Category Archives: Marriage

Mom is always right, even when she’s wrong

To my dearest, dearest children,

You two are the light of my life. I love you both so much. Which is why I’m writing this even though it’s…difficult. Very difficult, in fact. For me. Your mother. To admit this. But it’s important you know this so…

Sigh…

Listen up and listen hard because you will never hear this ever again.

I was wrong.

Long exhale…

BUT I AM RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE. AND ALL FUTURE THINGS. ALL OF THEM.

However, ok, yes, I was wrong about this ONE thing. You guys were actually wonderful on our recent vacation.

I spent all that time moaning and whining about how awful I expected you guys to be; the likely sleepless nights we’d share, the public tantrums you’d likely have, the running off and disappearing into the ocean you’d likely do, tarnishing my reputation as a mom forever.

And then…nothing. You guys behaved. Not only that, you were charming and sweet and loving. It was like living in one of those old black-and-white photos of the Kennedy family on the beach.

Now, in my defense, it’s easy to assume the worst when it comes to children. Because I’ve seen your worst. On multiple occasions. And I think we can all agree that when it’s bad, it’s BAD. So bad. All the bad. And neither of you is shy about proving it.

There’s the dual meltdowns in restaurants where I have to scream to the waitress over your screaming “AND THE KIDS WILL HAVE A GRILLED CHEESE AND I’LL HAVE AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS, THANKS!” The waiting in line at the store where you’re hitting each other but not the normal little kid hitting. Oh no. The “reenacting scenes from ‘Atomic Blonde’” level of hitting (no more playing with the remotes anymore, by the way, kids). And, my personal favorite, the night-night time “I don’t want to brush my teeth!” freakouts that end with me screaming so loud I’m worried my neighbors now know what kind of mom I actually am.

But nope. None of that. This vacation was everything a vacation is supposed to be. Fun. Exciting. Even, believe it or not, a tad bit relaxing.

I mean, you slept. You both slept. Through the night. Every night. You slept so well, in fact, that I was worried you had maybe both been replaced by changelings. (Luckily a third glass of wine made me realize that I was totally ok with raising the changelings instead of you as long as they kept up these fantastic sleeping patterns.) 

You didn’t complain about the food. You even ate some of it. Which allowed me and your dad to eat. And eat we did. We ate everything. We ate whatever is the scientific amount of calories you can eat in one sitting without dying. And we did it three times a day. Every day.

You occupied yourselves. You played together. Without us. Which allowed us to sit back and drink the aforementioned wine from the big fancy box we had brought like the big fancy people we clearly are.

You were polite to every cashier, every waiter, every little old lady who stopped and gushed over your red hair for 15 minutes.

You were…simply wonderful.

Which leads me to the conclusion that, clearly, the key to an amazing vacation is to dread it. (And to put that dread into writing. And post it online. For all to see.)

And as such, I look forward to dreading many more vacations with you.

Love,

Momma

 

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An imagination vacation of utter relaxation

It has been a long, hard winter. Followed by several weeks of spring that were a long, hard winter. Followed by one nice day. And then two more weeks of snow.

On top of this, my husband has just finished a huge project at work. He worked nights, weekends. For months, he was either at work or at home working. At one point he got so stressed out he stopped talking in complete sentences.

Neither of these things, of course, registered with our kids, who still wanted to do things and learn things and go places and, in general, needed constant parenting even though we were a man down and living on Hoth.

“Can we go outside, Momma?”

“No, baby, there’s a snowstorm.”

“Can Daddy take us outside?”

“No, baby. Daddy is crying in the kitchen and stress-eating frosting straight from the can.”

Which is why we are taking a much-needed vacation in a few days. I mean, we NEED this as a family. NEED IT. Everyone is snippy and crabby and a few other highly descriptive words I can’t use because this is a family website.

So, we are heading to a cottage resort on the Maine coast. I even sprang for the fancy big cottage. With an ocean view. And a fireplace. And a porch. And separate bedroom for the kids. A separate bedroom that hopefully locks and is soundproof.

As I’m sure you can guess, I cannot wait. Here’s how I imagine it will be:

Everyone will wake up in a great mood on the morning we are supposed to leave. The sun will be shining and birds will be singing and then the little singing birdies will help me get the kids dressed. In fact, the morning goes so smoothly that we realize (as we coolly and calmly climb into the car) that we have time to go out to eat for breakfast. Which is how we find that adorable diner with the sassy waitress who entertains the kids so my husband and I can actually eat our food and drink our coffee and have a conversation instead of shoveling it all in and grunting at each other.

The kids will then immediately fall asleep in the car until we arrive at the cottage (which is even bigger than we thought) and the weather will be 75 and sunny every day with a light breeze.

We will spend our days wandering through the quaint little town and walking along the seashore and eating too much food and drinking too much beer and buying frivolous things we don’t need because, hey, we’re on vacation.

I will read at least three books and finally make a dent in that giant magazine pile that’s been building for months.

Every night the kids will immediately fall asleep in their SEPARATE bedroom at 8 p.m. while my husband and I sit on the porch and drink even more adult beverages and talk about everything and nothing and make-out like gross teenagers.

And, of course, I will take a thousand photos and look back upon this vacation as one of the best times of our lives.

Sigh. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Yeah. Except, I have gone to too many places with my kids to delude myself into really believing all that. So, here is how our vacation is actually likely to go down:

We will leave the house approximately two hours late because of multiple pants-related tantrums. Breathless and sweaty and irritated, we will shove the kids into their car seats as they cry and we curse under our breaths. Once we are finally on the road, I will start hurling handfuls of Cheerios into the backseat because the kids won’t stop whining about how hungry they are. About 45 minutes in, we will have to turn around because one of them forgot their woobie even though they were reminded 12 times not to forget their woobie.

Back on the road, AGAIN, we will keep turning up the radio to drown out the “how much longer?” whining from the oldest and the hysterical sobbing from the youngest.

The cottage will be much smaller than we thought and the weather forecast will predict rain the entire time we are there. Possibly snow. And as soon as we get our luggage out of the car, the kids will start complaining about how bored they are. When I angrily snap back at them “I don’t care,” the youngest will get her revenge by throwing all my books into the toilet.

The kids will play on the beach for exactly 14 minutes before wanting to move onto something else, both oblivious to the fact they are covered head to toe in sand. After cleaning them up, we will try to go out to eat but never actually get to sit down at the same time because the youngest keeps figuring out how to get down from the highchair like some tiny rabid Houdini and the oldest chooses right now to poop his pants.

Very soon after this we’ll say screw it and head back to the cottage where we’ll put the kids to bed early and open a bottle of wine and start a fire in the fireplace. As soon as the glass hits our lips, our daughter will start crying. Which wakes up our son. Who also then starts crying. And they’ll both end up in bed with us. Where they kick and squirm all night. And my husband and I end up awake but unable to move for the next eight hours, just laying there in a hell of our own making.

And, of course, I will take a thousand photos and then leave my cell phone in the bathroom of that restaurant, which I will only remember as soon as we are back home.

Sigh.

But THE POINT IS we are going on vacation. Where, no matter what, memories will be made.

And hey, in just a few short decades, we’ll only be able to remember the good ones.

Hopefully.

 

House Hunters: Normal People Edition

Now that I’m in my mid-30’s, I like to think I have a good handle on my strengths and weaknesses. For example…

Strengths:

Writing good-ish.

Keeping my children alive.

Playing beer pong.

Weaknesses:

Pronouncing the names of fancy wines

Eating only one doughnut.

Buying a home.

It’s that last one that I’m now having to confront (she types while dipping her third doughnut into a glass of unpronounceable fancy wine). See, I am a lifelong renter. I’ve lived in three states, moved into six different places, and throughout it all I’ve managed to dodge this Great American Milestone.

On purpose.

In fact, very few things in this world make me more exhausted than even the mere thought of buying a house. It’s just so involved. So complicated. So very, very boring. The whole home owner rigmarole doesn’t interest me in the least. I’m horrible at interior decorating (every room should just be filled with overloaded bookshelves). I’ve never gardened (my windowsill basil plant left a suicide note). And I’ve survived quite well thus far not knowing what any tool besides a hammer is.

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If it were up to me, I’d just move into an abandoned library and leave it as is. Each kid would get their own shelf to sleep in and I’d build us a couch out of Stephen King paperbacks.

Speaking of kids, I made two of them. I made HUMANS. From SCRATCH. And it was still less painful and panic-inducing to me than buying a house is.

Because for all the incomprehensible things my kids do, they have never asked me for a $43,000 down payment. Or asked me to figure out what the hell an escrow is (not a bird, in case you were wondering, like I was).

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I mean, it’s a house. Shelter. One of humanities basic needs. We used to just murder a bunch of trees and stick ‘em on top of each other and be done with it.

But trying to procure one now (especially when you live on a budget that includes arguments over how many paper towels someone just wasted because paper towels ain’t cheap, RYAN) is completely overwhelming.

The whole process needs to be vastly simplified. Here’s how it should go, in my opinion.

See a house.

Tell whoever I see first at the bank, hey, I would like that house.

Pay us this reasonable amount every month for 30 years, random bank clerk responds.

OK, great. Where do I sign?

Here.

Move in.

BOOM. Done.

But no. We need a real estate agent and an appraiser and a bank loan officer and a mortgage lender and a mortgage broker and a home inspector and an insurance agent and then there is the seller and the seller’s agent and the title company and zzzzzzzzzz…

And that’s not counting all the research we have to do first into the neighborhood and the crime rate and the school district. Followed by all the competing bids we’ll have to make against all the other parents who also researched that same good neighborhood with the low crime rate and the decent school district.

Oh, that we could just continue renting forever. Or start squatting in an abandoned library.

But, sigh, the kids. Our kids. They deserve roots. They deserve a community and a good school they don’t have to leave because our rent skyrocketed and we had no control over it. They deserve a place to permanently call home.

I want to give them these things. I really do. I just don’t know why I have to go through 24 people sporting garish blazers first (at least three of whom will be named Sharon) in order to make that happen.

I love where we live now. But short of me marrying our landlord, which my husband for some reason is vehemently opposed to, there is no guarantee we’ll be able to stay indefinitely.

So, as they say, let the house hunting begi…zzzzzzzzzzzz

 

Insomnia is the new black

You know a fun time to start thinking every thought in the entire world? From 2-5 a.m. Although 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. is also fantastic. Or, on really special occasions, both of those time frames in the same night.

How many baby wipes do we have left?

What’s the date? When are taxes due?

I forgot to clip the dog’s toenails again. Poor baby. He’s practically walking on stilts.

How can Anna Faris possibly have moved on from Chris Pratt already?

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Just laying there in bed. All snuggled up. All quiet and calm. While your brain races around like its been soaking in a solution of bath salts and Red Bull.

I don’t care what my husband says. I’m still pretty sure I could outrun a bear.

I should sign up for another 5K. See if Emily wants to run with me.

Man, when is the last time I talked to Emily? It’s been…months. She probably thinks I’m an awful human being.

Oh good, now I’m going to painstakingly analyze every female relationship I’ve ever had one by one to search for signs of just how awful and selfish I am.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve suffered from insomnia. It’s happened periodically for months at a time throughout my life. Even as a kid I dealt with it. But this current bout is particularly cruel since both my kids are now sleeping consistently through the night. So, of course, now that I finally can, I can’t.

Insomnia. Is that a good column idea? Probably not.

What was the name of that mom I met on the playground again? Sounded something like Blippy? Or maybe it was Karen? Ugh. Why can’t everyone in the world just wear name tags?

Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook. Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook. Stop thinking about that comment on Facebook.

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The bags under my eyes are so heavy I have to pay an extra baggage fee every time I fly in an airplane. I’m having trouble finishing my sentences because my brain is on auto-pilot. In fact, my 4-year-old has gotten really good at finishing my thoughts for me.

Me: Honey, please finish your…um…

Riker: Food?

Me: Yes. Thank you. And then put your plate into the…thing…the place…

Riker: Kitchen?

If I fall asleep RIGHT NOW, I can still get a solid three hours. Sigh. Breathe. Relax…

Where did that giant mystery bruise on my thigh come from? I wonder if, when you die, along with learning all the mysteries of the universe, you also get a montage of all the times you got a mystery bruise and what actually caused them.

Speaking of montages, how do I stop this memory that just arose unbidden of that time I got really drunk when I was 29 and made an ass out of myself?

It sucks being bad at a necessary biological function. I don’t want sleeping pills. I want to be able to hear if my children need me in the middle of the night. And life isn’t worth living if I have to give up coffee. So right now I’m just trying to ride it out. Clinging to the hope that the insomnia will end on its own soon.

I know I don’t have to pee now but I probably will in roughly 17 minutes so maybe I should just get up and go now.

I should really change all my passwords again. Except I don’t know any of my current passwords.

I’m going to die before I watch all the shows I want to and before reading all the books in the world. That’s so DEPRESSING.

Maybe insomnia is a good column idea.

Chris Pratt should marry Aubrey Plaza in real life. That would show Anna.

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I now dread going to bed. I know the only thing that awaits me is tossing and turning. Racing thoughts. Irrational anger at the quiet snoring of both my husband and my dog.

And then there’s the whole pretending to be a functioning human being the next day.

But I guess it could be worse. It could be…um…the…

Uh…you know…

Hey, Riker! Come over here…

Dating your spouse & other unfair adult things

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

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

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

Followed by the “And beer!” text.

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

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

Which is why date night was invented.

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Hey.

Him: Hey.

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

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

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

Then we spend a few minutes venting.

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

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

Then it gets lame:

Me: God, I’m so tired.

Him: So tired.

Real lame.

Me: I mean, just so tired.

Him: How long have we been gone?

Me (checks watch): 12 minutes.

And then we remember that alcohol exists.

Me: I’ll take a bottle of Merlot.

Bartender: To share?

Me: Hahahaha

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

Bartender: Uh…

Which quickly leads to things like:

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

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

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

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

And later:

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

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

Me: NO, NOT AT ALL.

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

And sometimes we forget.

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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.

Usually.

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.

Me: I WILL GET YOU A THOUSAND BIRTHDAY HATS.

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?