My kid has a stalker.
She just turned 4 and she already has an obsessive little boy following her everywhere at daycare.
She told me his name is Andrew and that even if she is talking to someone else or playing with someone else, he is right there next to her.
She said it like it was the most annoying thing EVER.
She also told me he was the only friend from school she wanted to invite to her birthday party. (Which is just around the corner at… 10 months away.)
I told her that the next time I drop her off at school or pick her up, she should introduce me to Andrew so I can firmly explain to him that little girls don’t prefer a male shadow. A crappy drawing of a unicorn will do.
I consider this to be a more appropriate response than the ones my husband typically has.
Recently, I dropped Alma off at school at the butt-crack of dawn. The only kids there were the children of the cranky, neanderthal daycare worker, the one with the bad weave who clearly despises my children and therefore me.
Her biggest kid was sitting right by the front door and the second I opened it, he looked up at Alma and said with a sneer, “Oh, it’s her.”
He then proceeded to inform me that Alma spit on him at the playground the previous day.
I asked her if it was true and she ignored me, her facial expression instantly placid and pleased.
I shrugged at the kid and moved on.
I didn’t feel so bad considering a few moments later this Lionel Tate-sized boy knocked over a tall cubby that could’ve easily crushed a child.
When I told my husband about the “spitting accusation” he said what I was already thinking.
The kid was asking for it. The kid spit on her first or pushed her. Or she was just giving him a good-natured raspberry.
Not my kid.
Alma is batshit crazy, but only brings the vile, unacceptable assaults when provoked.
So, my husband tells Alma that if that boy ever does anything mean to her that he will go to the school, pick him up off the ground, twist his body into a pretzel and drop him on his head.
A shit-eating grin spreads across Alma’s face and she says, “Okay.”
My husband has always had a tendency to be overprotective. It’s equal parts flattering and awkward.
My old college buddy wanted me to take him to his law school dance, an entirely platonic arrangement and my husband’s response to the Facebook post was, “The only way she’s going is if my swinging cock is going along for the ride.”
I burst out laughing and then considered how to best craft an apology on his behalf to my longtime pal.
It does the beg question, when can you intervene in your child’s personal life?
At her previous daycare, when she was just a wee little thing, Alma was a biter.
She never bit us, was never aggressive toward the dogs, but every couple of days we were “called into the office” because she took a chunk out of some kid’s arm.
It didn’t take long to figure out that she was only ever biting one girl and that one girl was a bit of a klepto, sometimes trying to literally steal the shoes off Alma’s feet.
The daycare kept pressuring me to teach Alma sign language, like somehow being able to sign the word “more” or “milk” would prevent her from gnashing her teeth at crawling thieves.
They even sent me home with a sign language book.
I had a sign for them too. It only required one finger.
Fast forward a year and Alma was no longer cannibalizing kids and her favorite victim was her new bestie.
The lesson I took away from that: You don’t always need to get involved.
Kids just work shit out themselves.
Now, there’s a chronic biter in Alma’s class now and that’s just unacceptable.
He’s a walking, talking sneak attacker.
He’s probably “challenged.”
So, how do you explain that to your kid?
This was me FAILING:
“Uhhhh, I know you said he bites you all of the time, but he probably takes longer to learn than other kids about what is appropriate and what is not. He’s not as smart. He’s… uhhh… maybe not going to be in your class next year?”
Alma used to stand up at the kitchen table during dinner, bend over and drop it was like it’s hot, saying she was shaking her, “booty butt.”
It was a skill she learned from a chick at school.
Can’t call the poor kid “ghetto”, but I had to explain to my toddler that some kind of dancing is “nasty.”
I taught her “the twist” instead.
I want to like my kid’s friends.
I want them to be on their level intellectually and emotionally.
I don’t want to have to resist the urge to back-hand the little shitheels that hurt them.
I definitely don’t want my husband to go “dropping kids on their heads” as he is wont to do.
I guess all I can do is raise my own kids and hope for the best.
But, if I meet the stalker guy I might consider the pretzel move.
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!
Every parent imagines the day they can make their child’s greatest dream come true.
It’s the last wish of dying children.
It’s the first thing quarterbacks do after the big Super Bowl win.
Commercials, cartoons and movies have been subversively, subconsciously training us our entire lives to put the annoying mouse with the pre-pubescent girl voice on a pedestal.
After our highly-anticipated trip to Disney this past week, I consider those hidden messages from the “happiest place on Earth” to be more evil than the secret satanic messages when a song is played backwards.
Over the past month, we used Disney as a way to threaten our son into trying to use the potty.
We used Disney to get our daughter to stop whining.
I drew Mickey Mouse hats on our family portrait on the kid’s white board.
Abuela bought them luggage with Elsa and Anna and Teenage Mutant Engine Turtles on it especially for the trip. (I meant to say “Engine.” It’s what the kids still call them.)
None of this adequately prepared me for one of the most hellish vacations of my life.
Let’s start with boarding a bus packed with pale, sweaty, overweight tourists. Standing room only, elbowing pot-bellies and stepping on the slippered toes of white trash girls wearing Elsa dresses and Koolaid stain smiles.
The driver got lost, so we were bumping and jerking along the winding roads near the Magic Kingdom for an extra 20 minutes.
We finally arrived, battered and already sweating.
We were able to see the welcome train roll in with all the famous Disney characters onboard. I was glowing with joy watching my son shout, “Goofy! Pluto!” (While secretly wondering how many of the “actors” are actually pedophiles and whether the princesses have coffee breath.)
We enjoyed the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.
The Jungle Cruise was tolerable, despite sitting next to the bellowing Broadway-voiced failed comedian “guide.”
My daughter plugged her ears for the duration of It’s a Small World and that should’ve been the first clue that things were about to go terribly awry.
Shortly after, as we were preparing to go on the Peter Pan ride she said, “I want to go home.”
After much badgering, prying and film noir interrogation, I figured out that she had to pee and didn’t want to use the public restroom.
It was about 10 a.m.
Oh hell no! After the amount of money we paid to go on this magical, cancer-kid dream trip, you’re going to throw a fit because you prefer the comfort of a familiar toilet?
I dragged her screaming to the bathroom, where she proceeded to humiliate me by shouting, “I don’t have to go pee pee! It’s not coming out!” (Which is a crock of shit, but makes me appear abusive to all of the parents in neighboring stalls.)
The real reason why she refuses to go is because, “The potty is too loud.” She’s always had an aversion to any noise above a reasonable “inside voice.” Fireworks, loud music, loud movies in the theater… but nothing is more traumatic than a growling, loud potty.
Cruise ships are out of the question.
Airplane potties, never gonna happen.
Those toilets could suck out your intestines with a flick of the flusher.
We spent the next hour and a half trying to convince her to use a bathroom, dragging her to different potties, her berating me and bawling. She’s screaming, “Is the potty loud? The potty is loud!!”
The only thing that eventually worked was promising to immediately buy her a toy upon urination.
The children survived going to the haunted house, but only because we called it the “Hotel Transylvania.” (They LOVE that movie)
Instead, Alma was terrified of going on the Buzz Lightyear ride. She also had some kind of irrational fear that the People Mover was going to transform into Space Mountain.
Breakfast and lunch, both kids were on hunger strike. I resisted the urge to shout, “This shitty mass produced meal cost us 10 bucks per kid! You WILL eat it.”
So, here we are sweating and grunting our way through Walt’s version of wonderland while our children barely crack a smile. My feet hurt, I’ve sweat through my underwear and there is NO BEER. Don’t they realize that without a little bit of liquid CALM, parents are highly likely to resort to homicidal violence?
At one point, some self-important , acne-pocked UCF student is telling us we need to relocate our stroller because we are in the “dancing zone” of the Incredibles. Seriously, we’re interfering with the bubble-muscled Mr. Freeze’s electric slide with our inconvenient children.
Time to buy another 5 dollar bottle of water and daydream it’s vodka!
While planning the trip, I had visions of the kids passing out after watching the parade and fireworks, sleeping with satisfied smiles in the stroller.
Instead, my daughter is plugging her ears and frowning while the characters perform outside Cinderella’s castle. (The one that she’s pissed off about because we can’t go inside.)
We’re hightailing it to the bus before sunset, back to the resort so we can go out to dinner at a normal place where the shitty food doesn’t cost a fortune.
At Olive Garden, it’s our son’s turn to be a complete D-bag. He’s whining for no apparent reason, border line crying for the ENTIRE TIME. I end up taking a bunch of food back to the hotel room only to realize there’s no microwave. (duh)
In a lame attempt to salvage the “vacation” we get up in the morning and watch the kids pick at their pricey breakfast and then rent a two-person bike. So, we shred our calves and drip sweat along a path around the resort so the kids can argue over who gets to ring the ridiculous bell.
We go to the Arcade with our card for free games only to learn it has a total of 100 points on it. Each game costs about 40 points or more. Air hockey? 100 points.
It’s cloudy, but we brave the pool anyway. The unheated-freezing from all of the rain-pool. The pool with the bar that’s not open.
Later, the bar opens! We grab a couple of drinks and shuttle the kids to the “kiddie pool.” My son promptly tries to drown himself, twice. In the mad dash to rescue him before CPR becomes necessary, my husband knocks over his entire alcoholic beverage. (You know, the one that costs more than a year of college tuition.)
We finally bail when the sweet New Orleans jazz music is being drowned out by some kid-friendly club shit. (Not to mention the chattering of my son’s teeth.)
We decide to take the kids to the Rainforest Cafe for another authentic theme park experience. My daughter is plugging her ears and cowering every time the fake gorillas start to scream. She is still on hunger strike. The meal is super expensive and I will be tasting the garlic for days.
I can’t catch a buzz.
We can’t catch a break.
We pack up and leave for Tampa. We had another full night booked at the resort.
Money flushed down the toilet. The very loud, evil toilet.