Happy Whatever Day

11 Jul

I was talking with a friend one recent Monday who has 18-month-old twins. She told me that she and her husband had taken these twins over the weekend to a  relative’s home for a belated Father’s Day celebration. “Oh, how fun!” I said, and then I came to my senses. “I mean, geez, I’m sorry. You must be exhausted!”

When my starter child Benjamin was an infant, holiday get-togethers were still something to look forward to. Sure, sure, there was the inevitable crying from being passed around too much, and the seemingly constant need to excuse myself to go somewhere private to feed him. (In fact, I did miss an entire Thanksgiving dinner, start to finish, when he was going through a growth spurt at 5 months old.) But none of that prepared me for the horror of following a curious toddler around our relatives’ homes at holiday functions.

THE SEVEN HORRORS OF TODDLER HOLIDAYS

1)     Naptime. Every holiday function begins right in the middle of naptime. If it doesn’t, then the rule is that the food is served right when naptime would normally begin. Every parent knows that a naptime missed is the opening chapter of an epic tragedy. The novelty of the situation will briefly put the inevitable on hold—but eventually fatigue will win, and the child will stage a dramatic meltdown, the likes of which will leave an indelible impression upon all who bear witness. You’ll feel like people are judging you, and it’s true…they are.

2)     The food. Your child won’t eat any of the food served at the holiday, because none of the dishes are on the list of the four or maybe even six foods the toddler deems permissible. You’ll make a plate for the child anyway, secretly hoping that maybe this time will be different. You’ll present the plate to the child with enthusiasm. “Look what I brought you! Mmmmm!” The child will grimace, maybe poke at a scalloped potato, and then exclaim something along the lines of  “YUCKY! YUCKY YUCKY NO NO NO!”   The older relatives will look down their noses at you for raising such a picky eater. Someone might sigh and cluck their tongue and say, “My kids always ate their dinner…children these days are given too much freedom,” or “My Jenny was always such a good eater that I could take her anywhere and leave feeling proud.” It’ll sting, but keep in mind that their memories have been rewritten by time and vodka.

3)     Knickknacks and/or holiday decorations. Your sweet munchkin will hurl themselves at fragile, precious family heirlooms as they stumble unsteadily through the unfamiliar house. And who can blame them? It’s fun. You’ll lurch anxiously along behind them, crouched down in an approximation of their height and lunging radius, the unnatural posture causing debilitating and lingering back pain for at least a week. The other guests can’t help because they’re busy drinking and eating and judging you.

4)     Diaper changes. There will be a ton, far more than in a similar time period at home. So, let’s say that you normally change 3 diapers between 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm at home? Bring at least 6 diapers for the same time period at a holiday function. The other ironclad rule is that somehow, some way, you’re going to end up getting poop on something important that belongs to someone else, like a white guest towel or a silk throw pillow or maybe even Aunt Betty’s vintage mink coat. You could change that diaper out in your CAR, and I still guarantee someone else’s valuable item will be contaminated.

5)     Which brings me to potty training. Someone is going to see you changing one of those diapers, and they’re going to start grilling you on potty training. No matter what stage you’re at, you won’t be far enough along for them and everyone they know. They’ll recount at least 3 of their friends or family members who did it faster, better, and much, much earlier than you are doing it. You lazy, lazy, incompetent slacker.

6)     And if anyone asks about your child’s sleep habits, I’m begging you to LIE, even though it goes against your truthful nature. Unless the child goes to sleep promptly and independently at 7:00 pm, never wakes up in the night, never gets in bed with you, never gets up at 4:00 am for the day for no good reason, never demands water or another book or more snuggles. If you have one of those (fictional?) children who goes to bed, sleeps all night, and wakes up at 7:00 am rested, cheerful and refreshed, then go ahead and answer truthfully.

7)     But then be prepared for them to say you’re abusive for not co-sleeping. My advice is to excuse yourself from the conversation to go and clean up all that poop.

The good news is that all of those people will forget about how obnoxious your kid was (or they never really noticed or cared in the first place…a lot of those feelings of judgment come from the inside rather than the outside). Or they’ll have toddlers of their own someday, and you can be the kind and generous one who tells them how great they’re doing as their child hurls Great-Great-Grandma Daphne’s one-of-a-kind Austrian crystal vase to the floor, the one that she smuggled out of the old country cleverly baked into a loaf of simple peasant bread.

The Daddy and I are now past this phase, and it is AWESOME. Our kids, now 4 and 7, arrive at holiday gatherings and disappear with friends or cousins, not to be seen again until dinner time. I’m not gonna lie—it is fun to again be able to participate in holidays again.

There is a part I miss, though. It’s the part where I carried a tiny, warm, sleeping babychild into the house after the car ride home, carefully taking off their little shoes and ridiculously teensy-weensy socks before tucking them into bed. Awwwwww.

So cherish that part. All the rest of it is for the birds.

toddler

Gobbledygook is the Technical Term

18 Jan


A recent weeknight, 2:42 a.m.:

My eyes open slowly to the soothing blue numbers on my clock radio. My mind is empty. I see that it’s not time to get up yet – there are several sweet, heavenly hours of sleep left before the morning rush. The whole family is currently at some stage of recovery from the Horrible Flu of 2013, and sleep has proved to be the best medicine. I relax and let my upper eyelids drift down to meet their partners below, and snuggle down into the cozy covers.

As I drift off, I hear Ellie cough once from her bed in the next room.

A single thought inside my mind hears the sound and opens its eyes. It scowls, stretches, and sits up in bed. Then it gets out of bed and starts turning on lights.  It pulls on some pants and grabs a rumpled shirt. It stomps around, looking furtively for a cup of coffee and someone to scold.

All the commotion wakes up a few more thoughts. Before long, about a hundred half-conscious thoughts are lined up and shaking their fists at me, demanding my attention. There’s no choice now. I’m doomed…to start…THINKING.

Ellie just coughed again. When will this illness ever end? We’ve all had it for so long. I’ve missed so much work already, I really can’t stay home with her. (Insert 5 minute work project thought diversion.) The Daddy can’t stay home either after missing so much work when he was sick. I guess I’ll have to take her to Grandma and Papa’s house. Although it would be really dangerous if THEY got this illness – you know all those stories about how the flu really can bring the elderly down…man, they would probably DIE. So if she has to stay home, what will we do? The Daddy and I can’t afford to risk our jobs. God forbid. If one of us lost our job, we’d lose all our savings, and then we’d lose the house. Of course we would! There’s no other way. I guess we could sell it. Houses in this neighborhood are selling well. We certainly wouldn’t make any money since we just bought it last year, but we could probably unload it pretty easily. I guess we could look at the condos near Ben’s school – those are really nice, and they even have that awesome pool! Although we’d need a down payment which we wouldn’t have after losing everything. I guess we’d have to look at apartments. I liked living in apartments. Although Ben & Ellie might have to share a room if we couldn’t afford a three bedroom. Or one of them could sleep on the couch, I guess. Maybe we could get a pull-out couch, or even a futon. I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that futon we had  when we first got married – that one was nice. It wouldn’t be so bad. But, geez, I can’t imagine any apartments would take a dog as big as Maya. They probably have weight limits, or size limits, or they charge an arm and a leg for deposits and extra monthly fees. That wouldn’t work out. What would we do with her? Maybe someone could keep her for awhile until we get back on our feet? OH GOD EITHER GRANDMA AND PAPA WILL DIE A PREMATURE HORRIBLE DEATH OR WE’LL LOSE EVERYTHING EVEN THE POOR SWEET INNOCENT DOG THIS IS UNBELIEVABLY HORRIBLE AND UNFAIR AND HOW IN THE HELL DID THIS EVER HAPPEN!!!!!

I sit up and try to make the thoughts stop. I consider waking The Daddy up to tell him that Ellie coughed so we either have to 1) callously sacrifice the lives of his wonderful parents or 2) move to a seedy, low-rent apartment and get rid of the dog. He’s sleeping so soundly, though, that it seems like it would be best to save the bad news for morning.

I get up and walk around a little. I get a drink of water and look out the window.  Finally, I wander down the hall to Ellie’s room. There she is, there’s my beautiful little girl, pouting in her sleep a little, one hand tangled up in her silky brown hair. I climb in bed next to her and snuggle close. She finds my hand and laces her little fingers in mine. I listen to her breathing, and I manage to match my breath up with hers. Soon I’m drifting away with her, a stowaway on the peaceful voyage of her dreams.

The next morning, the whole thing was mostly forgotten, as these things usually are. Seems unbelievable, but it’s true. In fact, I didn’t give it much thought at all until my friend at work was talking about being tired because she was up in the middle of the night worrying that she and her husband were going to have to declare bankruptcy.

I said, “Oh my gosh – I hope that’s not really true, is it?”

“No!” she said. “I started thinking about one single bill I had to pay, and it all spun out of control from there. That’s what happens when I start thinking about things when I wake up in the middle of the night.”

SWEET FANCY MOSES! Just how widespread IS this crazeballs disorder? If there are two of us in the same small office, there must be tens of thousands in the general population who fall prey to this nighttime brain gobbledygook business. It only happens to me a couple of times a year – normally I sleep like I’m being graded on it – but my guess is others dabble in nocturnal catastrophe fantasies on a much more frequent basis than that.

If you’re one of them, I wish I had helpful advice, other than snuggling your four-year-old. If you don’t have one of those…well…bourbon? Ambien? Although I understand Ambien can cause unconscious night eating, as in someone I know personally took Ambien and WOKE UP WITH HER MOUTH PACKED FULL  OF CHEWED UP GRAHAM CRACKERS with no idea when or how they got there. (Not to be too graphic, but the texture apparently suggested that the cracker remnants had been there for a significant period of time. Possibly hours! In her mouth! Dangerously close to the neighboring body parts responsible for breathing that must never ever ever be blocked!) That my friends, is a reason not to take Ambien if I ever heard one.

Anyway, here’s hoping for a peaceful night. Sweet dreams to me and all the rest of you crazy demented nutjobs out there! See you in the looney bin.* If you get there first, save me an Ambien and some graham crackers, mmmkay?

*Please forgive me if you feel that I’ve been insensitive here to anyone actually suffering from this kind of thing on a regular basis. It must be AWFUL, and I recognize that I’m only free to be so flip about it because it hardly ever happens to me. And the thing about bourbon being a solution – I was really kidding about that too, it just made me giggle when I wrote it is all, so I apologize if you are struggling with alcohol as a result of anxiety and it seemed like I was making fun.  And if those of you suffering from infertility felt that I was insensitive for suggesting snuggling with a child as a solution, I’m sorry for that too – I’m such a jerk. And to the company that makes Ambien – I did not mean to suggest that your product would cause similar graham cracker capers in other people too, it’s just that it was such a dramatic and amazing side effect that I couldn’t help but mention it. I mean, that lady is probably the only one that ever happened to, even though her doctor said night eating was a known undesirable side effect. But what does he know? In fact, everyone just go ahead and forget everything you read here, okay? Don’t read this blog ever again, and just…don’t even look at me. Look away. LOOK AWAY!

looneybin2

The Big 4-OH!

10 Jul

First of all, I need to say this: The fact that it’s spelled “forty” instead of “fourty” has always annoyed me. It doesn’t make sense that sixty, seventy, eighty, and ninety get to have their regularly spelled numbers plus –ty, but all the other multiples of 10 have to put up with inexplicable name changes.

Instead of:

Ten, Twenty, Thirty, Forty, Fifty, Sixty, Seventy, Eighty, Ninety

Why not:

Ten, Twoty, Threety, Fourty, Fivety, Sixty, Seventy, Eighty, Ninety?

I’m just saying.

Anyway, that’s just one of the petty, irritable thoughts I’ve had leading up to the BIG BIRTHDAY. I thought it wouldn’t be anything that weighed heavily on my mind; after all, I had no problem turning 30. And up until a couple of months ago, I was feeling fairly blasé about it:

Birthday minus 90 days (let’s call it B-90): What’s the big deal? Ho-hum, turning 40. Why should I get all worked up about it? Why do people get so upset? It’s just a day like any other day. For Pete’s sake. Bring on the clichés, like “Age is just a number,” or “You’re only as old as you feel.” I feel great! There’s no way I’ll give in to this vapid midlife crisis crap.

But then:

B-75: In a sudden turn of events, my occasional annoying hip pain turns into all-the-time hip pain. After some x-rays, etc., the doctor says I can do physical therapy, but in the end, I’ll likely need surgery. Moments before, I was more “40-is-the-new-30” and now, suddenly, I’m all “40-is-the-new-90.” Someone bring me a big tube of Ben Gay and reschedule my weekly Bridge game.

B-60: Is that a new crease under my eye? What IS that? Did I sleep on my face, maybe? Because those sleeping pillowface lines that used to go away in 10 minutes now take 5 or 6 hours to disappear. Thanks for nothing, COLLAGEN.

B-45: I still don’t care. Do you hear me, 40? This is me, not caring! Also, I read another one of those simpering interviews with a movie star who recently turned 40 and oh-so-predictably, she said what they always say: “I finally feel comfortable in my own skin.” What does that even mean? Before you turned 40, your skin just didn’t fit right? It was itchy? Too needy? Felt like someone else’s skin? Perhaps before, she was walking around thinking, “Gosh, I just wish my innards were stuffed inside a different skin-bag. This one is just so ICKY.” And then she turned 40, and suddenly the offensive skin holding her body together felt just so very much better. Comfy, even. Magical!

(I know it’s not meant to be taken so literally, but I can’t help it – it bugs me. But I’m FINE! I don’t even care about 40! Numbers mean nothing to me. Obviously.)

B-30: The Daddy asks me if I want to have a party. He’s so sweet – but really, it’s not a big deal, so why do we need to behave as though it is with some expensive gathering commemorating something that’s actually nothing? It’s just a regular day, as far as I’m concerned. Bah humbug.

B-15: Someone asks me how old I am, and I say I’ll be 40 in a few weeks. They kindly exclaim about how that’s impossible, that I look sooooo much younger! And then it strikes me that this is how things will go now – that if I happen to look good on a particular day, it’ll be despite my advanced age.

B-7: Whatever. I don’t care. People who care are shallow and youth-obsessed. Plus, my face broke out today in three places, which doesn’t happen to OLD people. (DOES it?)

B-1: It occurs to me that this is the last day I can say I’m in my 30s. This thought inspires a ridiculously overwrought emotional breakdown. Even the dog thought I was being dumb. Spent the whole day/evening feeling glum and grumpy. Glumpy.

B-day: Feeling pretty silly that I allowed myself to get sucked into a mini midlife crisis. But why shouldn’t I be anything but average and predictable? Simply human, once again. When I turn 50 I’m sure I’ll look back and snicker at what an idiot I was when I turned 40, which is what I did when I was turning 30 and reflecting on age 20. Will that happen forever? When I turn 70, will I think, “Gosh, when I was 60, I was such a know-nothing ass!”

Damn straight.

The Great Spider Massacre of 2012

9 Mar

I was playing with Ellie upstairs when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a small spider on the guest room door. We ran over to assess the situation.

“Ewwww!” she said. She grabbed the bottom of my shirt with one hand and pointed at the eight-legged beast with the other. Hopping up and down nervously, she clearly instructed me to “GET IT, MAMA!”

So I DID. I got a Kleenex out of the kids’ bathroom and squished the spider; then I flushed it as she watched me. “Oooooh! Bye bye, ‘pider!” We waved as the spider was whirled away in the watery cyclone.

Benjamin came over and wanted to know what was going on. “Mama flushed a ‘pider!” Ellie explained.

“MAMA? You flushed a spider down the TOILET?”

I smiled at him as Ellie hugged me. “Yep!” (I am the triumphant spider killer, valiant defender of my family!)

“Why did you do that?”

“Well, we don’t want spiders in the house, right?” (Logic is on my side, boy!)

“Sure we do! I love everything in nature, and spiders are part of nature.”

“That’s true, yes.” (You are correct, son, but I am still way more righter.)

“Did you smush him first, or was he alive when you flushed him?”

“I smushed him first.” (This is the right answer, I just know it.)

“Oh, Mama! That’s so mean. Then he couldn’t breathe!”

“Well, no, but I was thinking that then he wouldn’t drown slowly in the water. This was much quicker and kinder.” (Er…right?)

His little shoulders slumped and he shook his head, suffering incredulous disbelief over my obvious stupidity.

“Mama, that spider probably had a family! Now they’re going to miss him so much.”

“Well, I guess that’s true…” (Smugness…waning…)

“You broke my heart by killing that spider, Mama. You really broke my heart.”

“I’m sorry, Ben.” (Man, I STINK.)

Tears welled up in his eyes.

“My heart is broken. You shouldn’t have killed him.”

“But then he would’ve crawled around in our house and crawled on us while we were sleeping. What would you think about that?” (One point for me!)

“I would like that! It would tickle.”

“But what if he bit you?” (What about that, hmmmm?)

“I wouldn’t care!”

“Really.” (I don’t believe you, but I do admire your resolve.)

“Nope! Would it hurt, though? Well, maybe I wish you’d just taken him outside, then, instead of killing him.”

“My gramma used to do that. She’d scoop up the spider in her hand and take it right outside and let it go in the grass.” (Let’s talk about something else, like how cool my Gramma was!)

“Yeah, that’s what you should do. And then you could just say, ‘Have a nice day, spider!’ instead of making it lose its whole life.”

“That’s a really good point, Ben.” (Good, and also exhausting.)

“Yeah. It was really, really mean, what you did.”

“I’m so sorry, buddy. I’ll ask for your help next time, okay? And we can figure out the best solution together.” (And the solution will be that YOU can pick up the spider! See how brave you are then, Nature Boy!)

“Okay, Mama.”

“I love you, Ben.”

“Love you too, Mama.”

***

I wondered, afterwards, what will happen when if we get a mouse in the house, or when it hits him that he regularly eats a variety of animal products. I sat there and imagined the moment he figures it out. He’ll likely demand that we change our dietary structure immediately, that we all become vegetarians, or maybe even vegans. I’ll heartily agree that it’s a better, healthier way to eat, and come up with vegetarian meal options for the family. (I already did this once, a few years ago, when I got on yet another vegetarian kick after watching Food, Inc.)

The whole thing will probably only last until the nearest Saturday, when he learns that he can’t have…*gasp*…BACON with his favorite weekend breakfast. Because this, folks, is how that child feels about bacon:

Regardless of my premature daydreams of possible bacon deprivation, I’m feeling really happy that the boy feels strongly about all of the world’s creatures. It shows that he’s developing a compassionate and loving heart – and in my humble opinion, there is absolutely nothing that will serve him better in life than that.

My Junk: Not in the Trunk

15 Feb

When I got up one Saturday morning, the kids were not yet at full steam, and The Daddy was perusing the sale flyer from Lowe’s.

“Look at this!” he said, holding the flyer out so I could see. “A closet organization system for only $39!”

The picture looked something like this – some wire shelves and rods, etc.:

What does this really DO?

I looked blankly at him and the flyer. I clutched my coffee mug and tried in vain to activate my thinking apparatus. He continued to enthusiastically hold up the picture of the closet. “Wouldn’t that be great? We could get one for Benjamin’s closet and a couple for ours.”

I kept looking at it, but couldn’t manage to apply the idea or his enthusiasm to our own closets. “And how exactly would it help us?”

He looked at me quizzically, probably trying to figure out how a person who seems to have at least a moderate intellectual capacity could be so totally dense.

“Nevermind,” he sighed. “We can talk about it after you’ve had some more coffee.”

Which is never a bad plan of action, where I am concerned.

I’ve written about my inability to organize things here before. And I admit, it’s really a problem. For awhile, after we moved into the new house, we had so much more storage that my ineptitude wasn’t as obvious. In fact, there are so many drawers in the kitchen that I couldn’t even fill them all up. But empty drawers didn’t seem right at all. My solution? Multiple junk drawers. A kids’ junk drawer; a Me junk drawer; a junk drawer for rarely used items; a takeout-menu-and-school-stuff junk drawer; a junk drawer for coupons and stamps.

The Daddy finally caught on. “You know,” he said, “we really don’t need FIVE junk drawers.”

“But what else am I going to do with all that space?”

“There could be organized drawers, with specific purposes.”

“They are, kind of!” I proceeded to show him the loosely defined purpose of each drawer.

“But why are there rolls of Scotch tape in every drawer?”

“Because I always need tape at the last minute when I’m trying to wrap a gift before we rush out the door on our way to some party or another. If there’s tape all over the place, then I don’t have to open all the drawers looking for tape. Whatever drawer I open, BAM!  Tape is there!”

He looked at me with what could be best described as loving pity. “But couldn’t you put all of them in one drawer and then remember which drawer is the drawer that contains five rolls of tape?”

“Well, you nailed the problem right there…I would have to remember which drawer they’re in. You can see my dilemma.”

Indeed, he did not see my dilemma. I am lucky he loves me so much.

I predict that if I have to add remembering where the tape lives to all of the other important things I have to remember, something else is bound to suffer. Perhaps I’ll forget to close the garage door, or Benjamin will go to school without pants on, or I’ll wear mismatched shoes to work, and it will all be because that part of my brain was replaced by remembering where the tape resides.

I’m sure you’re thinking I’m just being dramatic here, but consider this: Last week, we decided to start allowing the dog free roaming privileges while we’re gone from the house (we previously crated her so she didn’t eat the drywall or the carpet or whatever she might do while she was still in the puppy phase). My morning routine when leaving the house was 1) get the kids’ shoes/coats/hats on, 2) get my stuff on, 3) gather lunches/backpacks/my purse, 4) throw a protein bar and my cell phone into my purse, 5) put the dog in her kennel, 6) turn off the kitchen light and shove gently guide the kids out the door with all of our various bags.

For some reason, not doing 5) put the dog in her kennel short-circuited my brain such that I was no longer able to remember my cell phone and protein bar.  I forgot those things for 2 or 3 days until my brain was able to build a bridge and get over it.

I’d like to think it will someday get better, but in reality it will likely get worse as I get older. I can just see myself, a little old toothless lady in a muumuu, wandering around our organized closet yelling, “WHERE’S THE TAPE AT, DADDY?!” and The Daddy shouting in my “good” ear, “IT’S IN THE KITCHEN! IN ONE OF YOUR DRAWERS. REMEMBER?” I’ll insist that I AM in the kitchen, and then he’ll have to convince me that I’m not and remind me where the kitchen is located. Exhausted by the mental strain, I’ll probably just lie down and watch Wheel of Fortune instead.

That man is a living saint, I tell you. A living saint.

It Even Looks Like a Roll of Tape

My Secret Shame, It Has a Name

3 Feb

That’s right, I have an embarrassing secret: I am addicted to a ridiculous TV show.

I’m not watching any of the Real Housewives from somewhere or other. It’s not The Bachelor, doling out roses to the girls he wants to keep stringing along. I’ve never watched Donald Trump dare potential Apprentices not to laugh at his comb over. I’m not keeping up with any Kardashians, whatever it is that they do. What I watch is possibly even worse than any of those:

It’s Say Yes to the Dress.

I’m going to take a moment to blame my mother (Hi, Mom!). I’d never watched the show until I went home to visit my parents.  One night, the kids were asleep and The Daddy and my own dad were watching football, so my mother and I holed up in her room and watched back-to-back episodes on demand.

Each show features several brides searching for a wedding dress at Kleinfeld’s bridal shop in New York City, and then one bride who is in the final fitting stages. While some reality shows have to script some drama to make the show interesting, there are UNLIMITED OPPORTUNITIES for unscripted drama when someone is looking for a wedding dress:

*The budget is “low,” (meaning $1500! dollars) but the bride really really really wants to look like Beyonce. They always say, “I want that WOW factor.” The wow factor is really expensive, you guys. I had no idea.

*The bride wants a sexy mermaid-style dress to show off the fake maracas someone paid thousands of dollars for, and Grandma wants her instead to wear full sleeves and a (lace) turtleneck. Who cares what Grandma wants, right? Well, see, it matters because Grandma is paying, and she’s not shelling out her vodka money for some slutty dress so her granddaughter can be the talk of the beauty shop gossips in Melvina, Kentucky. No siree.

*The bride has no idea what she wants, can’t narrow it down, and won’t listen to anyone’s advice, good or bad. She won’t even listen to Randy, the fabulous flamboyant stylist who works there and who ALWAYS knows what’s right. (Here, I will confess that I once pointed at the TV like some crazed sports fan and shouted, “LISTEN TO RANDY! LISTEN TO HIM RIGHT NOW! UGH!”)

*An indecisive bride brings 14 people with her, each with their own bossypants opinion. It seems to be even worse when the 14 people are the bride’s sorority sisters. They cruelly make fun of everything she comes out in and continue to make fun of her even after she’s returned to the dressing room. The bride is conflicted because these are her “best friends in the whole world” and “I know they only want what’s best for me.” Occasionally the bride finds a spine and chooses something that she loves, but usually she cries and goes home with nothing.

*The bride recently lost 100 pounds and has such a distorted body image that she feels frumpy in absolutely everything. No amount of reassurance or murmured compliments can change her mind. Randy pats her hand and suggests counseling. Sometimes she is able to silence her inner critic; sometimes she cries and goes home with nothing.

*The bride has tried on no less than 100 dresses at other stores and has never liked anything. Once the sales consultant hears this and manages to wipe the look of horror off her face, she comes at it from one of two directions: 1) She instantly decides the appointment is doomed to certain failure, or 2) With dogged determination, she decides she’ll be the one to find this whack-a-do a dress because she is going to WIN WIN WIN!!!!

*The bride recently overcame cancer/a stroke/an abusive first marriage/a disfiguring accident. They always give these brides a huge tragedy discount. (I would too.) On one recent episode, a gorgeous cancer survivor nearly rejected her dream dress because it was $500 over budget, and her amazing friends decided to kick in the difference. I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my cheeks; thank God I was home alone.

*Someone tells the bride that her favorite “fashion-forward” dress with a befeathered skirt makes her look like a deranged chicken. She sobs in the fitting room and her best friend comes to console her and encourages her to forget what everyone else thinks – it’s her day, after all. But she never buys the chicken dress after that. Usually she cries and goes home with nothing.

*The bride brings the fiance who doesn’t really want to be there, but lodges half-hearted opinions anyway. It never goes well, especially if her mother is there too, shooting him icy looks from the corner of a disapproving eye. The bride tries to force a solid opinion from him, but he ain’t no fool. Randy shakes his head sadly behind the scenes, reminding the viewer that a groom just doesn’t belong in a bridal shop. You could cut the pent-up tension with a knife, and I always wonder if these people eventually just call the wedding off. Sometimes the bride ends up buying something she doesn’t love, which leads us to the final scenario:

*The bride, at her next-to-final fitting, decides that she was talked into the dress by one or more people in her entourage, is finally able to admit that she hates it, and OH MY GOD SHE NEEDS A NEW DRESS RIGHT NOW. This always happens when the wedding is less than a month away. Obviously, the staff goes berserk and says the last minute switcheroo will never happen, not in a million kabillion years. Magically, they always pull it off, at the expense of some teary-eyed, overworked alterations gal who pulls several brutal all nighters.

In the end, the majority of the brides leave the store having found their “perfect” dress, the one that makes them feel “like a princess.” That’s what most of them say – they want to feel like a princess. Whatever that means?

I’m really not sure why I find the show so fascinating. Maybe it’s because I’ll never get married again and have the singular shopping experience of finding a wedding dress. Maybe it’s because I love watching the brides’ faces light up when they really love the way they look in a gown. Maybe I love watching other people spend a lot of money. Maybe I love Randy.

And maybe I love it because it makes me think of time spent laughing with my mom. I miss you, Mom! I’ll keep a few episodes on TiVo for next time we’re together, especially if there’s one with a chicken dress.

Rockin' the Feather Frock, Yo!

Hoochie Mama Princess Party

6 Jan

Smack between Christmas and the New Year is Ellie’s birthday. When I was pregnant with her and realized when she was likely to be born, I knew it would be trouble. Holiday-time birthdays are always eclipsed by someone else’s birthday (I’m looking at you, JESUS).  It didn’t really matter when she was a baby, or even last year when she turned 2, but I suspect age 3 is when they start keeping a mental record of the ways that you’ve failed them. This year, I had to produce A PARTY.

There were a fair amount of mental gymnastics involved. For example, the gifts. What would be for Christmas, and what would be for her birthday? Here was my detailed, insightful approach: I bought a bunch of stuff for her and decided that I would figure it out at the last minute.

But then on Christmas Eve (the last minute!), I realized that if I didn’t put everything I had for her under the tree, the Scales of Christmas Gift Justice would be tipped wildly in Benjamin’s favor. A disgustingly luxurious first world problem, I know. Nonetheless, I couldn’t let it happen, so all the gifts went under the tree and I shopped for birthday gifts after Christmas. There were lots of deals (yay!) on crap that nobody else wanted either (boo).

Next, I went to order the cake, which was great because I knew exactly what to get: The Barbie Princess Cake. I take her grocery shopping with me nearly every Sunday, and each time we have to go to the bakery counter to look at it. I’m sure you’ve seen a version at your local bakery – it’s a Barbie sticking out of a huge skirt-shaped cake. This bakery decorates the skirt area with a cascading spray of delicate pink buttercream roses. For the last several months, she has squealed over it regularly. “Oh MAMA! Wook at da bootifoh pwincess! I have it on my birfday???”

After briefly considering the possibility of making the cake myself, I went to the bakery to order it. Right before I walked away, I thought to ask,

“How many people does the cake serve?”

The bakery attendant referred the question to the stern-faced cake decorator, who replied tersely, “No one knows.”

“What do you mean,  no one knows?”

“Because of the shape of the skirt and the many layers of cake, it’s impossible to say.”

“Surely you must have a general idea?”

“No, there’s no way to say.”

I stared at him dumbly. I considered discussing this with a manager, or attempting to perform a complex mathematical equation, but instead I  just gave up and ordered a dozen pink cupcakes too, in case the voluminous cake skirt was heavy on architecture and light on actual cake.

When the day came, Ellie was wide-eyed and thrilled with everything. My little girl loved it all – the decorations, the food, the party guests, the presents, and ohmygoodness – THE CAKE. It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Everything seemed so innocently pink and royally wholesome, the doll posing demurely in her cake like a blonde Kate Middleton…

until I released Princess Barbie from her cake-and-buttercream prison. And then several of the party guests, including myself, started to giggle after a brief, stunned moment of silence. Because this was no Princess Barbie after all…this was Princess HOOCHIE MAMA Barbie:

(Special self-congratulatory note: I arranged those flowers. All by myself!)

As you can see, although the picture doesn’t even do it justice, her outfit is something one might wear on their way to work as a “hostess” in a “club,” perhaps a club designated for “gentlemen” somewhere near “the airport.” In real life, the dress is even shorter than the picture makes it appear. It is more like something that someone (not me) might wear as a SHIRT. And it’s made out of shiny plastic, which makes sense because you could just wipe the cake off of it and all, but STILL.

And then, the shoes:

When we saw the shoes, the giggles turned into gales of laughter, which brought The Daddy over to see what our problem might be. Ellie came too, and said, “Oooohhhh, she has a pwetty dwess on!”  Which made us laugh even more.

When I put Ellie to bed that night, she snuggled into me and thanked me for her party. I asked her what her favorite part was, and she said it was her cake. I felt so very happy to be able to make her 3-year-old birthday dream come true.

As for Hoochie Mama, she’ll be undergoing intensive psychoanalysis to deal with her daddy issues and her propensity for exhibitionism. I’ll keep you posted!

Dear Family and Frenemies

22 Dec

A friend and I were recently laughing about holiday form letters. Don’t get me wrong. I love to get them – especially yours. Most people do a really good job of summarizing the activities of the year without being boastful or obnoxious. And then there are the other people who write the other kinds of letters, the ones designed to make you feel that your own family’s achievements are sooooo lowbrow.

We celebrate all types of accomplishments in the SassenFrassen family, especially the lowbrow ones. If I were to memorialize our achievements in a holiday letter this year, they would look something like this:

The WHOLE family got out of bed on time for five consecutive days in April!
Benjamin finally learned to consistently cough into his sleeve instead of his hand.
We moved in July. Everyone survived, and only one of us required prescription tranquilizers.
I cooked dinner SO MANY TIMES.
Ellie is potty trained, sort of! Well…not really. But she might be soon!
We bathed regularly, all year long. Huzzah!
Not one of us was hospitalized for anything.
We cut down on our television viewing by .07%!!!

That’s the kind of letter I would write to you. Here’s one for those other sorts of people:

Dear Family and Friends,

So far, the holiday season has been positively dreamy! Every night, we sit serenely in front of the fire and share our deepest wishes with one another. Last night, for example, Benjamin said that he doesn’t want any presents at all on Christmas – instead, he wants to spend the whole day writing letters to all of the world’s leaders, promoting humility and loving-kindness as the way to everlasting peace. Ellie’s ideas were slightly less grand, but my heart nearly exploded when she said that she just wants to help “all the babies who don’t have their mammas.” So selfless, for a girl of only 3. I regularly shed tears of joy when I think about how much my children already love the world and its people. I think the fact that we don’t let them watch TV and feed them only a chemical-free vegan diet has really kept them in touch with a higher spiritual plane.

The rest of our year was equally outstanding. The Daddy and I are still steeped in wide-eyed amazement by what we saw on our philanthropic bicycle tour of India in February. For every mile we rode, we earned $50 for charity; when all was said and done, our 250 miles each raised $25,000 for the homeless, hungry people of the world. I wrote a book about our experiences, and Oprah Winfrey has agreed to do a 30 minute special on the OWN TV network promoting it. As I mentioned, we don’t believe in television, but we feel that if it provides the vehicle to get our story out to more people who would like to help, then it’s totally worth it. I can just feel the love from here!

Many of you know that we moved over the summer. It was a peaceful, meditative experience that brought us closer as a family. Instead of being stressed out and snappish with one another, we chose to use the time to joyfully transition into our new home, severing our invisible bonds to unnecessary material possessions. Benjamin and Ellie were so eager to share the toys and books they’d outgrown with less fortunate children that I had to physically stop them from giving away literally EVERYTHING!

This fall, Benjamin started kindergarten and is doing extremely well. His teacher says that, based on his superior social skills and genius-level intellectual capacity, he could easily move up to the 4th grade, maybe even high school! He’ll surely be doing college level work by the age of 8. She pointed out, though, that if he abandoned his classmates, they’d be the ones left suffering the lack of his inspiring leadership. Therefore, he has agreed to stay on in his current classroom in order to set the standard for the others. He is such a selfless young man!

Ellie will turn 3 at the end of this month. While she doesn’t share Benjamin’s intellectual gifts, she has plenty of wonderful qualities all her own. Her love of babies seems to be her main motivation in life. All on her own, she learned to crochet last month and has already produced 15 hats to donate to the preemies at the hospital. Crocheting at 3! Can you imagine? I just don’t know how we got so lucky that the universe chose us as her parents.

Not to boast, but The Daddy and I did fairly well professionally this year. No one was more surprised than we were when BOTH of us were promoted to CEO of our respective companies! Sure, the hours are longer, but we are so enamored with what we do that it hardly seems like an effort. We almost feel guilty collecting a paycheck!

That’s all for now…I’m busily stringing cranberries that we picked by hand into garlands for our organic live Christmas tree. I hope that you, too, had an absolutely breathtaking year full of luck, love, and laughter. Here’s to 2012 – I can’t wait to see what the new year brings!

Love and Kisses,

The SassenFrassens

Say what? Booty butt.

17 Nov

It all started with Benjamin, sometime last winter. One day, he brought home a fun new word from preschool: BOOTY.

Until that fateful day, booty had not been a standard word in our house. In fact, the rump isn’t something we discuss overly much. “Move your buns,” someone might say. Or “Sit on your bum! It’s dangerous to stand in the tub.”

This is how it all started: Benjamin, a born dancer, goes through phases where he loves to get his groove on. During other periods, you can’t get him to dance AT ALL, not so much as a stray head bob,  or even a finger snap. But recently, he was dancing all the time to the Fresh Beat Band (a kids’ TV show, for those of you not subjected to such things). It’s a little irritating, sure, but it allowed me to make dinner in peace. I’d put it on and he and Ellie would dance and dance, and that part was fun to watch, indeed, in large part because Ellie’s dancing is reminiscent of an injured Clydesdale on heavy narcotics.

So one day they’re dancing, and Benjamin says, “Mama, look at my booty! I’m doin’ the booty dance!” Ellie starts mimicking him, saying, “Booty, Mama, booty! Shakin’ booty! BOOTY BUTT!” Benjamin starts laughing at her, repeating, “Booty butt! Booty butt! I’m shakin’ my boooooty butt!” Soon they’re laughing so hard that they’ve collapsed on the floor, swept away by the kind of hysterics in which you can’t catch your breath, and your stomach muscles get all prickly and weak forcing you to roll on the floor and flail your limbs. (We should all do that more often, no?)

And then, because it was such a funny little scene, I made a big mistake: I laughed too.

Ellie loves nothing more than to make someone laugh. If you laugh at her for something she does or says, you can be sure that she will repeat it ad nauseam. Even at 2 1/2, she  understands that if she’s going to  continue to make someone laugh over the same thing, she needs to add a new twist every so often to make it novel.

The first thing she did was to start saying, “Oh no! I hurt my booty butt!” when she fell down.

When the laughs stopped coming for that, she changed it up. “Mama! I hurt my booty butt! And my booty knee. And look! My booty toe.”

Then: “I ate my booty dinner.”

“Read me this booty book?”

“Good night, Booty Mama!”

*sigh* All I could do was hope that particular nickname didn’t catch on.

Eventually, when the use of the word moved from occasional and funny to constant and irritating, we banned the use of it altogether. Anyone who said booty got an instant time out. It worked for a few days, maybe even a week. We were booty-free for some reasonable time period…and then suddenly it was back. And because it was unexpected when she finally did say it, I LAUGHED again. Because I am essentially immature and lacking in self-control.

In the end, we just gave in and now we all say it. It’s become something of a family joke, and as usually happens when you take the stigma away from something, it’s slowly fading away. “Do you want some booty soup?” I might ask, and she’ll reply, “Mama, it not booty soup. It just SOUP.”

Music to my booty ears.

I’m quite sure it’s not entirely over, though, especially when she finds a new audience. School, for example. I can just hear the conversation at our first teacher conference. “Elise is very bright and awfully funny, but…I have some concerns.”

And I’ll just nod sympathetically and say,  “I already know what you’re going to say, but try not to worry about it, Mrs. Booty Butt. It’s just a booty phase.  Any other relevant concerns, Booty Mama?”

500 Miles to Heaven

9 Sep

Well, hello! I’ve been quiet, I know, but I was on vacation. And then when we got back home, my brain was on the slow setting for at least another week and a half.

Our vacations are typically spent at my parents’ place on Lake Superior. They live in the same state as we do, and yet their place is 500 miles away. 500 miles! In the same state! I’m sure that sounds like loony talk to you east coast people, who can drive through 5 states in 20 minutes. But if you look at a map of Michigan, it will make sense. Michigan is two long gobs of land surrounded by water…not a shortcut to be had. See, look how crazy Michigan is:

We drive from almost the furthest southeastern point on the map (near Detroit) to the furthest location northwesterly (is that a word?) in the fingerlike projection east of Minnesota. So, the northwesterly fingerlike thingy. You see what I mean, right?

Crazier still is making that drive with two little kids and a 6-month old puppy. Before we left, I thought, “Oh, it’ll be fine.. Benjamin’s gained so much maturity since last time, and Ellie…well, at least she’s not a baby anymore.”

Ummmmmmmm. Well.

GAZILLION HOUR FAMILY CAR TRIP LOG:

7:00 a.m. Already several hours behind schedule. Ellie, normally the early chirpy bird in the family, refuses to get up. She actually says, “Mama, you be quiet now so I can sleeeeeeeeeeeep.”

7:30 a.m. Car almost loaded. Children jump around, excited. Puppy goes on one last walk before interminable confinement.

7:45 a.m. Tim Horton’s drive-through. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. COFFEE.

8:00 a.m. Takeoff! Estimated time of arrival – 6:00 p.m.

8:30 a.m. Benjamin asks how much longer it’s going to be before we get there.

9:00 a.m. I had wanted to save movies for later when things got desperate. As it turns out, we’re already desperate at the end of hour one. I put in the movie Rio.

9:30 a.m. Children quiet, dog crying. Bathroom break!

10:00 a.m. Road trip bliss. Silence from the back. I’m even reading a grown-up book.

10:15 a.m. Movie concludes. Whining begins. Ellie’s diaper has soaked through; The Daddy pulls over.

10:30 a.m.  Back on the road.

10:45 a.m. Children want to see Rio again.

12:30 p.m. We stop at our favorite drive-in restaurant for lunch. Amazingly, Ellie has wet through ANOTHER diaper? Also, only one surly waitress has been assigned to carside service. She ignores us, and then ignores us some more. Finally, a woman in the car next to us takes pity. When the waitress comes to take their order, she points to us and says, “Uhhh, they’ve been here for a long time, much longer than we have.” She sullenly takes our order. When she finally brings the food, she delivers it on one of those window-hangy trays, even though I had told her that we’d need it to go since we’d been there so long (an hour!). I’m afraid of her, but I muster the courage to ask her to bag it up for us. She is furious. I give her a big tip so she doesn’t slash our tires on the sly before we can peel out of there.

1:45 p.m. Finally eating food. No picnic tables available, so we set up lunch on a blanket in the grass. It’s fun! It’s so much fun, in fact, that both children, overstimulated by the wonders of nature, ignore their lunches completely.  I plead and admonish, but no one listens. The Daddy walks Maya in large circles around the park, trying to eat as she alternately sniffs and lunges. Poor guy.

2:15 p.m. Back on the road. Benjamin asks, “How much longer?” and “Can we watch Rio again?” I start listing all of the other movies I brought, but each selection is denied. I tell them we need a break from Rio for a little while and they should just watch the scenery go by, or maybe read a book. Benjamin reminds me that Ellie can’t read, so I suggest that he read to her. He chooses to watch the scenery. Ellie whines.

2:30 p.m. Both children are hungry and whiny. Surprise! I mention that they should’ve eaten lunch, and pass out snacks and juice boxes.

3:00 p.m. Ellie’s whining finally flips my overload switch. I yell at her to quit it already, which makes her cry. The crying is louder and screechier than the whining. The Daddy is wowed by my superior parenting skills.

3:15 p.m. You guessed it….Rio.

3:45 p.m. And more whining.

4:00 p.m. Can’t anyone just take a NAP? We stop to walk the dog again. I get some “coffee” (brown aquarium water?) at a gas station.

5:30 p.m. We stop at Wendy’s so the kids can get out of the car for a while. The Daddy is once again stuck with the dog, although I am beginning to feel jealous of dog duty. We try to order some food, since lunch was so poorly received. Ellie wants chicken; Benjamin wants nothing. Then he wants a cheeseburger. No, he doesn’t. Yes, he does. No. Yes? Oh wait – no. We get to the table, and it turns out that what he really wants is chicken. What I really want is a lobotomy. And ear plugs.

6:00 p.m. Getting closer. I talk the kids into watching Curious George, which is even more audibly irritating than Rio. Ellie says her “bums hurts” and Benjamin says, “Mine too!”

7:00 p.m. Getting closer.

7:30 p.m. Yesssssssss!

So there you have it – only eleven and a half hours. What am I complaining about?

Despite the pain of getting there, the rewards make it all worthwhile. Time spent with my parents is priceless, and they don’t get to see the kids enough. The beauty of the place is breathtaking, and what could be better than having a private place to play and swim, right in your own back yard?

It is simply heaven.

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