Saturday, May 21, 2016

5 Tips for High School Graduates Heading off to College (from Someone Who Knows)

1.)     Study Hard.
Or don’t.  I managed to slip by with C’s and have a fucking blast while doing it.

After 4 years of intensive academics at an expensive private high school where I had earned straight A’s and graduated in the top 10% of my class, I’d gotten into the college that I wanted to and then I realized—hey, now that the hard part is over, I’m pretty sure I can still get a job that I want with a degree from here, whether I get straight A’s or not. 

So I shot for C’s…and I got them.  It was easy to do, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

So do that.  Definitely do that. And have fun.

And when your parents call you during the first semester of college like my dad did me and ask, “Son/Daughter, are you on drugs?” maybe don’t reply, “Oh, I tried pot like 3 times, but I didn’t like it, so no worries there,” like I did.  That might just give them heart attacks. 

Luckily my dad handled it like a champ.

Perhaps you could go with a different answer, the one I gave when my dad pressed me for the reason I wasn’t getting straight A’s anymore:  “Oh, that?  I just figured out that I don’t give as much of a shit anymore.”

2.)     Don’t Be a Dirty Whore.
Side note for my own boys:  You’re my children, so genetics aren’t necessarily on your side for this one.

But if you’re going to be like I was, at least make him/her buy you dinner first.  And Chex Mix on the 18th hole of the local golf course before doing the deed doesn’t count.

3.)     Embrace the Latest Technology.
I’m not big on technology.  I’m 38 but I act like a 92-year-old when you put me in front of a computer or i-whatever.  But still, learn how to use all of the latest shit simply so that you don’t look like such a huge goddamned nerd.

One of my favorite gifts of my entire life was a typewriter that my dad gave me for Christmas when I was 12.

You know what’s coming, and you’re right:  You bet your sweet asses I took that thing to college with me.

My best friend Leigh used to make so much fun of me when she’d find me in my bedroom of the apartment that we shared, smoking a cigarette while flipping the “carriage release lever” (I had to Google that term) on a particularly feverish writing night.

“Holy shit, Shay, it’s like I’ve slipped back in time.  You do realize that we were BORN in the 70’s, and that it’s not 1973 right now?”

“But it even has a white-out button,” I would reply, pointing to it in awe.  “Have you ever seen one of those?”

“No,” she would say.  “Because I haven’t used a damned typewriter since I used to go visit my grandma’s house…before she died 10 years ago.”

Don’t even get me started on how stupid I looked hauling that motherfucker around.  Imagine this:  A big-nosed, gangly, pasty girl (my boys—aren’t you proud?), rushing to the campus library, typewriter tucked safely under her arm, to pound out a term paper until they had to scooch her out because the keys were too loud and they were getting complaints from other patrons.

And then…the mortification that came when a sweet, well-meaning professor—one of my favorites—sent me an e-mail:  “Shay, you know that school will lend you a laptop free of charge?  Maybe you haven’t received the e-mail about it since you tend to enjoy your typewriter…it’s just that typewriters haven’t been used since the 70’s, and the papers that you hand in look a bit unprofessional.”

Had he been talking to my best friend?

Anyway, peeps, learn from my mistakes.  That way, at least I can feel like there was a reason I made them.

4.)    Learn to Take a Proper Shot.
(And while we’re at it, sprout a British accent in writing by throwing “proper” in front of all nouns.  People love that.)

Let me tell you about a frat party I attended during the first few weeks of college:

It was called a "progressive," meaning that in each room, there was a different type of drink to take.

The first room had drinks called flaming Dr. Peppers, and I was so excited because I loved Dr. Pepper.  So I got my shot and started walking around with my best friend Leigh, whom I had only just met when moving into the dorms, but I could already tell would be my best friend for life (and she is).

About 30 minutes later, I was still sipping my drink but now complaining because “this shot totally doesn’t taste like Dr. Pepper.  Those assholes are either liars or they don’t know how to make a damned drink.”

Leigh looked at me, then down at my drink, then back up at my innocent, braces-wearing face.  And then Leigh burst into hysterical laughter.

“You fucking idiot!” she exclaimed.  “You were supposed to take it all at once—quickly!  That’s why they call it a shot.  It probably tastes like SHIT now!”

It did.


Again, learn from my mistakes.  I know I did.  I became known campus-wide as a college drunk in a school that was known for its college drunks, and I think that’s saying something.

One day, my class was meeting in the computer lab.  I walked in to hear my beloved professor (from #3 above) bellow, “SHAY!  What is in that cup?”

I looked up at him, offended.  “It’s SODA, Dr. Smith.  Do you really think I’d be dragging a huge cup of vodka to class?  JEEZ!”

“Um, no, Shay,” he laughed.  “I was simply pointing out the fact that we’re meeting in the computer lab today, and we’re not supposed to have food or drink—whether or not it’s alcohol—in case of spills on the expensive equipment.”

Oh.  I guess my reputation made me a little defensive.

5.)     Don’t Smoke Pot.
One of the 3 ill-fated attempts that I had at doing it happened on Spring Break.

Suddenly, I found my heart racing and tears streaming down my face.

“Oh my gosh, Shay, are you okay?” my equally high best friend asked.

“No!” I shouted.  “My heart is racing and I’m pretty sure I’m having a heart attack!”

“Oh—okay,” one of our high guy friends said, slowly turning his head to gaze at me through squinted eyes in the sun.  “Well, let us know if it gets worse.”

I stopped crying for a moment and looked back at him. “What the fuck are you doing to do if it does?”

He laughed softly and shrugged his shoulders.  “I don’t know…take you to the hospital?”

I began crying again. “I’m screwed. I’m totally screwed.”  Then I had another thought.  “You guys,” I wailed.  “What if I die and I have to talk to God high?

The next morning, my best friend made a new rule.  “Watching you was like watching a goddamned after-school special starring Helen Hunt,” she muttered.  “I was just waiting for you to jump off of the balcony.  Listen, Shay, no more pot for you.”

I agreed wholeheartedly.  And that was the end of my college pot experimentation.

Is it bad that I want to go back after writing up this list?  Oh my gosh, it was so much fun and I'm totally jealous that you're just getting ready to do it all and my time has passed...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Scarred for Life

You know those moments when you realize you’re scarring your child for life as you’re in the middle of scarring your child for life?

But you do it anyway because this is a battle you HAVE to win?

Well, I can only imagine the horror stories that my son is going to repeat for the rest of his life to anyone who will listen:

“I do NOT eat sweet potatoes.  This one time, when I was 4 years old, my mom made me eat 5 bites of this godawful sweet potato and basil soup that my dad had made.  Did that bitch eat any? NO.  But she sure as hell made my brother and me eat a bowl of it.”

It’s true, you guys.  I didn’t touch that shit.  It was a concoction that my husband had read about during one of his health-food kicks, resulting in a trip to the store to buy all the ingredients for 12 healthy freezer bag meals.  We spent the following Saturday night as a family date night, having drinks while chopping vegetables and mixing ingredients with our boys while a 90’s station played in our brightly lit kitchen.

Sounds charming, doesn’t it?

And it would’ve been.  It was for a little while—until the kids and I started dancing around the kitchen, unable to contain our joy at the fun we were all having.

It was too much happiness for my very loving but grumpy-by-nature husband, who stayed unfailingly and annoyingly on-task all evening.  “What…? What the hell is this?” he asked from the counter, beckoning with his knife.  “What is all of this…?” He trailed off as if the term for one of the most joyful activities in the history of time—I mean, they even made a movie about it (ever heard of Footloose, hubs?)—had failed him.

I threw a glance over my shoulder as I held hands with my boys, dancing ring-around-the-rosey style.  “Um…dancing?  And hurry up and get a picture of it, will you.  Look at this sweet scene: I am an adorable, fun-loving mother dancing barefoot in the kitchen with her boys!”

When my husband just looked at me, chopping knife suspended in the air in one hand and an onion in the other as if he couldn’t believe the nerve of the request I’d just made in light of all we had to do that night, I said it again. “Hurry up before the moment is over!” I repeated, my voice bordering on a shriek.  “I am an adorable, fun-loving mother dancing with her boys and I WANT A PICTURE!”

My husband obliged, but not before a heavy sigh as he set down the knife, wiped off his hands, and grabbed his phone to capture the scene.  After that, the spell of the picturesque date night as a family was broken, at least for my husband. He began muttering Office Space stapler style about this being “a family project but I’m the only one doing anything,” and I told him—in a way that completely illustrated that I was, in fact, not—that I was sorry that the boys and I had smiled a little too vigorously and that he’d had to slice one extra baby carrot by himself.

We haven’t done the freezer meal date night again since that picture of domestic bliss.

I blame the sweet potato soup.

The night we were chopping up ingredients (I’m not sure if this was just before or just after Dancegate 2015), my eyes rested on the sweet potatoes, and I remember thinking that my husband must have grabbed them at the store without my noticing.

“What the hell are those?” I asked.

“Um, sweet potatoes?” he answered in the same voice I had used to point out the word for dancing.

“Yeah,” I said, “but what the hell are they doing in my kitchen?”

I fucking hate sweet potatoes.

My husband had rolled his eyes and snatched them from the table.  “I’ll do these,” he’d said.

“That’s cool,” I’d acquiesced, “but don’t get upset with me when I don’t eat any of whatever that shit is when the time comes.”

“Whatevs,” my husband replied, already hard at work on the sweet potatoes.

That time came last week.  And it coincided with a week in which the stubbornness that my husband insists my younger son got from his mother had been rearing its ugly head.  My boy had eaten what was for dinner each night, but not without a fight. And I was sick of fighting. I had to let him know that I’m the mom, I’m going to win, and we’re going to stop having fights every evening over how many pieces of cauliflower he’s going to have to eat before he earns a Little Debbie snack cake.

Just eat what’s for dinner, boy!

So I sat with him and spoon-fed him, and I made sure that none of the sweet potatoes “accidentally” fell out of his mouth and hit the floor because if they did, I told him, I would go get another, bigger scoop of the soup and add it to his bowl.

Dammit, I was going to win.

My son ate the soup. But goddammit, I felt awful for him. It tasted so bad that the poor boy held a napkin in his left hand so that as soon as he put a bite into his mouth with his right, he could swiftly throw that napkin over his mouth so that the pieces that involuntarily spewed out would be caught and he wouldn’t have to risk getting a whole other spoonful added to his bowl.

It was so awkward that in the middle of his third bite, he started laughing at the absurdity of it all. I joined him—but not before reminding him not to laugh too hard lest a sweet potato bit come flying out and he had to get another scoop.

To make it even worse, his older brother, who loves healthy food and was honest-to-goodness born with a craving for all things fruit and vegetable (obviously he’s adopted; I’ve heard kids crave what they get from their mother in utero and I’m convinced that’s why my younger son absolutely lights up from within when he sees vats of spaghetti noodles covered with butter and salt), was sitting right next to him, slurping down the soup with a vigor that made even me want to puke.

“Mmmm,” he would groan in satisfaction between bites.  “This sweet potato and basil soup is delicious!

My younger son and I paused for a moment, my younger son with his napkin still held over his mouth, and stared at my older boy in disbelief.

By the end of dinner, 5 bites of the soup had been consumed by my younger son so, as I boasted to my co-workers the next day, I had won.

One of them—the one who brags that she never once had to raise her voice to either of her grown children when they were younger—shot me a look.  “Oh, you consider that winning?”

Another co-worker, a more realistic mom who also happens to be a less of a bald-faced liar than the first, jumped in.  “Hell yes, she won!”

I’m not sure.  It was important to me that my son learned that he might as well stop grumbling and complaining and putting up a fight every night about it because he’s going to have to eat what’s for dinner, but I usually try to at least make it something palatable.  And this shit wasn’t.

“Did you at least lead by example?” the first co-worker asked.  “Did you eat some?”

Heeeell no, I didn’t eat that shit!” I responded, recoiling. 

“Wait,” the second co-worker interjected, “you didn’t?”

I shook my head vigorously.  Because it was like I told that mom’s group I used to be a part of when the leader tried to make us play a stupid game to help remember all of the other moms’ names.

“Just go around the table and assign a food to each lady’s name!” she’d said brightly.  “Like, when you get over here to Caroline, say, ‘Caroline Cookies’!”

I shook my head.  “Nope.”

She stopped abruptly, and I could see her deflate just a little bit.  “No?  You’re not going to play?”

I shook my head again.  “No.  Because I’m an adult and I don’t have to.”

Surprisingly nobody in the group rendered me an asshole, and in fact, many of the other moms nodded their heads in agreement.  “Yeah,” I could almost hear them thinking.  “We’re not going to play this game, either.  Because we’re adults and we don’t have to.” 

Revolutionary concept, no?

But this time, both of my co-workers rolled their eyes. I made a mental note to change that part of the story to a lie insisting that I snarfed a few bites of the soup in solidarity with my son the next time I told it.

In the meantime, I’ll just hope and pray that I didn’t actually scar him for life.

“I don’t get pissed off easily,” I can imagine him saying upon meeting his future girlfriend, “but the one way to make me mad is to offer me a sweet potato.  Don’t ever offer me a goddamned sweet potato…”

A couple of days after our dinner of sweet potato and basil soup, my husband chuckled, shaking his head.  “That shit really was pretty bad,” he said.

I thought about adding the recipe to my Trashy Recipe Recommendation tab, but I wouldn’t do that to you guys because it’s no way to thank you for reading. I think instead I’ll send it to the Army so they can add it to their prisoner of war torture files. It’ll be much more effective than waterboarding. In fact, they could call it sweet potato soup boarding and make the prisoners who won’t talk take licks of this shit off of a board.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Catholic Guilt Begins in the Cradle

The other day, my boys and I were driving through our little town on the way to soccer practice when we passed the Methodist church.

"Remember when we went to that church a few times a couple of years ago, Mom?" my older son said from the backseat.  "It was so fun."  Then he stopped abruptly, as if he'd just realized he'd said something wrong.  His voice turned serious. "But I know church isn't supposed to be fun, Mom," he said in all of his 7-year-old wisdom.

Ah, that sweet Catholic guilt sure does start early, doesn't it?  

Here's a story I wrote a couple of years ago about that Methodist church and the Catholic guilt that my husband and I experienced when we walked through the doors.  I'm happy to report that even now, all these years later and despite our ingrained-from-a-young-age misgivings about attending another church (and the fact that I wrote about it), they still love us. The feeling is mutual.

But we still regularly attend the Catholic church.  (I'm Type A, people. Habits are hard to break for me.)

"Catholic Guilt"

Before I even begin this story, I must specify:  Yes, I go to church every single Sunday.  It makes me feel better about the trash that I write throughout the week. 

And yes, I do understand that singing a few hymns won’t erase the drunken skankiness of my past (yesterday), but hey, it’s a start.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become friends with a Methodist woman (I like to call her "My Meth"--she loves that) who has made it her mission to get me to abandon my Catholic faith and come to her church.

Okay, she so hasn't done that. But I like to say that because it gets her all riled up—and because then I’ll have someone else to blame for the times when I do go to her Sunday services and my Catholic friends find out.

The first time the hubs and I decided to cheat on the Catholics by attending a Methodist service, we spent the entire Saturday night prior to the service shaking, tangled up in our sheets, drenched in nervous sweat and unable to sleep.  No, it wasn’t the lack of alcohol making our poor bodies behave that way, and I know this because we’d had a few drinks before hitting the sack that Saturday night. 

It was actually our Catholic guilt making our bodies lurch feverishly as we tried—to no avail—to get some sleep.

I remember the hubs rolling over in the dark to face me.  “Do you think they sacrifice Catholics?” he whispered, tremors in his deep voice.

We learned that Sunday that no, they most certainly do NOT do Catholic sacrifices, and that also, it may not have been the best question for the hubs to pose to the greeter as we nervously walked through the doors of the church.  Oh, well.  Better luck next time.

Here are a few other things we learned NOT to do—things that might make visiting another church one weekend go a bit more smoothly for you.  Hey, I’m here to help, my peeps:

1.) Do not shake with fear as you enter the new church, as if it would be the act of walking into another church—and not one of the many nights of standing half naked in a random bathroom, quivering with regret after a collegiate one-night stand—that would cause you to spontaneously burst into a thousand flaming pieces and fly into the fiery pits of hell.

          Wow, that “bathroom quivering” line was way more depressing than it was funny, huh?
          Ah, memories.

2.)   Definitely don’t slap the ass of the woman handing out programs for the day’s service, causing her to squeal with delight and say, “Betcha don’t get to do that in the Catholic church, huh?”

Okay, maybe you can do that one. But to be fair, I should specify that we knew each other through mutual friends, so my behavior wasn't all that shocking to her.  In fact, I'm pretty sure she enjoyed it.  Pervert.

3.)   When offered a cup of coffee (Seriously, you guys, they have coffee during the service), don’t say, “And I won’t go to hell?” prompting the congregation member who kindly offered it to respond, “Um, well, I don’t—I don’t think so…” and look down at her own cup questioningly.

4.)   Do not yell at your husband for handing you one of the children when you weren’t ready and almost making you drop your “steaming cup of the Lord’s Coffee.”

5.)    When standing in the middle of a group of people you hardly know before the service begins, do  not engage in an argument with said husband over said Jesus Coffee, especially when he begins with something like this:

“I hope you enjoy that coffee in hell.”

“They don’t even have coffee in hell,” is an example of what not to snap back. 

“Exactly.  Remember that,” is what he should not respond with a smartass smirk.

Obviously this is a totally hypothetical situation, but if it truly had happened, I would venture to guess that I was a little too happy for the hubs’s liking, and he had to do something to squash my coffee-loving spirit.

6.)   When the preacher takes his place at the front of the congregation to begin the service, do not lean over to ask your friend, who was nice enough to sit with you during your first visit to her church, if you should address him as “Head Witch.”

7.)    Do not ignore the hubs when he begins sneaking sips of your coffee while you’re wrangling with the children.  Instead, raise your eyebrows at him, move two chairs down and explain that it’s because you “don’t want any sparks to fall on me” when he bursts into flames.

8.)    After the beautiful service ends, do not ask your friend if she thinks God will be mad at you for attending her church. She might get a bit upset and yell, “And don’t come back, ASSHOLES!” as you are walking out with your family.

9.)    DO buy a hair shirt for the next time you decide to attend a service there.  Like the hubs said, “Isn’t church supposed to be a little bit more miserable in order to count?”

You’re welc for the tips, my peeps.  Although I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this blog, the first thought you have on Sunday morning is probably more, “Who moved the damned whisk-ay?!  I need some for my coffee!” and not so much, “Hm, which church service shall we attend today, darling?”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...Redirect?

Several weeks ago, my older son’s school hosted a guest speaker.  I happened to be off of work that day, so I was able to say yes when I was called in to sub for one of the teachers at his school.  It worked out well for me; it’s an easy subbing day when an hour and a half of it is spent at an assembly, listening to a guest speaker.

Without even hearing the background that the speaker gave about himself at the beginning of his show, anyone could quickly tell that this guy’s entire life’s work was devoted to saving the world and teaching others to do the same.

Our first clue was that his microphone stand was made from some old hollow tubing, which he proudly pointed out to us.

“Look, kids!” he said, using a Price Is Right model flourish as he swooped his hands up and down the length of the mike stand.  “Recycling is so much fun that even this trusty microphone stand that I got for free on the side of the road works like a drea—"

And then, with timing that could only have come from the sweet Lord above, the repurposed microphone stand fell to the ground with a loud, fantastic clatter, but not too quickly that the microphone didn’t pick up the guest speaker’s frustrated mutter:  “—oh, shit.  Goddammit, not again…”

Okay, that totally didn’t happen.  But because I’m an awful person, I kept fervently hoping throughout the entire presentation that it would.  I even sent up a quick prayer of petition (I’m a cradle Catholic; that’s got to count for something, right?) that it would, because OMG, how funny would that have been?

But alas, it never happened.  Ah, well.

Although I wasn’t able to dream my microphone scenario into existence like all of those liar self-help books say that you can (thus making the person who can’t seem to get it right feel even worse about herself because dammit, she’s just not good enough to make shit happen), I will say that one very wonderful thing (besides a fully functional microphone stand) came out of the man’s “hollow tubing” description and my daydreaming:  a flashback.

Suddenly, I was back in my best friend’s 1-bedroom apartment in Texas during the summer of 2001, sitting on the couch with her as we watched an episode of Southpark.  It was the one where Cartman had gotten an aquarium so that he could raise “sea men” to worship him. When the other kids, impressed, asked where he’d acquired these sea men, Catman’s reply went something like this: “A guy that I met in an alley gave them to me for free!  All I had to do is close my eyes and suck them through a tube!”

My best friend and I had cracked up so hard that we’d spit out our beers and slid helplessly to the floor, were we’d laughed until our sides hurt and tears rolled down our faces.  I still can’t think of that line without laughing out loud.

What was the question again?

So anyway, this guest speaker spends his time on and off the clock doing research about saving the world; teaching collegiate courses on saving the world; writing, recording, and performing songs about saving the world; and traveling all over the country so that he can give save-the-world assemblies much like the one we heard that day to schoolkids of all ages.

His main message was this:  We must reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose.

That’s right.  He was so into it that he’d even created his own “re-" to tack onto the end of the well-known slogan, complete with a slideshow and a contest with free entry to all participants who wished to enter their repurposed arts and crafts made from all of the treasures found during their Dumpster diving excursions.

“But what if our parents won’t let us dig in other people’s trash?” one of the students asked, to the enthusiastic agreement of the 180 other kids who were vehemently nodding their heads at the injustice of those asshole parents who wouldn’t let them sift through random garbage.  [“Go ahead, sweetie!  Just try to avoid the crusty used needles!”]

“Ohhhhh,” said the man, matching the child’s wide-eyed expression, “but you must tell your parents how important this is!”

My son twisted his head all the way to the back of the gym, where I was sitting with the teachers, and met my eye.  I returned the silent question written all over his face with a stern look of my own and what I hoped was a slightly imperceptible—but still loud and clear to the boy—shake of my head.

No way.

The speaker began to merrily strum his guitar as a slideshow of previous contestants’ artwork played on the big white screen behind him.  I tried to act enthusiastic, I did.  But honestly? I couldn’t bring myself to clap along.

I leaned over to the teacher sitting next to me.  “My kids better not bring a damned 6-foot sculpture made out of rusty-ass hubcaps back to my house,” I whispered out of the side of my mouth.

She smiled politely but looked pointedly at the guest speaker, a silent message letting me know that we shouldn’t be rude and talk during his presentation. I took it as permission to go on.

“You know what I’d do,” I muttered, leaning closer because she kept trying to scoot away.  “I’d put that thing in the garage for a couple of weeks until they forgot about it, then right back to the goddamned landfill it’d go.”

My worries were unfounded, though, because although my son likes arts and crafts, he’s much more of an inventor.  And that little inventor’s brain had seized onto a very real, very tangible statistic that the speaker had reported:  If we continue in the same careless direction we’ve been going with our trash, our state’s landfills will be, well, full in 10 years.

Then what??  The speaker posed the dramatic question to the audience full of kids, who collectively sucked in their breaths.

I saw my son’s hand shoot straight into the air, and I knew he had an answer for the guest speaker.  But the man wasn’t actually looking for one—the question had been one of those food-for-thought rhetorical ones that had been posed only to prove his point—and he was already moving on to his next song, a catchy little ditty of doom and gloom that he performed with what looked like some fancy Irish jigging footwork.

At the end of the assembly, after we’d all applauded and an encore had been sung, I watched as my son, with his teacher’s permission, rushed the stage.  I couldn’t help it; I moved a bit closer so that I could listen to the exchange.  I might be kinda biased, but it’s always something awesome with my son. He’s funny and he’s smart, and most times he’s both at the same time without even meaning to be.

I could feel the pride and anticipation emanating from my little guy—by gosh, he’d just solved that pesky pollution problem that has plagued our world for countless numbers of years!  He was bound to be revered by all for his ingenuity in saving the world—maybe he’d even win the Nobel Peace Prize—after he shared his idea with this man in charge of saving the world. And it was so simple—the answer had been right in front of our very eyes for years.  How could no on have come up with it before?

My son’s eyes were huge.  His arms were flailing all about as he illustrated his vision.  “…so all you’d have to do,” I heard him say, his voice loud with excitement, “is build a really long steel chute that reaches out of this atmosphere.  And then you could just shoot all of that trash STRAIGHT INTO SPACE!”

I swear, you could see the poor guest speaker visibly deflate.  The entire point of his 90-minute assembly had been lost on my child.  It was almost as if all of the wisdom he’d attempted to impart had been flushed down the toilet.

Or shot into space through a steel chute.  (Dammit, I couldn’t help it.)

“But the whole point was—" the man started.  “—well, didn’t you hear all of that stuff about reducing, reusing…?  What about that monkey sock made out of…old socks?”

My son blinked.  He was still waiting to hear if his chute was a possibility. So had he saved the world or what?

The man sighed.  He tried a different tactic, and I could tell he’d given up—on this particular child, at least.  “Well, a chute like that would be really expensive,” he simply said.

My son’s eyes grew even wider. “No, I’ve thought that through, too!” he insisted.  “We would make it from repurposed materials!”

Honestly—and I’m totally not just saying this because he’s my son—a repurposed steel chute that shoots garbage into space sounds a hell of a lot more useful than a hubcap statue or a monkey sock made from stinky old graying socks.

See?  All was not lost on my boy.

I’m expecting him to save the world any old day now.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Daylight Saving Can Suck My Balls

The Monday after daylight saving, my 4-year-old son fell asleep on the couch at 4:30 PM, missing dinner, which was a family-sized frozen lasagna that was set to go off at about 5:10.  (My friends call me Martha Stewart, but really, I’m no better than any other mother who wants to give her children the best.)

“Uh-oh,” my husband murmured, his hands on his hips as he studied my sleeping boy.

I agreed.  We knew this could only mean trouble. After all, we’ve learned through experience not to try to wake either of our boys from a deep, much-needed sleep. 

One memory in particular stands out in my mind.  It was when, as a novice mother, I woke my older son (who was probably 3 at the time) from a nap because we had a midday birthday party to attend.  I remember he looked at me for about 2 seconds before his face crumpled and he began sobbing uncontrollably.

Mommy,” he said, “I don’t even know why I’m crying, but I can’t stop!”

It was pitiful, the poor guy.  And my younger son kind of reacts the same way.

The problem with my younger son falling asleep on the couch the other day was a little more intricate.  It had a few more layers.  Because, you see, long since the days of novice motherhood, I’ve gone back to full-time work. So when one of my kids falls asleep at 4:30 PM and refuses to get back up, my husband and I know that there’s going to be trouble anywhere between, oh, 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM, which are prime sleeping hours when one gets up at 5.

My husband, still looking at my son, shook his head and sighed.  “Hm.  We’d better not get too comfortable tonight.  Wonder when that volcano’s going to erupt.”

He was right.  Because on top of the really early bedtime was the missed dinner, which is a problem because my younger son is just like his mother; he doesn’t miss a meal.

There were times in high school when I would honestly forget to eat.  I was a studious kid, graduating number 8 in my class of 182—which pissed me off because I knew I could have been number one. Maybe if I had just skipped a few more meals to study.

In any case, I was often too busy studying to remember to eat, and many times I’d just grab what I called a “beef packet,” which was a Buddig brand—you guessed it—packet of beef.  I’d rip that sucker open, pour some milk into a coffee cup, and eat my breakfast on the way to school after having woken up at 5:00 AM to study.

(Incidentally, the moment I graduated high school and headed off to college, I found my freedom and a new best friend who taught me that taking vodka shots before tests about which we were nervous would make the tests not only seem easier—but also much more fun.  I earned my first-ever C that semester, prompting my dad to call me and say, “Shay?  Are you on drugs?” to which I responded, “I’ve tried pot a few times, but I didn’t like it.  I’ve just been drinking a lot, usually before Physics tests.”  “And your still getting a C…in Physics?” my dad asked. “Fair enough. Keep doing what you’re doing. Sounds like you’ve got it handled.”)

For years, it baffled me that no one could understand how one gets so busy that she forgets to eat. 

And then suddenly, the shift came, and I was one of those people who couldn’t understand it anymore, either.

“What do you mean, you forget to eat?” I asked, rolling my eyes at one of the mom friends I’d made just after I’d moved to a new town with my husband and new son.  “I’m constantly looking forward to my next meal.  In fact, usually as I’m taking bites of my lunch, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to have for dinner.”

As soon as I said it, I gasped, causing a piece of chicken nugget to fall out of my mouth. I’d become one of those deplorable people who actually had time to eat.

And not only that, but goddammit, I looked forward to it.  Still do.

I have a habit of eating a few (okay, six) pieces of chocolate before I go to bed.  Once, I fell asleep on the couch before I’d had a chance to eat my nighttime chocolate.

Did I count all of those missed calories a win for my waistline?

Fuck, no.

I swear my biological chocolate clock woke me back up at 11:30 PM, and I stumbled to the kitchen, eyes half shut, and poured a glass of milk because that’s the best part of gnawing one’s way through a chocolate bar—the milk at the end.  And then I proceeded to do just that:  Snarf my way through half a bar of chocolate and wash it down with a cold glass of 2%.

I woke the next morning fat, happy—and a teensy bit ashamed. Ah, well.

My younger son, I’ve learned, will most likely not be a kid who forgets to eat, no matter how hard he studies.  He’s skipped that part of being just like me and gone straight to taking after the me of adulthood:  He loves to eat. (Fingers crossed that he skips the pot and shots part of being just like me, too.)

My husband and I had a rough start at having kids, and we take our jobs as parents very seriously.  Let me preface this next segment by saying that we make sure that our kids have healthy, balanced meals.  But while my older son craves fruits and vegetables and views meals as annoying but necessary interruptions to fuel his body between his intense digging and exploration time outside, my younger son is more like his mom.  He has an affinity for all things noodle and carb, and he looks forward to his meal breaks, sitting down with a huge, anticipatory grin at the food laid out in front of him.

Being the writer and helicopter mom that I am, I chronicle anything cute that my kids say.  Here, then, are a few things that my younger son has said regarding eating and food:
  • A couple of years ago, we were in the car on our way to preschool.  I was eating a microwaveable breakfast sandwich (on wheat bread, thankyouverymuch), and of course my younger son asked me for a bite.  I handed the sandwich back to him.

“OUCH!” I heard him yelp.

“What happened?” I asked, glancing in the rearview mirror.

“I bit my finger when I took a bite, Mommy…but I didn’t bite it off.”

“Well, thank the Lord for small blessings, son,” I sighed as I reached back for the remainder of my sandwich.  “Imagine trying to explain to any potential girlfriends that you lost it trying to get at your mom’s breakfast sandwich in preschool.”

“What, Mommy?”


·         Once, when he was about 3, he was sitting at the table eating lunch.  He stopped chewing for a moment and looked up at me.  “Mommy?” he said.  “My teeth are tired.”

And I remember thinking, Holy shit.  Did he just exhaust himself from eating?  Apparently not, though, because after a quick break during which he flexed those little jaws, he dove right back into that mac and cheese like a BOSS.

·         Last summer he looked at me and said, quite simply, “Mommy, my belly is hungry.  It wants to eat all the food.”

And I thought to myself, Just another way that another one of my boys is exactly like me.  Because I always want to eat all the food.

·         For about 3 months last fall, both of my boys had a habit of climbing into bed with my husband and me sometime in the middle of the night.  It was something that happened almost nightly, which I totally didn’t mind because I knew it wouldn’t last forever (they’ve already stopped doing it—insert sad emoji), and I swear I savor every minute of them being young. 

I woke in the morning to my younger son’s wide, adorable face grinning on the pillow next to mine.

It was the most bizarre thing: this huge, laughing grin complete with happy sighs and chuckles—yet he was still sound asleep.  I thought to myself, as parents often do, “I wonder what he’s dreaming about.  It must be a damn good dream; what’s making him so happy?”

And then he answered my question when he talked in his sleep: “Did you get one in your lunch, too?”

My son had been dreaming about lunchtime with his friends at preschool.  If I had to take a guess, I’d bet my life savings that he’d been dreaming about Little Debbie snack cakes.  Once or twice a week, I’ll pack one of those in his lunch as a treat.

  •  Then there was the time that he’d had pancakes for breakfast, veggies and dip and a cookie for snack, and cheese, carrots, and an orange for lunch. I know all of this because I wrote it down.  I was thinking we could get him into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Before I had a chance to fill out the application form, however, my son reached across the table to my lunch, took a few bites, and then ask me for a powdered donut, which I hadn’t even been aware that we’d had.

“Why, sure, son,” I responded.  “We wouldn't want you to be deprived.”
  • And lastly, one night I put my boys to bed, only to hear the pitter-patter of little feet about an hour and a half later.  Of course I was in the kitchen rifling through drawers for my nighttime chocolate when I looked up and saw my younger son coming around the corner.

He looked at me, cocked his head, and said, “Hey, Mommy.  Let’s eat some food.”

I shrugged.  Nodded.  “Okay,” I said, because really, it sounded like a good plan to me.

So the other night when he fell asleep at 4:30 PM due to that goddamned daylight saving time shifting our internal clocks, I slept with one eye open because my husband and I knew that there would be repercussions at some point in the night or very early morning.

And we were right.  At about 2:00 AM, I heard it. That metaphorical volcano erupting in the form of a rumbling stomach.

It was soft at first—so soft that I thought I might be dreaming.  But then I heard it again—a bit more insistent this time—and slowly opened my eyes.

My son was in my bed, sort of kneeling over me so he could look down at my face as I woke.  When I finally opened my eyes, I saw that his were wide in kind of a curious, excited way.  He knew something was off; why was he so wide awake when it was still so dark outside?

My husband grunted and then heaved himself off of the bed to move to the couch, leaving me to deal with the situation.  Smart man.

“MOMMY?” my 4-year-old said in his adorable—LOUD—squeaky voice.

Before I had a chance to answer, he continued.

“I’m really hungry for a cheeseburger.  And a hot dog.  Will you fix them for me?”

I started laughing. My son smiled, although he wasn’t sure exactly what was so funny.  I heard his stomach growl again.

“Mommy?” he said again.  “I’m really hungry for a cheeseburger and a hot dog.  Is it wake-up time?  Will you fix them for me?”

Somehow I managed to hold him off until 4:30 AM, at which point I was able to talk him into going into the living room and asking his dad to make him breakfast.  His dad did.

I missed my early-morning workout that day, and it threw me all off, making me wish I’d have been the one to have missed my dinner the night before.

Do you know how a Type A scheduler reacts to her schedule being all jacked up?

Not well, peeps. Not well.  I was tired that day.  And grumpy.

And I’m not totally sure that I’m back to normal yet, so let me say it again:

Daylight saving can suck my balls.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Boogers and Hand Jobs

I had a few hours to myself today and decided that I needed to clean off my home desk, which is filled with scrawled-upon post-its, napkins, magazine pages, receipts, and anything else I have on me when an idea hits that simply can’t wait.  I decided that I’d find an old idea that I hadn’t yet had a chance to type up and get to work on doing so. 

The result, I thought, came at precisely the right time in my little family’s life, as I just received a note from my younger son’s pre-K teacher that said, “That kid just can’t keep those fingers out of his nose. Always picking! We talked to him about this and would appreciate it if you could work on it at home, too.”

Believe me, sister, I do work on it.  I do. But keeping that kid’s hands out of his nostrils is about as easy as it would have been keeping drunk 22-year-old me from giving hand jobs to random dudes behind the Dumpsters of bars after closing time.  (Read:  Impossible.) But I never got paid, so that “whore” nickname that I earned from all the regulars was totally inaccurate.

Incidentally, the day I got the note, I was driving my boys home from school when I heard my younger son’s squeaky voice pipe up from his booster seat in the back.  “Mommy?” he said in that adorable everything’s-a-question way of speaking that little kids have.  I glanced in the rearview and saw that he was holding up his index finger, studying it intently.  “This booger looks like a tiny pancake…with syrup on it.”

Holy shit. 

And when I say “holy shit,” I don’t mean that I thought his comment was weird. I mean that you’ve never seen a more pancake-looking booger with syrup on it in all your life.

Anyhoo, judging from the notes I kept from at least a year ago, my boy’s nose-picking business has been going on for a long time, so I’m thinking it’s going to be a hard habit to break.  Here’s the story that I ended up writing about it:

Last year, my younger son and I were walking into his preschool hand-in-hand.  Suddenly, he stopped, pulled his hand away from mine, and proceeded to pick his nose.  When he was finished, he looked up at me, index finger—upon which rested a juicy green booger—upheld.

“Mommy,” he said, “where should I put my booger?”

It’s a question I heard at least 300 times a day last year because he was 3 and his absolute favorite thing to do was pick his nose.  In fact, if he’d been filling out a resume and asked for my help, I would have advised him to list it in the “Other Interests and Activities” section.

I always tried to get creative with my answers because I had learned long before that day that “Wipe it on this Kleenex” was not an acceptable answer to him. Anytime I would use that as my reply, he would continue to hold up his index finger, staring off into the distance for a few moments as if he’d forgotten what he was doing.  Then he would snap back into focus, look at the booger, and then look back at me once more, asking again, “Mommy, where should I put my booger?”

If you hadn’t noticed this about me, I kind of like saying stupid shit.  So some of the answers I had fun coming up with in the past were:

Wipe it on the couch
Wipe it on your brother’s sleeve
Wipe it on your dad’s pillow
Wipe it on the cat
Wipe it on my jeans…but down by the ankle, where my co-workers won’t notice

Of course, I never actually intended for him to do these things; I just had fun coming up with answers. He always ended our goofy stalemate in defeat, wiping his boogers on the Kleenex that I retrieved from my pocket.

That morning, the response I decided to go with was “Wipe it on your coat.”

And then can you believe, after all the times he’d ignored me when I’d told him to do the right thing and wipe it on a Kleenex, he had the nerve to grimace at me and say, “Ugh.  That’s gross, Mommy”?

“Wipe it wherever you want, then,” I replied.

He paused for a moment, thinking.  “Can I wipe it on your car?” he asked, glancing back at our parking spot, which was only a few feet away.

“Sure,” I shrugged, grabbing his hand again and getting ready to lead him safely to my front bumper, where I could pretend I was going to let him wipe his booger until he caved and wiped it on the Kleenex.  (I’m a stubborn motherfucker, peeps, and I was going to win. I’m not exactly sure how being stubborn suited me in this situation or what the hell the prize was for winning the booger war, but there it was.)

Instead, though, my son kept going, walking into preschool and taking a look around. He surveyed the atmosphere before deciding on the wall.

He extended that finger, his eyes on me the whole time, and I swear it was as if it happened in slow motion. That little bastard called my bluff.

He actually wiped his booger on the wall.

And the thing about it was that I couldn’t even get mad at him because he had this raised-eyebrow kind of look on him, like, “You didn’t think I would, did you?” and I just couldn’t stop laughing.  You can rest assured that I did, however, get a Kleenex from the stash in my pocket and wipe his booger off of the wall.

Ah, motherhood:  The time of life where you do shit that you couldn’t ever have possibly fathomed you’d do. 


On second thought, maybe my closing line would be more on-point if it went like this:

Ah, motherhood:  The time of life where you thank God every day that you’ve grown up and are now wiping boogers off of walls instead of giving random hand jobs behind the Dumpsters of your favorite bars.