that sold alcohol.  

Better yet, we found a quirky little inn that still had rooms available. An inn that was the perfect blend of charming and yet definitely haunted, but haunted by the ghost of Lorelai Gilmore. I immediately fell in love. 

It was everything a small getaway should be. Even the constant sibling fighting added an air of authentic vacation whimsy. 

“Ah, we’re going to miss this when they get older.” I sighed to my husband as we sat on the beach and watched our daughter throw sand directly into her brother’s eyes.

“Yes, these moments when they’re still small enough to lack the strength to actually murder each other are truly magical,” replied my husband as we then watched our son retaliate by hitting his sister over the head with some driftwood. 

Alas, all good things must come to an end. As we were packing up to leave the following morning on our second night there, the whining started. Right on time. 

“But MOM! We don’t WANT to go HOME.” my 5-year-old wailed, splayed dramatically on the bed. 

“MOMMA! Can we live here now?” my almost 3-year-old helpfully chimed in as she mimicked her brother’s splaying.

“Guys, you know we have to leave tomorrow.”

Simultaneous groans. The only thing they had agreed on the entire time. 

“Can we stay just one more night?” 

“Yeah, can we?”

Pffft. Who did these kids think they were dealing with? Not in the mood to argue about this for the next 45 minutes, I decided to throw the hammer down, saying the two words universally known to decimate the hopes of youths everywhere. The verbal nuclear option, if you will. 

“Absolutely not.” 

And that was that. 

Until it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that at all. Because out of nowhere, my husband whipped out a homemade missile defense system built out of only three words.

“Are you sure?”

Was I sure? WAS I SURE? Who did this guy think he’d knocked up on multiple occasions? Of course I was sure. We couldn’t possibly stay one more night. We had to get home and…do things. Like…important things. Important things like…THE DOG. Yeah. We have a dog and there is no way…

“I mean, we could see if the dog sitter can stay one more night.”

But…

“And the owner mentioned to me earlier that he doesn’t have the room booked again until next week.”

But…

“And I know what you’re thinking, but we can afford it. I worked all that overtime last month.”

But…

“What do you think?”

What did I think? What did I THINK? I think the mom part of me was holding up a giant banner over my brain that said “ABSOLUTELY NOT.” As she so often did. Because the mom part of me is inundated with 300 ridiculous requests a day. Can I jump off the roof? What if I wear a cape? Can we have candy for breakfast? Can we put makeup on the dog? Can we lick this old gum on the sidewalk?

So, “absolutely not” was the only possible answer to all of these. It was a survival technique really. But, because of this, how many times did I say no to things just out of sheer habit?

And that’s when I heard her. The non-mom part of me. The part of me that was slowly being smothered underneath the pile of unfolded laundry in my soul. She was straining to be heard as she whispered “what if you said yes?”

Meanwhile, while my brain was short-circuiting, the three of them were standing there, staring at me expectantly.  

“Well, I guess there’s no harm in seeing if the dog sitter can stay one more night,” I finally sputtered out. 

She could. 

“But I doubt the owner will just let us stay another night at the last minute.”

He did. 

Again, six eyes stared expectantly at me. 

“So can we, mom?”

“Yeah, can we?”

Can we? What would one more day mean? One more trip to the beach. One more dinner at a place where the wine paired perfectly with deep fried everything. One more day to make memories I will probably forget but Instagram will remember forever. 

“Honey?”

I stared back at them. I smiled. And I decided then and there to drop my bad habit like a bad habit. 

“Absolutely.”

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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.

Who deserves a vacation?

Of all the titles I thought I’d have throughout my life, Illicit Vacationer was never one of them. And yet, here I am, with my Instagram feed defiantly full of photos of me and my family cavorting on a beach in Maine.

In my defense, I didn’t read Michelle Singletary’s piece in the Washington Post titled “If you’re in debt, you don’t deserve a summer vacation” until after I got back. So, you can imagine my surprise that I somehow managed to get away with sneaking off to the shore without my student loans grabbing me by the ear and hauling me back home while they lectured to me about financial irresponsibility.

If you haven’t read the article, it’s all right there in the headline. But it’s the “deserve” that got me the most. Interesting word choice, considering that the vast majority of Americans are in debt. Luckily, she clarifies what she means by “debt” with the definitely not condescending sentence “I’m sorry to tell you that you don’t deserve a summer vacation if you’re a hot financial mess.”

Ah. Thanks, Michelle. Hot financial mess. Got it. So…everyone then?

But perhaps my favorite bit was when she goes on to say you don’t deserve a vacation even if you saved up for it. Because we should all be using that money to pay down our debt. Because, honestly, how long is it going to take you to become completely debt-free? What, 30, 40, years? You can vacation in your 80’s.

In HER defense, though, she does graciously offer a solution to us mere commoners, us plebs who frivolously spent our stagnant wages on unaffordable higher education, child care, housing, working vehicles and medical procedures. That solution being, of course, the luxurious and also definitely not condescending concept of the “staycation.” Because everyone knows how relaxing it is to hang out in your filthy house that you hang out in every other day of your life. But, as she so kindly reminds us, don’t spend your valuable time off cleaning and attacking that mile-long to-do list. You’re on vacation, afterall. Act like it. Just step around the piles of laundry and dog vomit.

But enough of Michelle’s Very Helpful Tips for the Working Poor. Let me tell you who I think “deserves” a vacation.

Everyone.

Everyone deserves a vacation. Full stop. Everyone is stressed out. Everyone is busy to the point of exhaustion. Everyone is struggling, in some way or another.

I’m sure even rich people get stressed out from time to time. I don’t know, maybe their third Porsche didn’t start today and now they have to have their butler take it to the mechanic and it’s become like a whole thing. I get it, man. It’s rough.

Which is why we all deserve a break.

Do you know what’s so amazing about vacations? It’s somewhere away. Away from home. Away from your problems. Away from the world’s problems. Just for a bit. Just long enough to breathe and take in a lungful of life.

Because by being away, you get perspective. Say, perspective about how you were not put on this Earth merely to work hard and pay your bills.

And you don’t need a big fancy vacation for this perspective. All travel changes you for the better. We only went an hour and half away. In the off-season. For only five days. Because that’s what we could afford. Most of the time it was 55 degrees and rainy.

But it was heaven. Because it was away. Because it was the four of us, laughing and exploring and eating absolutely nothing of nutritional value and remembering that in the grand scheme of things, all the rest of it is just the small stuff. Life is big and should be treated as such.

Because do you know who deserves a vacation the most, in my opinion? My children. They deserve to run around on beach when they’re young enough to scream in delight and slight terror every time a wave touches their foot. They deserve carefree days full of sandy kisses and sticky hugs that leave their lollipops hopelessly tangled in their mother’s hair. They deserve the pure joy that can only come from hopping in the car and setting off for destinations unknown with happy parents.

Debt will always be there. Even if I finally do pay off all my current debt, my car is 14-years-old. We’ll need a new one soon. At some point, someone will break a leg, or get really sick, or need surgery. Eventually, we’d like to own a house instead of renting. Someday my kids will likely go to college. There will always be more debt.

But you know what there won’t always be more of? Time. This time, right now. Where my kids are young and my husband and I are less young but still young enough to chase them through the streets of a charming seaside town with delight.

I can guarantee you that when all of us are on our deathbeds, we won’t be thinking “man, I’m so happy I got all that debt paid off, what a life well-lived.” We’ll be thinking instead about how we sat and watched the waves on a freezing beach that one day in May. And then we came back to our little oceanfront cottage and made s’mores by the fire, with a peace settling upon us that was interrupted only by spontaneous hugs that left fragments of sticky marshmallow hopelessly tangled in my hair.

So, take that vacation, my friends.

You can’t afford not to.

 

The weird things that excite you as a mom

I stood there in front of the refrigerator, the cool air wafting past my body like a million tiny kisses from the grocery store angel. I stood there and just stared. For how long, I have no idea. My brain was too busy taking inventory to notice something as trivial as time. Somewhere, way in the back of said brain, I realized I was doing the exact same thing I yell at my kids for doing. But I didn’t care. Rules are made (by me) to be broken (by me).

Besides, I was downright giddy by this point. There are weird things that excite you once you become a mom. That brief 45 seconds where all the laundry is done. Educational toys that promise to make your kid a STEM superstar. Drinking wine based on your favorite TV shows while watching those TV shows.

All great things, truly. But for me, there is nothing that can top the weird excitement I feel in the days leading up to a vacation when I am confronted with the task of getting all the perishable food in my kitchen consumed before we leave. And as I stood there in front of the fridge, I couldn’t help but notice how full it was. Only four days left to go and there were ingredients and leftovers enough for at least a good week. I should have been embarrassed by how exhilarated I was about this. How electrified I was by the challenge.

But I wasn’t.

This was my culinary Olympics.

There are rules, of course. You can’t just throw the food away, for one. You’re a mom, after all. It must be consumed. Or, as in my case since I have small children, prepared and placed in front of my family where it is ignored and stubbornly not consumed. And THEN, after an acceptable amount of ignoring time, it can be thrown out. The goal is always to let as little food as possible go to waste.  

As you can imagine, this leads to some rather creative meals in the days leading up to vacation.

“Mom, what is this?”

“Chicken nugget spaghetti”

“And this?”

“Scrambled eggs mixed with overripe avocado.”

“And for dessert?”

“Mashed potato pie.”

“It looks like it’s just leftover mashed potatoes.”

“It is.”

Another rule is that you will not be going to the store. For anything. You can’t subtract by adding. Which means that some things will have to be rationed.

“Momma, can I have some milk?”

“Everyone gets a thimbleful of milk every three hours.”

“But Momma…”

“I measured it perfectly! There will be no deviating from the plan. There’s water if you’re thirsty.”

“Well, can I at least have a snack?”

“Of course. Here, eat this about-to-be-expired sour cream.”

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Some people, and by some people I mean my husband, think I take this all a bit far. But he’s wrong. Which is why we end up having conversations like this:

“Ryan, did you just heat something up from the freezer?”

“Yeah. I was really craving a…”

*knocking microwave burrito out of his hand* “Do you think this is a game? Was I not clear before? Do you need to see the PowerPoint slides again?”

“Oh God, please no.”

“NO CANNED OR FROZEN FOOD FROM HERE ON OUT.”

“Honey, don’t you think you’re taking this all a bit too serio…”

“THAT FRIDGE WILL BE EMPTY.”

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And lastly, if anything is left, guess what everyone is eating in the car on the way to our destination? I don’t care that it’s a bag of wilted salad and slightly wrinkled grapes and questionably smelling hummus from the far, far back right corner. Eat it. Momma is on a mission and I will not let ANYONE’S fickle eating habits ruin it.

You can eat whatever you want on vacation. You can waste whatever food you want on vacation. There are no rules on vacation. Let complete chaos REIGN on vacation.

But before vacation, I am running this joint like a gastronomic gulag. And you will eat those stale marshmallows and leftover lasagna for breakfast. And you’ll like it.

And all because, and I say this in my most haughty evil dictator voice, it amuses me.

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What? Me? Jealous? No. Pffft.

Guys, I hate to be THAT wife, but I need to brag about my husband for a little bit. He just added the title of “children’s book illustrator” to his already impressive resume. A title he managed to squeeze in while working at his regular demanding journalism job and coming home to his regular demanding wife and kids who are always up in his face the second he walks through the door.

I am so proud of him. This is a guy who literally worked his way up from paperboy to now whatever his current fancy title is at the Boston Globe (a fancy title, mind you, that I definitely know but just don’t feel like typing out right now).

And he’s not just a hard worker, although he is that. He’s also genuinely talented. Which is probably why he’s succeeding both professionally and creatively. Which is great. It really is. He’s amazing and deserves everything he’s accomplished. He has really lived up to his potential, unlike some people he’s married to.

Ha! Ha!

What? No, I’m just kidding. I never had much potential in the first place. Ha! Again. Oh, we have fun here at this old blog of mine. A blog that no one reads and never goes viral. Good thing I have a successful man to stand behind.

Oh, what’s that? No, YOU sound slightly jealous.

Besides, what good would it do if I was jealous? We’re a team, me and him. Him and me. I also reap what he sows. Especially now that we have kids. Every success he has means we can pay the bills and not be homeless and get as many toppings as we want on our Friday night pizza. Including FRESH basil.

More importantly, I love him and want him to achieve all his dreams. So what if the highlight of his week is a cool book signing event and mine is working out a lose/lose situation with my youngest child where if she’ll just SIT on the potty for two minutes she still gets M&M’s even if she doesn’t actually pee or poop.

So no, I hate to disappoint you, but that feeling I’m currently stuffing way way way down deep is definitely not a twinge of jealousy. I fully understand why my own creative endeavours have to take a backseat right now while I take care of our young brood.

Although, if I’m being truly, albeit reluctantly, honest, my husband is also really conscientious about taking over the child care duties whenever possible to give me time to work on writing career.

Yeah. Yeah, I know. Wow, he really IS great.

What? No. That wasn’t sarcasm. Hey, I’m a lucky, lucky woman and I realize it.

It’s just, I mean, at some point isn’t him being so generous and fair just rubbing it in my face that I too have dreams I want to accomplish and he fully supports them? Like, where does this guy get off?

You know what he did last week? Deep cleaned the kitchen  Like, got all the stains off the stovetop that I had just accepted as a permanent part of the decor. The insensitive jerk.

Oh, that sounds a bit harsh, does it? Well, what else do you call doing all the chores around the house so I can spend the weekends working? The nerve of him. It’s like he is taking away all the plausible excuses I could use for why I still haven’t finished that first draft of my “novel” like I promised myself. Or the six children’s books I started writing and stopped because apparently plot is an important part of a story. Basically he’s leaving me no choice but to accept the fact that I’m the one responsible for whether or not I’m successful at my own career.

Total bastard, right?

Look, all I’m saying is that he works incredibly hard so that I can stay home and raise the kids, which I wanted to do and which I love doing, while also giving me time to work on my writing projects, which I also love, and thus making it almost impossible to blame him for anything. I mean, what the hell? How dare he.

AND, speaking of how dare he, how dare he also prove that hard work pays off. I’m a writer. Most writers don’t actually want to write. Writing is hard. We just want to BE writers, sitting around in coffee shops and bars and daydreaming about the day the book we never actually sat down and wrote gets magically published.

Oh, but here comes old Mr. Sit Down And Do It proving without a doubt that doing something is the only way to get anything done.

Sigh. I guess the only thing I have left is to actually work hard, now that he has cruelly taken all my excuses away.

I just hope I can forgive him some day for being such a wonderful and supportive partner.