Category Archives: Parenting

How to get your kids to eat Thanksgiving dinner

I have mentioned many times in this particular column of mine that I love Thanksgiving. The holiday that asks nothing of you besides gluttony and drunkenness. I don’t even mind that I’m now the one in charge of the cooking, because in the end it all leads to the gluttony and drunkenness. Plus, I found a recipe for deep-fried stuffing balls that has completely changed the entire Thanksgiving game, if not my entire life.

What I don’t love, however, is being the parent of small children at Thanksgiving. Because after spending eight hours cooking, the last thing I want to do is spend another eight hours negotiating with tiny picky dictators about trying the food I just lovingly poured my heart and soul into. Not even eating the food, mind you. Just trying one microscopic bite. A bite so small that technically it shouldn’t exist according to current laws of physics.

But no matter how delicious everything is, no matter how much it has been bathed in practically pornographic amounts of butter and lard, no matter how kid-friendly I attempt to make everything, my children will take one look at their plate and immediately start howling about the disgusting mush of dog poop and gravel I apparently just set in front of them.

True story. This is the conversation I had with my not quite 3-year-old last year:

“I can’t eat this, Mommy. It’s gross.”

“Which part is gross, baby?”

“All of it.”

Ah, music to an exhausted and slightly drunk Thanksgiving cook’s ears.

He doesn’t even like mashed potatoes, which I didn’t even know was humanly possible.  

And this year, his younger sister just learned how to shriek “No!” so it should be a beautiful dinnertime duet of denial this time around.

But I decided that after last year, which ended with a tantrum (and my toddler was crying too) and an exclamation of “oh, just eat a stupid roll,” that I would do things differently this year. I would come prepared this year. I would WIN this year.

Which is why since March I have been brainstorming ideas on how I can get my kids to eat my Thanksgiving food without tears and fighting and threats (or at the very least, only minimal threats). And I am here to share my wisdom. Because, according to my research, it’s not impossible to get even the pickiest of kids to eat Thanksgiving dinner; it just takes a little ingenuity.

So, here are your Aunty Aprill’s tips for tricking getting your kids to eat Thanksgiving dinner:

Mold the mashed potatoes into an elaborate statue of a Mickey Mouse.

Tell them sweet potatoes are potatoes made with candy.

This one is rather labor intensive, but if you can, puree some turkey and stuffing and then, using a syringe, stuff some M&M’s with the puree.

Hire a playground bully to stand menacingly in the corner and glare at them until they take three BIG bites of the three bean salad.

Tell them Christmas won’t come unless they eat everything on their plate.

Instead of a turkey, mold some mac and cheese into the shape of a turkey (but the GOOD kind from a box, none of that fancy, homemade, gourmet cheese sauce crap).

Don’t feed them for three days beforehand. Who’s brussel sprouts sauteed with butter and bacon are icky now, starving peasant child?

A less severe version of the above tip: Only feed them peas and water three days beforehand.

Tell them that Elmo made the cranberry sauce.

Pour melted chocolate over their entire plate.

Use sibling rivalry to your advantage. Whoever eats the most turkey gets the most Christmas presents.

Only serve rolls with butter. Or, if they’re really picky, only serve butter.

And, if all else fails, just drink wine until you don’t care what anyone eats.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

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Death (doesn’t) become her

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.

Oh, sorry. That might be a bit too heavy of a sentence right off the bat. This is meant to be a “humor” column, after all. Let me start over.

Good morning! How are you? I’m fantastic. My toddler had a meltdown inside a store and I dropped a meatball on my baby’s face. But Starbucks is now selling their Peppermint Mocha Latte again so it all evened out.

Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Not any particular death. Just in general. Like, what does it all mean? Is there an afterlife? Will the mortician doing the makeup on my dead face get my eyeliner right?

But mostly, I’ve been obsessing about how I definitely do not want to die. Like, ever.

You might think that something like that should go without saying, but then you are likely a well-adjusted person with a 401K and someone who didn’t spend the first 35 years of their life thinking okra was some kind of seafood.

Not that I ever wished for death (the Great Flu Vomitpalooza of 2015, which occurred right after the Great Chinese Buffet Overindulgence Shamefest of 2015, notwithstanding). I fully enjoy breathing and all that comes with it. It’s just that in past I was always fairly laid back regarding mortality.

This was especially true when I was young, because when you’re young, you are invincible. Death is merely theoretical. Like, yeah, everyone dies. Of course. I never will but sure, yeah, I get it. Everyone dies.

Except me.

Then I got older and started having to adult full-time. And while I now truly understood that, yes, I too will die someday, I was still somewhat ambivalent at this point because paying taxes and dating are just the worst. I didn’t want to die, per se. But, hey, if it meant not having to awkwardly break up with Craig via text and would end this epic hangover from hell, I wouldn’t, you know, rage against the dying of the light or anything.

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But then I had kids. And those adorable little jerks changed everything because the millisecond after looking into their tiny screaming faces for the very first time, I knew that I absolutely had to live forever. FOREVER. I can never, ever, ever, ever leave them. EVER. I’ve often heard people say “my children are my reason for living.” Well, my children are the reason I can no longer die.

EVER.

Seriously, the thought of leaving them reduces me to heaving sobs and the ugliest of ugly cries. I have so much more to teach them! So much more to show them! At least 80 more Thanksgiving dinners with them where I ruin the day with another Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument!

And then there are the million more days I need with them because they are simply the best human beings to have ever existed.   

Because that’s the thing about having kids. Even with the exhaustion and the fears and the tantrums and the mysterious smells emanating from under the couch, my kids make my life more. More colorful. More fun. More beautiful.

Every holiday is magical again. A walk through the woods is full of gnomes and fairies again. And love is back to its purest, simplest form again.

It’s life in Technicolor.

And there is no way I’m missing out on a single minute.

So, currently my plan is to live to 114, where I will be raising my great-grandchildren because my granddaughter June is a complete hot mess because she was too spoiled by her grandmother. And by then, when I finally do kick the bucket, the technology will exist to link up my consciousness with a computer, turning me into an awesome old lady robot who says completely inappropriate things in a cool robot voice.

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Or better yet, I will become a vampire. And when my children die, I will spend the rest of my immortality just chilling at their grave sites and going trick-or-treating with my great-great-great grandchildren and eating all the descendants of the people who bullied me when I was in elementary school.

Because the alternative is no longer acceptable. I simply cannot ever leave my kids.

I’m not just going to rage against the dying of the light.

I’m going to punch it in the throat and knee it in the balls.

 

It’s the season of the sick

It’s almost Halloween, guys! The candy! The costumes! The cocktails! And most importantly, the release of season two of “Stranger Things”!

Truly, it’s the best time of the year.  

Ahem…

If you’re single.

But if you happen to be a parent, October really does live up to its reputation as the scariest month (and not just because your kids won’t let you binge-watch “Stranger Things” no matter how much you beg them).

Forget the mountain of treats that turn your offspring into manipulative and heartless sugar addicts. And all the idiots ordering that stupid zombie drink at Starbucks that takes the barista three hours to make when all you want is a giant-ass dark roast so you don’t collapse on top of your toddler. Or even the fact you can’t find a decent Halloween costume because they only make slutty costumes for women and you now have mom boobs that look ridiculous in a skimpy “Rainbow Brite” outfit.

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No, this is the scariest time of year because this is when it all starts. The season of the sick. The marathon of mucus. The tsunami of tsissues.

That relentless march of germs that invade your children’s bodies and doesn’t quit until that one beautiful week in May when everyone in your family is finally healthy again. (And then promptly begins again that beautiful week in June when everyone suddenly comes down with an awful summer cold).

It all starts NOW.

My kids don’t even have to be around other kids to get sick this time of year. If anyone within a 23-mile radius encounters even a single germ, my children somehow know (probably via mucus telepathy), and they immediately start ripping through tissue boxes like we own stock in Kleenex.

True story. We just got back from visiting family in Ohio. Now, my extended family has approximately 18,000 small children as members. Of those 18,000 children, approximately 17,999 were sick. Or just getting over being sick. Or just starting to come down with something. Or coughed sometime in September but we weren’t taking any chances.  

So, we quarantined our children, even though it interfered with all our plans. We hunkered down at Memaw’s house and hosed down their tiny bodies every three hours with a gallon of hand sanitizer followed by a blast of Lysol directly to the face.

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And yet, AND YET, my little one still woke up one morning with a fever. Which she kindly passed on to her older brother because she licked his eyeballs during a fun game of “Wrestle Until Someone Cries.”

And then she broke out in a horrible rash. But he didn’t. Which made for a particularly rousing game of “What’s The Amateur Diagnosis?”

We specifically avoided any and all people, healthy or sick, going as far as to jump on top of anyone under five feet tall like they were a germ grenade if they even THOUGHT of approaching our babies.

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But it didn’t matter. Because it never matters. Because life is short and cruel and full of snot.

WHY ARE CHILDREN ALWAYS SICK? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, their immature immune systems and other science “facts.” But seriously, WHY ARE CHILDREN ALWAYS SICK?

It’s never when you need them to be sick either. Like when you need a viable excuse to get out of your friend Dave’s “Make Your Own Calzone” party. Or when, say, the latest season of “Stranger Things” becomes available and you need a guilt-free reason to put them in a Benadryl coma so you can watch it.

Oh no. Then they are the picture of health and pestering you endlessly to go to the playground or the library or “parent” them in any discernible form.

They only get sick when it is the worst possible time. Like, oh, I don’t know, on vacation.

And then they stay sick forever.

And ever and ever and ever and then a brief recovery just in time for you to begrudgingly attend Dave’s “Game of Thrones” wine tasting party, and then ever and ever and ever and ever.

Here soon I won’t even be able to remember a time when one of them wasn’t sick. They will just pass germs back and forth with each other all fall and winter and for the next one hundred million months. And they’ll be miserable. And I’ll be miserable. And Daddy will be miserable (mostly because his wife is an asshole when she’s miserable).

On the plus side, however, maybe I will finally get to watch “Stranger Things.”

Where did I put that damn bottle of Benadryl?  

 

This is my face.

My son has spent approximately 1,277 days on this Earth. My daughter, roughly 455. Counting the ones I took today, I have exactly 18 billion photos of them.

Oops. Sorry. 18 billion and one. They just did the cutest thing, you guys.

And they look amazing in every single one of these photos, even including the newborn “Benjamin Button” ones.

(No, YOU’RE bias).

By contrast, I have been alive on this planet for about 13,200 days. Thanks to the invention of the selfie, there are now probably 18 billion photos of me floating around too. The only difference is, I like seven of them. Actually, more like six (in that one photo, my eyes are doing that weird thing).

Yes, I know. Female hates how she looks in photos! Shocker!

This revelation is right up there with me admitting my feet are always cold and that I don’t understand the appeal of “Entourage.” But I bring this up for a very good reason. Because I have recently come to terms with some vital facts and it has made a huge difference.

I’m 36. This is my face. I need to get over it.

Now, if those three above sentences don’t seem like a revelation to you, congratulations, you are likely a man or a well-adjusted, confident woman. However, if you’ve ever taken 100 almost identical photos of yourself and then agonized for hour and a half about which one to post and then spent another 33 minutes trying out different Instagram filters to find the one that thins out your face the most, then you understand how huge this is.

I have wasted so much of my life either trying to micromanage every single photo I appear in or avoiding cameras all together. Because all I saw in every photo of me was every flaw a single human body could possibly house. Too fat in this one. Nose all wonky in this one. Too pale. Stomach rolls. Greasy hair. No makeup. Arm flab. Dumb smile. Double chin. Triple chin. Everywhere a chin, chin. Crow’s feet (or, in some lighting, the whole damn crow). Forehead pimple. Bad posture. Crooked teeth.

I can go on…

Dark circles under my eyes. Cellulite. Sausage fingers. Flat hair. Dull hair. Frizzy hair. Freckles. Acne. Acne scars. Thin lips. Fat thighs. That weird flub that hangs out around the side of your bra.

Yeah. It’s exhausting hating how you look in photos. Especially in this social media era where photos are taken and shared roughly every 2.3 seconds.

And so, I decided to just let go. Let it all go. Let go of the iron grip I was using to try to hold onto the face that got shared in public. BECAUSE TECHNICALLY IT’S ALL THE SAME FACE.

This is my face. This is my body. And in every photo, that is how I look at that particular moment.

Guys. GUYS. The freedom that comes with this revelation…you guys…such a weight has been lifted.

I’m now more than willing to let my husband take a picture of me playing with the kids when I’m in my pajamas and sporting my best Swamp Witch hair. Because I want to remember that moment. And because, yes, some days I look like a Swamp Witch.

Now when a parent wants a photo of me, I don’t say “how about later, when I look better?” I shut up and pose.   

And now when my friends whip out that cell phone, I smile and BOOM. That’s it. Done. No more “let me see it” followed immediately by “let’s take another one” followed by “let me see it” followed by “let’s take another one” followed by “let me see it” followed by nothing because we are dead because we got caught in this stupid loop and couldn’t get out because no matter how many photos we took, we magically never ended up looking like Angelina Jolie.

(Which is so dumb. Because even if we did look like Angelina Jolie, we still can’t afford Angelina Jolie’s stylist, meaning we still wouldn’t look like Angelina Jolie.)

Of course, every road that leads to brilliant revelations like this one are full of potholes. I mean, do I still want people to only post photos of me where I look good? Of course. I’m still embarrassingly vain. But now, if they don’t, it no longer bothers me because it’s more important to me to be part of the picture. To be part of that memory. To have people in my life that want to take a photo with me at all, than it is to look great in it.

Oh god…guys…is this…is this what being well-adjusted feels like?

 

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.

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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).

 

The difference between raising boys & girls

Here’s a fun fact you might not know: Strangers love talking to parents.

I mean, LOVE it. Every time I leave my house with my kids, we are bombarded by strangers who ask all kinds of totally appropriate questions, like, “Are those gingers!? Carol, look, she’s got two gingers!” and “How did YOU end up with redheads? You don’t have red hair. Tell me your family’s genealogy.” and “Oh, are you leaving? Hang on, I want to rub your kid’s hair for good luck.”

Once we’ve exhausted the hair topic, however, these strangers almost always move onto the subject of raising boys vs. girls, since the other outstanding feature of my kids is that they are opposite genders. And, man, let me tell you, people have VERY strong opinions regarding this. This gender stuff is some serious business. I have learned so much. Almost all of it against my will.

And yet, all this unsolicited advice has had the side effect of making me pay closer attention to the biological differences of my own offspring.

Here’s a good example. My son, who is 3, always wants to wrestle with me. My daughter, who is 14 months, always wants to wrestle the dog. So, clearly, all those people who say girls are smarter are correct. The dog always lets Mae win. I, however, have a good 90 pounds on my son and do an amazing flying elbow move from the couch.

So far, I’ve won 378 times and Riker has won zero.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg in the vast ocean of their gender-based differences. They both have very different views of danger, for instance. He tries his best every day to kill himself by jumping erratically around on his bed (in fact, he views that song, “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” as more of a how-to guide than a cautionary tale). She, meanwhile, is determined to kill herself by climbing to the top of our tall unsecured bookshelves.

I don’t know how much research has been done in terms of chromosomes and food preferences but I can tell you he loves chicken nuggets and hates vegetables. But SHE loves cheese and hurling whatever else is on her plate across the room. And once she runs out of everything else, she’ll hurl the cheese.  

She is by far the gentler of the two, always making sure to hug me after she smacks me full-on in the face and knocks my glasses off my face. He, on the other hand, will only hug me after hitting me if he draws blood. Although, granted, that could be more of an age thing. He’s a toddler, which basically means he’s a tiny psychopath, and she’s a baby, so leans more toward sociopathy.

Like any typical boy, Riker loves to play with cars. Mae, on the other hand, only wants to play with cars if they are her brother’s cars. She completely ignores the cars we bought specifically for her, choosing instead to use his to repeatedly run over her baby doll’s face.

Riker is definitely the funnier one, but Mae will occasionally do something she personally finds hilarious, like taking off her diaper and peeing on a pile of clean clothes.

Now, my daughter did start walking sooner than her brother…I think. I kind of fudged the facts in their baby books because I forgot to fill them out at an appropriate time (literally didn’t even crack them open before their first birthdays) and so just kind of winged it. As for talking, it’s hard to pinpoint when Riker started because he pretty much came out of the womb talking gibberish, which eventually turned into English, but since he never stopped to take a breath, I’m unsure when he said his first word. I do know his first sentence was “that’s not cheese” and her second word was “cheese,” so that right there shows you that I feed both genders way too much cheese.

Color-wise, they both seem pretty ambivalent about the whole pink and blue thing. When jumping full-bodied into a giant mud puddle, neither one seems to care what color their clothes are. But who knows? Maybe they would care more if their mother wasn’t such a feminist. But at least Riker is the more sports-oriented one. At his soccer games, he is on the actual field when he decides to lay down and play dead while his sister is busy licking soccer balls on the sidelines.

It just goes to show you. Men really are from Mars. And women clearly are from Venus.

And obviously children are from near Uranus. (Heh).

(Kid)-free at last, (kid)-free at last

Hey, do you guys remember what it was like before you had kids? Like, what you used to do on a typical pre-spawn Saturday, when you had a million hours stretched out in front of you where you could do anything you wanted? And, most importantly, if candy tasted better eaten out in the open instead of while huddled in a corner of a locked bathroom, like a junkie mainlining M&M’s?

Yeah. Me neither. Apparently there gets to be a certain point in parenthood where you can’t remember what it was like before you spent 85 percent of your day refilling sippy cups. Personally, I think this forgetfulness is a survival instinct. Your brain suppresses those pre-child memories so that your head doesn’t explode when you have to get up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday now and get ready and cook breakfast that no one eats and deal with three tantrums before finally getting them to soccer practice and then head to the grocery store because you’re out of milk and then immediately head back to the store when you drop the milk in the driveway and it explodes all over everything and then you look at the clock and it’s only 9:15 a.m. and you cry a little.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because at the end of this month, I will have four glorious days all to myself. No kids. No husband. No dog. Just me and my questionable decision-making skills, all alone. I’m heading to a beloved friend’s wedding in Portland, Oregon, and there will quite literally be an entire continent between me and my responsibilities.

And. I. Can’t. Wait.

I’ve never been away from my kids. Oh sure, an hour or three here or there but never overnight and certainly never in a long enough time frame for me to permanently ruin whatever is left of my tattered reputation. And I plan to fully take advantage of this particular gift I have been granted by the grace of the parenting gods and my friend Adriana’s airline points.

Because, see, a lot of moms will tell you that “I don’t even know what I’d do with myself without my kids.” Seriously, I Googled “What do moms do when they are away from their kids?” and the pickins were slim. It seemed to be a tie between blogs where moms boringly describe “it was great for 15 minutes but then I just missed the kids so much, so I just sat here like a lump until they came back” and news articles about moms who run away from their children permanently. Because even in motherhood, we women are still reduced down to the sinner/saint, madonna/whore archetype.

But not me. Oh no. I’m hitting that sweet spot right in the middle where I’m going to run off and do awful things and not feel guilty once and then come home to my loving family smelling like happiness and stale beer.

So, first things first, I’m going to start off slow. I want to read a book. Read all the books, in fact. And every newspaper and magazine from the last three years.

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Then I will drink all the booze. ALL OF IT.

Sleep in. Until 7 a.m. Maybe even 7:30.

Take a long, long, long shower. Or hell, a bath. And then actually style my hair into something other than “messy bun.” Like “purposefully messy bun.” And then I will pluck my eyebrow until there are two again.

Eat a cheeseburger for breakfast and an entire cheesecake for dinner. WITHOUT having to share ANY of it.

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Make a huge mess. And don’t clean it up.

Run around my hotel room naked.

Run around the hotel naked.

RUN AROUND THE ENTIRE CITY NAKED.

Smoke a cigar with some old men wearing fedoras.

Steal one of the fedoras and run away laughing maniacally.

Set my daily planner on fire and cover my face with the ashes and do a ritual pagan dance to every known deity devoted to chaos.

Write my novel!

Start a rock band!

Finally learn to juggle those fire sticks!

Buy a bunch of spray paint and become the new Banksy!

Rob a bank and give all the money to the poor!

I WILL DO ALL THE THINGS.

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Right after I buy my kids a bunch of souvenirs and text my husband dirty hotel room nudes, of course.