Thursday, February 12, 2015

Seventeen Days: The Winter Break Diaries

I was just looking at my calendar and I realized that there is a faculty workday scheduled at my daughter, Iris’s, school on Friday.  And it’s Presidents Day weekend.  Yeah.  Let that sink in a little.  Uh huh, that means Iris, has a four-day weekend this weekend. 

Four days.  Four whole days.

For those of you who are parents of young children, your whole body just tensed like when the scary music starts playing in a horror film, didn’t it?  And you just checked your calendar because you were a little worried that you, too, might be faced with a four day weekend, right?  Yeah, you guys know.

For those of you who aren’t parents of young children, let me explain.

I love Iris.  I love her with all my heart and beyond all reason.  I actually enjoy spending time with her and talking with her.  Just, maybe, not all twenty-four hours of the day. 

You see, Iris has no siblings.  So, four days off school means four whole days where I am the entertainment.  And I can’t tell her to “go play with your sister.”  Because she doesn’t have a sister.  Four days off school means I am the one who has to either play every game ever created for or made up by a preschool-aged child, or I have to plan enough fun activities to exhaust the average decathlete, or I will be punished by having to listen to Iris recount exactly how bored she is (spoiler alert: bored enough to whine a lot, but not bored enough to clean her room, make her bed, or learn to read). 

The hell of it is, even if I play every game and exhaust the decathlete, it will not be enough.  It will only last half the day.  And Iris hasn’t taken an afternoon nap since she was three. 

I miss the nap.  I really miss the nap.

Honestly, I am not up to this.  I haven’t even fully recovered from Winter Break, yet.  I’m still experiencing flashbacks and I get the shakes every time I even look at Candyland.

When I was young, I loved winter break.  Looooooooved it.  I mean, seriously, a bunch of time off school in the middle of which people give you a crap-ton of presents?  What kid WOULDN’T love that?  Back then, I did not keep a diary.  But, if I HAD, my winter break diary would have probably looked like this:

Back then, I did not know that winter break was not really a thing for parents.  Back then, I did not realize that my parents were still having to do all the things they usually had to do while they were coming up with things for me to do because I was soooo boooored.  Back then, I did not know that there is a reason that Winter Break and Water Boarding have the same initials.

The winter break diary I would have kept this last winter break?  Would look like this:


I can handle this, right?  It’s only, what, seventeen days? 

Crap.  Really?  Seventeen?  Are there really SEVENTEEN days before school starts again?  That has to be wrong.  It can’t be that long. 

It is?  Seriously?  Oh, God.

Okay.  I can do this.  I just need a plan.  A plan and lots of playdates.  That’s all.  It’ll be fine.  I enjoy spending time with Iris.  She’s great.  And I can play with her.  And read to her.  And we’ll snuggle up and watch movies.  It’ll be fun.  Right? 



I did not know it was even possible to play Candyland that many times without dying from acute monotony.  And the box says “fun for the whole family.”  Really?  Which whole family?  I have a law degree!  I used to do criminal jury trials.  For a living.  I WON A MURDER CASE!   Now I am spending my day worrying about whether I’m going to get stuck in the Molasses Swamp?  This cannot be my life.


We had a playdate.  A PLAYDATE!!!!  Do you know how hard it is to arrange a playdate over the holidays?  Everyone is travelling, or preparing for the holidays, or spending time with family, or singing carols for patients at a nursing home while simultaneously cooking all the food for Christmas dinner for a homeless shelter.  But I did it!  I secured a playdate for Iris.  Two days before Christmas, I wrangled a playdate out of thin air.  So, for something like three hours, Iris had someone to play with!!!!  And it wasn’t me!!!  And we were at someone else’s house so I didn’t even have to clean up!!!!  My sanity is saved!!!!!


Who thought putting Christmas in the middle of Winter Break was a good idea?  Because Iris is Stir Crazy + Santa's Coming Tonight = I really wish I had, at some point, acquired the taste for alcohol.   Or that Drunk Betsy wasn’t such a crybaby. 



I’m really starting to regret getting Iris a triangle as a stocking stuffer.  She’s been playing it all day.  All.  Day. Why can’t she play with the Legos Santa brought?  Legos are quiet. 


I’m doomed.  My husband, Quinten, has doomed me.  We started this morning playing with Play Doh.  Because all those new toys Iris got for Christmas?  Aren’t new anymore.  So, Play Doh.  Followed by more Candyland.  Oh joy.  (Remind me to hide that fucking game.)  Then my husband hauled out the puzzles.  All of them.  One after the other.  Before I could stop him, he got out the Ninjabread cookie mix.

I saw him going to the pantry.  I thought he was just going to get a snack.  When he reached for the Ninjabread cookie box, I tried to send him a psychic message.  Do not get that out!  Don’t do it!  I need that for Monday!  He didn’t get it.  So we made Ninjabread cookies.  And decorated them.  I wanted to say something.  I did.  It’s just, once Iris heard him suggesting a new activity, it was too late.  The last thing I needed was to be the mean mommy who wouldn’t let her do stuff.  So, while Quinten was failing to notice or correctly interpret the look I was giving him, he got out the coloring books, the crafting supplies, and the new DVD I was hoping to save for when I got really desperate. 

In one day, one single day, my husband burned through every single activity I had planned for the rest of winter break.  All of them.  Everything.  There are seven days left and I have nothing.  No.  Thing.

I don’t think he knew he was doing it.

I hope he didn’t know he was doing it. 

If he knew he was doing it, I will divorce him. 


None of the new toys are new anymore.  I just went to Target and bought Iris more toys.  Seven days after she got every toy ever invented for Christmas. 



The new new toys aren’t new now.  I have no other plan.  I don’t think I’m going to make it.


I haven’t been out of the house in two and a half days.  And, even then, it was just that trip to get more toys at Target.  No one wants to have a playdate.  I haven’t talked to another adult besides my husband in a week.  Iris and I have been wearing our pajamas for two days now.  I am a horrible mother.  Today, we spent the whole day watching movies because I cannot play Candyland even one more time.  Cinderella.  The Little Mermaid.  Frozen.  Finding Nemo.  And Bambi.  Do you know what all those movies have in common? 

Iris:  Mommy?  What happened to Cinderella’s mommy?

Me:  Well, sweetie, she died and went to heaven.

Iris:  What about Ariel’s mommy?

Me:  (oh no, oh God no, please not this, please)  She died, too.

Iris:  Nemo’s mommy got eaten by a big fish.

Me:  That’s right.

Iris:  Why did Elsa and Anna’s mommy not come back?

Me:  Well, the boat got caught in a storm and….

Iris:  (starting to sob)  I don’t want you to DIE, Mommy!!!!!

Thanks, Disney.  Thanks a LOT.


Iris is inventing games. They have weird rules that she makes up as she goes along.  Like if I toss the ball into the hula hoop and it bounces out, I lose.  And if I toss the ball into the hula hoop and it stays in, she wins.  Or, if she hops across the room on one foot, she gets to take an extra turn.  None of these games have a point.  Or an end.  And I always play them the wrong way.  At least that’s what Iris keeps telling me.  The penalty for playing wrong?  I lose all my turns.  So Iris always wins.  And I don’t even care.  Because I have been doing this for fifteen days and I am seriously considering having another baby just so she has a built-in playmate.  I’d do it, too, if infants didn’t make such lousy playmates for four-year-olds. 


Dear God,

I know you think it’s funny to give Iris a runny nose one day before she’s supposed to go back to school, but you’re wrong.  NOT!  FUNNY!  And if this turns out to be a thing and she has to stay home from school tomorrow, I will not make it.  I can’t do an eighteenth day.  I can’t.  I am the runner whose legs gave out ten feet from the finish line.  I have just 24 hours left to go, but no more movies to watch and no more toys to play with.  I am exhausted.  I lost my mind two days ago and I don’t even have the energy to go look for it. 

You take this runny nose back, God.  You FIX IT.  My little girl will be WELL tomorrow, right?  We have an understanding.  Right?



My child is back at school.  Repeat: My Child Is Back At School!!  I took a shower today with no one watching me.  I have not had to play Candyland.  I spoke with an actual, real-live adult.  Who I am not related to.  I got a whole load of laundry done without hearing the words, “you NEVER play with me!!”  So what if she had a runny nose?  It’s just a runny nose.  It’s not like she had hot lava flowing out of her nostrils. 

Although, if she did, I might have taken her to school, anyway.
You know, if I survived seventeen days of winter break, I can do this.  A four-day weekend won’t be so bad.  And I learned some stuff from winter break.  I have a plan.  A week ago, I managed to arrange a playdate for Friday afternoon.  I’ve hidden Candyland (and Princess Candyland) behind some old golf clubs on the floor of the coat closet in our downstairs hallway.  I have warned Quinten about which activities I have planned for which day.  And I have a new DVD stashed away in the laundry room to be brought out in case of emergency. 

Although, I just heard that Tuesday, the day Iris is supposed to go back to school, there might be snow and ice….

If you need me, I’ll just be in that corner over there, rocking and wishing I liked wine. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas Six Nights Before Christmas and All Through The House Only Mommy Was Stirring Because of The Damned Elf

What is it they say?  Pride goeth before the fall?  Yeah, well, I’m not sure it’s pride that goeth before the fall.  I think maybe what goeth before the fall is Pinterest.

See, a couple of years ago, back when my daughter, Iris, was two years old, still not potty trained, and in the throes of giving up her afternoon nap, I was reading some mommy blogs, like an idiot, and there I found tales of tiny handmade stationary and envelopes used to write tiny notes from the tiny tooth fairy.  In tiny calligraphy.  Notes that contained glitter and money and celebrated perfectly the loss of a child’s first tooth.  And other tales of birthday parties for kids with special themes and homemade party favors and homebaked cake pops and crafty place settings and creative activities and inventive gift-exchanges.  All complete with pictures of delighted kiddos having the times of their lives.

And did all that crap inspire me?  Did all that crap make me want to, likewise, throw parties and make stuff?  No.  All that crap did was make me feel horrible.   I really AM a slacker mom, I lamented inwardly.  Outwardly?  I wept, all snotty and red-faced at my husband: “Their kids are having a magical and pinterest-y childhood and I’m lucky if I get a SHOWER!!!”

My husband, bless him, calmed me down and handed me a Kleenex (not in that order) and convinced me that I wasn’t doing it wrong, that Iris was still going to experience the magic of childhood, despite my slacker status.  But, secretly, way down deep in my heart of hearts, I knew  I needed to up my game.  Because, if Iris’s childhood could be magic without my intervention, imagine how much better it could be with my intervention.

Enter the Elf on the Shelf.

Her name is Lolly.  And she is a bitch. 

Oh, sure, it started innocently enough.  I purchased Lolly and brought her home with visions of holiday delight in my head.  I introduced her to Iris at the appointed time, dreams of the inventive and artistic scenes I would create for Iris while she slept, the joyful giggles of my child when she discovered the “fun” Lolly had in store for her.  I started an account on Pinterest just so I could save ideas for the elf. 

And I did okay the first few nights.  Lolly balanced precariously on the chandelier over the kitchen table.  Lolly hiding in the big vase on our entertainment unit.  Lolly holding a candy cane and sitting on the mantle. 

Then, on night four, I was getting ready to go upstairs for bed and my husband said, “What about Lolly?”


And that set the tone for the rest of that Christmas season.  Every night: what the hell am I going to do with the damned elf?  And all those ideas I pinned to my Pinterest board?  Half of them required the child in question to know how to read (Iris was two), and the other half were simply impossible given the elf’s floppy arms and legs.

Sometime the following summer, I found out a shocking secret….those mommy bloggers?  The ones who make magic for their children?  They’d sewn wire into their elves’ arms and legs to make the elves posable.  SON OF A BITCH!  This is where I had gone wrong!  This was the answer!  The answer to all my problems from the year before.  Now there would be wire!  Now there would be poses and scenes and some fucking enchantment, dammit!

Yeah.  And then came last year’s day five.  “What are we going to do with Lolly?”


But this year, I’ve actually been doing pretty well.  I’ve managed to set up some fun little scenes for Iris to find.  Lolly hanging out with Iris’s dolls or leading a toy pony parade across the kitchen counter.  

 Lolly hanging from the shower curtain rod in Iris’s bathroom or sitting on a swing I made from candy canes. 

I managed to reach day nineteen before there was a problem.  And, let me tell you, on day nineteen, right there in the homestretch, when Lolly was hanging from the garland wrapped around the upstairs banister, I was feeling pretty clever.  Nineteen whole days!  I was killing it!  I was making some damn magic!

4:37am on day twenty, I sat bolt upright in bed.  Oh no!  The elf!  Damnit!  I forgot to move the stupid elf!  Shit shit shit shit shit!

I scrambled out of bed and tiptoed down the hall, whispering prayers of thanks that Iris hadn’t gotten up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  I untangled Lolly from the garland and crept down the stairs, hardly daring to breathe as I passed Iris’s bedroom door.  Please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up.  Wait?  Was that a noise?  Was that a moan?  Is she waking up?  What am I going to say about the fucking elf I am holding in my fucking hand?  The elf I am not supposed to fucking touch because, if I touch the fucking elf she will lose her fucking magic? 

Mercifully, Iris did not wake up and I did not have to come up with a creative lie OR hurl Lolly down the stairs like so much rubbish.  So far, I was winning.

(Spoiler alert: this would not last long.)

I crept down the stairs and started looking for someplace I could put the stupid elf.  The chandelier over the dining room table?  Nope.  Already used that one.  Twice.  On top of the kitchen cabinets?  Used that one yesterday.  And she’d already been in the fridge, in the pantry, on the mantle, hanging from the mistletoe, in a stocking, on the counter, and in the decorative birdcage on top of my bookcase.

Oooo, the copper kettle!  The decorative copper teakettle I have on top of my bookcase!  I haven’t ever put Lolly there!  Perfect! 

Except I am kind of short.  Well, shorter than the bookcase.  And my arms are short and there was no way to reach the stupid teakettle without a step stool. 

Craaaaap.  Because there was NO WAY I was going to risk the kind of noise I’d have to make to get out the step stool, carry it from the garage to the front room (during which trip you know I’d have banged it into a wall or doorway), or squeaked the darn thing open to set it up.  So, there had to be another solution.

Before I tell you the solution I came up with, I am going to have to explain to you exactly why this was the most colossally bad idea I have ever come up with in my entire adult life. 

On my very first date with my husband, the first day we actually met, I was walking across a perfectly flat, perfectly dry, recently repaved parking lot.  I might be the only person in the history of the world who can fall down and sprain her ankle, badly, under that set of conditions.  Our first date?  Going to Walmart to get me an ankle brace.

I am a klutz.  In our house falling down is called “pulling a Betsy.”

So, keep that in mind when I tell you that my solution to reaching the decorative copper teakettle on top of the tall bookcase was to pull over the ottoman from the yellow chair and stand on it.

And if you’re guessing what happened already, shut up and don’t spoil it for anyone else.

Picture it….there I am, perched on the ottoman, arranging a bendable red elf on a nonfunctional teakettle on top of a bookcase in the middle of the night….you know, like you do….  and, just as I get Lolly perfectly positioned and looking cute…

…the ottoman, for no reason known to man, decides to tip over onto its side.

You know how sometimes people say that a fall happens so fast they didn’t even know what was happening until it was all over?

Yeah, that never happens to me.

I just can't seem to fall like a normal person.  There is no simple plop on the butt for me.  Nope.  I tend to have the really spectacular oh-my-god-I'm-falling-can-I-save-it-I-think-I-can-save-it-oh-no-I-can't-I'm-going-to-fall-no-I-think-I-can-save-it-oh-shit-nevermind-here-I-go kind of fall with my arms and legs and, probably several other body parts that shall remain nameless, flailing around like a convulsing octopus.  While Lolly just stared at me with that creepy smile on her plastic face. 


One sprained thumb and one bruised calf (all the way from knee to ankle) and I bet I am the only mother on the planet with elf-related injuries this Christmas.

I knew I should have negotiated for workman’s compensation coverage when I became a stay-at-home mom.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Black Snake Whimper

So, maybe a year and a half ago, there was a spider in our garage. 

This is probably not an uncommon occurrence.  I wouldn’t know because I try not to think about it.  I only think about spiders when I am confronted with absolute and incontrovertible evidence of their existence.  Like when one slinks into view and stands next to me.  Or across the room from me.  Or in the hallway next to the room I’m in.  Or, you know, crawls on my foot with its numerous and tickly little legs.  Which is when I either scream, squeal, back away slowly, or cower in a corner with my hands over my eyes while begging my husband, Quinten, to get rid of it for me.

Yes, I am a cliché.  Shut up.  But I know I am a cliché, so that makes it okay.  Actually, it upgrades the whole phobia because I am well aware of what I need in regards to safeguarding from spiders.  And what I need is very simple.  I need someone else to OH MY GOD GET IT AWAY FROM ME!!  Preferably by implementing the death penalty, but really, as long as the spider is out of my presence, I don’t care what happened to it.

And I told Quinten this before we ever got married.

I think my exact words were, “You understand that spiders are your job, right?”  And, if I recall correctly, he agreed that he would take on that responsibility.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it was in our wedding vows.

So when something that looked like this

 showed up in our garage, I felt like it was a perfectly reasonable request that my husband dispose of it.  Right now.  Like right now.  Like rightfuckingnow!

And I didn’t put any conditions on my request.  He could have killed it.  He could have picked it up and carried it outside while petting it and whispering sweet nothings into whatever passes for its ears.  I did not care which, as long as, in the end, it was no longer in my garage.  See!  Totally reasonable! 

But my husband, my otherwise wonderful and dutiful husband, refused. 

Me:  But it’s in our HOUSE!
Quinten:  No, it's in our GARAGE.
Me:  The garage is part of the house. 
Quinten:  It is not.  It’s more house-adjacent.
Me:  I cannot believe I have to argue this point with you.  The garage is attached to the house.  It shares a wall with the house.  All that is separating it from the house is one flimsy little door.  That spider is ONE SCUTTLE away from being inside our house!
Quinten:  Look, our cars are in there and we lift what amounts to a whole wall to get them out of there, I kind of regard it as neutral territory.  It’s like Switzerland, where we can all peacefully coexist.
Me:  This is not Europe.  There are no Alps.  I cannot peacefully coexist with a spider that is as big as your average Chihuahua.
Quinten:  It is not that large.
Me:  It is TOO that large!  And, if you don’t get rid of it, I am never going back in the garage.  Which means we’re not having dinner because right now what I need to make dinner is in the chest freezer in the garage and I won’t go out there and get it.
Quinten:  I’ll get what you need.
Me:  Forever?  You will forever get what I need for me from the garage?  Because if you don’t get rid of that spider, like you vowed to do at our wedding, I am never setting foot in your stupid “neutral zone” ever again.
Quinten:  That was not in our wedding vows.

But he did finally get rid of the spider.  Finally. 

And for eighteen months, I have not mentioned his utter betrayal.  Not once.  Not even a hint.  Because I believe in forgiving and forgetting.  Sometimes.  Sort of.  Maybe.  A little.  Okay, I don’t, really, although I did it this one time because I am a tolerant and compassionate creature. 

But no more!  No more, I tell you.  Because on Wednesday, Quinten learned that karma is quite the bitch.

What happened on Wednesday, you ask?  Well, on Wednesday, this fellow

decided that our garage, our neutral zone, our Switzerland, house-adjacent garage, would be a fine place to hang out. 

And, it turns out, my husband is afraid of snakes.

If I took a minute to laugh right now, that would be mean, wouldn’t it?

Quinten: (coming into the house from the garage, looking a little white and talking very, very fast) There’s a snake in the garage.  A black snake.  It’s big.  I saw it slither in and it went behind that tub and the box in the corner…you know, where we keep the garden tools and the push broom.  It went under there and I banged on the boxes but it wouldn’t come out.

I would like to note here that there are many things I could have said in this situation.  I could have said that banging on boxes is not likely to make a snake come out, and might in face make a snake mad.  I could have said that it was no big deal.  I could have said, “It’s just in the garage.  That’s neutral territory.  It’s Switzerland.  We can peacefully coexist with it in there.”  But I didn’t.  Because I am NICE.

Instead, I went out to the garage and pulled out the box and the tub with the garden tools in it and I didn’t see any snake.  Instead, I looked under the nearby shelves and I didn’t see any snake.  Instead, I very calmly reminded my husband that black snakes are not poisonous and it would probably leave on its own after finding we had nothing in there it could eat.

And, the next morning, after my husband had tiptoed very very quickly to his car in the garage and leapt into the front seat like something was going to shoot out from beneath his vehicle and wrap itself around his ankles, slowly squeezing him to death while repeatedly biting his tender flesh, I went out and opened the garage door and discovered our friend the snake right by the base of the door, where he had been trying to get out of our food-and-waterless wasteland of a garage and I just used the push broom to urge all three and a half feet of him into the open air, where he promptly disappeared into the bushes in our front yard.

Quinten?  Cannot even hear that story without his heart racing and his hands shaking.  And I’m pretty sure he’s avoiding the bushes in front of our house entirely.  But I am not making fun of him for this.  Because I take our wedding vows seriously.