Magical, Mostly

If the measure of one’s vacation is how many metric tons of French fries and ice cream one consumed, then I pretty much just took the trip of a lifetime.

We spent eight nights at Walt Disney World and, I have to say, I am having serious withdrawal. When I came home and was faced with the pesky reality that my kids still required three meals a day and the inside of my fridge looked like a barren prairie, it was sad to face the music. As for the unpacking, I’m conducting an unofficial scientific experiment on how long one can live out of a suitcase and early indicators show that I can totally go the distance.

While vacation is definitely over, we have the photos and the memories to keep our trip alive.

And the credit card bill.

Just a few recap points:

  • In past trips, we have been known to be climate-challenged. As in, we visited Florida and the high temps were about 54 degrees. This year, we earned our weather. High 80s and sunny. Hot, actually. Nobody in the family was allowed to complain about the heat or I would scream “DO YOU REMEMBER THE POLAR VORTEX?! DO YOU?!”  There was that one Tornado Watch in the middle of the Magic Kingdom. I was less upset about the actual sideways ark-like rainfall than I was about the $872 we shelled out on five Disney rain ponchos.

  • Disney has upped their technology game. Between their newly updated app, the FastPass+ system and the Magic Bands, shit got real. No more messing around with flimsy paper FastPass tickets or room key cards. Or silly American cash. Oh, no. With the mere wave of your wrist near a Mickey-shaped RFID reader, you can easily charge any and all WDW purchases equal to your monthly mortgage payment. I was disappointed that the reach of the technology did not extend to my home arrival experience. Because when I tried to use my Magic Band to buy groceries in New Jersey and open the front door of my house, no dice. I guess that will be in the next upgrade.
  • To counter the fries & ice cream bender I went on, I also took it upon myself to implement my own version of T25 while at WDW. Basically it entailed renting a double stroller, having your baby refuse to sit in it, placing said baby instead in a carrier against your sweaty body and watching your 6 and 4 year-old kids assume the vacation recline position in the stroller. For those keeping track at home, that’s about 90 lbs of kid in the stroller and 20 in the carrier. Extra chocolate syrup on my ice cream? Yes, please. I am a big fan of baby wearing, although it is slightly less appealing in the 4,000% humidity. On the upside, it did afford me the opportunity to take advantage of the 2-for-1 happy hour special at our hotel pool bar without skipping a beat.

 

  • This is a good segue to the presentation of the Lowest Maintenance Traveling Child Award. OMG, I could not have asked for a more cooperative baby on this trip. Although he consistently waived his right to nap and we pushed his bedtime beyond imaginable limits, he was all smiles.

 

  • My mom, stepfather and sister joined us for a few nights, which was great. If you weren’t counting, that’s six extra hands to manage the kids. Score. Plus, I got to torture my sister with my neurotic approach to roller coasters. It’s basically “Yes, let’s go!” until I’m in the seat. And then my unbridled fear of death kicks in and I tell everyone I dragged onto the ride what a bad idea this was. Repeatedly.

My sister (front left) is hating me (front right) at this moment. My husband (back left) has learned from years of experience not to sit with me.

 

  • Can we just address the Frozen insanity for a minute? Thanks to the marketing genius of Disney, families with young kids are now paying for entry to EPCOT (not typically a draw for the younger set) and then hauling ass over to THE NORWAY PAVILION — also known as the place nobody ever used to visit. Now home to Elsa and Anna, the lines to see the newest Disney royalty range from two (on a very lucky day) to seven hours. SEVEN HOURS. Luckily, we caught a glimpse of them exiting Norway to take their union-mandated break, and that was good enough for this family. But you want a Frozen dress for your daughter? Sorry. Not one available at the entire Disney mother ship. But please know that any Let it Go ear worm you may have while at home is kicked into high gear and borders on clinical insanity while at WDW. I was begging my kids to go on It’s a Small World just so I could have a different, awful song on repeat loop in my head.

Is it all Disney Magic? It’s not. Young kids invariably don’t do well on long lines or out in a public restaurant more than once in the span of a week. But I tried — really tried — to refrain from slipping into “WE TOOK YOU TO DISNEY WORLD, ENJOY IT, DAMN IT!! HAVE FUN, NOW! FUN!” mode.

In this spirit, I went into the trip trying to veer toward yes. Instead of defaulting to “no” or “later” or “we can’t,” I made a real effort — within reason — to try to say yes to as much as possible during the trip. I wasn’t always successful but it was a good change for me. In fact, on the last day of vacation, I introduced the concept of Kids’ Choice to my children. As in, let them pick what we do, what to eat, when to (not) go to bed, etc.

Their minds? Blown.

I’m just grateful they didn’t choose the nasty giant Disney World turkey leg as a meal.

In the end, the sunshine and change of scenery were fabulous. I was happy that my biggest decision all week was which ride to FastPass or where to eat lunch. Or which drink to order at happy hour.

Now, once we stop wishing for the minivan to be a monorail and I get the FastPass+ system to work on the school car line, I’ll be OK with my transition back to reality.

Baby steps.

 

 

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The Need for Speed

There are certain times in the course of my marriage when I’m particularly grateful to have wed an engineer. Like when the minivan needs to be packed with Jenga-like precision for a family road trip. Or when something goes inexplicably wrong with the cable box.

Or when a Cub Scout leader hands your six year-old a plain block of wood and expects him to transform it into a piece of precision-driven German auto engineering.

Hi, my name is Kim and I was, until recently, a Pinewood Derby virgin.

Now that my family has come out the other side of this, I would like to share my naiveté with others. Because, if I can save just one other mom from the shock I experienced, then my time on this Earth will never have been in vain.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I’ll admit that I had all kinds of misconceptions about this activity, right from the get go. I had no idea that the kids were handed this.

A block of wood and a dream, basically. And, hopefully, access to the Internet.

I’m exaggerating. There were also four wheels and four nails. Because, obviously, now it’s a walk in the park.

What the hell? How is a six year-old supposed to make Fahrvergnugen out of this?

Enter the dads.

 

My husband is a former Cub Scout. He looks back fondly on his own Pinewood Derby experiences of his youth. Except for the part when he was robbed of what was rightfully his win, or something like that. I wasn’t really listening. Anyway, his PDerby credentials coupled with his adulthood engineering background really added up to one thing:

I would not have to get involved in building this fucking thing one bit.

Two things, actually: This blog post would practically write itself. I’m not even pressing on the keyboard right now. Because, really, you can’t ask for better material. It was like bringing a reality show into my home every night in the highest possible definition.

So I sat back with my popcorn (I mean, my wine) and watched.

My husband is meticulous by nature. But he’s also a rule follower and a great parent. So his soul was in an epic battle with itself over helping our son create the best possible car and letting him do the majority of the project himself.

And so it began with the design concept, spearheaded by our son. This was his vision.

He listed fire and jets as his inspiration, although I didn’t have the heart to tell him that true artists are often misunderstood when their work is first unveiled.

 

To bring this to life, my husband was missing two things from his PDerby background of the 1970s:

1) A Guy. Apparently, everyone now has A Guy. Someone who recently went through this for the first time and can offer tips and insider information. Our Guy was our neighbor. His son won the Derby for his pack and went on to clean up at the district competition too. He was the Yoda to our Luke.

2) YouTube. OMG. The tutorials. The analysis. What is the most effective way to add weight to the car (back or front)? Should you polish the axels to reduce friction? If so, how much? What shape should the car be? And, did we pick the wrong week to quit sniffing glue? Because this is insanity.

And so, I watched the father/son duo take over my dining room table for two weeks. Sawing and sanding and prepping the wheels and painting and re-reading the rules and weighing the vehicle and watching YouTube and eating all of the Entenmann’s in the house. It looked a lot like the times when my husband used to assemble furniture we purchased from IKEA. Like the Muutherfukker Deluks collection.

My husband restrained himself with the PDerby car. He kept it low-key. He suppressed his meticulous gene and kept it all decidedly first grade.

And they created this. Our son dubbed it Speedy.

 

Not quite the spitting image of the initial design concept, but hey, it was shiny. And done on time.

And then the big day was here.

The cars were lined up. They ranged from basic to brilliant. The dads circled and checked out everyone’s handiwork. They exchanged casual-yet-need-to-know tips about their thought processes and techniques.

When it was time for Speedy’s first race, I had no idea how it was going to go down. And then, he won that round.

And the next.

And the next.

And the next.

YouTube Preview Image

Everyone cheered. My son was beside himself with excitement. My husband stood back, relaxed and confident. They had done their research. The engineering gene was being passed on before my eyes.

Thank goodness, because my son’s alternative was to end up more like me, with zero capacity for engineering anything. Then he’d face a childhood filled with frustration over the Rubik’s Cube, followed by an adulthood fraught with how exactly to get the Tupperware to fit into stacks with their matching lids in a drawer. Isn’t it just easier to throw all of them in there randomly and then rely on aluminum foil for leftovers?

But back to Speedy.

His run was great. He was undefeated for a while. Until he wasn’t.

It was 2nd place for Speedy in the Tiger Cub den. And so we were invited to race against the top racers in the whole pack, where Speedy again took a fabulous 2nd.

Our son was thrilled, as was his in-house pit crew. I’m not sure how our daughter is going to settle for selling cookies in Daisy Scouts next year after watching this effort unfold. But at least I have a family who can now fluently translate IKEA assembly instructions.

And in the end, we didn’t need first place. We had Fahrvergnugen.

 

 

 

 

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What Would You Say About Your Husband in a Book?

I have often accused my husband of Party Sabotage. It comes up every time we have people over, whether it’s just a few friends or a group of 30 for Christmas.

I don’t know if it’s a Mars/Venus thing, or if we have different priorities, or what. All I know is that I tend to focus on things like food, a clean(ish) house and, of course, setting up the bar. He tends to get wrapped up in, shall we say, some of the smaller minutiae of entertaining.

Like what? OK, fine, I’ll give you a few examples, since you asked.

  • Replacing light switch plates.
  • Cleaning out the crawl space under the house.
  • Organizing the garage.

It’s a thing between us. Mostly because we don’t host our social gatherings in the crawl space or the garage. I try to appreciate that he’s being a perfectionist and wants the house to look good when people are here, but really: I can’t get past the fact that NOBODY HAS SET UP THE BAR.

Every time this happens, my first thought is “How can I blog about this while staying married?” Well, not really. My real first thought is that I’m never hosting Christmas again. And then I think about the blog. Or maybe it happens at the same time. Anyway.

You know where I finally could have shared this story? In a new book!

This one.

Does the title sound sort of familiar? Yes, the fabulous Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat is back with a new anthology, and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it.

The last one was about motherhood. This one is about the men in our lives.

I’m in excellent company! The line-up in this book is just phenomenal. These ladies have some hilarious stories to tell about their menfolk. I hope you’ll read what they have to say.

My husband has been a really good sport about this whole thing, starting from the moment I said this: “So, uh, I am going to submit a piece for a new anthology. And the topic is husbands.”

I had a lot of criteria: I didn’t want to talk trash about him just to be funny. I wanted to write something I could live with after it was put out there for strangers, friends and family to read. Above all, I didn’t want to embarrass him.

And then I remembered: He doesn’t get embarrassed. Well, that made things a hell of a lot easier. Still, I learned something important: It’s not easy to write a funny and accurate story about your spouse that meets all of these criteria.

Did I write about my home’s Party Sabotage streak? I didn’t. Mostly because I thought of an even better topic to tackle when it comes to my husband.

I can’t tell you, but you know who can? Amazon. Here’s the official book description:

The second volume in the best-selling I Just Want to Pee Alone series!

Don’t get us wrong, we love the men in our lives – we do (most of the time). It’s just that sometimes we would like them to go away. Not forever or anything like that. Just for an hour … or a day … or a weekend. We want some time to ourselves to read a good book or take a walk or do anything other than try to make a dent in the never ending mound of dirty clothes that keeps piling up on his side of the bed. We just want to be alone. All alone. Is that too much to ask? 

Including:

 

When can you order it, you ask? I Just Want to Be Alone will be available on March 22, 2014, but in the meantime you can pre-order it on Amazon.

Click here to pre-order a paperback copy.
Click here to pre-order a Kindle copy.

 

Also, my wedding anniversary is coming up this week. I don’t think the traditional 9-year gift is “borderline embarrassing published essay,” but I have to check.

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Wine & Glue & 100 Days of School

I need gray hair spray.

And a flannel shirt.

And maybe suspenders, I guess.

My son is supposed to dress up like his 100 year-old self, as are all of the kids in his class. You know, for the 100th Day of School celebration, of course.

I have a few questions about this — let me start here:

When did this become a thing? And, more importantly: Why?

Last year, when he was in Kindergarten, I thought the 100th Day of School was an isolated and cute little idea. It was a sweet reason to celebrate your kid’s education and achievements. And then it quickly became far less cute and not so sweet as I found myself separating various shapes of pasta into 100 pieces to be glued onto a giant poster board — in the formation of a volcano.

I might have started cursing somewhere around the 61st piece and it was downhill from there. If I could have produced actual hot lava for this volcano, my first order of business would have been to throw myself into it.

This wasn’t cute — it was stupid. Of course I didn’t say so, but even my then five year-old son was cynical about the point of all this.

I told him with forced enthusiasm that his 100 Days project was really coming together. And wasn’t he excited for the crown?

The crown?

Yes! A crown! You get to wear it all day at school tomorrow.

Why?

Because it’s the 100th day of school!

Oh. So, it’s the last day? School’s over?

Uh, no, silly! It’s only February!

Is it close to the last day?

Not exactly, honey.

How many days are left, then?

80. I think the school has to be open 180 days.

So what’s the party for again?

The 100th day! {OMG, I can’t keep this up much longer. My face hurts from this false excitement. Wow, my eyebrows are actually cramping from their overly arched position. Is that possible?}

We get a party and a crown?

Yep!

Uh, because we’ve gone to school?

For 100 days!

Uh huh.

Buddy, I think there will be cookies too!

Cookies?

Yes!

OK, fine. A cookie party for going to school all these days.

Great! Let’s finish gluing the last 39 pieces of pasta onto this board! 

{Giant glass of wine is refilled by hand covered in glue/pasta mixture. Side note: Why have I not glued my wine glass to my hand before? It really is far more efficient than the whole put down/pick back up routine.}

* * * * *

And I thought that was the end of this nonsense. I thought that the hand glued to my wine glass would not need to complete another such project once we entered first grade.

And then my son came home last week with an ominously blank long-ass strip of poster board. What in the fresh hell was this?

This, it turns out, was the canvas upon which we were to cut and glue 100 words he can read. For the big celebration.

Another year, another chance to formally glue my wine glass to my hand. And so we searched for the 100 words to cut. I wondered how obvious it would be that 90% of our clippings were from the Babies R Us catalog:

Red

Hot

Sale

 

Or from Us Weekly:

Who

Wore

It

Best

 

We glued. We filled the poster board. 100 words. It did look good, I have to say.

And there was some relief in not having to invent our own project for this. Although, if you find yourself wondering just how you’d like to creatively produce a masterpiece of 100 random items, fear not: There are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to this pursuit, complete with custom t-shirts and the like. You know, when 100 buttons in a snack-sized Ziploc bag won’t suffice, and you don’t really want to part with your collection of 100 wine corks. For sentimental reasons. Hypothetically.

But we’re not done. Now we must dress my son like he is 100 years old for the celebration. I’m thinking a flannel shirt with a photo of how I look in the morning ought to do it.

Not to be left out of anyfuckingthing this winter, the Polar Vortex played a role in the party: Namely, we can’t seem to actually get to the blessed 100th Day of School because of the endless snow days.

When it does happen, sometime around mid-July at this rate, I do hope the kids will make good use of their 100th Day celebration and make crowns for the ones who really deserve them: The parents.

Because:

  • 100 packed lunches.
  • 100 battles over {insert clothing item here}.
  • 100 mornings of miraculously getting everyone out the door on time.

 

But, hey, only 80 more days to go.

Pass the wine glass with the glue, please.

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Skiing With Kids: Fantasy vs Reality

I decided this would be the winter we’d become a skiing family. Or at least take the preliminary steps to eventually transform us into one.

My husband and I both skied fairly often and fairly well back in the day. It’s something that we miss personally and also want our kids to learn to do. Because, let’s face it: Winter is fucking long {especially this year, as I sit through our second school closure this week} and keeping the kids active is not easy. So, hey, let’s get them on skis and solve all of our cabin fever woes.

{Related: I have been known, from time to time, not to completely think things through.}

In my ambitious state to turn us into a skiing family, I booked an overnight stay at a smallish mountain within an acceptable driving distance. On the ride up, I had visions of charming ski weekends for years to come.

* * * * *

In these glimpses into my family’s fantasy future, it’s every winter Saturday morning and our kids are begging to get on the mountain. In their enthusiasm for our favorite snowy sport, they are up early and fully dressed in their fair isle sweaters.  As usual, they pack the entire car for us so I can prepare thermoses of hot chocolate for the familiar drive up to our beloved destination. Once on the road, we discuss upcoming school projects and then we all agree on the same radio station after gagging in unison at an old school Taylor Swift song from their childhood {Remember her? She was SO annoying. We laugh at the memory.} And of course nobody has to stop for a bathroom break — they are too excited to get on their skis. Once at our home away from home, the children carry their gear with nary a complaint. My husband and I claim our favorite seats outside the lodge — you know, the ones by the fire pit — to watch them skillfully navigate the slopes. They really are getting good, we marvel. We decide to take a few runs ourselves and then spend the rest of the afternoon delighting in the charm of the apres ski lifestyle. We clink glasses and my husband toasts the genius idea I had to pursue this sport as a family back in the winter of 2014. It really has made for some great memories, he reminds me. I can’t help but agree. I am sort of a genius.

* * * * *

“Mommmmm, how much lonnngerrrrr?”

I am jolted from my Future Ski Family fantasy as the highway zips by and my kids grow restless.

I know the bucolic ski trip days in my mind’s eye are pretty far away, but hey, we are taking the first step, I tell myself. We are on our way.

“Mommmmmmm, I have to pee. These socks hurt. Mommmm!”

On our way, indeed. Well, with some caveats.

Rather than go into detail about how the weekend played out, let me provide you with the alternate titles of this blog post:

  • Minivan Jenga: Ski Trip Edition
  • “Theeeeese Booooots Feeeeeeel Baaaaaad,” and Other Cries Heard at Ski School Drop-Off
  • Public Restrooms, Kids & 74 Layers of Clothing:  A Cautionary Tale
  • Cardio Blast: How to Keep a Baby Occupied in a Ski Lodge for Six Hours
  • Why Won’t the Bar Open Before Noon?
  • Five Easy Steps to Filing a Stolen Skis Report
  • The Art of Selecting the Right Hip Flask
  • A Jackass’ Guide to Choosing the Only Ski Day with Rain in 2014

 

OK, I’ll admit, I’m being a little dramatic. Except for the Minivan Jenga, stolen skis and all references to the bar. Never mind that the total number of adults in my family to actually ski equaled zero. The important thing is that my six and four year-old made it through ski school without any major fallout.

 

 

If you ask them, though, that was not the important thing at all. The important thing to them was clearly the fact that our hotel had a TV in the bathroom. If you want to blow my kids’ minds, apparently all you need to do is let them watch Disney Jr. while taking care of business. Somehow this detail escaped me when dreaming up my family’s future winter getaways.

So we’re not a ski family yet. We’re still more of a TV-in-any-location people.

But we’ll get there. Maybe.

 

 

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Ode to the Polar Vortex

Oh Polar Vortex, with your nippy temperatures and pretty snow deliveries. You’re finally bringing us a winter that’s really, well, winter. A perfect season for sledding and comfort food and nights by the fire. It has been so long since we’ve seen a January like this!

I want to thank you, Polar Vortex, for so many things.

  • First, thank you for the critical budgeting skills you’ve taught me! Without you, I wouldn’t know to set aside an unimaginably insane amount of money for my heating bill next month. That’s one less trip to Target for me {OK, maybe three}.
  • And thank you for the newfound appreciation you’ve given me for every single person who lives through the winters in the midwestern part of our country. Those are some hardy people. Or possibly insane. I’m not sure which. I would tip my hat to them but I’m not willing to risk momentary flesh exposure to the elements.
  • Our time management skills have also come a long way, oh Polar Vortex. With the need to put 4-6 layers on my children every day before every departure from our home, including a seven month-old baby, I now have to start getting ready to leave the house before I’ve even returned from my last trip outside. Your endless visit has made my life a constant repeat loop of donning and removing winter gear. I think it would be more time efficient to live with one snow boot, a glove and scarf on at all times, while cursing near my front door.
  • And now, oh joy of joys, I finally have the answer to just how many gloves my children can lose in one winter. I don’t have a final figure yet, but using simple extrapolation skills, I can tell you that it is a multiple of 1,700. If I could feel my damn fingers, I would take up knitting to keep up with the demand.
  • All hail the resourcefulness of winter! Now that I absolutely hate leaving my home, I have managed to create meals out of the most improbable combinations of “ingredients.” Hell no, I’m not dragging three kids to the grocery store — but did you know that cream of mushroom soup + anyfuckingthing at all in a crock pot is actually quite good? Bonus points for making it sound like comfort food. Pinterest that, people.
  • Polar Vortex, I’m forever grateful for how you’ve taken the guesswork out of what the weather will be like day to day. No more pesky climate surprises! Thanks to you, I can just bank on day in and day out of dangerous, bone-chilling frozen tundra. I can easily rely on the steadfast forecast of snow and ice with a chance of more damn drifting snow covered in black ice and some additional snow. You reliable motherfucker.
  • Those sleds I bought for my kids three years ago that have barely been used until now? Since you came to visit, you frosty bitch, they are practically our primary vehicles this winter. Thank you for making them worth their purchase price. Now we look like some hybrid of the Amish and the fucking Ingalls family.

 

It seems my little ode went slightly off track. I’m sorry. I’m just cranky because my 110 year-old house is drafty and my aging, indoorsy dog keeps begging us for a catheter to last him until spring arrives.

I know that by comparison, many parts of the country have it worse. But here’s the thing: Living in New Jersey, I didn’t sign up for this bullshit. What I signed up for was a winter with a few fleeting cold spells and maybe a snow storm or two. I did not check the box that transported my family to Siberia.

And few things could make me wish and pay for a flight with three small kids. But you’ve broken me, Polar Vortex. I’m done. The baby bunting and the mitten bullshit and the frozen minivan door — it has all pushed me over the edge.

I’m fucking going to Disney World. Well, in about two months, anyway. When we get undoubtedly get some global warming, freakishly high  winter temperatures in the mid-70s or something.

 

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This is Your Brain on Noise

Parents: How tired are you?

Exhausted, right?

I thought so. But why?

Is she really asking me why? 

I am. But only because I just figured something out that I should have understood years ago. Yeah, my body is tired, but if I’m being honest, it’s my mind that could really use a 12-year nap.

Some of our exhaustion as parents is indeed physical. In terms of small children, it’s things like the endless clean-up and assistance factor. With babies, it’s sleep deprivation. Lugging an infant car seat around. Schlepping a stroller in and out of the trunk. The gear. The nursing. It’s tiring, for sure. But I feel like my body, most days, can handle the running around, the lack of sleep, the 1,363 lunges to pick up the dropped food and the toy that keeps hitting the floor, the wrestling of the baby into a jacket.

But what I’ve only recently put my finger on is the mental exhaustion of raising kids. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out.  Probably because cause-and-effect equations have never been  my strong suit. Or because I haven’t been able to hear myself think since 2007.

I’ve come to realize that my brain is completely dulled by noise. It sounds obvious, right? The constant hum, or roar, of noise in a house with kids. Sometimes, it’s in the background — a zillion consecutive bing bing bing bings of my son battling Stormtroopers in the family room. Or my daughter singing the first and only line she knows from the Frozen songs, over and over and over. Don’t get me wrong: It’s charming at first, when not drowned out by the baby crying or, on our best days, everyone competing with each other in one dysfunctional crescendo.

Other times, the noise is distinctly in the forefront, of course. The crying. The bickering. And, of course, the questions. You know, childhood.

When the day is done, I often sit on my couch in the stark silence for a few minutes so my brain remembers what that’s like. Did you hear that? It was the sound of wine hitting the bottom of my glass. It was the sound of my mindless magazine opening. It was the sound of me hitting Like on a few Facebook posts I read on an uninterrupted basis.

Yeah, of course I expect noise. It comes with the territory. But at some point, it began eating my brain and swallowing things like complete thoughts or witty remarks.

 

But it’s not just the noise that drives us to the brink of exhaustion. It’s problem-solving, mediation and debate. Why didn’t I pay closer attention to these subjects in college?

Solving complex equations, for starters. I read somewhere that a woman’s brain is like having a million browser windows open at the same time, and it’s true. Behold:

  • If I have to leave for school drop-off in seven minutes, do I have time to feed the baby, sign the school permission slip, set up the crock pot for dinner, move the laundry and make sure everyone is wearing jackets and shoes? But where are my keys?
  • If we’re going from school right to gymnastics this afternoon and I have nothing for dinner, can I get to the grocery store in a 12-minute window previously reserved for my shower? Seriously, where are my keys?
  • Do we like Juan Pablo as The Bachelor? Why can’t he properly secure his daughter in a car seat? Don’t the ABC producers see this?
  • How am I already an hour late for something that’s not happening for a week?
  • Milk money is due tomorrow. Why can’t I pay this online? Oh crap, I only have three more days left for my 365-day Zappos return. Pre-school Show & Tell is the letter I this week — WTF starts with an I? Can I put ice in her back pack? How about an infant? Yes, an infant! Then I could use that time to get my flu shot and stop by the cub scout store for that badge I have to sew on. Wait, do we have thread? Oh good, there’s my cell phone — in the fridge. How many Weight Watchers points are in a stick of butter? We’re out of chicken nuggets? Holy shit. AND WHERE ARE MY FUCKING KEYS?

I know I am far from alone in saying that I go to sleep and wake up with my brain firing like this. It is the anti-calm. Especially when it is repeatedly interrupted mid-thought by shoe tying and bathroom assistance requests.

I remember from my corporate days the feeling of my brain overloading with fluid information and critical facts to make a quick (and often expensive) decision. And, honestly, most days, the shit running through my head now is somehow just as stressful. I know that’s hard to believe. And I say this not to pit working moms against stay-at-home-moms, because I have been both, but to map out a frame of reference. {Unless you work for the woman who was my boss from 1999-2003, in which case, you win the stressful gold medal. Please step forward to retrieve it, along with your express ticket to heaven.}

 

If complex equations are not wearing you out, let’s visit the lost art of sibling mediation.

Today, for instance, I negotiated the following:

  • The safe release of a certain princess hostage from the grip of ninja warriors.
  • The share time of a singular and untouched-for-the-last-three-years toy car that is missing a wheel.
  • The distribution of vegetables between the pro-broccoli and the pro-corn set.
  • Possession of the remote control.
  • The replacement of an uncomfortable sock due to poor seam placement.
  • Selection of a bedtime book.
  • The order of entrance into the minivan.
  • Who gets the red cup today.
  • Bath or shower? Bath or shower? Bath or shower? OMG, PICK ONE.

I keep looking for my Diplomat license plates to arrive in the mail, obviously, but the UN seems to have lost my address. I need to follow up with them because those plates could probably get me some preferential placement in the school car line.

 

And, finally, debate. Why, oh why, did I not doggedly pursue a spot on the varsity debate team? I would be so much more eloquent and prepped in my rebuttals to the following broken record:

  • Wait…
  • Just one more minutes…
  • Can I just…
  • But…
  • But, but, but…
  • I just want…
  • Why can’t I have…?
  • I don’t want to…
  • It’s not fair…

It’s the phenomenon of most requests being met with some caveat, protest or level of resistance. On my best days, my responses are calm and textbookish and parental. On other days, they are emotional and tired and, well, parental.

 

I know it’s not just the sounds within my house that are exhausting. They echo off the walls in every family. And I’m sure these sounds and debates morph as kids grow. They change into real problems and issues beyond requesting a snack every 76 seconds or choosing exactly which cup should be for milk and not for water because who the hell knows why. I anticipate that weariness comes from very deep worries and debates escalate over truly legitimate concerns down the road.

And do I dismiss the noise of laughter, bad knock-knock jokes, a baby cooing and family room dance parties? No, I don’t. That noise reboots my brain when its levels hit that of the blinking red light on my phone battery {has anyone seen my charger?}

I appreciate that feeling like my ears are bleeding from the sound of my name being called is something I will miss when they no longer need me for every little thing. And that day will be here sooner than I can imagine.

But, in the meantime, I think it’s OK to feel exhausted and grateful for the tiny pockets of quiet between the madness.

 

 

 

 

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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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2013, I Think I Loved You

Everyone’s telling me that they can’t believe this year is over.

I disagree.

I can totally believe it. I think that going without a full night of sleep for 50% of the year really extended my 2013 experience. I feel like I got my 365 days’ worth. And then some.

But I can’t complain. 2013 was very, very good to me. All 8,988 days of it.

There was first grade and ninjas and Legos underfoot.

There was pre-school and purple and pink accessorizing and princess overload.

There was a new baby! A sweet, sweet baby! A non-sleeper (yes, still) but the happiest insomniac you’ll ever meet.

There was blogging fun in not one, but two books. And near-hyperventilation in a live show.

There were short winter days and long summer nights. Snowballs and seashells and road trips.

There were yoga pants and cocktail dresses. OK, mostly yoga pants.

There were bicycles and scooters and minivans and strollers.

There were friends, near and far. Family from many corners of the map.

There was coffee. There was a tragic amount of pregnancy seltzer. And then there was a lot of wine.

There were life-changing high points and there were tears to be wiped away.

There was the daily routine and there were times when we were shaken and stirred and forced to regroup.

There were arguments and bliss and comfort and bickering and belly laughs.

There was all that and more. Here it is — 12 months in just over a minute.

YouTube Preview Image

 

So long, 2013. I’m not a fan of odd-numbered years, but you were a gem after all.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

 

 

 

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The Day the Bacon Died

TO: Residents of Fordeville

FROM: Señor, Head Household Pet & Chief Bacon Officer

RE: THE DIET.

DATE: November 21, 2013

______________________________________

 

Thanks so much for that extraneous trip to the vet last weekend. That was fucking awesome.

Did I need vaccinations? No.

Was I sick? Uh, negative.

But you just had to take me in for a bi-annual Senior Well Visit {Who names these things? Where is the sensitivity, for God’s sake?}

First of all, where was the nice woman you took me to see in the past? What do you mean she left to have a baby? Is that all you damn people do is produce more small crying humans? I liked that lady. She fell victim to my charms and was willing to overlook certain lifestyle shortcomings, like my bad breath and growing waistline. I had her in the palm of my paw.

Not this new guy. Who was this sonofabitch?

He was all, “This dog needs to brush his teeth more” and, “This dog needs his ears cleaned.” Fine, fine, fine. If he wants to be all picky and medically technical. Although it’s good to know that you and I were on the same page about his offer to clean my anal glands. Uh, hell no.

But then. THEN. The weight conversation took a stark turn from previous chats.

I’m accustomed to the twice-yearly, “Just watch his weight. He can’t gain anymore at this age.” 

At this age. Nice.

But this new guy was all, “We need to get Señor on a diet, right away.”

HOLD THE FUCK UP.

And then: “He needs to drop from his current 24.5 lbs to 20 lbs.”

I don’t know if they teach these guys math in vet school, but that’s 20% of my body weight.

I SAID TWENTY PERCENT OF MY BODY WEIGHT. IS THIS GUY FOR REAL? Why was I not born with bigger teeth to tear into this guy? Where is my inner mastiff?

I hate this jackass.

I know I’ve put on some weight, but I just figured we’d scale back a little and watch the pounds fall off.

What do you mean, it doesn’t work that way? All the celebrity dogs in Us Weekly do it that way. Speaking of which, why can’t I be toted around in a luxe handbag too?

We’re going on more walks? Oh please. That would cut into my 22-hours-a-day sleep schedule.

I can see you’ve already reduced my doggie treat intake. Fine, since you feel all accountable and guilty for my alleged weight problem. I didn’t see you blinking when you needed a buddy to help you discard of those BBQ scraps all summer. Or when you frequently referred to me as your Swiffer.

Wait, what? That’s over too? Come. ON. This is starting to not be funny.

But we’ll still have Sunday bacon scraps right?

I SAID: WE’LL STILL HAVE SUNDAY BACON SCRAPS, RIGHT?!!

OMG.

NO BACON?

People: I am 10 years old. Would you tell a happy 70 year-old human to give up smoking?

You would? Fuckkkkkkk.

Well, I’m glad you got so damn conscientious now that I’m in my twilight years and addicted to the scraps your kids drop on the floor. It’s the only satisfaction those small people give me.

Sorry.

{Not sorry.}

Anyway, this prescription diet food is bullshit. Are we juice fasting next? I’m old. I’m ornery. I don’t adapt well to change. Remember when you moved my bed like four feet and I chased my tail in circles? Yeah, well now we’re talking about my sacred pork products. You’ve crossed a real line here.

Thanks a lot, you guys. First the new baby, and now this.

Oh and don’t expect to get any more vet appointment reminder cards in the mail. I will eat them upon receipt.

 

 

 

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