Friday, February 12, 2016

And When I Say "Early," I Mean "On Time"

I’m one of those people who considers herself early if she’s simply at work on time.

I get that it’s annoying.  I get it.  But it doesn’t matter what time I wake up (between 4:30 and 5:30 each weekday morning), I’ll still be rushing out the door, my two boys in tow as I turn my arm in an exaggerated windmill motion to get them out of the house on time.  Some days I throw a little hip into it in hopes that they’ll get a greater sense of the urgency and hurry the hell up.

“Come on, boys, we’ve gotta hurry,” I say morning after morning, grabbing lunch boxes and backpacks and coats off the hooks by the door.  “I know I say it every single morning, but today I really mean it.  We are LATE.  We’ve got to get movin’, spoovins!”

They don’t even ask what spoovins are because they know they’re nothing.  I just like to talk in rhymes, even when I’m running so late that I don’t have time to think of good ones.

The problem is, I know how late I can be without getting into trouble.  And that’s exactly how late I am every day. 

I accept full responsibility for my tardiness.  My boys are usually completely ready for school, sitting on the couch watching a DVR’d episode of Wild Kratts, waiting for me while I finish up my makeup and blow dry my hair.

One morning I came rushing into work, having missed our morning meeting.  I caught up to my boss and matched my stride with his as we headed to the break room to fill up our coffee cups.  I gave him a sidelong glance as we walked.

“I could offer you a hundred excuses as to why I was late and missed the meeting,” I started. He raised an eyebrow. 

“But I’ll spare you,” I said.

“Thank you for that, at least, Shay,” he replied with a little smirk. I liked to think of it as a friendly little smirk.

And then there was the time—just recently, actually—that I told him I had to take my son to the optometrist, which might make me a tad late for the afternoon meeting. (Honestly, I feel like the real problem here is that we have too many meetings.)

“Imagine that,” he responded dryly.  “You, a ‘tad late’ for a meeting.”

But was he upset?  No. It’s like I always say, peeps:  Keep people’s expectations of you low so that nobody is ever angry or disappointed.

Some days I’ll come rushing into our morning briefing, my long, straw-like mane flying behind me (It’s funny because I kind of look like a horse), lunch bag dangling from my wrist, a huge smile lighting up my red, frazzled face.  I’ll make a humongous deal out of myself and say, “You know, you guuuuuuuuys, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but…

“TOOT TOOT, motherfuckers!!!!” I’ll yell, joyfully making that arm motion that kids who are trying to get truckers to honk make in the backseats of their cars while their parents are driving.

My co-workers will usually sigh and roll their eyes until one of them reluctantly gives in and says, “What?”

And I’ll gasp in shock and disappointment that they don’t know what I’ve done so right today, and I’ll point to the clock.  “Um, HELLO?!”

And one of them will shake his or her head slowly and look down to pretend to inspect his/her nails, bored.  “Yeah.  You’re right on time.  Barely.”

And I’ll puff out my chest in pride and smile again, nod, and say, “Yeah.  That’s what I was referring to.”

The other morning, I was ready to leave the house five minutes early, which actually meant I would have been at work just in time for the morning meeting—without having to rely on the presence of all green lights and only NASCAR drivers in front of me.  I was all excited and started practicing my horn tooting motion. 

I stepped out of my bedroom and called out, “Boys!  It’s time to go!  And I don’t even have to shove you roughly out of the front door today.  We can walk in a totally orderly, leisurely fashion because—"

And that’s when I saw it:  My younger son, shoes slipped off and resting next to him on the floor as he played with Legos in his bedroom.

The shoe part—that’s the part of the story where you can tell the parents from the non-parents. Because as I’m telling the story, the parents will literally gasp.  He’d TAKEN HIS SHOES OFF when you were in a hurry??

I squatted down to my son’s level.  “What the—what the hell are you doing?” I whispered.  I felt my chin begin to quiver.  “We have to go to school!”

My son looked up at me, eyes wide in feigned innocence. “I’m playing Legos.”

“But—"  I looked around wildly for a clock in his room, knowing it was futile because there wasn’t one.  A single tear slipped out of the corner of my right eye and slid down my face, taking my dream of being at work on time for one day of my life with it as it splashed to the floor. 

I rocked back on my heels and sat down, defeated.  “But you took your shoes off…and now I have to put them back on and it’s been at least 2 minutes and I’ll never be on time now…” I trailed off as my son looked at me quizzically. 

I think he understood that he was watching me go crazy—the really scary, quiet kind of crazy where the person simply learns to accept her own demise—in real time.

But he didn’t care.  “Hey,” he protested as I slipped his shoes on.  “I want to build Legos!”

“Too bad,” I sighed, heaving as I stood and threw him over my shoulder. I trudged down the hallway to get his brother. “We have to get to school and work.”

“You’re MEAN,” he said, pounding me on the back one time.

“Uh-huh,” I agreed, following his older brother down the stairs to the front door.  There was no need to hurry anymore, no need to make excuses.  I had finally accepted my fate:  I was simply always going to be late.

“I don’t—" he started, and then reconsidered his words so that they could make greater impact.  He looked over my shoulder at his brother.  “I mean, Bubba and I don’t love you anymore.  Right, Bubba?”

My older son shrugged.

“That’s okay,” I said, locking the front door behind us.  “Daddy still loves me.”

“Then we will make Daddy not love you, too,” my younger son said without missing a beat.

And somehow, that last comment made it all worthwhile. I caught my older son’s eye as he buckled himself into his booster seat, and we cracked up so hard that we got tears in our eyes.  My younger son, having been flipped back over my shoulder and buckled into his car seat, started laughing, too, proud of himself.

Spiteful little bastard.  Hilarious, though.

We repeated the line all the way to school, laughing the whole time.

And guess what—I got to my meeting on time, anyway.

To the dismay of my co-workers, I got to use my TOOT TOOT! motion after all.  That day, it sounded more like, “TOOT TOOOOOOOOOOOOOT, motherfuckers!!!”

I was so enthusiastic about the whole thing, in fact, that I’m surprised I didn’t rip my shoulder out of its socket.

I’m glad I practiced.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Home on Leave

So apparently exclaiming to your little sister’s date, “Holy SHIT you’re hot!  If she doesn’t have sex with you tonight, I definitely will!” the moment you meet him is in poor taste.

It’s funny how you no matter how old you get, you just keep on learning things, no?  Here I am, 38 years old, and I just learned a new lesson in couth.

My husband was sitting at the crowded table right next to me when the exchange occurred.  Witnesses later said that he started laughing, shook his head, and said, “Do you guys see what I have to put up with?”

“Please,” I responded, taking another sip of my rum and coke as I gave him a sidelong glance.  “You have nothing to worry about. Everybody knows that hottie won’t make out with me.”

“Oh, but if he would…” my husband challenged.

If he would…you’d better watch out,” I responded, turning in my chair so that I could fully and defiantly meet my husband’s eye.  “Broken family, here we come,” I managed to sputter just before we both burst into giggles.

The hottie in question stood off to the side of the table, watching us curiously. “I’m right here,” he said.

“And you’re going home,” my little sister said, ushering him out of the bar.  (I think she might have been afraid of what I would say next?)  Later, my sister-in-law asked my younger sister how long the new date had lasted at the bar.

“Um, I don’t know…like an hour?” my little sister said.

“Enough time to have been exposed,” my sister-in-law replied with certainty.

“Been exposed to what?”

“Drunk Shay.  If he can handle her, he can handle any crazy shit your family throws at him. She was the straw that almost broke the camel’s back with me…but then your brother broke up with me first.”

Too bad, too. Because regardless of how much she teases me, she actually handled drunk me really well—and not only that, but she rivaled me in my drunken stupidity, and I loved her for it.  Still do.

My sister’s date did, in fact, call her the next morning, so I guess that means he passed the test or she passed the test or whatever (I personally think it means he wants to take me up on my offer, but admittedly that could be wishful thinking), because they’re seeing each other again soon.  I told my little sister that there was no need for her to thank me or praise me for my services; she’s welc.

The next morning, the true culprit of my behavior was revealed (because it’s never my own fault, right?) when my husband took our bar tab out of his wallet.  “Forty-five dollars,” he reported with a sad little shake of his head.  He looked at me.  “You had 5 rum and cokes.”

“Is that all?” I asked, trying to rub the headache out of the back of my head before it spread down my neck.  “My head feels like it was a lot more than that.”

I wanted to point out that they served them in really small cups—like goddamned Dixie bathroom rinser cups that, full of ice, could be sucked down in two sips with one of those teensy mixing straws, which you can be sure I had complained to the server about the night before (“Light ice.  I said LIGHT ICE!”)—but I didn’t want to talk anymore in case the action made my headache, which had begun to recede with the help of 4 Advil, come back.

As with most things, I also blame my younger brother.

He was home on leave for two weeks from Germany, where he’s been stationed with the Army for the past several years.  And really, I love my brother and all, but he’s a total douchebag and some days I think I love him just because my dad makes me.  I always make the trip home to see him, but mostly it’s for the excuse to kick back with my siblings for an evening while Grandma and Grandpa watch all of our kids.

My brother and I always agree that it’s best to keep our visits with one another to no more than one full day.  “We get into huge fights if we’re together for more than 24 consecutive hours,” he said this past weekend.

He’s right.  We’ve even gotten into fights on other continents.  It’s hard to limit your visit to one day if you’ve traveled all that way, you see, so there wasn’t a whole lot we could’ve done about that knockdown-drag out in Australia that one year.  Oops.

“Because you’re an asshole,” I reasoned.

“You’re probably right,” he replied, nodding his head.  “In any case, let’s keep it to Saturday night.  Are you planning to head home Sunday?”

“Sure,” I agreed amicably. 

So that’s what we did.

We had a blast, and afterwards and everyone came back to my dad’s house, stumbled out of cabs, and fell onto various air mattresses that had been aired up before we left.  The kids were all safe, snuggled into bedrooms with Grandma and Grandpa.

The only person who didn’t have a place to sleep was my little brother’s best friend, who lives a couple of hours away and whom we hadn’t counted on coming. Last we heard, he had to put in a few extra hours for work Saturday afternoon and wouldn’t be able to make it out to meet us.  When he arrived at the bar, it was a completely unexpected but happy surprise.

I heard him rambling around Dad’s house Sunday morning before the rest of us were roused from our fitful, hungover sleep.  My dad was already up brewing coffee, frying bacon, and catching up on his reading before hitting Sunday Mass.  My brother’s best friend, Jack, surprised him when he came up the stairs from the basement.

“Oh, hey, Jack,” Dad said pleasantly.  “Have a seat at the table. I didn’t realize you’d stayed here last night.  Do you want some bacon?  Coffee?  Where’d you sleep, by the way?”

I heard Dad rustling around the kitchen, grabbing a plate and other items so that Jack could make a plate.  When Jack replied, “Oh, on that old futon downstairs,” I heard an almost indiscernible pause in the gathering of silverware by my dad.

Holy shit, I thought.

“Oh, yeah?” my dad asked, doing a really great job of disguising the horror in his voice.  If I hadn’t known the story, I wouldn’t have detected it myself.  “Was it comfortable?  Did you get a good night’s sleep?”

“As good as any after the amount of beers we had last night, I guess!” Jack chuckled.

Dad joined him in his chuckling, but I could tell it was dry, forced.  “Ha. Ha. Ha.  Well, good then.  Good.  Here you go, son, eat up.”

I opened one eye from the couch and caught my Dad’s uneasy glance at me.  I grimaced to show that I understood, then I closed my eye again. 

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

My dad was holding the futon for my niece, a 23-year-old nomad who was currently on her way to L.A. to make a go at the music industry.

“I don’t have room for this futon in my car, Grandpa,” she’d told him a few weeks prior, “but I can’t stand to throw it out.  My ex-boyfriend—you know the one who committed suicide?  He used to love this futon.  He would fall asleep and drool on it all the time, and some of his dried spittle is still on it.  See?” she’d said, pointing earnestly at a white spot on the couch.

My dad was horrified, but what, he asked me later, could he do? 

“Sure, sweetie,” he said hesitantly, not sure how the hell a person was supposed to react to such a request. With enthusiasm, to show he was excited to help his sweet grandchild no matter what she needed?  With his eyes cast down to the side to show that he was sorry for her loss? He tried a mixture of both when he responded. “Of course I’ll keep it for you.”

“Thanks,” she’d responded gratefully.  “And don’t worry about the fleas.  I had several infestations in my apartment due to my love of taking in strays…but this baby was there every single one of the 17 times I had my apartment flea-bombed.” She plopped herself right into the middle of it.  “So I’m sure it’s totally clean!”  Here, she smacked at her thigh.  “Well, maybe not totally…”

When my dad told me the story later, I swore I was not going to come and visit his house until that thing was gone.  He told me he felt too guilty to get rid of it, so I suggested setting the entire house on fire and just starting over. He refused, so I compromised and told him that until it’s gone, my kids and the other grandkids were not allowed to play in the basement—formerly the playroom—at his house.

It sometimes makes for boring visits to Grandpa’s, but until he grows a pair and tells my niece to get the futon the fuck out of there, it’s just the way it’s going to have to be.

I left an anonymous note in Jack’s coat pocket before he left:  Flea drops are sold at Wal-Mart for less than $5. Get yourself some and apply generously to the back of your neck. And then burn this note…and the outfit you had on when you slept on that futon.

And then, per my agreement with my brother, I got the fuck out of dodge.

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful visit.

Not for Jack, though. Because I’m not actually sure if flea drops work on humans.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Precious Time with Family

I spent a ton of time at my in-laws’ house over the holidays, and while sometimes this can be taxing, I do always love going there during time off from my own little family’s very busy schedule. 

First off, I finally took my husband’s older brother’s advice to heart several years ago.  He had told me, “You have to have really thick skin to hang out with our family.  I remember this one girlfriend that I had who actually started crying and ran out of the house screaming, ‘You’re all so mean! I’m NEVER coming back here!’  We thought she was kidding until we heard her start up her car, and when we looked out the window, she was peeling out, kicking up dust behind her.”  He chuckled a bit as he allowed himself a moment to relive the fond memory, then he shook his head, shrugged, and focused his eyes on me.  “She just couldn’t hack it.  Can you?”

I took it as a personal challenge, and I think we’ve all figured out by now that although I’m much more of a lover by nature, I can be as big of an asshole as I need to be in order to avoid being torn to shreds while hanging out with my husband's family.  I actually have a pretty good time bantering with them, and if I ever do get sick of it, I just get in my car and leave because guess what?  I’m an adult and I can.

I also enjoy going because my boys love it there (Kids are off-limits from the torment of the thick-skinned adults; in fact, you’ve hardly met a family of people who loves kids more) and are constantly entertained by their equally rambunctious cousins who live in an adjacent house on the farm.  That leaves a ton of time for me to, after I help with whatever needs to be done around the house, enjoy a nice run on the gorgeous, flat land of the farm (another reason I like going) and then shower and sit back with a cup of coffee and a string of good books. I always pack extra, since we usually end up staying longer than we had originally planned.

The problem is, my in-laws think that things like reading and running—and generally anything that improves a person in some way, shape, or form—are a waste of time.  And so I get sneered at when I indulge in these things on my leisurely visits there when I should be doing something more productive like smoking a cigarette and eating potato salad while watching a soap opera on TV. 

I used to pack my laptop and little Harriet the Spy writing notebook so that I could crank out some short stories or put a little time in on one of my various novels when we visited, but that all stopped about 5 years ago when my husband walked in on me in the back bedroom.  The lights were off and the entire room was dark except for the glow from the computer, reflected off of my face as I hunched over on the bed, feverishly pounding out words before I got caught. 

When he walked in, I physically jumped.

“Holy shit,” he muttered.  “What the hell are you doing, watching porn?”

“YES!” I said a little too quickly, trying to angle my computer screen away from him so that he couldn’t see that I was actually—GASP—writing in his parents’ house. “Some really dirty bestiality shit.  Horses and pigs and turkeys and…oh, honey, I’m so ashamed.”

Somehow I managed to squeeze a couple of fake tears out of the corner of my eye, but my husband had already figured out that I was lying to him.  Or maybe he was just curious about the bestiality, because he came over and peered at my computer screen.

“You are not looking at bestiality,” he laughed.  “You’re just writing a story!”

My eyes got wide as I placed a trembling finger to my lips.  “SHHHHHH!  They’ll HEAR YOU!” I whisper-screamed.

After that incident (which we’ve since deemed Bestialitygate) my husband and I decided that it wasn’t healthy for me to bring the laptop along anymore since I was shit-my-pants scared that my ridiculous writing hobby would be found out. 

I’m really not sure what will happen when I actually get a book published.  I’ll probably be disowned.

“Tsk, tsk,” my mother-in-law will say to one of the other farmers’ wives.  “You know she went and made her dreams come true by writing a book—“ here, a disgusted grimace as she spits sideways onto the gravel driveway—“that they said was actually good enough to publish.”  She’ll shake her head sadly and look to the ground before raising her eyes to meet the other woman’s defiantly.  “You know she’s only related by marriage, right?”

My husband fully supports my writing, but still, we decided that in order to avoid ridicule and conflict with his family when we visit, maybe I should stick to the lesser of the evils.  So, running and reading it is.

Oh—and I do a lot of eating, too.  Because damn, food’s really good there.

A couple of weeks ago, I was coming in from an awesome 6-miler in the brisk winter air.  I walked past my sister-in-law, who was smoking a cigarette on the front porch.  “Going kind of slow, weren’t you fatty?” she asked.

It looked like she was going to flick her ciggie right at me, so I involuntarily flinched, causing her to throw her head back and roar with laughter. 

It was the first smile I’d seen grace her face all week.

I ignored her (I’ve found that sometimes it’s the best way) and pulled open the door to enter the house, where the next person I encountered was my mother-in-law.  I’m pretty sure she’d been standing at the front door, all coiled up with pride at the dagger she was about to deliver, so she could catch me on my way in. 

She looked at me through narrowed eyes. “Do you just run so that you can come back here and eat twice as much?” she asked.  “I haven’t seen you take your face out of that pan of chicken for 2 days.”

I raised my eyebrows.  “Well, make something different and maybe I’ll come up for air. In the meantime,” I said, dropping my sweatband and gloves onto the bench in the entryway and crossing the room to the fridge, “I’ll be facedown in said vat of fried chicken if you need me.”

Which is exactly where I was, until somebody made a huge pot of chicken and dumplings, which everybody knows are my absolute favorite.

See? They do love me.

Unless they just did it to shut me up, because if that was their strategy, it totally worked.  I ran another 6 the next day and then spent the rest of the evening at the kitchen table snarfing dumplings straight out of the pot.

I did take a break from chewing once, when, in a moment of soft-hearted weakness, my mother-in-law pulled a bottle of wine from the fridge.  “You want to have a glass with me, Shay?” she asked.

I eyed her suspiciously.  Where the hell was all of this…this kindness coming from?  

I didn’t have to wonder long.  Because as she started to unscrew the cap (Corkscrew?  Ha!  Not necessary.  We’re pretty fancy ‘round these parts, peeps.  Our bottles of wine come from Aldi and normally cost around $1.97), I noticed that the bottle was half empty. And my mother-in-law isn’t much of a drinker, so half-empty bottles of wine aren’t just found around the house.  (When I come over, I bring my own shit with me and I drink the whole bottle.)

“Wait,” I said, pausing with my arm frozen halfway to the cupboard where the wine glasses are kept.  “Is that the bottle you bought, like, 3 years ago?”

I remembered the visit.  My younger son had been a year old at the time, and my husband had been out of town for work for several weeks. My mother-in-law had felt like I needed a break (sometimes she can be simply awesome) and had invited me to stay for the weekend.  She’d bought me wine, but I’d been too tired to drink more than a glass or two.

“Yeah,” she said, snapping me back to reality.  “I’m sick of it taking up room in my fridge, so drink it or I’m throwing it away.”

I shrugged and retrieved a wine glass from the cupboard.  “Okay,” I said, unsure.  “But it’s so damned old and it’s been open for so long that I’m afraid…well, I might die if I drink it.”

“Then drink it quickly,” piped up my brother-in-law (the one who’s married to my husband’s younger sister) from the living room.

I felt my jaw drop into a wide grin of mad respect. That asshole mutters about ten words per year, and he’d just used four of them up on me.

I drank the wine.  And I didn’t even die.

So they can all #suckit.

I’d say all in all, it was a pretty good visit.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Friday, December 18, 2015

7 Things I Love about Christmas

1. Cousin Eddie’s package in the grocery store scene. 

If you haven’t noticed it, peeps, then you’re either blind or you’re just not as big of a skank as I am. 

I remember the first year that I noticed that thing, looming large on the television screen as it tried to pop out of that blue leisure suit.  “Holy shit!” I said, leaning in to get a closer look.  “Has anyone else ever noticed Cousin Eddie’s huge pecker?”

We all gathered in an excited bunch 3 inches from the TV, my dad shoving his way through to get a better look as we rewound two times, three times—countless times—and murmured wonderingly about how we ever could have missed the peni (that’s not a misspell) in the 2,000 times we’d seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

There was frenzied discussion all around as we debated whether or not the director had meant to include it.  (“How could he not have?” Dad murmured, eyes glued to the screen.)

My younger brother, then about 21 and the only one NOT scurrying to get a better glimpse, cracked open a beer and plopped into the recliner, disgusted.

“Goddammit,” he said.  “What the fck is wrong with this family?  Can we not have a family gathering without being a bunch of damned perverts?”

I stopped my ogling, but only for a second and only to shoot him a dirty look.  “No, we can’t.”

My older sister chimed in.  “Seriously, Prince William.  What the hell family do you think you were born into?”

The final time we rewound the video to the newly-coined “Peen Scene,” we hit PAUSE and let it sit the rest of the night as we drank our wine.  After enough drinks, my little brother finally joined in on the fun.  We caught him licking the TV screen at about midnight.

Okay, no we didn’t.  But it would have been a better end to that segment if we had, right? 

And anyway, I’ll bet he wanted to.

2.  The Ugly Sweater Contest…

…especially when the winner is well aware that there is no ugly sweater contest and you’re all just making fun of his outfit.

Dude,” someone will say to any random person who walks into the room, “you fcking KILLED ugly sweater this year!  That has got to be the ugliest  motherfcking sweater I have ever seen in my life.  You win, man.  Rock on!”

Here, the speaker will shoot his/her arm up for a high-5 as the award recipient’s whole body wilts, or, in my brother-in-law’s case one year, a single tear slides down his face.

SO fun.

I was so proud of my little sister one year because although someone had gotten to the joke first, she chimed in with this:  “Yeah, but I’m withdrawing my nomination for ugly sweater this year, because Kurt’s totally got this one.”

3.  The person who buys a real gift for the gift exchange…

…and then ends up with some shitty gag gift and starts crying.

Except when that person is me.  Then I don’t love that part of Christmas.

I’ll never forgive my older sister for that goddamned set of Bubba Teeth.

Bitch.

4.  Dancing with My Boys to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You

Shut up. 

This damned sentimental bone in my body is HUGE—probably even bigger than Cousin Eddie’s package—and try as I might to bury it by shoving any meaningful, real feelings way down deep into the pit of my stomach where they belong, sometimes it just pops right out (in a much different way than Cousin Eddie’s package, I must add).  

So Mariah Carey…well, she just gets to me, dammit.  And her Christmas songs—well, I'll be damned if they aren’t the most beautiful Christmas songs in all the land. 

They make me cry every fcking time.

Especially the one I mentioned above.  I waited so long for my kids and went through all kinds of trouble before having them, so now that I finally do have them, this song makes me bawl like a baby.

The psycho in the living room traipsing around with a little boy on each hip and happy tears streaming down her face as the song plays full blast?  Yup.  That’s me. 

I wonder if my boys will still dance with me to Mariah when they’re 16? 

5.  Watching It’s a Wonderful Life…

…because while we’re at it, we might as well make me look like even more of a sap, huh?

I love this movie.  I take it to my dad’s every single year and pop it in right after we finish watching Christmas Vacation.

My older sister always complains, saying it’s too sappy for her taste, but I know it’s only because she’s so in love with Cousin Eddie’s sausage that she considers any time not salivating over it as she’s snarfing her corn casserole as time wasted.

Whore.

6.  Dad’s announcement that he’s making his favorite festive drink, a highball…

…and my husband’s unfailing reply: “If you squat down a little bit, I’ll have some high balls for ya…”

It simply never gets old, peeps.  It never gets old.

7.  My relatives.

Specifically, relatives that get drunker than I do. 

I’ve waited a long time for this, peeps.  I racked up at least 10 years of pre-kid Christmases that I hardly remember because I drank so much.

Now it’s my turn to sip my two glasses (because that’s all I have time to guzzle while chasing my kids around) and sniff down my nose at the new drunkies—the cousins who have just become old enough to drink, or the aunts and uncles whose kids are now grown and don’t require as much care, allowing them to go back to their own drunken holidays.

I never miss an opportunity to go “Um, ever heard of moderation?” while rolling my hypocritical eyes. Secretly I can't wait until my own kids are a little bit older and don't require as much care, allowing me to go back to my drunken holidays.

***You guys, I am a HUGE Christmas sap.  I love every single thing about Christmas, both the silly and the real:  The lights, the Christmas trees, the smell of snow in the air, the Advent candles being lit at church, the chocolate-covered pretzels with sprinkles that I make each year with my boys and their friends, the Kenny Rogers Christmas CD that I've loved since childhood…I love Christmas and EVERYTHING in the weeks leading up to it, during which my boys and hubs and I put on our jammies and snuggle up to watch movies and eat popcorn and drink hot chocolate.

But that’s just not the way my writing style normally rolls on these pages, peeps, so sometimes I just have to come out and say it:

Count your blessings and enjoy them and life and every moment of every day—and oh!—

HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!***

Monday, December 14, 2015

Crazy

In order to accommodate the many travelers of our family, we had a huge family gathering over the weekend as an early Christmas celebration.

Saturday night, my aunt passed out gallon-sized Ziploc bags that each contained a t-shirt, folded and tucked so that the front images/words were not visible through the clear plastic bag.

“Don’t open it until tomorrow,” she told each of us with a mysterious smile, “and don’t forget to wear it to breakfast.”

The next morning, still slightly sluggish from drinks the night before, I opened my bag to reveal a pink sparkly t-shirt featuring Miley Cyrus during her Hannah Montana days.

I don’t get it, I texted my aunt.

It’s from the Goodwill.  You’re basically giving to charity by wearing it.  Be a good sport, she answered.

I called my little sister.  “What the fuck are these shirts?” I asked her.

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “Mine has a dog on it.  And someone else’s pit stains.  Hang on; I’ll text you a picture.” 

I heard a quick, muffled conversation on the other end of the line, and then my sister continued.  “Mom just showed up.  Hers has a picture of Raggedy Ann and Andy on it.”  A pause.  “Their hair is made of red ribbon and sticks out from the shirt.  Kind of 3D.”

I sighed.  “Do you think Aunt T has a touch of the dementia?”

Dementia is not a laughing matter.  It’s not.  We know that it’s not.  It’s just that our grandma is suffering from the early stages of it, and we heard somewhere that it might be genetic, so we’re all scared shitless that we’re next.  We alleviate that fear a little bit by thrusting the diagnosis on everyone else in hopes that it skips us. 

Does that make sense?  Or am I suffering from the early stages of dementia, too?

When I got to Burger King, where we were meeting for breakfast because of the big playplace they have for the kids, I watched as everyone started to file in, and I had to admit, the t-shirts began cracking me up. 

My uncle’s featured an illustration of an ice cream cone with the caption, “It’s not going to lick itself.”  My brother-in-law’s shirt was from a veterinarian’s office and had a drawing of two dogs holding their balls.  It said, “It’s hip to clip” and was a Bob Barker-style message about the importance of controlling the pet population by spaying and neutering one’s pets.  My older sister, who might drink one glass of wine per month, was wearing a shirt with a picture of a big dinosaur and the words PARTY ANIMAL on it.

So even though nobody got the joke—even my aunt, who organized the whole thing—we still had a lot of fun pointing and laughing at each other’s shirts.

This is the shirt she picked out for my younger son.  I'm still checking all of our heads for lice.

My niece, who is going through an artsy stage, had received a black t-shirt because she dresses in all black all the time, anyway. This confused my grandma.

“Who is that priest?” she kept asking my mom.

My mom kept explaining that it wasn’t a priest; it was actually my older sister’s daughter.  My grandma would nod as if she understood, and then two minutes later, she would say, “Did you say that was a nun or a priest?  They both wear black, so I’m a little confused.”

Finally, Mom just started laughing.  My grandma joined in, looking around to see what was so funny.

“Mom,” my mom said to her.  “That’s your granddaughter.  It’s not a nun or a priest.”

By this point, we were all laughing so hard we were crying, which we have found is okay in the case of my grandma.  It’s usually the only way to make her feel better.  She doesn’t want to be confused, but she doesn’t mind being considered funny, so she’ll take it in stride and start cracking jokes.

“How the hell am I supposed to know who the priest is?” my grandma said, really getting into it.  Then she pointed across the booth at me.  “The only person I recognize here is you!”

We’re never sure if she’s joking or not when she says things like this, but in this case, it didn’t matter anyway.  Because she had chosen me.  I shot my sisters and brother a smug look while addressing my grams soothingly.  “Of course I am, Grams.  You’ll always recognize your favorite.”

Then, suddenly, we heard a gasp from one of the other tables and all turned to see my younger brother Rob, his mouth agape, pale as shit as he stared at his girlfriend as if seeing her for the first time.

“What?” we all said. “What happened?”

It came out of my younger brother’s mouth before he could stop it, although later, he wished he hadn’t said a thing:  “We think we might be related.”

And then my grandma—the same woman who, only moments earlier, had waffled back and forth over whether or not to order breakfast because she couldn’t remember for sure, but she might have already eaten some that morning—experienced several minutes of complete clarity as she continued to retrace the family tree for my brother, confirming that he and his new girlfriend were, indeed, cousins.  Not close cousins by any means and probably legal to marry in at least 3 Southern states…but still.  Cousins.

We’re not even from that small of a town, peeps. You’d have thought he could find someone a bit more than an acorn's toss from the family tree.

From that point on, there were comments flying all over the place at my brother and his cousin’s—I mean girlfriend’s—expense:

“You’ll be fine…as long as you don’t have kids together.”

“Don’t worry if your girlfriend leaves breakfast early—two of your sisters came here without their husbands, so they might need a date…”

“Should somebody order Rob and his cousin some breakfast?”

When we had all calmed down, we did, in fact, order our breakfast.  As I walked back to my booth with my bacon and egg croissant, hash brown, and coffee, I passed my brother’s table.  He was having a heated discussion with his cousin/girlfriend. “It’s not my fault!” she was insisting, arms wide in a what-could-I-do shrug.  “Your grandma asked me my name!”

The best part came when my uncle noticed my brother’s t-shirt, which was yellow and featured Fred Flinstone with his famous catchphrase, “Yabba Dabba Doo!”

“Hey, Rob,” my uncle said, nudging him.  “Don’t you think your shirt should say, Yabba Dabba DOO your cousin?”

We’re not sure if they’re going to stay together or not, but we certainly hope so.  There’s a wealth of cousin jokes out there just waiting to be told, and it would be selfish of them to take that from us just because their future kid might come out with an extra arm or two.

And besides, what’s the big deal with an arm growing from a forehead when it comes to this family? 

That baby will fit right in.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Spare Key

I think there’s something wrong with me, you guys, and I know that goes without saying, I really do, but the glee I got from making my neighbor feel bad for doing something nice for me the other day really just sealed it for me:

There’s something wrong with me.

What happened was, my husband and boys and I were going out of town for a couple of nights to celebrate Thanksgiving with family, and my husband suggested that I take our spare key over to our neighbor’s house so that he could come in and feed the cat and water the Venus fly trap while we were away. I’ve kept the cat alive for over 10 years and the fly trap alive for 3, and so they’re 2 of the biggest damned accomplishments of my life and I’m not about to let them die just so I can go eat turkey at my dad’s house and listen to my older sister boss everyone around.

My neighbor is a 45-year-old police officer that my whole family adores.  His son and daughter are away at college, so sometimes on his weekends off-duty, he brings his wife over to our house to have a couple of beers and shoot the shit (not literally, although he does have a gun and that would be fun).  We enjoy making fun of each other in a kind of big brother/little sister sort of way, like the night that he sent a group text to my husband and me that said, “Hey, guys, Bill from down the street is having people over.  Grab the kids and come down!”

I responded that I was tired and wasn’t sure I’d be up for joining them, but that the hubs and the kids might head that way and thanks for the invite.

And then he sent a text that said, “Come on, Shay…there’s food here,” followed quickly by a separate text that only contained an emoji of a pig.

And so then I said, “What the fuck is the goddamned pig supposed to mean?” and he responded with, “If the shoe fits, lol” and then I might have said something like, “You piece of shit. I will kick your pig cop ass and blame it on police brutality,” and then my husband told me that I needed to put my phone down.

In my own defense, I’ve always thought it was really disrespectful to call police officers pigs, and I don’t ever do it…but I think there might have been something subliminal going on due to the pig emoji he had just used to call me a fatass—and besides, he started it.  (MOM!!)

Honestly, though, besides the fact that I respect the hell out of police officers and appreciate everything they do to keep us safe—especially in today’s society, where random assholes seem to be reinventing the goddamned Wild West—my neighbor is my favorite kind of people.  You can often spot someone who has your sense of humor almost immediately. 

My neighbor wasn’t one of those people.

One of my favorite things to remind him of is how the first time I met him, I thought he was an asshole. But lucky for him, I always tell him, I overcame that first impression and grew to adore him. I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual, but even if I’m totally misreading that and it’s not, we still have a ton of fun getting on each other’s cases.

Anyhoo, as I was handing over the spare key last week, I paused for a moment, thinking.

“You know,” I said to my neighbor, the key suspended in the air between us, “why don’t you just hold onto it for us indefinitely in case we ever accidentally lock ourselves out of the house?”

My neighbor nodded.  “Sure,” he said.

I was about to drop the key into his upturned hand, but then I had another thought, and you guys, I just couldn’t help it. 

I narrowed my eyes at him and cocked my head to the side a little bit, all suspicious-like.  “But don’t let yourself in when we’re not home and start, like, pawing through my underwear drawer, taking sniffs…”

My neighbor’s eyes widened.  “Oh, I would never—Shay, you know I’m not that kind of a person—"

“Whatever, dude,” I said, finally handing him my key. I sighed in a way that said, I’ll let you do me this favor, neighb, even though I clearly think you’re a dirty pervert.

I’m shocked he didn’t throw the key right back in my face, and in fact, I’m pretty sure I heard him chuckle as he walked off, key in hand, shaking his head.

Good neighbors are hard to find, peeps—as are padlocks that can be fitted perfectly to your underwear drawer. 

But I’ve been lucky to find both.