All the Rage

Yesterday, I enrolled my kids in a new playgroup. And by “enrolled,” I mean I scribbled their names down on index cards and marched their happy asses into the lions’ den of forced childhood socialization.

It went well, for about four minutes. Grace wasted no time in terrorizing the “Sensory Play” table by ruthlessly ripping play-doh away from the other participants and shoveling it into her mouth by the sticky fistful. The other mothers quickly advised me not to worry, as it was homemade with all natural ingredients (so is horse shit, but I don’t serve that at the dinner table). They were much less accommodating when she picked up an empty Tupperware container and began to use it as an implement of blunt force trauma, making frequent contact with the other children’s skulls. This was actually a welcome distraction from the pathological growling that Declan lapsed into every time another child came within a 5-foot radius.

My issue with the playgroup, however, was much less with my kids’ violent outbursts and much more with the other mothers’ reactions. Yes, I’m aware that my children are neurotic sociopaths. So are yours. Toddlers have the prefrontal cortex of a barn owl. They act like sociopaths because they literally have the same brain anatomy as a recently lobotomized mental patient.

Many people mistakenly assume I think my children are terrible and that I have created this blog solely to ridicule them. Not at all. I think my children are pretty awesome. All things considered, it’s surprising to me they don’t erupt into bloodthirsty rages more often.

But every toddler meltdown reaches a point of no return. Once that line is breached, no amount of rational explanation, however well-intentioned, will return the toddler to sanity. Think of your child as Kim Jong-Il in a candy store. One that sells nuclear missiles instead of chocolate. Diplomacy is of no value here.

If I had to listen to one more mother attempt to talk my kid off the proverbial ledge with four-syllable words, I was going to be the one hopelessly crying into my carpet square. And while I appreciate their efforts, sometimes my screeching offspring need to be forcefully removed from a situation before irreversibly melting into a pile of mucous and tears.

So yes, I occasionally have to scrape my child off the floor like a screaming piece of gum and walk out of the room with all three kids hanging off my limbs, limp with outrage. And yes, I generally do this without explaining myself to them or to others. This is not because I don’t believe in the power of communication, but because I’m saving my breath for a time when my child is physically capable of understanding language. Newsflash: When a 2-year-old is on the verge of asphyxiating on his own rage-powered snot, no combination of “feeling words” will magically bestow upon him a capacity for rational thought.

My “flee the scene” approach to child-rearing seems to fly in the face of common wisdom. We are taught from a young age to talk about our problems, to never go to bed angry, to share our innermost fears and emotions with others. But sometimes, life is a burning building and you just have to get your kids the heck out.

I'm out

It Wasn’t Me. It Was Like That When I Got Here.

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As I was putting the finishing touches on a gourmet dinner tonight, by which I mean boiling water for instant oatmeal and cutting up a mango that was clearly past its prime, Avery appeared at the table with a large, erratic slit cut into the knee of her size 4T hot pink pants.  She immediately brought this fashion atrocity to my attention by saying, “What a small little hole cut in my pants.  Only a small little person like Declan could cut such a hole.”

The gaping cavity in her legwear could neither be called a “hole” or “small,” but Avery was never one to let something as trivial as the blatant, obvious truth get in the way of her schemes.

Given the fact that Declan is 18 months old, and was currently preoccupied smashing grapes and Goldfish crackers into his Little People bus, I was more than skeptical.  Of course, Avery’s story would have been slightly more credible if she didn’t still have a pair of safety scissors firmly clutched in one hand, or if Declan actually possessed the fine motor skills to use a dull pair of safety blades that are specifically designed NOT to cut through anything remotely resembling flesh to attempt the crime in question.

I suppose this incident by itself shouldn’t alarm me, but it’s only the latest in a long chain of events that has led me to believe that Avery is a remorseless sociopath.  Yesterday, she drew all over Declan with her Magic Markers and told me he did it to himself.  The sick part is, I actually believed her, going so far as to scold Declan, until I realized that the drawing extended to the back of his neck and under his clothes in places that he couldn’t possibly reach.  The real tip-off was the multi-colored rainbow carefully outlined on his back, forming a perfect arc between his poor, unwitting shoulder blades.

What’s even sadder?  I don’t know what I’m more upset about, the fact that my daughter will go to such lengths to get other people in trouble, or that my son sat there and allowed her to use him as a human sketch pad.

Despite the fact that Declan was more than willing to serve as a dim-witted patsy in Avery’s evil plot, I remain convinced that he will pay it forward with the next one.  In about 5 weeks or so, he’ll have his own opportunity to torture and harass a little sibling.  And it’s no wonder the baby’s breech — if I were her, I wouldn’t want to come out either.  Understandably, she’s been more than content to spend the better half of the last month standing on my cervix, kneeing me in the colon every 5 minutes to make sure I don’t get any crazy ideas about uninterrupted sleep.

Babies are lucky they’re cute.  Because they’re also unrepentant jerks.

And as it turns out, we would’ve had to throw Avery’s leggings away today even if she hadn’t attacked them with a crusty pair of bright orange scissors.  Soon after the full details of what will now be referred to as PantsGate 2013 revealed themselves, the princess was blessed with an explosive case of leaky diarrhea that led to a long bath, a serious self-examination of my life choices, and a quick trip to the outside garbage bin with a Target bag full of her shit-stained clothes.

Karma’s a bitch, Avery.  Apparently, so is demanding overripe mangoes for dinner.

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Say Cheese! And then kill me.

Today I did something stupid.  Like lick a flagpole stupid.  I took my kids to get holiday pictures taken.  Merry fucking Christmas to me.

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Avery looks like the “Before” picture they show in documentaries about serial killers.  Like when they flash to the old lady across the street, who explains apologetically to the camera: “She was always such a nice girl.  I never guessed she was using battery acid to dissolve raccoon skulls behind the shed.”

I mean, she’s beautiful and everything, but there’s a lot of murder behind those eyes.  And then there’s Declan:

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What you see above is probably the best picture they got of him.  The rest didn’t even make it onto that shitty CD of bloopers you get for free after you spend more than a car payment for a bunch of 10″ x 13″ prints you’ll never bother hanging.  Declan’s opinion of my parenting throughout the photo shoot was on par with that of a Menendez brother.

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As if the pictures themselves aren’t bad enough, the true hell begins when it’s time to select which atrocious monstrosity you’d like to ambush your unsuspecting relatives with prints of.  It’s like choosing between pulling out your toenails and eating a shoe.  The decision-making process goes somewhat like this: “While I appreciate how the camera caught the intensity with which my son hates me on the first shot, I think the creepy dual-sibling rage stare of the second one would look better on Gramma’s bookshelf.”

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And keep in mind, all of these decisions have to be made rapid-fire, at a seizure-inducing kiosk of special effects and framing options.  The studio provides an overly enthusiastic “Photography Consultant” to assist you in making your selections while you’re still too dazed by the bright, flashing bulbs to realize you’ve completely depleted your children’s college funds by purchasing the “Deluxe Platinum Pageant Mom Starter Package.”  Which is probably fine, because based on the way my children were behaving in the waiting room, the only thing we need to be saving up for is a criminal defense lawyer.

As both kids continued to make a persuasive case for adoption, the chipper consultant, whose only apparent qualification was that he keep his current address on file with the State’s sex offender registry, happily forced me to pick out my “favorite” poses in front of all the happy, judge-y families still waiting to have their pictures taken.  As I sat sweating through my yoga pants, making the choice between a rotten egg and a shit sandwich, I could actually hear the other mothers shaking their perfectly coiffed heads as they tapped out clever Facebook status updates on their iPads, like “Looks like it’s trash day at Portrait Innovations!” and “smh LOL omgz some ppl shouldnt have kids :X.”

And guess what, bitches?  We’re having another one.

7C

Say what?

Happy Birthday, Stinker Peanut

Four years ago today, I joined the ranks of the most formidable group of humans on the planet – mothers.

After 28 hours of contractions, Avery Jeanette blessed me with her presence at 1:58am, June 22nd, 2008.  My life has never been the same since.

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From that day forward, Avery has defied my expectations, tested my patience, and most importantly, cracked me up on a daily basis.  She is truly the butter to my bread.  I love her with every molecule of my being.

Which is not to say that she never crosses the line or that I never reach my wits’ end with her.  Avery is a veritable force to be reckoned with.  But at the end of the day, when she drifts softly into her angelic sleep — my heart, and my troubles, melt away with her.

Thank you, Avery, for making me the mom I am today.  And thank you for loving me, for seeking my shelter when you have bad dreams, for running towards me with open arms after a great day at school, for crying on my shoulder when you bloody a knee, and especially, for letting me hold you when my own world crumbles before me.

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Avery, you are my heart.  Happy birthday, my dear.

Top of the World

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Tonight, as I was quietly gathering my purse, phone, and wallet for a quick and hopefully unnoticed escape to the grocery store, Avery came bounding out from the family room, demanding to know where I was going.

“I just have a quick errand to run.  You stay here with Daddy,” I told her.

Using the word “errand” proved to be a rather unfortunate choice.  It led to a prolonged conversation about how similar Mommy’s name (Erin) and the name for my task at hand sounds to a three-year-old.  The discussion ended with the following conclusion:

“Well Mommy, I guess I’ll have to go with you.  Of course, we’ll have to call it ‘running an Avery’ if I’m coming too.”

So after I spent a considerable amount of time determining whether Avery was fit for public consumption, during which I ensured she had both her shoes on and was, in fact, wearing underwear, I belted her into her carseat and we headed on our way.

Along our ride, Avery noticed a rather decrepit house, white paint peeling away from its siding, and astutely asked, “Is that where Priz-dent Obama lives?”

“No, peanut,” I responded, anticipating her next question.  “The President’s White House is lots of miles away from here.”

“Lots of miles?” Avery asked.  “Like as far away as the North Pole?”

“Not quite that far,” I said, smiling to myself.

“Oh.”  Avery thought for a bit, before adding, “I really want to go to the North Pole.”

“Why’s that?”  Thinking I could put a damper on her plans with weather-based reasoning, I continued by explaining, “It’s really cold up there.”

Little did I know that her reply could melt glaciers.

“Because, Mommy.  I want to be on top of the world.”

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Oh Avery, in so many ways, you already are.

Sweet Dreams

After a series of late night/early morning conversations with Avery this week, I have decided that “Mommy” is my least favorite word in the English language before 7am.  Around that time, I switch gears and start focusing on my most favorite word in the English language: preschool.

My favorite thing about preschool is that it tires Avery out.  On school days, Avery will typically fall asleep on the couch for a few hours in the late afternoon.  Those hours are my happy place.

Yesterday, as Avery was blissfully snoozing away, I made lasagna, garlic bread, and poured a glass of wine.  Andrew came home from work, expressed a moderate amount of shock that I had actually made dinner instead of walked to Subway, and cuddled up with Avery on the couch.

That’s when things got weird.

“Was I painting something the last time I wore this shirt?”  Andrew asked me, revealing oily brown stains on the inside of his sleeve.

“Painting something?  It looks like you were shitting your pants the last time you wore that shirt.”  I responded, hoping that solving this mystery wasn’t going to interfere with my Wednesday night TV shows.  Or my glass of wine.

So you can imagine my horror when Avery climbed out of Andrew’s arms, looking like this:

Yes, my genius offspring fell asleep with a Hershey’s bar.  In her hair.

On a positive note, I am now too grossed out to sneak any Halloween candy.  My thighs will thank me.

This City

Needless to say, holidays are very different as a parent.  Eight years ago, I dressed as the hot “Tool Time” girl from Home Improvement and did keg-stands all night.  Today I breastfed a lobster and had a 20-minute conversation with a princess to convince her that yes, she should wear underpants underneath her shiny pink costume.

On most holidays, I feel like I am simply going through the motions.  I don’t decorate the house, I don’t sing the songs, and I just barely get my shit together in time for family gatherings.  But tonight I realized, my first Halloween memory is being three years old, dressing up as Snow White, and trick-or-treating at the Mall of America.  Since it was already snowing in October in St. Paul, my dad dutifully escorted me on an indoors quest for candy, holding me tighter whenever an overly enthusiastic employee approached me dressed as a witch or monster, while my mom stayed home with her newborn and one-year-old (Save the Irish Catholic jokes, we get it.  And yes, she was probably already pregnant with Mark).

My filmmaker father videotaped the whole thing, prompting me to exclaim “I was scared to DEAF!” and “I’m a knucklehead” for his audience in Cleveland.  And here I am, twenty-five years later, lucky enough to spend another holiday in this city, oft-scorned but drastically underrated.

I’ll take the cold winters, the crushing unemployment, and the heart-breakingly bad sports teams.  Cleveland is where my heart is.  And if tonight ends up being Avery’s first Halloween memory, I can rest easy.

 

Because I simply can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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