Category Archives: Women

Reasons I’m the meanest mom in the world (this week)

Upon immediately opening my eyes at 5 a.m. (because I sensed a creepy child-like presence breathing heavily right beside my head), I told my eldest child that no, he couldn’t play a game on my phone. 

I wouldn’t let my youngest break my glasses even though she really, really wanted to. 

I insisted on making coffee first before playing Dinosaurs vs. Vampires. 

I offered both of them various forms of unhealthy food at breakfast, but they were all the wrong kinds of unhealthy food. (Nothing was even the slightly bit frosted or anything). 

I correctly answered “yes, it’s Tuesday” when my son asked me what day of the week it was and did he have to go to school.

I told them no, they can’t go trick-or-treating right now because Halloween is still two-and-a-half weeks away and besides it’s 7:30 in the morning. 

I asked him where his other shoe was. 

I asked her to please stop putting me in a chokehold. 

I gave both of them a 20-minute, a 10-minute and a 5-minute warning that we were leaving and they better be ready. And then had the audacity to tell them (completely out of the blue) that it was time to leave.

I didn’t let my daughter ride the neighbor’s dog like a horse. 

I didn’t know where the acorn she brought home from the park six weeks ago was.  

I threw away the broken red crayon stub.

I took the books back to the library. 

I wouldn’t tape her cracker back together.  

I wouldn’t let him stab his sister with a butter knife even though he was pretending to be a pirate and really, really wanted to be historically accurate. 

I refused to buy a fancy purple car (with sparkles) to replace our stinky, gross car. 

I wouldn’t let my daughter wear only a swimsuit and mittens to the store. 

I informed them, again, that the public pool was closed for the season.

I turned off the TV after three hours straight of “Power Rangers.” 

I ordered pizza for dinner but it was the wrong pizza. The kind with sauce and cheese. 

I wouldn’t drive them to Memaw’s house, which is only 13 hours away. 

I wouldn’t let my daughter drink my wine. Not even a sip. Because Mommy needs ALL OF IT. 

I didn’t stop the sun from setting. 

I don’t personally know Santa Claus well enough to invite him over for dinner. 

I bought the wrong kind of cookies (even though no one can tell me what the right kind of cookies are). 

I wouldn’t let my daughter lick my eyeball. Even though she claimed to be a doctor and it was part of the check-up. 

I only sang four night-night songs. 

I only read one night-night book.

I refused to sleep in their bed. 

I refused to let them sleep in my bed. 

I refused to let them sleep on the couch.

Or on the porch.

Or on our neighbor Melissa’s porch. 

Or on our other neighbor Andre’s porch. 

Upon being woken up at midnight, I told my son, again, that no he can’t play a game on my phone even if he’s absolutely positive it will help him get back to sleep.

 

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What’s in a name?

People often spell my name wrong. This is usually through no fault of their own but rather because of an impulsive decision I made as a young girl. One of those passionate and spontaneous moments of childhood that only happen in childhood because sometimes when you’re nine you know yourself better than when you’re on the cusp of 39. 

For those of you who don’t know, or never noticed, I spell my name with two L’s. I changed it in the third grade because every parent in the early 80’s in western Ohio thought April was just a super terrific name and, as a result, there were what felt like hundreds of us in my small elementary school. Technically at least seven. Most importantly, three alone just in my class. Tired of being April B., I decided to set fire to the old me and emerge from the ashes as Aprill. 

Aprill! Yes! Because Aprill is so much more exotic than plain old boring April. April was a month. Aprill was a force of nature. Aprill could do anything. Wear her jeans pegged! Rollerblade without a helmet! Know all the lyrics to a Tupac song! (And not the radio edit version!) With a name like that I was destined for big things. Like becoming the first supermodel doctor archaeologist who wrote novels on the weekend. 

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Granted, not everyone was on board with this change. My teacher repeatedly marked my grade down on all my spelling tests because I spelled my name “wrong.” Nevertheless, I persisted. Unfortunately so did she, which is why I got a C in spelling that year, but I think I made my point. 

Because eventually everyone did forget that April B. ever existed. Soon I was known as Aprill, that girl who puked on the playground that one time! (It was hotdog day. It wasn’t pretty). 

And thus things remained until last week when I went to Starbucks, where I discovered I hadn’t been nearly ambitious enough with my name change all those years ago. Because right there, on my cup, staring back at me in black and white, was the most beautifully unnecessary way yet to spell my name. 

“Aperal”

APERAL. I mean. What? 

I’ll admit I laughed at first. Even shared it on social media to get some laughs and also show everyone that I am a very important writer who writes very writerly-like at Starbucks with all the other important writerly writers of our generation. 

But, and I’m not proud of this, but it got me thinking. What if that was my name? What if I was Aperal? And if I was, who was this Aperal? 

I mean, sure, Aperal looks like a cross between the name of prescription drug with horrible side effects and a fancy drink women in their mid-40’s order at two in the afternoon. But you have to admit it’s memorable. 

I’ll tell you one thing, Aperal is probably not the kind of person who only wins arguments in the shower. Oh no, Aperal would win them right then and there and while completely dry.  

When someone asks Aperal what she does for a living, she wouldn’t go “oh, I’m kind of a writer.” Oh no. She’d say “I’m an award-winning columnist.” And then she’d probably do something really cool like chug an entire martini and throw the glass into the fireplace (because Aperal is the kind of person who is always casually hanging out by fireplaces). 

And Aperal would definitely have the nerve to get a pixie haircut and dye it platinum blonde like Aprill has been wanting to do for years.  

Aperal probably doesn’t have insomnia either. Nope. You’d never catch her slowly eating an entire block of cheese dipped in guacamole by the glow of the refrigerator light because she hasn’t got a good night’s sleep in three weeks and nothing matters anymore. 

Aperal can probably get into her sports bra without pulling a muscle and knocking over a lamp. 

Aperal could send a text without agonizing over its content until she got a reply. 

I bet Aperal even knows how to French braid. Like some kind of hair wizard. 

And when Aperal’s kids misbehave in public, Aperal would get them in line by turning into a stern but lovable Mary Poppins as the entire playground looked on in awe, as opposed to growling at them and whipping out her Darth Vader voice, terrifying everyone within hearing distance.

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Sigh. It does sound nice. Completely reinventing myself again. To become that better version of myself that is hiding underneath all the ketchup stains and undereye bags. 

In the end though, Aprill, for all her faults and pretentiously referring to herself in the third person, isn’t that bad. And Aperal, for as amazing as she sounds, wasn’t the one who built this life from the ground up. A life full of mistakes but one I’m happy to call my own. 

Besides, wasn’t it someone famous (Aperal would probably know) who said “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”?

So, I think I’ll stick with remaining Aprill for now. 

But I’m keeping Aperal in my back pocket. Just in case I’m ever casually hanging out by a fireplace. 

 

Comic books didn’t prepare me for this

I’ll be honest. I never gave much thought to my lap. Which is sad really, considering it is the most powerful part of my body. 

Oh yes, that squishy fleshy chair I can make appear and disappear at will is literally the seat of my power. (Pun COMPLETELY intended). 

I don’t mean this from a muscular standpoint. Or politically. Or even aesthetically. No. I mean from a supernatural perspective. The second I even attempt to sit and form this lap, it mystically summons, from far and wide, small children.

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Small, bony, wiggly children. With their weaponized elbows and butts and knees. Who then must sit on my lap immediately and are willing to fight each other to the death for the privilege. (A fight to the death that happens, you guessed it, right there on my lap).

It doesn’t matter what I’m doing while in possession of this lap. Eating? Clearly the appearance of my lap at the dining room table meant I wanted to eat this taco while maneuvering around a toddler’s head. Working on my laptop? Obviously by sitting I was inviting my kindergartner to hop on up and “help” by maniacally pushing buttons and erasing everything I’ve written. Disabling a bomb? Pffft. Whoever heard of someone doing that WITHOUT a pile of children on top of them?

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Likewise, environmental factors matter little. A Fourth of July party in 101 degree temperatures with a humidity equivalent of one thousand swamps? Hey mom, seems like a perfect time to sit on you and sprawl out every inch of my 40-pound frame, unfolding like a sticky octopus. 

There is one very important rule, however. Whatever you do while sitting on my lap, the one thing you absolutely MUST NOT DO is sit still. Because that would be ridiculous. 

But it’s not just my lap. This is a latent superpower pretty much all moms discover they have, which is why you rarely see a mom sitting. We know that as soon as we do, our laps will be swarming with children. Most likely our own but it’s far from unusual to find someone else’s kid squatting there. Like a beacon, it calls to them. 

Small child No. 1: “Do you feel that? A mom in the close vicinity is getting ready to sit and relax.”

Small child No. 2: “Oh no, that won’t do at all. We can’t allow her to enjoy herself. Let’s go!”

*pitter-patter-pitter-patter-pitter-patter*

See, that’s the thing about laps. It’d be one thing if this was all based on love. If these children just wanted a good cuddle. Who doesn’t love a good cuddle? But that is not what the majority of lap sitting is. No. This is about ownership. Property rights. My kids sit on my lap to stake their claim. “This exhausted worn out husk that was formerly a person is my property!” their bony butt declares every time it plops down. And it’s always a plop. Never a gentle perch. Or even a moderate plonk. Although sometimes, when you least expect it, it’s a flying leap. 

And once they’re on there, very little can pry them off. Property is, after all, nine-tenths of the law. 

“GET OFF!” I’ll roar.

“Wiggle even harder!” they hear.  

“I have to pee!” I’ll plead.

“Let’s move this party into the bathroom!” they assume. 

“Can I just have five minutes to myself?” I’ll ask.

“Fine, fine, clearly what you need is for us to now migrate to your back and put you into a chokehold,” they reason. 

Every once in awhile though, just when I’m reaching my threshold and wondering if woman can live by standing alone, these kids legitimately need a lap. A nightmare scared them. A friend hurt their feelings. A day at the beach exhausted them. 

Or, the best possible reason, their love suddenly grew too big for their little bodies to contain and they had to release it by getting as close to me as humanly possible. 

Which is why we moms put up with all of it. Why we risk the bruises and the plops and the lack of any semblance of personal space. Why a mom’s lap is always open.

Because when words and band-aids and security blankets fail, a mom’s lap can tell them, instantly and in no uncertain terms, that they are loved. And they always will be. And it’s all going to be ok. 

And in the end, that’s a pretty amazing superpower to have. 

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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.

What’s Wrong With Me Now!?

Hello, everyone! And welcome to America’s newest show, “What’s Wrong With Me Now!?” The only quiz show game devoted solely to all the weird and awful medical maladies that start afflicting you once you hit the age of 35 and beyond.

Yes, your body is now beginning its slow decline toward death via a dirty bomb of disease and undiagnosed ailments. So, what’s wrong with you now? Let’s find out!

You wake up on Sunday morning and suddenly discover you can’t turn your head to the left. What is wrong with you?

  1. You slept on your pillow wrong.
  2. The fact that your mattress is 17-years-old is finally catching up with you.
  3. Now that you think about it, a hazy memory emerges of you attempting a cartwheel after that third glass of wine last night in a futile attempt to prove you’re still young.
  4. Neck cancer.

Despite having not worked out in a decade, your left knee has become sore and swollen. What is wrong with you?

  1. You have gout. Like an old-timey king.
  2. It’s about to start raining. Which you will always know now. Because congratulations, you have arthritis.
  3. You made the mistake of playing with your kids on the ground for 12 minutes yesterday.
  4. Knee cancer.

A red, itchy, painful rash has developed on your face for no reason whatsoever. What’s wrong with you?

  1. Heat rash. Because you can now be defeated by the sun.
  2. Mystery disease from one of your son’s preschool classmates. Probably the one who sneezed into your eyeball last week at pick-up.
  3. At least five of your Facebook friends think it’s your thyroid.
  4. Face cancer? Is that a thing?

When you go to the bathroom, it’s either constipation or diarrhea. There is no in-between. What is wrong with you?

  1. Nothing. This is your life now.
  2. Your diet. Which is awful. And which you will not be changing.
  3. So help you if you’re pregnant again. You’d murder your husband, ‘ol Mr. I’ll Get A Vasectomy Soon I Promise, if you didn’t so desperately need his help raising all these feral children.
  4. Colon cancer.

You can’t chew on the right side of your face anymore without excruciating pain. What is wrong with you?

  1. You need a root canal. Because all those times you told the dentist you were flossing you were lying through your disgusting unflossed teeth.
  2. TMJ. You don’t even know what that is. But you definitely have it now.
  3. It doesn’t matter because you hate the dentist and will die before going to one.
  4. Jaw cancer.

You feel bad. Just a general badness. All over. What is wrong with you?

  1. Indigestion from your breakfast nachos.
  2. Heart attack.
  3. Panic attack.
  4. All three…plus cancer!

You’ve had a dry cough for six-months now. What is wrong with you?

  1. Chronic bronchitis.
  2. Nothing some essential oils can’t fix, which luckily 14 of your former classmates sell.
  3. Allergies. Or asthma. Or acid reflux. All the A’s, pretty much.  
  4. Lung cancer. From that one cigarette you smoked in 1996 to impress Todd Peterson.

Well, looks like that’s the buzzer. As usual, there are no winners in this game. But you’ll all be going home with some consolation prizes from our sponsors. Tell them what they’ve won, Johnny.

From the makers of Advil, comes Purse Advil. Purse Advil: Like Advil but for your purse because you never not need it now.

And say hello to your very own treadmill! This beauty from NordicTrack has a smart response motor, a 10-inch interactive screen and plenty of places to hang up those clothes you’ve already worn but aren’t quite dirty yet so you don’t want to throw them in the hamper.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow when we try to figure out if that mole on your shoulder has changed shape and/or color and what is the best remedy for acne in your 40’s!

Goodnight, America!

 

A (rented) room of one’s own

They looked bigger in the pictures online. The rooms. My compliments to the photographer.

The pictures also managed to somehow downplay the whole floral aspect of the room. Which is quite the accomplishment as well. Did you ever sleep over at your grandma’s house in the 1980’s? It looked just like that. Complete with the four-poster bed and the beige, eternally out-of-date, carpet. And, of course, the floral wallpaper. The floral curtains. The chair in the corner covered in clashing floral upholstery.

I didn’t even know flowers had it in them to be so aggressive.  

But this room, it’s mine. For two nights at least.

My husband kicked me out of the house. The beautiful bastard. He had silently watched for months as the daily grind wore away at me, chipping relentlessly at those parts of me that were buried underneath the gargantuan title of MOM.

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He watched and watched and then said enough. Take three days. Go somewhere. Just you.

There were a thousand reasons not to go. Seven hundred of them, at least, being things that had to be done IMMEDIATELY. He let me spout off a mere handful of these reasons before interrupting me with perhaps the two most beautiful sentences ever uttered in the English language: “I don’t care. You’re going.”

As I type this I have a Harry Potter marathon on the supernaturally tiny TV they provided. I’m reclining on a ridiculously comfortable bed (with floral bedsheets) surrounded by books and graphic novels and back issues of magazines and newspapers that I wouldn’t be able to finish even if I had three months.

I keep waiting for an interruption. For a knock at the door. For a feral howl of my name to reach my ears. For…anything.

It never comes.

I’m so happy.

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Remember your room from childhood? From when you were a teenager? How it was your sanctuary? The place you could dream in, wonder and plan who you would become. It was perhaps the only place where all the possibilities and all your potential was allowed out in the open.

It has been a very long time since I had that feeling.

“What are you going to do?” my friends asked me when they heard I was temporarily running away from home.

Nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing.

Or perhaps everything.

I don’t know and it’s delicious.

In the end, I do things. And then I don’t do things. And then I think about doing more things but just lay in my beautiful but possibly haunted rented Victorian bed for a bit longer because sometimes just thinking about doing things is better than actually doing them. I keep checking the time. An old habit from my old life, with kids. It’s going slow, the minutes and hours crawling forward, in no hurry to get anywhere. I briefly debate stealing this precious clock.

And then, perhaps the most magical thing of all happens. I start to miss them. My family.

It has been a very long time since I’ve had that feeling.

It’s lovely.

And, I now realize, vital.

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I don’t know how I can ever repay my husband for this gift, for these three days he gave me to remember who I was, who I still am, underneath all the MOM. And to remember all the reasons I decided to take that title in the first place.

But should he ever feel the need to run away from home, I know a place.

 

Get out of my house

Pretty much at some point in my day, pretty much every day, I realize just how lucky I am. A loving husband who loves to tell me about his day. Beautiful little children who fill my heart with the sounds of laughter and the pitter-patter of little feet. I treasure each and every moment with these amazing creatures.

But I could treasure them even more with just a little bit of distance. Which is why right now I need all these people out of my house.

I don’t care if it’s far away or just down the street.

But get out.

Oh, I realize this might sound ungrateful. These people fill my life with a joy I have never known before. Moreover, they have filled it with meaning and purpose and unconditional love.

And whistles. They have filled my life with oh-so-many whistles. What idiot gave these kids whistles? Whistles that they blow right beside my ears while jumping up and down right beside me on the couch.

Which is why everyone needs to get out of my house.

Now.

I have never lived alone. I lived at home and then had a bunch of college roommates and then I moved back home and then BOOM, my stupid husband made me fall in love with him and we started our life together. And then we added two more homemade humans to the mix. Humans who have no concept of personal space and proper booger disposal techniques and appropriate voice volume.

And while I wouldn’t change a thing about my life, there are days when a room of one’s own isn’t nearly enough.

Everyone get out of my house.

Of course, it’s not like I myself never get the chance to leave my house. My husband is great about giving me time to do my own things. I go for runs. I go to coffee shops to write. When he gets home from work and I have a certain look on my face, he quickly ushers me out the door into the direction of the closest bar. But there are those times when I don’t want to put on an entire pair of pants and comb the little green army men out of my hair so that I can be “socially acceptable.” I want to eat junk food that I don’t have to share on the couch in my ratty old robe while watching TV shows featuring nudity and curse words. And I don’t want to have to pause it so that I can refill sippy cups eight times in two hours.

Get. Out. My. House.

Someday, years from now, I dream of a house filled with my husband and my grown kids and their significant others and an entire litter of grandbabies who all call me MawMaw. A day where we all gather around the table and the house is full to bursting with conversations and laughter and jokes and memories. A day where I can’t imagine that at one point I ever wanted time alone.

But today is not that day.  

EVERYBODY OUT.

And don’t come back for at least three hours.  

 

I believe you.

I am angry.

I am tired.

I am sad.

But mostly, I am angry.

All week I’ve been glued to social media, watching how people are reacting to the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. And realizing just how far we haven’t come.

I’ve also been watching as my female friends and family have come out with their own horrific sexual assault stories in the wake of this news cycle. And realizing just how many people quietly carry these scars in a world that refuses to believe them.

And I find myself left with nothing left to say. Nothing that hasn’t already been said. Nothing that will matter. Nothing that can make this world a place where men don’t rape women and children on a regular basis and never get punished for it.

So instead, I’m only going to write the two following things.

The first is this brief message: To all the women, men and children who have been sexually assaulted, I believe you, I love you and I am here for you if you need anything.

And the second is this list of resources should you ever want or need it:

The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center: www.nsvrc.org

The National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-2253

National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline: www.loveisrespect.org

GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project: 1-800-832-1901, www.glbtqdvp.org

Take Back The Night Foundation: 1-866-966-9013, https://takebackthenight.org

For further resources, call RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE or go to www.rainn.org.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the kitchen

It never ceases to amaze me how similar talking about raising kids sounds to the plotlines of horror movies.

“I woke up, disoriented, only to discover his face was mere inches from mine, his milky breath washing over me. I screamed while his face twisted into an evil smile.”

“I slammed shut the bathroom door but when I looked down I saw two pairs of sticky hands slowly reaching out for me from underneath.”

“It was a dark and stormy night. I grasped for a diaper but my hand met with nothing but air. With dawning horror, I realized we were out. My terrified eyes met hers and that’s when she unleashed hell from below.”

“The restaurant only had white milk, no chocolate, and there, right before our very eyes, they transformed. Their bodies and faces contorting into inhuman angles and expressions. Where once small children had been were now hideous monsters, their banshee screams filling the night air.”

But that’s the devil’s bargain you make when you create life. In exchange for building a creature of pure adorableness, that adorableness is wrapped around the brain of a psychopath.

This is also why, once you reproduce, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide anymore. They will FIND you. Thinking of having kids? Forget reading parenting books. Start with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

Homegirl tried to warn us.

Just like in any good horror movie, among the nooks and crannies of my own haunted house, there is now only one small corner I can retreat to when the monsters get too terrifying. Thanks to a heavily fortified baby gate, the kids are barred from entering the kitchen. However, from the vantage point of the baby gate, they can see pretty much the entire kitchen. Which is why, of course, they hang out right there by said baby gate, moaning and growling and straining to get in like zombies if zombies wore duck-covered footie pajamas.

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But there’s that ONE corner in the kitchen. It’s dark and dingy and usually dirty BUT they can’t see me.

The first time I discovered the power of this secret corner, I was trying to make dinner. The kids were tired and cranky and out for blood. I was at the end of my rope but couldn’t escape. Or so it seemed.

I reached for something in the fridge, their high-pitched cries making the blood in my veins turn to ice, when one of them shouted “Momma! Where are you? I can’t see you!”

I crouched down and froze. They can’t see me, I thought to myself. Holy crap, they can’t see me. Maybe they’ll stop hunting me if I ignore them long enough. Stop breathing so hard, you idiot! They’ll hear you. Just don’t move. Don’t blink. Don’t exist.

And IT WORKED. Soon enough they got bored and actually started playing with their toys, their devious plans to drive me insane momentarily forgotten. 

Because that’s the thing with kids. Or at least my kids. Out of sight, out of mind. If they can’t see me, they start to function like actual humans, able to do things without my immediate presence or assistance. However, if I am in the room, they magically forget how to do even the most basic of things, like operate a blanket and stack blocks on top of each other and hold a book.

Better yet, if I hide out in my dirty little kitchen nook long enough, they’ll eventually get bored enough that they’ll attempt to interact…WITH EACH OTHER.

Which is why I now leave a book or magazine in my corner. I also leave small adults-only snacks back there, like the secret expensive chocolate and Doritos, because Doritos are only for people who can eat ketchup without getting it in their hair. I’m also thinking of having my husband build me a little wet bar back there. I know a recliner won’t fit but maybe a small chaise lounge or something.

Who says horror stories can’t have happy endings?

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There will be blood

Welcome to my very first guest post! This week my hilarious and wildly talented writer friend, Melissa McCue-McGrath, has taken over and shares her experience of all the super fun shenanigans that can ensue when you’re a woman just casually bleeding in a field. 

The most woman-thing-to-ever-woman happen to me happened at the “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” taping at Tanglewood a few weeks ago. For the uninitiated, “Wait Wait” is NPR’s weekly news quiz and, as of 2016, a necessary spoonful of sugar to help the news-medicine go down.

My husband and I were enjoying a date night, our first in nearly a full year. We were planning on going out for drinks with some friends after the show taping and then go home to take advantage of the whole kid-is-sleeping-over-at-a-friends-house situation. We were very much looking forward to the entire evening until I went to the bathroom and discovered that my period started a week early. This wasn’t a uterus version of, “Knock-knock, is anyone home?” with a little light spotting. This was Kramer from “Seinfeld” bursting through the door. It was go-time. This was not a drill.

Instead of going to the bar to meet up with some friends and hopefully run into the panelists, including Mo Rocca and his amazing mom (girl can rock a pair of cat eye glasses like WOAH!), we had to first find a way to a 24-hour anything so I could handle my bleed-mergency.  There is no cell service or WiFi out in Lenox, MA, which made it impossible to know which direction to drive for supplies. None of this mattered yet, however, because we first needed to locate the car in one of several field parking lots.

I was doing the “play it cool but try not to bleed everywhere” shuffle. Ladies, you know this doesn’t work. Men, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We don’t have control over how this works. It’s basically a faucet that once is switched on, you wait 5-7 days until someone in maintenance hits the menstruate switch to off.

Thank you to whatever Gods are in charge of keeping Meghna Chakrabarti’s voice on point (pun intended) and Terry Gross’s line of questioning unparalleled, we found the car in the second multi-acre field we looked.

Still shuffling in the direction of our car, I noticed a group of women giggling near a blue all-wheel-drive Subaru, the official car of every New England state (and Wisconsin). I instructed my beloved to stay put, which he did.

With a hushed voice, a lowered head, and a lot of stiff gesticulations, I uttered the only thing I could: “Um, I need a little help.”

One woman grabbed my wrist and pulled me into the center of the circle.  They all circled around, laser beam eyes at my husband, and dropped their voices.   Woman #1 asked, quite seriously, “Do you need help?”

“No – he’s good.”

It was at this point, the curtain dropped, and we all laughed. The woman still holding my wrist from pulling me into the sacred coven pointed to the woman directly across from me and said, “Oh, Michelle can help.”

Michelle then pulled out her Sherpani purse, opened it like one of Howie Mandel’s boxes from “Deal or No Deal,”  and casually blurted out, “I have them all, sweetie. What kind? Super? Plus? Regular? Do you prefer a pad or a tampon? Pink or yellow?”

“Give me the biggest one you got. We have a long ride home.”

“Here, Hon. Take two.”

My eyes had finally adjusted to the greyish-black that can only occur when the night sky is blanketed with a light cloud cover. I looked around and saw five women…

…and a dude. His eyes were as big as saucers.

I then rewound the tape in my brain. From his perspective, he saw a woman briskly walking away from a quiet, small-framed blonde man, asking for help, communicating, “No, I’m not getting murdered” and his friend opening a purse with a million feminine products. That purse must of looked like the Weasley’s car in Harry Potter – much bigger on the inside than on the outside because the only explanation all those products could fit is wizard magic.

He was so quiet, so dumbfounded, so in awe of what goes on behind the curtain of womanhood. There were no questions asked, no actual language about my “condition” – it just happened. We must be telekinetic! Women can just speak with their minds.

Because here’s the reality about being a woman in 2018. If a woman walks up to a group of women she doesn’t know in the middle of the night, there is a 50% chance that she thinks she is in serious trouble and needs you to call the police NOW. There is also a 50% chance she needs a tampon. There is a zero percent chance of any other option.

Since it was so dark, I couldn’t see if his face turned as red as…well, let’s leave that analogy alone. I could only assume it did. I then did what I would do in any situation when meeting someone first time and it’s uncomfortable: Immediately make it worse for the other party.

I grabbed his hand and said, “I’m Melissa.”

“Greg.”

“Hi, Greg. Yes, I got my period tonight. It sucks. So very nice to meet you.”

It’s not on me to be uncomfortable for getting my period. It happens. Monthly. It’s supposed to. So, if he’s uncomfortable, fine. He’s around literally five other women. Hell, because of me, they all likely started to instantly cycle. His night was going to get a lot more descriptive. As a woman, we have to protect our own, and find a way to be powerful, and not be ashamed of our actual bodies. It starts here. In a field parking lot after an NPR news quiz.

This must look quite strange to a dude in the circle, the coven, but there’s nothing like telling your husband, “Yes, dear, they wanted to call the cops on you. Once it was clear we didn’t have a code blue but literally a code red, you were no longer on their shit list. They thought you were cute, once they realized you weren’t trying anything illegal or unconsented.”

Both these men got a glimpse of what it’s like to be a woman in 2018. My husband totally understood it, but poor Greg. He must think women are inSANE for jumping to the immediate conclusion that the other dude was perhaps going to cause great harm, but I, for one, am glad they did. I’m glad women will often take care of their own in exactly the way we are trained to, that we’ve learned to, that we sadly still have to. Because once the onus is on men to not rape instead of the woman to not dress in a way that’s theoretically “asking for it,” or once men can hear the word “period” or “vagina” without feeling taboo, then we’ll be in much better shape. In order to get there, we women have to handle our shit, use our language, and let men see all of it. Maybe they’ll see why we jump to the very real conclusions we must to stay safe and powder fresh.

Maybe next time I’ll get to meet Mo, Faith or Alonzo. Until then, I’ll keep a few extra supplies in my bag in case a woman approaches me. I’ll keep one hand on the emergency call button on her behalf, one on the Tampax Super Fit. I’m ready to help her whenever she needs it.

Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA is a certified professional dog trainer living outside of Boston. In addition to dog training and writing books about living with urban dogs (Considerations for the City Dog, 2015), Melissa keeps a blog, Letters to Little, where she writes letters to her daughter, Aislyn, with the intention to share it in 20 years. It starts off with a lot of poo, (as these things often do) and wades into deeper waters including inadvertently introducing her Kindergartener to The Mariner’s Revenge Song (a dark and grisly revenge-murder song on the high seas), school lockdowns, and explaining the song Get Lucky as a song about watching a meteor shower instead of staying up all night getting stoned and boned.

Everything can be found at melissamccuemcgrath.com.