Category Archives: Parenting

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.

5593303c-f868-4c89-b8dc-df11e911adbe

b2f34ccd-2594-4763-a74d-0759a8ba2ab7

d5e4f85f-3922-46d6-bff0-a6c6b3d790b4

374a8b75-4ae7-442f-ba2f-c70c4da32bf6

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).

sketch1523926499074

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

 

Advertisements

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?

sketch1522715655739
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.

sketch1522714955683
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.

sketch1522715330235
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.

sketch1522715683088.png
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…

Important brain thoughts from an exhausted parent

I have a confession. I’m supposed to be writing right now. Which, yes, “technically” I am. I am “technically” stringing together letters into words and those words into sentences.  

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t really want to be writing right now. My brain is mush. Just a mushy, mushy, leaky puddle of its former self. This has been a particularly trying week and my children have sunk their adorable tiny little teeth into my skull and sucked out all the good bits. All that’s left is the part that instinctively knows when they are trying to climb up the unsecured bookcase and the part that knows the theme song to “Golden Girls.”

sketch1522159087000.png

In fact, I’m starting to suspect that part of the deal when you become a parent is that you help your children’s brains grow by sacrificing your own.

And so today, well, today I just don’t have it in me to write a coherent 800 words on some amusing and absurd aspect of life. I barely had it in me to brush my teeth this morning.

Which is why the bulk of this column is just going to be unrelated random musings because that’s all the poor, overworked, single brain cell left functioning in my head can handle right now.

sketch1522159103174

So…*drums nails on keyboard*…y’all want to talk about coffee? So good, right? I lost count but I’m on something like my seventh cup. I wonder who was the first person who looked at a coffee bean plant and said “How would it taste if we burned the crap out of this and poured hot water over it?” Whoever it is, they deserve a holiday and a fancy parade. Screw Columbus. Let’s have Coffee Inventor Day.

You know what else is awesome? “Jessica Jones” on Netflix.

I don’t have a follow-up to that. Just that it’s awesome.

How come you never see wild hamsters? Unrelated but equally important, what is nougat? I mean, it’s in candy bars, but what IS it?

Here are some important geographical observations:

Everyone in the Northeast eats a lot of ice cream in the winter.

There hasn’t been an official vote, but I’m pretty sure Mountain Dew is the official drink of my home state of Ohio.

If you want to start a fight in the South, try casually suggesting that sweet tea is gross. (And start running the second you see someone’s grandma taking off her earrings).

By my count, 80’s fashion has come back no less than four times since the actual 1980’s.

Does everyone hate the substitute meteorologist who occasionally fills in for the regular meteorologist on their morning TV news show or am I just being ridiculously unfair to Barry and his stupid face?

sketch1522159120140

The other day I overheard two young women talking. The one was telling the other “I, like, literally, and this wasn’t my choice at all, but I literally watched him play video games all night. And at one point he told me, ‘you seem bored.’ Like, yeah, I’m bored.” And it took every ounce of willpower I had not to whip out my best Tina Fey impression and yell “that’s a dealbreaker, ladies!”

Then, after I walked away, I almost turned around to do my best “he’s just not that into you” Miranda Hobbes impression but managed to stop myself again. Because I’m a grown-up.

God, I hope she doesn’t marry him.

And lastly, I recently found out that Madeleine L’Engle, the famous author of the “A Wrinkle in Time” series, had three kids, had her manuscript rejected 30 times before it was published and had almost given up writing on her 40th birthday because she was still not pulling her own weight financially even after all the hours she spent writing.  

So there is some tiny sliver of hope for all of us hardworking creative souls out there who are drowning in parenting responsibility but are desperately still pursuing our own passions while wading those choppy waters every day. It’s hard giving up nights, weekends, whatever meager free time we have. But we keep going. Even on the mushy brain weeks. For a very important reason.

That I can’t think of right now.

But probably because your heart is true and you’re a pal and confidant.

 

Beggars can be choosers

Do you have pearls on right now? If so, prepare to clutch them…

I no longer care what my kids eat.

Oh yeah. I said it. And I mean it. This nose ring and these tattoos aren’t just for show. I’m a rebel mom. (slowly pulls off motorcycle helmet and shakes out hair)

sketch1521656231108

I. Don’t. Care. You hear me, world? I DON’T CARE.

OK, OK, I do care. Of course I care. I’m a mom. (sets down motorcycle helmet and puts on cardigan) I’ll care about what my kids eat until the day I die. In fact, my last words will likely be “are you eating enough vegetables, honey?”

However, I did have an epiphany recently that means I will no longer fight with my kids over what they eat at dinner. (BUT THE CARDIGAN IS DECORATED WITH SKULLS!)

I was 35 the first time I tried cream cheese on a bagel. My whole life, up until that fateful day, I had dutifully been spreading butter on my bagels. Like an idiot.

I have two college degrees, am a voracious reader, spent years working as a journalist, and literally thought cream cheese on a bagel was icky for no other reason than I decided it was icky one day as a small child despite having never tried it. And I held onto that belief for multiple decades despite the whole world telling me it was one of the most delicious combos ever dreamed up by humans.

And when I finally did try it (AT THE AGE OF 35), it was so amazing I literally stole the other half of the bagel from my 3-year-old son.

Worst of all is that this is just the latest in a series of foods I finally tried as an adult that I spent my whole life thinking were icky.

I was 21 before I tried coffee (and 27 when I tried it black for the first time).

I was 25 before I tried hummus.

I was 28 when I first tried guacamole.

And the first half of my 30’s has been busy trying and falling in love with crab rangoon, artichoke hearts, falafel, spinach dip, reuben sandwiches and all the cheeses outside of the “colby” range.

So, I no longer care what my kids choose to eat off their plates. Because, honestly, how can I expect them to have a more reasonable attitude toward food than I do? A grown woman who still has never tasted a mushroom (AT THE AGE OF 36) because the word fungus makes me cringe?

“But, Aprill!” I hear you yelling at the screen as you clutch those pearls. “You don’t want your kids to end up like you, do you!? Isn’t that all the more reason to force them to try stuff?”

And yes, you’re right. I don’t want my kids to be 35 and just realizing that cream cheese is the delicious glue that holds our entire society together. However, my mom once forced me to eat a tomato when I was six and we had a three hour standoff over it and it became a core memory and one that I tell everyone about and I still, to this day, hate tomatoes and refuse to eat them. So, that method isn’t always foolproof either.

sketch1521656256395.png

More importantly, I’d much rather my kids have a sane mother, a mother who is not angry and frustrated at every meal, than for them to have a diverse palate. I no longer want to be the mom who hijacks dinner over a bite of corn. Because that is what every meal was starting to feel like. A hostage situation. With exhausting and tedious negotiations. It got to the point that everyone was starting to dread meal time.

Which is why I’m taking dinner back. I want to sit around and talk about our day and laugh and joke and relax. I want breakfast to be a bonding experience and not a waterboarding experience. I want to hand them their lunch plates and when they say “I don’t want to eat that,” I simply respond “OK, just eat the other stuff” and BOOM. We move onto other things.

It’s a gamble, sure. My kids will likely end up with scurvy. But then again, pretty much all of parenthood is one giant gamble, isn’t it? (And hey, if they do get scurvy, I’ll just hold them down and squeeze lemon juice in their mouth and be on my merry way).

In the end, having a bowl of peas on the table that everyone ignores is a pretty small price to pay for wonderful memories sitting around the kitchen table with the people you love.

And besides, peas are icky.

 

Go play with your sister. That’s why we had her.

Guys, we’re going to have to change the meaning of the word “natural.” It’s either that or stop referring to anything related to motherhood and parenting as “natural.”

Take breastfeeding. Feeding your child with your very own body. It’s often claimed this is, and I quote, “the most natural thing in the world.” It is not. It is semi-aggressively shoving a sore and tattered body part over and over into your tiny baby’s piranha mouth until they finally latch on correctly. Which they have no idea how to do and you have no idea how to get them to do. Which is why you’re both crying and screaming while your husband and your mother and the lactation specialist all crowd around and take turns violently squishing said sore and tattered body part into various shapes in a vain effort to help.

sketch1520948101167.png

Then, even when they get older, eating does not come naturally to children. Nor does eating natural foods. Every day is another scene in the ongoing play “Here’s Food, Little Humans!” And every day ends in the same climatic final scene, with the kids yelling, “Oh no, we can’t eat that! That has actual nutrients in it! We demand Cheetos with some Play-Doh dip on the side!”

Sleep? Pffft. Forget it. Getting a kid to sleep “naturally” in their bed requires months of training, semi-professional ninja skills and, when all else fails, sacrificing a small goat to the deity of your choosing.

Kids even turn bodily functions into an absurd struggle. There is nothing natural about potty training. Even animals know not to crap where they sleep. Humans have to be rewarded with stickers and candy for months, sometimes years, before they finally relent and agree that yeah, sleeping is easier when you don’t have a pantsful of poop.

And there is nothing, NOTHING, natural about the unholy and indescribable agony you feel when stepping on a child’s Lego, which I imagine is its own level down in Hell. Just a big ‘ol round room where the floor is covered in Legos and Satan tells you “you can leave as soon as you find a corner.”  

But perhaps the one that surprised me the most is that siblings don’t naturally know how to play with each other. At least my kids don’t. A fact I have oh-so-delightfully been discovering as they get older.

Every day I practically have to introduce the two.

“Oh, Riker, you remember your sister, the tiny creature who ruined your awesome only child existence? Why don’t you see if she wants to play Stormtroopers?”

“Mae, this is your brother. He also thinks it’s fun to spin around until you want to puke, unlike me, your mother. How about you ask him to spin around for 27 minutes straight?”

And every day, they both tell me the exact same thing.

“No! I want to play with YOU, Momma!”

If I am anywhere in the vicinity, forget it. They basically treat me like a portable playground, just clinging and swinging from any body part they can grab onto while I desperately run past on my way to the bathroom or the kitchen or the basement to do exciting things like shower or cook or find a dark corner to inject sugar and carbohydrates directly into my veins.

I just don’t get it. They’re only two years apart. And yet, the oldest seems to view his sister as merely a pet, but like a pet with mange and rabies and thus a pet that should be avoided at all costs.

And I always thought the younger sibling was supposed to worship the older one, following them around like some moon-eyed pet. Not my daughter. Nope. She always seems to be plotting how to overthrow her brother, as though he were an heir to some fabulous kingdom. Even though I keep reminding her that our kingdom is small and in debt and has a wonky dishwasher that is on the fritz. 

It may be time to admit that my two beautiful, smart, funny, kind, wonderful children are duds in the sibling department.

But hey, it’s not like the only reason we had two kids is so that they would have someone to play with. We also had two kids so they can pool their money when they get older and send me and their father to a top-notch swanky retirement home.

 

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.

26837632-6e2c-4d4f-b974-95278547312e.png

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.