Tidings of Discomfort (and Joy)

Turns out there’s a fine line between thriving and cracking under pressure.

I truly love Christmas. I do. But I am willing to admit, with 15 days to go, that I maaaaaay have taken on a tad more than I can handle. Am I excited to have 25 people over on Christmas Day? Yes! Honestly, I am. On any given day, I’d rather host a holiday and keep my kids at home than spend multiple hours in the car. Because what else says joyful and triumphant like averaging 4 mph in traffic while mediating arguments over Frozen vs The Lego Movie for vehicular DVD entertainment?

But wow, the big day is coming fast and I’m not as prepared as I’d hoped to be at this stage of the game. This may have something to do with our latest home renovation project veering way off schedule. Our original completion timeframe was scheduled for mid-November, and yet, here we are — living in a construction zone with, among other setbacks, an erroneous front door that is far too narrow and actually more suitable for a doll house than a home where adults reside. Until the right door arrives (estimated delivery date: anyone’s guess), you’ll just have to enter sideways if you eat one too many crescent rolls. Unless you are an American Girl doll or a Barbie — then please, come on in. I can then serve you out of tiny toy teacups the size of thimbles just to keep the experience going.

At least I was making very good progress with my holiday shopping. I use the past tense because I had, until today, a complete and total false sense of security that came screeching to a halt when I took a few minutes to actually look at my purchases to date. And there, on the floor of my bedroom, was bonafide scientific proof that 1) it’s easier to shop for a girl than a boy and 2) I should never shop while undercaffeinated. With my daughter’s gift pile (I use the term loosely — these are all small gifts) looking about four times bigger than my son’s, I knew I was setting up some serious therapy discussions for his teen and adult years. Time to kick Operation Even Out the Gifting into high gear. Oh, except for the baby — at 18 months old, he will not know the difference. He loves playing with my Tupperware so much that I’m considering getting him his own set and calling it a day. Shhhhhhhhh. If any of you tell him he was under gifted, I will Photoshop the hell out of Christmas 2014 to prove you all wrong.

But guess what I got done early? For the first time EVER, I knew well in advance what to buy for my husband. I mean, apart from the obvious front-runner, this was a true Christmas miracle. I purchased. I had it delivered. When my friends discussed in stressed out tones what to get for their husbands, I nodded calmly and told them I was done while buffing my nails. And then I had an extra venti peppermint mocha because I earned it. The stress of finding something for him was alleviated before the first weekend in December.

Until he came home the next day and declared he would be making the very same purchase as something “we need for the house.”

Sonofabitch.

I had to come clean and ruin the surprise.

Moving on, I’d be lying if I said feeding my 25 Christmas guests wasn’t on my mind pretty much 24/7 at this point. Yes, I have some ideas. And the problem, really, is that the black hole of Pinterest has about four million more ideas that render what I considered traditional to be tired and just outdated. Ham? Prime rib? Pffffft. If you’re not infusing your stuffing with kale and serving a signature cocktail, does it even count as dinner on the Internet?

Now, there is one area where I have excelled (versus my own historical performance): My holiday cards. Imagine my complete shock when I placed my order last week and was offered options like standard shipping and others that did not involve a 670% premium for shipping via time machine. AND: I have already purchased all of my stamps. That means no physical altercations this year at the Post Office, which is a huge time saver.

Speaking of efficiency, as I prepare to get those cards out the door, I am going through my annual process of chopping down the recipient list. Not to be mean, but just to be prudent. My traditional (but sometimes modified) rule of thumb is this: If I haven’t heard from you at all since last year’s card and we’re not related, then sorry. In the paraphrased words of the Seinfeld Soup Nazi: No card for you! Happy holidays and godspeed. Your kids look adorable on Facebook, and keeping our relationship strictly at the Zuckerberg thumbs-up level is ok with me. No hard feelings.

My husband, on the other hand, is less ruthless. Put another way, he would be ok with sending a card to everyone we’ve ever known since the dawn of time. It’s really a nice thought. And that’s because he’s way nicer than I am. But you know what he’s not? The person who is sending all of the cards. It’s a discussion every December.

There are a few other people I won’t be sending cards to this year. They are on my Holiday Shit List. Like the aforementioned Pinterest Overachievers. Also, the inventors of Common Core Math — because just when I thought math couldn’t get any more painful, touché! Let’s not forget Kay Jewelers, anyone who got a Lexus with a red bow like the commercials and all members of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (do they play that music strictly to induce cardiac events?). Oh, and the manufacturers of my new front door. It’s a door, not a planet — let’s get moving here.

In the end, of course, the holiday season is not really about any of these things. The gifts, the cards, the menu, the state of my house. Most people won’t remember what I served and what my cards looked like. OK, but they will probably joke for years to come about my dollhouse front door.

The truth is that this year I have a lot more family members coming to visit who aren’t usually here for Christmas anymore, and it’s making me excited and nostalgic and thrilled and sad at the same time. It reminds me of the years we all had Christmas together — before people moved away and the crowd was always big and loud and crazy. It only recently occurred to me that every family has a golden era of sorts when it comes to holidays — a stretch of years, whether it’s a handful or a decade — when everyone is in good health and everyone travels home and nobody misses it. The years when all of the holiday snapshots, literal and figurative, are captured. And you can’t possibly know during those years that you’re all in the midst of that golden era and that it will become the standard to which you hold your holidays in your mind and heart for years to come. It becomes the time you look back on so fondly (family drama and all) and wish you had held it more dearly while it was here.

And while I won’t have every family member here, it’s going to be very close. Closer than it has been in years. It’s going to be special to me.

So maybe it’s easier to worry about food and cards and gifts.

Maybe it’s easier to stress about the size of the front door.

And maybe, in some respects, it’s better to be immersed in the crazy prep phase than to think about how infrequently these times actually come along.

(Still, I’m cutting the card list way back.)

discomfortandjoy

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It’s October, For the Win

I usually don’t realize how much I’m enjoying something until it’s just about over.

{Note: Except for wine or chocolate. I’m pretty much enamored from the beginning.}

But yesterday I came to a strange realization: October is my favorite month.

This was, somehow, news to me. 27 days in. OK, 40+ years and 27 days in.

Yeah, I’ve always loved autumn, with its foliage and crisp skies and sweaters and boots. And for many years, I had big time affection for September, what with its holdout warm temps and extended summer-esque vibe. And yes, it does deserve its rightful place of annual crowd favorite in many respects. Perhaps, though, it’s now having school-aged kids that has really made me appreciate Month 10 as top dog.

(I’m not going to justify my rationale each month, but let’s just say we can take any winter scenario out. Spring is fine, especially when we can officially bid any Polar Votexy weather goodbye. And summer months, I do love you, but let’s not forget the business of everyone home from school all of the hours of all of the days.)

Yes, September is great, but, holy shit, it is so, so stressful and riddled with change. By the time October starts, I have worked through my heartbreak over summer ending. I have muddled through the transition of back-to-school and closed toed shoes and routines and the occasional long sleeves. I have embraced the end of SPF 5 million every day. I have learned to live in a world where Pumpkin Spice Latte will never die. I have, with mixed success, procured all of the items on the school supply list. I have properly mourned the end of my favorite fruit season and moved on to the crock pot, the gourds and the soups.

All of that business is behind me by October. The temperatures drop and the fire pits pave the way for long evenings outside with deep, visible breaths. It is the last gasp before the all-too-early holiday season nonsense kicks in. Because we all know that the moment the last trick-or-treater rings the bell, the Christmas machine ramps up, with Thanksgiving just smashed in between somewhere, like a tryptophan afterthought.

October is the breathing room, the mental break, between adjusting to fall and preparing for the madness of November and December. It eases us gently into that rushed and insane season, with harmless Halloween decor and hay rides — little markers for mini-holidays, conditioning our collective memory to prepare for what lies ahead.

All the while the leaves turn into a million brilliant shades and you can smell neighboring fireplaces at work.

While you look for your favorite sweaters from last year, you realize one morning that your kids’ pants are all inches too short, after not having seen the light of day in half a year.

They are already so much bigger than they were in, say, July. The baby has words now and real mobility. He has entered that phase of utter sweetness by nature and sheer frustration over his own limitations — peeking down the pipeline of true toddlerhood. My oldest now reads books he couldn’t have fathomed under the distantly recent summer sun. And my daughter has suddenly become a real learner, whose days of pre-school seem like light years ago, rather than the span of just four months. And yet, October finds them firmly planted in their new school year, now accustomed to the new homework load and details of their classroom routine.

October, you are not all shiny and bright, though. The daylight hours begin to tangibly shrink, which makes the tasks of parenthood feel longer. Like we’re squeezing more than 24 hours into the day and watching the sunlight dwindle before we’ve even entertained the 32nd request for dinner. Every morning, there is the question of the heavier jackets and, before long, the gloves and hats and boots. And firing up the heat on the thermostat for the first time.

But I will take it. Because with every outgrown jacket and lost glove mystery, there is both routine and promise in October. There is the daily ordinary, just before the catalogs, the retail onslaught, Jingle Bell Rock, and the switch from PSL to Peppermint Mocha — just on the brink of taking us into the home stretch of the year.

With costumes and candy at the ready, my kids feel differently than I do. They have waited it out. They have counted down this month. They are wide-eyed over the prospect of Halloween and are ready for the end of October.

I’m not. I wish I had figured out just a little sooner how much I’ve loved it. I wish I had enjoyed the breathing room just a little bit more.

Sorry, September, but you’ve been replaced.

october

 

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Seven

Seven snuck up on me.

Even though I know what follows six.

Even though he had a four-month countdown going.

Even though I bought the gifts and made the cakes.

Still. Seven snuck up on me in a lot of ways.

It snuck up on me that, on the rare occasion when he falls asleep in the car after a long ride home, I can physically no longer carry him into the house.

It snuck up on me that he would have an opinion about which pants he prefers for gym class.

And it definitely snuck up on me, one day this winter, that all of his clothes were way too short. Not a little, but as if it had happened in a week. And maybe it did.

This was a year of massive change for my first born child. First grade. Full days of school. Homework. After-school activities. So many new entries into our daily routine. It’s a lot for him.

And, oh yeah, a new sibling too.

When the baby came home, I don’t think anyone expected just how smitten my oldest would be with him. And how it would stay that way, day in and day out. He adores their physical resemblance of one another. He tells strangers, with pride, all about the ins and outs of being the big brother. In the morning, he beelines to the crib to greet him.

And while the baby is his captive audience, his four year-old sister is his biggest fan. With their two-year age differences comes the fighting and standard nonsense between them, but the rhythm they’ve created to make ninjas, warriors and princesses co-exist is — most days — really something.

He is a mush at heart. Often it takes some peeling back of the layers to get there, but I hope that inner sentimentality will never change about him. I love that he doesn’t blink when I still hug and kiss him at school drop-off and pick-up. I wonder all the time if those days are numbered. I know deep down that they are.

Last night, when briefing me on how the Star Wars birthday cupcakes should be distributed between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, he told me that turning seven made him closer to being ten. I told him not to rush — I almost pleaded — but his eyes were wild with excitement over the prospect of being one year older.

He loves the funny, my boy. His knock-knock jokes may be works in progress, but his belly laugh comes from a place so deep in his soul that it still almost reduces me to tears sometimes. His imagination is boundless and exceeds any expectations my husband and I had from our own genetic input. His curiosity is also infinite. And I say that with both admiration for the wonders of childhood and with sheer exhaustion. {Because, if you thought there was a limit to the number of questions one could ask about, say, volcanoes or perhaps scorpions — you would be dead wrong.}

I’m reminded by him often that he’s getting bigger. He asks me what he’ll be allowed to do when he’s 10, when he’s 12, when he’s a teenager. When can he drive? When can he make the decisions about dinner? When can he stay up as late as he wants?

And yet, when I ask him where he’ll live when he grows up, he always states matter-of-factly: “Here. With you. I’ll always stay here with you.”

I will remind him of this years from now and, if I’m lucky, he’ll laugh it off and only roll his eyes a little.

In the meantime, he belongs right here with me.

I kissed and hugged him at bedtime last night and he yelled with joy, “Goodbye, 6!”

And just like that, seven snuck up on me.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Santa, Bring Me Some Sister Wives

It’s time to make my annual holiday season promise to myself. The one that I break every year:

I will not let the holidays stress me out.  I will enjoy them, damn it.

Riiiight.

But despite my past failures in this effort, I have come up with an entirely new approach this year. One that will reduce my stress level and allow me more time to cherish the season.

I’m going to get some seasonal Sister Wives.

Yep. Hear me out.

How many times have you wished for an extra few sets of hands to help you prepare for the holiday madness? And I don’t mean your husband, because that often entails a lot of direction and management. Not your mom, because she has her own list and, really, she just wants to play with the kids.

I mean other women, who know what they are doing and feel a genuine familial obligation to help you out.

Sister Wives.

It occurred to me on Black Friday. I know some of you embrace this whole retail discount phenomenon, and I applaud you. But it’s not for me.  However, it could have been for me, this year — had I put my plan in place sooner. In my post-tryptophan coma, while eating leftover pie for breakfast and being assaulted by Black Friday emails, it hit me.

If I had, say, three Sister Wives, think of the divide and conquer approach I could’ve mapped out for them while I held down the fort at home {aka: slept while obtaining deeply discounted items at major retailers}:

  • SW #1 would be assigned to Toys R Us.
  • SW #2 hits Target.
  • SW #3 tackles Best Buy.

Boom. Trifecta.

Hmm. As my mind began to clear from the turkey haze, I thought of other ways I could take the Seasonal Sister Wife model to a new level of holiday efficiency.

  • Family Duty.  Need a proxy for that tricky post-election discussion over appetizers? Tired of showing your mom how to use her smart phone? It’s not all on you with the Sister Wives in tow. Hell, imagine this:  What if I had three other women to help me look better to my in-laws? Dream big, I say.
  • Cookie Exchange.  I am a crappy baker but a stellar consumer of holiday cookies. With several cookie exchanges on my horizon, I can really improve my positioning with the help of a Sister Wife who can bake. Fuck the Snickerdoodles — this year, I’m talking blue ribbon, Pinterest-level goods. With hand-painted cookie tins for everyone, of course. Bring it, ladies.
  • Elf on the Shelf Duty.  You know that moment, every night or early the next morning:  When you’re comfortable in your warm bed and you realize you forgot to move the damn elf. Again. Well, I’ll be resting easy now, my friends. Because a devoted Sister Wife is going to do this every night. And she’s going to make it really good — no bullshit hiding spots that my husband or I seem to repeat every four days. She’s going to string Jingle from ceiling fans and cause him to jump out upon the detection of child-activated motion sensors. Because. It’s. Her. Job.
  • Holiday Cards.  This is not for an amateur or the faint of heart. Just getting a decent picture of my kids, in and of itself, is daunting and will age you several years. Then you’ve got the card layout, as well as the annual address list debate with my husband — in which I’m known to be slightly ruthless in my edits {haven’t heard from you all year?  no card for you}. And, of course, THE PURCHASING OF THE STAMPS AT THE POST OFFICE IN MID-DECEMBER and getting everything out the door by, preferably, December 22nd.
  • Toy Assembly.  My chances of staying married will increase 5 million-fold if other people will just stay up with us until 2 or 3am on Christmas Eve and assemble the various pieces of plastic from China into lovely toys that stay intact under the tree. Granted, this is a big job. I’ll need all three Sister Wives on deck:  #1 will make sure that we have all $684 worth of batteries, in the proper sizes, installed as necessary. #2 will be an expert in separating the toys from the intricate, Ph.D.- level packaging that the sadistic toy manufacturers feel compelled to inflict upon parents. As for #3, she’s the runner and will fill in on general assembly as needed, as well as tool distribution and, of course, barkeep duties.

And, because I’m no idiot, this arrangement doesn’t end as soon as the merriment is over. Oh no, I want some help with the aftermath of the holidays, too. I’m not doing all this with a hangover by myself.

  • Returns.  Obviously. I mean, once the holidays are over, the last thing I want is all the craptastic, B-list  gifts taking up valuable space where my new cases of wine {ahem, Santa} will be stored. Me and the SWs are going to go all Boxing Day and get it done. No more drawn-out organization efforts of separating the good from the returnable. Gone are the days of fumbling for receipts in mid-April. We will be machines of efficiency. We will identify and keep the good stuff. Separate the returns by location and map out the most efficient route. Identify all items without receipts and consider potential re-gifting opportunities. All before you guys have toasted the arrival of the new year.
  • Holiday Decor Breakdown and Removal.  I don’t know about your house, but in mine, the kids are not reliable when it comes to, say, removing, wrapping and storing breakable ornaments and decorations. And I find it to be a depressing task, parting with the holidays. So, the Sister Wives stay on through the first week of January. This year, those 14 million stray pine needles in my rug? Not my problem.

Now, I need to be fair here — this isn’t a paid gig so I have to do my share. My strength is really in organizing and delegating. You know, keeping the machine running. Mission control. And, come on, since I orchestrated this arrangement, I have Top Sister Wife positioning. The Alpha Wife, if you will.

But let’s not forget the tricky part. There is a husband in this scenario. Namely, mine. And we are not, um, sharers. Especially since prairie skirts and braids are not really his thing. So I’m thinking, since it’s just a seasonal job, a generous gift card to the mall for each SW should be good. Or maybe to the fabric store.

Yes, there are a couple of logistical kinks to work out — lodging, cars, priority access to the Keurig, etc. — but I’m optimistic I can get this sorted pretty easily.

So, ladies. Have fun stressing out this holiday season with all of the responsibilities falling solely on your shoulders. I’m off to get a pedicure, a venti Starbucks and some legally binding contracts that expire on or about January 15.

Happy Holidays!

 

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This originally appeared as a guest post on Mommy Shorts.
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The Pumpkinization of America

A few days ago, I posted a little tidbit on Facebook that I feared might get me fired from the Internet. Or from living in America:

I ducked my head and waited for the backlash. I know that PSL Nation is a loyal bunch and they show little mercy.

When I came up for air and peeked online, I found that, interestingly, I’m not alone. That I have allies in this pumpkin overdose disdain. Allies who have some strong opinions. Turns out there are more of us out there than I imagined.

So here’s where this post gets divisive. I mean, you either embrace the pumpkin movement or you wish for its swift and thorough demise. Maybe we can all get along in the end, but first allow me to vent.

 

First of all, if you are Team Pumpkin, let me just say upfront that you win. I totally lose and you totally win beyond the shadow of a doubt. OK? And the truth is that I envy you at this time of year. It must be fucking awesome to be bombarded with a new food option in your flavor of choice every 12-16 seconds. I love chocolate like it’s my paid job and, at this time of year, my options are practically nil in comparison.

Don’t believe me? Let’s just take my Monday morning mid-September errands as a frame of reference:

–Stop #1, Starbucks: Yeah, this is where America’s Pumpkinpalooza started, and we all know it. It’s ground zero for pumpkin flavored treats. And I know by now that, come Labor Day through Christmas, I’m going to be ordering the sole drink in my Starbucks location served up by the barista that’s not a fucking PSL. In fact, I think they called out my beverage today by incredulously saying “Kim? Kim? Your grande NOT PSL is ready.” This was followed by stark silence and then a collective gasp of disbelief by the 39 PSL junkies ready to tackle each other for their seasonal crack with a side of pumpkin cake pops.

 

–Stop #2, Bagel Store:  It’s hard to fuck up a bagel, especially in the greater NYC metro area. And while I could pass on such common favorites as the Everything or the Cinnamon Raisin varieties, I think they’ve earned their place in the line-up over the years. But this morning, as I waited my turn to be served, I had to listen to this mother/daughter exchange:

“I think I want the pumpkin bagel with the plain cream cheese.”

“Or, you could get the plain, or the sesame bagel, with the pumpkin cream cheese.”

“Or I could get both.”

“Pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese? Do you think that will be too much?”

It was a real dilemma they were facing. Honestly, it was a good thing I had already obtained my Starbucks {non-PSL} caffeine fix so that I was able to tolerate this conversation without an inappropriate outburst. I mean, I don’t know what kind of options these two gals were facing for their remaining meals today, but I hope they pulled through.

 

–Stop #3, Trader Joe’s:  I love me some Trader Joe’s seasonal items — but — holy shit. Based on my rough calculations, the store’s inventory is currently 89.8256% pumpkin-based. Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Pancake Mix, Pumpkin Spice Country Granola, Pumpkin Ice Cream, Pumpkin Macaroons and — wait for it — Pumpkin Doggie Treats.

OMG, can we please fast forward to the holiday season with the peppermint overdose aisle? Because now, I can’t even enjoy any of the free samples at TJ’s — and that means I have to make my own breakfast at home. Which is bullshit.

 

–Stop #4, Doctor’s Office:  I swear I’m not making this up. I was in the waiting room, when the man next to me phoned his daughter to tell her he had indeed found the Pumpkin Spiced M&Ms at the grocery store. I honestly thought I was being Punk’d at this point. Who messes with something as pure and good and right as M&Ms, for fuck’s sake? Free the M&Ms!

 

–Stop #5, Internet:  By this point, my morning errands were completed, it was clear that it was me against the Pumpkinsphere. I arrived home and set about my urgent tasks {aka firing up the computer}, only to have my senses attacked by an email from Pinterest pointing me to their suggested seasonal boards. Among them, of course: EVERYTHING PUMPKIN.

Like a moth to the flame of defeat, I clicked on over to see what inspirational culinary treats awaited me from the Church of Pumpkin Disciples:

  • Pumpkin Cheesecake Crepes
  • Pumpkin Crisp
  • Boozy Pumpkin White Hot Chocolate {With key words like “boozy” and “chocolate,” I’ll admit it gave me pause — but, still, no.}
  • Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
  • Pumpkin French Toast Bake! {exclamation point is theirs, not mine — clearly}
  • Pumpkin Pie Martinis {Hmmmm. Yeah, still no.}

It goes on and on and on. And beats the issue to death. As Pinterest tends to do.

Anyway. It’s no use. Operation Pumpkin Domination just getting worse every year and it’s apparently the new world order {fall edition}.

But don’t feel bad for me. Because you know who I feel bad for? Apples and their fan base. Apples were the perennial darling of autumn. But that shit’s over. Yeah, sure, many of us go apple picking and we eat apple pie and a few similarly flavored items. But, if we’re being honest, apples got screwed over by pumpkins. Big time. And their day is done.

The whole thing is fascinating, really. I should just be grateful that another member of the gourd or squash family didn’t obtain this level of stardom. Can you imagine?

So, I guess I’ll conclude my rant with a thin and insincere congratulations to Team Pumpkin. Enjoy your season in the spotlight, folks. Because, before you know it, PSL and all its culinary cousins will be a distant memory.

And I will be all hopped up on peppermint bark and lattes.

 

 

 

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Spring Break: Then & Now

So, it has been a while since I wrote a new post and here’s the simple reason: Spring Break sucked the life out of me.

Did I travel? No.

Did I take on some huge endeavor? Nope.

I was home, with my two kids. And now I need a 12-day nap or a free evaluation at a sleep clinic.

I figured I’d be back on track and writing something on Monday after I finally dropped my kids back off at school. That went well. Because, upon entering the pre-school parking lot yesterday, I found it odd that I was first in the line for drop-off.

I’m never first. Never.

At that moment, in slow motion, my mind began to piece together the reality of what nary an SUV nor mini van in sight meant. Just then, the sweet school admin poked her head outside and I saw her mouth forming these words — as if out of a horror movie:

“No school today, remember?”

I saw her lips moving but I failed to comprehend what she was saying. Was this my native language? What the hell was she talking about? We just had. a. whole. week. off.

“Really? No school?” 

This was all I could muster. Probably because it’s hard to form words with your bottom jaw on the parking lot.

“Really! It’s Easter Monday! See you tomorrow!” 

She was so chipper that I hated to hate her in that moment. I mean, the injustice of it  all. I’m seven months pregnant and was actually motivated — and dressed — to go work out, against the gravitational pull of both the Earth and my secret Easter candy stash. That’s how desperate I was to break the routine of Spring Break.

“Uhhhhhhh. Right.”

Clearly this shock & awe attack stripped me of any elegant verbal skills.

Easter Monday? Is this like the Boxing Day of Easter? Or Cyber Cadbury Egg Monday? Had I known we were officially prolonging the holiday, I would have used the opportunity to repeat Sunday’s performance of solid dark chocolate for breakfast. Now I am behind by like 7,000 extended holiday calories {but working on it}.

Anyway, I’m 99% sure that now Spring Break is over. And I haven’t felt this wiped out from a week off since, well, Spring Break 1994. That was the year when my parents finally let me go away with a few hundred of my closest senior classmates.

For my first three years of college, my parents decided that they would go on vacation during Spring Break and have me come home, where I was put in charge of my sisters {who were, at the time, in high school and elementary school}. It’s pretty clear, in retrospect, my parents  didn’t realize the implications of this approach:

1) Anywhere between five and 25 of my college pals were “assisting” me in “watching” my siblings on any given night.

2) My friends and I were setting statewide recycling records in the form of empty beer can piles that could be seen from space.

And so, once I was found out, my parents decided that letting me go to the Caribbean for senior year Spring Break couldn’t be any worse than the antics I’d been hosting at their house for the past three years.

Cue Spring Break 1994. Looking back on it, clearly there were some obvious points of comparison to the past ten days I experienced at home with my kids.

  • Organ Failure: In 1994, I wasn’t sure my liver would survive Spring Break intact. Last week, I wasn’t sure my ears or mind would survive Spring Break intact.
  • Spinning Wheels: In 1994, it was roulette all week. Last week, it was Chutes & Ladders. Over and over.
  • Hours of Operation: In 1994, I went to bed at 6am. Last week, I was up at 6am.
  • Ear Worms: In 1994, the sounds of Ace of Bass were inescapable and made me insane. Last week, ditto Taylor Swift.
  • Wardrobe: In 1994, it was bikinis and tank tops. Last week, yoga pants and maternity wear.
  • Nutrition: In 1994, I was basically carb loading. Last week, I was basically carb loading. With a side of carbs.

Lastly, the turnaround of my academic ambitions shouldn’t go unnoticed. In 1994, I do recall missing, uh, a few classes upon my return from Spring Break. And yesterday, there I was, all lined up with my daughter and her backpack — a whole damn day early for the re-opening of the school.

I’ve evolved, I guess.

But I still need a nap to recover from Spring Break.

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A Valentine’s Day Fling

Ah, Valentine’s Day is coming.

I remember when I used to anticipate this day of love and romance with visions of flowers and candy in my head. I would hope for a beautifully written sentiment in a card. I would maybe even wear something red.  Because, under my snarky exterior, I’m really a sentimental sap at heart.

Please don’t tell.

Anyway, I feel a little differently about Valentine’s Day now.

Not that I don’t value romance — I totally do. And I am still a secret sap {sshhhh}. It’s just that, as a mom of two young kids and a current vehicle of gestation, my priorities have changed. What I find truly thoughtful has evolved. Or maybe devolved.

Sure, I love flowers. I’ll still be tickled if I see the delivery guy at my front door with something for me.  And, let’s be crystal clear — OF COURSE I’LL TAKE THE CANDY. Especially if it has the handy little map to help me navigate past all the bullshit fillings and straight to the dark chocolate/coconut combo. {Hands off, you guys. You can have the marzipan and cherry.}

And if my husband really wanted to buy me jewelry, I can’t say I’d stop him.

But, the truth is that I really want one thing:  A brief affair. No, not with another man — but with my long-lost loves named Time and Sanity. Like most flings, it would be fleeting and very different from my real life.

I mean, what would you do with the gift of time to yourself? An entire day void of obligations or an agenda?  I think we can all agree that the very first thing is obvious: Have your mind utterly fucking blown by this foreign concept.

After that, I have a few ideas about what I’d do with my time. Here are just a handful of thoughts — in no particular order:

  • Sleep.
  • Sit somewhere quiet — hell, even in my car — and read back issues of Us Weekly. See? Stars really are just like us after all.
  • Complete at least ten consecutive entire thoughts and/or sentences.
  • Get sucked into Pinterest, guilt-free, and emerge with 17 new and life-changing party dips.
  • Have coffee, lunch and dinner with friends. Or alone. Either way. As long as multiple meals in which I do not play the role of the waitress are involved.
  • Set a state record for the longest single spa visit.
  • Catch up on my ongoing quest for current family photo books by getting 2011 started.
  • Figure out, once and for all, the difference between the 34 settings on my new dryer. I just want it to dry and self-fold, damn it.
  • Set the contents of my kitchen junk drawer on fire.
  • Make real, measurable progress on my worldwide ban of Taylor Swift.
  • Casually stroll as many retail aisles as I please without fear of displays being knocked over. If you don’t think this is indulgent or luxurious, you’ve clearly never had your children be the subject of an intercom announcement for “Urgent clean-up in Aisle 5.”
  • Submit recommendations for the Pope’s replacement to the Vatican.
  • Sleep more.

All, or even some, of this? You can’t put a price on it. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s about four million coconut-filled candies, give or take.

Sounds like a great fling, right? So much so that I may even wear red for the occasion.

If a ketchup stain on my shirt counts.

 

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Disney World Planning Fail

Every December 26, I get the Post-Christmas Blues and, to combat them, I begin to plan our family trip to Walt Disney World in March.

I followed the same timetable this year and got my flights/hotel squared away.  Then I made the mistake of blowing off the dining reservations until last week — an ungodly seven weeks prior to our arrival.

This is pretty much Disney Armageddon.  The End of Days.  The Death of Tinkerbell.

Now, before you Disney veterans begin breathing into a paper bag, I should tell you that I know better.  I’m a seasoned WDW traveler.  And while I’m not the WDW Extremist who books my trip six months in advance, I have found that two months out is generally OK if the dates don’t coincide with Spring Break.

I just procrastinated with the dining this year.  And now I’m paying for it.

I don’t believe in planning every single meal at WDW in advance, but there are key restaurants/experiences I want to nail down ahead of time.  And then there is some ratio where I’m willing to wing it with some fast food-ish (aka Quick Service Dining) options.  That’s OK.  If it’s part of the plan to do that.

Let me illustrate exactly what you don’t want:  No plan at the stroke of 5pm, when your kids declare they are starving at the same moment that everyone else in Central Florida reaches the same realization.  

Because, at that point, you are left with these choices:

–Accept a hot pretzel as your fate for dinner, served by some 15 year-old in an awful costume who chirps, “Have a magical day!”

–Wait on some line for 45 minutes to eat at The Craptastic Desperation Buffet.  {I don’t think that’s the official name, but I’d have to check.}

 

Not willing to fully embrace this destiny for three meals a day over five days, I have come up with some alternate coping mechanisms for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

1.  Research a secret loophole for using FastPass in restaurants.  Screw Space Mountain, I want the front of the line at Chef Mickey’s breakfast.

2.  While in a crowded, enclosed space {presumably, waiting to go on a ride}, start a loud and highly plausible rumor about “those unfortunate findings” in the kitchen of Cinderella’s Royal Table.  “I mean, at first I thought the mice were part of the act, but…”

3.  Begin to fabricate false memories of how tasty the buffets were.  Maybe that dried out meat and side of Goofy pasta really was worth the $30 per person.

4.  Wonder how long the family can subsist on the illegal stash of cereal bars I have smuggled into the park {ssshhhhh, they’re watching}.

5.  Drop hints to the kids that eating lunch with a Disney character is overrated.  Suggest that Mickey and Cinderella are egomaniacs who  steal children’s french fries.

6.  Rationalize the money we are saving by sacrificing sit-down meals.  After all, a series of $8 hot pretzels is way more economical, paving the way for the irrational purchase of various overpriced memorabilia in the shape of mouse ears.

7.  Secretly scheme a pregnancy-related blood sugar crash in front of my favorite Disney restaurant during peak dining hours.

8.  Tell my family that, starting on this vacation, we’ll be juicing as part of a new health kick.  Assure them that the dizziness will pass.

9.   Consider cheating on WDW with dinner at Universal.  Risk being locked out of our WDW resort upon our return.

10.  Embrace the Vacation = Ice Cream philosophy to an extreme by feeding the family those delicious Mickey-shaped ice cream bars at every meal.  Praise myself for the parenting knowledge to offer significant dairy supplemental value to my growing kids.

 

There.  I feel better already.  I think these strategies will work, if it comes down to it.

But, just in case, I’m on hold with the WDW Dining Reservations Line as I type this — ready to execute my alternate plan:  Begging.

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