Archive | October 2013

Halloween Candy, the Cockroach of Holiday Accoutrements

What’s meaner than high school girls with menstrual cramps and also sweeter than pictures of the newborn babies that Anne Geddes arranges in adorable baskets? If you guessed Halloween Candy, then picture me doing that thing with my first two fingers where I point at my eyes and then yours to assure you that we are on the same wavelength.

Sweet bitches

Sweet bitches

Every damn year with the Halloween candy.  Sure, my favorite kind of Nike tennis shoe (Nike Air Rift) disappears forever and Trader Joe’s no longer carries my beloved Tomato Basil Soup, but Halloween candy, the cockroach of holiday accoutrements, shows up year after year.   As does my resolve to ignore it, which I do.  Yep, every year I Tweet about my iron, Crossfit-worthy commitment to shun the little bite-sized goodies, no matter how cute a tiny Twizzlers is.  I brag, I self-congratulate, and I buy myself a nice little treat from the Kate Spade outlet store because I did it! I stayed away from Halloween candy.

Then November 2 or 3 rolls around.  And my kids’ sad little piles of Tootsie Rolls and generic weirdo pumpkin candies look pathetic and unappealing.  Except.  Except there’s one Special Dark or Milky Way in there, shining like a pair of brand new Tory Burch shoes among dirty flip flops that no longer fit anyone in the house.

That’s when I get in trouble.  And that resolve? It crumbles.  But what about the Kate Spade Hallowvictory purse?  Well, that was final sale so I can’t return it anyway.  And my kids won’t miss this one little gem because they are too young to understand that some candy is really shitty and some candy is worth contracting diabetes for.

So, yeah, I haven’t dipped into the Costco-sized ultra jumbo bag of mostly decent Halloween candy, but it’s only October 30.  Check with me on Saturday, and if you see me with a new purse, you can bet your ass it was final sale.

Want to hear more about my relationship with Halloween candy? Here’s my take on how my to balance my ghosts with my children’s joy.  You want to click over because who doesn’t love a story that opens with a reference to Candy Corn?


If You Hypnotize A Freshman in 1987



Loraleigh VanZant’s office looked exactly like I pictured cosmetic maven Mary Kay’s office to look.  Everything was pastel and dustless and aggressively cheerful.   I felt like I ruined the soothing vibe in there when I showed up in my tartan plaid skirt, bad attitude and blotchy skin.

I didn’t know anything about counselors, other than what I gleaned from the Bob Newhart show.  I had no clue what a kid like me was supposed to do in there, so I spent a lot of time looking at Loraleigh VanZant’s hair– could it possibly taste like cotton candy when it looked so much like it?  I wasn’t smart or sassy or precocious that fall.  It was freshman year, and I was depressed and slept a lot and had a hard time concentrating on algebra.

Sign, cosign, tangent, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. 

I tried to look the part of a full-of-life high school freshman, but the Wet-And-Wild blue eye liner I caked on my eye lids wasn’t fooling anyone.

I figured I was supposed to talk to her about the accident, but I’d already told her everything in the first session.  In the second, third and fourth session she asked me follow-up questions.  In the fifth session, she announced that I was “afraid of death.” In my head, I announced that she was dumb as shit, because (1) who wasn’t afraid of death? and (2) I’d just had a bad brush with it that I suspected had changed me forever.

So she was dumb; I didn’t care. She was nice enough to me and it was somewhere to go.  I liked her peach-colored flower arrangements.

On the seventh session, though, she went New Agey on me, which I didn’t see coming.  It was the late 1980s in suburban Dallas, not fucking Woodstock.  “We are going to try hypnosis.”

In a burst of uncharacteristic verbosity, I said, “Why?”  I’m pretty sure I was making the are-you-fucking-kidding-me face.

“I think it will help you to relax when you think of the ocean. You will no longer fear death.”

All I was thinking was “will it help me pass my algebra mid-term?”  But I was an equal mix of compliant and lethargic so I reclined on her sea-foam green couch and let her take me back to the scene.  She promised me that instead of horror and death, she would insert memories of rolling waves and gentle Hawaiian breezes.

I’m pretty sure I just fell asleep, but the look on her face convinced me she thought I’d reached an alternative consciousness where deep healing was just as easy as fifteen minutes on a couch.  Sure.  Whatever.

I think I saw her a few more times.  After the “hypnosis,” I couldn’t take her seriously.  I felt rage bubbling up as I stared at her confectionary hair, wondering how she could possibly think she had healed the deep sorrow and terror inside of me.   I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was more afraid of death than ever and I probably always would be.

When she asked me if I wanted to keep seeing her, I chose my words carefully.  “I’m afraid not.”

Forget the First Tooth: These Are the New Milestones


As a parent, I love milestones.  First tooth.  First steps.  First day without diapers.  Marking those life moments is just part of what parents do.  Isn’t that what those baby books are all about?

Here’s my question: why do the big milestones stop after the first year? Have you ever tried to find a commemorative book to celebrate the major life moments after the first year?  Sure, it’s fun when your baby stops doing that awkward army crawl thing to actually take a few steps, but what about that moment when your kid learns a word you don’t know? Or when you understand that your kid has more social skills than you’ll ever have?

I live for those moments, and even if the makers of baby books don’t memorialize them, I’ma celebrate them here.  (Confidential to Hallmark: Call me. Let’s work up a business plan for baby books for toddlers and school-aged kids.)

Here are my top 5 milestones that no one else has ever mentioned:

  1. Siblings playing together.  The date was June 8, 2013.  The sun was gleaming through our kitchen window highlighting the crumbs on the floor, and Sadie and Simon started playing some game involving an empty water bottle, a skillet, and a Big Bird “action” figure.  I watched the clock — 5 and then 10 and then 15 minutes went by and they were still playing in their own little world.  They didn’t involve me or ask me to referee any squabbles. It’s as if I wasn’t there, and it was total bliss– like zero calorie free range chocolate covered Doritos bliss.  It lasted for 37 minutes.  To celebrate, I chopped an onion uninterrupted and then went pee pee solo.  It was a perfect milestone.
  2. First joke.  Any of us could be raising the next Seinfeld (without the horrible taste in clothes; see black jeans and white sneakers), so why not celebrate what might be the birth of your child’s comedic genius?  This milestone was one of my favorite: Sadie made a joke, and she knew it. And it was actually funny.  It was more shocking than that day I looked at her little belly and saw that her umbilical cord had fallen off.  The joke? I can’t remember, but trust me, she’s the next Tina Fey.
  3. Sartorial mastery.  What about the day your daughter learns that wearing a skirt with a dress is not the best use of clothing?  What about the day she looks at you and says, “Maybe I won’t change my clothes seven times before dinner? Maybe just three times.”  What about the first time your son lets you dress him in any old shirt and doesn’t clamor for something with Spiderman on it?  There are so many milestones around clothing that I need a whole separate book for this category.  But my all-time favorite milestone around clothing was when Sadie recognized Ann Taylor Loft from the highway.
  4. Music to my ears. I’ll admit it, I cried real tears during these two special moments.  In the span of one week, both of my kids hit musical milestones that are still hard to talk about without choking up.  On Monday, October 7, 2012 Sadie yelled, “I see Willie Nelson!” as we drove by a bus stop.  Was it really the Red Headed Stranger from Abbott, Texas? No, but it was his doppelgänger– a man with two gray braids and a red bandana was waiting for the bus.  It’s super hard not to brag about this.  Then, three days later, we were listening to my new Johnny Cash-Willie Nelson album and Simon proved he knew the difference between Johnny and Willie.  He summed up his opinion thusly: “Johnny is boring. I only like Willie.”  I pulled the car over and gave him a hug and a lollipop.
  5. Gratitude: Lots of parents, including myself, chafe at the lack of gratitude for the hours we put in to the hard work of raising kids.  Sure, I’ve taught my kids to say “please” and “thank you,” and roughly 15% of the time they actually do, but the evening that Sadie sat down at the dinner table and said, “Mom, thank you for this delicious dinner,” I almost fainted in my nachos.  I mean, you hope you raise a child that understands the value of a dinner consisting of grated cheese over tortilla chips, but it may take years to know if you have.  Again, I hate to brag, but I’m totally raising a little foodie who is not afraid to express praise and gratitude for my hard work (I mean, that cheese doesn’t melt itself and those chips don’t magically appear in a beautiful pinwheel pattern on a microwave-safe plate.)

What milestones are you celebrating?

Work it, Girl

Because I love you, I collected some of my favorite posts about work I read this week.  These ladies each articulate something hilarious, heartbreaking, and ultimately powerful about work.  I am inspired by their stories as I work my way through my own.  I am also thinking of all the songs I know about work– 9 to 5, Take This Job and Shove It, Woman’s Work (sniff, sniff), I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.  How come songs about work aren’t happier?  Notwithstanding, of course, the dwarves’ classic Whistle While You Work, which I actually do, even though a co-worker somewhat subtly suggested I STOP WHISTLING BECAUSE IT’S ANNOYING.


Image credit:

Image credit:

What’s your favorite work ditty?  Let’s make a mix.

And don’t forget to read this great posts that examine a slice of working life!

How about a job delivering phone books? Read here.

Ever bribed your kids so you could attend a conference call on a Sunday night?  Read here.

Do you remember the day your career really started?  Read here.

My Relationship With Screen Time Sucks

I am sitting on the floor of my bedroom and my kids are two feet above me on my bed.  They’re watching the iPad.  That dude from that show about modern-day Superman (Tom someone? Smallville?) is defining the word “experiment.”  They are riveted, even though they’ve seen that snippet a dozen times.


Down here on the floor, I am feeling enormous shame.  It’s not “mommy guilt”– that sounds almost cute compared to what I am feeling.  I’m in a vortex of Mommy Failure or “Who the hell let you have kids”?  I loathe seeing my kids zoned out with the iPad.  In our new house, I insisted the TV go into the basement where we never hang out because I do not want to “use” it.  I’ve got that pesky addictive personality– if I can use something, I will, and now that I’m a parent, I can’t stand the shame that follows.

We’re all exhausted.  Jeff’s out of town; Sadie has been super sick, and I’ve been sorta sick.  We’re marinating in some murky mix of malaise, cabin fever, illness, and weird bursts of energy that hit each of us at different times.  It’s not hellish, but I need a break.  I’ve been parenting since 6:30 AM without any adult supervision, and Sweet Willie Nelson On Tour, I need a 40 minute break.  You know, less than an hour, but more than 30 minutes.

No, it’s not going to kill them to have screen time, and I don’t judge other people who use TV/screen time more liberally.  Who the hell has time to judge you? I am too busy judging YOURS TRULY.  If anything I am jealous that other people have a healthy relationship to technology; I just use it as a weapon to beat myself up with.

Why can’t I just be fucking normal? Why can’t I just give myself a little break today so I can write for a few minutes and clear my head?  Sadie and I have been stuck to each other since before the sun came up.  We’ve picked out pumpkins and eaten two meals and three snacks together.  We picked Simon up from school and commenced to do a pumpkin-based art project consisting mainly of painting our pumpkins with watercolors. (NOTE: Pumpkins and watercolors don’t mix.)  We had a quiet time and worked an alphabet puzzle.  I knew I was about to lose my marbles so I bundled everyone up for a walk.  We got 10 paces before Sadie was crying it was too cold.

I surrendered.  I came home.  I whipped out the iPad and despite all the energy I brought to my relationships with my kids today, I guarantee you I will get into bed tonight beating myself up for that forty minutes.  Jeff never uses the iPad.  Why can’t I be more creative? Why am I so lazy?  What if I start using the iPad more and more and then stop parenting altogether? And there will be another voice.  She’s just as annoying.  Why are you so uptight? It wasn’t porn, it was Sesame Street. Stop aiming for some Pinterest/nonexistent perfection and work on balance, you super freak.

You know what the worst part of all of this is? It’s not the damn iPad or feeling sick or not getting to go on a walk today.  Nope.  It’s the fact that I’ve made 40 minutes of iPad time a capital crime and have now spent my free time writing about how awful I am for giving it to myself.  It’s the out-of-whackness in my head about what that means about me or my kids’ childhoods or my work ethic.

It’s messed up.  It’s really messed up.

I’d love to end with a fun pun or joke about this but I can’t think of one.   That’s how messed up this is.

School Picture Forms: I’ll Never Get Those 12 Hours Back

Pictures days of old... I look like a cross between a Roman Catholic Nun and some kid in a Stephen King movie.

Pictures days of old… I look like a cross between a Roman Catholic Nun and some kid in a Stephen King movie.


Ya’ll, despite the 500 blog posts that seem to indicate otherwise, I am smart. Really smart.  Not so smart that I’m “scary” or “genius” or Nobel Prizey, but smart enough to finish numero uno at law school.  And I refuse to apologize for bragging about that, because FUCK PLAYING SMALL ALL THE DAMN TIME.  Plus, it underscores the important point I am about to make.

Why, for the love of Kodachrome, are my children’s picture day forms so dang hard to understand?  My two-year-old son’s form was about six pages single-spaced.  At first I thought it was too heady to comprehend because I was ovulating.  Then there was the government shut-down, which affected my higher functioning.  Was my brain shrinking? Was I pregnant? Why oh why couldn’t I figure out whether I wanted the “Giggle” package or the “Grins” one?  (Seriously, is there anything lamer than picture-day puns?  Where was the “shits-and-giggles” mega-deal package?)

My daughter’s form wasn’t much better, but I muddled through.  Then, my husband threw a wrench into the works by suggesting we sign Sadie up for the “retake” day.  While it’s factually accurate that the initial picture looked nothing like Sadie, and could hardly be construed as a “good” picture, I was offended that he suggested we do “retakes.”  How millennial can you be? I have years of less-than-stellar school pictures that are part of the photo essay of my life.  Isn’t that the point of school pictures– they make you look hideous and provide an archival reminder of how bad your parents’ taste in youth fashion was?

When I logged on to sign up for “retakes,” I thought for a second I was applying for a mortgage, except that would be easier and less time-consuming than dealing with school pictures.  I am not sure I successfully signed up for the retakes because two different computers went down before I could complete the questions.

In the end, we’ll have the damn school pictures, even though we have no intention of displaying them anywhere because we literally have one thousand better pictures of both of the kids.  But you know, there’s something about a school picture.  I just had to have ’em, even though I’ll never get those 12 hours I spent filling out the forms back.

Halloween Costumes: He’s DIY and I’m “Let’s Order It On Line”

He's thinking it through as we speak.

He’s thinking it through as we speak.

Jeff’s been working on our Halloween costumes.  As is his way, he’s all in– he’s dreaming up something original, homemade, clever.  All the things you want in a Halloween costume.

After dinner Saturday, he got that look in his eye that tells me he’s got a plan and it’s going to blow my mind. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to build a prototype. I’ll be back by dessert.”  Who uses the word “prototype” on a Saturday night in reference to his Halloween costume? I’m pretty sure I’ve never built a prototype of anything. Ever.

I sat on the couch with a cup of tea watching my children torture play with our dinner guests, while straining to hear if Jeff was hammering or soldering anything.  He’s been known to do both, and more, in that small span of time between grilled burgers and pie.

“Go see what your dad is doing.” I urged the kids to sneak upstairs, because I hoped that would hurry Jeff up.  After all, I wanted some pie was curious about this so-called prototype.  Not one to be rushed, Jeff came down a good fifteen minutes later.  He had a pair of Simon’s pants, a helium balloon, and a bolt of cellophane that he’d turned into a costume that defies description.   Seriously. I can’t describe it.

From my slouched position on the couch, I listened to him explain where his arms will go and how he’ll make a replica of his own head instead of using the balloon.  I look over at my children who were wondering what the hell Jeff was talking about and why he had drawn a smiley face on the balloon they just got at a birthday party.

In the next few days I will watch him perfect his vision, and we’ll step out in costume on Saturday night.  I’ve no doubt we will come home with a prize, even if it’s “most heart.”  I will continue to add my two cents to his design, even though my deep-down solution is to look for costumes on-line that could be rush-delivered to our house.  “I could buy white sheets from Amazon and we could go as ghosts,” I offer because I am lame, but still want to contribute.  Also, I like to solve “problems” by sitting on my ass and giving my credit card digits; he likes to use the raw materials laying in our house to create alter egos.

I love this DIY-ness that is deeply embedded in his DNA mostly because I don’t understand it one fucking bit.  There are a zillion Halloween pop-up stores all over Chicago.  It would take about eight minutes to get costumes and be done with this.  But that’s not his way.  It never will be.  And I’ll never understand it.

But come Saturday night, I’ll be holding the prize and riding his DIY wave all the way to victory, oh so grateful that opposites attract.

See his mummy costume? He dyed yards of cheese cloth in coffee for weeks so it would look "old".  Me? I bought a wig, cut some bangs and went as Cleopatra.

See his mummy costume? He dyed yards of cheese cloth in coffee for weeks so it would look “old”. Me? I bought a wig, cut some bangs and went as Cleopatra.