Trick or Treat! Don’t be an A**Hole….

“Therefore, it stands to reason, does it not, sisters dear? That we must find the book, brew the potion, and suck the lives out of the children of Salem before sunrise.”
~Winifred Sanderson, Hocus Pocus

Last year, my step-daughter, who was 14 and an 8th grader at the time, told us that while she was out trick-or-treating with some of her friends, an adult had commented, “Aren’t you a bit too old for this?

For months before that Halloween night, my step-daughter had agonized over whether or not she would trick-or-treat that year.  It was as though she had one foot solidly planted in her childhood and another tentatively taking her first steps into young adulthood.

It was clear she was growing-up and embracing opportunities to enjoy and explore her independence.  And my husband and I were happy, albeit a bit wistful, to allow her the space to expand.

But there were still glimpses of the little girl she’d once been.  The one who had delighted in the elaborate Halloween parties her dad and I had thrown for her and her brother when they were younger.  The one who could still be cajoled into participating with our son, seven years her junior, in the Easter basket scavenger hunts we created every year.  Even the occasional game of make-believe wasn’t entirely out of the question.

So when she talked about trick-or-treating that year, it was with a nostalgic sort of sadness.  A part of her was saying that maybe it was time to hang it up, but her heart and her spirit were still drawn to the simple joy of walking the neighborhood on a crisp fall evening, shouting “Trick-or-Treat!” and then returning home to count and sort her haul.

Her friend group was split about 50/50 between those wanting to go and those wanting to do something a bit more grown-up, like a costume party at someone’s house.  And as the date got closer, it was beginning to seem as though most of the girls in the trick-or-treat camp, were gradually beginning to veer more toward the party.

When my step-daughter talked about it, tears welled in her eyes.  We told her, “You can always come trick-or-treating with us!”  Meaning her baby brother, her dad and I.  But we understood that wasn’t the point.  She wanted to cling to that experience with her friends.  She didn’t want to be left behind.  She wanted them to stay with her in that piece of childhood, just a little longer.  I could understand.

When I was a kid, Halloween was my absolute favorite time of the year.  I loved all the movies and neighborhood lawn decorations, the costumes and of course trick-or-treating.

As my brother and I got older, we were allowed to trick-or-treat with a group of other neighborhood children by ourselves.  We would tear through the streets, hitting as many houses as possible on foot, before returning home to dump out the pillowcases we carried, for maximum capacity candy collecting, and then we would hop on our bikes and branch out into other neighborhoods until the last porch light went out.

I loved the freedom of that night.  Cruising the streets, long after dark, with a gaggle of other kids.  And we were all quietly well aware of the responsibilities that came with that freedom.  We were always respectful of other trick-or-treaters, adults and the homeowners property.  So tenuous did we feel that privilege was, that we made sure to never even walk on someone’s lawn if it could be helped.

In those few hours on Halloween night, we were learning what it was like to be responsible for ourselves and to make good, safe choices, without a grown-up standing by.

And it was fun!  Even as we too began to find ourselves in that space between childhood and adolescence, we still reveled in the joy of dressing up and losing our angst for a while, consumed in the spirit of Halloween.

I don’t recall anyone ever saying that I was too old to trick-or-treat.  I made the decision to stop going when I started high school.  But that first year I stayed home and passed out candy, instead of collecting it, plenty of my classmates still came to my door.  I envied them a bit, but I didn’t feel sorry for myself.  The time had simply passed into a cherished memory for me and it had been allowed to happen in my own time.

Fortunately, my step-daughter has some great friends and a few were willing to indulge her desire to trick-or-treat that last year.  So they struck a compromise.  They agreed they would meet at a friends house, who was hosting a costume party for all the girls, trick-or-treat for a bit and then return to the party.  It seemed she would get the best of both worlds.

And by all accounts, the girls were having a great time.  They weren’t heckling the little one’s, or taking handfuls of candy from unattended candy bowls left to the honor system.  They were giggling their way from house to house, in full costume, saying trick-or-treat and thank you along the way.

When my step-daughter told us later about the woman who had chastised the girls for being too old to participate, it was clear she’d been hurt by it.  The woman had made them feel embarrassed, ashamed and self-conscious.  Feelings that, quite frankly, are all too common for teenagers, like, 99.9% of the time as it is, without some snotty middle-aged woman adding fuel to the fire because she thinks she’s the designated trick-or-treat police.

I can barely look at social media these days without seeing some meme, or editorial, bitching about “kids these days.”  How they can’t seem to be able to handle life’s ups and downs.  Well, maybe we should stop evicting them from childhood before they’re ready.

So, “old people these days” calm the fuck down.  Let them be kids.  Let them linger in innocence for as long as they can, because once it’s gone, it’s gone.  And I think for far too many, it’s gone long before they are even close to being ready for it.

And if you can’t do that, you should do what the generations of crabby old people who came before you have done.  Turn off your porch light and hide in the dark.

Happy Halloween!  Don’t be a jerk.

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Happy Mother’s Day….

“God could not be everywhere.  Therefore, he created mothers.
~Rudyard Kipling.

Until I actually became a mother, my relationship with Mother’s Day was a complicated one.  My parents divorced when I was very young and in the years that followed, my dad felt no obligation to ensure my brother and I had something to give to our mother for the holiday.

My parents had a terrible marriage and an even worse divorce, so its possible this was an intended malicious act on his part, or it may have been something he didn’t realize he was supposed to do.  Regardless, the slight wasn’t lost on my mother.

It wasn’t that my brother and I had nothing to present to her.  There was always a school created craft.  Also, as we got a little older, my brother and I used to pay special attention to the neighborhood curbside trash and yard sales for treasures we thought she might like.

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This is pretty much what my brother looked like in the 80’s

We brought home things like second-hand wallets, old bottles of perfume and umbrella’s.  Sometimes, we’d scrape-up enough loose change and walk to the Hallmark store in town to pick out a small magnet or a mini-figurine.

Sometimes, we would pick flowers from garden beds throughout town and attempt to fashion a bouquet.  We also made her breakfast in bed, which usually consisted of a loaf of soggy french toast, cereal, pop-tarts and whatever beverage was on-hand.

If my mother ever appreciated our efforts, it was lost in her anger at my father for his failure to help us purchase more suitable gifts.  She would rant and rave, call him and leave screeching messages on his answering machine and grill my brother and I about what he’d purchased for our step-mother.

She would cry and tell us how badly her feelings had been hurt, how sad she felt at not having anything to open, how hard she worked and how she deserved more.  The day would be lost to her disappointment.

The weight of it all was not something we should have been expected to help carry.  We were just little kids.  But, carry it we did.  Every approaching holiday would leave me feeling crippled with dread and anxiety.  I worried endlessly about how we were going to be able to provide my mother with enough to make her happy.

As I got older and eventually began earning money of my own, it became easier to get through these events, but I would still spend weeks worrying that I hadn’t gotten enough, or the exact right thing.  I also knew that no matter what, my mother would want to compare it to whatever had been purchased for my step-mother.

When I reached adulthood, Mother’s Day began to take on a feeling of dreaded obligation, rather than a feeling of joy at celebrating the woman who had given birth to me.  When my relationship with my mother came to a final end, I was relieved not to have to deal with the pressures and unrealistic expectations.  It became just another day.

When I became a step-mother, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel about Mother’s Day.  In the beginning, it continued to feel like just another day.  I felt no maternal stirrings for my step-children, so I had no emotional connection to Mother’s Day.  I was not their mother.  I’m still not their mother, but I am something.

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Being a step-parent is the most complex and complicated relationship I’ve ever been a part of.  I know that not everyone’s circumstances are the same, but in my case, the biological mother of my step-children pretty much hates me.

Even though we’ve not once had a single conversation in the more than 10 years I’ve been around, and though I had nothing to do with the demise of her marriage, I seem to be symbolic of something she can’t handle.  As for what that might be, I can only speculate.

When I embarked on the journey of step-parenting, I was without great expectations.  I knew we wouldn’t love each other right away.  I expected there would be feelings of jealousy and resentment on their part and mine.  I knew there would be loyalty conflicts and lines drawn and hurt feelings.  I didn’t push.

I let them get to know me and I got to know them.  When their mother’s negative commentary seeped into our household, I refused to become what I knew she wanted me to be.

Overtime, I think the kids slowly began to see the motives behind what they were hearing versus what they were seeing.  Not that this caused them to love their mother any less and like me any more, but I think they began to form their own opinions and to open themselves up to a growing relationship with me.

I like to think I’ve been a positive influence.  When I first met the kids, they were often paralyzed by any new experience, whether it be trying a new food, visiting a new place, or trying a new activity.  It seemed they believed the world was fraught with danger.

Little by little, I worked to crack that shell.  I took them rock climbing and hiking and camping while patiently and continually reassuring them that they would, in fact, not plummet to the earth and die, get lost and starve, be kidnapped and eaten by hillbillies and/or obtain some type of biological disease carried by random woodland creatures.

I introduced new foods, my dad taught them to fish, I sought out fun and interesting places to visit, coaxed them onto their first plane ride, taught them to golf and tried to teach them to ski.  My step-son is now obsessed, but my step-daughter is still afraid that she will crash, head first into a tree….on the treeless bunny slopes.  We’re working on it.

But still, I’ve often said that if my step-children grow-up and do amazing things, some will say it happened despite my presence in their lives.  If they grow-up and become serial killers, it will be all my fault.

As the years have passed and our relationships with one another have continued to evolve and seek definition, I’ve continued to have no expectations of recognition on Mother’s Day.

In part, I’m sure it’s to save myself from hurt feelings, but at the same time, I know I am not their mother and if the day holds an exclusive meaning for them, I would never seek to intrude.

With that being said, I’ve not gone without it.  At some point, they began getting me a card and a small gift.  The card typically has the word “Step” written by one of them in front of the word “Mom” anywhere it’s printed on the card.  I’ve never viewed it as a negative, only as a boundary.  I am their step-mom.  It’s not the same as being their mom.  I like the distinction.

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My husband has always insisted he has not influenced the kids to acknowledge me on Mother’s Day, but I’ve always suspected he may have planted the seed.

However, one year, when my step-son was ten, he presented me with a school craft he’d made.  It was a long piece of construction paper that included a picture of himself holding a giant sunflower.  Underneath the photo, it said, “Happy Mother’s Day” and printed below was a list of things he loved about me.

I’m not a particularly emotional person, but when he gave it to me, I’ll admit that I thought my heart might burst.  I thanked him and told him it was the best gift I’d ever been given and I meant it.  Later, I took it to my room and cried.  Then I framed it and hung it.

Then, I became a mom in the traditional sense of the word and I still don’t want or expect grandiose gestures for Mother’s Day.  I just want to enjoy a quiet, simple day with my little family.

My own son always presents me with a handmade craft and I always cherish it.  More importantly though, he knows that I cherish it.  He know’s it enough and that he is enough.

All this week, I’ve been reading the various editorials written about the all the different kinds of mom’s out there.  The harried and frazzled, the mother’s who have lost children, the women who have lost their mother’s, the foster and adoptive mom’s and the all the other women who stepped in and took on the role of a mother when they were needed most.

I’ve laughed, sympathized, felt sad.  Mostly though, I’ve felt grateful.  And that is truly the best gift of all.

I hope all you moms out there get what you need this Mother’s Day too.

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Some People Have Family Home Video’s. I Have 500+ Pages of Police Reports and Body-Cam Video….

“Does anyone else hear banjo’s?” ~Me

Life has been weird.

A year and a half ago, my brother and I, along with our respective significant others, entered into a legal battle with our mother, who I haven’t spoken to in more than ten years.  Our fight was over my niece, Lele; the child of my middle brother.

The case has now mostly concluded, if you’d like to read about that hillbilly drama, click here:  The Legal System Sucks or, just scroll down to my prior post.

But if you’d like the Reader’s Digest version, the long and the short of it is this, my brother and I are now the proud parents of a seven year old.

Over the course of the last year and a half, my time has largely revolved around the case.  Every day, there was new evidence to review, conversations to be had with our attorneys and a near daily deluge of new issues created by mother, all of which had to be addressed and managed.

Essentially, my mother didn’t have a respectable case to put on, so her strategy was to attempt to drain me financially; to rob my family of our financial future….and let’s just say the court allowed her to do it.

Meanwhile, we did our best to stay on the high road.  We accumulated our evidence and prepared to present our case.

In an effort to help minimize some of the mounting legal fees, I did a lot of the administrative work for our attorney’s.  I indexed transcripts from various hearings and depositions.  I created detailed timelines and summarized dozens of records, from police reports, to more than 40 hours of jail/prison calls.

It was mentally exhausting.  But it’s done now and so it’s time to box this mess up and carry on.  Which, is sort of a metaphor for the first 30-odd years of my life.

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy dissecting my childhood and adolescence and early adulthood.  I’ve tried 1:1 therapy and group therapy.  I’ve had both male and female therapists and I’ve tried a few psychiatrists/psychologists as well.  But I’ve never been able to connect to counseling.

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I couldn’t understand the incessant need to draw parallels between my “trauma past” and my present.  I already knew about those parallels.

I had crappy communication skills and when I fought, I fought to win.  I spewed mean things, like really mean things that were intended to cut to the emotional quick.  I brought bombs to verbal debates.  

And yeah….I did it, because it’s all I knew.  I never learned the art of resolving conflict without drawing blood and/or causing permanent emotional trauma.

I knew that the way I responded to life wasn’t healthy or productive.  I knew right from wrong.  I never felt good about myself in the aftermath of a blow-out with someone I cared about.

So, self-reflection, got it.


As I got older, I stopped trying to hide my past and I became pretty open about my experiences, regardless of the audience.

You might talk about your idyllic upbringing on a maple syrup farm in Vermont and gush about how much you’ve come to cherish your relationship with your mother while we’re out to brunch for the first time….I might (most definitely will) talk about how my family got kicked out of church when I was a kid and that time my mom hit me so hard in the face, I saw actual stars.

So, ability to talk about it….check!


I could acknowledge that crappy things happened to me, but that in the grand scheme of things, I was still a person of privilege.

Perspective?  Yup.


I have sat with it.  I’ve acknowledged it.  I’ve mourned it.  I’ve felt all of the feelings for it.  I’ve analyzed it, accepted it, honored it….all the stuff.

I didn’t need to keep talking about it.  I needed to know what I was supposed to do with it.  I had been carrying around this load of emotional garbage for so long, I honestly didn’t know how to function without it.  And it was fucking shit up.

It was making me ugly and mean and jaded and really, just an asshole, but not the kind of asshole people like.

What I needed to know and what NOBODY told me in all the talking and talking and talking….was that I could just let it go.  That I could cut the shit, and stop being such a jerk, and just choose to be happy.

The revelation came after a rough session in couples counseling with my husband.  So, maybe therapy was helpful after all.  But, I don’t know, I think the Aha! was born more out of annoyance than therapeutic progress.

Anyway, I was talking to our therapist about something specific that was triggering me in our marriage.  A slight I felt was real.  And it was.

I wanted, desperately, for her to understand that this was a feeling I was having that was relevant to the present and not deeply rooted in my past.  But she wasn’t having it.  As I was word vomiting she said to me, “He’s not your mother.”  

And all hell broke loose.  Out of me.  It’s possible I levitated.  I got up and left, declaring I was done.

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From there, I did exactly what I always did.  I ran and took my garbage with me.  I disappeared from my life and my husband and into myself and my garbage.  I waged a war in my head with everyone until I was exhausted.

And then, something clicked.  My feelings and thoughts mattered.  I knew this.  But no one could hear me through the filter of my garbage.

And that wasn’t going to change until I made peace with it and let it go.

So I did.

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Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done.  It requires taking a giant leap of faith into life; over and over again.  And sometimes, it’s scary and it’s hard.  Especially when you know you’re showing up without any of the tools you’re supposed to have.  It’s kind of like bursting into a crowded room, naked.  But the alternative, is not showing up at all.

And I wanted to show up.  I was married to a really great guy, like truly THE BEST, who was trying so damn hard to understand me and show up for me, even when I made it nearly impossible.

We had started a family of our own.  I was a mother and I worried every single minute that I would mess it up.

I believed I would ruin everything.  I knew I would self-sabotage and drive my life into the ground and there would be no coming back from it.  I didn’t want that, of course I didn’t, but I couldn’t figure out how to exist among the mess.

Forever, I had been trying to figure out how to live and behave and communicate through and/or around the garbage.  I had been waiting and listening and even asking for instructions on how to do that.  I thought that’s what therapy was for.  To teach me how to live like a normal person, but within the confines of my dysfunction.  I don’t even know if that makes sense.

It never occurred to me that I could just pack it up and put it away.  Yes, it’s still a part of my story, but I don’t have to lug it around.  And there is so much power in that.

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I have managed to break the cycles of abuse and dysfunction and addiction that I grew-up with.  I decided it wasn’t the way I wanted to live, and then I set about figuring out how to live the life I wanted.

Simply put, I decided to be happy.  And I think it’s the best way to honor the part of me that spent way too many years being afraid.

I read once, that “happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed.  Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”

I don’t know about all that.  I certainly don’t love every minute and I’m not always willing to extend grace, but I am grateful AF.  Because, I have a lot to be grateful for.

So while I’d like to sit in self-righteous indignation for a little while longer (I never said I was perfect), I’m going to pack this stuff up too and let it go.  The question is though, where do I put it?  Not metaphorically.  I mean literally.

Should I tuck away the body cam videos with our collection of home movies?  You know, so that we can all gather together someday and reminisce while we watch my son blow out his first birthday candles….and then watch my mom stand on the front lawn, barefoot on a cold December day, the remnants of Halloween decorations and that one, cracked, plastic Santa that’s been there since 2001, visible in the background, while she tells a police officer she suspects one of my brothers of throwing a brick through the back window of her car….only, the brick isn’t anywhere to be found, until she magically discovers it lying at an angle that makes it obvious it was either planted, or it’s just part of the neighbors landscaping.

Would the police and court records related to the all those calls about dogs running at large and a missing ferret, go with the old mementos I saved from my first fur baby?

FYI on the ferret, I hope he made it out of there.  Or, I hope he was at least a meal for one of the pets starving to death in that house.  I’m not sure which I hope for more.

Do the various cards and letters I’ve saved over the years, go with the stacks of JPay communications I subpoenaed from two different correctional facilities?  (JPay is prison email, if you don’t know….and really, if you are going to follow me here, you’re going to have to learn my language).

You know, I think I’ll just leave it all in a nondescript box to collect dust in the deepest recesses of our basement and hope it’s one of those things the kids just arbitrarily dump off at Goodwill or something, after I’m dead.

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The Birds & The Bees….

Do you pee out of your butt? ~ My Son

A few years ago, my son, Snugs McNugget (yes, that’s his real name), walked in on me while I was using the bathroom.  He was about four at the time and immediately upon seeing me on the toilet, he inquired, “Are you dropping a deuce?”

When I informed him that I was peeing, he began laughing as though I was a complete imbecile.

Snugs:  You pee standing up.  You poop sitting down!  

Me:  Honey, Mommy is a girl.  Girls pee sitting down.

Snugs:  Where is your penis?

Me:  Mommy, doesn’t have a penis.  I have a vagina.

Snugs, laughing hysterically:  A bagina!  What’s a bagina?

Thankfully, he lost interest shortly thereafter and I was spared the need to provide any additional detail.

Now my son is six and a Kindergartner and he’s become interested in understanding where babies come from and the anatomical differences between males and females.

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Earlier in the school year, he came home from school and informed me that one of his classmates, Jacob, had seen his sisters “wagenda.”

Me:  Her what?

Snugs:  Her wagenda.  You know, her wagenda (points to his crotch).

Me:  Oh…her wagenda.  I see.

Snugs:  Can I see yours?

Me:  No.  That would be inappropriate.  You should never ask a woman if you can see her wagenda.  It’s a private part and remember, it’s important to respect a person’s privacy.

Snugs:  I just really want to see one.  Jacob said it looks like a butt.  Does it look like a butt?  Do girls have two butts?  Wait, do you pee out of your butt?

Me:  Um….

HELP!

I haven’t the slightest idea how to have these conversations.

For the most part, nobody talked to me about this stuff when I was a kid.  When I asked my great-grandpa where babies came from, he told me he found me in the yard one afternoon, sitting in a buttercup.  And I believed it….for years.

Later, I picked up the general basics from movies and from walking in on my mother having sex with a guy named Ron she met in rehab.

The only other bit of education I got was when my mother said, “Do you want your cooter to smell like a fish stick?  No?  Then keep your pants on.”

I’m fairly certain the fear of smelling like a Gordon’s fisherman was the reason I preserved my virginity far longer than most of my peers.

So, what amount of information is too much information?

What if my son goes to school and shares his knowledge with other kids, who tell their parents, who then call me and are all like, WTF!?

Honestly, it’s moments like these I feel woefully ill-equipped as a parent and a little bitter about the lack of accurate information I was given as a child.

In most situations, when I don’t know the exact right answer, I say, “We’ll find a book on the subject.”  

A quick internet search proved that there are apparently a million choices.  Does anyone out there have a recommendation?

Something by Dr. Seuss perhaps….There’s a Wagenda on the Agenda!

Actually, that sounds more like something Mike Pence would write and so no.  Just no.

I don’t want my son to grow-up misinformed (except for the whole wagenda thing, I’m going to let that one go for a while), or embarrassed to ask questions he might have about sex.  I’d prefer he ask his dad, but whatever.

I’ve convinced him that I know everything and so heavy is the head that wears the crown.  I need to deliver.  But first, I need book suggestions….

 

Valentine’s Day Isn’t For Everyone….

“All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~Charles M. Shulz  

So, my son is now a first grade and I’ve learned that a lot has changed since I made my way through the public school system.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when people didn’t care all that much about your feelings, so this whole, everybody get’s a Valentine thing is new to me.

When I was in elementary school, I loved Valentine’s Day.  I spent days preparing my tacky Valentine’s box with construction paper hearts, feathers, stickers and paper doilies.

On Valentine’s Day, we placed our boxes on our desks and walked around our classroom depositing Valentines and treats into the boxes of our friends and our enemies?  Well, they could go right on ahead and choke on a box of those chalky conversation hearts for all we cared.

Personally,  I never gave a Valentine to a kid named Olin who had a harelip.  Not because of the harelip, but because he cut a chunk out of my hair in Kindergarten and I never let go of a grudge.

I also refused to deposit a Valentine into the box of a kid named Bobby, who used to pick his nose and wipe it on all the girls.  To this day, anyone with the name Bobby makes me want to vomit.

I spent years campaigning to blacklist a girl named Roberta, who beat me up, EVERY DAY, on the playground in second grade.  That is, until I told my gramma, who arrived at the school one afternoon during dismissal and confronted Roberta using a variety of clever obscenities none of us really understood, but delighted in repeating whenever possible.

Example:  “If you ever lay a finger on my granddaughter again you hussy, I will kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

Not only could we exclude our classmates, but because nobody actually looked at the Valentine’s we were passing out, we were free to send hate mail too.

I got a few and I gave a few.

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In middle school, we gave up the Valentine boxes and instead we got to purchase candy heart lollipops for fifty-cents in the cafeteria, to be delivered, with a note, to anyone we chose.

Throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, our classes would be disrupted by a knock at the door and the candy courier would walk in and announce who the lucky recipient was. Which of course made the rest of us feel like ugly, unlovable ducklings.

My friends and I sent candy hearts to one another, but mostly I sent them to myself and claimed they were from a secret admirer. I wanted the candy and I wanted to make the other girls jealous.

I also sent one to my seventh grade science teacher, because he was smokin’ hot for a middle-aged science teacher and I hoped to woo him away from his wife and kids, apparently.

In high school, candy hearts were replaced with single stem roses. The concept played out the same way. The roses were purchased for a dollar and delivered throughout the school day. Tables were set up before school, in the hallways between classes and during lunch, allowing ample opportunity for rose purchases.

Girls with boyfriends ended the school day with a dozen roses by final bell. Girls without boyfriends told everyone it was because those girls put out….because it was really the only way to save face when walking through the dismissal crowd without a single rose.

Honestly, all of it sucked. There were years in elementary school when my friends and I got into huge fights over Barbies and who got to be the teacher when we played school. We teamed up against one another and if Valentine’s Day happened to fall during a rumble, things could get ugly.

“Nobody give a Valentine to Laura….she’s bossy and she’s got a knock off Cabbage Patch.”

In middle school and high school, the number of candy heart lollipops and roses you received were symbols of how popular and well liked you were compared to others. Clearly, there was something wrong with you if NOBODY thought you worthy of fifty-cents or a dollar.

So, I think it’s better that kids these days are expected to spread kindness equally on Valentine’s Day.

They’ll have plenty of time as adults to be biter and cynical when the day ends without a bouquet and takeout for one.

And by then, they can acquire alcohol.

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10 Things I Swore I Would Never Do When I Became A Parent….

“I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.” ~Gwyneth Paltrow

I admit it.

Before I had a kid, I was 100% one of those judgey, know-it-all jerks who made grand proclamations about all the things I’d never do when I became a parent.

Which was pretty bold considering that, for years, I’d known nothing about raising children.  Like, literally nothing. 

Was it acceptable to put Kool-Aid into a baby bottle?

Did you wait to change a child’s diaper until it had reached maximum capacity?  I mean, diapers are expensive and if you can make a 24 pack last 24 days, that’s practicing good economics….no?

And, it’s not that big a deal to leave a toddler in the car if you’re just running into K-Mart for ONE thing, right?  So long as the kid is strapped down somewhere and unable to reach the lit cigarette resting in the cars ashtray?

What can I say?  I didn’t have the best maternal example.

It wasn’t until books and television taught me that I was basically a degenerate, that I began to form loftier opinions about things.

The police never showed up at the Seaver residence because Maggie was in the backyard with an ax hacking up the lawn furniture after a fight with Dr. Seaver.

Mrs. Walsh, of Beverly Hills 90210 never hissed at Brenda, “I am going to kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

And not one of those chick’s from the Babysitter’s Club, had to take their earnings and immediately spend it all on candy at a sports bar/grocery store called Smokies before their mother could steal their wages.

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Smokies #ICan’tMakeThisShitUp

So, it’s really thanks to the likes of the Tanners, the Camden’s, The Huxtables, Mr. Belvedere and Beverly Clearly, that I became self-righteous AF.

10 Things I Swore I Would Never Do When I Became A Parent

1.   Let my kid eat a hot dog

Fast forward six years:

Me:  Hey Snugs, want to have a hot dog and mac & cheese for dinner?

Snugs:  I had that yesterday!

Me:  I know, but it’s your favorite!

2.  Leave the house in my pajama’s

Post Kids:  Ok, I’ll never leave the house in my PJ’s without a bra.

A few more years post kids:  Well, if I’m staying in the car and just going through the teacher assist drop-off line, it’s not like anyone will notice I’m not wearing a bra.

3.  Let my kid buy school lunch

Me….Every Day:  Oooh, buddy!  French toast sticks are on the menu at school today and tomorrow, it’s nachos!

4.  Allow screen time

A hot minute after giving birth:  Get ready!  To Wiggle!  

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5.  Forego my personal hygiene

Post Parenthood Google Search History:

  • How many days in a row can you use dry shampoo?
  • How many days in a row can a person go without showering before the smell is too great to mask.
  • Is Listerine an acceptable alternative to teeth brushing?

6.  Give-up my corporate career for family

My employer (a year ago):  You haven’t made a career move in five years and we’re going to eliminate your current position.  You’ll need to either move up, or move out.

Me:  Cool, should I go ahead and start packing now?

I know I’m supposed to be leaning-in and pulling up a seat the table and bursting through the glass ceiling and blah, blah, blah, but I was over my career.  OVER IT.

I didn’t want to spend my time traveling all the over the place, working insane hours, while someone else raised my kid, all for the privilege of helping to stuff the already bulky pockets of the executives and shareholders of corporate America.

I decided I didn’t want to pull up a seat their table.  I decided to build my own table.  I’m sorry if this isn’t the choice I was supposed to make.

Actually, no.  I’m not sorry.

7.  Participate in the Elf on the Shelf

Before my son was born, I considered the tradition to be an unnecessarily stressful addition to parenting and the holiday season.

Actually, I think I was just really jealous that I hadn’t thought of that bajillion-dollar idea myself.

After my son was born, I jumped right onto the Elf on the Shelf bandwagon and I’m not getting off anytime soon.

Quite frankly, I participate in the tradition for one person and one person only….and that person is me.

My childhood had all the magic of life at Spahn Ranch with the Manson family, so it makes me feel good to sprinkle my son’s youth with wonderment.

Also, that little Sprite gives me a whole month off from parenting….and I’m not going to lie, I can use the break….especially during the holiday season.

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8.  Formula Feed

To be clear, it never crossed my mind to judge another mother for the way she chose to feed her kid.  If it hadn’t been for Hamburger Helper, Chef-Boyardee and Tang, I might not have survived my own infancy.

So, fed is best, as far as I’m concerned.

But I had a lot of guilt about being diagnosed with cancer while I was pregnant and so I felt like if I couldn’t breastfeed, I would essentially be a worse mother than Susan Smith.

Mom guilt.  Am I right?

I wanted to breastfeed, but I couldn’t.

To make a long story short, my son was born premature, I had to finish chemotherapy and it wasn’t safe for my son to breastfeed while I was pumped full of R-CHOP.

I tried to “pump and dump,” but my body was all, “F-You.  I’m not cooperating.” 

Since starvation is, in fact, the worst of all options, I decided that what was best for my son, was formula.  And what was best for me, was to stop torturing myself.

PS….to that lady from the online La Leche support group I reached out to for advice on stimulating my milk supply, the lady who told me I should really consider stopping cancer treatment because, Breast is Best!

I still know who you are.  My social media stalking skills are on point and oh honey….time has not been good to you.

 

9.  Subscribe to a parenting philosophy

Me, today:  I’m the I Don’t Give a F*ck Mom.

The IDGAF mom is the one who can’t even commit to the long term implications of a bumper sticker, let alone a parenting philosophy.

She’s the one who sometimes feels like she’s got her shit together and other times, get’s stuck in her sports bra.

The mom who roots for other mom’s, (except that bitch from the La Leche support group….I never let go of a valid grudge), because she knows that parenting isn’t actually a competition.

We’re all just doing the best we can to roll with the punches of parenting and life and in the end, we all want the same thing.  Nice kids who are healthy and happy and who go on to be productive and kind members of society.  That’s the only trophy we’re going to get.

10.  Allow my kid to throw a tantrum in public

I really thought I would have this one down.  I assumed that I was the adult, the one in charge.  I thought my firm, but loving approach to child rearing would be thing that would separate me from the mom with the toddler sprawled out and screaming on the floor at Target.

I thought that right up until the time my son was about three and I told him it was time to leave Chuck E. Cheese and he looked at me and said, “Over my dead body.”

Ok, so he didn’t actually say that, but trust me, his wails and feet stamping and fist pounding on the Skee Ball machine made it clear that I could suck it.

So, now I just like to tell myself that he’s strong willed and that strong willed children become adults who change the world.  I high five myself and hope that he’s at least a good dictator someday.

Then, I take another helping of humble pie with a side of crow, pull up my yoga pants and tell myself that, at the very least, I’m still way better than that La Leche lady.

 

I Don’t Know What I’m Doing….and Neither Do You.

“Opinions are like butt-holes.  Everybody has one.”
~Unknown, but I wish it was me

As a mother, I’ve grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice.

Just the other day, while in the toothpaste aisle at Target, I was accosted by a woman who approached and said, “You shouldn’t choose a toothpaste that contains aluminum.  Unless you want your kid to have Alzheimers.” 

How do you even respond to that?

When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with cancer at twenty-two weeks.  Once, while shopping, a woman approached and asked, “Don’t you think you should have been more responsible?”  

Throughout my entire illness, I never had a problem sharing my story with curious strangers.  I spent many minutes in check-out aisles and at my doctor’s appointments, chatting it up with random, but kind, strangers, about my diagnosis and how it all came to be.

But this woman?

No.

She was a twat-waffle.

So, I didn’t feel bad when I suggested that she should hop into her douche canoe and row, row, row the boat far away from me….before I did actually make an irresponsible decision.

After I gave birth, I wasn’t able to breast-feed.  My son was born one week before my last chemo cycle.  Although the medications were unable to cross through the placenta while my son was safe and snug inside my womb, they could pass through my breast milk and that wasn’t safe for him.

In the beginning, I tried to “pump and dump,” which I would need to do for a minimum of six weeks after my last chemo cycle, in order to flush out all the poisons.

I tried.  I really, really did.

I followed every bit of advice from the hospitals lactation consultants.  But nothing worked.

My body had been through a lot and it seemed to draw the line at producing breast milk.    I was never able to produce more than about a teaspoons worth, which, admittedly, made me feel like a horrible mother.

As a last ditch effort, I reached out to a La Leche Group I found online.  Now, I’m sure that if you are a regular woman, who is struggling to breast feed and looking for advice, that these groups are helpful.  In my case, not so much.

I explained my situation and for the most part, I got back the same advice the lactation consultants had given me.  In a few cases, some of the women essentially said, “I’ve got nothing, I’m sorry.”

But then, one woman decided to offer me this piece of sage advice.  “You should stop your treatments so you can breastfeed.  It’s really the most important thing you can do for your baby.”

“Um….like, more important than being alive?  Bitch.”

That’s all said.  I might have added in a GFU.

Ok, I did definitely add it in, because who says that!?

And honestly, my experiences with breast-feeding shame didn’t end there.  I found a super expensive, organic formula that made me feel a little bit better about my inability to feed my baby from my own body and I’m not even kidding, but nine times out of ten, when I was at the store purchasing his food, a woman would tell me that breast milk was best.

And you know what?  I agree!  It is THE BEST.  I get it.

But, we can’t all do it and for some, we don’t all want to do it and that’s OK too.  It really is.  Because you know what’s second best to breast?  Fed.

A few years ago, while my son played at an indoor playground, a man asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that letting your son wear a pink shirt will make him gay?”

He asked, as though being gay was a bad thing.

As if I would be all bent out of shape at the prospect of being the number one woman in my son’s life….forever.

As if a child’s preference in color, is indicative of his sexuality.

But, I suppose when you can still recall the smell of the air from the bough of the Mayflower, you can sort of be forgiven for your ignorance.

I am by no means a perfect parent.  There are days I think I’m nailing it and there are days when I wish that life allowed a control z function, so that I could have a do-over….or five.

I appreciate and even love, all those Parenting Blogs that talk honestly about the trials and tribulations of raising children.  It’s nice to find a community of like-minded parents.  But the second they hop on a sponsored soap box and start using words like “should” and “never.”  They’ve lost me.

Because, I’m sorry, Karen, you don’t know squat….unless you have a PH.D in child-rearing, in which case, what you know is still debatable.  Parenting, like everything else, is constantly evolving.

My generation is the first to raise children in the age of social media.  And I think a byproduct of that, is that we’ve lost a bit of our self-confidence and our willingness to trust our gut and our instincts as parents.

It’s so easy to compare ourselves to what other families are doing.  All we have to do, is open up our computers, or our phones and we are immediately transported into the lives of families all over the world, which brings a whole new meaning to the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses.”  

But the truth is, we are all just winging it and hoping we get it right.

Personally, I vaccinate, because Polio seems like a real bitch.

I don’t spank my child, because I got my ass kicked as a kid and from that, I learned only one thing.  That I don’t want to hit my child.

Depending on the circumstances, I’m a helicopter parent.  Other times, I’m that mom, sitting in the corner, reading a book.

Some days, I make homemade, from scratch, wholly organic meals and other days we go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

I allow screen time, almost every day.  Some days, it’s no more than hour.  Other days, whatever.

I am at times, authoritative and strict and other times, weak and super permissive.  Most of the time, I’m weak and super permissive.

I’m a big believer in the importance of self-care; for moms and dads.  And sometimes, I prioritize myself over everyone else.  And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.

My house is obsessively clean and organized.  Because my brain needs it to be that way and I have no problem doing all the work.  In fact, I LIKE it.

I have been a corporate career having mom and a stay-at-home mom.  Both are hard.

Sometimes, I let my son win and other times, I wipe the floor with him.

And I don’t care what kind of mom the internet, or the media tells me I should be.

I can’t force him into a specific parenting philosophy.  I know this, because I have actually tried.  But I don’t think he came out of the womb a blank slate.  He was already a person. Predisposed, I guess, to certain personality traits and needs that would and do influence his interests.

So I only care about being the kind of parent my child needs me to be.  And I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I trust myself to get it mostly right.  Because no one knows him and loves him like I do and nobody ever could.

I’m Known as the Death of the Party….

“I am not a jerk.  I am an introvert and I say fuck a lot.” ~Charles Bukowski

I don’t get invited to a lot of parties.

This is not surprising, because I don’t have a lot of friends.

This is not surprising, because I’m the human equivalent of a turd in a punch bowl.

I don’t necessarily mean to be, but I’m a definite introvert trying to force myself to function like a “normal” person, in a world that is noisy and won’t shut up.  A bi-product of which, is a somewhat bizarre form of what I suppose could be called, social anxiety.  Or, a bad case of chronic, verbal diarrhea.

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When I get blindsided by conversation, you know, normal, friendly small talk, I tend to contribute something like, “Hey, did you know that humans shed forty pounds of skin in their lifetime?” just as you’re about to sprinkle some parmesan cheese onto what used to be your favorite dish.

I once said, ” Well, I hate the Yankee’s” during a professional networking event, in New York, with a bunch of Yankee fans, at YANKEE F*CKING STADIUM, in response to the question, “Do you like baseball?”

And you know what?  I don’t even really hate the Yankee’s.

I’m sure it would be quite nice to be a social butterfly, instead of a wall flower; to be the kind of person who oozes charisma and charm, instead of oozing verbal diarrhea.

But I wouldn’t know.

Unknown.pngI’m attending a wedding at the end of the month and the last time I saw many of the people who will be in attendance, I filled an awkward moment of silence with the following:

“Hey, did you guys know the average fast food eater consumes like 12 pubic hairs a year?”  

I don’t know why that was necessary.  I have no words….also, it was me who caused the awkward moment of silence.
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The thing is, when left to my own devices, I’m just perfectly happy being alone.

It’s not because I’m sad, or depressed, or need to be pried from my shell.  I’m not shy, or lacking in self-confidence.

And it’s not that I don’t like people.  I think people are fascinating, especially from a distance, when they don’t know I’m watching them.

It’s the socializing I don’t love; the small talk and the pressure to contribute to a conversation. I don’t like the pauses, with expectation, waiting for me to share my thoughts, which usually consist of something like, “Every year, 40,000 people are injured by a toilet in the United States.”  Except no one is ever talking about toilets.

I am capable of having regular, deep conversations with my small circle of close friends and family, but take me to any sort of outing where there are large groups of people and shit gets weird, real fast.

When I manage to find a quiet, dark corner where I can lurk in the shadows and just observe and eavesdrop, there is always some do-gooder who tracks me down with a “Why are you over here all by yourself?  Come join us!”

And I think, “Damn-it, Susan, you’re ruining everything!”  

For a long time, I was hard on myself for my shortcomings as a socialite.  It bothered me that nearly everyone else I knew gracefully made their way through parties, networking events, conferences, etc., while I spent my time rehearsing a series of basic social niceties, only to then spend days months obsessing over all the ways in which I still ended up accidentally telling someone her purse was ugly and then insulting her entire family for good measure.

But, I’m pushing forty now and honestly, I don’t care anymore.

This is who I am.

My idea of excellent of customer service is to be completely ignored, until I ask for something….which I will never do.  The other day, I discovered that I can look up a specific product on Home Depot’s website, while in the store, and it will tell me the items exact aisle and bay number, thus forever sparing me an awkward encounter with a store associate.  I am now a lifelong customer of Home Depot….so long as I can continue to get a decent cell signal in their stores.

I have had the same cell phone provider for eighteen years.  Because even if I wanted to break up with them, I don’t want to have to actually initiate the conversation.

But you know what?  Loyalty does it have its rewards, even if it’s unintended loyalty….because I have a seriously good cell phone plan that is so good, they don’t offer it anymore.  I’ve been grandfathered into it with like two other people, because….eighteen years.

I’m that friend who will never answer the phone when you call, but will immediately respond with a text and then tell you I’m somewhere with shitty cellular service.  And of course you’ll know I’m lying, but you know me, so you’ll let it go.

Actually, if we’re really friends, you’ll never call to begin with, unless it’s a true emergency.  Like, you need help burying a body, or something.

Also, if you invite me to your wedding and I look thoroughly confused in every photograph, you’ll know it’s because I’m trying to work out exactly why I needed to include the world vulva, in a conversation with your new mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.

I know, I know….I sound like a real pain in the ass.  Truly, most of the time, I feel like I’m not worth the effort, but believe it or not, I’m a good friend when it matters most.  *See body comment above.*

I’ll just never be the life of the party.  And I don’t want to be.

When life requires me to people, I will always be that person trying desperately to blend into the wallpaper.  Literally.  I call ahead so I can match my outfits to the décor.

I now have a six-year-old son, who is a first grader, which adds a layer of challenge to my hermit-like aspirations.  He wants to socialize, which means that, by extension, I need to socialize; with other parents at playdates and birthday parties and school events and so on.  And of course, I do these things for him.

But there is also a part of him that is just like me.  He’s dreamy and imaginative and for as long as he’s been able to string a sentence together, he’s declared that he wants to be a writer.

At six, he’s written dozens of very short stories in a little notebook he keeps.  Sometimes the stories have no real beginning, or ending.  Just a thought he worked out and put to paper with an illustration.

Sometimes, when I pick him up from school and I ask him abut his day, he’ll tell me it was good, but he played by himself.  And I’ll ask, “How come?  Is everything OK?”

“Of course, Mommy,” he’ll say.  “I just needed some alone time.” 

And I get it.  So we’ll drive home in a comfortable silence.  Both of us, a little lost in ourselves for a bit.

♥♥

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Adventures in Room Parenting….

“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you. I’ve been physically abused in the ear!” ~Billy Madison

Last school year, I volunteered to be a room parent in my son’s classroom.  For anyone who knows me, this is a rather large departure from type.

I’m the kind of mom who will donate money and supplies and muffins from a fancy bakery and tell everyone I made them, but I’m not the room-mom type; the type who can fundraise like nobody’s business and who can devise an art museum quality craft using nothing but a pipe cleaner, multi-colored pom-pom’s and a used tissue.

But, I had decided that I wanted to start coming from a place of saying YES to things I would have normally said, “No f’ing way.”  Just like Shonda Rimes.

Actually, no.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Sometimes my mouth just writes checks my ass can’t cash.  I have no idea why.

All I know, is that I found myself writing my name on the sign-up sheet outside the classroom on Back to School night, while the other, apparently wiser, moms pretended they didn’t see it.

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For the most part, I enjoyed my role as a room parent.  The job gave me the inside scoop about events and activities occurring both in the classroom and at the school in general.

I got some extra face time with my son’s teachers, who I came to truly adore and admire and we’ve developed a nice friendship.

I also made a mom friend in my co-room-parent, Martha Stewart, who is definitely a room-mom type.  If it weren’t for Martha, I might have, most definitely would have, lost my shit after the first classroom holiday party.

I also liked getting to know the kids.  They were a lot of fun….when they weren’t picking their noses and then asking to holding my hand….or, telling me all about how they had pooped “something green and frowed-up” that very morning, right before sneezing in my face.

What I did not enjoy, were most of their parents, who whined and complained and made shit hard….

All

Year

Long

Like:

  1.  The parent who said, “Can you send out a detailed accounting of what you spent our $1.00 donation on.  You know, just want to make sure you didn’t use it pay your mortgage.  LOL”

I’m not sure if the LOL was meant to make this person sound more or less like an asshole, but either way….

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It’s not that I had a problem sharing information about what was purchased with donated money.  In fact, Martha and I sent out an update after every event that generally went something like: “Thank you parents for your donations!  The money was used to make this thing out of popsicle sticks and bandaids and look how much fun the kids had!  See the attached 427 pictures we took!”

But a detailed Excel spreadsheet?  After we’d spent literally hours organizing and preparing and then helping to facilitate these activities?

Which by the way, almost always cost substantially more than the total requested?

No.  Not going to happen.

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Also, if I was devising a plan to embezzle money from other parents, I’d be asking for a lot more than $1 per kid.

With 22 kids in the class and a co-conspirator to pay off, $11 isn’t even enough to buy breakfast at Starbucks.

If I’m going to become embroiled in scandal, it’s going to be for something huge.  Like, perhaps, smacking a certain parent with a sack full of $22 in quarters.


2.  The “shouldn’t my tax dollars be paying for this?” parents. 

Honestly, these people irritate the hell out of me.  They are always the folks who take to the community Facebook page to post things like, “There is a dusting of snow on the road and I haven’t seen a plow truck yet this morning.  Aren’t our tax dollars paying for this?”

“It’s January 2nd and the Christmas lights and wreaths are still up in town square, don’t our tax dollars pay for someone to remove them?”  (True story….someone actually posted this last winter.)  #FirstWorldProblemsMuch

SHUT UP!

If you believe that our tax dollars aren’t being managed appropriately, go to a town budget meeting, or a school board budget meeting.  Or, better yet, run for a town political position.  DO SOMETHING, other than bitch about it.

Because, I don’t want to hear it.

I’m just a volunteer trying to gather enough beaded necklaces and plastic maracas from the dollar store to stuff into a taco shaped piñata I spent thirty dollars on….out of my own pocket….because apparently no one thought to add a line item for a Cinco de Mayo party to the school budget.

I guess they were just too focused on funding those three brand new schools with state of the art technology centers and athletic facilities….along with the gazillion enrichment programs our kids have access to, like foreign language classes beginning in Kindergarten and fully funded field trips.

We’re soooo unfortunate.

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3.  The, “I’d love to help out, but I have a job” parents.

Really?  Is this still a thing?  This whole, parent vs. parent battle where we attempt to one-up and out-martyr each other in the ultimate contest of who is the better parent?

I have been a full time, big corporate job having mom, a stay-at-home mom and a combination of the two.  And you know what?  It’s all hard AF.  For different reasons and similar reasons that are big and little and complicated and full of conflicted and messy feelings.

But, thank you.  Thank you for the unnecessary reminder that you are employed.

You are better than me.  You’re more important than me.  You win.

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4.  The “We’re saving for our next trip to Disney and trying to curb unnecessary spending” parents.

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So….was I to assume that these children would not be participating in the Valentine’s Day party?

Or….that I was expected to pay their share?

I’ll let you guess.


5.  The “Oops, I know it’s the morning of and I signed up to send in (insert everything from all the paper products and cutlery, to half the supplies needed for a project) but I forgot” parents.

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Want to know how easy it is to find Halloween decorations and jingle bells and yarn and sand castle picture frame kits at 6:00am?

Zero easy.


So, when I ran into the PTO Room Parent Coordinator at Target the other day, because of course I did, and she asked, “So, are you ready to be a first grade room parent?”

I didn’t hesitate a bit when I said, “Fuck no.”   (Ok, I didn’t actually say fuck, but it was implied).

Her:  Surely you can’t be serious?

Me:  I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.  (This didn’t happen either, I just wish it had)  #Airplane

But I did say no.

It’s a hard pass for me Karen, but let me know if you need any muffins, or money.

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