Category Archives: Pets

A van after my own heart

It’s been said that fortune favors the bold. Which, if true, would explain a lot about my life. At best, I can probably be described as casually feisty. And that’s only after an entire pot of coffee. 

So, fortune doesn’t so much favor me as ignore me most of the time and then suddenly remember I’m there, which is when she surprises me with either a slightly larger than normal tax return or a weird skin disease, depending on how she is feeling that day. 

It’s worked out fairly well so far, however. I love my life even though there is a shocking lack of money, jewels OR vast kingdoms in it. It’s also usually a pleasant surprise when things just happen to fall into my lap and work out. 

Take, for example, how my family and I recently found ourselves the proud owners of a van. A Honda Odyssey, to be more precise. From 2003, not to brag. Tan in color, in case you weren’t jealous enough. It’s a van totally suitable for a woman such as myself who firmly grabs life by the coattails and just hangs on for dear life.

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How we acquired this van is also very on brand with my lifestyle. It was already parked in our driveway. It was the van our landlord’s handyman’s right hand man, Jacob, used to haul right hand handyman stuff around in. He was all like, you guys want this? And we were like maybe? And he named a decent price. And we were like, I mean it’s already here everything.

That was big selling point No. 1. Because I personally would rather shove some butter knives slowly into my eyeballs than set foot on a car lot. 

Selling point No. 2 was that I have spent the last 16 years riding around in the car I got my last year of college. A car, may I humbly add, that now has two, count them two, working doors thanks to George and Mike down at Alewife Auto. I don’t know if any of you have ever had the pleasure of riding in a two-door 2004 Hyundai Accent but it’s basically one step above a clown car. There was barely room for me in there. Then I added a husband, a dog and two kids. Plus all our crap. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in any car with small children, but they need to take every single they own. And no less than 47 snacks. The breaking point though was our recent vacation to the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. We drove four hours each way and we were packed tighter than…well, then nothing else I can think of because nothing else in the world has been packed as tight as we were in that car in all of history. And while painfully unfurling myself from the pretzel position I had been sitting in upon arriving home, I said to myself “never again.”

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Then, what do you know, lo and behold, there was a van! Ours for the taking! Once the check clears (fingers crossed)! Fortune had briefly glanced my way again and shrugged her shoulders!

Her name is Brunhilda. Our van, that is. Because she’s going to be towing around a bunch of tiny ginger Vikings. (And yes, my friend Melissa and I came up with the name after drinking beer with a very high alcohol content). 

I haven’t driven her yet. But I did go sit inside. Y’all. Y’ALL. The sheer amount of SPACE in these things. It felt like it went on forever. Like that dolly zoom effect they do in movies where suddenly all perception is distorted. I probably could have done a cartwheel in there. If I wasn’t so scared that doing a cartwheel at my age would result in a permanent injury. 

Needless to say, I have big plans for our Big Lady. 

Road trips. 

Camping trips. 

Drive-in movie theater nights.

Carpooling somewhere, anywhere, with anyone, anytime.

Daytime mommy naps followed by daytime wine drinking. Followed by another mommy nap. 

My new writing office.

A podcast studio every Thursday. 

World’s smallest rave party. 

Live down by the river if things get worse.

The possibilities are endless. 

I’ll admit, it’s nice to be excited about something. This year, oof. This year. Well, you already know. It’s the kind of year that makes buying a 17-year-old van one of the lone bright spots. 

But hey, hasn’t it also been said that life is not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have? And what I have now is an old ass van named Brunhilda. And the name of a dude willing to paint a van mural of a mostly naked Viking woman riding a pink unicorn that is shooting flames out of its mouth. 

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Box Spring Hot Box

It was the title that came first. It floated up from the mysterious depths of my sleep deprived brain, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a terrible night. 

Or arose like a zombie. That wanted to eat my brain. Was eating my brain. Or something. 

I’m so tired. 

Anyway, the point is. What is the point? Oh, right. The point is I know what you’re thinking. What is up with that title? It’s a funny story actually. It was the title that came first. 

Wait, I already said that.

OK. Where was I? There I was, trapped for hours, trapped in a hell of my own making, when it came to me. 

Box Spring Hot Box.

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Heh. That’s really funny, I thought to myself. Although now that I’m writing this, it’s not quite as clever as it sounded at 3 a.m. It’s mildly amusing at best. But if I change it now then I have to rewrite the whole beginning and no one is really going to read this anyway except my mom so…moving on. 

What is a box spring hot box, you ask? Well, it started out fine. Sweet even. A tale as old as sleep. I was gently nudged out of a deep slumber by the horrifying sensation that a presence near me was breathing heavily. My eyelids fluttered open to behold an extra from Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” staring at me. Confusingly, this tiny devil mumbled something about having a nightmare and so I resisted the urge to dropkick the creepy face long enough to wipe the sleep out of my eyes and realize the monster was my own child. 

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So I let him crawl into bed with us. Just for a minute, I said sternly, both of us knowing that I am a gigantic liar, lair, stained pajama pants on fire. 

So he hopped on up, laying on top of the covers and immediately taking up more real estate than was necessary for a 45-pound body. Meanwhile I scooched closer to my husband, who was blissfully snoring away on my other side, the covers wrapped around him like a tortilla. Meanwhile meanwhile, the dog, disturbed by all this commotion, sighed exasperatedly and scooched over as well, moving to lay at the bottom of my feet. 

It was nice at first. Cozy. For a moment I even started to think I understood why all those hippies insist the entire family sleep in the same bed. I was surrounded by love. 

And body heat. I was surrounded by all the body heat. Why was everyone giving off so much heat? Who decided 98.6 degrees is a reasonable number? It’s a ridiculous temperature for a human body. Why can’t we all be a balmy 77? 

It was hot. So bloody hot. And I was trapped under the covers. I tried squirming out but was blocked by the headboard. The dog was blocking the southern exit and there was also the irrational fear that I would get stuck midway and end up roasted to death, cooked by my very own family.  

Why didn’t I just wake one of them up, I hear you asking. Well, well, well, aren’t we just FULL of questions today. 

Sorry. I’m a bit cranky. I don’t know if you heard but I didn’t get much sleep last night. 

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Anyway, waking up either my son or husband so that I could crawl out would have been the logical thing to do. Hence the problem. You’re talking logic. Logic at an illogical time during an illogical year. And, let’s face it, with a ridiculous specimen of a woman. 

To my credit, I did briefly flirt with the idea of waking one of them up. Actually, I was so hot I downright seduced the idea of shoving them onto the floor full force just to feel fresh air on my body again. But then I looked over at my loud snoring burrito, who had been working round the clock from home for months. Stressed and exhausted. Then I turned my head to look at my very own Vitruvian Man, just splayed out in all his tiny glory, who has been struggling with a world that doesn’t make sense and nightmares of Mommy and Daddy getting sick. Even the hellhound at my feet, even if I was willing to crawl out that way, is about to turn 15. He’s been such a good boy, even though his hips hurt and we kept bringing babies home from the hospital without ever once consulting him. 

They all deserved sleep. Peaceful sleep. Or so it seemed in my muddled mind at 3 a.m. 

So I lay in my box spring hot box for the rest of the night. Alternating between analyzing my latest dream (playing basketball with Brad Pitt, where he kept making baskets by throwing the ball from behind his back all while discussing the writing of James Agee, whom I have never read) and replaying every embarrassing moment from junior high (which are numerous and still not funny to me yet). 

Then, like a rainbow after the storm, my husband grunted and farted and I knew the long night had ended. I would soon be free. He was a mere yawn and unselfconscious scratch away from being awake. 

And the point to all this is…

What is the point? There is a point. I came up with it somewhere around paragraph three. I need more coffee. Oh yes, the point is, I yelled at my kids today. For picking their noses and not cleaning their rooms like I asked. I was snippy with my husband, who made the mistake of standing there. I even had a very stern talking to with the dog who keeps aggressively shedding. 

And so the point is I wrote this to let them all know how much I love them. Even when I’m cranky and tired and yelling. Love comes out in many different and often strange ways. Ways like staying up half the night because you just want the ones you love to find as much peace as possible in this world. 

Although next time, I think I’ll just kick one of them to the floor and show them my love by getting a good night’s sleep myself. 

Welcome to the Neighborhood!

(Based on only a slightly exaggerated true story…)

Oh hey, hi! Hi! You must be our new downstairs neighbors. So nice to finally meet you! We saw you moving your stuff in. Not that we were creeping on you from the windows or anything. OK, maybe just a little bit. Haha! Kidding. It was a lot. 

Sorry. Am I coming on too strong? I’ve been told that before. Although I’m sure that’s coming as no surprise to you. I mean, just look at me. Our very first meeting and I’m standing here on the porch holding two martinis and a stack of Captain Underpants books while wearing my jammie jams. My daughter and I were just getting ready to drop these off at the neighbor’s house down the street. You know, as one does. Ha! See, last week they dropped off some beer and some children’s books and now we’re just returning the favor. Kinda like a traveling children’s library bar thing. So it’s, you know, less weird than it looks. 

2020, amiright? 

Oh, speaking of which, this little imp beside me is my daughter Mae. She’s three. And I’m just now realizing she’s not wearing any pants. Sorry. At least I wrestled her into some shoes, eh? What’s that? Oh, that’s just a toy knife in her hand. It came from her brother’s kitchen set he got last Christmas. She’s named it Stabby. Takes it with her wherever she goes. It’s not sharp. So, no need to worry. Sweetie, say hi to the new neighbors. No growling, we talked about this. *whispers* She hasn’t really been handling social distancing well. 

So, you’re renting out the first floor, yeah? I know they’ve been doing renovations for months down there but didn’t realize they were HONEY, STOP YELLING FROM THE WINDOW. We’re talking to the new neighbors. THE NEW NEIGHBORS! Well, if you want to meet them get down here then! Oof. Kids, huh? I mean, you two don’t have kids…I’m assuming. Oh good. I mean, children are the greatest things on Earth and also simultaneously the worst. Speaking of which, here’s my other one. This is my son, Riker. Could not be more proud of him. He survived three months of kindergarten with a teacher that makes Miss Hannigan from “Annie” look maternal. In my defense, what is up with math these days? Hmm, what’s that? Oh ha! Yes, it is quite the outfit indeed. He loves that winter hat. We just can’t manage to get him to take it off even though it’s June. Although I think it goes well with the shorts and cowboy boots, all considered. 

And this here pair of eyeballs sticking out of that jungle of facial hair is my husband, Ryan. He’s been working from home since March and has only had one day off in, like, ten weeks so he’s a bit feral at the moment. At least he showered. Like, three days ago, tops. Right, sweetie? Yes, fine, you can go back inside. You did your 30 seconds of daily interaction. 

Men, amiright?

What’s that now? Oh yes, I know exactly what noise you’re talking about. That’s our dog, Buffy. Buffy the Male Dog. See, I didn’t know he was a boy when we got him. Actually I did but I really wanted a dog named Buffy because I thought it sounded hilarious and it kinda just made it funnier that he was a boy. ANYHOO, that loud hacking sound is just one of his old man noises. He’s almost 15 and has accumulated quite a lot of them. I know it sounds awful and like he’s dying but I assure you he is not. The devil himself is going to die before that old bag of bones does. 

Ha! H…a…

Sorry. I didn’t mean to start crying. I just love that stupid, smelly dog so much. I’ll die if I ever lose him. You know? Do you have pets? No? No pets and no kids. No wonder you look so…what’s the word? Not frumpy. Well rested. Happy. 

By the way, the red car with the gray hood and the duct taped window is ours. But we are happy to share our driveway with you if you ever need it. We don’t use the car much anymore anyway. See, this one time a storm blew a fridge into our car and it’s a long story but on the plus side, we did recently take it to the mechanic and both doors open now and there is no longer an exhaust leak inside slowly killing us all. 

So, anyway, I better drop these drinks off on our neighbor’s porch like the good little booze fairy I am. Huh. That didn’t sound very politically correct. Sorry. Gee, can you tell I haven’t been around too many people lately? Ha! Oof, I miss people so much. Hey! Do you guys happen to roller skate? Yeah, no, that’s ok, it was a long shot. I’ve been trying to learn so I can justify drunkenly buying a pair of professional grade ones so if you ever hear me screaming like a banshee at a high speed down the street, it’s just me learning my lesson. 

Oop, one last thing. If you hear our fire alarm, don’t worry. It just means dinner’s ready. 

OK, well, lovely to have finally met you and all. Sorry we are ridiculous people. And welcome to the neighborhood! 

 

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? 

 

New Year, New Me, New Panic Attacks

It was because I was feeling smug. The universe loathes few things more than smugness. And I was practically dripping with the stuff. 

Allow me to paint you a mental picture. It’s a few days after the new year. There I am, sitting on my couch, in my new Christmas pajamas, drinking my new fancy Christmas coffee, a halo of smugness practically hovering over my head. A head that is looking around happily at my clean house. I had survived the holiday season, if not with grace, than at least without any photographic evidence to the contrary. All the proof of my family’s mindless consumerism was organized and put away. I had decluttered the drawers and closets. I was busily filling out my new 2020 planner with reminders of vet appointments and dentist appointments and dozens of other completely awful tasks because I WAS ON TOP OF EVERYTHING THIS YEAR. 

As if that wasn’t enough, I had also started reading (heaven help me) “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” that my mother had gotten me. Because while I am not usually a big one for self-improvement, I am if it’s telling me that the secret to happiness is wearing big floofy sweaters while wrapped in a blanket and drinking alcohol. 

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No wonder the universe was gunning for me. All that was missing was the “new year, new me” Facebook post. Which I’m sure I would have gotten around to, if I hadn’t decided to go for a run (an activity that is only second in smugness to people who bike for exercise). 

So, there I go, bounding down the steps of my porch, trying to resist the urge to physically pat myself on the back, when I immediately run into our neighborhood’s garbage collectors. We wave and smile at each other before they jovially call out “Hey! You forgot our Christmas cards this year!” Which was an incredibly nice way to put it considering I have lived in the same place for eight years and I have never, in fact, remembered to tip them at Christmas. Because I had completely forgotten that that is a thing you do when you are an adult. 

I just stood there, their words bouncing off my stupid face, which was frozen into the world’s most awkward smile. The kind of smile you give when you realize what a horrible person you are and there is nowhere to hide. 

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There is no excuse. None. 

But I’m going to offer up a defense. I never asked to be an adult. It just happened to me. (And you gotta admit it’s a pretty raw deal that the only way to avoid adulthood is death). As a result, I have always found adulthood to be intensely overwhelming at times. Which is why I usually set the bar pretty low, such as “keep kids alive” and “keep wine fridge stocked.” And everything was FINE until I had to go and smugly waltz into 2020 with the attitude of “I think I’m finally getting the hang of this.”

I literally forgot an entire societal norm. I definitely do not have the hang of this. Who else am I forgetting? Oh god, the recycling guys. The mail carrier. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen our mail carrier. But now I have to go stalk around our neighborhood and hunt them down. But first I have to hit up an ATM. And find a place that still has Christmas cards. Where are my keys? I should write all this down first. I need a pen. Where is a pen? Why is there not a pen in this entire house?!

What else am I forgetting? What other adult stuff has just slipped my mind? For decades? Do we even have a retirement account? We definitely don’t have college funds set up for the kids yet. And we should definitely send at least one. I keep seeing that commercial for Roth IRAs. Do we need one of those? What the hell is it? 

I need to sign my daughter up for preschool next year. Did I miss that deadline? Oh no, and she also wanted me to put her in dance classes. Should I enroll my son in space camp or some crap then too? Where is her birth certificate? They’ll probably need that. Where are any of our birth certificates? And our social security cards! They’re probably wherever our passports are. OH GOD, OUR PASSPORTS EXPIRED!

Where’s the dog? I think his tags are expired. Probably our car’s too. We don’t have the money for any of this. I need new bras! 

Are the kids having too much screen time? I need a better skincare routine. Are my husband and I having enough sex? Should we buy a house? I eat so unhealthy. Am I already riddled with cancer!? IS ALL THIS THE FIRST SIGNS OF DEMENTIA!? 

I’M SPIRALING. I’M SPIRALING! WHY IS THIS ALL SO HARD? AHHHHHHH! THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO! HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY BE OUT OF WINE!?

*breaks down sobbing*

Well, anyway…*wipes nose on sleeve*…to sum up, Happy New Year, everyone. 

 

A Review of my Son’s Imaginary Restaurant

It’s a tired old trope and yet still remains a true one. When it comes to so many ventures, it’s all about location, location, location. 

Which is the one thing my 5-year-old son’s recently opened restaurant has going for it. Situated conveniently right in the heart of my living room, this one-couch eatery specializes in unique dishes that are as creative as they are inedible. 

Aptly, or perhaps ironically, named Restaurant, the place has what can only be described as a homey vibe with a shabby chic aesthetic, heavy on the shabby. On entry, you are greeted by a riot of colors and smells, none of which are food related. The cleanliness also left something to be desired for this particular reviewer but the other patron, an elderly canine named Buffy, didn’t seem to mind. 

The owner and head chef (and host and server) Riker revealed to me that he had only recently taken an interest in the culinary arts. Prior to opening Restaurant, he had his sights set on becoming a ninja astronaut. Alas, the lack of experience and passion showed. The service alone was, to say the least, wanting. 

“What do you want to drink?” he demanded soon after I sat down. 

“How about a Diet Coke?”

“We don’t have Diet Coke.”

“You don’t have Diet Coke at this imaginary restaurant?”

“Nope.”

“OK, what do you have?”

“Um…coffee or tea.”

“I’ll take coffee.”

“Actually, we don’t have coffee. Do you want tea?”

Deciding to try my luck instead with their wine list, I summoned the sommelier, who happened to be the owner’s younger sister. At only 3-years-old, she was on the younger side of wine experts and it quickly became evident she had only gotten the job because of family connections. 

“Could you recommend a red, miss?”

“Red what?”

“Red wine.”

“Can I have some?”

“No.”

“Can I have pink wine then?”

The conversation quickly went off the rails from there. Resigning myself to the fact that I would just be thirsty throughout this entire meal, I was surprised, and somewhat wary, when the chef eventually presented me with a pink teacup that sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” incessantly. 

“Here’s your coffee.”

“I thought you said you didn’t have coffee. Also, this is empty.”

“OK, it’s root beer.”

Restaurant’s signature dish is pizza. (Although entree options are subject to change with little to no warning). With no menu in sight, I decided that would likely be my best bet. Even bad pizza is still pizza. Or, at least, it had been up until now. 

“I’d like to order a pizza, please,” I informed the chef. 

“Oh yes, pizza. Pizza has sauce and cheese. And crust. And…um…do you want mushrooms on it?”

“No.”

“Well, you have to have mushrooms on it.”

“Pretty sure that’s not how this works.”

“It is.”

“Oh.”

The kitchen, a converted bedroom in the back of the house, came alive with the sounds of clanging toy pots and pans and what definitely better not be my expensive William Sonoma kitchen utensils stolen from a certain drawer. Luckily, I didn’t have time to ruminate on this long since my dish arrived quickly (under two minutes, in fact, by my count). On the down side, it resembled nothing even vaguely pizza-like. The crust looked like a slab of cardboard (mostly because it was cardboard). The sauce looked suspiciously like Play-Doh covered in dog hair but at least it was red. I was informed by the chef that the “cheese” on my pizza was definitely cheese and not a blank piece of paper. And yes, there were mushrooms as well. Plastic mushrooms. Plucked straight from the toy aisle years ago in the Kmart region of the Northeast. 

“Here’s your pizza!” Chef Riker announced while delicately placing the dish down on my crissed-crossed lap.

“Oh…wow.”

“Take a bite!”

Wanting to retain a fragment of my professionalism, I did as I was told.

“Mmm…this is…interesting.”

But the chef had already disappeared, pitter-pattering off to do more important chef stuff one can only assume. Or perhaps to scold the improper behavior of his sommelier, who was at this point crawling around on the floor meowing and yelling “Momma! Look! I’m a kitty cat!” 

Unsure what to do next, I sat there uncomfortably while my fellow patron at Restaurant started barking and making quite the ruckus. Likely because his pizza didn’t turn out as he expected either. 

To my relief, Riker soon returned with a towering stack of Legos.

“I forgot your dessert.” he apologized. “Here you go. It’s ice cream!”

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the ice cream was as unpalatable as everything else had been. 

“So, what do you think of my restaurant?” Riker asked, standing there with hope in his eyes and a stolen whisk in his hand.

“Best meal I ever had, chef.”

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.