Sorry, Not Sorry

IMG_20141204_141939A few months after Bella was diagnosed with autism, I was on the phone with my health insurance company.  Calling your insurance company is the hazing all new special needs parents experience when they’re just beginning to pledge this crazy fraternity/sorority.  It’s our secret handshake, our “thank you sir, may I have another [representative to talk to because you’re a jackass and I suspect you don’t actually know what you’re talking about]?”  I should have followed my gut instinct that told me to hang up and call back when I heard the guy’s voice, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  He pulled up my information and then asked why I was calling.

“I have a question about our coverage.  My daughter was recently diagnosed with autism.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

I paused for a beat, completely taken aback by his apology.  I was used to hearing people respond with, “okay,” or “uh huh.”  He said, “I’m sorry,” as if she had been diagnosed with a horrible terminal disease.  I shook my head and said, “Um, thanks, but she’s fine,” before I continued with my question, which he answered incorrectly in the most condescending tone I’ve ever heard from an insurance customer service rep (and trust me, I’ve talked to a large enough sample size to make this statement statistically sound).  But it wasn’t his rudeness that bothered me the rest of the day; it was his response when I told him about Bella’s diagnosis.

knew I should have hung up on that asshole.

I understand that this guy (apart from being a douche) wasn’t trying to offend.  He probably meant well with his apology, or maybe it was just a reflex from talking to people all day long about devastating illnesses.  But the idea that someone should apologize to me for Bella’s diagnosis, that they should feel bad for me or feel like they needed to extend their condolences was a totally foreign idea to me.

IMG_20141224_205326Listen to me very carefully: I am not sorry.  Sure, I have moments where I think about what Bella’s life might be like if she weren’t autistic.  The idea that certain things in life will always be hard for her, like making new friends, makes me sad sometimes.  I mean, no parent is happy about the idea that their child will have to struggle with things that come easily to most kids.  Sometimes I can see an entire conversation bubbling in her mind, but she can’t get it all out because of the invisible shell that surrounds her, trapping some thoughts and letting others escape through cracks and holes here and there.

But here’s the rub: to wish away Bella’s autism is to wish away the Bella that we know and love.  It would mean wishing away the most sincere, genuine person I have ever known.  It would mean wishing away Bella’s unique view of the world, her way of thinking that is so maddeningly different from everyone else and yet, once you understand it, is so damn brilliant I can’t help but marvel at my little genius.  It would mean wishing away her innocent frankness, the way she does whatever she wants without giving a shit about what people think of her, her irresistible charm that makes everyone immediately love her.

To love Bella is to love her autism.


So thanks, but I’m not sorry about Bella’s autism.

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Posted in autism, Bella | 12 Comments

Dumb Stuff I Have Bought on Amazon (and One Really Cool Thing)

Do you want to know the main reason Christmas gets on my nerves?  It’s the shopping.  I shop at two stores: Kroger and Target.  Occasionally, if someone gets sick or I need to buy a health-related item in the middle of the week, I shop at the Rite-Aid by my house.  That’s it.  That’s why I fucking love Amazon.  Seriously, it’s the only store that comes close to my love of Target.  They have everything AND they’ll ship it straight to my house within two days! What? How is this possible?  I don’t know (I do, it’s because I pay for Prime membership), and I don’t ask them because I’m afraid they’ll realize this whole two-day shipping thing is a terrible idea on their behalf and cut me off.

Sometimes I buy extremely dumb shit on Amazon, and once in a great while, I buy incredibly amazing life-changing things on Amazon.  It should become painfully clear to you as you read this which items fall under which categories.

41K3M1xWMXLDr Mom LED POCKET Otoscope: When Bella was younger, we went through a six-month period where she had an ear infection at least once every six weeks.  Going through the “is she or isn’t she?” stage right before you decide to take your kid in to the pediatrician to see if she has an infection sucks huge balls, let me tell you, mainly because it means they’re up all night crying or not sleeping several nights before you finally get fed up and take time off work to haul them in.  So I decided that, like most things that are expensive and a pain in the ass, I could probably figure it out myself.  Yes — I, a librarian with extensive training in analyzing American and British literature as well as twentieth century American history, decided I could teach myself how to diagnose an ear infection.  The only thing keeping me from doing this (besides medical training, of course!) was owning one of those light-thingies they shine into her ear during the office exam.  And wouldn’t you know it, Amazon feels me on this, too!  They even had one called Dr. Mom, with pictures to tell you what an infection looks like!  Way to encourage my already overblown ego, Amazon!

71ZUN-ge+jL._SL1000_Assorted Stick on Body Crystals: Are you a twelve-year-old girl?  Do you feel the need to decorate your body with stick-on jewels, specifically your lower back and face?  Are you about fifteen years behind the latest fashion?  Sounds like you need body crystals!  I bought these for a friend once as a joke to cheer her up while I was away on maternity leave.  Needless to say, I think I’m hilarious.

The Puppy Baby Book: Before we had kids, we had Shaft.  I’m embarrassed to say I spent an excessive amount of time searching Amazon for the “right” puppy baby book.  Meaning a) unbelievably, there are multiple puppy baby books to decide between, and b) I had time on my hands to waste at stupid bullshit like searching for PUPPY BABY BOOKS.  Bonus: I’ll have to explain to my kids one day why the dog’s baby book is more complete than theirs.

Bicycle Rear Light51hhlgCZDZL: Rob got a new bike this spring.  Also, Rob loves anything that lights up.  Imagine his delight when he found something to buy that makes his BIKE LIGHT UP!!!!  It puts lines on the ground on either side of his bike when he rides it.  He couldn’t tell me the purpose of this besides looking cool.  To be fair, it does look cool.

Aqua Notes – Waterproof Notepad: This is, hands down, the best thing I have ever bought on Amazon, period.  I am a shower thinker.  I come up with my best ideas (and remember everything I forgot to do) while I’m in the shower.  Problem is, I forget them almost immediately after I step out of the shower.  Last summer, a friend of mine told me about this waterproof notepad that lets you write down all those awesome ideas so that you don’t forget them, and I nearly lost my shit.  It’s fabulous and has saved me from losing about a billion ideas (at least fifteen of those ideas were actually good ones).

41QDgCdymxLYour Stick Family Was Delicious T-Rex – Vinyl Decal Sticker: I mean, this is just fucking hilarious.  I found this one day posted on the Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms Facebook page.  They are funny as well as sensible.

Automobile Swivel Tray41r+eJOU4NL: So, I’m cheating a tiny bit on this one, because I haven’t actually bought this item yet, but I reeeeally want to.  I’m holding off because I’m kind of suspicious of it.  It seems too good to be true, especially when I look at the picture.  It just looks like it’s not very stable.  I picture myself driving down the freeway and getting a faceful of Whopper flung at me after changing lanes.  I realize you’re probably only supposed to use this while parked, but come on — I don’t know about you, but I’ve got the need for speed while I eat my chicken nuggets, and I need to dunk them in that barbecue sauce while I do it.  I can’t drive fifty-five without my fries, son!

Anyways, I realize that as posts go, this one was pretty pointless, and as gift guides go, it’s utter garbage, but I guess now I realize I should be a bit choosier with how I wield my power as an Amazon Prime member.

***BTDubs, I’m also an Associate, which means every six months I get a check for like $1.50 when people click on the links above and order anything at all.  Just so you know how much of a baller I am.***

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Posted in Christmas, lists, super cheap post | 8 Comments

I Lie to My Daughter About Santa and I Mostly Blame the Tooth Fairy

1918841_220596083085_1502367_nOur family’s relationship with Santa can best be described as “tense.”  Rob disagrees wholeheartedly with the idea of Santa.  He feels it is dishonest and sets your kids up for heartbreak when they figure out the truth.  I see his point, but didn’t want to rob my kids of the magic of Christmas (plus I really wanted that Santa picture every year).  So we compromised: we still do Santa, but we make as little a fuss about Santa as possible.  One present under the tree is from Santa; the rest are from Rob and I.  However, over the years I have been pulled deeper and deeper into the Santa deception.  Rob has stood by all these years shaking his head and judging me hard as I added more Santa-related rituals and customs: letters written and “mailed” to Santa, sprinkling the “reindeer food” the kids brought home from school on the front lawn, reminders that Santa doesn’t come until you’re asleep.  Rob lost his fucking mind last year when I asked him to eat the cookies and drink the milk Phaedra left out.  “Do NOT drag me into this bullshit!  I told you I want no part of this!”

“I’m asking you to eat some goddamn cookies, dude.”

“You’re not making me complicit in this.  I don’t like this at all.  This is lying.”

“No, this is the last sugar cookie with frosting and sprinkles.  Just eat the fucking cookie so we can go to bed.”

But this year I’m in so much trouble when it comes to Santa, and all because of the goddamn Tooth Fairy.  A few months ago, I was unloading dishes from the dishwasher, high on the knowledge that the kids would be going to bed in the next five minutes, when Phaedra wandered into the kitchen.  We started talking about her efforts at earning money to spend on an app.  “Oh hey, don’t you have a loose tooth?” I asked her.  “That’s another dollar you can put towards your Club Penguin fund once the Tooth Fairy comes, right?”

She looked at me with a mix of caution and annoyance. “Mom, I think it’s you.  I think you leave the money under my pillow when I lose my tooth.”

Oh goddammit.

To be fair, I was a pretty piss-poor Tooth Fairy.  Of the four teeth Phaedra has lost, I had exactly one successful Tooth Fairy transaction.  Once, I filled her bag of quarters with sprinkles, then left the goddamn sprinkles jar open on the kitchen counter for Phaedra to find in the morning.  And technically,  there was no third time for us, because I FUCKING FORGOT to do it at all.  Phaedra woke me up crying at 6:00 a.m. on a school day because the Tooth Fairy didn’t come.  I looked at Rob with the same “help me” look on my face that Tom Skerritt had when Sigourney Weaver found him hanging on the wall in Alien.  After Phaedra left the room to get dressed, Rob looked at me and shook his head.  “Dude.  You fucked up.”  I had to write Phaedra a note at work from the Tooth Fairy about how she was super busy and left the money on her pillow.

So needless to say, Phaedra was suspicious, and was having none of my denials and flimsy excuses this particular evening.  Finally, after a lengthy good-cop-style interrogation where she assured me she already knew the truth, that everything would be okay if I was just honest, I finally looked at her and said, “Well, what if it was me?  Would that be a bad thing?”

She burst into tears.

See, she thought she could handle the truth, but, well you know.


I spent the evening listening to her cry and rage at me, responding to the following statements and questions from Phaedra:

1.  I had lied to her.  (True)

2.  She was going to go to school on Monday and expose this web of parental lies to all of her classmates. (“PLEASE DON’T DO THAT,” I begged.  Visions of angry phone calls from parents danced through my head.)

3.  She insisted on calling Rob at work and telling him what I had done.  She also told him that she suspected I had gotten the coins from his change box on the dining room table. (This delighted Rob to no end, but the joke’s on you, motherfucker, because I did get that money from your change box.)

4.  She now realized that the leprechaun had not trashed her classroom during recess on St. Patrick’s Day; in fact, it was probably their cool custodian, Mr. Dave.  (Probably true)

5.  Speaking of leprechauns, she decided that she also no longer believed in:

  • Leprechauns (I never said anything about leprechauns; take that one up with your teacher.)
  • Cupid (I mean, okay.)
  • The Easter Bunny (whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s not get cra…)
  • Santa Claus (RED ALERT)

I stopped her on that one.  I knew, after watching her melt down for an hour over the goddamn Tooth Fairy that there was no way she was ready for the truth about Santa.  She was just testing me.  So I looked my daughter in her red, puffy, tear-filled eyes, and I did the right thing.

I lied my ass off.

I reassured her that Santa was most definitely real.  After a few half-hearted protests from her, I used the argument that I thought would sound the most realistic and plausible to her: “Honey, do you honestly think I would spend all that money on presents?  I don’t have that kind of money to spend on toys!”  Her unshakeable faith in my tightness with a dollar turned the tide back towards believing in Santa.  I also bribed her with a new knockoff American Girl doll from Target so she would forgive me, but that’s not really important.

So yes, instead of being vague and ambivalent towards Santa, I am now straight-up lying to my daughter about Santa’s existence.  Is it the best strategy in the long run?  No, probably not.  And if you’re scrolling down already to leave your comment about how it’s wrong to lie to your kids and how dare I, well then you can just get the hell on, Felicia.  I know that girl, and she is not ready to give up Santa just yet.  When she periodically accuses me of being Santa as Christmas draws nearer, I know now that it’s her way of asking for reassurance.  I’m still not pouring on the Santa schtick very heavily, but he’s still here, bumping into us time and again during those four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Also, there is a small possibility that I am not ready for her to know the truth, either.  As cynical and wise as she is, she enjoys the idea of a little magic now and then.  Life is hard, and my goal at this point in the child-raising game is to postpone as much of that disheartening hardness as long as I can.  She deserves to be able to wake up and be swept away with happiness that Santa brought presents without being seen.

But if you think I’m putting Santa’s name on that PS4 we’re buying this year, you’re fucking crazy.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Posted in bad ideas, Christmas, famous last words, half-assin it, let's try this again, Phaedra, professional slacker, Santa (or lack thereof) | 13 Comments

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Cooking a Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s no secret in my house or amongst anybody who has ever met me that I am not a great cook.  I don’t get it.  I cook everything on a high heat, because that makes it cook faster (it doesn’t).  I tried frying mashed potatoes once because I thought it would result in potato pancakes (it didn’t).  My signature move is starting something simmering or boiling on the stove, then walking away to check my email (don’t do that).  However, I can handle baking and roasting.  If I can do all the work, then put it in the oven and forget it until the timer goes off, I am golden.

So last year when I suddenly decided to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for my family, I was nervous, but optimistic.  And guys, I don’t like to toot my own horn, but rooty-toot-toot motherfuckers!  I don’t mind telling you that I made an awesome turkey that we went on to eat for about a week.  That little dude was delicious, and I COOKED IT.  I roasted that bird with a goddamn THERMOMETER, like I’m Mr. Wizard and shit.  When my family came into the kitchen to admire that beautiful bitch sitting on top of the stove, I was all YES, FAMILY, I AM A WOMAN AND I PREPARED THIS MEAL FOR YOU.  ARE YOU NOT IMPRESSED?  WILL YOU NOT FEAST ON THIS HOMEMADE GRAVY AND THESE  PRE-COOKED DINNER ROLLS?  YOU WILL NOW BOW DOWN TO MY DOMESTIC GRANDEUR BEFORE FIXING YOUR PLATE.

This attitude continued for about five more minutes before this happened.


This is the aftermath of Cornocalypse.  I dropped the corn while taking it to the microwave to re-heat so the butter would melt in it.  You can bet your sweet ass that if I had to roast the corn in the oven, everything would have been fine, but nooooooooooooooo, I had to get fancy and try to make frozen corn on the stove.  This is what happens when you try to get cute in important situations: your shit ends up on the floor.

Despite the corn-on-the-floor debacle from last year, my kids are super excited about Thanksgiving.  Which makes no sense at all, because they don’t eat about 75% of the food served at a typical Thanksgiving meal.  They are excited about the idea of turkey, not necessarily eating it.  It also appears that my brainwashing over the last six years has finally kicked in, because Phaedra and, to a lesser degree, Bella are excited to watch the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade (America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to all you non-Michiganders).  I refuse to turn anything else on in the morning, meaning at a certain point I am the only person watching the parade.  I don’t care.  Tradition is not necessarily fun, and even when it is fun, it’s because you’ve been conditioned to believe it’s fun.  I’m alright with that concept.

Sometimes, though, tradition just happens and you don’t even realize it.  I didn’t know that my spur-of-the-moment decision to cook a turkey would result in my girls expecting me to do it every year.  We visit family for actual Thanksgiving dinner, but my girls now have Thanksgiving lunch as well.  And even though I suspect they’ll eat more of their Cinnamon Toast Crunch than light meat tomorrow, they’re still excited to see that turkey come out of the oven in our own kitchen.  You know, the one that I cooked.  Me.  Their mom.

I cannot wait to be The Man tomorrow when I pull that roaster out of the oven.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Posted in don't be jealous, let's try this again, temporary insanity, that hot thing in my kitchen that makes food | 4 Comments

Movie Night

Friday nights are a big deal around these parts.  We don’t plan parties or events if we can help it.  I decline invitations to go out.  Homework is set aside and baths are skipped.  It’s a special night.

It’s Movie Night, bitches.20140404_193335

Movie Night started out a few years ago as a way for me to avoid giving baths on a weekend night.  I would make microwave popcorn and Phaedra and I would sit under a blanket on the floor and watch Brave.  Eventually, Movie Night became a regular weekly event.  The other girls got on board with the idea, and we started switching up the movie every week.  We also started sitting on the couch instead of the floor, which, let me tell you, my decrepit knees and back appreciate very much.

Movie Night starts around 6:00 p.m. with the most bullshit dinner I can think of.  Occasionally it’s pizza or McDonald’s, but usually it’s something like pancakes and scrambled eggs or grilled cheese sandwiches.  During dinner, which is eaten directly in front of the TV (like God intended), we decide what movie we’re going to watch.  This is where Movie Night sinks or swims.  Trying to make a seven-, five-, and three-year-old agree on the same movie should be a condition of being granted sainthood.  Reading aloud the title of every single DVD you own and hearing two people say “Yes!” and one person say “No!” and then listening to two people complain and cry because the the third person is saying no to everything out of spite because no one would agree to the movie she wanted to watch six movies ago should be the final exam of anger management courses.

Once we finally pick a movie, I go to the kitchen and make popcorn.  Real popcorn — on the stove top, in a big pot.  I’ve perfected my technique, and you guys?  My popcorn game is STRONG.  Microwave popcorn can’t hold a fucking candle to popcorn made on the stove with real melted butter and lots of kosher salt.  It smells amazing.  It tastes even better.  They rarely eat more than a handful before someone is sticking their feet in the bowl.

Despite all this, I love Movie Night.  Every week I’m counting down, and looking forward to sitting on the couch and watching a good movie with my girls (which makes it especially fucking awful when they want to watch Chicken Little for the 99th time).  During the week, I see them in the morning while getting ready for school, and for about two hours before they go to bed.  Each of those time periods are hectic and don’t leave much time for talking and just hanging out.  I never clean during Movie Night; I bring the popcorn to the TV room and sit on the couch with them.  I love that we have a little ritual together that is sacred.

As for the girls?  I figured they probably enjoyed Movie Night, but I didn’t realize how much.  I picked Phaedra up from a long day in the first grade.  We saw her kindergarten teacher from the previous year.  “Oh, Phaedra!” she said.  “Is tonight Movie Night?”

“Yeah!” she said.

“How did you know that?” I asked her teacher.

“Oh my gosh, Phaedra told us all about Movie Night a couple of times last year!  It sounds like it’s a big deal.”

InstaSize_2014_10 _ 200716

Dude, you don’t even know.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Posted in Movie Night | 2 Comments

Mostly Bass, Some Treble

Bathroom Scale by Flickr user -Paul H-, I’m not fat.  I realize that.  But I am fatter.  I am a recovering skinny girl who still shops and dresses like a skinny girl.  It’s not until I find myself in a changing room stuck in a pair of jeans that won’t go past my thighs that I remember the thirty extra pounds I’m carrying.  I still wear my old clothes, because why waste my money on new clothes?  Buying new clothes is admitting defeat, and I’m going to lose this extra weight any day now!  Three years later, I’m still using this weak-ass argument to justify not buying clothes that actually fit.  So I continue to wear my too-small clothes, but with minor (embarrassing) adjustments.  For example, today my student worker helpfully pointed out that my skirt had come unzipped.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I couldn’t have zipped it any further even if I had burned another skirt as a sacrifice to the Fat Gods.

I blame Surrey, mostly.  I bounced back pretty easily after the first two babies.  It’s that third pregnancy that fucks up your body.  Being in your thirties doesn’t really help, either.  Then I had my gall bladder out a year ago, which helped me to pile on an additional ten pounds.  But that’s not my fault!  My surgeon reassured me that this would not happen.  Well, actually, what he said was, “Many people say that having your gall bladder removed makes you gain weight, but that is not true.  While it is true that you may not feel full when you eat the way you did before the surgery, as long as you stay within a normal calorie range, you will not gain weight.”  I guess that’s what he said — I wasn’t really listening, I was hungry and daydreaming about the Baconator I was going to get from Wendy’s on the way home from my appointment.  But here’s how it probably would have gone if I had actually been paying attention:

Surgeon: “Make sure you eat like a normal person and you won’t gain weight”

Me: “Whaaaaa?”


Me: “LOL NO.”

Here’s my main problem: losing weight takes waaaay too long.  The longest I can last on a diet is two weeks.  That’s not nearly enough time to lose an appreciable amount of weight.  Recently, it dawned on me that I need to figure out a way to lose all the weight I need to lose within a faster period of time.  I thought about finding a faith healer to speak in tongues and then shove me backwards, ridding me of the Doritos demon that has taken control of my midsection.  Instead, I decided to go old-school and try something that I remember from ’80s childhood: Slimfast.  If it was good enough for my mother’s generation, then dammit, it was good enough for me.  I felt like such a hipster buying my canister of powdered chocolate-flavored drink at the drug store.  The feeling faded as I went to work with my liquid “meal.”  I told everyone I was drinking a protein shake for lunch.  That sounded way cooler than, “I’m a little chunky so I’m drinking Slimfast because I’m approaching middle age and this is what we do.”

I did great the first two days.  I felt very retro with my ’80s-style weight-loss solution.  I considered ordering a Sweatin’ to the Oldies video, but then I remembered our VCR didn’t work and also it wasn’t 1989 anymore.  I lost a few pounds, and figured I could lose a decent amount by the following Friday.  Things were going well, right up until I found myself in my bathroom at the end of day two struggling to give birth to the enormous turd baby that had lodged itself inside of me.  It seems that constipation is a serious issue with Slimfast, a fact I wish I hadn’t found out from Googling on my phone while sitting on the toilet.  “Never again,” I whispered to myself between contractions.  I began to wonder if there was such a thing as a butt C-section.  Silver lining: I lost at least two pounds after delivering that unholy dump.  Win!

(BTW: It was a boy.  I named him Scooter.)

A few weeks after the Slimfast disaster, I was looking through the discount bin at the grocery store when I found a box of powdered Slimquick.  I was sold on the name alone.  I mean, finally — here’s a company that fucking gets it.  I don’t need to get slimfast, I need to get slimquick!  I couldn’t wait to get really skinny by drinking this berry-flavored concoction of vitamins and sketchy-sounding herbs and (presumably) a mega-dose of caffeine.  I lasted one day.  All it did was stain my water cup at work a beautiful shade of red, and piss off my kids because I wouldn’t share my “Kool-Aid” with them.  Plus, by this point I really missed eating.  I just wanted to chew again, you know?  “Drinking your lunch” sounds way cooler when you’re a ’60s advertising executive than when you’re a slightly round librarian who keeps food in her desk.

Oh well.  It’s probably better that things worked out this way.  There’s far too much Halloween candy in this house, which I don’t think counts as a 100 calorie snack or a sensible meal.  Better to just say “fuck it, I’m fat” until New Year’s.  What better way to begin the new year than cranky and perpetually thisclose to clawing your husband’s face off for daring to eat fast food in front of you?  “Happy New Year, FUCK YOU AND YOUR BURGER.”

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Posted in Awkward, bad ideas, birth story, don't be jealous, famous last words, professional slacker, so much poop, super gross out, temporary insanity, what dude? | 19 Comments

Tips and Tricks for Wussies to Avoid Imaginary Monsters Potentially Living in Your House (and Definitely in Your Basement)

Here’s a strange fact about me: I love horror fiction.  Three entire shelves in my bookcase are filled with Stephen King novels.  I read a really good zombie anthology a few years ago that I might add to my Amazon wish list for Christmas.  Occasionally a story or novel will get to me if I read it before bedtime (like the time I finished ‘Salem’s Lot in high school and had vampire nightmares all night long), but generally I can read this kind of fiction with no problem.

20141028_015250Movies, however, are a completely different story.  I have an extremely low threshold for horror movies.  I can barely stand to watch American Horror Story, and I usually watch it with my hand in front of my face, peeking between my fingers.  If I watch a scary movie, I am freaked the fuck out for WEEKS.  I don’t even need to actually watch the movie to be terrified of it: Rob (who absolutely LOVES horror movies) saw Paranormal Activity in the theater, and described the attic scene to me.  Although I’ve still never seen this movie, I’m haunted by his description of that scene.  Remember, I’VE NEVER SEEN THE GODDAMN MOVIE.  That’s how far the crazy extends: I am afraid of movie scenes that I have created in my own head based purely on second-hand accounts.  Sometimes, I’ll hear about a horror movie that actually sounds interesting, but I know I can’t watch it, so I look it up on Wikipedia and read the plot summary.  Why?  Because I am the president, vice president, and recording secretary of the Super Wussy Baby Club.

I recently discovered that I cannot handle (nor resist) “true” creepy stories.  Each year, Jezebel asks readers to post “real” scary stories that have happened to them or their family.  I’m sure not every single post is legit, but the idea that hundreds of people have had experiences with ghosts/murderers/evil spirits scares the shit out of me.  Even the ones that sound exaggerated still creep me the fuck out.  Did this stop me from spending two days reading every single story posted? No, it did not.  Am I paying for it dearly by being too scared to go to the fucking bathroom in the dark?  Yes, yes I am.

So, as a lifelong wuss, here’s a list of things that my fellow wussies and I do to protect ourselves from the ghosts and monsters that suddenly live in our house when we binge on too many scary stories/movies:

Check behind the shower curtain at least five times: It’s a well-known fact that evil things like to wait just outside the curtain while you shower.  Making sure the bathroom is clear is critical.

Avoid looking at windows at night: If you look out the window for too long, a scary face is just going to suddenly appear, or you’ll see the face that’s been staring at you the entire time.  Side note: my husband’s best friend thought it would be hilarious one summer evening to go outside to smoke, and then just patiently stare into our window, waiting for me to notice him staring at me.  IT WAS NOT.

Look behind you while sprinting upstairs: Sometimes Michael Meyers will try to chase you up the basement stairs if you don’t go quickly enough.  You need to check behind you to make sure you’re running fast enough.

Pause the TV fifty times an hour when you hear ghosts banging around your house: Your rational mind might try to convince you that the noises are, in fact, the hamster chewing on her new wood blocks you bought her, or the dishwasher that you loaded and set to run on a delay finally kicking on.  Don’t believe these lies.  It’s better to spend your energy trying to figure out the gender of the ghost knocking around your house.

At bedtime, leave a trail of lights: This is key.  Being caught in a dark room is a big mistake.  That’s how the monsters get you.  Instead, at bedtime, turn on all the lights in the house.  Then, starting in the room farthest from your final destination, begin turning off the lights.  This will ensure that the dark rooms are behind you, and you are always in a well-lit (read: non-ghost-having) room.  

Abandon anything you need that was left behind:  If you get into bed after turning off all the lights just to realize you left your phone charger downstairs, or, even worse, in the basement, you know what?  Fuck that charger.  You’ll just have to wake up to a dead cell phone.  Better than catching the girl from The Ring off-guard after she just crept up from the basement to hang out in your TV room while you sleep.  Look at it this way: would you rather have your phone at 1% in the morning, or end up with a melty face?  I rest my case.

Replay every scary movie/story/anecdote when frightened: If you do become spooked, be sure to start reviewing every possible scary thing you’ve ever seen or read that scares the holy hell out of you.  Start with the major ones, like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason, etc. You can then move on to the second-string players, like that fucked-up doll from that new movie, zombies, a real-life axe murderer, etc.  That way, your mind and body will stay sharp so you can quickly identify which monster is hiding in your hallway when you have to get up to comfort a crying child in the pitch dark at 3:00 a.m.

Your blanket is a protective shield: When you can finally (attempt to) sleep, make sure every part of your body is covered with your blanket.  Your feet have GOT to be covered, because this is how demons grab you and drag you under the bed and on to Hell.  You must, however, create a hole for your face to stick out and let you breathe.  For some reasons, evil spirits respect the face hole and leave it alone.

There are a few more that I think go without saying to most seasoned wussies, like “stay out of the basement” and “keep all lights on, all the time.”  So this Halloween season (and, let’s be honest, all year round), you can feel free to watch the freakiest movies you can find and read the creepiest of the creepy pasta online, and still be able to function in your house by yourself at night when necessary.

Except that Annabelle movie.  Fuck that movie.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

monster pin

Posted in bad ideas, lists, not doing that ever again, that doll is creepy, Uncategorized | 14 Comments

The Extreme Highs and Lows of Hamster Ownership

We’ve decided to expand our family.


Last week, Phaedra began campaigning hard for a pet bunny.  Rob and I countered with an offer of a hamster or guinea pig.  She chose a hamster.  I was pretty pumped, because there are soooooo many possibilities for funny names with a hamster.  However, despite trying to convince Phaedra that Doogie Hamster, M.D. and #YOLO were completely acceptable names for her new pet, she decided to go with Brownie Pancakes instead.  Except now her hamster sounds delicious and makes me want to make brownie pancakes whenever I talk about it, which by the way, did you know that brownie pancakes are an actual thing?  I am going to cook the fuck out of some brownie pancakes some day.

IMG_20141011_154320So we went to the pet store last Saturday to pick out our (duh) female hamster.  We picked out a cage, food, bedding, tiny plastic castle, chew treats, hamster ball, and miscellaneous cat toys for Surrey because she wouldn’t stop crying and they were the only thing that made her happy. I somehow wrangled three girls and a cart filled with $100 worth of pet accessories for the $15 hamster (on sale!) to the checkout counter, where the cashier was delighted by the girls and their enthusiasm for their new little friend.

(Side note: every time I take all three girls out in public, someone inevitably says to me, “You know, I was one of three sisters as well.”  Every time, without fail.  They’re always smiling when they say it.  I absolutely love it.  This time, it was the friendly cashier who smiled that special smile as she told us she was the baby sister of two older sisters.)

IMG_20141011_165027When we got home, I put together the cage (which, I have to admit, is way cooler than any animal cage I’ve ever owned), got all the accessories, food, and bedding in place, and then it was time for the big moment: time to introduce Brownie Pancakes to her new home.  We let her climb in, and she immediately began checking things out.  “She sniffed the food bowl!” “Look! She touched the wheel!” “OH SHIT LOOK SHE’S CLIMBING UP THAT TUBE!” (That last one might have been me.)  Rob came home from running errands, and we stood there with the girls, crowded around the cage, watching how delighted they were in their new little friend.  It was a genuinely nice moment.  “This is good for them,” Rob said.  I agreed.  Why had we waited so long?  We were riding high on new pet excitement and drunk on good parenting decisions.

At bedtime, Phaedra and I stood watching her nocturnal little friend busy herself with all the things one does when they move into a new place: check out all the rooms, rearrange things, have a few snacks.  We lifted up the lid on the little viewing pod on the roof of the cage and tried to pet her a few times before she dived back into her tube.  I said goodnight to Phaedra and commenced all the cool adult stuff that she thinks happens after she goes to bed, like eating Happy Meals and watching her TV shows.

When Rob came home from work late that night, I was still pretty high on a day of successful parenting.  He found me upstairs tucking one of the kids back in after a midnight trip to the bathroom.  “You should come see the hamster!  She’s really active right now, running around and stuff!”

I shined the light from my cell phone into the cage so he could see.  We both peered in.  Then we looked closer.  Then we looked at each other, and looked in the cage again.  “Uh, where is she?” Rob said.

“Uh, she’s right….” Not in the tube.  Not in the little plastic castle.  Not in the top viewing pod…with the unlocked lid.

Oh shit.  Shit shit shit shit shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.

“Where is she?!”

“She must have gotten out of the viewing pod.”

“But how?  Did she chew her way out?”

“Well…I, uh, didn’t lock the lid.”

Why didn’t you lock the lid?!  Why would you do that?!”

“I didn’t think she could lift up the lid with her head!  She kept bumping her head against the lid and it didn’t move, so I thought she couldn’t get out.”


I fucking hate when he’s so blatantly right and I’m so blatantly wrong.

I started shining my cell phone flashlight around the room.  Brownie Pancakes is nowhere near her cage.  A few minutes into the search, Rob looks at me and says, “That’s it.  I mean, we’re never going to find this hamster in this house.  No way.  She could literally be anywhere.

“Rob,” I said, “we don’t have a choice.  We have to find that hamster before she wakes up.”

He knew I was right, but was really pissed about the fact that I was both right and wrong at the same time.  Since I’m not used to being wrong, this was a new feeling for me as well.  Not that we had time to think about it, because it was 1:00 a.m. and we had to find a hamster that already had a three hour head start on us.

Our house has three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and when I tell you that I tore those rooms apart, what I mean is I TORE THOSE ROOMS APART.  I looked underneath everything, moved every single toy away from the wall, emptied every single basket and drawer, removed every single toy and blanket from every single closet, all while three kids slept in the dark.  We eventually moved a sleeping Phaedra to our bed so we could look around her mattress and bedding.  My house was tore the fuck up, but the hamster was nowhere.  This went on for three hours.  We were exhausted.  We started doing that thing where you keep looking in the place the thing you’re looking for should be, in the hopes that you just overlooked it and it was sitting there all along.  I was wandering in circles, re-checking spots I’d already looked.  Finally, at 4:00 a.m., Rob and I sat down and ran through our options:

1. Tell Phaedra the truth in the morning: Brownie had escaped her cage somehow.  We would leave her cage door open, and hope that she wandered home in a few days for food and water (although honestly, the odds that she would return home for that bullshit hamster food when she had a five-star buffet on the floors of our house were pretty slim).

2.  Tell Phaedra that we had to take Brownie to the vet in the middle of the night, and she would be home that afternoon (after a quick pit-stop at another pet store…)

Phaedra was too smart to believe option #2, so at 4:30 a.m., we finally conceded defeat and decided to go to bed.  But I was so guilt-ridden over losing the hamster that I insisted on staying up and listening for the hamster, because when you lose your daughter’s pet hamster the first day she has it after listening to her tell you “Thank you so much, Mom!” and “I love Brownie Pancakes sooooo much!”, you will do anything, including sitting quietly in a darkened room listening for hamster footsteps when you’d much rather go to sleep, in order to avoid breaking your daughter’s heart.

So there I was, sitting on Phaedra’s bed, trying to see how quickly I could drain the battery of my phone, when I heard nibbling sounds coming from the SAME GODDAMN CLOSET I just completely emptied an hour earlier.  I got up and emptied everything but a big Rubbermaid tub from the closet.  I was kind of afraid to look behind the tub, because if there was nothing there, it would mean I was either crazy or the damn thing was in the walls.  But there she sat, staring back at me with the hamster equivalent of an “oh shit” look on her face.  After playing Keystone Kops with the damn thing around and around the tub, I finally grabbed her, plopped her into the viewing pod, locked the lid, and carried it triumphantly into my bedroom to wake up Rob and let him know that the Great Hamster Disaster of 2014 was finally over.

The next day, Phaedra asked me why the house was so messy, and why all the toys were out of her closet.  “Oh, I was looking for something while you were asleep last night.”

“What were you looking for?”

I told the truth.

“Just something I needed.  Nothing big.”

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Posted in Brownie Pancakes, not doing that ever again | 10 Comments

Missed Connections

Please take the bracelet, Bella, just take the bracelet…

I watched as Phaedra, after making a heartfelt speech, slid the blue plastic bracelet across the mattress to Bella, who lay hiding underneath her blanket on the top bunk.  Even though I knew what would likely happen, I hoped against hope that Bella would recognize how important it was to Phaedra that she accept this small peace offering.  But Bella couldn’t see it, just like she couldn’t see why it was so hurtful to tell Phaedra to her face that she didn’t want to be her friend.  My heart sank as I watched the blue bracelet slide back across the mattress, then it broke as Phaedra ran out of the room, sobbing.


As the girls get older, it’s becoming increasingly clear that autism has a profound effect on the dynamics of these sisters’ relationships.  Being a middle child, it leaves both Phaedra and Surrey without a playmate close to their own age.  They each desperately want to play with Bella, since she is closest to their ages.  Bella, however, usually prefers to play by herself, creating carefully staged, look-but-do-not-touch scenes in her dollhouse or with her dinosaurs.  While Surrey and Phaedra can and do play together sometimes, it’s hard for a three-year-old and seven [going on seventeen]-year-old to find common ground.  Bella’s meltdowns, while nowhere near as frequent as they were in the past, affect the girls differently than when they were younger.  While I had hoped that age would bring Phaedra the wisdom and experience to understand and deal with Bella’s sudden rage, it has had the opposite effect.  Age has bestowed upon Phaedra even more complex emotions that help her to understand exactly how deeply her feelings are hurt when Bella screams in her face or throws a toy across the room.

Sometimes, as I watch their struggles to interact gradually self-destruct into shouting and tears, I marvel at how I, an intelligent woman who has read so much, talked with so many professionals, and lived with these children for so long, can feel so utterly ill-equipped to handle this.  I try to rationally referee their arguments, but when your feelings are hurt over and over again by someone you love, how can you listen to logic?  How can you hear your mother’s words when your emotions and anxiety are blaring full-blast in your head?

10562618_10152702615418086_2883445146137610006_oI take comfort in the good moments.  I take comfort in three little girls running around the house with ice cream cones in their hands during those fifteen golden minutes before bedtime, screaming and giggling over some silly game that they spontaneously created together.  I take comfort in the sincere hugs given before Phaedra goes into her classroom on the mornings we’re running too late to catch her class waiting outside.  I take comfort in Bella suddenly looking concerned before stepping into the shower and asking, “Where’s Baby Surrey?” while Surrey is away at dance class.

I know they love each other.  I just wish I could make them understand each other.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Posted in autism, Bella, Debbie Downer, Phaedra, sister love, Surrey | 12 Comments

Reasons I Want to Punch Jen Mann in the Throat: A Crappy Review of a Damn Good Book

20140901_095559kDid you hear?  Jen Mann’s book, People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges, is finally out!  I was able to read an advance copy, because I’ve fooled someone along the way into thinking I’m kind of a big deal.  This, assuredly, is not the case, but I’m not saying shit, because I’m getting free books out of this misunderstanding.

For starters, the book came in the mail, which was very exciting, because I love mail.  So, this book already had that going for it.  Plus, the cover art is awesome.  As a librarian, I can tell you that you absolutely should judge a book by its cover.  If the cover art is boring, or poorly done, it means someone didn’t give enough of a shit about the book to hire a good graphic designer.  Plus, nobody wants to check out a book with a plain cover.  I don’t care if the book reveals the legit location of Jimmy Hoffa’s body with a coupon for free cupcakes for life — if it doesn’t have a nice color picture on the front, it’s not budging from the shelf.  Jen’s pretty cover art will have you thinking, “Mmmm cupcakes!  But wait! That cupcake fell on the ground.  I don’t like that.  Maybe I can read her book and find out why the hell she would waste a perfectly good cupcake like that.”  You can’t, though, because that’s not actually what the book is about.  You’ll just have to wonder forever whether or not she picked the cupcake up after the photo session and ate it (probably not, but real talk?  I would).

After I admired the cover, I started reading.  Then I kept reading after the first page, even though I swore I would stop because it was already 5:00 pm and that’s when I’m supposed to start cooking dinner, or else it throws off my entire nighttime schedule of dinner/baths/snack/bedtime.  But then I read one more page.  Then I read the next chapter.  Then I looked at the clock after the fourth chapter, and it was 6:00 pm and I hadn’t even started cooking dinner.  So I put some bullshit dinner together of PB&J and fruit and got baths started.  Which was good, because that meant I could finish a few more chapters while I “supervised” baths.

Mann - Punch in the Throat - final cover - 500First and foremost, the stories are just so goddamn funny.  There’s too many moments for me to count — finding out why she was so popular on AOL,  her coworker’s Fourth of July party that gave a whole new meaning to the term “networking”, lusting for a minivan of her own, and how to properly attend a sex toy party.  But really there’s moments in each chapter that I found myself re-reading a line over and over, resisting the urge (unsuccessfully) to text a line to a friend that I thought would appreciate it most.

This book is so good.  I mean, the kind of good that makes you jealous that you didn’t write it yourself.  Jen’s writing style makes you feel like you’re already a member of her inner circle: she can be straight with you about what she really thinks about things because you guys have already gotten past all the fake polite conversations, sent out the feelers to see if the other person’s cool or not, and decided to stop being polite and start being real.  It’s conversationally funny, not “I am here writing a funny essay about living in the suburbs” funny.  Jen’s telling you a hilarious story, and she swears sometimes because when you’re telling your friends a story, you swear sometimes.  But here’s the thing: that kind of writing style is deceptively difficult to pull off.  Most people who try writing in this style can’t do it well, and certainly can’t tell an entertaining story.  It reads like she simply typed out the story the way she would tell it at a backyard barbecue, but I’m here to tell you that it’s fucking hard to write in this style.  Jen does it and does it well.

So go ahead and treat yourself to one last thing before you start shopping for other people: buy People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges today.  I promise you that after you finish reading it, you’ll buy five more copies as gifts for your friends.  Or, if you’re like me, you’ll want to, but instead just tell all your friends to buy it themselves, because I’m too broke to be buying my friends books just for fun.  Then you’ll get exasperated that they haven’t and buy it for them for Christmas.  THERE, dummy.  WHY DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING FOR YOU?

I might need to re-examine my ideas about gift-giving.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss a post.  Better yet, pop your email address in the box at the top of the page and subscribe!  Also, you can read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

Posted in book reviews, don't be jealous, fuck those moms at dance class, internet famous | 2 Comments