Little, Big

20161125_152918A few weeks ago, on that blackest of Fridays, I continued our third annual tradition of taking my kids to the bougie mall to submit to the financial flagellation that is Build-a-Bear Workshop on the literal worst possible day to visit a shopping center. My kids talk about this trip all year long, usually beginning the week after they actually go to Build-a-Bear. I usually dread spending so much money so close to Christmas, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for decisions that make no sense.

If you’ve ever been to this godforsaken store, you know the first stop is the bins of unstuffed stuffed animals, and if there’s anything sadder than a basket of deflated teddy bears, please feel free to let me know (preferably via mail with a $10 Build-a Bear gift card attached I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW MUCH CASH I’VE FLUSHED AWAY AT THIS PLACE). It takes at least one of my kids forever to make this much-anticipated decision. Last year, it was Surrey, who is famous in our family for changing her mind about 5,000 times before finally settling on something, and she only settled because you immediately shielded her from the other choices and hustled her out of sight of the other choices. It’s to the point where I purposely just start handing her random things whenever she’s trying to make a decision, partly because I’m a monster and partly because it’s just really funny to see what she’ll agree to choose. No prior interest in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? “Hey Surrey, what about Leonardo?”

“Oh, YEAH! I yike Yeonardo!”

“Or they have this soccer ball-looking thing…”

“OOOOOOOH! Soccer? I don’t know who Soccer is, but I yike him. I choose dat one.”

And on and on, until I stop messing with her and she makes an actual choice that she’ll regret the second her ass hits her car seat and I’ll get to hear all through 2017 which stuffed animal she’s going to pick when we make our triumphant return to The Store That Must Not Be Named.

This year, though, Bella and Surrey made their choices in a relatively short time. It was Phaedra that had the tough time deciding. Even though she was the one to remind me consistently right up until Thanksgiving that Black Friday = Holy Pilgrimage to Overpriced Stuffed Animal Store, she could not find a choice that she truly liked.

“What about a Troll, from the new movie?”

“Nah. I don’t really like them.”

“Did you see this cat? It’s pretty cute! And you like cats!”

“It’s okay, but no.”

“…what about the My Little Ponies?”

I kind of knew that one crossed the line, but I said it anyways because I live life on the edge.

“MOM, NO.”

She finally picked a super basic teddy bear, but I could tell she wasn’t thrilled about it. She ended up really liking her choice after picking out clothes — a video game-themed shirt, glasses, and a miniature version of those animal hats with the long earflaps that double as mittens. Basically, she created a Phaedra bear. My sainted mother-in-law, who willingly comes with us for this experience, and I were both surprised that Phaedra agonized so much over her choice, until it finally made sense to both of us:

She’s becoming too grown-up for this stuff.

Phaedra has hit that awkward age of childhood where she’s stuck between childhood and the pre-teen era. She still loves toys, but only certain toys, and not those toys, because they’re for little kids. She scoffs and mocks Peppa Pig when we watch it now at Surrey’s request, but she still watches it and enjoys it. She wants to go to Build-a-Bear, but none of the choices are mature enough for her. She doesn’t want to watch the YouTube videos of the kids playing with their Lalaloopsy dolls anymore, but she knows I’m giving a hard pass to any videos I hear her listening to with a narrator that swears, and is young enough to still feel scandalized by it when it happens.

I feel for Phaedra. This is her first time growing up, and she has no frame of reference. She doesn’t know what’s going on; she just knows that some of the toys and activities that used to bring her joy suddenly seem childish and unappealing to her now. It’s probably kind of weird and unsettling. But she’s not the only one trying to readjust — just as Phaedra is going through the awkward phase of transitioning between being a little kid to an older kid but not quite a tween, I’m going through the same kind of transition of how to parent such a creature. Which sucks, because I only recently (i.e., last month) kind of figured out how to handle them all. For a hot minute, everyone was a kid, and nobody was a baby. Now I’ve got to figure things out all over again, because there seems to be a steadily growing dividing line between the “little girls,” i.e. Bella and Surrey, and our “big girl,” Phaedra.

snapchat-5086213753014901311But even as things slowly start to change, I hang on to the things she still likes that remind me that she’s still my girl. She still lets me hug and kiss her at school drop-off, which I don’t think she’s crazy about, but I’m pushing that limit as far as she’ll let me. She still talks to me non-stop about all the things she’s interested in, whether or not I know anything about the topic (and, side note guys, what the fuck is Undertale and why am I searching Etsy for Christmas gifts for my nine year old who has never played this video game in her life but is still somehow obsessed with it?!). And, best of all, she still insists on snuggling with me at bedtime and saving all of her deep discussions for those moments when she has me all to herself, with no sisters to interrupt or TV shows to distract. I still get to hear all about what’s troubling her with her friends at school, or questions she has about The Big Things in Life, and get to hear, “Just a few more minutes?” when I try to leave.

I know one day, she’ll ask me not to give her a kiss on the cheek at school drop-off. She’ll do it sensitively, right before we get out of the car in the school parking lot, but it will still sting a little. I know one day she’ll start spending more and more time in her bedroom instead of rolling around on the new couch and watching cartoons with her sisters. One day, she’ll tell me she’s too old to be tucked in. She’ll give me a hug, say, “Good night,” and slowly shut the bedroom door.

But maybe, if I can figure this stage out, she’ll let me slide through just before she shuts the door and let me hang out with her to talk before she goes to sleep.

Just for a few more minutes.

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, I Just Want to Be Perfectand You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

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Posted in ambivalence, changelings, Phaedra, temporary insanity, where did my baby go? | 1 Comment

Thanksgiving is the Holiday We All Desperately Need Right Now

Listen gang — I don’t know about you, but it’s been a rough week over here. No matter which side of the political fence you’re on, this election has been a big steaming pile of horseshit that we all collectively stepped in and then realized we tracked allllllll over the goddamn house and Internet. Facebook is a disaster of arguing with distant relatives and old high school friends, doomsday news articles, and memes. Two of my kids are actively boycotting brushing their teeth in the morning, I can’t figure out how to get rid of the fucking gnats that followed the houseplants in from living outside all summer, and to top it all off, today our office Thanksgiving potluck was cancelled in favor of a HEALTHY SALAD BUFFET.

I WISH THAT LAST PART WAS A JOKE.

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My face when I got the email.

Fellow Americans, I know it feels like this country is falling apart, and that we’re basically all swirling around and around the toilet bowl, waiting for that final glug to put us out of our misery. This sentiment becomes particularly more pronounced when people start thinking about Thanksgiving. Many of us are worried about the prospect of having their first post-election family gathering. Which I completely understand — judging by my social media feed, some of you are related to some real assholes. But take heart, because I think we’ve all collectively lost sight of one very important thing this year:

THANKSGIVING IS ABOUT EATING.

Remember that? I sure as fuck haven’t forgotten about it, but it seems like everyone else has. I mean, at this point last year, I had about fifteen different Delish recipe videos saved to my Facebook and had already texted my response to “What’s everyone bringing to dinner?” to the family group message (spoiler alert: it’s rolls, every year. They love me, but they know not to trust me with anything more complicated). This year, though, it seems like everyone is more concerned with how Aunt Gloria will react when her college-aged nephew pours a bag of Cheetos all over her dinner plate and yells, “HERE YA GO! I JUST MADE THANKSGIVING GREAT AGAIN!!!!!”

It’s time we as a country got back to basics: figuring out how to eat an insane amount of food in a single meal. We need to put aside our differences for just one day, put on our fat pants, and get to work on carb-loading like a fucking marathon runner, just as the Founding Fathers intended. It’s time to realize that those fifteen extra holiday pounds are not going to magically appear on your ass on their own, and it’s time you took some goddamn initiative and put an extra helping of cheesy potatoes on your plate UNLESS YOU DON’T LOVE THIS COUNTRY WHICH IN THAT CASE GO MAKE YOUR OWN FUCKING POTATOES AND LEAVE THE REST FOR US RED-BLOODED AMERICANS. Because let’s face it, you guys: we’ve got a lot of feelings right now, and Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to eat every last one of them while glaring coldly across the table at your cousin’s wife.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, and believe it or not, we have a lot of things to be thankful for. I’m thankful that when people are eating, they can’t talk about politics. If you’re hosting dinner, this is not the year to skimp on the hors d’oeuvres. Make it rain pickles and cheeses the second your guests walk through the door. Let’s also take a moment to be thankful for those relatives that couldn’t make it to dinner this year — you know who I’m talking about. Finally, let’s be thankful that Thanksgiving is all about eating, and not about gift-giving. Can you imagine what would be happening right now if we had this election and then went straight into Christmas two weeks later?! Could you restrain yourself from ordering a glitter bomb for your brother-in-law right now? Really? Let this Thanksgiving be a trial run for your future encounters with your politically-opposed family members. Get the grumbling, puns, and dirty looks out of your system now, guys, because in about a month, we’re going to reconvene, and so help me Hamilton we’re going to be the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

So, listen up motherfuckers: I know everyone has been sad, angry, frustrated, or whatever since this garbage election cycle came to an end. But it’s time we all sucked it up again and did our civic duty next week. I don’t care if that means you pack up your kids and head over to your Grandma’s house, meet your siblings and parents at a restaurant, or just cook a turkey dinner at home with your immediate family. But come November 24, I expect each and every one of you to stand up, pick up a plate, and fill that plate with turkey and a random assortment of side dishes until it becomes painfully apparent that you can never hope to finish the amount of food piled onto your plate. Because I don’t give a good goddamn who was elected to the White House, WE ARE ALL AMERICANS AND THIS IS WHAT WE FUCKING DO.


via GIPHY

But seriously, if anyone even breathes a word about a salad buffet, you cut that Communist right out of your life.

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, I Just Want to Be Perfectand You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

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Posted in that hot thing in my kitchen that makes food | 2 Comments

Please Don’t Make Me Send My Kids Back to School

You guys, there’s trouble brewing.

I’ve sensed it for awhile, but lately it seems to be more and pressing, more ominous. The stores started taking on a different look — less umbrellas and swimsuits, more apples and pencils. My Facebook feed started looking decidedly more positive, as if millions of men and women were beginning to see the light at the end of a long, sprinkler-filled tunnel. I finally broke down and looked at my kitchen calendar, which confirmed my suspicions:

Summer is almost over.

Round these parts, we have about two more weeks left of summer before school starts. While I know so many of my fellow parents are super stoked about getting these kids back into some form of organized education, I have to tell you I am not in that camp. While it would make me look like a nicer person to tell you I don’t want summer to end because I enjoy having my kids around, that’s really only about 25% of the reason. I mean, I like them and all, but girl, please — I’m away at work all day long anyways. Go to school or park your ass on the couch for eight hours, it makes no difference to me. What I’m really dreading is the end of summer and all the glorious laziness that comes along with it.

Yes that’s right — ours is a family that revels in the opportunities for sheer nothingness that summer provides. There was that summer a few years ago when I scheduled every kid to the hilt with activities, keeping everyone on a schedule for almost the entire summer going to camps, classes, activities, etc. Last summer, I did a few camps, but nearly as many as the year before. This summer? We half-heartedly signed Bella up for a two-week social skills camp, which everyone agreed they disliked and required three straight days of bribes with Slurpees and a final trip to Target to get us to the finishing line of actually finishing the camp.

FB_IMG_1471383480301After nine straight months of getting up early every weekday, struggling through nightly homework, and dealing with all the planning and fundraising and conferencing and IEP meetings, we are DONE when June arrives. Three entire months of sleeping in late and watching an obscene amount of television is exactly what we all want and crave. I mean, yes, we do other things as well — Phaedra has written two books this summer (that is no joke, which reminds me, what the fuck is my excuse?!) and Surrey has spent more hours outside learning how to water plants and garden with Rob than I think have in the last ten years. Bella is living her dream of not having to interact with people outside of her family or wear clothes on a daily basis.

Me? I’m living my dream of having kids but not having to actually carry out the crappier responsibilities that go along with it. Instead of waking up two cranky kids and an annoyingly happy one every weekday (shout out to whatever long-lost relative who passed the “morning person” gene on to Surrey! I can’t wait to thank you via surprise telephone call at 1 am!), I just get myself up for work and leave. It’s amazing. I don’t have to keep track of who did their homework or which kid has a field trip or which one needs to wear a green shirt or blue shirt to school on Wednesday and oh yeah next Thursday is Family Reading Night at the school but swim class is the same night so we’ll have to leave at 5:15 pm to get there by 6 pm and I know you don’t want to go Bella but you have to and JESUS IT’S ONLY SEPTEMBER HOW MANY MORE MONTHS OF THIS SHIT DO WE HAVE UNTIL IT’S SUMMER AGAIN?

I will also say this — it’s nice to be able to come home from work, eat dinner, and then just sit on the couch with my girls and do nothing. I don’t have to make sure the laundry is done so they have clean clothes the next day, or get lunches packed, or go through backpacks and deal with notes and paperwork. We just sit and watch cartoons and they gab at me about where they went with Daddy that day, or what they’re building out of clay, or Bella’s new business idea for making tiny cribs for baby dogs, specifically pugs because they are soooo cuuuuuuuuuute! I play on my phone while Surrey spends the entire time on my lap, which is annoying but a fun kind of annoying because otherwise I would be stressing about what time they make their way upstairs for bedtime. In the summertime, bedtime is an approximation. It’s the rule we all take delight in breaking during these slow, stretchy days of summer.

However, there is that saying about good things and moderation, and today when I overheard Phaedra excitedly telling Bella that she could actually feel her brain melting from all the YouTube videos she’d watched that day, I was finally like OHHHHHHH HOLY SHIT OKAY IT’S TIME TO GET THESE KIDS AN EDUCATION PASS ME THE TARGET AD AND PUT ON YOUR FLIP FLOPS WE’RE GOING SCHOOL SHOPPING RIGHT THE FUCK NOW. It’s time to start doing something more intellectually stimulating on a regular basis again, because Mama is not interested in renting out her basement to any adult children on a long-term basis. She is interested in one day turning it into a fun-filled cat amusement park/rescue mission/reality TV show called Kittyopolis, but that’s a different story altogether, and one that I haven’t quite finished fleshing out the details on yet, according to the uptight cat-haters in the loan department at the bank.

Oh well. Back to school, kids, but don’t worry — only nine more months until summer vacation! Don’t forget to grab your lunch box, put on your new tennis shoes, and be sure to blame last year’s teacher if your new teacher asks about your summer homework packet.

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, I Just Want to Be Perfectand You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

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Posted in ambivalence, half-assin it, just please get a job and move out someday that's all I ask ladies, let's try this again, posts that CPS won't think are funny, professional slacker, School, wrap it up | 1 Comment

#BuyThisBook: Realizing River City

Welcome back to another edition of #BuyThisBook, where I write mediocre book reviews about the books my friends have written that I also happen to really like! This week, we’re going to talk about Realizing River City, a memoir written by my work wife, my BFF, Melissa Grunow.

20160807_112837[1]Melissa, on top of being my ride-or-die who I can communicate with in social settings using only looks and one-word conjunctions, is a fantastic writer who has been publishing her works in real literary journals for years. This year, she published her first book, Realizing River City, and real talk: it’s so good. It’s based on Melissa’s experiences with love through her twenties and early thirties, and how each of those experiences shaped and changed her, for better and for worse (but mostly better). It’s not flowery, it’s not peppy, and it’s not cute. It reads like your best friend sitting with you at your kitchen table or your couch, having a real heart-to-heart with you about each experience. It’s raw and honest, which immediately sucks you in and makes you want to know where Melissa will end up at the end of the book.

Don’t let me fool you — just because the tone of the book is so real doesn’t mean the language isn’t striking. Here’s a passage from my favorite chapter:

***

     Joe came home and noticed the emptiness left behind where a man once was. He sat at the dining table, playing music on his computer with the volume turned low. It was our sign, an invitation to talk. Waiting was his way of saying, “I’m here to listen if you need me.” Joe’s presence was a comfort but also a nagging reminder of what it meant to be accountable to someone else, how easy it was to lose myself if people weren’t ever-present. He was to me what I needed from a man who wanted nothing from me.

     I sat across from him, and put my head down, the tablecloth scratchy beneath my cheek.

     “It’s over.” I would say it again. The scene would replay with other men who would leave, or I would leave them, or we would abandon each other. Some I would let go of quickly, easily, one would disappear completely, never to be heard from again, and another would leave me in a spinning state of drunken depression that lasted for days. But no matter how many times, no matter how many men, Joe would always appear at the table, the music down low, and wait until I was ready to talk.

***

buy this book realizing river cityI love that Melissa’s book isn’t just about romantic relationships, although there’s plenty of that. She also reflects on the relationships that live in the gray areas, the ones that don’t have labels. Those relationships have just as much of an impact as the ones that have clear definitions. I also love that this book just sucked me back into re-reading it for about a half hour while I was looking for my favorite passage because it’s so damn good.

So, if you enjoy good storytelling, or you also spent your twenties figuring out who you are and why you dated who you did, this is a book you’ll enjoy. You can pick up your copy from Amazon today, or you can win a free copy from me! And to boot — it’s an autographed copy, because I happen to have an in with the author. Which, by extension, makes ME a pretty big deal.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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, I Just Want to Be Perfectand You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

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Posted in #BuyThisBook, book reviews | 2 Comments

Farewell Children, I’m Showering

Dear Children:

Since I’ve already said good night to each one of you during a process that takes, at best, close to two hours from start to completion, you probably already know that I’m currently in the shower (or, at the very least, sitting on the toilet playing with my phone while the shower runs). We had a great day, huh? We dressed your Barbies, played in the hose, and snuggled on the couch while watching just one more TV show. At bedtime, you told me about your worries, and we talked them out. Your sister fell asleep in my arms, right in the middle of her bedtime book. Precious. And you? Well, you’re the middle child, so I don’t quite recall what you did at bedtime, but it was cute, I know that much.

So, with peace and love, I say to each of you, my precious little angels:

Leave me the hell aloooooooooooooooooooone.

It’s shower time, meaning I’ve punched out for the day. I’m off the clock and all done Mom-ing until tomorrow morning (or realistically, until after I’ve fallen asleep in a few hours because I KNOW you’re going to come wake me up and tell me your legs are hurting or you threw up or something like that). Shower time is wonderful, and Mommy loves it very much. Not as much as she loves you, but close. Oh, so very close.

By User:Mattes (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsDo not come looking for me in the bathroom during shower time. I’ll pretend like I don’t hear you trying to turn the doorknob. If you do manage to get through my advanced bathroom security system of turn-and-push doorknobs and actually try to talk to me, I’ll pretend like I don’t know you.

Mommy keeps it 100 in the shower, sweetie.

Do not yell for me from your bedroom and expect me to respond. I do not hear you at all once I shut the bathroom door.  Unless you are bleeding or dying, I will not leave my shower to find out what you want. If you are bleeding or dying, I’ll automatically know because I’m your mother. But text me, just to make sure.

Upper management has insisted that I institute a Potty Usage Policy. This means you may enter the bathroom to quickly pee, wipe, and then (this part is key) LEAVE THE BATHROOM IMMEDIATELY. Do not flush the toilet, which seriously boggles my mind that I have to tell you this because the entire rest of the day you treat our indoor plumbing like you’re Laura Ingalls Wilder, livin’ on the prairie and doin’ yer business in a fancy outhouse. Do not try to chat me up, as I am busy thinking about which Avenger I like best and coming up with better comebacks that I should have used when that bitch Darcy tried to get cute with me at work.

She knows I sit in that chair every meeting.

Do not try to ask me questions through the bathroom door the second you hear the water stop. Shower time lasts from the moment I shut the door until the moment I emerge, clean and relaxed and ready to deal with being on-call for you and your sisters. If you try to infringe on my shower time via a technicality such as talking through the door but not technically opening it, I will technically find your favorite toy and poorly hide it underneath something else in plain sight, guaranteeing you will never find it.

Not following the shower rules will result in dire consequences, up to and including serving your morning cereal last, thereby guaranteeing its slight sogginess when you eat it and/or packing dumb stuff in your lunch like celery sticks or raisins (nature’s candy FUCK OFF WITH THAT SHIT THEY’RE DISGUSTING).

Okay, I think that about covers it. I can tell by your blank stare at the TV I let you watch at bedtime on the weekends and during the summer that you’ve been listening really closely. So, good talk! ILOVEYOUGOODNIIIIIIIIIIIGHT! See you in the morning!

(LOL JK see you in about four hours in my bed.)

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, I Just Want to Be Perfectand You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

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Posted in I used to be nice, Showers | 3 Comments

#BuyThisBook: I Just Want to Be Perfect

Hey hey hey guys! Remember me? Janel? I used to write semi-funny material for this blog? Well I’m back, and I’m going back to my librarian roots and starting a new bi-weekly series called #BuyThisBook. It should be inadvertently hilarious for all the wrong reasons, because even though I make my livelihood through books, I am quite terrible at writing book reviews. So buckle up and get ready to read the post that took me two weeks, a case of Pepsi, four bags of Doritos and six tubs of salsa to finish.

During the last few months of non-writing, I’ve been lounging around my house eating Oreos and bathing infrequently; meanwhile, my friends were writing actual books. They’re showoffs, and because of that, I’m going to punish them by publicly shaming them, i.e. highlighting a new fun book for you guys to read every other week this summer.

#BuyThisBook -- I Just Want to Be Perfect, the newest anthology from Jen Mann and some Fine Ass Chicas!

First up is a new entry in my favorite anthology series from Jen Mann! The newest one in the I Just Want to Pee Alone series is called I Just Want to Be Perfect, and it’s obviously great. It’s so good that I managed to rise from the cookie crumb ashes of my writing coma to write about being a 35 year old, first-time bridesmaid for Melissa Grunow, who — SPOILER ALERT! — is the author of the next #BuyThisBook entry.

This anthology centers on stories of women attempting to be perfect and failing spectacularly. Personally, I am really nosy and petty and I looooooooooooooove stories of people screwing things up. You could argue it’s because I screw things up quite frequently, but if you did I would probably just turn it around on you and point out a bunch of things you did wrong (including telling me those things, obviously that was a mistake).

Like I said, I’m a contributor to this fine collection, and my story, Here Comes the Bride(smaid) is about how I cannot handle certain uber-feminine rituals, like getting a pedicure. But don’t just read this anthology because you want to know how someone could possibly fuck up something as simple as paying someone to paint their toenails. There’s also Kim Forde’s essay about the terror at 40,000 feet that is pumping in an airplane bathroom in her essay The Breast Pump Corporate Travel Log. You can also read about Nicole Leigh Shaw’s kids who enjoy trolling her on a daily basis in her essay A Pantry is Just a Closet with Food In It. Also, side note: even if you hate every single one of the essays in this book, you can’t deny that these women can come up with a bomb-ass title.

I could go on and on, but instead, let me give you a bullet-point list of the main ideas I would like you to take away from this rambling review:

  • Book reviews are hard.
  • Anthologies let you skip around and find your favorites.
  • In this case, your favorites are bloggers, so you have instant access to even MORE great writing that you know you’ll like!
  • This is also a drawback because so many of the essays are great that after you finish the book, you’ll fall into a giant timesuck of online reading.
  • You can win a free copy below

Wait WHUUUUUUUUUT? True story — I loved this book so much that I’m giving away a copy! Enter below and if you win, I’ll send you a copy to read for yourself. I loved it that much that I figured out how to run a giveaway on my very own blog. I know — baby’s all grown up.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter away, everyone! But don’t worry — if you’re not the contest type, or if you can’t wait an entire week to discover your new favorite blogger/writer, you can always order your own copy on Amazon. I mean, $6 on Kindle? Dude. Get on that.

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 also read my essays in I Just Want to Be Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.

***BTDubs, I’m also an Amazon.com 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.***

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Posted in #BuyThisBook, book reviews, I Just Want to Be Perfect, nerd alert | 4 Comments

Not Sometime, but Now

BlogU is a blogging conference, but it's also so much more than that. It's a family of bloggers from all walks of life who share experiences, learn from each other, and support one another’s journey to success. Join the family this June.

Hello everyone! Here I am with my annual stump speech for the BlogU conference! If you’re not a blogger, just someone that comes here because you enjoy mediocre humor and frequent profanity, feel free to skip this post.  If you’re a blogger, writer, or are kind of maybe considering starting a blog I don’t know never mind whatever it’s not a big deal just a dumb idea I had, keep reading, especially if you’re a member of the last group.  Let me tell you a little story, not about BlogU, but about the people you’ll meet at BlogU and how they’ll end up changing your life for the better.

*****

A few months ago, I was going through a couple of essays I’ve written that need a good home.  This one is too long to pitch to that website, this one is too weird for a blog post, etc.  As I was looking through them, these little word children of mine that live a sad, sheltered existence in my Google drive folder, a light bulb went off above my head:

I’ll use these essays to write a BOOK!

Now, if you had mentioned the idea of writing a book a few years ago, I would have laughed and did that thing where you suddenly pretend you have a very important text that you need to answer, raising my eyebrows and scrunching up my lips in an “Uh oh!” face and just kind of wander away from you in a non-committal way.  Either that, or I’d tell you,”maybe one day, when I have more time to write, or have a bigger audience, when I finally start paying more than just passing attention to my social media, when the kids are older…”  Lots of excuses. Tons.  The most excuses.  ALL OF THEM, GIVE ME ALL YOUR EXCUSES.

Then I went to BlogU back in 2014 and met my friends in the computer.  Fellow bloggers, just like me! I mean, we knew each other before the conference, but this was the first time I actually got to talk to these women in person.  It was an amazing weekend of learning, of laughing, of realizing my dream of becoming prom queen.  You know, the usual conference stuff.

At the end of the conference, I found myself chatting with a good friend, a blogger with a pretty big following.  I made a joke about my abysmally small audience compared with hers.

“Why aren’t you bigger than you are?  You’re funny.  What’s up with that?”

“I don’t know, I guess I haven’t put the effort into like I should.  I need to write more.”

“That’s my goal with you: you write, and I’m going to blow you up this year.”

I am like 90% sure my friend doesn’t remember having that conversation with me, but it left a mark on me.  If my friend, who works her ass off to be successful (and is enviably funny) asked me why I haven’t been more successful, I knew the only thing holding me back was myself.  Since that day, I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily exploded, but her words, her casual yet sincere belief in me inspires me to push myself harder in the past two years to set goals, and consider bigger possibilities.

Possibilities like writing a book.

*****

FB_IMG_1426814362009This is the beauty of the BlogU conference.  It’s all fine and dandy to read books about writing, to pin inspirational graphics about writing, and hear your mom tell you how great your most recent post was.  What you really need, what will truly inspire you to reach outside the little cubby of abilities and limits you’ve gotten nice and comfy within is meeting a supportive group of bloggers that want to see you succeed.  You’ll soon find that these people aren’t so different from you, and will see potential in you.  Yes, you’ll learn a metric fuck-ton about the nuts and bolts of blogging, and how to improve your writing in general, but for me?  The real reason to get yourself to BlogU is to make those personal connections.  You can learn how to optimize your Pinterest boards and the best times to post on Facebook, but if you don’t have someone leaning over your shoulder and whispering, “Get off the goddamn Internet and write something,” it’s all just numbers, right?  Right.

So get to writing, guys, come to BlogU, and blow shit UP this year.

*****

Tickets are still available for #BlogU16! Join us June 10-12 at the University of Maryland, College Park! Click here for more information about the conference, and click here to register.  See you there!

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Permanently Cold People of Earth: IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

I am always cold.  Always.  I don’t care what time of year it is, or how warmly you think you keep your house heated.  The only time I am not cold is in the summertime when it’s over 75 degrees outside.  Even then, I’ll probably bring a jacket with me in the car to your event, juuuuust in case.  I run my illegal space heater that I have under my work desk all year round.  I don’t give a shit that it’s 90 degrees outside — it’s the fucking Antarctic here in my library, so I’m gonna wear three cardigans and run this space heater until my cold dead heart feels a little less cold.

This time of year is particularly tough for my fellow cold-blooded, taking-a-night-shower-just-to-get-warm brothers and sisters (mostly sisters, though, let’s be real).  However, lately I have discovered one item that will literally make you see the light and make this winter much more bearable than previous winters.

An electric blanket

Listen.  I had no idea what I was missing out on before I received one of these for Christmas.  Here’s footage of me the first time I used it:

via GIPHY

Winter is a time where my desire to live a balmy 80 degree indoor lifestyle goes directly against my strong desire to spend as little money as possible. Hence, from November til April I’m basically frozen and broke, walking around my house wearing a sweater and two sweatshirts on my way to sitting on the couch underneath two blankets and one around my shoulders because I keep the thermostat set at a barely survivable 66 degrees during the day.  I risk hypothermia every day because I can’t afford to send all of my paycheck to the gas company.  This makes me bitter and unhappy because my brain is telling me that I need to curl up in a ball to conserve my body heat for potential emergencies, yet my kids want dumb things like “dinner” and “help with their homework.”

BUT IT’S ALL GOOD NOW BECAUSE WHY?

ELECTRIC BLAAAAAAAANKET

via GIPHY

Electric blanket has improved my winter quality of life by about 126%.  I have my thermostat set to automatically drop down to 62 degrees around 11pm until shortly before we wake up in the morning. This is, again, an attempt to save money, which it does.  However, it sucks because after suffering through being cold and dealing with work and kids all day, I have to sit on my couch and slowly freeze to death each night after bedtime.  BUT NOT ANYMORE! Now, I’m perspiring underneath my electric blanket while I stay up late and watch old episodes of Catfish on TV and I could not be happier (or sweatier).

In fact, my entire family has heard the Good News about Our Lord and Savior, Electric Blanket.  Here’s me and the kids at our weekly Movie Night:

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The past few nights I’ve had to repossess my blanket from Rob when I come downstairs after finishing the whole bedtime song and dance.  But it’s not just the humans in our house that love it:

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When we leave the house, I put the blanket on the floor and turn it on low for this little old man (there’s a safety timer that turns it off after a few hours).  When I use it at night, I literally have to fight with the dog to get the right distribution of blanket between ourselves.  That’s because I’m at the maturity level in my life where I’m bickering with a small dog over a blanket.

The only problem I have right now is that once I am parked underneath this blanket, I am pretty much not getting up again until it’s time for bed.  Dog needs to go outside?  Grow some thumbs, little guy.  Remote is over there across the room?  This show is fine, I guess.  I need something to drink?  It’s fine, I’ll just be thirsty.

Thirsty and INSANELY WARM YAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS ELECTRIC BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANKETTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT.

So if you would like to stop being miserable for 2/3 of the year while just trying to fucking exist and live your life while feeling the cold deep down in your bones and soul, get yourself an electric blanket, and then gather up all the snacks and supplies you’re going to need for the next few hours, because we’re cranking this motherfucker up to bake at 325 degrees, honey.  MAMA’S GOT A FEW POST-HOLIDAY POUNDS TO SWEAT OFF.

***BTDubs, I’m also an Amazon.com 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.

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Posted in don't be jealous, it's gettin' hot in here | 8 Comments

Preschool Senioritis

Look at this adorable little thing.  This is the face of a kid who cannot wait to go to her first day of preschool:

Surrey preschool

Oh, hey! Look at this miserable little thing.  This is the face of a woman who cannot wait to finally see her very last day of preschool:

i hate preschool

Why? Because I hate preschool.

I mean, really.  It’s the worst.

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I’m currently suffering from the worst case of preschool senioritis.  You should have seen me at the parents’ meeting back in September.  I dropped the older girls off at their school, then strolled into that room full of mostly new parents holding the Burger King soda I stopped for on the way (despite the fact that I was already fifteen minutes late at that point) and wearing the “I’m already bored with this” expression I first perfected as a 12th grader at George Washington High School during the late 90s.  I then made sure I was the first person to get up and leave when the teacher said we were done, because I learned after my rookie year that the early bird gets the first pick of parent jobs.  Enjoy planning the end-of-the-year party, Morgan’s mom! I’ll just be over here on party clean-up duty like #YOLO!

I went on the first field trip of the school year, and you guys, I KNOW I was supposed to feel nostalgic and a little weepy that it was the last time I would get up super early, make special arrangements to get my other kids to school, and drive thirty minutes to the apple orchard where I would shiver and freeze my way through the presentation on how bees make apples grow, then take a teeth-chattering hayride to a barrel in the apple orchard filled with apples while wishing I had worn a thicker coat and rain boots, but HAHAHAHA LOLZZZZ I was really thinking, “Oh THANK GOD I never have to do this again.”  I did, however, splurge and buy an entire gallon of apple cider and a dozen donuts on the way out, because smell ya later, apple orchard! HAVE FUN WITHOUT ME NEXT YEAR!

Now that I’m rounding the corner on the halfway mark of the preschool school year, I can see now that there are benefits to being a senior mom in a sea of freshman parents.  I know exactly which parties are going to suck (suck it, Sharing Soup Celebration!), which field trips to skip out on (fuuuuuuck you, rollerskating rink!), and I already know when the volunteer sheets will be posted and to get my name up there early so I’m not stuck making fruit salad at 1AM the night before the Christmas party.  I know the class pet is named Goober the Bunny and that he’s technically the Goober the Second, but shhhhhhhhh.  I also know exactly how hard the women who run our program work, and the right amount of side eye and attitude to give the teenage co-op students when they try to act a fool.

There’s one more thing I know that a few of these rookie parents don’t know: the bright, shining oasis awaiting them one day called public school.  It’s a wonderful place, filled with full-day school, field trips with school buses that drive the children there for you, and best of all: no tuition payments.  I’ve seen the Promise Land, fellow preschool parents, and let me tell you: it is good.

Now, if one of you newbies could please stop me from giving the double-bird in the class portrait, that would be awesome.

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram 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!

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Posted in half-assin it, preschool, professional slacker, Surrey | 6 Comments

Welcoming 2016, or “What Fresh Hell is This?!”

@649point133 on InstagramWhy hello, everyone! Did you miss me? I missed you, and definitely gave a thought to writing something new for you this fall, in between bites of Halloween candy, kick-ass turkey (THAT I COOKED MYSELF WHUT WHUUUUUUT), and sugar cookies with a fuck-ton of frosting on them (thanks, Bella!).  But, alas, if you’ve been a reader for awhile, you know that I am pretty notorious for falling into a “Oh Jesus, not the holidays again” – fueled slump that puts me on hiatus from late September til about this time.  I’m proud to say that this year, I set a new record for ennui by failing to snap out of this slump before Christmas! But here I am, ready to tell you allllll the things I’m definitely going to do this year.  Get comfortable, because I am pretty good at putting things off for Future Janel to deal with, so the list is pretty long at this point:

Lose weight. Again. Last year, at this time, I decided to spend the winter quarter denying myself Christmas cookies in a quest to finally lose my preschooler weight (I had to stop calling it “baby weight”, since the baby is now four years old).  I spent the first twelve weeks of 2015 eating healthy and walking regularly, and lost almost 20 pounds! Yay! I then proceeded to celebrate my discipline and hard work by slowly gaining back ten of those pounds, putting in extra effort during the holidays because FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA, LA, FOOD.  The number of pounds gained is probably closer to thirteen or fifteen, but can you just do that thing that friends do where you think that in your head, and pretend like I’m telling you the truth? Cool.  I’m hoping to make this winter diet an annual tradition, because I specialize in stupid ideas.

Put the Christmas decorations away: At a certain point, somewhere between late January and early February, I start considering whether or not it would be so terribly bad if we just lived with Christmas decor for the rest of the year. “It could be our weird, quirky thing! We’re The Christmas Family!”  Then I remember all the other “cute” things that we do that make us “memorable” to people who visit our home, and I stomp up the attic stairs to retrieve the boxes.

Get this kid out of preschool: Guys, future post coming, but I am fucking done-zo with preschool. I’m the main star of the hit reality show, “I’m a Preschool Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!”  In this context, “celebrity” = “showing up ten minutes late, every day” and “forgetting for the fifth year in a row that the book for the Christmas party is supposed to be wrapped when you bring it to the party.”

Get this kid into kindergarten: This is going to be me the day I drop off all three of my kids at the same school this fall:

GIF-celebrate-celebration-Champagne-new-year-party-party-hard-spray-the-office-wild-GIF

I preemptively apologized to Bella’s kindergarten teacher this year, because she would have Bella and Surrey in back-to-back school years. “Honestly, I don’t know who will be more work for you — my autistic daughter, or my redhead!”

She laughed. I laughed.  I feel like we were laughing for different reasons.

Go to Disney World: We’ve been telling the kids for years that we would go back to Disney the year Surrey started kindergarten.  Thus, we’ve been staring her down for four years, willing her to get bigger faster.  It’s finally worked, so this tax return will be wholly dedicated to schlepping all five of us to Orlando this September. Also, fun fact: are you aware of how much more fucking expensive it is to take five people to Disney as opposed to four? A LOT. Every time I start pricing it out, I get caught in the following vicious circle: “I should sell one of these kids to get the money to take us to Disney.” — “SHIT, that would negate the idea of needing money for taking the fifth person. Scratch that idea.” — “Now I need more money to take all of us to Disney.” — “I should sell one of these kids to get the money to take us to Disney…”

WRITE WRITE WRITE: Here’s the one that might possibly be good or bad news for you guys: I’m planning on writing my ass off this year.  Partly because I like it and have a spreadsheet full of ideas, but also because of this:

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So rejoice! You’ll see me not only writing more here, but also there, and everywhere! And I don’t plan on being too picky — for real, if you see my name on an article in Playboy or Livestock Feed and Supply Monthly, do me a solid and just click through. It might actually be something worth reading.

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram 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!

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Posted in famous last words, lists, wrap it up | 1 Comment