Tag Archives: parenting humor

Ode to the Mystery Bruise

Oh, Mystery Bruise

There you are, yet again

And there have you always been 

For at least as long as I can remember

Which, granted, isn’t that long

Ever since my memory was obliterated by the incessant demands

Of tiny, adorable humans 

They who sprung loudly from my loins

Ginger haired and exhausting

My mind now filled to capacity 

Each and every day

With tasks both mundane and material 

That are involved when raising juveniles not quite yet delinquent

Big. Purple. With a hint of bluish tint

Ringed by an unholy yellow 

You loudly announce your presence, oh, Mystery Bruise

With every disrobement 

With every bathroom trip

There was a time when my thigh was flawless

(Stubble notwithstanding)

Oh, twas a sight, ye youthful femur o’ mine

Alas, now the top of that ham 

Is the heart and hearth of your home

Oh, Mystery Bruise 

Whenceforth you came? Why do you stay?

I have heard tale of your existence in others

On the side of the hip

Or the shinny shin shin

Enfolding the feminine forces in this world

Who already fight all kinds of unseen battles 

Every day, and every sleepless night, and every in-between

Yet your mystery grows, Mystery Bruise

Your origin a puzzle wrapped in an enigma

Smothered in a conundrum and sprinkled with mild violence  

Did it happen when a toddler used my body as a trampoline?

Or when a preschooler made of all points

Used me as their amusement park?

Are you the result of that stupid end table

I keep running into?

Or perhaps from that time I bumped into the steps while running to stop the children from hitting each other

With actual weapons? 

Is it all the bile rising up to the surface from all the curse words I swallowed?

Or from all the screams I buried down deep

Each and every time they howled how they hated me

Because the grilled cheese had the wrong cheese?

(As if any cheese any time any place could ever be wrong)

Is it the homeless ink from every lost chapter I never wrote

Because as soon as they see the laptop they lay across me like pampered cats?

Or mayhap you are just a reminder that I am human, Mystery Bruise

And not just a mother

That I am not merely put on this Earth for their every whim and desire

The point is, oh, most mystifying of contusions

You’ve always been there for me

Rarely changing

Just staring up at me every time I shower 

A constant and only slightly concerning presence in a chaos-filled world 

A reminder of some permanence in an ever shifting reality

Or maybe you are simply a visible representation

Of the bruises concealed in my heart

Your mottled surface itself an ode to the mysteries of the soul

An ever-present monument of why we love and fight so hard  

No matter the reason, nor the cause

I want to thank you, oh Mystery Bruise

For always being there

Which I believe I already mentioned

But you’ll have to forgive me, for it has been a rough week

Of Remote Schooling

Of Life

Of 2020

And of simply being stretched too thin

Which is why I am hiding in the bathtub with my computer

A little (lot) drunk and singing your praises

Because you are here and yet need nothing from me

Oh, Mystery Bruise, your silence speaks volumes  

A van after my own heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Road trips. 

Camping trips. 

Drive-in movie theater nights.

Carpooling somewhere, anywhere, with anyone, anytime.

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

My new writing office.

A podcast studio every Thursday. 

World’s smallest rave party. 

Live down by the river if things get worse.

The possibilities are endless. 

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

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

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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. 

 

Not all that glitters is marigold

I once was very mean to a marigold. It wasn’t anything personal. It was merely in the name of science.

Specifically, that name was the Fourth Grade Science Fair. The birthplace of so many childhood wrongs. Somehow I had convinced my teacher of the merit of the hypothetical question “Does Being Nice to Plants Help Them Grow?” A fantastic scientific query when you are both lazy but insecure about being lazy and want to make it kind of seem like you care while doing minimal work. 

So I planted two marigold seeds. Once I day I would sing to one and read it books and was on my best behavior. The “grandma is over for a visit and it’s her birthday” behavior. 

And to the other one I was verbally abusive in that unique, dark, unholy way that only a 10-year-old girl can be. 

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I don’t remember my official “results” or even my grade. The only conclusion I took away was the knowledge that the entirety of this one marigold’s life was having a freckled brat angrily try out new curse words on it when her mother wasn’t around. 

This lingering guilt likely explains my current awkward relationship to plants. Why I have never gardened. Why house plants stress me out. Why I prefer to let plants run wild and free in nature. I do not, under any circumstance, want to be responsible for them. As soon as they are in my care, I feel the crushing burden of having to keep them not only alive, but happy. And I don’t necessarily trust myself with the weight of this commitment considering I have seen the immoral results of my former mad scientist self. 

I killed a flower WITH WORDS.

I’m a monster. 

Which brings me to last week. There are always consequences when one tries to play God with Nature. Mine came in the form of my friend Melissa, who very sweetly and generously surprised my kids with their very own starter vegetable garden kit. Complete with 15 different seed pods. It was one of those enrichment activities I’d heard so much about but have never, ever done with my children. I wasn’t worried though. At least at first. I assumed like most other things that were good for us, my family and I would talk excitedly about it for 15 minutes and then forget about it completely. 

Oh, but then how their eyes lit up. For the first time in a long time. They were engaged. They were getting along. They were happy in a way I hadn’t seen since school shut down. 

Sigh. 

So we planted the tiny seeds in the tiny pods while the kids peppered me with one thousand questions. All of which I enthusiastically answered wrong because I know zero about gardening but still wanted to encourage their newfound passion.

“Momma! What are turnips!?”

“Sad onions!”

“How did turnips get their name!?”

“They were discovered by Joe Turnip of Indiana!”

“What do leeks taste like?”

“Like celery that is wearing a bow tie!” 

And from there things started to spin out of control. I casually asked my mom to help me find something to put all these seed pods in because she knows more about gardening than her marigold murdering daughter. Before I knew it, a large garden bed, a toolkit, adorable tiny gardening gloves and four giant bags of soil were making their way to my house. Because a Memaw who misses her grandchildren and who has an Amazon Prime account at her disposal is a dangerous creature. 

Then my husband started talking about how we’ll need a trellis for the tomato plants and maybe a tiny fence to keep out the bunnies and maybe we could plant some sunflowers too. 

And daisies, added my daughter.

And tulips, added my son. 

And, lo and behold, I am now the reluctant owner of a garden. Responsible for the health and happiness of dozens of tiny lives. Which means I’m obsessively watching them and constantly questioning if I’m over or under watering and following my husband around the house telling him about all the awful things I learned on Google today.

“Did you know some ancient religions thought plants had souls?”

“Did you know trees make cries for help? Like when they’re in danger or thirsty?”

“Did you know plants know when they’re being eaten? They send out defense mechanisms to try to stop it.”

Sigh. 

I guess the punishment fits the crime. As they say, the arc of history bends toward justice. 

But as they also say, you can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her like it. 

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Welcome to the Neighborhood!

(Based on only a slightly exaggerated true story…)

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

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

2020, amiright? 

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

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

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

Men, amiright?

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

Ha! H…a…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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. 

 

Honey, I screwed up the kids

We are living through historic times. Unprecedented times. And with any luck my family and I will make it out of these times and, many years from now, my great grandkids will gather around and ask to hear all about the time Gam Gam lived through the Great Coronavirus of 2020. And I will tell them, my voice dripping in rich sepia tones, tales of staying up late into the night writing novels to stave off the insanity, the feasts I cooked to stave off the boredom, the endless books the children and I read to stave off the despair. And how we all hugged each other a little tighter each day to remember why isolation, as hard as it was, was important. 

I will tell them all these things and many more because I am going to lie. Lie so hard. All the lies. 

Because here’s the thing. Saying I ate my weight in delivery pizza and wine while battling depression and insomnia just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 

“And late one night, children, Gam Gam had so much to drink that she went on Amazon and bought roller skates for herself, completely forgetting she was 38-years-old and this activity would likely kill her. Oh no, I wasn’t a hero. Just a proud patriot doing her duty.”

This is all assuming, of course, that I eventually have great grandchildren. That I don’t screw up my children so thoroughly during this isolation period that they are able to eventually turn into semi-functioning adults who have families of their own. 

It ain’t looking too good so far. My kids are looking to me for structure, for guidance, for how to handle all the Very Big Feelings they are going through. And I, in my raggedy pajamas and roller skates, am looking back at them while eating an entire wheel of cheese and crying a little bit. 

There’s a reason why they say it takes a village to raise a child. It’s so that a child has multiple people to model for them how to survive in this world. People who don’t have a special Math Homework Cocktail she invented. 

It also doesn’t help that we can no longer do the things all those “parenting experts” hammered into our heads that we absolutely had to do in order to raise happy, healthy children.

Get your kids out in nature as much as possible!

Our yard is the size of a postage stamp and the parks are overrun with everyone else whose backyards are the size of postage stamps. 

Kids need unsupervised and unstructured play time!

Fantastic. Will you tell them that? Because they won’t leave me alone and I have nowhere to hide.

Be the calm in their storm! 

I respond to tantrums in only one of two ways anymore, depending on how little sleep I’ve gotten. It’s either dramatically screaming back or responding calmly that I will set their tablets on fire if they don’t knock it off. 

Limit screen time!

My son spends roughly three hours on screens doing school work, which means his younger sister is also in front of a screen for three hours unless I want to deal with a three hour long tantrum. And then when my son is done with school he wants more screen time because his screen time was school screen time, not fun screen time like his sister, so he gets fun screen time, which means his sister gets more screen time because I don’t know what I’m doing and can never seem to win these arguments. 

All of this, of course, with no end in sight.

Then, one morning after another sleepless night spent pointlessly worrying, I was helping my son with his reading assignment online. Every time he completed a task, a small snippet of a song would play. Just maybe ten seconds or so long. I happened to look over at him at that moment and saw that he was crying. 

“What’s wrong, baby!?” I asked, immediately assuming it was the stress from the schoolwork and ready to set the laptop on fire if so (I might have a problem). 

“It’s just so beautiful.”

“What is?”

“The song. It’s just a really beautiful song.” And a few more crocodile tears squeezed out. 

It wasn’t a beautiful song. In fact, I’m pretty sure it included bagpipes. But I started crying too. Because as I looked at him, I remembered that my kids have complicated emotions and deep intelligence and vast interior lives that I’m not privy to (even though on certain days it feels like they do, in fact, tell me every single thought in their heads). That they are strong and resilient and adaptable. That they are fantastic creatures that can be moved to tears by the beauty of music. 

And I realized it’s going to take a lot more than this to ruin them. All of them. The kids will be alright after all.