Category Archives: Women

It’s been a mother of a year

Hey, you know how every year us mothers significantly lower our expectations when it comes to Mother’s Day? How every year you all just skate by on your adorableness, doing the bare minimum? It’s only Mom, afterall. She’s so grateful for anything and everything. Her love is completely unconditional. 

Well, not this year, you filthy urchins. There are now conditions. 

Oh sure, when you were born we played the saintly martyr when you kept us up all night, every night. We faced the fact you wouldn’t let us eat a single hot meal for an entire year with gentle stoicism. And we showed incredible grace and restraint by not throwing you out the window the first time you screamed “I HATE YOU” into our faces. 

We did all that because we love you. And you’re amazing. And we’d die for you. 

But this is 2020, you little wretches. We are done being humble and doting and noble. There is no more “oh, it’s enough of a gift just to be your mom.” It’s not. Not even close. We have spent two months stuck inside this house with you. Two VERY LONG months. With no sleepovers at Memaw’s house, no daycares or schools, no playdates, no library storytime, no playgrounds to give us even one tiny bittersweet gasp of freedom. There is only the constant drowning in your endless waves of needs and demands in a house that is growing more ramshackled by the day. 

Time to step it up, you bitty hellions.  

First things first, do not try to pass yourself off as charmingly incompetent and present us with burnt toast and water mixed with coffee grounds for breakfast. Here’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. Careful, it’s heavy. Now start studying. That hollandaise sauce better make us cry tears of joy. 

Speaking of studying, your report card is one big lie. You are far from a delight in class. Which is why the card you give us this year better contain a heartfelt three page letter about how friggin’ gorgeous and phenomenal we are, which you will hand deliver to us on a silver tray that also contains a Bloody Mary. 

While we are on the subject of food and drink, you always want to be fed. Note we did not say “want to eat.” Note we did not say “always hungry.” No, you want to be fed. You want us to make you something. 

Well, guess what we want? 

A swimming pool. 

Start digging. 

And no, we will not watch you dig. A full one third of our lives is now devoted to “hey, mom watch this!” and then watching this. It doesn’t matter if we’re cooking, or if we’re showering, or if we’re on fire. We must watch. We must watch and then watch again and again, every time acting just as delighted as the first time you jumped off the couch and onto the couch cushion. 

Which is why we’re gonna need a life-sized chocolate sculpture of ourselves. 

Then there is the issue of the farts. We have smelled all your farts. All of them. On a constant rotating basis. There is just a constant low hanging miasma of fart essence wherever we go in this house because there is nowhere else for you to fart. So there’s tiny baby farts and gross boy farts and gigantic dad farts and ancient unholy dog farts, all mingling together and creating horrifying new scents. 

Buy us our own island. 

Oh, you can’t afford to buy us our own island? Well, we are the sounding board for every single thought that crosses everyone’s mind. We don’t get to have our own thoughts anymore because we’re too busy listening to all of yours. So you best find someone to bankroll this entire operation. No one’s cuteness is getting them out of this. We are on Week Eight of this crap. Ain’t no one cute around here anymore. 

We moms have not only kept this household going in a global pandemic, but, more importantly, have kept everyone from killing each other. We are freaking warrior goddesses. 

BUY US AN ARMORED UNICORN TO RIDE ON. 

So, in conclusion, we love you all so much. More than life itself. You are the best thing to ever happen to us. Don’t mess this up or we’re setting your room on fire. 

 

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? 

 

Good thing I’m not one of those sentimental moms

I vowed long before I ever had children that I would never be one of those overly sentimental mothers. You know the kind. The ones that make keepsakes out of their children’s teeth and first baby curls, like some sort of socially acceptable child body part hoarder. The ones who ugly cry at their kid’s preschool graduation ceremony (like that’s actually a thing, an actual important event). The ones who “ohh” and “ahh” and frame little junior’s drawing of a green horse that looks, let’s be honest, like a terminally ill Jabba the Hutt.

But not me. Nope. I mean, come on. The whole POINT of having children is to raise them and then get rid of them. To turn them into fully functioning adults who can deal with their own boogers and climb off the couch in a manner that doesn’t resemble a skydiving incident gone horribly wrong. Yet these weepy parents want to keep their kids in some sort of infantile limbo, nostalgic for the days when their precious babies hollered from the bathroom “mom, come wipe my butt!”

Pfft. Pathetic.

And then…

And THEN…

You knew there was an “and then” coming, didn’t you? Of course you did. You’re not an idiot like I am.

And then I had children. 

My son, my eldest, needed a haircut. His first. Too many “stop chewing on your hair” reprimands and running into the wall boo-boos because his bangs were blocking 87 percent of his vision finally pushed my hand. Not that I was putting off his first haircut or anything.

That would be too sentimental.

I waited until the morning of the day he was going to have his pictures taken by my photographer cousin. Not that I was waiting until the last possible moment or anything.

That would also be too sentimental.

It just happened to work out that way. And don’t you dare think for one second that me scheduling the hair appointment to coincide with a trip to visit family in my hometown in Ohio (800 miles from my current home in Boston) just so my high school friend would be the one to cut Riker’s hair had anything to do with sentimentality. It didn’t, ok? 

It didn’t.

It was simply because I couldn’t stand the thought of some stranger’s dirty, disgusting hands pawing through my baby’s pristine ginger curls and heartlessly chopping them off like they DIDN’T EVEN MATTER. Like they weren’t made from the most precious stuff ON EARTH.

And yes, I’m sure that the fact that I asked Samantha if she could cut me off just ONE of his curls as a keepsake might look, from the outside, like a sentimental request. But I was just being practical. In case, you know, something, god forbid, ever happened to Riker and we needed a sample of his DNA to give to a mad scientist who would then use it to create Riker’s identical clone.

And sure, then asking her to cut off another keepsake curl might seem a bit ridiculous, but hey, you never know. Something could always happen to Riker’s clone and it’s always good to have a backup-backup plan.

And ok, fine. Perhaps asking for that third curl to also be cut and gingerly wrapped up in plastic was overkill. But what if, I don’t know, a fire destroyed the first curl and then a plague of hair-eating locusts destroys the second one? What then, huh? Am I still being overly sentimental? Or just incredibly reasonable and forward-thinking?

So, plainly, as you can see, I have kept to that vow I made long ago to never be one of those overly sentimental parents. Even now with Riker about to turn 6 and my youngest preparing to go to preschool next year and the fact that I can’t remember the last time she fell asleep on my chest and that he no longer gives me a hug and a kiss before walking into his classroom and tomorrow they will both be leaving for college and they’ll never call and then move across the country from me and I’ll never see them but maybe next year, Mom, and the cat’s in the cradle and some crap about a silver spoon or something…

…Sigh…

And all of that will be just fine by me. Just fine. 

I have my shrine of baby curls, a creepy pile of preserved baby teeth and that damned ugly Jabba horse drawing to keep me company.

 

A glass of astronaut juice

She wasn’t my grandma. I should probably start with that. Officially she belonged to my cousins. The matriarch on their father’s side. 

But Grandma Knapke’s screen door always opened just as wide for me as it did for her verified grandchildren. On those blazing blue summer days, the five of us would spill out of the van and pour into her house, stirring up small whirlpools of chaos and sound in our wake. 

She was a small but vital part of my childhood, her face looming large in my memory. And her laugh. That very distinct laugh is forever seared into my brain. I loved that laugh. I remember wishing I was funnier as a kid just so I could hear that laugh more often. 

This was the angel who introduced me to Tang. The drink of the astronauts. Flashy space juice. It was the most exotic thing I had ever had. No one in my life up until then had loved me enough to let me have Tang. Grandma Knapke let me have it by the pitcherful.  

Her house smelled completely different from my biological grandma’s familiar smelling house. It smelled foreign and therefore fancy in my eyes.

My very intense but short-lived skateboard career began and ended in her driveway. 

She took a bunch of us into town one day. Her hair was in curlers, secured in a hair net. She didn’t care. That was the day she became my personal hero. 

Her kitchen is the kitchen I always think of when I’m reading a book and the characters are standing in a kitchen. She’d probably be surprised to know it was featured in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” and “Little Women.” 

I remember one lunch in particular, a mob of us sitting around her table. My plate was piled comically high considering I was 7-years-old. She cocked an eyebrow at me and said “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” I nodded sagely at her, like I knew what that meant. I had no idea what she meant. But I remember thinking how wise she sounded right before I spent the rest of the day with an agonizing tummy ache.  

I got the news a few days ago. Grandma Knapke passed away at the age of 93. Leaving behind a large and loving and wonderful family.

And one freckled stray whose eyes are still too big for her stomach. 

It takes a special kind of person to open their doors to kids that aren’t theirs. To make them feel loved. Make them feel like they belong. It’s hard being a kid. It’s so easy to forget that as an adult. Which is why kids need all the open doors and hugs and special astronaut drinks as they can get. 

I was luckier than most. I had the best grandma in the world. But I also got a Grandma Knapke. A woman who took in an only child whenever she showed up and made her feel like one of the pack. 

And as I get older, and raise my own family, I can only hope I have it in me to emulate her love and spirit. That in the end there is a person who, when they hear my name, thinks back with a smile and remembers sitting at my table in perfect happiness. Fancy astronaut drink optional. 

 

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. 

 

The best mom in the galaxy

My eyes pop open like blinds that have been pulled too hard. I heard one of the kids cry, I’m certain of it. I strain my ears over the snoring duet of the dog and the husband. Nothing. Whoever it was must have fallen back asleep. 

As I lay in bed, wide awake since parental panic is the most effective alarm clock on the market, I think about the day to come. It’s going to be a good day, I tell myself. Because today I’m going to be a good mom. A great mom. The best mom in the world.  

Mary. Friggin.’ Poppins. 

(wavy fantasy lines, wavy fantasy lines, wavy fantasy lines)

Today I will get up, refreshed, and gently wake my children, both of them sleepily smiling at me as I sing “good morning!” to them. We will do our morning routine like an adorable montage from a romantic comedy, complete with a fashion show by my 5-year-old as he gets ready. As we walk to school, we’ll joke and laugh and enjoy the late autumn weather. 

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Then the 3-year-old and I will head to the library for storytime and after I will surprise her with a trip to her favorite pizza place for lunch, where we make up silly songs and she tells me about her favorite animals. She then takes a nap and I’m able to actually write my newspaper column by deadline. 

We pick up her brother and I let them play on the playground while I successfully have a 20 minute! conversation with another adult. We head home for a snack and an impromptu dance party (all of us, of course, agreeing on the music we listen to). 

Then they help me make dinner, the two of them adorably drowning in aprons. Daddy comes home and we all sit down at the table, talking about our day and discussing our highs and lows. 

As the day winds down, we read five books and they obediently clean their rooms and brush their teeth. As I tuck them into bed, my son looks at me and says “you’re the best mom in the world.” And my daughter says “no, she’s the best mom in the galaxy.”

And I walk away with a huge smile, telling myself just how lucky I am that I get to do this every day.

(wavy fantasy lines, wavy fantasy lines, wavy fantasy lines)

In reality I groan as I get out of bed (because that just happens involuntarily now) and I make coffee, menacingly standing over the coffeemaker, threatening it to hurry up or else. The kids procrastinate getting ready until the last minute despite me reminding them every five minutes that we are leaving soon. He calls me stupid and mean for making him brush his teeth and she throws a tantrum because she can’t find her favorite kitty cat stuffie (you’d think the fact I found eight other kitty cat stuffies she can take would help but no, no it doesn’t). Finally I explode.

“If you guys aren’t ready to go and by the door in the next 30 seconds, I will set all your toys on fire, so help me,” I loudly growl, my inner Darth Vader holding my inner Julie Andrews hostage in a chokehold. 

The entire walk to school they complain. It’s too cold. They’re so tired. Carry me, Momma!

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A little while later, me and the toddler are leaving the library in disgrace because she started screaming at the top of her lungs for some reason that she refuses to divulge. Trying to turn the day around, I take her to her favorite pizza place, where she runs around the entire place singing songs about poop. She then refuses to take a nap, even though she needs one, and refuses to get off my lap, leaving me to try to type 800 words of my newspaper column one-handed. 

Later we pick up her brother and the three of us end up leaving the playground in disgrace, one of them tucked under my arm like luggage and the other being dragged behind me by the hood of his coat, all of us raving at each other like lunatics. 

As soon as we get home, they both immediately ask to watch TV. When I say no, they both end up in the corner because we do not hit mommy no matter how mad we are. I tell them to go play in their rooms, which lasts for almost 10 minutes before I have to pull them apart because they’re fighting like feral weasels. Let’s read a book! I suggest, hoping to distract them. They then end up back in the corner for beating each other up again because they can’t agree on which book we should read. 

They then make a giant mess in the kitchen under the guise of “helping me cook” and I age ten years in ten minutes trying to bite my tongue so I don’t scream out of frustration. I get a text that Daddy is running late again. 

The three of us sit down to dinner, which is gross and smells like vomit apparently. Before I even manage to take my first bite, I have to yell at them to sit down in their chairs and stop sniffing each other’s butts. 

Bedtime is an hour of complaining (on their part) and threats about setting everything on fire again (on my part). 

And as I sigh and tuck them into bed, exhausted, my son looks at me and says “you’re the best mom in the world.” And my daughter says “no, she’s the best mom in the galaxy.”

And I walk away with a huge smile, telling myself just how lucky I am that I get to do this every day.

 

We should get together sometime

I bought a plane ticket to Clarksburg, West Virginia today. Full disclosure, prior to today, I did not know Clarksburg, West Virginia existed. I know nothing about the town, other than that on Friday it will unfortunately have me as its loudly dressed tourist. And I have no plans once I get there save for one. 

Meeting up with one of my oldest friends from childhood. 

How this all came about was almost mystical in origin. My friend, who lives in Ohio, told me, who lives in Boston, that we should get together sometime soon. But then, unlike every other time we’ve said this exact same thing over the past decade, we actually picked dates. And a location. And arranged childcare. And booked a cabin. And she told work she was leaving early next week. And I bought a plane ticket. 

If this all sounds obvious and not the least bit magical to you, hey, congratulations on being a fully functional and socialized adult! 

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For the rest of us, you understand that what we did was some kind of friendship wizardry. 

See, people like me are always saying things like how we want to get together. Soon! But then, the second the words leave our mouths, even while those words are still hovering in the air over our heads, we are already mentally making excuses about how we can’t make it. Which is totally ok because the other person is likely doing the exact same thing. 

“We should get together sometime soon!”

“Yes! Absolutely! Although I probably can’t make it.”

“You mean to the thing we haven’t even planned yet? Yeah. Me neither. I’m going to come down with a cold.”

“Oh, no worries. I’m thinking I’m going to be working late and then, just as a backup, my dog is going to eat a small amount of chocolate and I really should stay home and monitor him.”

“Sounds totally plausible. I look forward to having this exact same conversation in eight months.”

“Aw…same.” 

I don’t know why I do this. Even for an extrovert such as myself, plans always seem like a good idea at the time (at the time usually meaning after consuming large quantities of alcohol) but when it comes time to actually do said plans, I start to dread it. Like, wait, I have to leave my HOUSE? Away from my cozy cocoon of blankets and carbohydrates? And interact with people? Why would someone ask me to do this? I thought these people were my friends. Why are they making me socialize with them? 

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Of course, when I do drag myself out, I always have a fantastic time. I remember why I’m friends with these wonderful people. I remember I am a social animal. And I vow to start socializing more. A vow I then promptly forget, turning back into my Gollum personality usually within 24 hours. 

“Peoplsies are dumb.” 

*caresses TV remote and recently delivered burrito* 

“My preciousssss…”

And it’s so easy to think of reasons not to go see your friends…

I’m so tired. 

I’m so busy.

It’s been a rough week. 

There’s a 10 percent chance of rain.

The new episode of “Castle Rock” is out.

I spilled ketchup on my shirt, clearly I’m in no shape to go out. 

I sneezed four hours ago. I don’t want to get anyone sick.  

I’m pretty sure my friends don’t even like me even though they have consistently proven otherwise. 

We’ll just get together next week. Or month. Before 2025 for sure. 

But this time, after both of us talking about how we feel like we are drowning in a toxic whirlpool of motherhood and responsibility and anxiety, it hit me. Friendship is a lifeboat against all those things. So why do I waste so much energy coming up with ways to avoid it? Why do I work so hard to convince myself I should stay home and clean instead? (Especially since, let’s be honest, I’m not actually going to clean). 

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So I bought a plane ticket to Clarksburg, West Virginia. And I will be getting together with my friend very soon. Not because we should. But because we need to. 

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.

 

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.