Category Archives: Women

The 5 stages of house cleaning with children

 

Stage One: Optimism(-ish)

Hey kids! Come here please. …Guys? Come on, I know you hear me. …BECAUSE I SAID SO. 

Don’t make me start counting. One! TWOOO…good choice. OK, now before you start groaning, hear me out. Today we’re going to clean the house! Yay! 

(Fifteen minute pause for loud whining and fake tantrums)

Wow, those are some really good points you guys made there. I’ve totally changed my mind. Of course I’m kidding. Now start cleaning. This entire house is a disaster. But hey, we can make it fun! We’ll blast some loud music and chug coffee while we do it, alright? Fine, root beer in your case. Trust me, there is nothing better than having a clean house. You’ll see. Now who wants to hear some Tupac? Ugh. Fine. Taylor Swift. 

Stage Two: Frustration

OK, let’s start with your rooms. I want you to put any toys you don’t want anymore in this bin and put any trash or broken toys in this bin. Dirty clothes in the hamper, books on the bookshelves, toys in the toy box. Yes, I know. It does sound like a lot of work. Because you guys have not cleaned anything since the last time we did this even though I tell you to clean your rooms daily. 

Look, watch how easy it is. Take this thing. Do you want to keep this? You do? This thing I have never seen you play with? It’s your favorite toy? Oh, your favorite toy of all time? That’s interesting because I’m pretty sure it’s actually half of a plastic hanger. OK, OK, OK, fine! You can keep it. But how about we put this marker that doesn’t work anymore in the bin. Oh, it’s also your favorite toy? You named it Mr. Marker? Yeah, no, sure. You have to let me get rid of this baby rattle, though. Really!? You will? Oh, good job, kiddo, I’m proud of you…Hey, why is this empty? WHO’S BEEN TAKING TOYS OUT OF THE “TOYS TO DONATE” BIN!?

Stage Three: Bargaining (Followed By Anger)

Look, guys, if we all work together we can get this done in an hour, tops. And maybe, if you kids do a good enough job, and stop with all the complaining, we can have ice cream when we’re done? I don’t know, whatever flavor is in that ancient tub in the back of the freezer. We’ll even throw some M&M’s on top. Yes, fine, marshmallows too. Just keep cleaning. 

Wait, why are you crying? Yes, you have to get rid of it. It’s one-third of a broken Mardi Gras beaded necklace. No, you do not love it. Oh stop it, it is not your best friend. You own 189 stuffies. Make one of them your best friend, alright? 

What the…is this a freakin’ SANDWICH IN YOUR LAUNDRY BASKET? 

Stage Four: Depression (Followed By More Anger)

I just wanted a clean home. Is that too much to ask? Other moms have clean homes. Probably. 

Oh, who am I kidding? What’s even the point? It’s just going to get messy again. Life is meaningless. 

No, just because I’m laying here on your floor in the fetal position does not mean you can stop. Just step around me. Well, someday when you have your own children you can lay in their filthy, gross rooms in a puddle of your own existential crisis while they pick up one single Lego at a time at the speed of molasses. 

Wait, is that…is that all the donation toys UNDER YOUR BED!? SON OF A …

Stage Five: Acceptance of Corner Cutting

Oh, just throw it under the bed. I don’t care! Let’s just get it done. No, of course we can’t just stop. What lesson would that be teaching you? Now go shove all these broken Transformers into your closet. 

(Opens bottle of wine, take giant swig straight from bottle)

Yeah, whatever, you can keep it. Go put it on top of the old washcloth pile. It’s next to the naked Barbie pile. Behind the generic Magna-Tiles pile! And when you’re done with that shove these half eaten baby board books haphazardly into your bookshelves. Well, shove harder then. 

Yup, alright. I’m calling it. We’re done. Everyone into the kitchen for some ancient freezer-burned-flavored ice cream. 

We’ve earned it.

 

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. 

Impossible Girls

To my dearest daughter on the eve of your 4th birthday,

I will never forget the day you were born. Mostly because it’s hard to forget when someone slits your abdomen open and pulls a human being out of it. Then I heard your very first cry and tears welled up in my own eyes. You sounded like a dying pterodactyl. It was a screech so piercing it felt like an ice pick was stabbing my brain. And I’m not the only one. The nurses on the pediatric ward all agreed it was one of the most intense caterwauls they had ever heard. One of them actually twitched whenever you cried. 

Oh, but how perfect you were. When you were sleeping. 

It’s been an immense pleasure these past few years watching you grow up. I even had a front row seat because you were never not climbing all over me. Four years in and I’ve peed by myself twice. Then, just when I couldn’t take it anymore, you’d fall asleep on my chest and finally stay still long enough to let me smell the top of your head. Which smelled like sweat and macaroni and cheese and everything that is right with the world. 

It’s happening less and less now. The lazy afternoons listening to your soft breathing. On the plus side, you’ve taken to climbing things other than me. The unsecured bookcases. The door frames. The extremely large and heavy dresser. Which goes to show that you are a gal who won’t take no for an answer. No matter how many times your parents scream it at you. 

Then again, what else could one expect from the girl who invented a game called Fireball? If you are ever reading this in the future and are wondering how you play Fireball, I can’t help you. Four-year-old you won’t tell me. All I know is that you play it in your brother’s room and it often involves horrific crashing noises. One time you were playing it and you tore out of his room hollering “I’m going on the run!” Then you grabbed a handful of Cheerios from the table, shoved them in your mouth, and kept right on running full speed to the other side of the house. 

I’m pretty sure you won that day.

This other time you and your brother were sitting on the couch and you asked him if he wanted to play “The Floor is Lava.” He excitedly responded with “yes!” and you immediately pushed him off the couch with a spectacular bang. 

Speaking of loud noises, you have less of a pitter patter and more of a brigade of war drums. You make the grand entrance of tyrants three times your size. How something so small could make such a cacophony while dressed like a butterfly princess is an impressive achievement. So much so that I had to search for a word big enough to describe it and came across “cacophony.” 

You dance like you want everyone watching. You hug until it hurts. You sing often and loud and joyously and completely off-key. You scream “I hate you, Momma!” at least three times a day. You tell me you love me at least ten. You love books and dirt and puddles and cats and lipstick and Super Mario Bros. 

You have an annoying devotion to fairness. You want answers to all the questions. Even the hard ones. You get mad when it’s not what you want to hear.  

You are nothing like I’d thought you’d be. You’re better than anything I could have dreamed of.

You make me want to tear my hair out some days. You are utterly impossible some days. 

And thank god. 

You are growing up in an impossible world, baby girl. It is scary and unjust and exhausting and extreme. 

And an impossible world needs girls like you. Fearless, strong, loud. It needs people who love fiercely and aren’t afraid to fight. Who won’t take no for an answer. Who have war drums for feet. 

Which is why, on my worst days, the days where it all seems hopeless, I look at you and your wild, tangled hair. The dirt on your left cheek. The butterfly wings and the sword. You make me want to fight the impossible. 

You make me want to be an impossible girl too. 

 

39 Things I’ve Learned in 39 Years

 

  1. As it turns out, living through interesting times really is a curse.
  2. Living through interesting times, however, means you are very happy to make it to your next birthday.
  3. Anything can be a breakfast food. The only limit is our imagination. 
  4. My husband looks really hot as Grizzly Adams. 
  5. I look less hot as Grizzly Adams. 
  6. Money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy useless, random crap off Amazon when you’re stuck at home during a global pandemic. 
  7. Speaking of which, roller skating is not like riding a bike. You don’t just automatically remember how to do it, which is awful when you’re trying to justify drunkenly buying roller skates on Amazon. 
  8. Spending quality time with family is the most important thing there is. Until it is the only thing there is. Then secretly eating a beef burrito in the bathtub becomes pretty important too. 
  9. I now know why my dog runs to the window and barks anytime he sees a single human being. Or another dog. Or a leaf. 
  10. Children are strong. 
  11. Children are resilient.
  12. Children better stop rolling their eyes at me every time I tell them to brush their teeth. 
  13. Yes, you have to use toothpaste.
  14. Teachers are mystical unicorn warriors and they deserve all the money and jewels and exotic oils for putting up with our children. 
  15. No matter how many times you are forced to watch “Frozen II,” it won’t kill you. You think it will. But it won’t. 
  16. Ditto “Moana.”
  17. Ditto “Toy Story 4.”
  18. Forts are still fun, no matter what your age. 
  19. Dance parties in the living room are still fun, no matter what your age. 
  20. It’s ok to like how the “Star Wars” saga ended even if no one else did. 
  21. It’s ok to hate how “Game of Thrones” ended because everyone did. 
  22. One way to get rid of a dead body is to feed it to your tigers. 
  23. Uncertainty isn’t always bad. Uncertainty is the soil where change can start to sprout. Or something like that. I don’t know. 
  24. My family is composed of a toxic mix of sore losers and sore winners and really poor spectators. 
  25. Level 8 of Super Mario Bros. 3 is a dystopian hellscape and it’s stupid and no one can pass it and I hate it and it’s dumb. 
  26. Twister is a young woman’s game. 
  27. It’s never ok to cheat unless you’ve been playing Go Fish for an hour and your 3-year-old keeps holding her cards the wrong way and you just need the game to end. 
  28. Ditto Old Maid.
  29. Ditto Candyland.
  30. If you’re going to call someone essential and a hero, they deserve to make a living wage. 
  31. I think I say this every year on this list but I feel it bears repeating. Nazis are bad. Always. No exceptions. 
  32. Speak up and fight for what is right. 
  33. Teach your kids to speak up and fight for what is right.
  34. Boxed wine is less judgmental than bottled wine. Boxed wine doesn’t care how many glasses you have. 
  35. Life is too short to read mediocre books.
  36. Life is just long enough to binge watch all seven seasons of “Parks and Recreation” again.
  37. You can never tell people you love them too much. 
  38. It’s ok to ask for help. 
  39. Never give up. There is always the chance that this all turns out alright. That we overcome everything history has been throwing at us and we fix the world and we become the next greatest generation. That many years from now we will tell our grandchildren “back in my day, we ate murder hornets for breakfast, kid.”

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.