Category Archives: Writing

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. 

 

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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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A Review of my Son’s Imaginary Restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

“How about a Diet Coke?”

“We don’t have Diet Coke.”

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

“Nope.”

“OK, what do you have?”

“Um…coffee or tea.”

“I’ll take coffee.”

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

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

“Could you recommend a red, miss?”

“Red what?”

“Red wine.”

“Can I have some?”

“No.”

“Can I have pink wine then?”

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

“Here’s your coffee.”

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

“OK, it’s root beer.”

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

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

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

“No.”

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

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

“It is.”

“Oh.”

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

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

“Oh…wow.”

“Take a bite!”

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

“Mmm…this is…interesting.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Best meal I ever had, chef.”

Bad Poetry By A Tired Mom

 

I have two kids

Two beautiful unique souls

Each with a unique illness

Germs, his and hers

 

Simultaneous sickness

But different miseries

Because they couldn’t even

Extend the courtesy

Of having the same goddamn disease

 

How does that even happen?

What did I do wrong?

Is it revenge for when I was bragging

About their immune systems being so strong?

 

Hand, foot and mouth

Fever, cough, sore throat

Luckily, sharing is caring

Which is why every surface of my house

Has been smeared with snot

 

There is so much gross

Just

So much of

The gross

 

Noses dripping

Phlegm flying

Rashes rashing

Or whatever the hell they do

 

Oh, is this awful to read?

A thousand apologies

But imagine a tiny clone of your husband

Sneezing directly into your face

 

Speaking of husbands

He’s busy, off working

Meanwhile, I’m drowning in used tissues

Trying to build a moat

By drinking enough Merlot that I practically float

 

It’s not working

There’s so many leaks

That’s what we call a double entendre

Or something like that

 

Something something insert funny line here

And here

And here

I’m so tired, you guys.

 

What rhymes with “someone, dear god, help me”?

Is poetry still suppose to rhyme?

Omg, when’s the last time I actually read a poem

Not composed by Dr. Seuss?

 

Twin rivers flowing in tandem

Bearing colorful waves of a neverending pour

Tylenol

Ibuprofen

Here to save us all

 

We’ve watched Tangled three times

Just today alone

Take your screen time limits

And shove them

We’re in survival mode

 

But don’t you worry about us

They’ll end up being just fine

Sickness doesn’t last forever

And at least I still have (cough) my health

Oh crap, (sniffle) what the hell was that?

 

Dammit.

 

What? Me? Jealous? No. Pffft.

Guys, I hate to be THAT wife, but I need to brag about my husband for a little bit. He just added the title of “children’s book illustrator” to his already impressive resume. A title he managed to squeeze in while working at his regular demanding journalism job and coming home to his regular demanding wife and kids who are always up in his face the second he walks through the door.

I am so proud of him. This is a guy who literally worked his way up from paperboy to now whatever his current fancy title is at the Boston Globe (a fancy title, mind you, that I definitely know but just don’t feel like typing out right now).

And he’s not just a hard worker, although he is that. He’s also genuinely talented. Which is probably why he’s succeeding both professionally and creatively. Which is great. It really is. He’s amazing and deserves everything he’s accomplished. He has really lived up to his potential, unlike some people he’s married to.

Ha! Ha!

What? No, I’m just kidding. I never had much potential in the first place. Ha! Again. Oh, we have fun here at this old blog of mine. A blog that no one reads and never goes viral. Good thing I have a successful man to stand behind.

Oh, what’s that? No, YOU sound slightly jealous.

Besides, what good would it do if I was jealous? We’re a team, me and him. Him and me. I also reap what he sows. Especially now that we have kids. Every success he has means we can pay the bills and not be homeless and get as many toppings as we want on our Friday night pizza. Including FRESH basil.

More importantly, I love him and want him to achieve all his dreams. So what if the highlight of his week is a cool book signing event and mine is working out a lose/lose situation with my youngest child where if she’ll just SIT on the potty for two minutes she still gets M&M’s even if she doesn’t actually pee or poop.

So no, I hate to disappoint you, but that feeling I’m currently stuffing way way way down deep is definitely not a twinge of jealousy. I fully understand why my own creative endeavours have to take a backseat right now while I take care of our young brood.

Although, if I’m being truly, albeit reluctantly, honest, my husband is also really conscientious about taking over the child care duties whenever possible to give me time to work on writing career.

Yeah. Yeah, I know. Wow, he really IS great.

What? No. That wasn’t sarcasm. Hey, I’m a lucky, lucky woman and I realize it.

It’s just, I mean, at some point isn’t him being so generous and fair just rubbing it in my face that I too have dreams I want to accomplish and he fully supports them? Like, where does this guy get off?

You know what he did last week? Deep cleaned the kitchen  Like, got all the stains off the stovetop that I had just accepted as a permanent part of the decor. The insensitive jerk.

Oh, that sounds a bit harsh, does it? Well, what else do you call doing all the chores around the house so I can spend the weekends working? The nerve of him. It’s like he is taking away all the plausible excuses I could use for why I still haven’t finished that first draft of my “novel” like I promised myself. Or the six children’s books I started writing and stopped because apparently plot is an important part of a story. Basically he’s leaving me no choice but to accept the fact that I’m the one responsible for whether or not I’m successful at my own career.

Total bastard, right?

Look, all I’m saying is that he works incredibly hard so that I can stay home and raise the kids, which I wanted to do and which I love doing, while also giving me time to work on my writing projects, which I also love, and thus making it almost impossible to blame him for anything. I mean, what the hell? How dare he.

AND, speaking of how dare he, how dare he also prove that hard work pays off. I’m a writer. Most writers don’t actually want to write. Writing is hard. We just want to BE writers, sitting around in coffee shops and bars and daydreaming about the day the book we never actually sat down and wrote gets magically published.

Oh, but here comes old Mr. Sit Down And Do It proving without a doubt that doing something is the only way to get anything done.

Sigh. I guess the only thing I have left is to actually work hard, now that he has cruelly taken all my excuses away.

I just hope I can forgive him some day for being such a wonderful and supportive partner.

 

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.  

 

Honest Christmas Letter

Greetings, friends and family and people I barely know anymore but still have your addresses saved so what the hell!

I hope this year has been good to you (she types like she hasn’t stalked over half of you on social media late at night with a glass of wine in her hand…definitely-not-creepy haha!).

It’s been a wonderful year here at the Brandon-Huddle household. At least I think it has. If I’m being completely honest, I can’t remember what it was like before the Vague Plague swept through our house, reducing all of us to coughing, feverish, snotty shells of our former selves. You know, that mysterious illness that hits one family member and then passes through all the rest until the first one finally gets better right as the last one is coming down with it, thus passing it back onto the first one, on and on and on until none of you can remember what it is like to breathe through one nostril anymore, let alone two. It has no name but is somewhere in-between a cold and the flu. Unless, of course, the man of the house gets it, in which case it is a Very Serious Case of Almost Certain Death.

But although our collective health is currently drowning in a tsunami of snot, everything else is a fantastic mixed bag of tragicomedy.

Ryan is working hard as usual. Some would say too hard. And by some I mean me. Awkward haha! Because I reach a certain point in the evening where I simply cannot “mom” for one more minute. But at least he’s smart enough to know that if he walks through that door past six he is to have a bottle of wine tucked under his arm for me. Maybe also a cheeseburger. And a taco.

But it’s not entirely his fault. You gotta make a living, right? Kids are expensive. And he’s really good at what he does. Plus, during those brief twelve minutes we have together in-between the kids going down and us passing out on the couch after watching the opening credits of “Sabrina” on Netflix, we are reminded how much we love each other as we grunt and stare vacant-eyed into the other’s rapidly aging face.

As for myself, I completed a half marathon this year, which has been a dream of mine ever since my friend Emily texted me “wanna do a half-marathon?” and I drunkenly texted back “hellz yesh!” The race was awful. Just truly awful. Why do people like to do this? What is wrong with them?

But the point remains that I did it. Which I now tell anyone standing within earshot.

I’ve also been keeping up with my writing. I’m even trying my hand at writing a book. Which means I rapidly swing from “I can do this, I can totally do this” to “I’m an idiot. What is a plot? Whet r werds?” on a daily basis. I definitely think I need new hobbies.

This has also been a big year for our oldest, Riker, who started preschool this year. He loves it. Now. In the first few weeks there was some atomic-level leg clinging during drop-off but now he can’t stop talking about school. At least I think he’s talking about school. His stories aren’t always coherent. They pretty much start somewhere at the ¾ mark and then jump backward toward the middle with a brief glance at the beginning while the ending has apparently escaped through some window, never to be heard of again.  

Allow me to share his latest. It’s so cute. I think…?

“So then Ethan is a bad guy, but a friendly bad guy, and we chased the ghosts on the swings and Mrs. Ferris says, but Momma, it’s always important to share, and remember, Momma, when you first get to the classroom, we have to do our arrival jobs so we walk quietly and carefully to our cubby and put away our things and then sometimes Elena hugs me too hard and I don’t like it but that’s ok and now I’m a big boy, not a baby, which is why the vampires were hiding in the closet.”

Speaking of babies, our baby isn’t a baby anymore. Mae turned 2 in July. She is just turning out to be a fantastic little person, albeit one who drinks what has to be an unhealthy amount of bath water. We are a bit nervous about her arch-villain tendencies but, as they say, raise the children you have, not the children you want. Even if they scare you a bit.

And last, but certainly not least, is our dog Buffy. He’s 13 now! Can you believe it? I certainly can but then again I am constantly reminded thanks to his old man dog farts, which are numerous and aromatic, to put it politely. But the vet says he is in great shape and super healthy and only charged us $600 to tell us that.

All in all, we realize how lucky we are with our beautiful little family and a roof that only leaks sometimes over our heads. Although if anyone is wondering what to get us for Christmas, a nap would just be fantastic.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

Ways to unsuccessfully deal with insomnia

 

  1. Watch something. But not something too interesting. But also not so boring that it allows your mind to wander. Maybe something you’ve already seen but enjoyed. Preferably where at least one character has a British accent and is trying to solve a crime.
  2. Read something. Same rules apply.
  3. Eat something. Because, hey, it’s there and what else have you got to do?
  4. Count something. Sheep seem to be pretty popular, followed by minutes (“if I fall asleep now, I can still get 3.5 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off”).
  5. Argue something. In your head. Obsessively. Finally find a way to win that Facebook argument from 2015.
  6. Take something. Tylenol PM, perhaps? Or that melatonin that has never ever worked but yet you still keep a giant bottle of it by your bed? Does children’s benadryl work on adults?
  7. Rearrange something. Because you’ll definitely be able to sleep once all your bookshelves are ripped apart and then put back together in a slightly different organizational pattern.
  8. Worry about something. Like every single bad thing that could happen to your children.
  9. Eat something again. It’s now 3:30 a.m. Screw it.
  10. While you’re at it, watch something else. Maybe a 90’s sitcom will do it.
  11. Pray for something. Perhaps divine intervention from the deity of your choosing. Or an anvil to fall from the sky and onto your head, finally knocking you out. Or modern science to prove that sleep is unnecessary for survival.
  12. Scroll something. Sure, they say to avoid technology when you can’t sleep but you aren’t going to sleep anyway so may as well stalk that girl from seventh grade who used to bully you.
  13. Wake something. Like your husband. Who is peacefully sleeping right beside you in the most obnoxious manner possible. Misery does love company…
  14. How is he still sleeping? If you poke him any harder he’ll likely have internal bleeding.  
  15. Sigh.
  16. Clean something.
  17. Eh, never mind.
  18. Daydream something. Maybe cue up that one about marrying Chris Pratt (after your husband dies and you mourn the appropriate amount of time, of course).
  19. Plan something. May as well use all this time productively. Just a quick 36-point plan to improve every aspect of your life.
  20. Is there any cheese left?
  21. Research something. Like how insomnia causes premature aging. Then get up and slather more moisturizer on your decrepit face.
  22. Drink something? Warm milk? Ugh. Gross. No. Then maybe just a small glass of whiskey? Nah. It’s practically morning.
  23. Write something. Like, say, a list of all the futile ways you can try to combat insomnia.

The Adventures of Kitty “Meow” Cat, III

Hello. You probably don’t know me. In fact, there is no reason you should. My existence is of little importance to most people. Most people, that is, save one.

And it is for her sake that I would like to share the following story with you.  

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. My name is Kitty Cat. A wholly unoriginal name, I’ll grant you, but considering I was given my moniker by a young creature who still occasionally sticks a spoon in her eye, the name serves its purpose. I am, indeed, a small stuffed kitty cat toy.

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I remember little of my life before the Christmas of 2017. The first clear memory I have is of being imprisoned in a small cardboard box in some kind of gargantuan toy prison, my feet and neck bound by indestructible chains of plastic. The entire lot of us were slowly being driven mad by an endless loop of what our prison guards called “sounds of the season.” And from morning until night, we were subjected to humiliating pokes and prods by chaotic mobs of angry giants and their leaky offspring.

You can imagine my relief then when one of these giants took pity on me and orchestrated my escape in a daring plan whereby she distracted the prison guards using only a piece of green paper and calmly walked out the door.

Soon thereafter, however, I realized my freedom came at a cost, for I was quickly put into the possession of her own personal leaky offspring.

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Life hasn’t always been easy for me. I suppose it never is when you are the beloved toy of a 2-year-old. But I tolerated things like the high-pitched, screechy voice she uses for me (even though clearly I sound much more like an off-brand Patrick Stewart) because there is not much in the way of an alternative for me.

A realization I would soon come to know intimately.

It was a summer day like any other. I awoke in the vise-like grip of my small human. We played Kitty Cat vs. Batman. We illegally removed her fresh diaper (although I was a very reluctant accomplice). She mashed my face into her bowl of Cheerios while repeatedly proclaiming “Kitty Cat eat. Num Num Num.”

Then it was off to the library, her strapped into the stroller, me securely by her side with half my head accidentally tucked under her rear. Like most of our asinine activities, it all went by in a blur of giggles (hers) and shouts of “dammit, Mae, I said NO!” (her mother’s). It wasn’t until our walk home that my entire world, small as it was, was shattered.

I wasn’t sure what was happening at first. Then, all of a sudden, I knew too well. I was slipping, slipping. I tried to cry out, to cling to her, my little sticky biped, but with horror remembered I am utterly inanimate. Yes, dear readers, “Toy Story” is a falsehood of the most egregious kind.

I was tumbling, down, down. By the time I could finally orient myself, the stroller was disappearing over the horizon.  

And so I laid there. Under that overpass. Cars careening past. Pedestrians trudging by on their weary way. No one even bothering to look my way except for the useless neighborhood birds and squirrels with their tedious chittering.

I had never felt so alone.

All was lost. I knew it in my non-existent heart. I prayed for death but it wouldn’t come. Oh, what I would have given to be back in those chubby arms with their faint whiff of ketchupy peanut butter. That little girl loved me so much and what did I give her in return?

Nothing.

Nothing but a silent, stitched-on, smirk. Had I neck muscles, I would have hung my head in shame.

But wait, what was that? In the distance? A glimmer of flannel? Could it be? No. No, it couldn’t possibly be.

Yet, hope of all hopes, it was. It truly was my girl’s father.

“There are no lost toys on my watch,” I heard the man say in a very macho voice as he tucked me into his very manly computer purse.

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Later I was to overhear that the mother had told the flannel daddy man about how I was lost and so he had walked the same route we took on his way home from work. But it was all just background noise to me. For I was safely back in my love’s arms, being squeezed until I thought my stuffing would fall out my eyeballs. The smell of old macaroni and cheese has never smelled so sweet.  

So, where do we go from here? For I have seen things. Things no small toy should see. I have aged much beyond my calendar age of eight months and have seen firsthand just how frightening of a place the world can be.

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But I have also found my place in it, this scary world. It is by her side. For if the world is scary to me, imagine what it must be like for her. It is the least I can do, for there is no love quite like the love of a tiny child for her ratty old stuffed animal, and, from now on, I shall do my utter best to return that love ten-fold and be her courage when the world grows just a bit too big. 

And I shall do it even when she relentlessly kisses me while eating pancakes with an obscene amount of syrup.

 

Well, there’s always tomorrow

I have never wanted to star in a reality TV show. I have happily hate-watched enough of them to ever wish that kind of scrutiny on myself.

So, imagine my surprise, then, when I had kids and suddenly realized I was one.

Every day of my life now is pretty much the kids binge-watching their favorite reality show, “Keeping Up With Momma’s Sanity.” Followed by the spin-off, “Here Comes Vodka.”

Those adorable little sponges absorb every single little thing I do with their big eyes. And then repeat everything I say with their even bigger mouths (including curse words they “may” have overheard a “certain” parent say).

Which is why I want to be a good example for my children. I really do. I want to be the friggin’ best example of humanity that has ever existed for them. But since that will never happen (I once told my entire second grade class that Santa didn’t exist), I’ll settle for trying to be the best version of myself for my kids.

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Here’s who I want to be. I want to be the loving dog owner who is always patient and kind with her aging dog, Buffy. The kind of owner who never gets annoyed with his incessant, loud barking because she knows his eyesight and hearing is going and so every fast movement and loud sound is clearly a gang of pirates attacking the house, which can only be stopped by his heroic barking efforts.

I want to be the loving mother who keeps her cool at dinner when both kids are complaining about the home-cooked meal placed in front of them, even though they also complained about lunch. And breakfast. And every meal the day before. And the day before that. And everything I have placed in front of their mouth holes that wasn’t chocolate since the day they came into existence.  

I want to be the confident professional(ish) writer who works hard and leaves a beautiful published legacy for her family.

I want to be the loving wife who definitely doesn’t bury her husband under an angry verbal avalanche of “guess what YOUR children did today?” as soon as he walks in the door.

But here’s who I am.

I am the loving dog owner who patiently tolerates my aging dog Buffy’s panicked barking…up to a certain point. And then I will yell back “SHUT UP, BUFFY! SHUT UP! YOU’RE KILLING ME! YOU’RE *definitely not a curse word* KILLING ME!”

I am the loving mother who once snapped and threw both kids’ dinner plates out the window.

I am the professional(ish) writer who, when suffering from a bout of writer’s block, slams shut her computer and yells “WORDS ARE DUMB” and then hides in the kitchen to shove unhealthy amounts of cheese in her mouth.

I am the loving wife who also assaults her husbands with verbal tsunamis, verbal monsoons and, on one particularly bad day, a verbal tornado (when he was still in the driveway).  

Sigh.  

It’s enough to keep a girl up at night worrying about whether or not she’s ruining her kids.

But then I remind myself that, from time to time, I’m also the mom who will spend hours every day reading books to her children until they get sick of it (and they never do). And I am Darth Vader Momma, who will have light saber fights with Stormtrooper Riker with one hand while holding Baby Yoda Mae in the other, and even resists the urge to correct her 3-year-old on why this situation goes against “Star Wars” canon.

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I’m also the loving dog owner who carries her dog up and down the stairs when the temperature drops too low, kicking his arthritis into high gear. And then gives him all the mashed potatoes her daughter didn’t eat because him such a good wittle puppeh, isn’t him? And then quietly cleans up the vomit the next day because his aging system can no longer handle human food.  

I am the completely not confident writer barely scraping by who still writes and never stops writing because she loves it. And then fiercely hates it. And then loves it again.

And I am the loving wife who makes naughty stick figure drawings for her husband and hides them in his computer bag.

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I am a work in progress. And ultimately, perhaps that’s the best lesson of humanity I could teach my children. That no one is perfect but every day is another chance to be a better person.  

Eh…nah. It’d be much better if I was just a much better human overall. One who didn’t eat her kid’s last chicken nugget when they weren’t looking.

But still, every day is another chance to be a better person.