Phaedra 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.
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.
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.
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’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 Continue reading →
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?
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.
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?”
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.
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!”
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.*
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.
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.
I KNOW I’M USING A LOT OF CAPS IN THIS POST BUT IT’S TIME TO GET FUCKING EXCITED EVERYONE AND THAT’S HOW I EXPRESS MY EMOTIONS.
If you enjoy reading hilarious and heartfelt blog posts about parenting, then this book is basically that, except you don’t have to plug it in and you can take it with you and read it wherever you want to zone out and not listen to your kids.
One of the biggest honors of my still-very-short writing career has been to be accepted into this anthology series. I could not be prouder to share pages in a book that includes these talented women:
Did you make it to the bottom? Yes? GREAT! Because sometimes people get about halfway through the list, and they start to feel overwhelmed with euphoria when they realize so many great bloggers are in one book, and they pass out. So you must be one of the lucky ones who can handle this much awesome in one shot. Why not treat yo self to your very own copy today! It’s on ALL THE THINGS, including Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble. Or, if you’ve been very good, you can BUY ALL THREE BOOKS IN THE SERIES.
A few weeks ago, I traded in the car I’ve owned for the past ten years for a minivan. Well, I didn’t so much “trade in” my car as I “donated it to charity because apparently it’s illegal to purposely set your car on fire in an attempt to give it a viking funeral.” Thanks, Obama.
As is often the case when a long-term relationship ends, my car and I were not on good terms. It was no secret to anyone that I hated my car. Some people say you shouldn’t speak badly about your car because it may jinx you, but in our family, it’s a daily ritual. Every morning, when I loaded up the girls for school, we’d recite the Daily Litany of O God, I Hate This Piece of Shit:
Me: “Oh GODDAMMIT I hate this car!”
Kids: “I hate your car too, Mom.”
Me: [obscene muttering about something wrong with the car]
Kids: “When are you going to get a new car, Mom?”
Me: “Soon, girls. Very, very soon.”
One day, after driving my car home engulfed in a blue cloud of smoke like the automotive version of Pig Pen, I asked Jesus to take the wheel and drive my car the hell out of my life. Jesus was all, “NO WAY. I wouldn’t be caught resurrected in this car.” But then I prayed super hard, and so he had no choice but to take my car to the junkyard for me with his sacred tow truck. Amen and farewell, you beautiful bitch.
While shopping online for a “new” car, I kept looking at crossovers and other bigger-type cars. I would stare at the pictures of the back seat, superimposing three booster seats into the picture with my brain. Then I imagined three backpacks, four stuffed animals, a bag of half-eaten pretzels, my purse, and the tote bag I take to work which is basically “Purse, Part Two” stuffed into the back seat of a Jeep Grand Cherokee and finally I called Rob over to hold my hand as I asked him, “I need a minivan, don’t I?”
“Yeah, you do.”
This was what my face looked like the first day I drove my new minivan. It’s the face of a person that hasn’t driven a car bigger than a compact since 1998, and is trying to understand how she became a mother of three in her mid-thirties who drives a minivan. I mean, I understand how all those other women in the school parking lot got there. But not me! I’m still renting a shitty apartment on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, taking the city bus to campus and working til midnight at the video store, right?
Plus, I think I felt like driving a minivan was overkill. It felt too luxurious for me. I mean, my mom had two kids, and she managed to tote our asses around town in a regular old car! But I seriously doubt three booster seats would have fit in my mom’s 1986 Ford Escort. Also, minivans seem like they’re made for families with four or more kids. I only had three, which is one too many for a car, but seems like not enough for a minivan.
But despite all that, here’s my picture the next day.
You guys? I fucking love it. I love every damn thing about that car. It’s clean, it’s comfy, and everyone is out of Surrey’s slapping radius. I love how satisfying it feels sliding the door shut after loading up and buckling everyone. I love how snow doesn’t blow into my car from the heat vents when I try to turn on the warm air. Everyone fits. Everyone is happy.
There is one thing I don’t like about owning a minivan. I have developed an acute case of MMS: Mistaken Minivan Syndrome. Just as every single car on the road today is silver, it seems that every single minivan on the road today is dark blue. I know this because I’ve walked up to countless blue minivans and tried to open them. After exhibiting the telltale symptoms of MMS for the fifty-seventh time in three weeks — furrowed brow, muttering, repeated mashing of the unlock button, and looking around the parking lot with a confused look that quickly brightens at the sight of the next blue minivan — Phaedra finally took pity on me and said, “Mom, why don’t you look at the license plate before you try to open your car?”
So now that my seven-year-old has cured me of attempted carjacking, I feel pretty boss driving around town. I even feel…dare I say it? Grown up.Fancy. Slightly bourgeois.And once I figure out how to park this motherfucker? I’ll be the classiest bitch in this Kroger parking lot.
A few months after Bella was diagnosed with autism, I was on the phone with my health insurance company. Calling your insurance company is the hazing all new special needs parents experience when they’re just beginning to pledge this crazy fraternity/sorority. It’s our secret handshake, our “thank you sir, may I have another [representative to talk to because you’re a jackass and I suspect you don’t actually know what you’re talking about]?” I should have followed my gut instinct that told me to hang up and call back when I heard the guy’s voice, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He pulled up my information and then asked why I was calling.
“I have a question about our coverage. My daughter was recently diagnosed with autism.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
I paused for a beat, completely taken aback by his apology. I was used to hearing people respond with, “okay,” or “uh huh.” He said, “I’m sorry,” as if she had been diagnosed with a horrible terminal disease. I shook my head and said, “Um, thanks, but she’s fine,” before I continued with my question, which he answered incorrectly in the most condescending tone I’ve ever heard from an insurance customer service rep (and trust me, I’ve talked to a large enough sample size to make this statement statistically sound). But it wasn’t his rudeness that bothered me the rest of the day; it was his response when I told him about Bella’s diagnosis.
I understand that this guy (apart from being a douche) wasn’t trying to offend. He probably meant well with his apology, or maybe it was just a reflex from talking to people all day long about devastating illnesses. But the idea that someone should apologize to me for Bella’s diagnosis, that they should feel bad for me or feel like they needed to extend their condolences was a totally foreign idea to me.
Listen to me very carefully: I am not sorry. Sure, I have moments where I think about what Bella’s life might be like if she weren’t autistic. The idea that certain things in life will always be hard for her, like making new friends, makes me sad sometimes. I mean, no parent is happy about the idea that their child will have to struggle with things that come easily to most kids. I wish she could have a simple conversation with her sisters about anything at all that was longer than one or two sentences. Sometimes I can see an entire conversation bubbling in her mind, but she can’t get it all out because of the invisible shell that surrounds her, trapping some thoughts and letting others escape through cracks and holes here and there.
But here’s the rub: to wish away Bella’s autism is to wish away the Bella that we know and love. It would mean wishing away the most sincere, genuine person I have ever known. It would mean wishing away Bella’s unique view of the world, her way of thinking that is so maddeningly different from everyone else and yet, once you understand it, is so damn brilliant I can’t help but marvel at my little genius. It would mean wishing away her innocent frankness, the way she does whatever she wants without giving a shit about what people think of her, her irresistible charm that makes everyone immediately love her.
To love Bella is to love her autism.
So thanks, but I’m not sorry about Bella’s autism.