Monday, November 28, 2011

It would be easier if Santa went on strike.

I am the meanest mom ever.

Why? Because I’m the anti-mom. Anti-screens, that is.

I am anti hours of TV and on-demand movies. I am anti Wii and anti Xbox 360 (because, really, I will actually take you bowling or skiing or skating. You don’t need to pretend to do it in front of the TV). I am anti DSi, anti computer games in which you take care of virtual pets (have you fed your real guinea pig today? Thought not). I am anti iPhone and Droid, anti anything that keeps kids in front of a screen, playing alone, inside, without even their imagination for company. I am totally and vehemently anti all these expensive electronic gadgets for children.

The kids will tell you I am against anything cool. I am against anything their friends have. They’ll say I don’t care if they are the last kids in the WORLD to own an iTouch. (Really? You’re the last kids in the WORLD to step foot in a McDonalds and I’m actually kind of proud of that.)

So what do those little sneaks do? They write top secret letters to Santa. That they mail. That I am not allowed to see. (Note to Caroline: if your letter to Santa is supposed to be top secret, don’t type it on the computer and save it on the desktop. And don’t name it "Top Secret Letter to Santa." And note to Jack: if your letter to Santa is supposed to be top secret, don’t ask me to spell words for you.)

Because they, wisely, still believe in Santa. It’s probably because I’ve confided that Santa will bring them presents as long as they believe in him, and then, once kids don’t believe, he asks the parents to take over. And Santa will buy things they know darn well I won’t.

And they WANT this stuff. Caroline’s letter to Santa, which was brief and filled with clip art, listed one thing. Four times. Jack wants things Caroline wants even though he barely knows what they are.

Now, they’re grateful kids. They’re quite spoiled with love, but there is nothing (other than, often, books) that they get as soon as they want it. But Christmas gives them the license to pour their secret material desires into a letter and mail it off, and it gives them the blind faith and childlike belief in magic that there will be THAT festive box under the tree with their name on it.

So then I can imagine Santa. In his workshop. With a stiff drink. Opening their letters, sighing and calling Mrs. Claus over. "Well, crap, honey. Here are these kids, and they’ve been good, and they don’t want much, but the one thing they each want is the one thing their mother doesn’t want them to have. I’m getting the feeling the father secretly likes these things, which is why I brought him Madden Football and Tiger Woods golf for the Wii last year, but the mother hates these electronic gadgety toys. What do I do?"

And I’d imagine smart, smart Mrs. Claus saying, "Well, dear, you have two choices. Don’t send the electronic game things and break the children’s hearts. Go on strike, just to make that mom happy. She’ll be your biggest fan."

Santa looks worried.

"Or, dear, tell that mother to write a hell of a list. Tell her to put all her secret wishes on there. Then give her everything she wants, and she’ll forget all about what you give the kids."

Santa puts a finger aside his red nose (too much scotch, probably), his eyes twinkle (ditto), and he says, "Great idea! That’s just what I’ll do!"


Dear Santa,

I’ve been very good this year, and this is what I want for Christmas:

1. I want my house redecorated. Or, in the case of 90% of it, decorated for the first time.

2. I want to lose ten pounds, now.

3. I want to run a ten-mile race in eight-minute miles.

4. I want puberty to pass right by our house and not come in.

5. Every night, I want my family to gather around me and tell me how much they appreciate everything I do. And they have to mean it.

6. I want a new wardrobe, every single season, including shoes and accessories.

7. I want a pool guy. And I guess you can throw in a pool, too, for authenticity.

8. I’d like a separate car, just for me, one that doesn’t have Cheerios and Jolly Ranchers and melted chocolate matted into the crevices of the seats.

9. I’d like Bo, the dog, to live for much longer than it appears planned. But maybe he could stop pooping. Totally.

10. I’d like an absolute assurance that my children will grow up happy, healthy and well adjusted, and that they will call home a lot but not live with me.

Okay? So there you go. Get on it, big boy, because if there’s an iTouch under that tree, there damn well better be some curtains hanging next to it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My list

One of the most annoying things lately has been this rush of pressure to be thankful. Check Facebook and Twitter; people are grateful for everything from the soldiers fighting wars to the crust on their homemade apple pie to the Midol relieving their cramps.

Am I not thankful, you ask? Oh, please. I spend almost every minute of every day being thankful. I’m still stunned, sometimes, to realize that I am happily married and have incredible children and great friends and a nice house and excellent health. Part of me fears one day I will wake up and realize it’s all been a dream and I’m actually some big fat lady with lice who can’t get off the couch because even if I did I couldn’t fit through the door and I have 100 cats, like on Hoarders, and they crawl all over me all day long. And I really don't like cats. So yes, I’m thankful, but always, not just today.

But then I realized there actually are some things I am particularly thankful for today:

I’m thankful for the blog post Caroline had to write for school, in which she talked about how much she loves me and Whit and Jack. (As my brother pointed out, the guinea pig, frogs and snails also got top billing, but I’d like to think she didn’t prioritize her list.)

I’m thankful Jack still thinks it's funny to put his Star Wars underwear on his head.

I’m thankful my mother-in-law caved and said we could eat Thanksgiving dinner earlier than the usual time of 7:00 pm, at which time my children are about to fall asleep in their mashed potatoes and everyone is drunk from six hours of cocktails.

I’m thankful for Al Roker and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I like him. He is funny and sharp and I like the way he dresses. And I’m happy for him that he lost so much weight. And the parade...well, it's just Thanksgiving. It always has been.

I’m thankful for Twitter. I love Twitter. It’s like walking around at night and looking in lighted windows and seeing what people are doing. How else would I know Katie Couric is eating creamed spinach and sweet potatoes?

I’m thankful that my husband’s iPhone is a wireless hot spot and can give him a wireless connection anywhere, even on top of a mountain, which is where we are.

I’m thankful for my friends, because DAMN they make me laugh and they listen to me and they are the village that helps me raise my children and stay married to my husband and not shoot myself when my dad texts me and says, “Where’s my dinner? It’s getting late.”

I’m thankful for sales, because as I’ve gotten older I’ve been afflicted by this weird and totally satisfying desire to save money. I used to get the same rush from spending $300 on shoes so my husband is much happier with the new me.

I’m thankful I don’t have cancer. Yet. It scares the crap out of me.

I'm thankful for Jack's placecards at dinner tonight...particularly the one for "Ant Dale."

I’m thankful I like to read.

I’m thankful I started this blog and I am so, so thankful every single time someone tells me they think it’s funny or interesting because you have no idea how good it feels to do something I love and actually be able to entertain people. So I’m thankful for you.

And, yes, I’m thankful for wine, a glass of which is waiting for me right now.

Hope you all have a very relaxing, very entertaining Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's ALMOST the most wonderful time of the year

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving to the friends I’ve talked to in recent weeks...the ones who have regaled me with their plans for the holidays. Thanks for making me laugh.

In particular...

Happy Thanksgiving to you, the one with the happy turkey and the odd houseguests. And the bears.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, the one who will have to taste the pies of two warring great-aunts and submit your vote to be tallied, so that the winner can gloat and the loser can get drunk.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who will travel hours to sit at an abnormally small table with distant relatives and an OCD hostess who can’t stop cooking and will have made two turkeys, eight pies, four stuffings and three applesauces.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, matron of the family with the most drama, where divorces and diagnoses and affairs are always inevitably announced at holiday dinners. And no one drinks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who has acted like a camp counselor planning a day of turkey bingo, turkey mad-libs, a scavenger hunt and a football game just to keep your two kids from killing each other.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who will use planes, trains and automobiles to go over the river and through the woods, only to be insulted by a mother-in-law who thinks her son could’ve done better.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who told all your family members you’re busy so you can sit inside and spend the day with your own immediate family and watch movies, which is exactly how you want to spend the day. Even if it's a little strange.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who will bite your tongue, smile politely and accept your in-laws' traditions as your own, despite the fact that yes, you're right, they're illogical and only acceptable to senior citizens and kids under three.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, already so exhausted by your children's pre-Thanksgiving excitement that you might actually expire before the turkey does.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who has vowed to hide in the bathroom with a bottle of wine. And a straw. Starting in the morning.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, desperately trying to come up with a unique and slightly raunchy answer to the round-the-table game of "what are you thankful for?" so you can shake things up a bit.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who will nervously attend an elegant dinner with two messy little boys and an old guy who coughs up phlegm and says, "WHAT???" often.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who already plans to wake up at 4 am on Black Friday to hit the sales. Because that’s what Thanksgiving is really about. (And you've got my list, right?)

And happy Thanksgiving to my little family, and the extended one we will visit. For better or for worse, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if we weren’t all together, in one tightly wound, thoroughly dysfunctional group. We could be worse off. Trust me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mommy’s little green helper

I am, to use a term parents know well, a Terrible Sleeper. I do not nap. I sleep so very lightly that a breath of air will wake me. Truly, I wake up if the heater kicks on. Or off. I wake up if there’s a light or a noise or a child's footstep or a cry or even if, in my sleep, I divine that we’ve forgotten to turn on the ceiling fan. And if I physically get up, to go to the bathroom or check on a kid, I am then up for hours. I haven’t enjoyed uninterrupted sleep for years. It used to make me the really vigilant mom of babies; now it just makes me tired.

Lately, I’ve caught a cough from the preschoolers. I am rarely sick, so this cough has been a big pain in the butt. And it’s a yucky, my-chest-hurts cough that wakes me with coughing spasms every hour and a half at night. I’ve been more exhausted than ever, to the point of actually feeling sympathy for the toddler throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store. To the point of almost joining him.

So yesterday I had one kid at the doctor’s office and asked what I should take to sleep through the night.

He glanced around and then said, in a low voice, "The nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine." (Okay, he actually named it, but I can’t hear the name without singing the jingle. And now I bet you can name it. Excellent marketing, if you ask me.)

I looked at him in horror. "Why, doctor," I exclaimed, "that’s like shooting a mouse with an elephant gun! I fear that’s far too much medicine for my little cough." (Total lie. What I said was, "Will it kill me?" To which he replied, "Nah, probably not." Good enough. I went and bought some.)

I took it with trepidation. Seriously, who takes that, unless you’ve got every single symptom they list? I honestly thought if I ever took it, I’d be profiled on the news as the mom who overmedicated herself and never woke up. You’d all shake your heads and click your tongues and feel superior to me, the one who went with the low-rent, overkill medicine.

People. I am here to tell you that the nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine is THE GREATEST THING EVER. I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t roll over. Whit TALKED ON THE PHONE and I didn’t wake up. I didn’t cough or sneeze or probably even swallow. Apparently our bed was a literal train station: Jack came in, Whit moved over, Caroline came in, the bed got too crowded, Caroline left, Caroline got lonely and came in again to get Whit, Whit left to go sleep with her...I knew none of it! Pure bliss! There I lay, motionless, in the throes of the best sleep I’ve had in years. I probably got kicked and pushed and had the covers pulled off me, but guess what? Either I didn’t know or I didn’t care. I was in heaven.

So thank you, nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine. I may still be coughing today, but last night, I didn’t make a peep. My coughing apparatus was medicated into silence.

You were the best (and only) one-night-stand I’ve had in a while. I’m sorry I made fun of you and called you low-rent and thought you would actually put me in a coma. On the contrary, even if you did put me in a coma, it was a great coma. And, truth be told, you didn’t do a damn thing to actually get rid of my cough permanently, but you gave me a good night’s sleep, and coming from a tired mother, that is worth more than gold.

I’m sorry, but I no longer plan to be such a germophobe. A little cough every now and then is not a terrible thing if you’re there to help me.

But I won’t tell anyone. I don’t want there to be a run on the stuff in case my cough sticks around a while. Everyone else can stick with the plop plop fizz fizz product over the holidays, and I’ll keep mommy’s little green helper in the medicine cabinet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nine. It’s the new sixteen.

My morning started innocently enough. They always do, right?

Until I called Caroline in to my dressing room so I could help with her hair.

Like I do every morning.

And then I learned a few things that illustrate the disconnect between moms and daughters who, I swear to God, must start hitting the moody part of puberty around five. Despite years of organic milk.

For example...

If you offer to put your daughter’s hair in a ponytail, then you are insinuating her hair is messy.

If you offer to cut the bagel she’s trying to saw through like a prisoner attacking handcuffs with a nail file, then you are treating her like a baby.

If you help her clean her room and you throw away frayed and broken headbands, then you aren’t respecting her things.

If you put the wrong flavored Go-Gurt in her lunchbox, then you don’t care about her.

If you ask her if she wants a playdate with a boy who is a good friend of hers, then you’re telling her who her friends should be.

If you ask her if she’d like you to feed her guinea pig, then you don’t trust her.

If you ask her about an upcoming test, then you think she doesn’t study.

If you try to hold her hand walking to school, then you’re just pretending that you love her.

But...if you try to hold the hand of her little brother, then you love him more.

If you’re still annoyed with her six hours later, THEN YOU’RE HUMAN, despite being a mom.

If she comes home from school and she’s still in the same mood, then you will want a big glass of wine as soon as she goes to bed.

And, if you remember what you were like at nine, then you’ll sneak into her room before she falls asleep, cuddle with her, and tell her how much you love her.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

St. Francis might smite me

Author’s note: If you’re not a dog lover, don’t read this. Because then you’ll feel all vindicated in that you don’t like dogs and you shouldn’t, because it’s weird to not like dogs. And Bo isn’t representative of most dogs, so you’d feel vindicated and you’d be wrong.

And if you already feel like you might throw up, I'd stop reading now.

Do you guys remember Bo’s “interview” a few weeks ago? Well, that woman has a special place in Heaven with the poor, knocked-over St. Francis, because she’s letting Bo come and stay with her for a few days.

She asked me to write a letter describing him. I thought she saw everything she’d need to know, but maybe she’s on a lot, because she wants likes, dislikes, physical characteristics, diet, quirky habits, what he likes to do for fun, and his sleeping preferences. So I composed a list of salient details to prepare her for his arrival.

1. He eats anything he can find. And then he poops out remnants. A bagful of Hershey’s Kisses will lead to one tightly compacted foil ball in his poop. He could eat a small animal and it would probably come out intact on the other end, so please don’t worry if he’s eating mulch, dirt, rocks, or metal toy cars. And then please don’t be alarmed if you see a pale pink arm sticking out of the poop; chances are it was a Barbie and not a midget that happened into your yard. (But keep the gate locked, in case.)

2. You asked me to describe any abnormal bumps on Bo’s body. Well, the thing is, he’s covered with lumpy things that I fear are malignant tumors. They’re everywhere. His body is like a relief map. Don’t be alarmed because if they were really malignant he’d probably be dead and I wouldn’t be writing this letter warning helping you.

3. He’s also got some bumps on top of his skin that are like warts. They’re everywhere, and if I get them taken off, they grow back, so I stopped. There’s one on top of his head that I think is leaking brains but the vet says not to worry.

4. He is aggressive in bed. By this, I mean he will wake up in the middle of the night and stand over you, barking loudly, until you lift the covers to let him under them. Then, he will want you to spoon him. And he might fart. But he won’t move.

5. Until he gets hot, at which point he’ll get up and shake until the covers have flown all over the bed and the floor – everywhere but on you. And your butt will get cold.

6. If given the chance, he will run away from you, as fast and as far as he can. And he will be laughing.

7. His diet? Well, he (pointlessly) eats two cups a day of that expensive organic dog food. Then he generally snatches a sandwich off the counter while I’m packing the kids’ lunches and eats their leftover breakfast from the plates on the table. At dinner, he only eats if one of the kids excuses themselves to go the bathroom and leaves the table. (I wouldn’t leave the table if I were you.) Other than that, it’s just whatever he can grab when I leave the dry food closet open by mistake.

8. You need to put your trash cans up high. Like on the counter. Or suspended from the ceiling. Because he finds them, knocks them over, and eats everything in them. Including Styrofoam, dirty diapers, if you have them, and chicken bones.

9. He’s strong in a superhuman, superdog, superhero kind of way. So don’t try to put him on a leash. You can’t handle it. Trust me. You’ll go into labor, even if you’re not pregnant. He’s that strong.

10. When he runs toward you, spread your legs. Because he’s headed straight for your knees, where he’ll screech to a stop so you can scratch his butt. Really, take note: you will have eighty pounds of Lab hurtling toward your knees, so be prepared.

Then I read what I had written and realized there’s no way in hell I can tell her the truth. So this is what I sent:

Very friendly and affectionate Lab! Great with kids! Loves exercise! Super healthy and strong!

And I’m sort of afraid she’s going to sue me. For false advertising. But he loved it there, and it's kind of a vacation for him, and I won't feel the oppressive guilt I feel when I put him in a kennel with crates.

I guess it’s like sending a serial bedwetter on a highly desirable sleepover. You just lie, smile, and pray it’s all okay in the morning.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy, day?

My friend is hosting Thanksgiving dinner. As is usually the case, she’s already thinking of the hoops through which she will be hurtling her body to please a husband, two picky kids who hate everything she cooks, a mother-in-law who follows her around so closely that when my friend turns around suddenly their noses hit, a step-father-in-law who has such a weird obsession with little stuffed bears that he brings them to her house and lines them up so they can watch him, a sister-in-law who is...ahh..."precise" in what she wants and the sister-in-law’s boyfriend who, my friend thought, was the easygoing, non-picky, non-precise member of the bunch.

Thanksgiving dinner requires a lot of planning under the best of circumstances, but in this case, there are a lot of dietary preferences and time of eating preferences and vegetable preferences and what to watch on TV preferences and what type of toilet paper she should buy preferences (not really, but there are a lot of opinions being bandied about).

So we were talking and she was telling me about all these people and all these preferences and I had to ask her about forty times to explain about the bears because it’s happened for so long that my friend has now accepted it as normal and I can’t explain that it’s far from normal that there are ten stuffed bears lined up on the dresser in her guest room.

Then, this:

Friend: My sister-in-law called me. The boyfriend has a request. Sort of a line-in-the-sand request.

Me: Yeah, him too? So what is it?

Friend: He needs to eat a happy turkey.

Me: A what? A happy turkey? Can’t you just get an expensive turkey?

Friend: No. Apparently there’s a movement toward happy food. And now I need to find a happy turkey.

Me: Like you interview them?

Friend: I guess. No turkey with postpartum depression or an anxiety disorder. Not one on Prozac, has to be happy.

Me: What turkey would be happy knowing his whole family will get beheaded in November?

Friend: A stupid turkey, I guess.

Me: Hey, that’s it. Be passive aggressive like me. Get a turkey that is happy but get a really stupid one. Or maybe one with multiple personalities. Just really screw with the guy.

Friend: Maybe I’ll find really mean potatoes. Or psycho brussel sprouts. Or depressed cranberry sauce.

Me: Use skim milk and margarine in the mashed potatoes. Then they’ll get all insecure and think you’re calling them fat. Then they’ll get a complex. And be COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES!!! Get it?


Me: Or you could just drink. Then you’d be happy, regardless of how the turkey felt.

Friend: There’s that.

Wow. And I thought my husband’s family was weird. This happy turkey crap has them beat.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

From magical to Halloween journey

Magical Halloween memories of my childhood:

1. How it thrilled me, year over year, to choose between dressing up as either a nurse, a doctor, a firefighter or a mouse. (I have no idea why, but I think I always chose the mouse, without fail. Now that I wouldn’t be caught dead parading around in a gray leotard and tights, I’m happier than hell I showed off that cute figure before it went down the toilet.)

2. The stuffed pillowcases of candy. How my arms hurt from carrying the loot around all night. How I’d dump out all the candy on the floor, let my mom make a cursory inspection to rule out the razor blades that some evil, crabby old man was sure to slip into our Tootsie Rolls, and then go to work on it with a laser-sharp focus.

3. And by work, I mean what should have been the earliest indication of my as-yet undiagnosed OCD. Sort by color. Sort by type. Sort by type of chocolate, which was a subset of type. Sort by size. Sort by filling. Sort in order of how much I liked it. Then trade. Trade with all the siblings...John and Jennifer, since they could carry tons of candy, too, and then with the twins, Michael and Mathew, who were younger and easier to boss around.

4. Remembering the awe with which I would gaze at the candy, not really believing it was all mine, all for me, and I could hide it from my siblings, but they wouldn’t even come looking for it because they had their OWN. And then I remember that really sick feeling when I realized my mother was right, and too much candy would make me throw up.

5. The feeling of excitement so intense I would almost burst, because I knew it went HalloweenThanksgivingChristmas and that all the magic was about to start and that it was almost too much for one kid to take.

So that was then.

This is now.

Miserable Halloween memories of 2011:

1. That I had to buy the bags of Kit Kats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups three times because I (wisely) hid all the Halloween candy from the kids and then (unwisely) remembered where I put it. Every day. For a month.

2. That I have a little pair of jeans and an (ahem) larger pair of jeans and now the little pair only fits on the days I decide that breathing isn’t important.

3. The fact that, as I’ve made abundantly clear on Twitter, Caroline decided to dress as a DJ with her friends. The whole outfit, since she had to match everyone, cost $150 and made her look like a crack dealer. A high-end crack dealer, if such a thing exists.

4. The fact that Jack wielded the sword to his ninja costume so enthusiastically, for so long, that Caroline got sick of it and whacked him with it and he got a major defensive wound on his hand and she started to cry, which was totally backwards, since he’s the one who had blood streaming down his arm.

5. That a little girl came over and told me her mother thought our Halloween decorations were tacky and we retaliated by allowing Caroline to park a puking pumpkin in our front yard.

6. The moment I realized we had launched HalloweenThanksgivingChristmas and I freaked out because I know my stress level is about to skyrocket because the lists and the decorations and the traveling and the gifts and the parties and just shoot me now so I don’t have to get started.

My mom hated Halloween and I thought she was nuts. Now, as with many things, I’m starting to see that maybe mama was right on.