Life in a Bottle

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My 3-year-old had her annual checkup recently with a pediatrician (I’ll call him Dr. M) we’ve been bringing her to since she was born. Dr. M has always been a little quirky. He wears crocs with no socks, even in the winter. He tells knock-knock jokes that my kids don’t get. He clears his throat a lot and has a habit of taking a long, deep breath and staring at the ceiling before answering a question. When he looks in my kids’ ears, he insists he sees Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, which I know is complete bullshit, but it makes them laugh.

Dr. M’s quirkiness has never bothered me. For one thing, he’s a damn good doctor. He diagnosed a scary lump on my son’s shin as a benign cyst (although he still referred us to a specialist who confirmed the diagnosis); He’s successfully treated multiple cases of ear infections, strep throat, mystery rashes and various other gross viruses my kids have contracted. Also, his personality is just what I’ve come to expect from a doctor. Every doctor I’ve ever met has been a bit socially awkward in either a weird/eccentric way or a serious, I-have-a-God-complex way. Dr. M’s demeanor is more the former, which I prefer to a doctor with a big ego. I chalk it up to the pressure of having a job in which people’s lives are at stake. Doctors don’t have time for social niceties or small talk. They have life-saving shit on their minds. They don’t binge-watch shows on Netflix or spend hours preparing a special “Game of Thrones”-themed dinner before the season finale like the rest of us do. They don’t have time to watch TV. And if they do, they watch documentaries on PBS.  I know I’m really generalizing here. I have no idea what doctors do when they’re not doctoring. I’m not friends with any doctors. (I know a couple chiropractors, but they don’t count.)

Anyway, I usually don’t have anything serious to discuss at these routine appointments, which I’m immensely grateful for. But lately I’d been a little concerned about my daughter’s attachment to her bottle, so I decided to ask Dr. M about it. I explained that while she drinks out of a cup, she insists on a bottle first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I’m not sure what advice I expected Dr. M to give. I guessed he might talk about how to wean her off the bottle or lecture me on the importance of saying “no” to my kids every once in a while. (Believe me, I could use that lecture.) Instead, he got philosophical. Really, oddly, philosophical.

Dr. M took the usual long, deep breath, stared at the ceiling for what felt like five minutes and said, “We all have our bottles in life, don’t we?”

I shit you not. He really said this. At first, I thought it was a rhetorical question, but then I realized he was waiting for an answer. He seemed disappointed when I shrugged my shoulders. ”I have a bottle at my desk right now,” he said. “It’s filled with iced coffee. Most people never go anywhere without a water bottle or a La Croix.” I was going to point out that La Croix only comes in a can, but I didn’t want to split hairs.

“My point is,” he continued, “if a bottle gives her some comfort at the end of a long day, it’s fine by me. If a bottle helps her relax and fall asleep, then all the better. I’m not concerned about it.”

He paused, and I thought of chiming in with my bottle of choice, but I didn’t want him to call DCFS, so I kept my mouth shut and nodded in agreement.

“If she needs a few sips of a bottle first thing in the morning, who are we to judge,” he went on. “Some people may tell you it’s bad for her. Don’t listen to those people.“

It was here that I suspected we weren’t talking about milk anymore, but that was probably just me projecting.

By this point in the conversation, Gwen was so bored she was squirming in my lap, so I let her loose. Big mistake. I’m pretty sure that within seconds of being set free, she’d touched, and likely also licked, every germ-ridden surface of the room. (You try holding a toddler still on your lap for more than three minutes without a screen. It’s impossible.)

Just as I was about to interrupt Dr. M and possibly lose my cool, the nurse came in carrying Gwen’s vaccinations. I’d never in my life been so happy to see something that would cause my daughter pain. (And yes, I vaccinate my children according to the recommended schedule. Because I love them.)

Dr. M ended our appointment in his customary way, by awkwardly high-fiving my daughter. And roughly an hour after we had arrived at his office, Gwen got a sticker for being brave and we were free to go.

Later that night, as my family and I huddled on the sofa watching American Ninja Warrior, Gwen with her bottle of warm milk, Owen flipping a water bottle on the coffee table, Russ sipping on a beer and me sipping on a glass of chardonnay, I chuckled to myself about Dr. M’s lecture. What does that guy know anyway? I thought to myself, as I sat back and took another gulp from my glass.

 

 

 

 

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Giraffe Envy

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My three-year-old won’t go anywhere without her “Jaa-Jaa” — the giraffe/blankie she’s had since birth. Jaa-Jaa smells pretty bad. He has a couple of holes. One of his ears is missing. She doesn’t care. We bought another Jaa-Jaa as a back-up in case the “real” Jaa-Jaa got dropped in the toilet or something, but he’s useless. She can easily tell the real one from the imposter.

Over the years, Jaa-Jaa has become like a member of our family. He goes everywhere with us: Costco, the grocery store, the dentist. He’s been to three different states. He’s in every family photo, even the professional ones we have taken once a year. There are only two places Jaa-Jaa is forbidden: the bathtub and the plastic tub of water in our backyard that we refer to as a “pool.” When my daughter takes a bath, Jaa-Jaa waits on the floor nearby. When she goes in the pool, she sets him up in the window overlooking the backyard. (See above photo.) She places a chair under him in case he slips and falls, and sets out a cup of tea for when he gets thirsty. She even closes the shutters so he doesn’t feel a draft. Before she leaves, she hugs and kisses him for like five minutes. Don’t worry, Jaa-Jaa, she whispers. I’ll be right back. 

This is the same girl who pinches her sweet brother when he tries to hug her, kicks and cries if her grapes are cut the wrong way and bites when her ears are cleaned. I’m pretty certain that if our family were in danger, she’d save Jaa-Jaa before she helped any of us.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad my daughter has something to comfort her when she needs comforting. Jaa-Jaa is there for her when I can’t be: during nap time at daycare and sleep-overs at grandma and grandpa’s house, for example. Yet I can’t help but be a little jealous of Jaa-Jaa. I know it sounds ridiculous. I’m jealous of a cotton blankie with a giraffe head. The truth is,  Jaa-Jaa is more than a piece of fabric. He’s something my daughter adores. He’s a soft, fluffy anchor she holds tight to now, but will someday, inevitably, let go.

Until that day comes though (and long after it, I suspect), I will compete fiercely for her love and attention — no matter how hard she pinches or bites.

Litany of a Middle-aged Mom

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So I know it’s been a while. I don’t really have an excuse. But I’m back. Hey. Maybe it was turning 40 that did it. Or that cold that knocked me out for two weeks. (The same one the kids got that slowed them down for about two minutes.) I used to be able to bounce back from that shit overnight. But I’ve come to the painful realization that I’m not young anymore. So like any lapsed Catholic facing her inevitable mortality (God, I’m such a cliché!), I’ve started going to church again. You already know that, though, don’t you?

Church is pretty sweet, by the way. It’s a lot more fun than I remember. The one I go to now is Lutheran. You know the place downtown near the Trader Joe’s and Luxurious Nail? (Why isn’t it Luxurious Nails? And what’s wrong with me that that bothers me so much?) Anyway, this church is awesome. Not only does it have it’s own church-band and comfy pews; there’s a coffee bar and daycare. A coffee bar and daycare! It’s like a mini vacation every Sunday morning. So I’m going to church again.

I want to start praying again, too. The problem is this Monkey Brain you gave me. (Not that I’m complaining. I like having a brain.) I either go completely blank or get distracted and forget what I wanted to ask for, I mean, pray about. Anyway, I really want to do this Old School. So here I am, kneeling at the foot of my bed, hands clasped, eyes squinting reverently up at the ceiling. Is this working? Do I look like an idiot?

First, Lord: I ask for your forgiveness for all my sins, known and unknown. For I typically know not what I do. Please also — damn it — where did that yellow spot come from? I’m sorry, God. Please prevent me from dwelling on the stain on the comforter that wasn’t there yesterday even though it smells like mustard and probably won’t come out if I get it dry-cleaned. Give me strength, Lord, to forgive my husband for eating an egg salad sandwich in bed again after I’ve told him a thousand times to not eat in bed. Forgive him for his gluttony. And forgive me for my spitefulness when I order a new Pottery Barn comforter online tomorrow. I know it’s overpriced. Lord, let the new comforter serve as a constant reminder to my boorish husband not to disobey me. I’m sorry, forgive me for calling him boorish, he’s really not that bad. He’s actually more of a — what’s a gentle animal, God? I can’t think of one. A lamb? A platypus?

O Lord, please forgive my husband and children for their sins, for they too know not what they do — especially Owen when it comes to playing the recorder. He’s just not gifted musically. Please help him to realize this on his own before some asshole tells him. Also, give me strength to turn the other cheek when he flips his water bottle on the kitchen table over and over and over again. He’s a simple boy, God.

Lord, thank you so much for my family! I know you were probably pissed-off about that abortion, but I really do appreciate you helping me through my twenties and into this lovely, middle-class, mid-western existence. I know things were a little touch-and-go there for a while. If you hadn’t brought Russ and I together, I’d probably still be waiting tables and doing bad community theater. So please help me to remember how blessed I am (But never feel so blessed that I need to use the hashtag “blessed” or close an email with “Have a blessed day” because that’s obnoxious).

If possible, Lord, I ask that you remove the evil from Gwendolyn. She is clearly possessed by some sort of demon or suffering from a mutant gene inherited from her father. Why else would she have bitten that toddler at daycare? Why, God? Grant me patience for when she insists on buckling herself into the car seat when I’m running late or refuses to eat anything but fruit snacks and cheesy puffs. Help me to remember that I will not have a nervous breakdown because Thou — and chardonnay — art always with me.

Grant me the wisdom to … please don’t let that be Owen getting out of bed for another glass of water. Don’t let it be him, Lord. I was just in there. It better not be him for the hundredth time. Never mind. It’s the cat. God bless Sebastian.

Lord, I really want to be close to you again. Not too close. I don’t want to be up there with you or anything — not yet. I know. Where have I been the last four decades, right? I get it. Maybe I’m in the throes of a mid-life crisis, but the thing is, having a three-year-old is really scary — because I’m 40, and she can outrun me. So please keep me in good health, Lord, at least until Gwen is out of college. Someone needs to protect her from hipsters with hair buns who say “brah” when they mean “bro.” Please steer her away from those types, but not so far that she ends up in the arms of a Republican. I don’t think I could handle that, Lord. And don’t forget about Owen. He’s also going to need your help, especially if he keeps trying to play Clash of Clans on his phone while riding his bike.

Finally, God, don’t let either of them grow up too fast, because childhood is fleeting, adulthood is tedious, and garage drinking can wait.

Amen.

The glue that holds my sanity together

I used to waste a lot of time worrying about all the things I should have done with my life career-wise, all the missed opportunities: If only I’d majored in literature or creative writing in college instead of marketing. (I could have had a New York Times best seller by now!) If only I hadn’t spent my 20s in New York City waiting tables and trying to be the next Meryl Streep when I sucked at acting. If only I hadn’t wasted so much time and energy during that same period, on Barry.  If only I hadn’t eaten all those Little Debbie snack cakes, I’d be super skinny right now. (I still wish that.)

Then I realized, if I hadn’t had all those experiences,  all the odd jobs and wrong turns and bad boyfriends and bouts of binge eating, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And worse, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

I blog because writing, like pretending I don’t see my 3-year-old drinking out of the parmesan cheese shaker at Applebee’s, is the glue that holds my sanity together. And since having kids, I need a shitload of glue.

Go Bears!

Owen with his 2nd place trophy

I never thought I’d be one of those moms who actually gave a shit if her son scored a home run, pitched a no-hitter or won a baseball game. Actually, out of all those things I just listed, up until a few months ago, I only knew what “baseball game” meant. Of course, I wanted him to have fun and do well, but I never felt passionate about the winning part. Then I realized that my son is good, really good. I noticed the opposing teams would try hard to strike him out and didn’t want him to pitch because they were afraid of his fast balls. After that, my attitude changed pretty damn quick.

Now I guess I’m one of THOSE moms. The problem is, I don’t have the cheering skills down like some of these other parents. My voice cracks and I end up screaming at the wrong times like I’m on a 7-second delay. Then when I do get fired up and think up some words of encouragement on my own, they’re always inappropriate. In hindsight, shouting “Destroy those little fuckers!” might not have been in the spirit of good sportsmanship. But neither is getting red-faced and arguing with the umpire (or is it the referee?) like some parents do. At least I don’t do that. Not yet, anyway.

The Bears had a great season, but ended up losing the state championship to another town. As always, though, it was interesting to watch.

Some things overheard at my son’s last game:

From the parents:
1. Stop writing Suck It in the dirt and pay attention to the game, Tommy!
2. Pull up your goddamn pants, Charlie, or I’m coming out there.
3. The other way, Cole! Run the other way!

From the players:
1. Mom, can I puh-leeze pee behind this bush?
2. He hit me in my Jujy-fruits!
3. I’m bored. Can we go to Dairy Queen now?

 

Open letter to my Craigslist troll

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Squeaky

Hello again. Thank you for yet another inquiry. And to answer your question, no, you’re not imagining things! The 100% real (bonded) leather recliner you saw advertised on Craigslist, the one whose lineage you were so concerned with, the one you said didn’t look like it was worth $40, much less $400, the one I told you over and over and over again had been sold, is officially BACK ON THE MARKET!!!!!!!

Believe it or not, it really was sold for two days to a nice man who runs a homeless shelter in Minneapolis. Yet just when we thought we’d said goodbye to good ol’ Squeaky forever (Don’t worry, Squeaky only squeaked when Bob and I had sex on him, which wasn’t often and we’d always put down a blanket. LOL!!!!!!!!) this guy comes banging on our door to return him, grumbling some nonsense about Squeaky smelling like cat piss and cheese, blah, blah, blah. Some people, right!!??

Squeaky smells fine to me! And why didn’t he notice the smell BEFORE he tied Squeaky to the back of his pickup and drove him clear across town in the pouring rain? Like I said to the guy yesterday, we only have six cats, and they are all — every, single one — litter box trained. And even if they weren’t, we’d never let them get their paws on Squeaky. The only animal in our home who was ever allowed to sit on Squeaky was Lucifer, our Saint Bernard, and the only thing he ever leaked on to that chair was drool. Anyway, I know for a fact Squeaky didn’t smell like pee when he left our house because I doused him in about a gallon of Febreze the night before.

Long story short, I’m happy to say that your persistence has paid off: Squeaky is all yours!!!!!!!!!! (For $400 cash, of course)

The Days of My Life

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I’m pretty sure that all of my problems can be traced back to this perm.

Growing up, I had one simple dream: To be Hope Brady from the soap opera Days of Our Lives. (If you haven’t heard of Days of Our Lives, you are obviously 12 years old and shouldn’t be reading this blog. You should be doing your homework. But if you’re an adult and get the chance, Google it. It’s been around for like 100 years and it’s AMAZING.)
Hope Brady had everything I wanted to have: great hair, skinny thighs, lots of friends and the town dreamboat, Bo Brady.

Thanks to my awesome grandma, I was introduced to Hope Brady and soap operas at the impressionable young age of five. And so began a life of unrealistic expectations and disappointment.

When I was old enough to realize that I was never going to be Hope Brady, like it was physically impossible for me to be her, I decided to shift my focus to a more attainable dream: becoming a famous actress. How hard could that be, right? I’d move to New York City, take a few classes, pay my dues working in community theater for a couple years and then get discovered by a big-time director while walking in the West Village.

Except it wasn’t that easy. After nearly a decade in Manhattan, I was no closer to my dream than the day I left the small Connecticut suburb I grew up in for the big city. So I decided it was high time I came down to earth and set a more realistic goal. I would make all those years of mental illness, bad boyfriends, odd jobs and missed opportunities work for me: I would write a memoir! And what better way to achieve a dream of writing a book than to start a blog. Am I right? Actually, this is probably a huge waste of time …