So, You’re Considering the Corn Maze

You love fall, right? The crisp air. The produce. Boots. Jeans. All of it.

I do too.

And that’s precisely how people like us end up in corn mazes.

It starts with the innocent trip to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch. Because parental amnesia is a real thing and you fail to remember every year how annoying those outings are in actuality.

Anyway, there you are with baskets of more gourds or apples than you can possibly Pinterest into edible items in four lifetimes. You are thinking about the $100 you will have to pay upon check out and you are cursing about the fact that this place does not have an on-site winery. It is then that your children remind you, just as you think you’re about to pluck the last piece of hay from your sweater, that we haven’t done the corn maze yet.

Oh. Riiiiight. The corn maze.

How bad could it be? After all, I was trapped in one with my in-laws three years ago and lived to tell. So hey, why not? Let’s take a few minutes to go in.

Although, as we approached, this one seemed a little more legit than our previous corn mazes. Super tall stalks of corn. No obvious exit. And a 14 year-old employee working the entrance who snorted, “Good luck” to us.

Well, no matter. I immediately thought of how fortunate we are that my husband has a great sense of direction. This, unfortunately, was immediately followed by my deep regret of leaving him home with the baby on this particular day. He was tasked with painting the baby’s room. Not that the kid, at 15 months old, would get an identity crisis from the purple walls, floral decals and frilly chandelier. But sleeping under his sister’s initials was potentially going to send him into therapy in 20ish years. The room overhaul was a tad overdue.

So, as my husband either painted or ate all of the Entenmann’s in the house while watching football, it was my mom, my two older kids and me to fend for ourselves at the corn maze. Basically, three generations of the directionally challenged. The snarky 14 year-old employee handed us what was probably meant to be a map but looked more like a Spirograph on steroids.

Hm.

I’m pretty sure that entire crops matured and seasons changed during our time in this corn maze. Let me just end the suspense for you and disclose that it took 26 minutes on the clock, but a lifetime in my head. Here are some highlights of our journey.

Minute 1: I love a good fall photo opp. Which filter should I use on Instagram?

Life was simpler then.

Minute 3: Oh, maybe that map thing was for real and served some functionality. Because, holy shit, this is no joke. I hope nobody has to pee.

Minute 6: Isn’t this supposed to be a family-friendly farm experience? Or are we earning a scouting badge of some kind? Is this the farming equivalent of “Get off my lawn,” or perhaps a secret “Survivor” audition?

Minute 10: Time and space seem to be playing tricks with my mind. I feel like we’ve been in here for dayyyyys. I’m questioning my ability to guide everyone through this, in the event we have to spend the night in the corn. I mean, clearly, food won’t be a problem but what about the horror movie factor? Because I don’t think I need to name a certain obvious movie that comes to mind and the fact that I’m waiting to see Malachai at every corner of this maze.

Minute 12: Why do I never wear sensible shoes? Why? And where is everyone else?

Minute 13: Wait! This is why God invented the iPhone! All hail technology!

It appears I should have purchased the iPhone 6 for this outing because my 5 won’t display the layout of a fucking corn maze on Google Maps. At this point, my mother suggests the use of the compass. This helps establish when we are heading west, which is the direction from which we are guessing the music and other sounds of post-corn maze life are emanating. I’m no math genius, but I think there is a 25% chance we are right.

Minute 14: Omg, is that Malachai? Damn you, Stephen King.

Minute 17: Why didn’t I purchase the apple donuts before entering the corn maze? Speaking of donut consumption, I wonder if my husband has started painting yet. I think we all know the answer.

Minute 18: Like any family in crisis, we all begin to turn on each other. First, the sibling bickering escalates (“No, you made the last wrong turn. No, YOU did”). I threaten to withhold all apple donuts, foreverrrrrr, if they don’t stop. Then, I decide to blame my mother for passing on the lack of direction gene. Not in a broader life’s meaning sense, just with maps and such.

Minute 21: An integral turning point. A lovely young couple with a sleeping baby happens upon us. They inform us that, despite our best Apple-led efforts to head west, that’s not going to work. They are holding the Spirograph on steroids map and, more importantly, they seem to be deriving information from it. Bonus. We swallow all remaining pride (aka none) and shamelessly follow them. Until I realize that they could be serial killers and we’ve totally walked right into their evil trap. It’s possible that I’ve been watching too much late-night TV.

Minute 21:30: I follow them anyway, because: desperation.

Minute 23: The maybe-serial-killers with a baby have not revealed their evil plot. Yet. I distract myself from this possibility by imagining, if I survive, all of the Pinterest recipes I will comb through with my plentiful new apple bounty. I decide that I’ll bring a delicious apple crisp to this couple if they spare our lives and get us out of the maze before sunset.

Minute 25: I don’t want to appear melodramatic but we are losing steam. Our morale is down and our can-do attitude is gone. We just want to go back to life as we knew it, BCM (Before Corn Maze).

Minute 26: What is that sound? A bell? Ringing? Why, yes, it is. But what does it mean? The serial killers with the baby lead us to it. Oh, shit, shit, shit. It’s Malachai, isn’t it? This is it. Is he ringing it to signal the end is nigh? No. It’s not him! It’s the We-Found-The-Exit Bell! We are free! I am tempted to kiss the ground but decide to beeline for the homemade donut stand instead. I resist the urge to kick dirt up at the 14 year-old employee as we pass him.

The day is done. We have prevailed. While I hold my debit card with two apple donuts in my mouth and wait quietly to pay my $100 charge for six freshly-picked apples, I look around. I notice how beautiful the farm is. I do love the fall, after all.

I gaze over in the direction of the maze and notice the sun is beginning to set over the land. It is idyllic.

I just hope nobody is still in there.

 

 

 

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So This is What It’s Like to Be Early

How’s your summer going?

I hope it’s fun-filled, sun-kissed and wine-laden.

Here in New Jersey, we still have six weeks left, which is great-ish. Most days. This notation on time is particularly important when I tell you about what happened in Target last week.

It was a first.

No, I did not leave with a bill under $200. But, perhaps more improbably, I was there for this.

Is it a unicorn sighting? Almost.

Stand back and behold, folks: A fully stocked Target back to school section. That’s right — I encountered a wide variety of notebooks, folders, writing instruments and the like. No more of this bare shelves over Labor Day weekend bullshit. Finally, a year when I didn’t have to send my son off to school with a single used pencil and a reassuring pat of “Godspeed.”

Oh yes, I was six weeks EARLY and I had choices aplenty of all things Disney Princesses, Hello Kitty and Star Wars. No more aggressive elbowing to get that last pencil sharpener. Hell, I even bought a variety pack of protractors, even though my oldest is only entering second grade and not yet showing signs of re-enacting Good Will Hunting. But I purchased them anyway. Because. I. Was. There. First.

Victory was miiiiiine.

{OK, so maybe I was in Target to return a few items and browse for kids’ sandals. And maybe I took a wrong turn and maybe I accidentally stumbled upon the school supplies section. But whatever. Because I am fucking swimming in Crayola merchandise and 24-packs of pencils. Pre-sharpened like a boss.}

Anyway, this episode makes me think that maybe I am more on the ball than I give myself credit for. Maybe my level of parental preparedness is not in the abysmal category. Nah. Because then I arrived home to a few emails about fall registration for kids’ activities and my brain almost exploded.

Baby steps.

But now that I am in possession of a coveted Skylanders spiral notebook surplus that I may or may not re-sell at a premium on eBay on or around August 30, it freed up more of my time to think about how else I can rock this summer parenting gig. And since I have more pencil cases and dry erase markers than you do, allow me to share some of the working titles I have in mind for my how-to book series.

  • Pool Essentials for Young Kids: The Only 2,361 Items You’ll Ever Need
  • Your Complete Panera Dinner Guide
  • White Wine By the Case: Because Buying in Bulk is Responsible
  • The 7,000 Calorie Burn: Wrestling A 1 Year-Old Out of a Wet Bathing Suit in the Direct Sun (with companion DVD)
  • The Water Park is Closed and Other Lies I Told
  • I Carried a Watermelon

But why stop there? Clearly I have some time on my hands now that I’m not stressed about binders and colored pencils (64 pack here, ahem). Perhaps Children’s Literature is more my calling.

  • Changing it Up: How to Ask for a Different Snack Every Six Minutes
  • I’m Boooooooooooored, and Other Ways to Get a Lift to the Fro Yo Place
  • The Art of Debate (One Child’s Journey from “No”)
  • 872 Fun Places to Hide Your Overdue Library Books
  • Let’s Get Up With the Sun! 
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Dodging Sunscreen Applications (also available as a picture book)
Sure, it will take me a while to finish these up, but I feel good knowing I can be of some help to parents and kids alike in getting through the summer. I mean, we’re all in this together, right? In that spirit, feel free to contact me for an early bird special on my school supplies stockpile.
In the meantime, don’t feel bad that you didn’t get to the Target back-to-school section first. You can easily redeem yourself when they set up the Halloween display in early August.

 

 

 

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Evening News: Winter Break Edition

Thank you for joining this special edition of the evening news. Tonight we take a look back at Winter Break 2013/14 through the eyes of one family.

  • I loved the break! It lasted so, so, soooo long! My favorite part was the extra screen time my mom gave us, especially when everyone was throwing up.” — Child, age 4
  • “Can I go back to work now? Maybe taking seven vacation days was really going overboard. And what is that crusty substance on the floor of the minivan?” — Husband/Father
  • “WE GOT A WII! AND I HAVE PLAYED MORE IN THE LAST WEEK THAN MY RETINAS CAN PHYSICALLY HANDLE. JUST TRY PUTTING ME BACK ON A SCHEDULE WHEN SCHOOL STARTS UP. I’M GOING TO GET ANOTHER COOKIE NOW.” — Child, age 6
  • “***(^&&^%&^%$$^%&” — Infant, age 6 months {Translation: “They tried to sleep train me but I prevailed. I own these people, especially overnight. And what’s with all the vomiting?”}
  • “What? Who? Where? Did someone puke again? Is the break over yet?” — Wife/Mother

But first, we start our coverage with some breaking news.

After an extensive search & rescue effort, there are now reports that a patch of carpet has finally been spotted under the pile of wreckage known as Hurricane Christmas.

Yes, folks. A mere ten-ish days after Santa left the building, unnamed sources close to the family claim there is hope to restore this area to its pre-December status as a functioning living room.

These accounts remain unconfirmed at this hour. We do know for sure that wrapping paper remnants, boxes and toys have overtaken what has been called “a shockingly unacceptable perimeter.” More on this as recycling bags and European vacuums are delivered to the sight.

 

In other news:

  • Moving on to the weather: Last Friday’s snow storm {sponsored by karma} produced about 8-10 inches outside. But the real story here is the shit storm that was happening in the house. Laundry accumulations outperformed even the most outrageous estimates, especially after the stomach bug took out all five family members over the holiday break. At last calculation, it appeared that the residence has accrued approximately 749 metric tons of dirty clothes, but experts warn that these figures are considered preliminary and could continue to climb.
  • In today’s health news: Christmas cookies for breakfast — just how much is too much? If you answered, “even one serving after January 1,” you might be surprised. Household members taken down by the Gastroenteritis Christmas Plague beg to differ. Says one unnamed mom, “But I had no source of calories or blood sugar regulation for 48 hours. Surely this is the fastest path to resetting my system to its normal levels. And is it wrong to alternate between yoga pants and pajamas for two and a half weeks? It is? Shut up — when does school start?”
  • Taking a look at consumer spending trends in the area, it sure has been a windfall for local liquor sales. In fact, one nearby wine store in particular reported unprecedented sales coinciding with the announcement of public schools being closed on Friday after students had reported back just one day earlier.
  • Let’s talk sports! This household is producing some major contenders who have been training 24/7 since school was released on December 20. While previously unranked beyond the domestic level, look for members of this family on the Sochi medal podium in events such as Whining & Bickering Doubles, Synchronized Distance Vomiting, Parental Speed Drinking and Decathalon Sleep Deprivation. Put your support behind Team USA!

We’re just about out of time for tonight’s special report. We hope you enjoyed this look at Winter Break.

Please join us next week for “Dear God, Is it Still January?”

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The Secret Post-Baby Workout

You know what I love? Seeing those highly realistic Body After Baby articles in women’s magazines. And they’re even better when they have photos, aren’t they? Because a side of self-loathing goes a long way with the six total minutes I can spend daily, on average, reading on an uninterrupted basis.

Since the baby was born in June, I haven’t had as much time to work out as in the past. Something about the sum of a newborn,  lack of sleep, two older kids and everyone needing three meals a day just wins out over exercise.

Or so I thought.

It turns out that the guilt I have been feeling about this is misplaced. Because, you guys, I have been unknowingly getting a highly effective full-body workout, courtesy of my four month-old. Right in the comfort of my home.

It’s true! Have a look at the various aspects of my regimen:

Agility: Wrestling a tiny, resistant baby into a jacket is no fucking joke. If you think I don’t break a sweat and get my heart rate up by battling his freakishly strong limbs, you’re mistaken. Calories burned: 612.

Strength Training: I have some questions about the infant car seat. Let’s start with: Why the hell can’t I lift this thing? What are they using in the manufacturing process? Is it lead? It is, right? Look, I am no stranger to these seats. My two older kids used them — I have photos as evidence. But, when, for the love of all things holy, did the infant car seat start weighing about 78 lbs? I know I’m older now, but seriously? I feel like I’m hauling around my six year-old — and possibly a spare first grader — in that seat all day. And, as a result, is that a bicep pop I see? Why, yes. Yes, I believe it is. And that’s also my back going out and the sound of a chiropractor on speed dial from the minivan.

Cardio: Forget the Stair Master. Forget the Insanity DVDs. Because you know what starts to make one feel sweaty and insane? Dragging around a mountain of laundry that mutates into its own zip code and can be seen from Google Earth. Add in two flights of steps for each load and this is a serious calorie burner. Plus, my wine fridge is located on this well-treaded path, so I may — at times — be seen increasing my workout intensity by adding a bottle of dry white to the pile. It’s all about challenging yourself.

Speed Drills: Now, here is where the “put pacifier back in baby’s mouth before he wakes up the whole house at 4am” technique is really working for me. I can assure you that you have never seen someone go from horizontal REM mode to a full-on sprint so quickly. Although, without my contact lenses and in the dark, this portion of my workout has proven to produce the highest number of sports-related injuries. Damn walls.

Flexibility: I will spare you a visual, but the lengths to which I can stretch to avoid being hit by projectile spit-up or a rogue diaper-changing urine spray is astounding. Even circus-like. Because, damnit, if I have on a clean shirt, I am not going down without a fight. I am in the safe zone before you can say Lululemon.

Core: I know that baby carriers exist for the comfort and security of the child. And yes, the hands-free component for the parent is great. But do you have any idea what type of core strength is required to accomplish various tasks with an infant dangling from your person? Oh yes, I am undoubtedly working my core to its limit while bagging a week’s worth of groceries and loading them into the car with my squirming son strapped across my torso. P90X? Please. Until they add a component where you must bathe a four year-old with a crying infant hanging off of your mid-section during the proverbial witching hour, I call bullshit. Planking is for the weak.

 

Not to be left out of my in-home fitness pursuits, I should also mention that my older two kids have added tremendous value to these workouts. This happens mainly in the critical areas of repetition and mental endurance, which go hand in hand. Because until you have listened to a blow-by-blow recap of a Jake & The Neverland Pirates episode five consecutive times, you just haven’t trained the part of your brain that can tune out the noise and focus. {On wine.} In this capacity, my six and four year-old are the Bela and Marta Karolyi of athletic training. They will bring you to your knees.

 

So, forget the magazines. Forget the Maria Kang post-baby-body controversy. For all you new moms {or new-ish moms, or not really new moms at all} out there, I hope this helps to clarify just how fit we actually can get at  home all day.

Sure, the tight, vise-like grip that my ice cream addiction has on me could be hindering me from my goals. But just a few more nights of Pacifier Retrieval Sprints should put me right back on track.

 

 

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Parenting, The Disney Vault Way

I spent Friday afternoon watching The Little Mermaid with my kids. I had waited a long time to share this — one of my favorite Disney movies — with them, because, until now, it has not been available to purchase on DVD in their lifetimes. Sure, we could have watched the VHS version my mom had saved from 1989, but my VCR/time machine was broken.

But now that Ariel & company were released from The Disney Vault, their emancipation made us all disproportionately happy to see them. {By “us,” I mean me, for the childhood nostalgia aspect, and my husband, for Ariel’s seashell bra and 22-inch waist aspect.}

Not familiar with The Disney Vault? This is the term that the Mouse Empire uses for its policy of putting home video releases of its films on moratorium. Each Disney film is available for purchase for a limited time, after which it is put “in the vault” and not made available in stores for several years until it is once again released. Disney claims this process is done to both control their market and to allow Disney films to be fresh for new generations of young children.

Translation: They are masters at controlling their brand and jacking up demand/pricing.

And this got me thinking about the genius of Disney marketing.

And then it got me thinking about my own marketing skills on the domestic front. Perhaps I could learn something from Disney.

Instead of just not preparing a favorite family meal, or wishing an annoying toy away, what if I added some Disney spin?

 

What if I started putting things in The Vault?

 

It would go like this:

Mom, where are the Oreos? You ran out of Oreos! Mom, Mom, Mommy, Mom, Mommmmmmmmmmmmm. MOOMMMMMMM!

You know, darn it, they’re in The Vault. They’ll be released sometime next year! I’ll let you know just before that date by sprinkling your room with pixie dust, at which point you can forfeit a year’s worth of allowance to enjoy them again for a limited time.

 

Or, like this:

Honey, you haven’t made homemade meat sauce in ages. Can we have some soon?

The one that takes seven hours to make? Oh, gee, did I forget to tell you that it’s in The Vault? I’ll send you an email when I have a release date available, but we could probably expedite the process if I negotiated with The Vault from, say, a remote spa weekend locale. In the meantime, how about some pasta with butter? For a small premium, you have the option of Mickey-shaped noodles.

 

Or, maybe even like this:

Kids, remember, this is your last week to play with the Play Doh.

Ohhhhh noooo, it’s going in The Vault? Where the Rainbow Loom lives?

That’s right! But look what we have in the meantime — this 1946 Bambi playset that just got released from The Vault!

 

Oh yes. I am rubbing my hands together like a bitchy Disney villain just thinking about all the things I could put in The Vault.

  • Glitter in all forms, including toys with glitter and craft supplies of glitter.
  • Any candy that is not my favorite.
  • LEGOS. All of them.
  • The Elf on the Shelf. Obviously.
  • My vaccuum.

 

And you know what? If I were a true student of Disney, I’d make sure to do this right. I’d send a series of increasingly annoying notes to my family over the course of six months ahead of an item’s release from The Vault. You know, to build buzz. And then, just as they start to show some mild interest by setting aside their cash, I’d give the item a sparkly new modifier in its name and increase its price. Sort of like how my kids, ever the victims of marketing, are referring to our new Little Mermaid DVD by saying, “Hey, let’s go watch Diamond Edition again!”

Hm. I could offer them:

  • Platinum Oreos
  • Never-Fucking-Happening-Again Meat Sauce
  • Sayonara, Limited Edition Play Doh

 

And, finally, I’d fill everyone with trepidation and gratitude over the short period of time we’re given to enjoy these released items.

“How’s that sauce, honey? You know, only three weeks until it goes back into The Vault — FOREVER…Bwahahaha!”

 

Obviously, my potential access to The Vault is making me giddy. Drunk with power, even {or maybe just drunk}. But I mustn’t get sidetracked — there’s a lot of prep work to do if I’m going to make this happen. Starting with the collection of 3,879,558 Legos.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lessons Learned From A Breaking Bad Marathon

I’m always behind when it comes to watching top-rated TV shows.

24? Never saw an episode.

The Sopranos? It took me a few years to get up to speed {shhh — this could get my New Jersey residency revoked}.

Homeland? Don’t get me started.

The one exception was Lost. I am fluent in all things about The Island {If you want to debate the finale, drop me a line — I could talk about it for days}.

So, with all of the buzz building about the final season of Breaking Bad getting underway, I decided to take my husband’s advice and watch the show from the beginning.

It turns out, I’ve learned a few important things from Mr. White and Jesse. Life lessons, if you will.

 

1)  Nothing will ever, ever break my cycle of chronic procrastination.

Many moons ago, I had a distinguished career in academic procrastination. 20 page paper due tomorrow? I’ll start it after dinner {where “dinner” = “beer,” back in my dorm in the early 1990s}. This was followed by an epic stretch of professional procrastination. 30-minute presentation today at 1pm? No problem, I’ll start it right after lunch {where “lunch” = “a trip to my co-worker’s M&M stash”}. One would think that one might grow out of this last-minute nonsense. Nope. I just never got past my distorted sense of space and time. Why, OF COURSE I can watch 54 episodes of Breaking Bad in a one-week period. While caring for three kids under age seven, one of which is a newborn. While school is not in session.

What?

 

2)  I’m more of a sprinter than a marathoner.

As long as we all know I’m talking about TV and not about actual running. Because if we were talking about real running, I would be neither of these things. I would be a casual walker who is easily distracted by the six frozen yogurt establishments on my route. But in terms of more rigorous activities like TV watching, I start out fast. I mean business. I am in it to win it. And then, yeah, I don’t know about the long-distance commitment. I just want to get to the finish line.

Kind of a crappy analogy, but I don’t run much. In case that wasn’t glaringly obvious.

 

3) Our basement renovation clusterfuck was, in fact, a good investment.

Wow. After the 5-weeks-turned-into-54-weeks project was finally complete, I have to admit that I don’t spend much time in the new basement. Before you shudder in disbelief, please understand that I still manage to put the new room to excellent use on a regular basis. For example:

  • “Kids, go play in the basement.”
  • “These toys in the family room all belong in the basement.”
  • “Is our clean laundry supposed to have a foamy, soapy layer? Or could that be related to the fact that I didn’t use high efficiency detergent?”
  • “Which wine fridge should I look in first?”

Even though I have not made a habit of lounging in the new Subterranean Money Pit up until now, this is where my husband put the mega flat screen man cave TV with Netflix. So now it’s Breaking Bad Marathon Central. My, it’s comfortable in the basement. In fact, I’ve realized, with disturbing clarity, just how much the new couches, new TV and overall comfort of this room are wasted on my kids. And so it’s settled: I’m moving into the basement.

 

4) The desert is no joke.

I’m really terrified of it. I’ve never been all that outdoorsy to begin with, but now I’m pretty much scarred by multiple scenes depicting brushes with death due to heat, dehydration, poisonous creatures, gun fire and any combination of these elements with that damn RV. Which leads me to #5.

 

5) I now assume everyone in an RV is cooking meth.

{Not really.}

 

* * *

I think it’s pretty clear that the time I’ve invested in my Breaking Bad marathon viewing to date has been well-spent. I mean, do you think I would have had these critical moments of self-realization and introspection if I had just been cleaning my house, combing through Pinterest and raising my kids? Yeah, me neither. Plus, I’m feeling much less self-conscious about the D I got in high school chemistry.

Unfortunately, despite my best procrastination efforts, I did not meet my goal of getting fully up to speed before the new season premiered. Maybe my expectations were a tad unrealistic.

But I’m not deterred. I’m staying in it. I’m on Episode 3 of Season 2. So, at this rate, I will have it finished before the baby goes to high school.

And then it will be time to re-do the basement again.

 

 

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Welcome to the Circus

“Paper or plastic?”

I was in the grocery store yesterday, as I am on most Mondays. I was staring at the ridiculous magazine headlines near the check-out {just before purchasing two of these fine publications}. I was tired. I mentally calculated when I would have time for a shower later in the afternoon between school pick-ups, karate and dinner prep.

And I wondered if, just a day before, it had really happened. Had I been up on a stage? With my name in a program?

“Ma’am, do you have your Price Plus card?”

Had I been all dressed up? Blinded by the lights of the stage? Had I really heard the words of my own writing come out of my mouth, through that microphone and into the audience of hundreds before me?

“Any coupons today?”

What a difference a day makes.

I don’t expect that I’ll ever forget what a great experience it was to be part of the Listen to Your Mother show in New York. It was really a thrill to share a stage with such a wonderful group of people — some professional writers and performers, and some not {ahem} — who brought such a huge array of motherhood stories to life. Every one of them impressed me more than I can say.

Let me tell you a few truths about the whole thing.

  • I was terrified. Really terrified. Like, I-might-pass-out kind of terrified.
  • I was stressed out. In true Murphy’s Law fashion, my son was projectile vomiting the whole night before, which kind of limits one’s babysitting options. And I was convinced that I would be the next one taken down by this virus, just in time to take the stage. {Thankfully, this didn’t happen.}
  • And, for the record, how many maternity dresses do you think one would have to try on at 35 weeks pregnant to find something that looks decent-ish enough to wear on a stage? Does 25 sound about right to you? OK, good.

But, all that aside, everything — somehow — came together. I was lucky to have family and friends give up their own Mother’s Day plans to come and support me. And you know you have amazing friends when they offer to babysit your sick kids so that your husband can come and see the show.

I felt guilty about spending Mother’s Day largely away from my kids. Yet, it was still somehow so fitting to be exactly where I was. I was doing something completely for me, yet it was something absolutely drawn from the essence of my daily motherhood grind. So even though my kids weren’t in the theater, they were up there with me on that stage — in my mind and on those pages from which I read. They were the reason I could do this.

I’m told there will be a YouTube link available at some point and, depending on how much of a Mack truck I look like, I may or may not share it with you when I get it. So, here is the written version of the piece I read. For the full effect, picture me overheating with fear and wondering if I’m actually about to faint.

But I’d do it again. In a heartbeat.

Yep, it happened.

“No, no coupons today. Paper bags, please. And add these two magazines to the total.”

 

_____________

Welcome to the Circus 

 

Dear Child #3 {and, yes, we’ll get you a proper name},

I thought it might be helpful if we had a little chat before your June arrival.  I want to make sure you understand the lay of the land around here.  Because it’s probably pretty traumatic to be thrust into the world unexpectedly.  A world of chaos and strange customs.  A world inexplicably ruled a little more by Taylor Swift every day.

It’s hard enough for me to understand this place, and I’ve been here a while — so it must be completely unsettling for you.  Like suddenly joining the circus. Without even signing up for an audition.

So let’s think of this as your Circus Orientation Guide so that everything seems just a little less freakshow when you get here.

Let me introduce the main players to you.

There’s me – I’m the ringmaster.  The one who keeps the show running.  The one who attempts to contain all scheduling delays to under an hour. The multi-tasker who is just one flaming juggling pin shy of a domestic inferno. You may know me better as the person you often hear screaming “Get in the car, get in the car, get IN THE CAR, I’M LEAVING — GET. IN. THE CAR!”  That, incidentally, is nothing to worry about.  Just standard operating procedure around here.

And your dad.  When not pushing the limits of a gripping Home Depot addiction, he is the guy up on the high wire of our act — without a net — maintaining a sense of calm that keeps a certain ringmaster from throwing herself into the tiger’s cage. He astounds me every day with his solid footing and roll-with-the-punches mentality. And yet, this man never fails to delight the masses with his quirks and his laughter. He is the showstopper. Armed with extraneous power tools.

Let’s move on to the Clown Car.  Or, better said: Great news — you also have two siblings waiting to meet you!

Your big brother just turned six.  Currently Clown-in-Chief, he takes his leadership role seriously. He is a student of detail and a sensitive little soul. But he also has other aspirations.  For example, he is currently on track to break the world record for Number of Consecutive Questions Asked in a Six Year Period.  In addition, he can teach you all about the fine art of debate. I think his method, once published and with proper agency representation, will gain a loyal following.  The working title is Wearing Down Your Mother Through Endless Rebuttals: One Boy’s Journey From No. Anyway, he is really excited to have you around — as long as you’re a boy.

You also have a big sister, the clown apprentice.  She will be four this summer.  But she thinks she’s 12, so don’t say anything.  This is the girl who will grow up to tell all the jokes and charm the crowds. And because she has zero regard for her personal safety and would be well-served by wearing a helmet at all times, we are considering her for the human-shot-out-of-the cannon act.  Or, based on her table manners, she may soon headline the plate-spinning portion of the show. She is also really excited to have you around — as long as you’re a girl.

Back to me, though.  Because I’m the one you’ll be hanging out with the most in the beginning.

Just to be clear, I’m far from perfect.

For instance, I curse too much.  I know this because a sailor once told me during Fleet Week that I have a bad mouth. Also, I had very high hair in the 80s.  I miss living in Manhattan sometimes but I carry its residual pent-up road rage around the suburbs with me.  I am deathly afraid of craft stores and am 100% lacking the DIY gene, so you shouldn’t expect any sort of popsicle stick building or rainy-day diorama creations from me.

But, on the flip side: I make a mean red sauce, have been known to tell a good story now and then, and I am uniquely qualified to teach you – in 21 years – how to responsibly conquer a roulette table.

And here’s the truth about running this circus: There was actually a time when I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to be a mother.  Until I was.

And then, after your brother was born, I knew I had to have a second child.

And then I wasn’t sure about a third.  Until I was.

And then I knew I wasn’t finished — even with my imperfect parenting, a high rate of baking disasters and a broad cynicism of class moms.  I knew we needed you.

And you’ll be here before I know it.

So, welcome to the circus, baby. It’s the show of a lifetime and the best gig, by far, I’ve ever had. What some call madness under the big top, or three rings of crazy, we simply call the “home” command in the minivan navigation system.

Now, all that’s left is whether to buy the pink or the blue baby unicycle.

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Listen to Your Mother

Only six more days until I stand up on a stage in Manhattan and read a piece of my writing to hundreds of strangers.

Here are some things you will not find me saying about this upcoming experience:

  • No big deal — just your typical Sunday.
  • I’m not terrified. At all.
  • I have tons of flattering wardrobe options to choose from at 35 weeks pregnant.

Because, the truth is, I have several questions in the category of Reasons Why Getting On Stage Will Be Terrifying:

  • What if I completely freeze when I’m up there?
  • What if my jokes fall flat?
  • What if I go into labor? On stage?

Anything is possible.

But one thing is certain: I am honored and thrilled to be in this year’s NYC cast of Listen to Your Mother.

 

 

This is one of 24 Listen to Your Mother shows taking place across the country this year, giving Mother’s Day a microphone and featuring writers and performers telling their own tales of motherhood. Having been in rehearsals with my fellow cast members, I can tell you that our stories range from the funny, to the sweet, to the downright heartbreaking. Some of us are mothers. Some are not. And, together, we’ve got the goods on the complexity, diversity and humor of motherhood.

What? You want to come and see the show in New York on Sunday at 5pm? Excellent! We’ll be at Symphony Space on 95th & Broadway. Even the marquee says so.

You want to bring your mom? Great! It will be forever known as That Year You Took Her To See That Fabulous Show for Mother’s Day. Sure, you’re setting the gift bar high for the future, but it will be worth it {said the perhaps-not-totally-objective cast member}.

Oh — you want to ditch your mom after brunch? OK, I guess that works too — I’m not getting involved, but just give her a nice gift first.

Ohhhh — you want to ditch your kids for the evening, after opening the gifts they made by hand for you and enjoying the five-course brunch they prepared? Psssst — I can help. {Note: The show’s content is not suitable for young children anyway, so you’re not technically “ditching them” as much as you’ll be “supporting me.” It’s all in the semantics.}

You want to know if I go into labor on stage? Fine, but please tell my husband to narrow down his list of baby names already. And if you know a good anesthesiologist, feel free to bring him/her to the show as your +1.

 

There are two ways to make all of this happen:

1) Enter to win a free pair of tickets that I’m giving away, courtesy of the show’s producers. Just leave a comment on this post between now and Wednesday at midnight (ET).

2) If you don’t win the freebies, you can buy tickets here

 

I hope to see you there! I’ll the one with the giant belly trying to sneak some snacks onto the stage.

 

Giveaway small print: One entry per person. Contest open to U.S. residents age 18 and over. Entries close on Wednesday, May 8 at midnight. Winner will be randomly selected via Random.org and announced here. If winner does not respond within twenty-four hours, a new winner will be selected. I was not compensated for this post or for promoting this giveaway. All opinions are my own {as always}.

 

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I Left Town & Then Crazy, Exciting Things Happened

So we’re back from Florida. I have some highlights to share with you, but not just yet. For now, let me just say this: If you’re ever concerned about global warming and want a surefire way to lower your hometown’s average temperature by 20 degrees or so, give me a call. My family and I will bring a localized Arctic Blast right to you. Just a little short-term cold pattern to last the length of our stay. Really, give us a try.

But in the meantime, I have to tell you that clearly I should go away more often. Because crazy exciting things happened while I was gone.

First, I got a fabulous phone call. It happened while I waiting in an endless line to have my kids meet Ariel. Or maybe it was my husband who really wanted to meet Ariel. Whatever. The point is that this call delivered the great news that I’ve been selected to join this year’s New York cast of Listen to Your Mother.

 

Wait. What?

How exciting is that? I auditioned a few weeks ago and basically chalked it up to a good experience, since I was pretty sure they didn’t want to cast someone who looked like she might vomit from nervousness. Not exactly a crowd-pleasing vibe.

But, somehow, I was selected. I went to my first rehearsal last night and I’m so thrilled to be joining this fabulous group of writers. And while I’m perfectly comfortable on my couch in my yoga pants behind the keyboard, reading my work in front of a live audience is going to be a first for me. I will probably pass out. Or hyperventilate. Or go into labor {since the show is just a few weeks shy of my due date}. If you want to see for yourself how this pans out, you can buy your tickets here.

Something else equally exciting happened while I was freezing in Florida and wondering why Ariel was only wearing a seashell bra in a borderline-frost climate.

I had my writing published.

In a book.

This book.

 

The one that is, as I type this, sitting at #1 in the Amazon Humor/Parenting & Families category and #4 in Overall Humor.

{For the record, that’s ahead of Mindy Kaling and Chelsea Handler’s books. Now we have to set our sights on knocking Sarah Silverman and Tina Fey out of the #1 and #2 spots.}

Wait. What?

Yes. The amazing powerhouse Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat gathered 30+ bloggers for an anthology of fabulous parenting essays.

Here’s a full list of my hilarious partners in crime:

Insane in the Mom Brain
The Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva
Baby Sideburns
Rants From Mommyland
You Know it Happens at Your House Too
The Underachiever’s Guide to Being a Domestic Goddess
My Life and Kids
Bad Parenting Moments
Let Me Start By Saying
Frugalista Blog
Suburban Snapshots
Ninja Mom
Four Plus an Angel
Honest Mom
Binkies and Briefcases
Naps Happen
Kelley’s Break Room
Toulouse & Tonic
HouseTalkN
Hollow Tree Ventures
Snarkfest
Mom’s New Stage
Nurse Mommy Laughs
The Dose of Reality
The Mom of the Year
Life on Peanut Layne
Momaical
Cloudy, With a Chance of Wine
Confessions of a Cornfed Girl
I Love Them Most When They’re Sleeping
Random Handprints
RachRiot
You’re My Favorite Today
Funny is Family
My Real Life

Again, I’m so thrilled to be included.  These ladies are funny and irreverent and setting the blogosphere on fire.

What’s that, you ask? Where can you buy this book? How can you help us outsell Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman?

Ah, I happen to have that information handy.

For the Kindle version, you can find it here.

iTunes folks, head over here.

Old school print copy, here you go.

I mean, you can’t expect me to tell you about Disney World after all that, right? Because there clearly aren’t enough Mickey waffles on Walt Disney’s personal grill to compete with this other news right now. I am still waiting for it to sink in myself.

Then we can go back to half-nude Ariel and the like.

 

 

 

 

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Movie Magic: The Distinguished Panel Speaks

OK, friends, it’s the home stretch. Three days until the Oscars.

I have made huge progress in my personal preparations. And while this may not include trivial things like seeing a single film on the Best Picture roster, I have the big stuff covered.  Meaning, I know exactly which yoga pants I’ll be wearing for the red carpet coverage and which snacks I’ll be consuming during the 17-hour awards broadcast.

So I’m pretty much ready.

Earlier this week, in the spirit of such thorough preparedness, I shared my list of favorite Oscars winners past. Today, I’m bringing in the real experts* to tell you all about the very best in film.  Please welcome today’s panelists:

Ninja Mom

Honest Mom

Frugalista Blog

Let Me Start By Saying

Toulouse & Tonic

Wendy Nielsen

Bad Parenting Moments

Mommy Shorts

Paige Kellerman

*Qualifications for being a real expert include prolific and hilarious blogging capabilities, with some convictions about movie-watching on the side.

OK, ladies, we’ll start with the obvious question: What are your three favorite movies ever (not necessarily in order)?

Ninja Mom:  I hate me for saying this, but Ghostbusters is the only movie on the list. “Tell him about the Twinkie.”

Honest Mom:

  • When Harry Met Sally: I will love this movie always and forever, amen.
  • Star Trek (2009 movie): Call me a sci-fi dork, I don’t care. It’s exciting, funny, and has one of the best openings to a movie, ever.
  • Tangled: Great songs, fun plot, and I can watch it with my kids. And Flynn Rider is hot.

Frugalista Blog:  Rear Window, Bridesmaids & Gone with the Wind.

Let Me Start By Saying:  Pride & Prejudice (1995 BBC version with Colin Firth), Anchorman and Gone Baby Gone.

Toulouse & Tonic:  The Princess Bride, Willow & The Wizard of Oz (Do you think I have a type?)

Wendy Nielsen:  Some Kind of Wonderful, Never Been Kissed & Good Will Hunting.

Bad Parenting Moments:  Blade Runner, The Wizard of Oz & The Big Lebowski.

Mommy Shorts:  Amelie, Adaptation, Edward Scissorhands & Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I know that’s four but it was already hard enough not to include Better Off Dead and Raising Arizona. Also, I just realized I have two Nic Cage movies on my list and I now consider him one of the worst actors ever. What happened?

Paige Kellerman:  It’s hard to pick three, but a few I enjoy, over and over, are Starsky and Hutch, Serendipity & Pride and Prejudice.

 

I am a chronic movie quoter.  It’s a problem. Which movie quote(s) are you most guilty of repeating?

Ninja Mom: “Cats and dogs, living together, mass hysteria!” See above (Ghostbusters). I never said I was proud.

Honest Mom: “These aren’t the [insert object to replace “droids”] you’re looking for.” Any red-blooded Gen Xer can quote Star Wars on cue. If you can’t, I’m a little suspicious of you.

Frugalista Blog:

  • “I will be proud to partake in your pecan pie.” (When Harry Met Sally)
  • “It’s all ball bearings these days.” (Fletch)
  • “Put the lotion in the basket” (Silence of the Lambs)

Let Me Start By Saying:

  • “I wanna say something. I’m gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don’t, send it right back. I want to be on you.” (Anchorman)
  • “I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.” (Anchorman)
  • “I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.” (So, pretty much, all of Anchorman.)

Toulouse & Tonic: “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”  (I am a TOTAL Princess Bride geek.)

Wendy Nielsen: “I’m not Josie Grossie!” (Never Been Kissed)

Bad Parenting Moments:

  • “Well, yeah, you know, that just like your opinion man.” — The Dude (The Big Lebowski)
  • “Well, THAT escalated quickly.” — Ron Burgandy (Anchorman)

Mommy Shorts: “It smells like a used diaper filled with Indian food.” (Anchorman) My mom and I use it all the time. But only to each other.

Paige Kellerman: “I drink your milkshake.” (There Will Be Blood)

 

{The mention of a milkshake evokes Snack Break inquiries from the panel.  This quickly deteriorates to angry demands for an Extended Wine Break. Once I am able to reconvene everyone with full wine sippy cups, the discussion resumes below.}

 

In the movie version of your life story, which actress plays the role of you? 

Ninja Mom: Surely someone has dibs on Tina Fey. Maybe Tina will let me play her in the movie version of her life.

Honest Mom: Julia Roberts. Because I laugh big and loud like she does, my hair is kind of like hers, and I think my mom actually may love her more than me. Seriously. My mom has seen every Julia Roberts movie ever. It’s a little weird.

Frugalista Blog: Kristen Wiig– because she’s so goofy and makes all these facial expressions. Or Amy Poehler because she’s so funny. I guess I see myself as funny.

Let Me Start By Saying: Anne Hathaway. I’ve been told by multiple people that she’s the younger, brown-haired, brown-eyed version of me, and she’s clearly more talented than me, so yeah. I’ll take Anne.

Wendy Nielsen: Rachel McAdams because I was told once I looked like her!

Bad Parenting Moments: Lena Dunham. She’s short, funny, a tad crazy and our boobs are simpatico.

Paige Kellerman: Morgan Freeman. Doesn’t everyone want to be played by Morgan Freeman?


Own up: Which really bad movie(s) do you watch anytime you come across it/them on TV?

Ninja Mom: The Blues Brothers. Though I’d argue it’s awesome.

Honest Mom: 17 Again – Good Lord, is Zac Efron adorable.

Frugalista Blog: Step Up – Channing Tatum (hubba hubba) and Mean Girls (It’s not bad, it’s good actually, but I always watch it!)

Let Me Start By Saying: Step Up – OMG the dancing!  Notting Hill – the adorableness and Brit humor! But my real addiction is comic book/sci-fi movies. I can’t turn them off: Thor, Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, all of that sort. I’m obsessed.

Wendy Nielsen: Any Lifetime movie that features Tori Spelling.

Bad Parenting Moments: Showgirls. Every. Damn. Time.

Mommy Shorts: City Slickers. I used to watch that movie every time I felt depressed in high school. The scene where they finally bring the cows home just makes me happy.

Paige Kellerman: Mean Girls and Shawn of the Dead … Every time.

 

{Objection from the moderator:  There’s no way *none* of them get sucked into A Walk To Remember.}

 

Naturally, you’ve just been tapped to host the Oscars and you have no blogging conflicts to keep you from flying to Hollywood — so who is your top choice for co-host? Why will your Oscars be the most highly rated ever?

Ninja Mom: Matt Damon. Shut up. I want to smell and maybe caress him in a loving way that makes his clothes fall off.

Honest Mom: Tina Fey. DUH. We’d be the most highly-rated ever because of her awesomeness  — and because of my answer to the next question. Best. Awards. Ever.

Frugalista Blog: Oh my God!! This is my dream! That and going to the Oscars, being nominated for an Academy Award and winning. Okay, I will host with Hugh Jackman. He’s hosted before and he and I will do a musical number. Of course, it will start with him in a bath, naked, or a shower. Not sure which. I will come down on some harness and do Cirque du Soleil maneuvers. Not that I’m very acrobatic, but I just want to. Also, I can do trapeze, so we’ll have to throw that in somewhere. Oh wait – I just thought of host idea #2. Steve Carrell or Ben Stiller. OR Robert Downey Jr. And it would just be a bunch of comedic one-liners and hilarious quips. And Robert Downey Jr. will be shirtless. And maybe in a shower.

Let Me Start By Saying: I want to host with NinjaMomBlog’s Nicole Leigh Shaw. I think we’d be just the right blend of stand-up comic, ridiculous movie knowledge, and hotness. Like a poor man’s Tina Fey/Amy Poehler, but with greater height distance between the two of us.

Wendy Nielsen: Ryan Gosling!!  My Oscar telecast will be the most highly rated telecast because everyone loves The Notebook and they’ll think Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are hosting!

Bad Parenting Moments: Amy Sedaris. Amy and I hosting would be like Cirque du Soleil filmed at the landfill. You wouldn’t be able to turn away.

 

You’re all fabulous writers. So, which {real/existing} movie do you wish you had penned?

Ninja Mom: Ishtar. If I’d written that I’d know there was nowhere but up from there.

Honest Mom: The Twilight series. Who would’ve thunk vampires and wolves could be sexy? Big-money genius, right there.

Frugalista Blog: This is 40. Story of my freakin’ life. Minus the surprise pregnancy.

Let Me Start By Saying: Amelie felt like magic. Memento was brilliant. 50/50 because a hilarious cancer movie? Impossibly possible. Looper was so original. Slumdog Millionaire was a rich web with tactile love.  Signs was funny and deep and layered and it still gives me the creeps.

Toulouse & Tonic: Princess Bride.  You probably could’ve guessed that, right?  There is just so much funny packed into one movie.  No other movie is so quotable.

Wendy Nielsen: Wedding Crashers or Bridesmaids

Bad Parenting Moments: Lost in Translation

Mommy Shorts: Adaptation – so freakin’ clever.

 

Once and for all: How do we get the winners with long speeches to shut the hell up and exit? Because the orchestra thing obviously isn’t working.

Ninja Mom: Anal tasers.

Honest Mom: Put one of those trap doors in the floor. When time’s up? Buh-bye!

Frugalista Blog: You get the floor to open up and they fall through like on the Ellen show when she plays a game.

Let Me Start By Saying: Hole in the floor, when the time is up, the lever is pulled and the person falls into the press room.

Wendy Nielsen: The mic needs to drop into the ground!  Or have they already done that?

Bad Parenting Moments: Dangle a martini on a fishing line in front of them. Like a carrot to a donkey, they will follow

Mommy Shorts: I say go old school. Canes seem very effective.

* * *

Please join me in thanking my fabulous panel for this lively and informative look into their minds.  Now you know what fuels these gals.

 

Well, that and the wine they are still drinking.  I can’t get them out of my house.  It looks like we’ll have to sit here together and watch Anchorman.

 

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