I Should’ve Spent More Time on Facebook

…Said no one ever on their deathbed. But it was actually a friend’s Facebook post that served as a wakeup call to me that I was wasting away in one of my anxiety-induced future-planning panics and not being present.

This friend was one of the first moms I ever met in Asheville. We had our sons within days of each other. We went to story times together at the library. Her son’s first birthday party was my first kid’s birthday party. I was so blown away by the artistic talent she displayed on the invitation that it remained pinned on my bulletin board for several years. We still run into each other every now and then and have mutual friends. We are no longer what I would call friends, but acquaintances sounds so cold, and “cold” is not an adjective anyone would use to describe an interaction with “Sarah.”

We are the same age. We have boys the same age. And she was diagnosed with advanced, aggressive, incurable bile duct cancer. When I read these words that she found the courage to write and share, my heart rose into my throat, then sank to the pit of my stomach.

I started this post two weeks ago and yesterday found out that Sarah passed away. I’ve always empathized deeper than I probably should. In preschool, I sobbed when my friend Shannon (not a good friend) told me her grandmother (who I never met) died. I just couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes, imagining how Shannon must be feeling, and it hurt so much. So now, even knowing Sarah as briefly as I did, I’m overcome with sadness for her family and friends. And sad for her that as a mother, she didn’t get to see her child grow up.

I’m hugging my children a little more this week, spending a little more time on the back deck staring at the mountains and enjoying the outside sounds, spending a little less time on Airbnb planning my next escape.

Fuck a bucket list. I’m keeping a Fuck It list… a list of people, places and things that aren’t worth my time or energy. I may never make it to that women’s surfing/yoga retreat in Mexico, but when I find myself sweating the small stuff or reaching for that imaginary Xanax, I can take out my Fuck It List to remind myself that life is short, and can in the most tragic of situations, be even shorter. Will I wish that I traveled more? Maybe. But I know I won’t wish that I’d been scrolling more through Facebook to see friends on their beach vacations, kids all smocked clothes and smiles, while my own daughter stamps our walls because I’m too busy “liking” everyone else’s lives to notice. Facebook? Fuck it.

 

 

How to Pick Up a Babysitter

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Dave and I started dating in college, so I hadn’t been “out there” since before cell phones. Cell phones, people. I’ve had to bring my game out for friend dating, but what happens once you make friends is that you want to go out with them. Without kids.

If you don’t have parents in the area to watch your kids, or if you’ve decided the push/pull of passive-aggressiveness and guilt that comes with it isn’t worth it, you’ve got to find a babysitter.

Asking a friend for the name of their babysitter is like asking a serial killer where he keeps his victims. They’re not going to give that shit up without a fight — some things are too sacred. My mom still talks with contempt in her voice about how our neighbors stole our best babysitter from us, only to leave us with her less responsible sister, Julie, who would throw parties at our house while they were out. Julie would tell my sister and I we were playing hide and seek, and then never seek us. She bribed me with a giant stuffed Jokey Smurf. (I was four, and an easy target.)

So when my daughter’s preschool teacher introduced me to Sarah*, I didn’t waste any time. Here’s how I picked up my babysitter — and how you can, too — in 4 swift steps:

  1. Assess your surroundings. Where are you meeting her? I was meeting Sarah on the playground at my son’s elementary school where she works with the after school program. This tells me already that she has experience with kids. If I were meeting her in a bar, at 1am, I might be a tad more wary.
  2. Lay it all out there. This isn’t a potential new friend, so you don’t have to play it cool. Don’t be afraid to let her know how much you want her. But also let her know upfront what she’s in for. If she gets to your house to find out you have 3 dogs and she’s allergic to dogs, there goes your babysitter and your evening.
  3. Exchange contact info. Don’t put it off, saying, “Oh, I’m running late so I’ll get your number from X later.” Later will turn into never.
  4. Set a time to follow up. If you don’t have a specific date in mind for the first babysitting gig, tell her. That way she won’t wonder why she’s not hearing from you. If you do, go ahead and get it in both of your calendars. Really good babysitters are in super high demand — Abbie’s preschool teacher is booked with babysitting, dogsitting and housesitting jobs through the fall!

Now it’s up to you whether or not you want to talk money right away. For me, unless she says she charges $20 an hour for two kids, there’s not much she’s going to say that’s going to turn me off. We are REALLY in need of some nights out with and without friends, but DEFINITELY without kids. I’d rather lure her to the house first where there’s no turning back and then negotiate the rate. That being said, we also make sure to tip really well, especially the first few times, to make sure she knows how much we appreciate her and to gain her loyalty.

So we now have a great babysitter and I’m so excited I can’t stand it! It’s like how I felt when I found my first true friend after college, but the next level. I’m not sure what’s after this… I’m sure whatever it is will make me feel even older. Perhaps it will lead to a, “How I Found the Perfect Plastic Surgeon” post. But then you’d know I had work done, which of course I’d never do.

*I’ve changed the name of my sitter to protect her privacy and also to keep you from stealing her.

That time I stopped making excuses for writing my novel and just wrote it

This is that time.

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With every friend and colleague who publishes a book, I become more and more motivated to actually start writing mine on paper (or rather typing mine on computer) and stop merely musing about it in my head.

I recently read a friend‘s manuscript and it wasn’t good. It was freaking brilliant. I couldn’t put it down. Sure it needed some polishing and shaping, but she wrote a novel. And she did it while working part-time, mothering three children, wifing a husband, cleaning a house, caring for two dogs, a cat, and I lost count of how many chickens. She has me beat. I have no excuses.

Here’s David Sedaris’ advice for aspiring writers: “Write every day and read everything you can get your hands on. Write every day … with a pen that’s shaped like a candy cane.”

I don’t have the candy cane-shaped pen, but I’m going to start the whole every day thing. It might not always be on the blog. I’m also going to keep a journal handy — Lord knows I have enough half-filled ones lying around.

I have my main character. I know her pretty well, and I know what she’s been up to. I just need to figure out how to introduce her to you.  She’s pretty sure you’ll hate her, but she doesn’t give a shit. (She actually does give a shit, but she pretends she doesn’t.)

As I write this, I’m in a cafe listening to three middle-aged women in the booth across from me talking about their writing and their works-in-progress, and I just know it’s time for mine to be in progress. The woman on the left says she doesn’t care if hers becomes an NYT Bestseller. She’s a big fat liar. I want mine to be a success. And I want it to happen while I’m young enough to go on a book tour without an oxygen tank in tow. A nitrous tank would be cool though.

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20 Thousand Questions: The Real Kids’ Travel Game

You’ve gotta love the curious minds of kindergartners. But the questions, my God, the fucking questions. Kids are so cute. They’re so precocious. Until you’re stuck in the car with one for 8 hours and sticking to your guns with your “I didn’t have an iPad when I was your age, I just looked out the window” crap.

Jed’s questions go from smart and philosophical:

  • What’s the goverment?
  • What does it mean to judge?

To strange and downright disturbing:

  • Do raccoons lose teeth and if they do, does the tooth fairy visit them?
  • Why is it illegal to dig up dead bodies?

It’s like having Carlton Blanchard (Wings) buckled up in your backseat:

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“Why do they call them handcuffs if you wear them on your wrists?”

“If the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, what do you suppose a doorknob would feel like?”

“If they were to carpet the state of Florida, how long would it take to vacuum it?”

“If dogs don’t sweat, then what are their armpits for???”

“Geez Louise, for the love of Mike, for Pete’s sake; Who are these people?

I’ve tried the “answering his question with a question” tactic when I don’t know how else to respond: “I don’t know Jed, do you think the tooth fairy visits raccoons?”

But some things you can’t leave to chance.

Me: “Digging up dead bodies is wrong, Jed. It’s just wrong.”

Jed: “But why?”

Me: “It just is. Doesn’t it just seem wrong to you?”

Jed: “Um, well –”

Me: “Yes! The answer is ‘yes!'”

What are some of the most shocking questions your kids have asked you? Have you been stumped or simply stunned?

What Nobody Tells You About Hannukah

For nine out of 10 Americans, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Whether you’re Christian or not, Christmas is a big freakin’ deal. Even the buggiest of bah-humbuggers can’t escape the incessant ringing of the Salvation Army bells and the red Starbucks cup fiasco in their social media feeds.

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But here’s what almost 10 out of 10 Americans don’t know: Hannukah is NOT a big deal.

Because it runs in tandem with Santa’s reindeer, many think that this Jewish holiday must hold a great deal of importance. But truth be told, it’s not even in the Hebrew bible. Historically, Jews gave and received gifts on a spring holiday called Purim. The story of Hannukah, which comes from the book of Maccabees, is a minor Jewish holiday at best. And don’t get me started on the Maccabees. How bummed was I to find out only recently that the heroes of our Hannukah story were equivalent to modern day religious terrorists?

And then there’s the oil that was supposed to burn for one day but miraculously burns for eight days, hence the eight nights of presents (the part most folks are familiar with). As a child, I felt smug to have a holiday that lasted longer than Christmas and milked more gifts out of my family. As a parent, I’m glad my children have a reason to get gifts at a time of year when they would otherwise feel left out. But truth be told, Hannukah is not the Jewish Christmas. If you’re not a kid or don’t have kids, then Hannukah is hardly a holiday at all. It amazes me how businesses try to capitalize on such a trivial holiday, even making Hannukah toys for dogs (which of course, I can’t help but buy every year, they’re too funny!).

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Our big holidays are known as the High Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). They are nowhere near as fun as Christmas and Easter. No candy or presents. No bunnies or fat, jolly white guys (unless you count the sweaty dude in the third row at temple). Kids can miss school — they are excused absences, but absences nonetheless. And for what? To sit in services all day wearing itchy tights and neckties, followed by more sitting around the family dinner table (in Yom Kippur’s case, after a day of fasting). It’s arguable that being in school is more fun than sitting through a two-hour guilt-ridden sermon about why you should come to temple for more than just two days a year for the holidays.

So if you accidentally wish me a Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, don’t feel bad. Or if you wonder why I might not travel to spend Hannukah with my family, you can stop wondering. Have a very Merry Christmas, and don’t worry about us. We have our Chinese food on Christmas Eve, and our movies on Christmas Day, and we love it.

Our ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Paci Policy and Slacking on Child No. 2

For the first six months of my first child’s life, if he dropped a pacifier, I wouldn’t put it back in his mouth without washing it in hot water with soap or sterilizing it in the microwave in one of those plastic doohickies that came with the paci pack.

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My friend Ashley saw me do this once and had to stifle her laughter. Her daughter was almost a year older than my son and had been there, done that. She had crossed the germ threshold, and little did I know, I was about a month away from doing the same.

With the first child, and especially in the first few months, you do everything They tell you to do — They being doctors, family, friends, the people who write package directions, and of course, The Internet. It’s like the first few weeks of your first semester at college. You don’t know your professors well enough to know what you can and can’t get away with, so you actually do all of the assigned work until you have the ins and outs of each class figured out. But once you gain confidence and find your rhythm as a new student — or in this case a new mom — you can figure out which shortcuts, tips and tricks you’re comfortable using. They become a second-hand source and you begin to go with your gut.

It’s amazing how slippery a slope can become once it’s covered with your guts. One minute you’re washing  a pacifier 14 times a day, and the next you’re cheering inwardly when the same pacifier lands “right side up” on the sidewalk before popping it back into baby’s mouth, hoping no one is watching but not really caring either way.

At home, pacifiers pop in and out of our lives like bubbles. One minute, there’s four or five floating around and then — poof! — they’re gone. And right when I give up and go out and buy more, the old ones resurface. But sometimes they reappear in a most unsettling place: baby’s mouth. I will put Abbie in the gated play area while I’m making breakfast, and when I come back to pick her up and put her in her high chair, she’s sporting a yellow pacifier with a graphic of a hipster giraffe wearing nerdy glasses that I haven’t seen in weeks. Was it under the couch covered in lint? Hidden in the bottom of the toy bin amid stray dog hairs and lovey fuzz? I don’t want to know and thankfully Abbie can’t tell me. We have an understanding that way. The fact is, it’s been in her mouth for at least three minutes and the damage has been done.

With child number two, I haven’t relaxed into a total state of apathy. I do bathe, feed, and clothe her, and even wash her pacifiers on a regular basis. When I’m not sure if something is chocolate or poop, I still smell it rather than lick it. Although I do feel that Abbie has missed out on a few things being the youngest. With Jed, my first, I documented everything. I kept a private blog for close friends and family updating them on his milestones and favorite things. I thought everyone slacked on their second child until I was looking through a box my parents gave me after a recent move that included my baby book. I am a second child and my mom recorded everything. This “word about me from Mom” part was the sweetest. I don’t think anyone has said such nice things about me since:

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Here’s a few words about Abbie from her mom at 14 months:

She adores her big brother and loves blowing kisses, even to the baby on the Huggies box. Her favorite toys are her dolls (her “babies”), cars, books, and anything that plays music. The girl LOVES to dance. If there’s a melody in an insurance commercial, she’s dancing to it. She doesn’t like fruit, but loves meat, veggies, and enjoyed her first mac-n-cheese so much that she sang and clapped between bites. She babbles like nobody’s business and has “Abbie speak” for Jed, doggies, and pointing and asking what things are. And every now and then (but never when I want to show her off) she says “hi” and “bye.” Jed says he doesn’t need any of his own toys in the playroom because she is his favorite toy:) He lives to make her laugh.

So when Abbie gets older and she gets her box of things from me, I can print out a copy of this post to go with all of her straight A report cards, awards, chastity belt, and such.

The ‘Charlie and Lola’ Dinner for Picky Eaters

My son and I both love the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child. He giggles at the silly things that Lola does, while I love the mixed media illustrations (and the excuse to use my bad British accent when reading aloud).

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The one that gets reread the most in our house — because it’s the only one we own — is I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato. As you could guess, it’s about being a picky eater, something most every parent faces. (If you’re a parent and you don’t have this problem, keep it to yourself or everyone else will secretly loathe you. No one wants to hear about how your kid prefers edamame to ice cream.)

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In the book, Lola’s older brother Charlie cleverly tricks her into eating the foods she hates most: “Oh this isn’t mashed potato. People often think that but no, this is cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji.”

When we first started reading this book, Jed wasn’t eating half of the foods on Lola’s No Fly List. That’s when I suggested that we have a “Charlie and Lola dinner” one night.

Clockwise from top left: Orange twiglets from Jupiter, moonsquirters,  ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea, cloud fluff, and green drops from Greenland (middle).
Clockwise from top left: Orange twiglets from Jupiter, moonsquirters, ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea, cloud fluff, and green drops from Greenland (middle).

It was a total hit. For the first time ever, Jed ate all of his moonsquirters, orange twiglets, green drops, and cloud fluff (ocean nibbles are an easy sell in our house, but for the record he ate all of those, too).

There’s no recipe to share for this one — it’s just that easy.

Have you tricked your picky eater into trying (and even liking) new foods? Please share!

Father’s Day Craft — It’s Not Too Late!

It’s so great having a dad in your life who’s a cliche. There are so many more Father’s Day craft ideas out there when Dad loves fishing or golfing as opposed to say, handcuff collecting.

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Love might even be an understatement when it comes to my husband‘s relationship with fly fishing. So when it came to Father’s Day, I knew the only thing that would make him happy would be a day on the water. That, and an adorable handmade, heart-made gift from the two greatest little people in our lives:

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Thank you, Pinterest!

MOM: 1, HALLMARK: 0

This Is the Most F-ed Up Toy I’ve Ever Seen

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So I’m perusing Zulily for some clothes for my daughter, and see a sale called “All About the Human Body — for budding biologists.” My son loves science, so I had to take a look. Amidst the expected puzzles, models, and books — for children — there was this:

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That’s a plush fetus. Which is f-ed up enough, but then when you squeeze it, it makes a heartbeat sound. It’s marketed as a “fun gift idea for expectant parents.” I’d kill to be a fly on the wall at the baby shower where a mom-to-be unwraps this.

It turns out the company behind this, Giantmicrobes, makes a whole series of larger than life microbial designs. What started out as educational toys have also apparently become gag gifts for med students among other things.

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Let’s play a game called “Can you spot the herpes?”

 

Some of their best sellers include Swine Flu, Salmonella, and Herpes. So now you can give Herpes to your children. Okay, that’s kind of funny. My birthday’s coming up next month, and in case you’re wondering, I do NOT want a fat cell (got enough of those already):

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Or cancer.

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Screw Prozac, I have my tulips.

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One of my most favorite things about springtime: tulips. Purple tulips in particular (Dave if you are reading this, take note).

I had an empty milk bottle and Lucky Buddha beer bottle just waiting to reinvent themselves as vases.

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I love the way tulips are always reaching for the sun, at once twisty and optimistic — I can relate to that.

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I swear with all of this rainy, snowy gray weather and never-ending onslaught of germs, I thought I might break off the top of one of these bottles and use it for a whole other not-so-Pinterest-worthy purpose. So glad spring is here … just in time:)