The Caterpillars, or Nature is Surprisingly Awful

"Raise caterpillars," they said. "They'll turn into butterflies," they said. Even nature can't just act normal in our house.  Nature is surprisingly awful and I officially want no part of it.I’d like to start out by letting you guys know that I am not a nature person.  At all.  I appreciate that nature is a thing, and that we need it and should live our lives in a way that supports its continued existence.

That being said: I want absolutely no fucking part of it.

I do not camp.  I do not hike.  I’m not sure why people would voluntarily walk through the woods for no reason other than for the experience of walking through the woods.  Now when I say “nature,” I don’t necessarily mean animals.  I LOVE animals.  Give me a zoo, a petting farm, hell, even a pet store any day.  It’s mostly the outdoors and the nitty-gritty of the natural world that I do not want.  I don’t need bugs or trees or anything like that fucking up my flow.  I’m not an outdoor cat; I’m an indoor cat.  Give me a good ol’ fashioned window to look out and I’m happy.

About a month ago, Bella found four little caterpillars on Rob’s dill plants.  Bella is pet crazy right now, and she LOVES bugs.  Every day, she tells me what kind of pet she’s going to have when she turns seven years old.  Seven is the magical age in our house where a child can officially own a pet.  This is mainly because Phaedra was seven when we stupidly agreed to buy her a hamster.  This is how we create our parenting philosophies.  We are open to suggestions.

Anyways, Bella flipped out over these caterpillars.  I mean, we’ve found toads and all sorts of other nature-esque things in our backyard before (“we” meaning “Rob and everyone else in the house except for me”), but these were CATERPILLARS! JUST LIKE IN THAT BOOK YOU READ ME, MOM!  All four bells were going off in that kid’s head when I got home from work and received the good news that WE FOUND CATERPILLARS IN DADDY’S GARDEN! THEY’RE MY PETS I’M GOING TO GO GET MY PET CARRIER THAT GRANDMA BUY ME WHEN WE WENT UP NORTH TO VISIT HER AND THEY’RE GOING TO LIVE IN MY ROOM AND EAT LEAVES AND GET SOOOOO BIG! I’LL BE RIGHT BACK!  STAY RIGHT THERE, MASH!

Considering the fact that she’d already named one of the caterpillars “Mash,” we knew we either needed to get with the program or get really good at finding stray caterpillars in our house.  Rob built a bug barn, persuading Bella that maybe her purple plastic pet carrier that came with her little stuffed dog was not exactly the most enclosed area to keep a herd of caterpillars.  He then gathered up the caterpillars and inserted them into their new enclosed home with a bunch of dill leaves and set it on Bella’s dresser next to the window.

Rob did all this, because I was somewhere else, actively avoiding nature.  I do not do nature.  Especially not nature that is now in my house.

But, they were kind of cute.  They were little green and black caterpillars that slowly marched around the cage, constantly eating or looking for more food.  Slowly, I got on board the caterpillar train.  I mean, they eat dill, for fuck’s sake! How adorable is that?!  Rob and I both starting researching caterpillar and butterfly care.  Rob found out we were housing future blue swallowtail butterflies, and that they would probably eat parsley as well as dill.  Which was great news, because at the rate these guys were eating, we were quickly running out of dill.

Nature!  Kind of exciting!  Not too messy or annoying!

Then one day, the caterpillars started slowing down.  Awwww yeah!  I read about this on the Internet.  That means they’re going to be cocoons soon!  Sure enough, one by one the little caterpillars crawled onto the screened-in roof of the bug barn and slowly transformed into cocoons.  Three brown, one green.  That part was interesting, because all the caterpillars looked exactly the same.

But, whatever! NATURE!  BUTTERFLIES!

Weeks went by, as Butterfly Watch 2015 kept us watching and waiting for the day we would walk into the room and see a beautiful butterfly freshly emerged from its cocoon.  One evening, while the girls were “getting ready for bed,” i.e. turning the water on and off in the bathroom and shouting nonsense words while running up and down the hallway half-naked, I went into Bella and Surrey’s room to peek in on the caterpillars.  Lo and behold, from across the room, I saw something new hanging from the screen!  OMG A FUCKING BUTTERFLY HATCHED AND I WAS HERE TO SEE IT!  IN YOUR FACE, ROB!  I slowly approached the cage, ready to soak in the wonder of this delicate new creature.

That’s when I noticed the buzzing sound.

Butterflies don’t buzz.  But you know what does?

A FUCKING WASP.

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To be fair, I knew that this was a possibility.  During Rob’s butterfly research, he came across parasitoid wasps.  Do n0t Google it.  Essentially, caterpillars will be just living their lives, when one day a wasp shows up and infects the caterpillars with its teeny, tiny eggs.  But you don’t know that’s what’s happened until the caterpillars win the hearts and minds of you and everyone around you, magically transform themselves into cocoons, and then horrify you when they emerge one night from the only green cocoon as a disgusting, fully-fledged wasp.  However, the idea that this could happen to our caterpillars seemed so far-fetched and pessimistic.  Even when he questioned as to why our cocoons looked suspiciously like the pictures of infected cocoons he found online, I remained hopeful, finding pictures that showed healthy cocoons that resembled ours.

Nature! Punishing the optimist!  Sinking to shockingly disgusting levels!

I called Rob, who was on his way home, and shared the good news.  Since the kids were busy, they hadn’t seen our new “pet” yet.  Rob recommended I just take the bug barn outside, explain that the butterfly had emerged, and Daddy would set it free when he got home.

“Okay, honey, good plan.  I’ll see you when you get home.  Love you, goodb–”

“MOM, LOOK! MASH CAME OUT OF HIS COCOON!  HE’S A BUTTERFLY!”

“SHIIIIIT.”

“GO WITH IT.  I’ll be right home.”

I hung up.  Bella stood next to me, staring at the wasp angrily buzzing around the bug barn.

“Mom, it’s Mash!”

“Yup! Sure is!”

“He’s a butterfly now!”

“Uh huh! Great, right?”

“Yeah! And we can let him go outside and fly away to find his family!”

“Oh yes, that’s happening.  Honey, go on and brush your teeth, okay?”

“Okay!”

Phaedra, who already finished getting ready for bed while her sisters acted like lunatics and caught the tail end of my conversation with Bella, lingered for a moment.

“Mom?  That’s not a butterfly.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“What is it?”

“I don’t know, honey.”  I couldn’t bear to say it out loud, because then nature wins.

“Huh.  Maybe it’s a moth.”

“Maybe…”

Rob came home and triumphantly escorted the bug barn outside, amidst cheers from Bella and Surrey for Mash and his new life as a “butterfly”.

“Goodbye, Mash! We love you! We’ll never forget you!”

Phaedra smirked and said, “It’s not really a butterfly, Mom.  But I won’t tell.”

*****

Later that evening, we stood outside trying to extract a wasp out of a homemade bug barn through a hole the diameter of a toilet paper tube using a stick.  Not surprisingly, Mash seemed to prefer flying stupidly around the barn and being an asshole, because that is generally what wasps seem to prefer.  At one point, Rob shook his wasp-stick at me and shouted, “THIS IS MY LIFE.”

Nah, bro.  This is nature, and it fucking sucks.

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in Bella, changelings, if you're gonna spew, not doing that ever again, super gross out, things that don't make sense | 3 Comments

Summer Hot Spots for Families and Why You Shouldn’t Bother

IMG_20140617_020942It’s summertime, which means every family is attempting to cram fifty different field trips into roughly three months’ worth of weekends. I get it – I’m exactly the same way. I have to get though a list of places my kids beg me to take them allllllll year round. Every single summer weekend is me escorting my kids around the state in the heat, spending all the money I would have spent on the heat bill during the winter on carrots for the fucking goats at the petting farm. But since I’m such a giving person, I’m going to give you a rundown of places people typically schlep their kids to this time of year, and why you should basically just stay home, pop in a DVD, and enjoy that sweet A/C coming out of those vents (or not, whatever).

The Zoo: Big mistake. Huge. When you say to your kids, “Hey! Let’s go to the zoo!” what you’re really saying is, “Hey! Let’s get all excited about seeing wild animals, then go someplace where the animals just lay around on rocks, making it difficult to tell if the bears are alive or dead because it’s so damn hot, and they’re so far away I have to point to show you where they are which means absolutely nothing to you because you obviously don’t really understand the idea of ‘looking where someone points,’ because you’re looking about 90 degrees off from where I’m pointing.”  If you insist on taking your kids anyways, stick to an all-indoor exhibit agenda, followed by the ice cream cart. Trust me: Reptile House, Butterfly House, Penguin Exhibit, Ice Cream, Parking Lot. Anything else is just an endless walk on a cement- and whine-paved nature trail.

The Splash Park: You fell for this one too, right?!  I took my kids to the splash park a few summers ago, thinking I was The Shit for surprising my kids. I realized my error when two of them just wandered around, using their hands to shield themselves from the constant threat of water being randomly sprayed in their face or spritzed into their eyeballs. The prissy moms sitting in lawn chairs around the splash area were none too pleased when one of my children gave up and started making a mud pie on the perimeter of the play area.

Petting Farm: Alright, this is fail-safe, right?! Animals right up in your face, being cute, and you can touch them?! Slam dunk. Except here’s a hot tip: make absolutely sure before you go that none of your kids are terrified of farm animals before you go. Actually, never mind – your kid is probably a liar like my two-year-old was, and will tell you how excited they are to pet the sheep, then break down into uncontrollable, can’t-breathe, I’m-convinced-this-sheep-is-going-to-steal-my-soul crying once they are faced with an actual sheep. They will cry the entire time you tour the farm, because you can’t just leave when your other children are running around the barn treating the goats like they’re A-list celebrities. So you will be that mom, the one that forces your child to try to have fun. Some of the moms will have sympathy for you, though, because they’re fresh off their disastrous splash park trip from the previous weekend.

The Beach: HAHAHAHAHA. I know, I know. The beach is the epitome of summer family outings. But it’s really awful, I promise you. It starts with dragging a ton of heavy shit from the car to the scorching-hot sand while trying to herd your tiny miracles across the parking lot. Then, instead of eating the food you brought, your kids will beg you for overpriced ice cream, which you will buy because HEY, WE’RE AT THE BEACH!  If your kids do swim, you’ll spend your time stressing about sharp rocks or undertows or otherwise floating away into the great unknown instead of reading the book you brought; if your kids don’t swim, you’ll be too pissed about all the hassle that went into a trip to the beach when your kids won’t even get into the goddamn water to even think about reading your book. Some jerky kid will steal your kid’s sand bucket, then your kid will accidentally step on someone tanning, and then you’ll decide it’s time to pack up and go. Your kids will cry over this decision no matter how long you stay, so just tune it out and think about something else, like how Disco Duck was an actual thing.

Listen, I’m not necessarily saying never do any one of these things. What I’m saying is do them, but be aware that it will turn out to be a four-alarm disaster. That way, at least you’ll know that it’s not your fault that you want to drop your family off at home and then just keep driving until the gas and the bank account run dry. You never even had a chance, and that’s okay. Don’t worry, though – your kids are crazy enough that they will completely re-write history and tell you later how much fun they had with you.

Now go sit and relax on that couch, because the weekend’s coming far too soon, and fall is still too far away for comfort.

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in lists | 11 Comments

Twenty Things I Would Rather Do Instead of Play With My Kids

I can't be the only parent who doesn't want to play Barbies, right? I'd gladly do anything from this list if it gets me out of this tea party.I love my kids.  Love, love, looooooove them.  Anyone who talks to me and makes the mistake of asking if I have kids knows this is true.  I love talking to them, I love dancing with them, I love just hanging out with them.  I love taking them to new places and finding things for them to do together as sisters.  However, there is one thing that, after eight years of parenting, I’ve never really been able to get into.

I do not like playing with them.

I don’t really enjoy sitting down for an extended session of Barbies.  I don’t want to sit and be told how to build a castle with blocks.  I am not really interested in pretending to go camping with them.  This is why I had more than one child and grandparents that enjoy buying toys: so that somebody, ANYBODY, would play with my kids besides me.  When it comes to my children, I am their biggest cheerleader, but their most reluctant playmate.

I watch people who like playing with kids, and I try to figure out what’s going on in their mind.  Are they really enjoying this?  How is that possible?  Why do these people enjoy Candyland and I just sit there, purposely throwing the game so it can be done sooner?  Have they figured out how to click off the part of their brain that wants to reach out for their phone, or the part that keeps them from freaking out about the zillion other things that need to get done before the weekend is over?  Oh shit, am I like Rick Moranis and his wife in Parenthood?
This is not to say that I don’t play with my kids.  I do.  Not as often as I assume people who do like to play with their kids, but I do force myself to participate in a game of hide and seek once in a while.  But girrrrrl, if I can find an excuse, or a reason why someone else should play instead of me, I am on it.

I can't be the only parent who doesn't want to play Barbies, right? I'd gladly do anything from this list if it gets me out of this tea party.In fact, here is a list of things I would rather do instead of play with my kids:

  1. Get a manicure from my toddler.
  2. Explain the Internet to my grandpa.
  3. Look at post-partum pictures of myself.
  4. Try on bathing suits with my skinny, childless friends.
  5. Talk politics with my family on a major holiday.
  6. Drink from the “experiment glass” my kids created at the restaurant.
  7. Sign up for a fitness class with the word “advanced” in the title.
  8. Calculate how much it will cost to send these kids to college.
  9. Watch the last ten minutes of Toy Story 3 while PMSing.
  10. Check my work email from home.
  11. Read the comments on a Miley Cyrus YouTube video.
  12. Read the comments on any YouTube video.
  13. Let my cosmetologist friend “practice” on me.
  14. Sit through someone else’s kid’s recital.
  15. Get a job working with my mom.
  16. Wear heels that are a half size too small.
  17. Listen to my dog lick his paws.
  18. Give prescription eye drops to a child.
  19. Give prescription eye drops to my husband.
  20. Go an entire day with 5% battery on my phone.

It may delight each of you to know that despite having a stone-cold heart that keeps me from enjoying things like being the boyfriend Lalaloopsy EVERY SINGLE TIME OMG CAN I JUST BE TIPPY TUMBELINA ONE FREAKING TIME, I am actually a pretty decent mom.  My kids seem to enjoy having me around, I like having them around, and I do lots of other things to make up for my lacking in the playtime department.

Now, if I could only figure out something to make up for the years of blog posts I’ve written about them…

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in ambivalence, half-assin it, Joan Crawford parenting, lists, professional slacker | 18 Comments

The TV

A recipe for disaster turns into a bonding experience for two sisters. Read more from @649point133Phaedra has had a TV and DVD player in her room for years.  It was accepted by all (begrudgingly by one) that since Phaedra has the larger bedroom all to herself, she has to share her room in terms of playtime and watching the TV during the daytime.  However, this summer is the first that Bella has put together this series of logic:

1.  Phaedra is allowed to watch DVDs to go to sleep on non-school nights.

2.  I would like to do this also.

3.  My bed is not in Phaedra’s room.

4.  I do not have a TV or DVD player in my room.

5.  I want a TV and DVD player in my room.

Thus began Bella’s campaign for her own TV.  She started off slowly, asking Phaedra to turn up the volume on her TV so she could hear it from across the hall in her bed.  But when she started to disagree with Phaedra’s DVD choices, she started to get real.

“I wish I had a TV in my room like Phaedra.”

“Yeah, that would be nice.” (Sometimes if I just agree and don’t commit to actually doing anything, the problem goes away.)

“Can I have a TV in my room?” (But not in this case.)

“You can ask for one for Christmas!” (This is my default answer for things I don’t want to buy.)

“Can I have a TV for my birthday?”

“Um, well, Christmas comes before your birthday, but…”

“Can I have a TV for Christmas?”

“Maybe.  I’ll talk to Daddy and see what we think.” (This is my other default answer for things I don’t want to buy.)

The following night:

“Did you talk to Daddy and see what you think about a TV in my room?”

“Well, I said we’ll see what we think about a TV for Christmas.”

“UGGGGHHHH! Why can’t you tell me what you think NOW?!”

Because, kid, I don’t want to put a TV in your room.  On the one hand, it’s not fair that only Phaedra gets this privilege.  Bella is about the same age as Phaedra was when we gave her our old TV and bought a $25 DVD player on Amazon.  Plus, Bella’s autism sometimes means a different set of rules for her vs. the rest of the family, so we try to keep things consistent whenever possible.  However, it’s the autism that’s really making me reluctant to opening this can of worms.  Screen time is already a battle with Bella, and her obsessive nature is going to make it hard for her to go to sleep, and to not watch TV when school starts and the TV stays off at night.

After a two-week battle, I finally gave in after remembering we have a spare TV in our basement.  Don’t worry, we’re not rich assholes — we just happen to have generous family members who do responsible things like “replace furniture when necessary” and shop at stores that are crazy enough to hand out TVs to people when they buy a new couch.  So last week, after much celebration by the sort-of-unwashed masses, a new little TV and DVD player were ready to roll at bedtime.

It’s super driving me crazy.

Here’s why: Surrey and Bella, who share a room, have recently decided to have “sleepovers”.  A sleepover is when Bella sleeps in the bottom bunk with Surrey.  Since her bed directly faces the TV, they can lay down and quietly watch cartoons together until they both fall asleep.

In theory.

This is a rundown of how the evening actually progresses:

8:30pm: Turn on movie after minimal debate over DVD selection, tuck both girls in, say goodnight.

9:00pm: Tell girls to stop jumping and screaming.

9:15pm: Tell girls I really mean it — no more yelling and playing in bed.

9:16pm: Clear all additional toys that have somehow magically made their way onto the bed since I tucked them in at 8:30pm.

9:20pm: Tell child that no, they’ve already had a drink of water and they cannot get up to get another.

9:21pm: Bring kid drink of water anyways because I’m weak.

9:30pm: Hit “play” on DVD player one more time, because again, I am weak.

10:00pm: Threaten to turn off DVD player if I HEAR ONE MORE JUMPING NOISE OR LOUD VOICE I REALLY MEAN IT.

10:30pm: Ask a ridiculous question I never envisioned asking my children two full hours after their bedtime, as in, “Why does it smell like nail polish in here?  WHY ARE THERE TWO BOTTLES OF OPEN NAIL POLISH LAYING ON THIS BED OH JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL BEFORE I DRIVE THIS BUS OFF THE CLIFF.”

11:00pm: Resolve that you really are not stepping foot in that bedroom again for the rest of the night, as it is now basically Thunderdome and you are not interested in playing Tina Turner (because nobody is as fierce or sick as her, and also because you have allergies and all those furs she has on would just make your eyes itch all day long).

12:00pm: Find them snuggled up with each other, sleeping.

That last part?  The part where I find them together at midnight sleeping happily with their foreheads pressed together?  That’s why I keep putting up with this ridiculousness.  Bella and Surrey have now become partners in bedtime crime.  They think I can’t hear them when they laugh hysterically or play “midnight piggy-back ride” (I don’t want to know what that is, but I heard them talking about it once in the car).  Last night I watched these two knuckleheads try to sneak past my bedroom door and head down the hall to the bathroom, where they loudly got their drink on from the bathroom sink and went potty (even though they SWORE they went potty before bedtime).  They they “sneaked” back into their room, and frantically slammed the door and ran to their bed when I yelled for them to get right back into bed.  I know a day will come when Surrey won’t want to have “sleepovers” with Bella.  But for now?  I am in absolute love with their silly shit and watching them buddy up together.  I will let a lot of questionable things fly in the name of sister bonding.

The other night, I came in to check on the girls for the 49th time, and found Surrey fast asleep, curled up against Bella, who could barely keep her eyes open.

“Surrey’s asleep, huh?”

“Yeah.”  She sat up and looked at Surrey.

“Look, Bella!  Surrey’s all snuggled up with you.”

“Yeah.”

“You know she does that because she really loves you, right?”

Bella smiled really big, laid back down, and cozied up to her little sister.

“Yeah.”

I’m pretty sure they think that they got the better end of the bargain with this TV.  I’m pretty sure they’re wrong.

A recipe for disaster turns into a bonding experience for two sisters. Read more from @649point133Follow 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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in ambivalence, autism, Bella, expert negotiation skills, famous last words, sister love, Surrey, where's the off switch | 2 Comments

I Can’t Handle Ordering Lunch at Panera

On the rare days that I leave work to pick up lunch, I always drive past Panera Bread and briefly consider it for a moment.  Then I remember that I would have to actually walk into the store and what that actually entails, and I keep driving.  Listen, I like Panera just as much as the next person — I’d sell my husband’s left nut right now for one of those croissants with the strip of chocolate in the middle.  But there is no fresher hell for even the mildly socially awkward than the pain that is ordering lunch at Panera Bread.

The first issue I have to resolve when I walk into a Panera is the fact that, no matter what time of day I enter that store, there’s no line.  People congregate somewhat near the registers, hesitantly lingering nearby and hoping someone will make an executive decision and form a line.  But where? The multiple counters and registers drawing from a single line is another source of anxiety — are there two lines?  Are we forming one line for both registers?  Who was here first?  Are you even fucking IN line at all?  Are these people over here still deciding, or did I just cut in front of a room full of passive-aggressive white-collar employees who will make things extremely uncomfortable for the next twenty minutes forcing me to listen and wonder if they’re talking about me in voices just loud enough for me to kind of hear them talking, but not loud enough for me to actually be able to make out the words and create a confrontational situation?

I understand why no one wants to commit to actually getting in line, though — the menu is a nightmare.  This might make me sound like a moron, but there are zero pictures or descriptions on the menu.  Don’t ask me to possibly commit to something called a “Quinoa and Lentil Broth Bowl” without at least confirming with me via image that yes, my idea of what a lentil looks like is correct.  Plus, what kind of broth?  Chicken?  Tomato?  Is “tomato” technically a broth flavor?  Are there green peppers in it?  I hate green peppers.  But I can’t really communicate that to the person at the register, because it will reveal how utterly uncool I am, and as far as I can tell, the very act of successfully ordering your lunch at Panera is an exercise in determining how cool you are.

After you order, you have to move down to the waiting window.  Now I have to remember the number on my receipt while trying to listen for someone to say it AND try to stay out of everyone’s way while they try to fill their fountain drinks.  God forbid I’m not in earshot when they call my name and I want extra dressing — the people behind the counter at Panera are busy people, and don’t have time to wait around and listen to your extra requests.  They disappear, like an underpaid thief in the night, to prepare the next Flaxseed and Chai Grilled Chicken Salad.  Your moment is over.  You were in, and now you’re out.  Panera has moved on to the next new, exciting thing, and IT IS NOT YOU.

Woe to those who stay and eat their lunch, instead of immediately cutting their losses and escaping to their over-air-conditioned office to artlessly gnaw at their oddly-sized baguette.  You get to sit in front of all the other hip people (who probably didn’t ask a million questions at the register about their broth bowls, including “Is it soup?”) and wonder whether or not this is really what you ordered, or if they’re banking on you being clueless enough to not be able to tell that they just gave you whatever the hell they wanted.

Let’s be honest, though — you’re going to eat it anyways, and then when spend your drive back to work kicking yourself for not going to McDonald’s, which is what you really wanted in the first place.  That place just really gets me.

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in Awkward, hippie wannabe, things that don't make sense | 9 Comments

A Letter to My Neighbors, Now That My Windows Are Open

Dear Neighbors,

It's summertime! Read this funny open letter to the neighbors explaining what they may hear now that the temperatures are up and the windows are open.Welcome back!  Once again, it’s summertime here in Michigan, and the temperatures will soon begin to climb.  You might remember that we, your favorite neighbors (HAHAHAHAHAHA) do not have air conditioning and will have every window in our house open 24/7 from now until mid-September.  This means that you’ll once again be treated to VIP access to the shit show that is our regular family life, as we are a family of loud talkers.  I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few things about our family that will, if not explain what you’ll hear coming from within our house, at least give you a little background info to help you paint a more accurate picture when you’re re-telling the story to the people who live further down the street.

1.  Rob likes to play video games.  A LOT.  He prefers to sit on the couch while he plays, which puts him directly in front of a bank of open windows facing the street.  Rob takes his PS4 gameplay very seriously, and sometimes he feels the need to express his feelings towards his game.  So if you hear a grown-ass man shouting  “FUCK!!!!!” at top volume, please don’t be alarmed.

2.  About three or four times this summer, you’ll notice a day or two where I sound crazier and more irrational than usual.  If you’re concerned, or would just like me to shut the fuck up, leave a six-pack of cold Pepsi and a chocolate bar in the mailbox, knock on the door, then (and this is important) RUN AWAY.  You don’t want to be around when I tear into that Hershey bar, and quite frankly, I don’t want you around, either.

3.  The amount of screaming and crying you occasionally hear coming from my daughters might lead you to believe that one of them has lost a limb or been severely injured in some other fashion.  I’m going to let you know right now, before it even happens, that everyone is fine and should stop jumping off the couch if they don’t want to get hurt.  Also, I’m not mediating every single hurt feeling or power struggle over the Littlest Pet Shop turtle, so sometimes they’re going to cry and I’m going to ignore them and you’ll just have to decide what to do with your feelings towards this because I can’t help you mediate your feelings, either.

4.  Bedtime is not a pleasant time in our house.  I am a total asshole and put my kids to bed while the sun is still shining and other neighborhood kids are still running down the street, repetitively bouncing their basketball.  My kids hate me for this, and I am at peace with that.  They express their dissatisfaction with my policy by arguing with each other, crying, and asking deep questions about life in order to prolong the process.  So, if you hear me saying something like, “Yes, honey, Mommy and Daddy will die one day, but probably not for a very long time NOW BRUSH YOUR TEETH FOR THE LOVE OF BRITNEY SPEARS,” take a moment to thank whatever deity means something to you that you’re not putting my girls to bed, and continue watching Criminal Minds or whatever it is people get to do when they don’t have to put three sassy girls to bed in daylight.

5.  Swear words are terms of endearment in our house, so really, it’s not necessary to let the other neighbors know you heard me using them loudly with my children yesterday afternoon.

It's summer -- do you know if your living room windows are open? Are you ready for your neighbors to catch all those colorful bedtime quotes from you? Give the people next door an education on how things really work in your house. Too funny!6.  Yes, you did hear It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes coming from my eight-year-old’s bedroom at 9:00 pm.  It’s her favorite show, and we let her watch episodes at bedtime to fall asleep on non-school nights.  Listen: the first kid is kind of a practice run, right?  When you’re making a kid omelet, sometimes you have to break a few eggs.  In this case, our egg comes with an “M for Mature Audiences” TV rating.  Mostly we’re just banking on the other two kids ending up okay.

So get ready for a long, hot, loud, expletive-filled summer, neighbors!  I would spend the rest of this post trying to assure you that despite everything that you hear coming from within our house, we’re actually a normal, happy family, but I think after eight years, you and I both know that’s simply not the case.

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in Awkward, Controlled vocabulary, lists, posts that CPS won't think are funny, sarcasm, temporary insanity, where's the off switch | 35 Comments

A Letter to My Awkward Middle School Self

Dear Janel,

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June, 1993

Greetings from 2015! Dude, let me tell you — the future is CUCKOO BANANAS.  I don’t want to tell you too much, because Doc in Back to the Future II says you shouldn’t know too much about your future, but suffice it to say all that time you’ve been spending in the library this year putting books back in order for no reason and playing with the Macintosh computers in the labs has really paid off.  Or not, depending on how you look at it.

Also, there are no hoverboards or flying cars yet.

I KNOW.

I’m writing this letter out of love and concern, after finding this picture in an album the other day while looking for cool pictures of myself in college.  I feel like there’s a few things you could address right now that would really help you leave that awkwardness behind when it’s time for 8th grade in the fall.  Based on everything going on in this picture, I think we can all admit that 7th grade was kind of a… well, I would use the phrase “rebuilding year,” but since we’re really starting from scratch, let’s go with the phrase “huge, gaping disaster” and move past it, shall we?

Allow me to bring a few things to your attention:

First, I know that those Seventeen magazines that have mysteriously started showing up at your house (REAL SUBTLE MOM, THANKS) kind of freak you out. However, I’d like you to pick one up and flip through the fashion spreads.  I guarantee you won’t see a single person wearing leggings and a man’s long sleeve button-down shirt, buttoned all the way to the collar YET UNBUTTONED AT THE CUFFS.  Who told you this was cool?  Seriously, please let me know who did this because I’m going to Quantum Leap into that moron and set them straight.  Please stop this look immediately, you look like you just got back from elementary school art class.

Next, let’s talk about your glasses.  Oooooooh, sweet baby Jesus.  Now, I know that these things were great for 6th grade, but we’re running with the big dogs now.  You’re in junior high now — time to switch to contact lenses.  I promise you, boys are not into cotton-candy pink plastic glasses that slide halfway down your nose all day long.  Not that you care about boys — you’re so damn oblivious to that stuff that you can’t figure out why you’re pining away for your male “best friend” who moved away three months ago.  News flash: most girls don’t start a shoe box of treasures over “best friends” that they don’t see anymore.

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Finally, ah geez, you’re holding your goddamn band instrument.  Most former band geeks will immediately see that you’re holding an oboe, the dorkiest instrument of all the instruments.  It’s your first year playing this gloriously obnoxious contraption, after upgrading from the second-dorkiest instrument, the clarinet.  Wasn’t Mom just thrilled when you brought that thing home! It was a mother’s dream: a loud, squawky instrument that cost her a fortune in supplies, private lessons, and earplugs.  Our mother was probably the only mother on the planet Earth that was HAPPY when you switched to playing the bass drum in the marching band.  Is it too late for you to pick up something cooler, like flute or woodblock?

Eh, what am I saying? This picture is who we are, girl.  There’s no purer depiction of who a person truly is inside than these painfully awkward snapshots.  Here’s a child who has no clue about the social norms she would soon come to think were life and death — she’s acting solely on instinct and personality.  As we say in 2015: you do you, Awkward Janel.

And if the mean girls you meet next year give you a hard time, I want you to remember these wise words once spoken by a yellow-haired prophet:

Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake.

Shake it off, shake it off.

Amen, Taylor.  Amen.

I wrote this post as part of Nickelodeon’s® sponsorship of The Blog University. The series “100 Things to Do Before High School” premieres on June 6 @ 8pm on Nickelodeon.

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in Awkward, Back to the Future III is terrible, BlogU, don't be jealous | 1 Comment

Getting Older

This year I’ll turn 35.  I can’t even type that without itching to click onto my open Facebook tab and pretending like I didn’t type it.  I tried giving my brother-in-law shit because he’ll be 25 next year, but then I remembered that I’ll be 35 THIS YEAR which is way scarier and just means that I’ve known him for twenty years.  I’m kind of freaked out that I’ve remained in constant contact with anyone for twenty consecutive years.

Once, when I was a kid, I asked my mom how old she was, and she told me, “I’m 35.”  Ever since then, 35 has forever been my mom’s age in my head.  Now, when my kids ask me how old I am, I tell them and they don’t believe me.  It sounds too impossibly old to them, and I have to agree.  35 is, in my opinion, about five years away from not even remotely being considered young anymore.  I mean, fuck, dude, I just turned thirty last year, right?

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Nope.  It wasn’t last year.  It was about five years ago this May.  Which, yes, I understand I still have four more months before my birthday happens, but I like to be proactive in my existential crises.

*****

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Kids, this is what college in 2002 looked like.

There’s a group of us in our extended circle of friends that all have birthdays in May.  We started celebrating our birthdays together in one huge party back in high school, and have continued the tradition to this day.  It’s changed over the years, for sure — people drift in and out as they move away and return home, new friends who were also born in the best month of the year have joined the group.  There’s definitely more offspring attending our party nowadays than there were ten years ago (my bad, everyone).

But other than that, the party feels exactly the same to me every year.  We always get an ice cream cake that says something absurd that has nothing to do with birthdays.  We talk loudly and bring up old stories of funny things we did when we were younger.  Rob and I get into ridiculous arguments that aren’t really arguments, but just our way of making our friends laugh.  We talk about the parties from the past: the year everyone else got presents except for me; the year the cake said, “Get Well Soon, Chet”; the year our dog got skunked and we had to give him a peroxide and Dawn dishsoap bath in the middle of the party; the year Bella threw up on the dollhouse, then carried on as if nothing had happened; the first few years when there were five of us and we filled my mom’s house with kids that had just arrived home from college for the summer.  Despite all the history we have together, every year feels the same.  This year’s party, when most of us turn 35, will feel exactly like the party we had when we were in college and we all turned 22.

I suspect this will remain the case forever.  One thing my mom said once, right after I made some smartass remark about her age back when I was a young childless asshole, was that no matter how old she was, she mentally felt exactly the same way she felt when she was sixteen.  The older I get, the more I come back to this idea and see the truth in it.  It’s so weird to be one person on the inside, but see a much older person looking back in the mirror.

*****

I was commiserating with a friend (another fellow May birthday person HOLLA) about how old we would be this may.  He’ll be 37, which is also approaching not-young.  After we wallowed for a bit in our anxiety about our rapid approach to 40, he finally said, “You know? Fuck it.  Look at me: I’m doing alright.  I’ve got my shit together, and good people in my life.  Who cares how old I am?”

1510985_10152472356658086_2432537097149638694_n (1)That’s it, right?  I mean, isn’t that the point of all this?  Have your shit together and have good people in your life?  I’ve got that.  The best part is, you get to define what “having your shit together” means.  His definition is different than mine.  Yes, my house is a train wreck and I’m not 100% where I want to be with my career, but my bills are (mostly) paid, my kids are happy and healthy, and I have a kick-ass husband.  I’m old enough to to realize I only want to surround myself with family and friends that contribute to my happiness, not take away from it.  These are all things I didn’t have ten or twenty years ago.

So bring on the cake, because honestly at this point I can’t remember my goddamn age anyways.

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in ambivalence, birthday party | 1 Comment

Found Out

I spent the day before Mother’s Day at home with my kids, which would normally be awesome except that I mostly spent it dealing with all four of Bella’s major meltdowns.  She was off from school last week, and we’ve slowly let her screen time get out of control, so today was the day we bit the bullet and went back to our previous screen time limits.  It went over like a screaming, ragey, attempt-to-run-away-naked balloon.  Bella hated it, too.

At one point, during meltdown #3, Bella told me she didn’t love me anymore, that I was a really bad mom, and that she wished that I would move out and a new mom would move in (preferably one with a Hulu Plus account or at least someone with a cool friend who would let her use their login).  I just told her that was unfortunate, because I still loved her and I wasn’t moving out.

This is my standard answer when she tells me she doesn’t love me anymore, because it’s true.  How she feels towards me is irrelevant; I love her, and that won’t ever change.  Even though she went ahead and threw meltdown #4 at me an hour and a half after she went to bed, I still love that asshole of a kid.  And that is saying a lot, because anyone who has dealt with a middle-of-the-night meltdown knows they are the fucking worst, because on top of the kid being irrationally angry, they are tired, and their loud-ass crying just grinds on your last nerve and wakes up all the other kids in your house, so then you’re dealing with everybody all at once.  So I LOVE YOU AND YOU’RE FUCKING WELCOME, KID.

It should be noted that I didn’t deal with that last meltdown very well.  I screamed right back at her, despite the two other kids in the house (unsuccessfully) trying to sleep.  I tried keeping my cool, but the long day of meltdown after meltdown had sucked up all of my patience reserves, and I resorted to acting like a pissed-off teenager.  I just wanted to sit on my couch and watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and chill out, and I did not have it in me for a Round Four.  So instead, I stomped downstairs and called Rob, and yelled at him for awhile about my crappy day with Bella.  Then I went back upstairs, where Bella had crossed over from being angry to being sad, and snuggled her to sleep.  She said she was “so sorry for getting carried away,” and I said the same.

*****

When kids make things for their moms for Mother’s Day, it’s always something that mentions how wonderful and awesome they are.  Case in point: on my fridge, right now, I have an award from Phaedra that proclaims me to be “the best mom ever!”

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This is factually untrue.  I am not, in fact, the best mom ever.  Did she not hear me swearing at Bella during that meltdown last night?  I never play Barbies with Surrey when she asks me, and when I do, it’s so half-assed.  I haven’t dropped all three kids off at school on time since October, and it’s mainly because I just don’t feel like getting up early enough.  I have miles of patience for Surrey and Bella, but for poor Phaedra? Never enough.  I’m constantly apologizing for being too quick to yell at her for something I would just deep-breathe and move past with the other two girls.

This is not me saying, “I’m a sort-of okay mom, but aren’t we all! Isn’t parenting tough? Who needs perfection? My kid love me anyways, yay!” while giving you a quirky “aw shucks!” face.  Really I’m not.  These are just a few of the facts I use when making the case against myself in my head as to exactly how hard I am fucking up this motherhood gig.  I mean, yes, generally I am doing an alright job, but I have this fear of being FOUND OUT.  Do you have this?  Like, I’ve always had this thing where deep down I believe that someday, everyone is going to find out that I’m not as great of an employee/student/mom as they think I am.  Another example: one morning, after finally getting an ornery Bella onto the school bus to go to her therapeutic swimming class, her teacher said to me, “You are so patient.  Really, it’s amazing.”  And I thought, I’m really not!  If she could see the outtakes from my life, she’d know I’m not.  She’d FIND OUT and then she’d know that I’m not as patient as she thinks I am.

But my kids?  They know everything, because they live it.  They’ve seen all the stupid shit I’ve done while trying to be their mom, and yet they still make me awards calling me things like “the best mom in the world!” because they’ve already FOUND OUT.  They FOUND OUT and still think I’m great.  Just like I love these kids no matter how they feel about me, in a weird way, it’s not about how I feel I’m doing as a mom, it’s how they feel I’m doing.  They seem to be pretty happy with things so far, so I guess I can quit worrying about being found out and just accept my award and watch my Hulu Plus in peace.

I’m going to try to get us all to school on time next year, though.  Just in case.

Alright, fine, I did wrap it up with a sort-of corny ending.  SORRY.*

*Not sorry.

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in Debbie Downer, I used to be nice, Phaedra, professional slacker, things that don't make sense | 24 Comments

A Portrait of the Blogger as a Hand-Waving Maniac

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That’s me, in the bottom-left corner.  Pink cardigan, emerald green dress, flapping my hands around my head like a crazy person.  I only talk with my hands when I’m really feeling what I’m saying, when I don’t fully trust that my words are making you understand what I’m trying to say.  My wonderful friend Kim Bongiorno took this picture at BlogU last June.  It’s one of my favorite pictures from the conference, and I come back to it often when I’m working on things for BlogU ’15.  For me, it’s like that moment when you’re looking at pictures online, and for a few seconds after you click on a picture, it’s still slightly pixelated, and then suddenly it snaps into focus and becomes clear.  This picture is the exact moment that everything about the creation of BlogU came into sharp focus.

While we were planning for BlogU earlier in the year, someone brought up the idea of having an open mic night at the Friday night cocktail party.  “Great idea!” we all agreed, and it very much was a great idea.  Several people got up and read their favorite post as their name was pulled from a fish bowl.  Some of us wanted to read very, very, much, but realized this was the time to step aside and let the attendees shine.

Ahem.

And shine they did.  I mean, the pieces ranged from side-splittingly hilarious to achingly poignant.  But it was over far too soon, as most charmed moments are, and everyone shuffled back to the dorms while the BlogU staff cleaned up, gathered signs and banners for the next day, and generally marveled at the realization of so many months of hard work and planning becoming real.  When we finally came back to the dorms after a long first day, what we found blew us away.

As it turns out, Open Mic Night wasn’t finished.  The attendees decided they wanted more — more words, more voices, more laughter, more tears, more sharing, more of all of those things, and they wanted them out loud and together.  So they circled up on the second floor of the dorms, some wearing pajamas, some still wearing their fancy party dresses, and they started reading.  There was no discernible system, as far as I could tell.  It was seamless — one person stopped reading, and another person began.  Those not reading kept the bag of Doritos moving around the circle.  Everyone got hearty applause when they finished reading their piece.

As I approached the group, I could see my fellow faculty, my sisters who together are the embodiment of the spirit of BlogU, standing across from the circle in the shadows, watching the magic that was happening right before our eyes.  We were a group of bloggers who became friends as we shared the struggles of finding our own versions of success as writers and bloggers.  BlogU was intended to be a celebration of our tried-and-true philosophy: finding a tribe of like-minded writers and using that bond to improve and succeed together.  Seeing this group of talented women standing in the shadows, next to a brand-new group of talented women sitting in the lights, becoming a tribe right before our very eyes?  I couldn’t decide on the right word(s) to describe that moment.

I decided I’d sure like to try to find those words, and after silently squeee-ing with the faculty that stood their soaking up the good karma oozing from the circle, I marched back downstairs to the lobby and grabbed one of the signs from the Open Mic at the cocktail party.  I dragged it back upstairs with its accompanying easel and set it up right next to the circle.  But that wasn’t enough, because I AM A LIBRARIAN, GODDAMMIT.  If something needs a label, I’m going to give it a fucking label, and these women needed to know that they were doing something special and earth-shattering and life-altering and shimmery all at once.

Hence, the picture you see above.  I told those beautiful bitches that the faculty lined up behind them couldn’t have been happier to see what was going on.  I told them that this moment, the one they were living right at that very second, was what BlogU was all about.  I probably also said thank you at some point.  I said a lot of other words that repeated these three concise statements in a much more rambling and not coherent way, which further illustrates the fact that I am much more verbose and coherent on paper than I am in real life.  This also explains the hand waving, because I just needed these women to feel the passion I was feeling at that very moment.

Big moments deserve big hand gestures.

*****

This year, I am proud to say that the tradition of Open Mic Night, so wonderfully initiated by the women in the picture above, will continue at BlogU ’15.  It will be, once again, held after the Friday night party.  There will also be Doritos, as there was last year, but there will be much more than just Doritos, thanks to That’s What She Said and their gracious offer to sponsor the snacks required to keep the party going as late as it needs to go.  It’s so appropriate to have That’s What She Said as the sponsors for this event, since their show is “a social venture to showcase women living boldly, truly and fearlessly.”  That’s what I see in this picture.  Women coming together to live their truths out loud, without fear of reactions or judgment.

I can’t wait to share my words and my Doritos with you this June in Baltimore at BlogU ’15.

The 2015 BlogU Conference is the best value in the business! With one economical ticket you get the tools to elevate your blogging and writing career aspirations to reality. Get schooled. Find your tribe. Grow your blog. Register today and prepare to be inspired! June 5 -7, Baltimore, MD.

Registration ends May 15, so register today!

*************

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, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone, and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth!

Posted in BlogU | 14 Comments