Projects, revisited

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a huge fan of projects. Never one to introduce small, incremental changes to my lifestyle, I have always preferred sweeping plans or entirely new regimens. This may explain why I have changed very little since the fifth grade:

fifth grade

Nailed it.

Because to be honest, as much as I love them, the projects very rarely stick. There’s generally a very intense period in which I LIVE, EAT AND BREATHE whatever new project I am embarking on, but inevitably I grow resentful of the project’s hold over my life, or sometimes I just forget I’m doing it one day, and by the time I realize it, I’m like, fuck it, project ruined. Let’s eat.

I outlined my 2016 projects in this earlier post, and at the time, I was really, really into them. But times change, so I thought I’d give you a little update on where things stand now.

  1. Learn Spanish. I have to admit, I did really well with this one until the minute I actually got to Mexico and learned that while the app claimed I was 47% fluent in Spanish, it had only taught me the 47% of words that I would need to talk to a two-year-old. As we were staying at an adults-only resort, I found that there wasn’t really anyone around with whom I could discuss at length the water-drinking habits of local horses, or whether or not my aunt has written a book (she has not).

I don’t feel like my LinkedIn connections are going to be particularly impressed.

After that, the magic was sort of lost. I pointed out words that I recognized on signs or brochures to Ben with the same zeal that Rosie reserves for informing me that she has farted, but then Ben pointed out that most of those same signs and brochures were also in English. So as of right now, I’m stalled out at 47%, and haven’t logged on since we left Mexico. Maybe I would feel a little more badass if I were 47% fluent in, like, Russian or Japanese, but 47% fluent in Spanish seems a little lame, like there should be a little banner under the 47% badge that just says “You tried.”

2. Learn to Meditate. To be honest, I almost immediately forgot about this one after I blogged about it. Maybe all I had to do to achieve enlightenment was admit that I wanted to learn, and I took an amazing shortcut straight to nirvana? But I kind of don’t think so, because right now my body is made almost entirely of stress and chocolate, so I’m thinking that just saying I wanted to learn meditation didn’t cut it. I may revisit this one once I figure out how to take ten minutes for myself each day without Rosie blowing up a building to get my attention.


I’ve been kicking around some new project ideas in my head, but nothing has really jumped out at me yet– I still want to do everything listed above, but the thrill is kind of gone. I do feel like I deserve some sort of award for keeping my blog going as long as I have– this definitely counts as a project, right?


Geez, you don’t have to be so sarcastic about it, Christian Bale.

So what do you think? Any projects worth sticking to? Any to dump? Any new to start? Who knows– you might be the one who suggests the project that could finally change my life.

Or at least 47% of it.

The adventures of Margarine

To be honest, I find parenthood a lot more baffling that I thought I would. I wasn’t expecting so much talk of butts from my five-year-old, for instance. I didn’t expect Rosie to take great joy in destroying our home and everything we hold dear like some sort of pint-sized Godzilla. I didn’t know I was going to be required to introduce myself to every kid at the playground in an attempt to play matchmaker for Addie, and I wasn’t aware that I was going to have to make sure she wasn’t just putting on a new pair of underwear over top of yesterday’s pair every day for a week.

But one of the accouterments of childhood that I am having the hardest time with is Shopkins.

Shopkins, for those of you not in the know, are inch-high, anthropomorphic representations of common household and grocery items. They inexplicably  have giant holes in their butts, for reasons that are never fully explained– maybe Shopkins are supposed to be pencil toppers? Or maybe in the bizarro world that they come from, giant gaping buttholes are de rigeur? I don’t know.

And I mean, I get it. I had my own weird toys when I was a kid. Bears that shoot glee or something from their bellies? Yes, go for it! Armless, legless people who somehow manage to be farmers and airline pilots? Sure!


But you guys, Shopkins are literally tiny, colorful plastic molds of mundane shit you can find around your house. I just can’t imagine a situation in which I came home from a hard day in kindergarten, kicked off my pink Crocs and relaxed with a soothing game of Tiny Vegetables With Faces:


I feel like Carrot’s wink is making everyone uncomfortable

And it’s not just food, it’s literally just anything you could find around your house.


How many wacky adventures can Margarine get into? She has a knife in her head! And lotion soap is just happy to be here. Those two tacos with the girl eyelashes and the mustaches are sending very confusing (but body positive!) messages, although I don’t even really want to think about what is going on with the one that appears to be full of ground yellow meat.

Addie and her friends cannot get enough Shopkins, though. When she’s not playing Shopkins, or organizing her Shopkins, she is scheming new ways to get more Shopkins, most of which involve picking up one sock from the floor, putting it in the hamper, and yelling at the top of her lungs “I DID CHORES YOU CAN PAY ME IN SHOPKINS LET’S GET TO TARGET TIME’S A-WASTIN’!”

Even Rosie has fallen under their spell– I can hear her in Addie’s room right now, actually, playing with the Shopkins set Addie got for Easter. When I was downloading the pictures I had taken of the Shopkins onto the computer, she pointed at them and said “Shopkins!”, which may not sound impressive until you realize that she still thinks her own name is just “MEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I mean, I guess tiny refrigerators and macarons can have just as plausible of adventures as glee-shooting bears or horses with tattoos on their butts. But part of me wonders if I can just slap some googly eyes and false eyelashes onto common kitchen items and try to pass them off as toys. I could really use one of those mixers…

Rise and shine and then lay back down indefinitely

Society perpetuates so many lies in order to keep our species thriving—“Have kids!” they say. “It’ll be so fun!” they say. “It won’t be weird at all to have sex with your husband while your two children may or may not be asleep less than 15 feet away in their own rooms, and could easily walk in at any time, scarring everyone for life and requiring years of costly therapy!”

But to me, the biggest, most unforgivable lie of all was this:

You’ll get so used to getting up early that you won’t be able to sleep in anymore!

Perhaps this is true of normal people. Clearly, someone is getting up earlier than me, and getting to the doughnut shop and taking all the good doughnuts before I can even get there, but fuck that guy, because while he was up at the butt crack of dawn to commune with Satan or whatever it is people do before 6:30 a.m., I was catching those sweet, sweet Z’s, which have far fewer calories than doughnuts. Although now that you mention it, I would like a doughnut, too, please.

I will never not be able to sleep in. I am like a black belt at sleeping in.

My children, however, are not.

It’s been five years, and I keep waiting for that day to arrive when I finally spring from bed without prodding at 5:30 in the morning, smiling and ready to face the day. “I couldn’t possibly have slept another second!” I will say to myself. “Thank God it’s finally time to get out of this amazingly comfortable sleep nest I have built for myself out of comforters and pillows and head out into the world where people will insist on interacting with me!”

But amazingly, this day has not yet come.

I was promised it would. People pointed at the elderly as examples. “My grandparents get up every morning at 4 and head over to the local McDonald’s to drink coffee with their friends!” But what they often leave out is that their grandparents also tend to go to bed at 7:30 at night, and even then I say they are missing out on at least another three good hours of sleep in this scenario.

And besides, grandparents are also famous for not understanding the internet and awkwardly referring to African Americans as colored people, so we may not exactly want to be modeling ourselves after them.

I really would like to become a morning person—getting up earlier would give me another few minutes to myself each day, to exercise, or write, or eat my aforementioned doughnut without having to share it with anyone. But no matter what I try—moving my alarm clock across the room, refusing to allow a snooze option, setting it for 40 minutes before I would usually get up—I always find a way to sneak back into bed until the last possible second.

I’m just really trying to ride it out until my daughters hit the teen years, when I will easily be able to sleep in until 10 every Saturday and still make them feel guilty for not getting up until noon. Until then, does anyone have any good tips to get me out of bed a little earlier? Or better yet, would anyone be interested in a job as my personal waker-upper, forcibly dragging me out of bed at the appointed hour? I won’t be able to pay much, but you can use my bed nest when I’m done with it. I’ll even warm it up for you, if you just let me lay here five more minutes.

Things I learned from Addie’s homework assignment

I had hoped that the 100 Days Project would be the only major homework assignment I was expected to complete during my tenure as a kindergarten parent. After all, I do have a master’s degree, and I feel like that should have earned me a free pass in the homework department. But apparently, Addie’s school cares nothing for my MFA, and is working in cahoots with my old middle school art teacher Mr. Caponi in their long-standing assault on my arts and crafts skills.

This time, we were expected to make something called a Bottle of Fun:


You will notice that, once again, these instructions are pretty specifically aimed at the parents, not the children, as Addie has access to neither a hair dryer nor “tile/grout glue”. In fact, all she had to do was write her name on the thing– the rest was left up to me and my IMAGINATION, although rule three explicitly states that I am to follow the specific instructions on the attached paper.

The bottle we were given was The Celebration Bottle, which consisted of the following items:

  • Corn syrup
  • Confetti
  • Curling ribbon

And that’s it! How hard could it be?

Ben scoffed at the assignment, asking what Addie could possibly learn from such a project. (According to the handout for The Celebration Bottle, all it said was “self esteem”, which seems like sort of a hazardous lesson to teach kids– YOU CAN GET SELF ESTEEM FROM THIS BOTTLE! DRINKING IT MAKES YOU A BETTER DANCER!)

Addie may not have learned much, but here are the lessons that I personally learned from The Celebration Bottle:

1. Do not, under any circumstances, forget to look in your child’s bookbag until two nights before Spring Break ends. If you do, you will find an idiotic assignment for a Bottle of Fun, and you will feel even more idiotic that you didn’t know about it until one day before it was due.

You will also find the calcified remains of her lunch from two Fridays ago. Really, check that shit as soon as it comes home.

2. Literally no one sells confetti anymore. It’s as if President Obama’s last act in office was to have confetti banned nationwide, and to expressly inform all store employees to act as though you have requested a bag of freshly steaming bear poop every time you inquire if they have any in stock. Thanks, Obama.

3. Michael’s sells 200 kinds of ribbon, but none of them are curling ribbon. And when you try to buy confetti at Michael’s, they will straight laugh in your face. And I’m like, you know what, Michael’s? It’s not like your 40% off shadow boxes and bucktooth rabbit Easter decor are exactly high art.

4. You will find curling ribbon at Target, but no confetti, except some stupidly oversized silver discs that could honestly be used as compact mirrors in a pinch. It’s like large print confetti for the elderly.

5. It’s okay to have a mental breakdown in the middle of Target when you can’t find the confetti and text your best friend in all caps.


6. Target does not keep the corn syrup with the rest of the baking supplies, because it is gross and should not be considered a food stuff. You will briefly flirt with the idea of using coconut oil instead, but one last pass through the next aisle over will reveal a bounty of corn syrup, and it’s totally okay to pump your fist in the air and yell “YEEEEEAH!” (Maybe this is where the self-esteem comes in.)

7. Drug Mart doesn’t sell confetti, either, but they do sell a random bag of sequins, and that is GOOD E-FUCKING-NOUGH.

8. Your old neighbor Patti works at Drug Mart now, did you know that? And she did not like you. And you think she doesn’t recognize you, but she does. And she does not laugh at your joke that Drug Mart is the only store in a 20-mile radius that sells anything even close to confetti. Instead, she just stares into your soul with her dead eyes and makes you wish you hadn’t been born.

9. Corn syrup cannot be poured through a funnel. I mean, I guess it can, but it takes forever, and by now you have wasted so much of your evening that by the time you got home, it was already almost time for your kindergartner to go to bed AND BY GOD SHE WILL BE A PART OF CREATING THIS BOTTLE OF FUN BECAUSE THIS IS FUN, GOD DAMMIT!

10. Do you remember how curling ribbon works? It involves scraping one side of the ribbon with scissors until it magically curls up. This takes about three hours to do properly. Four if your kindergartner and her little sister insist on pressing themselves against your body the entire time like scared dogs during a thunderstorm.

So never let it be said that Bottles of Fun is not an educational project. Clearly, there are many important life lessons to be learned from this assignment.


I am hoping there’s a follow-up assignment that explains what to do with the leftover corn syrup, curling ribbon, sequins and glitter now cluttering our kitchen counters, because right now it is doing nothing for my self-esteem.

Bad Sport Addie

When I was little, I was a famously bad sport. I was like the board game equivalent of the new, clearly nefarious black-hatted stranger that would stroll casually into any saloon, immediately silencing the piano music with a glare while casually glancing around for anyone that might want to play. All went well at first, but as soon as the tides turned against me, I would snap, flinging board game pieces around the room like shrapnel, cursing chutes and do not pass go cards to the heavens while crying fountains of tears about the unfairness of it all. After awhile, everyone was wise to me, and no one would play, so I was forced to pretend, for the rest of my days, that I wasn’t dying inside every time someone beat me at Clue. (Spoiler alert: I still am. I just hide it a lot better.)

Funnily enough, this bad sport streak never extended to any actual outdoor sports, where I was incredibly chummy and unfazed by the outcome of any given game. This might be because I was absolutely terrible at all sports, and knew that my participation had no intrinsic value to anyone involved, so the pressure was kind of off.

Addie has, unfortunately, inherited my bad sportsmanship, and applies it liberally to both indoor and outdoor games. I was once accused of cheating at Candyland because I spun the Queen Frostine slot (side note: they don’t have cards in Candyland anymore, only spinners, which is not nearly as fun), and Addie didn’t speak to me for the remainder of the day, except to casually mutter under her breath as she passed me around the house that I was “the worst cheater who ever lived” and “not her mother anymore”. Addie, meanwhile, cheats with abandon, changing rules whenever it suits her.

Just today, for example, what could have been a fun, fair game of SPUD quickly devolved into a quagmire of Addie’s self-serving rules:

  1. It’s three big steps or five small steps, except for Addie, who gets to take UNLIMITED FUCKING STEPS.
  2. This tree is playing. Her name is Mrs. Leafy, and she is Addie’s friend. Because she is a tree, Addie will take all her turns for her.
  3. Addie can only get letters scored against her if you don’t cheat to get them. Cheating includes hitting her with the ball, looking her directly in the eye, and breathing.
  4. Everyone else only has to spell SPUD to get out. Addie has to get the entire alphabet.

So as you can imagine, Addie won every game of SPUD we played. It just wasn’t worth the fight that would ensue if I tried to correct her on the rules. I will count on her middle school PE teacher to do that for her, as he certainly crushed any sort of imaginative competition out of me by the middle of fifth grade. Besides, I don’t mind losing.

I’ll just take my revenge on the Monopoly board.

Christmas II: Return of the King

As I’m sure it’s become clear by now, I am not a religious person. I don’t have anything against it– I just really, really like sleeping in. But because I like reaping the rewards without actually doing anything, I definitely take full advantage of all the holidays. Christmas is, of course, my favorite, because the spirit of giving and childhood wonder but also presents. Easter, though, has always been a bit of a bummer for me, mainly because I always feel like I’m being yelled at. JESUS DIED FOR YOU, everyone reminds me, AND ALL YOU’RE DOING IS WATCHING DRUNK HISTORY AND EATING TOSTITOS!

My kids have been spared from generalized Christian guilt for the most part, except for a weird period when Addie went to a Christian pre-school down the street and returned home with a LOT of questions about someone named Gina, and it was only months later that I realized she was probably talking about Jesus. Which is good, because according to Addie, Gina was always watching us, and I was just not comfortable with that.

So to them, tomorrow is all about the Easter Bunny, and the pressure is on.

Just like pretty much every single aspect of childhood, Easter is completely different now from when I was a kid. Back then, there were dyed eggs, of course, and usually an eighteen-inch-tall grade Z hollow chocolate bunny (which is totally not a put-down in my opinion, because Easter grade Z chocolate is one of my favorite things on earth). I usually only managed to eat about half of it before ants came to claim it, but that was probably for the best, because there was also about a metric ton of other amazing candies, plus a few little trinkets and a stuffed bunny (I still have my first one– her name is Barbara, because I gave all of my stuffed animals weirdly grown-up names as a child). When I got older, the bunny was replaced by a CD, or a movie. No big.

Anymore, from what I have gleaned, Easter is now Christmas II: The Return of the King (THEY SHOULD TOTALLY MARKET IT LIKE THAT). There are brunches with the Easter Bunny, special themed cakes, and full-blown presents. They don’t even sell grade Z giant hollow chocolate bunnies anymore, at least not that I could find.

I think I struck a good balance between the candy-coma Easters of my youth with a few token gifts thrown in– some Shopkins for Addie, because nothing says Christ is Risen like tiny molded plastic household items, and a Minnie Mouse stuffed animal for Rosie, plus new books for both. We’re also going to attempt our first egg hunt tomorrow morning, which I am really looking forward to, because I’m assuming I get to keep all the candy in the eggs they can’t find, so I’m going to throw a few on the roof, just for good measure.

I’m expecting an excellent Easter Sunday filled with plastic grass, happy girls, Shopkins underfoot, brunch and candy. I like to think Gina would approve.

The Cult of Chuck

Ah, Good Friday– that awkward, end-of-week holiday on which nothing actually happens (for heathens like us, anyway), but no one has school or work, and the pressure is on to make some magical family memories. This would have been no big deal if we lived in a place with a normal climate, but we live in Ohio, where it was 70 degrees yesterday, will be 70 degrees again by Sunday, but right now, it’s 39, because fuck your whimsical outdoor plans.

Even so, you may reason– there are museums! Libraries! Art galleries! Live theater! Cleveland is a bustling metropolis of education and wit!

And I would be the first person to admit that this is so. But I would also be the first person to admit that when exposed to such culture, my children tend to interpret all educational placards as reading PLEASE TOUCH! DEFINITELY YOURS TO MANHANDLE! Besides, we burned through all the museums during the winter months, and even my dinosaur-obsessed five-year-old has grown tired of the Natural History Museum.

So that’s how we ended up at Chuck E. Cheese’s today.

I am proud to say that so far in their short lives, I have managed to take my children to Chuck E. Cheese’s only twice. The first time was essentially an accident– I made the mistake of stopping into the Michael’s next door for some embroidery floss (which Rosie also believes is hers to manhandle, usually resulting in me pushing a hopelessly tangled wad of floss under a display with my toe and running for the exit before being shamed by more conscientious crafters), and the siren song of Chuck was too sweet to ignore.


Come to me, my minions!

Today, we actively chose to participate in this debauchery, and I wish I had something terrible to report, but–

You guys, Chuck E. Cheese’s is actually kind of fun.

I mean, there are creepy animatronic robots there that are always blinking at you in a way that makes you think they might be hitting on you. But it’s not like the weird, dark speak-easy atmosphere I seem to remember from my own youth (unless my parents were taking me to some sort of weird, knock-off Chuck E.’s). I found myself getting way too invested in both the shooting-baskets game and the knocking-down-clowns game, and the girls mostly entertained themselves. Hell, Rosie didn’t even need any tokens, she just enjoyed gleefully mashing the buttons on games that weren’t even in service.

So it wasn’t exactly the kind of life-long heartwarming family tableau that holidays are supposed to conjure up, but we all had fun, nobody fought, and we ate probably unwise amounts of pizza. We came home with prizes of immediately disposable plastic snakes and starfish, and Rosie napped for the first time in weeks. It wasn’t a great Friday, but it was a good Friday.

Addie Kratt

According to the many judgy articles I have read over the years, my older daughter has watched what appears to be a lethal amount of television over the course of her short life. I tend to allow it, because I myself watched a lot of television as a child and I turned out fine (except for that time that I watched the movie IT and now I can’t be within 500 feet of a clown), and also because I need something to distract my children while I take a shower, and if it isn’t TV, it will involve either arson or nudity, or nude arson.

As a result, I am now on a first-name basis with all of the glittering superstars of children’s television– first there was Mickey and his gang, and then our brief but intense love affair with Yo Gabba Gabba. We learned Spanish with Dora and Diego, math from Team Umizoomi, and parental fat-shaming from Peppa Pig.

Every one has burned brightly in the evening hours at our house, and every one has eventually fizzled– except Wild Kratts.


In case you are unfamiliar with this show, it involves two real-life brothers, Chris and Martin Kratt, who transform at the beginning of each episode into cartoon versions of themselves. Their cartoon selves possess special creature power suits that allow them to exhibit the “creature powers” of any animal they come in contact with. Sometimes, this is awesome, like when they become lions or elephants. And sometimes they become lame animals like groundhogs or beavers. Once, Martin became a tree, which I feel like may have stretched the narrative conceit a bit too far, but I have sort of a crush on Martin, so I let it slide.

Addie may throw a few other shows in the mix from time to time, but Wild Kratts is always only a button-click away. We have seen every episode at least five times. We once watched an episode in Spanish on YouTube. (I actually don’t recommend looking up the Wild Kratts on YouTube, because for some reason, there is a whole lot of gay fan fiction out there for it? Like this video, which Addie loves, and I don’t have the heart to point out that there’s not actually a scene in the show where the brothers lie in bed naked, Martin holding Chris as he cries.) We’ve played all the Wild Kratt games on PBS Kids.

She owns her own creature power suit, and her own Chris and Martin dolls, with whom she sleeps every night (presumably not naked and crying). Addie’s favorite game is called Addie Kratt, in which she is the third Kratt sibling and I am the Kratt mommy but also all of the villains. Rosie is usually a gecko. She does not have a speaking role.

Addie Kratt

Thankfully, Wild Kratts is one of the few actually enjoyable children’s television shows out there (along with another PBS Kids show, Odd Squad, which I once unapologetically watched by myself after Addie went to bed just because it’s pretty funny). The Kratt brothers are entertaining; the show is educational and doesn’t shy away from the concept of predators and prey; and it made me look like the greatest mother in the world at the playground once when Addie pointed at some kids swinging on the monkey bars and said “Look, Mommy! Those boys are brachiating!

Addie is turning six in May, and as her present, we’re taking her to see the Wild Kratts live and in person. What she doesn’t know is that after the show, we’re also going to a meet and greet, so she will finally get to talk to her idols in person. Or, rather, Ben and I will make awkward small talk with them while Addie spazzes the fuck out, as she is prone to do whenever she is within ten feet of anyone she even remotely likes.

All I know is this: when she saw me placing the picture of Chris and Martin earlier in this post, she looked me right in the eye and said “Mommy, one day I will kiss Chris.” Then she walked out of the room, a glint of determination in her eye.

And soon, I will have the chance to make that creepy dream a reality. Best mom ever.


Carlos and me

Just in case you were wondering, Mexico is terrible and you totally shouldn’t go there.

For instance, as soon as you step outside at their airport, it’s 85 degrees and the sun is super bright on your weak little foreign eyes, and everyone is wearing jaunty wicker fedoras and suddenly you will want a jaunty wicker fedora, even though your hair is already gigantic and expanding exponentially in the humidity and the aforementioned jaunty wicker fedora would just sit atop your wad of hair at a precarious, decidedly unjaunty angle until it fell off and was trampled by people drinking margaritas while waiting for their cabs to the hotels, because you can also drink basically anywhere in Mexico.

Like in the back of your cab, for instance. We might have done that. Just to see how terrible it would be.

Then you show up at the hotel and it’s such a hellhole:


And for some reason, this man won’t stop following you around and telling you he’s your butler and asking if he can please do something for you, and you’re like, nice try, man, but this isn’t an eighties sitcom and we’re not a sassy blended family and no one really has a butler.


I never got to ask if he was related to Cheech.

So now you’ve got this guy up your butt all the time, and after awhile you begin to realize that he is actually watching you when you’re not looking, like you’ll get a phone call from Carlos that he saw you down by the ocean this morning, and he wants to know who set up your cabana since he knows it wasn’t him, and you’re like, okay, one, that’s creepy that you scoped us out on the beach and I’m unsure how you did this without us seeing you, because you always wear what appears to be a black military outfit, and two, we set it up ourselves, because butlers aren’t even real.

Maybe he hid behind this death trap, its coconut bombs waiting to crush your skull into the powder soft sand, and–








In short, Mexico is a perfect paradise of awesomeness, where you can wear a bikini and it doesn’t matter because you’ll never see anyone again. My only regret is that we didn’t find a way to stay a little longer.

And that we didn’t really use Carlos enough, because he genuinely seemed hurt that we kept setting up our own cabana.


Gracias, buenas noches

Listen, I know I said I was going to blog every single day, no matter what. I also told you I don’t know how to relax. But my wonderful husband does, and he has kindly asked me to put the blog on hold while we’re in Mexico, so I’m going to oblige.


I’ll be back on Tuesday with many hilarious stories from our travels, and also with a tan and possibly an ill-advised henna tattoo. Until then, please enjoy this GIF representation of how I intend to spend most of our vacation.