You might hate dressing up for Halloween.
You might prefer an event where your cup runneth over with booze.
You might want to spend your Saturday night cozying up with a good book.
But, you… had… children.
Now, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU.
We initially had plans to attend a neighbor’s adult Halloween party, a highly-anticipated event in our hood.
Instead, I traded Jello shots for rum and Coke Zero at my mother-in-law’s house.
I planned to be something cute for Halloween, but couldn’t squeeze into the beer girl costume, probably because of all of the beer I’ve consumed trying to cope with parenthood.
Instead, I wore an oversized Anna costume with a wig and felt like a chunky Disney princess with head lice.
Alma wore her Dolly meets Elsa wig and complained about it the entire time, but refused to take it off.
The kids consumed just enough candy to become raging assholes for bath time.
Sunday rolls around and Oktoberfest is just around the corner from our house at the horse track.
Instead we head to Cracker Barrel and a farm in the opposite direction so the kids can enjoy a DRY fall festival.
At the restaurant, a waitress named Cessie is regaling us with stories about how much children love her while mine sit and sulk, refusing to answer any of her questions. (There’s nothing more embarrassing than someone asking your child how their food is and watching them scowl and shovel pancakes into their mouth with complete disregard.)
Can I vent for a moment about the perilous journey in and out of the Cracker Barrel lobby with toddlers? You are fortunate if you make it through there without one of them demanding a toy, grabbing a toy, breaking a toy.. or worse, breaking some super fragile, expensive Christmas tchotchke.
We make it to the farm and remember why we were reticent about going.
We tried a few years ago when Alma was just a baby.
She could’ve cared less.
We spent a shitload of money in order to check out some miserable bunnies, cranky goats and comatose pigs.
We were offered a free hot-dog and soda, for which you only had to stand in line for about 45 minutes.
Upon arriving, we are greeted by sour-faced, wrinkle-tanned, apathetic volunteers in neon green tee-shirts.
They are haphazardly snatching up kids by their armpits to place them on zombie ponies. (Picture Santa’s Elves at the mall in A Christmas Story)
I overheard one little girl request a specific pony and a volunteer with rotting teeth said, “Honey, I want a Ferrari, but oh well.”
Alma rode her horse like a stunt man from Seabiscuit. I was so proud… and then depressed while calculating the cost of riding lessons.
The kids got to feed a sketchy llama who kept whipping his ears back in irritation. They probably caught the next Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Goat Flu in the petting zoo.
I went to get on a choo choo train with the kids because I saw other parents boarding and the volunteer said snarkily, “Only one parent per train car, I thought I made myself clear.”
Awesome. You just go ahead and speed off in that unregulated vehicle with my unbuckled children as you zoom around your horse-shit ridden farm packed with miserable caged animals that don’t belong.
There were lemurs.
On a farm.
And a Zorse.
The highlight for me was plucking individual grains of food out of the dirt for the poor, neglected donkeys who they had penned just outside the petting zoo.
Alma was obsessed with the hay stack.
Huxley got to throw balls at a pumpkin.
The kids has a great time.
I stared longingly at the city block-long line for food and drinks, even though there was no pot of beer at the end of that rainbow.
Back at home, I carved pumpkins with the kids.
All that really means is that my husband ran out for pizza while I carved pumpkins solo with the kids staring at me and repeatedly trying to grab the ridiculously sharp cutting tools.
I had to yell at my son every few minutes that he was about to amputate his own finger.
Let’s be honest, does anyone actually enjoy digging out pumpkin guts or that pumpkin fart smell that fills the room? Does anyone who doesn’t use a store bought pattern actually end up with a pumpkin they’re satisfied with?
They rode ponies, they played in hay, they watched someone else do all the hard work for Halloween and what did they get most excited about?
Daddy returning with pizza.
Then, it’s laundry, pre-cleaning for the cleaning lady and battling my daughter to get her to go to bed.
By the time it’s all over, all we want to do is watch a good scary movie on Netflix and even that is impossible.
We pick one… it’s foreign and dubbed over in English.
We choose another movie, it’s got subtitles.
I am too tired to try and read while watching a movie.
We end up watching a few minutes of something I don’t even remember and go to bed.
All so I can get up at the butt crack of dawn, brave rush hour traffic, get cut off by some douche in a Mustang, fall asleep during a meeting, drink too much crappy station coffee, get jittery and write about dead people.
Well, it’s not about me anymore.
At least they’re happy.
I am a horrible cook.
It has only taken me 34 years to figure that out. Over three decades and the straw that broke the camel’s back was dished up by my ungrateful children.
Last night, I made meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corn. The meatloaf is my mama’s recipe which I tweaked with a little Paula Deen diced tomato action.
As always, I serve the family first, then dish myself up a colder, congealing version for myself.
As I am making my plate, I hear my daughter say (before taking a bite) “I don’t like this!”
My husband says, “Me neither.”
I walk over and give Huck a bite and ask if he likes it. He shakes his head no.
Meatloaf is easy, but it takes a long time to cook so it’s already after 7pm and my family is boycotting my food.
I speed down Hillsborough Avenue, tears streaming down my cheeks to buy a Hot ‘N Ready cheese pizza.
I return to cheers of, “Mommy’s back with pizza!!”
I guzzle red wine, hold back tears and choke down my food with resentment.
It was not bad meatloaf.
It had peppers and onions.
That was my great failure, the unholy insult to their digestive tracts.
I have made spaghetti with real homemade meat sauce, chicken quesadillas, pineapple teriyaki chicken, sweet and sour meatballs, fried rice with honey teriyaki chicken, pesto pasta and just about anything else I can think of that children and a carnivore husband will consume and they think it’s ALL CRAP.
The real burn?
I actually think the shit tastes good. Maybe my tastebuds are busted.
It’s not just that the kids are picky or my husband has a profound aversion to vegetables.
They adore HIS cooking. Ropa Vieja, black beans and rice, Picadillo, Bistec Empanizado, beef stew… I could keep going. It’s all Cuban and it’s all amazing to the kids.
I happen to have already OD’d on Cuban food and prefer the more bland white folk meals, preferably meatless.
I think casseroles are cool.
I think I’m DONE cooking.
Boston Market, baby! Fish sticks and Mac n’ cheese. Hot ‘N Ready and breakfast for dinner. (cereal, because it doesn’t require a frying pan)
So, you’re probably wondering why this is a topic that would make me cry like a little bitch and shrink down into invisibility, diving into a pit of black, sticky despair.
I have come to the realization that I am old.
I am not a skinny, hot young thang anymore. I am all grays, crows feet and stretched out waist bands.
I am Renee Zellweger’s after picture without the plastic surgery.
I am not a driven, dedicated Journalist.
I am the guy wearing jeans and plaid, guzzling caffeine and just trying to get there on time.
I am not a quirky, acerbic, offbeat, indie chick with great hair.
I am a MOM.
That is my great accomplishment.
Just cause you squeeze them out like a champ (I really was quite fantastic at pregnancy and childbirth) doesn’t mean that you are an ace at being a parent. That’s now apparent.
I can control my temper, I kick ass at storytime, I am the ultimate caregiver when it comes to boo boos, vomit and general malaise.
But, I grew up thinking that if you can’t cook, you don’t belong in the kitchen and if you don’t belong in the kitchen, you might want to consider choosing a career-driven life over procreation.
So, here I am. Welcome to my mid-life crisis. I am 34 and suck at everything.
Well, at least everything anyone would ever notice.
I’m a voracious reader, a real bibliophile. So, there’s that.
Good to know I truly excel at something that won’t ever put a dime in the bank or benefit anyone other than myself.
I’m starting a support group: Mom’s Who Can’t Cook, or Do Just About Anything Else Well.
(p.s. I threw away all of the leftover meatloaf, tupperware and all. It was all I could do to keep from burning it in the backyard.)
We jump through hoops to ensure our children believe a chubby dude in a red suit squeezes his fat-ass down the chimneys of homes worldwide giving out presents, but only to “good” kids.
We convince them Fairies with a dentin fetish will steal their teeth in exchange for cash WHILE THEY SLEEP.
There’s also the giant rabbit who brings eggs, candy and dollar store tchotchkes to celebrate Spring. Nobody ever explains how the hell he gets inside and why he doesn’t also leave monster droppings behind.
Some of us also want to make sure our children have a handle on the whole “higher power” thing. God, meting out punishments on sinful kids and watching their every move like an invisible stalker.
Angels watch over them too, ghosts of dead people who provide nebulous support in times of need.
It’s a lot to ask.
Then, Halloween arrives and we have to tell them that all things scary are totally fake. Ghosts, witches, trolls, ghouls and goblins.
You have to explain that they will encounter copious amounts of blood, but it’s not real.
Our neighborhood will appear to be bat-infested, populated by hoarders who have allowed spiderwebs to overwhelm their porches.
Children will be required to solicit candy by threatening to assault or insult the strangers who answer the door. Yay!
It’s a fine balance, getting your children to believe in intangible phenomenon and then turn around and be able to recognize other horrors as imaginary.
Fortunately, I hit the jackpot with my daughter.
Alma believes in angels and Santa, but understands that monsters don’t exist. She adores The Nightmare Before Christmas and has started telling us that there are ghosts everywhere.
She’ll tap her foot on the car door and proclaim, “It’s a ghost! There’s a ghost in the car!”
Unfortunately, my son has not mastered the delicate balance between enjoyable fear and downright terror. He starts shouting, “Ghost in the car?” “No like ghost in the car!”
Alma enjoys walking into a dark room, grinning and sneaking saying, “spooky!”
Huxley notices the lights are out, says “scary!” and scrambles onto my lap looking over his shoulder.
I am notorious for accidentally terrifying my children.
I get amped up during severe storms and yell “thunder!” I made the mistake of explaining to the kids the real potential danger of being hit by a bolt of lightning.
I stressed the important of buckling up by warning them that they could be seriously injured if we get into a car accident.
(Hey, I work in news. Car crashes and lightning are a very real danger in Tampa!)
I went to play “dollhouse” with Alma recently and had to think fast for a motivation for my squirrel family arriving at her mouse family’s house.
Without considering the repercussions, my squirrel mom was pounding urgently on the door because the house had burned down.
Yeah, that was the storyline I chose for my daughter whose one fear is the smoke detector.
Thankfully, she was cool with it, explaining that “If your house is on fire, you wait until it stops and the steam stops and the water dries up and then you can live there… or just build a new house.”
For my daughter’s sake, I want to go as a creepy vintage doll for Halloween.
For my son’s sake, I won’t.
For my daughter’s sake, we started to watch Triplets of Belleville.
For my son’s sake, we turned it off before getting to the part where some raggedy-ass old bitches subsist on frogs.
I guess it’s enough that they hear the hushed sounds of blood-curdling screams from the movies I watch after I put them to bed.
It’s only a matter of time before they stumble bleary-eyed into the living room and encounter a serial killer clown and are scarred for life.
My kids don’t do anything half-assed.
If they’re going to fall, they will throw themselves to the ground with wild abandon and shriek as if they’re being pummeled by a giant.
If they get into a toddler scuffle, there’s likely to be eye-gouging and kidney shots.
My son came down with a severe case of the pukes last week. This was not a “poor baby has a tummy ache and let loose a little white vomit” situation.
This was gallons of putrid, spoiled milk projectile vomited across beds, couches and clothes. This was five loads of laundry, five baths and google searching for hazmat gear.
This was no sleep for the entire night and the stench trapped deep in my nostrils for the following day.
Like I said, they go all balls out, these kids.
Once the vomiting stops, there’s another two days of explosive diarrhea accompanied by a Gitmo-level hunger strike.
I got to use a vacation day in order to stay home with him because my husband was out of town.
Then on Saturday, I got to spend an entire day with both kids as my husband played golf “for business” in Naples. (I only use the quotes because I envy any job where playing a sport outdoors qualifies as work.)
I thought I was in the clear when I took the kids to the playground in our neighborhood. Alma rode her scooter. Huck rode his tricycle.
Huck was beaming as I pushed him higher and higher on the swing. I must not have realized that glowing grin was hiding the smirk of a secret shit.
I smelled it as soon as I pulled him out of the swing. I went to pull his shorts back to double check and lo-and-behold, there was shit all the way up his back to his hairline.
I found myself so overwhelmed by this bowel movement that I sat stunned for several seconds on the park bench.
Where do you begin? I have one more diaper. No, wait… it just got shit-coated during the diaper change. No change of clothes. What do I do? Thank God there is a trash can.
The end result: Huck riding home topless with a poop-crusted waist-band and undies.
We don’t just poop in this family. We EXPLODE!
We also don’t just get a cold. We get a stomach flu, that morphs into an ear ache. (That was Huck over the past several days.)
Alma avoids the bug and instead gets Fifth Disease. (Why name a relatively innocuous virus something that sounds like the plague?) She looks like she just got double bitch-slapped and it spread into a face rash. Got some very interesting looks while schlepping her around the Marshalls.
I catch the stomach flu and end up rushing home from work after being there for about an hour. (Monday)
Everyone is finally starting to recover, so Alma gets pink eye. (Today)
We don’t get sick, we nearly DIE. For DAYS.
As a random aside, I thoroughly enjoy reading a colleague mom’s blog about the Pros and Cons of a Disney cruise. (After writing a blog about the fact that a Disney trip is one long list of CONS.)
My kids don’t just ruin a vacation. They make you decide that you will NEVER VACATION AGAIN.
I try to see the silver lining. The kids really do give everything their all.
I asked Alma to draw me a lion and I got…
a liger! Score!