The Six Best and Worst Things About Thanksgiving

Just going to dive right in with this, as I haven’t got much time today.  There’s food to make, cookies to bake, and  a couple of crazy kids giving me a headache 😉

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The Six Worst Things About Thanksgiving:

The family divide and conquer trick – I’m no magician, so unfortunately I can’t slice myself in half and spend any single holiday with both my side of the family and my husband’s side.  Even if I attempt to magically slice just the day in half, giving some time to each side, I usually spend much more time in traffic than anywhere else.  And if you (like me in the picture above from 2008) were brave enough to say screw it and just invited everyone to your own house this year, well, good luck with that.

Christmas is coming– Um, people are Christmas shopping already?  Unless I draw a little Christmas tree on the front of my rent check,  it’s going to be a while before any of my purchases reflect the upcoming most wonderfully expensive time of the year.

The food is not that big of a deal to me– Seriously, don’t people know they sell turkey all year round?  Stuffing too!

Being a mom – Moms don’t really get to enjoy holidays.  We rarely do.  We just get to hone our multi-tasking skills, while counting the minutes until the kids finally tire of chasing each other in circles all day and pass out in the car on the way home.  Or on Grandma’s floor.  Wherever.

Happy Thanks-for-overeating Day! –  Call me a cynic, but in what way does “I plan to eat as much turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes as I can comfortably fit inside of my body without possibly exploding, then take a short break, and continue the fatass fest by shoveling even sweeter, more fattening food down my throat and into my ever-expanding gut” mean that we are thankful for what we have?  Look, I’ll probably stuff my face all day just like the rest of this shamefully gluttonous country tomorrow, but let’s just tell it like it is. This holiday has very little to do with giving thanks for anything more than the right to ask for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths.

Black Friday – Everything about Black Friday gives me anxiety. Waking up at the crack of dawn (or earlier), fighting insane crowds, waiting on long lines, spending too much money, and possibly being trampled to death.  Sound inviting to anyone?

The Six Best Things About Thanksgiving:

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – I don’t go, but I ALWAYS watch.  It brings back childhood memories of a happier time when Thanksgiving didn’t conjure thoughts of overeating and fighting with relatives.

Cyber Monday – Why do people kill each other over half-price toasters or whatever, when half the time it’s almost as cheap online?

Stuffed mushrooms – ‘Nuff said.

Socially acceptable afternoon drinking – Sign me up!

Leftovers – Undeniably better than the original meal.

Christmas is coming – I may be the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving, but I’m no Ebenezer Scrooge.  I actually really do love Christmas.  Everything is silver and sparkly and magical and pretty, and if it didn’t cause me to further my credit card debt even more each year than the year before, then  it really would be most the wonderful time of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How to Boil Water

Before I was ever responsible for the health and nutrition of another person, my diet consisted mostly of pop tarts and alcohol.  My most impressive feat in the kitchen was making these little biscuit-type thingies that my family lovingly referred to as “Jeannine’s Balls.”  They consisted of unmeasured ratios of water and Bisquick pancake mix, rolled up into little balls and then flung into a hot oven ‘til kinda, sorta done-looking.  I made them for the first time when I was ten years old, and they continued to be my specialty dish at home until sometime around my mid-twenties.  For those of you with dirty minds, you can just go ahead and say it aloud with me: my family ate my balls for fifteen years.  That is, indeed, what she said.

My husband chose to marry and procreate with me (though not necessarily in that order) despite my severe lack of cooking skills, but after having my first kid I decided I better learn a thing or two about feeding a family.  You know, to bring out my well-hidden, potentially non-existent, inner domestic goddess and stuff.  So I went and purchased these culinary masterpieces:

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It’s been about six years since I learned how to boil water, and I’ve come a LONG way.  Now I can even MIX things with water (jello, anyone?).  I’m just kidding.  I’m actually an okay cook.  My kids and husband are still alive, so that’s some proof of my kitchen skills, right?

As it turns out, my inner domestic goddess really was in there somewhere.  Well, the one that does the cooking was there.  The one that does the cleaning and the laundry?  Ehh, notsomuch.  But one out of three ain’t bad.

So what’s a decent blog entry without an oddly-numbered list of some sort?  I’ve compiled a short list of random things I’ve learned that have made my life easier ever since I purchased those pathetic books.  I’ve got some tips, tricks, and admittedly, a couple of totally unpaid advertisements as well.  I apologize, in advance, if you have neither Costco nor Trader Joe’s nearby.  And I’m also very sorry to hear it.

Make rice in the oven.  I can’t make rice on a stove to save my life.  For those of you who think you just boil water, throw it in and wait, you have either never made real rice or you’re making some easy-peasy, minute rice copout shit.  Minute rice is WAY more expensive than the real stuff, and I’m on a budget over here.  There’s no fancy schmancy quick-cooking rice in my cabinets, people.  Oh, and if you are using the real stuff and your rice still comes perfect after a mere hot water bath, then good for you. Go audition for the Next Food Network Star or something.  For me, rice was always the enemy.  So after years of abuse from smug friends and family about my inability to make rice, a light bulb finally went off in my head.  Make it in the OVEN.  Totally works every time.

Trader Joe’s is not as expensive as you think.  I love Trader Joes.  Let me repeat myself: I LOVE TRADER JOE’S.  When it first opened on Staten Island, I couldn’t care less.  I was like, ugh, screw that expensive, health food, yuppie bullshit.   I’m good over here at my local Pathmark.  But then my son started attending preschool next door to TJ’s and I decided to give it a try after all.  Be advised: this is not a paid advertisement.  I wish it were, because then maybe I could afford to buy that fancy minute rice after all.  But I’m being as genuine as I can be. Their stuff is mostly inexpensive and of better quality than a lot of the crap at the supermarket.  This is my favorite item, because I use it like four times a week and it’s cheaper and much better tasting than the crappy one I used to buy at Pathmark.  And I promise they have better stuff than chicken broth, but that shit’s just a staple in my kitchen. If you live near a Trader Joe’s and don’t shop there, you are doing a great disservice to yourself.  And if you don’t live near one, then maybe try moving?

Make kale chips – I know I lost a little bit of street cred with the whole Trader Joe’s obsession, but I’m about to make it even worse.  Because I think roasted kale chips are the best thing to happen to a vegetable since eggplant parmesan.  I’m not even exaggerating.  They are easy to make, loaded with all kinds of healthy vitamins and ministers, and most importantly, delicious.  VERY delicious.  Delicious enough for children to eat willingly despite their green appearance and vegetable categorization.  Here’s what you do: go buy fresh kale (not those stupid pre-cut bags; don’t be lazy).  Wash the leaves and pull off the stems.  Chop it up into big pieces.  Toss with some EVOO (what up Rachael Ray?!  That’s extra virgin olive oil, for those of you non-30-Minute-Meal-watchers).  Add some salt and pepper.  Lay it out evenly on a baking sheet and roast at 375 for about 10 minutes, or until kale is crispy but not burnt.  Put it on the dinner table. Tell the kids you made “green chips” as a side dish because they were just so good that day (ha! Imagine?). Then pat yourself on the back because your family?  Is happily eating KALE.  That totally deserves a scoop of ice cream with your after-dinner glass(es) of wine.

Costco makes the best rotisserie chickens, ever – Costco sells a lot of the best things ever, but we don’t have all day here.   I have no idea what kind of yummy scrumptious awesomeness they put in their chicken recipe, but I don’t even care.  You know how there’s always that one night during the week, after a particularly long day, that you’re just not in the mood to cook?  So you order pizza or Chinese food.   And then another night comes along and, again, you don’t feel like cooking.  But you already ordered out one night, so then you eat leftovers or maybe sandwiches.  And then a third night rolls around and you’re like, shit, I might have to actually put on the stove tonight.  That’s when you should head to Costco and grab one of their amazing chickens (for just five bucks!) and boom, another night free of cooking.  Except for a simple side or two.  Tomorrow night, you’ll make a feast.  Promise. Well, maybe.

Always make your own salad dressing – Most store-bought salad dressings are nasty.  At least, in my opinion, they are.   You might agree or disagree, but you certainly have to admit that home-made salad dressings are way better.  And really, is it that hard to mix oil and vinegar?  My favorite salad dressing recipe comes courtesy of my mom: two parts olive oil, one part lemon juice, one or two teaspoons of sugar or sweetener, salt, and pepper.  Shaky, shaky, and done.   So easy, and I promise it’s the best dressing ever.  I usually add a little parsley, fresh or dried- whatever you have.  Now, are you ready for my favorite trick ever?  Here it is: when you squeeze lemons, (should you be adventurous enough to opt for fresh lemons over the store-bought, pre-squeezed, bottled kind) squeeze them out over one of these bad boys Fullscreen capture 11262013 105327 AMto avoid getting pits in your dressing.  Everyone has one of these handheld grater things.  Even I have three of them, for some reason, and my kitchen is basically the size of a walk-in closet.

Food Network + the Internet = perfectly fine cooking education – I’m so grateful to live in an age where, when I have a cooking question, I can just type it into Google and have several hundred pages of answers a second later.  As you might recall, when I was living home with my parents, I was unfortunately too busy getting drunk and eating pop tarts to bother paying attention to my mom in the kitchen.   And my grandmother passed away before she was ever able to fulfill her necessary Italian Grandma duties by insisting I learn the way of the wooden spoon (when it wasn’t being broken over some poor, misbehaving sibling’s head).   So when I finally moved out, I had all my shiny new pots and pans and spatulas but didn’t know the difference between a saucepan and a frying pan. So I turned to my new best friend: The Food Network.  Oh Giada, Bobby Flay, and Rachael Ray! How you’ve shown me the way!  I suppose this is neither a cooking tip nor secret, but more of a statement of fact: as long as there are entire channels dedicated to teaching people how to boil water, as well as awesome websites like Allrecipes and Epicurious, you’ll be alright.  Your food might even eventually taste almost as awesome as if your mom, or maybe even your Italian grandma, made it herself.  Almost.

10 Mommy Mantras: The First Year

Today we’re making Highchairs & Headaches history with my very first guest blog post.  How freaking big time am I, having guest bloggers and stuff?? And it’s an awesome post from a really talented writer, too!  Fellow mommy and humor blogger Marcia Rosenberg is sharing her no-fail secrets for coping with the craziness of baby’s first year.   Don’t forget to check out her hilarious blog, My Own Decade.

10 Mommy Mantras: The First Year

My kid freely rolls around in the dirt and chews on TV remotes, all while I’m writing a book. Here are some coping mechanisms that I discovered to chill out, get shit done, and be the happiest mommy-baby duo on the block.        By Marcia Rosenberg

Mommy's room: playtime aftermath

Mommy’s room: playtime aftermath

Affirmation #1: I Will Embrace the Id in Kid. Kids are funny little creatures. They possess the most sincere intentions and act purely out of impulse. My friend’s kid eats dinner naked, on the couch, with a lap tray. Every night. She doesn’t reprimand or judge. It’s part of her child’s everyday routine. My daughter has had an ear-splitting, tongue-rolling Mexican trill since she was four months old. Every time she cries in public, we get a lot of disturbed looks. I just laugh about it.

Affirmation #2: I Will Have a Common Sense Approach to the Question, “Is This Actually Dangerous?” My daughter hates baby toys. How astute of her. Her favorite activities are: crinkling and punching plastic bags, eating TV remotes and cell phones, licking the tops of beer bottles,  knocking over kitchen chairs, and emptying the refrigerator. Granted, some of these baby pastimes are more precarious than others. If she has a curiosity about something that could potentially present a danger, I’m on her like a shadow. Spending time hovering over her is a concession that I make so that she can learn and have fun exploring. It also helps with our bonding. Of course, even I have limits. Meat cleavers, blind strings, and nails aren’t allowed for play. She loves romping around in my liquor cabinet, though. Is that a bad sign?

Affirmation #3: A Messy Baby is a Happy Baby. I’ve observed that most babies love crud. I always let my daughter’s curiosity be her guide, even though she has some pretty funky habits (see Affirmation #1). Highlights: licking the sweat off of my leg after I go for a run, slapping the toilet seat, and gnawing on the sole of my shoes just after I’ve just been outside. To all this I say: here’s to a healthy immune system! My cousin was in the park with her child on one of the last temperate days of fall. He was mucking it up before bath time, rolling around in the dirt and having a blast, and other toddlers took note. I saw several kids run up to my cousin’s child, wanting in on the action. Yet their mommies whisked them away, cautioning them “not to get dirty.” I felt bad for these kids. Parks are for playing, and small children don’t play neatly. Aside: I don’t go crazy about hand sanitizer either. I do use it, but sparingly. My dirty ways are substantiated by the hygiene hypothesis people!

Affirmation #4: A Messy House is a Happy House. Compulsive cleaning used to be my form of procrastination. I’d put off writing if the glass table had a spot on it. One day, I realized that I Windex-ed my table 6 times in 24 hours. That’s insane. Now I let my dishes stack up in my sink, and I only allow myself to clean up once at the end of the day. During waking hours, my habitat looks chaotic- toys are everywhere, beds are unmade, baby food is all over the kitchen. I try not to think about it, and now I have more time with my daughter (and for myself). Daytime visitors always understand- it’s the power of the Best Excuse Ever.

Affirmation #5: I Will Exercise. Sorry- can’t use the Best Excuse Ever (see Affirmation #4) on this one! I run between 30-40 miles on average per week, whether I’m with my baby or without her. I did NOT do this before I was pregnant. I was motivated to start distance running after checking out my post-pregnancy body in the mirror when I got home from the hospital. It was… shocking. The postpartum blues served to intensify the voice in my head that shouted, “What the hell happened to you, Muffintop?!” As soon as my doctor gave me the go-ahead to start running, I took off. I can now run a half-marathon in a pinch. I lost all my baby weight (35 pounds- plus an additional 15 pounds) in just 7 months. I also found that having a need to incorporate exercise into my routine actually helps me to create a general schedule for the entire day. PS- although I try my best to eat clean, I also indulge (usually daily) in some kind of caloric chocolatey dessert, like this. Being a runner allows you to do stuff like that.

Affirmation #6: I Will Never Look At WebMD. If you’re a self-diagnosed hypochondriac (like me), WebMD is a nightmare. A quick search using the phrase “hives children” produces a page that at first reads CALL 911.  I always ask this to myself at the onset of concerning symptoms:“Has her temperament changed?” Recently she had a rash that was worrying to me, but she was bouncing around as usual. I opted not to call the doctor- and the rash disappeared the next day. I also like this symptom analyzer from the American Academy of Pediatrics. And I no longer consult WebMD for myself.  I used the site to research the cause of my migraines I suffered from during my first trimester, and I became convinced that I had either a malignant brain tumor or an aneurism that was moments away from rupturing inside my skull. I’m fine.

Affirmation #7: I Will Raise My Daughter to be Independent. I am not a believer in attachment parenting, or whatever this is- even if my daughter still doesn’t have any teeth at almost 13 months. My weaning target was 12 months, but I stopped nursing at the 7 month mark when I noticed that she was regularly holding my boob like a bottle. She still has pretty bad separation anxiety, but one big bear hug and a pat on the tush is usually enough to get her to crawl off and explore on her own. I’m never happier than when she does things by herself for the first time- not only because it will free me up in the future, but because it’s another sign that she’s beginning to feel secure.

Affirmation #8: I Will Continue (Or Start) to be Awesome. I refuse to toss my professional and personal strivings to the wind just because I have a baby. Despite having no hired steady help, I’ve managed to create time for myself. (You can too. You might be arguing with me in your mind, but you can). My momspiration (my cousin) managed to get a masters degree from a top tier school, change careers, travel to at least one third world country, become fluent in a fourth language, and move across the globe within two years from the time she got pregnant. She’s not rich, and she did this stuff mostly on her own. She is a genius with her brain, ambition, and time management skills though.

Affirmation #9: I Will Drink With My Husband (And Whoever Else Wants to Join Us). My parents came to visit us from the East Coast. I handed my daughter over to them, said buh-bye, and went to Napa with my husband for a long weekend. I always make a point to take a boozy break once or twice a week- whether it’s at home sipping some wine and watching Netflix after my daughter’s asleep, or knocking back a few with tranny friends in West Hollywood. For the latter type of occasion, since I have no family where I live, I hired a go-to babysitter whom I trust. It’s nothing new, but she told me that the parents she works with who go on date nights regularly appear to be happier. Amen.

Affirmation #10: I Will Stay Away from Neurotic Moms. I don’t shmooze with other women who give me agita in general, or who make me feel bad about my parenting style. For me, this means that I don’t hang out at Lululemon, or with my own mother. I had the misfortune of crossing paths with a shrew of a woman the other week. She was frantic because her daughter didn’t have the right hair accessory for her Christmas photos that day- it was early October. She asked me for some guidance (“What do you do for your son’s pictures?”) to which I replied, “You’re asking the wrong person. My daughter wears the same stained Carter’s onesie every day, and she doesn’t have a Halloween costume yet.” She grimaced, I giggled. Life is better when you surround yourself with people who make you feel at ease. Relaxation breeds comfort which in turn breeds happiness. If you’re feeling good about the way you parent, your own little breed will feel the same.

About the author: 

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Marcia Rosenberg is a freelance writer and blogger based in Los Angeles. She really does love her mom. Read more at http://myowndecade.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter: @MyOwnDecade.

Social Media: Maybe Not So Sucky After All

I have a real love/hate relationship with social media.  Facebook is my poison, mostly. 

Almost like a nervous tic, I find myself checking Facebook often.  I don’t honestly care about 90% of the crap that pops up in my newsfeed, but for some strange reason, looking down at my iPhone and mindlessly checking Facebook, Instagram, and my email inbox has become as second nature to my fingers as dining with a fork and knife.

It’s probably shameful how much time I spend scrolling through seemingly endless pages of unfunny memes, unconvincing statistics, untrue stories, and the unbelievably obnoxious ramblings of people I will probably never even cross paths with again in my real life.

Occasionally, I get angry at things I see.  I was raised to avoid the topics of politics and religion whenever possible, and I adhere to that rule strongly because I like to keep my blood pressure down and my fists unclenched and out of harm’s way (i.e. someone’s face).  But, for some reason, social media sites are overrun by political and religious rants every second of every day.  I avoid these posts like the damn bubonic plague, but once in a rare while it’s very, very hard to resist the urge to get downright snippy with people. 

Last week someone reacted negatively to a blog I posted, wherein I spoke of wishing I could afford to provide better for my family, by taking to Facebook to convey that I need to “stop running {my} mouth and go get a job!”  I ignored her ugliness and chose not to childishly engage her in a bitter, public social media battle of heated opinions and curse words.  Still, I went to bed hating Facebook a little more that night for giving her a platform upon which to openly spew her ignorance.

But alas, I cannot say I hate social media altogether.  99% of the people reading this right now wouldn’t even know this blog existed if not for Facebook.  And where else would I turn to let the world know every time I have a particularly witty thought, or at the very least, when one of kids has done something extremely hilarious?  Sometimes, social media is kind of awesome.  Sometimes it’s amusing, adorable, even informative.  But only occasionally.  Not nearly often enough to warrant this addiction with checking it obsessively.

So here I am, with all these mixed feelings: humor, rage, frustration, annoyance, curiosity.  Sometimes I get to the point where I want to just delete the bullshit from my life altogether.  Sometimes I’m like, jeez, let’s just rewind back a few years to when the internet was merely a place to avoid meeting total wackos, when you didn’t have to send someone an electronic request to be their friend, and when you hadn’t yet realized that at least a quarter of the people you know are totally batshit crazy and quite possible illiterate.

But then I hear a story like this.

I’ll summarize it for you: a little boy, just five years old, battling leukemia for most of his life, had his wish granted by the wonderful Make A Wish Foundation to become Batman today.  Downtown San Francisco was turned into Gotham City, and over 13,000 people showed up and flooded the streets to cheer him on as he rescued a damsel in distress, took on the Penguin and the Riddler, thwarted a bank robbery, rode in the Batmobile, and received the key to the city from the mayor of San Francisco himself.

And yes, you read that correctly– 13,000 people showed up.

They had all heard about this little boy’s wish from social media sites. 

I cried my eyes out listening to this story on the news today.  It’s so hard to imagine any sweet little angel having to endure the pain and suffering inflicted by a terrifying, life-threatening illness–and the fact that so many people turned out to support this brave little guy merely because of something they read while scrolling mindlessly through their phones over their morning coffee… Well, that’s just plain amazing.

Social media is really sucky most of the time, but not this time.  This time, it made a sick little boy’s dreams come true. 

Go social media.

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Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself? Bullsh*t!!

I have some “minor” anxiety issues, which may be apparent from my writing.  Some of you might have even noticed my affinity for Xanax, which I mention from time to time because it’s kind of awesome.  Someday I’ll write all about the time my anxiety caused me to have a real life nervous breakdown, and I’ll attempt to describe, as humorously as possible, what a living hell it sort of was. But it’s been about three years and I still haven’t found a single funny thing about the whole debacle (aside from the very fact that I had an actual nervous breakdown), so it may be a while before I tackle that one.

Today I’m talking about my more innocent fears.

Some of my fears are your typical, run-of-the-mill, boring things like death, rapists, and tsunamis.  But some of the other ones skew a bit irrational.  To be fair, some are rational but the severity of the phobia is so bad that it enters into irrational territory.  So I’ve listed a few of these anxieties here and divided them into two categories for your reading pleasure: Idiotically Irrational and Rational but Ridiculous.

I’m obviously way too amused by alliteration.

Idiotically Irrational Fears

Being bitten in the ass (or worse, somewhere else) by a giant toilet-dwelling snake.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to put the bathroom light on in the middle of the night before sitting down and then waited, trembling, for a pair of fangs, dripping with poison, to clamp down (up?) and not let go.  I’m pretty sure it’s happened to someone, somewhere, at some point.  Talk about scaring the shit out of a person.

A tiger gets into my house and eats my dog.  Generally, the thought of any wild animal finding its way into one’s home would be horrifying.  But for some reason, I’ve actually had a nightmare about a tiger eating my dog in my living room. Twice.  I can’t say it’s likely that there are any dangerous safari animals roaming around Staten Island, but if there are I really hope they don’t have a thing for British Bulldogs.  Or people.

Undercooked chicken.  For some inexplicable reason, raw chicken meat gives me the heebie-jeebies.  Unfortunately, I really enjoy poultry.  Cooked poultry, that is.  So I still have to be around the raw stuff.  Whenever I make chicken, I tend to wash my hands until they bleed.  I also tend to cook the stupid chicken to like 200 degrees or so.  I don’t mean to overcook it, but the paranoia always sets in and I start freaking out that we’re all going to die from salmonella poisoning and before I know it we’re having rubber cutlet parmesan for dinner. And I’m all “bon appetit!” and Big M is all “where’s the can opener for the tuna fish?”

Forgetting to pull up my pants after using the bathroom.  Technically, this is impossible because even if I really didn’t bother to pull them up I’d surely notice that I was pantless at some point while washing my hands, right? Or, more likely, I’d actually FEEL like my pants were not fully on, right? Still, I can’t help but occasionally envision a rather unsettling situation wherein I hurriedly sprint off the bowl and out the door without ever thinking to pause and make sure that my ass isn’t exposed.  I once forgot to shut the door to pee while entertaining a house full of guests, so I suppose anything’s possible with the likes of me.  (And don’t you dare judge me for that until you have very young children and grow accustomed to leaving the bathroom door open in case someone notices mommy is missing for a minute and decides it’s a good time to feed the dog a chocolate bar or leap like Superman off of a very tall dresser.)

Rational But Ridiculous Fears 

My car breaks down and causes a major traffic jam.  The thought of my car breaking down, especially with young kids in the backseat, is scary enough as it is.  But the thought of being THAT CAR, the dreaded, infamous “stalled vehicle in the left lane” from the traffic report, is just too much to bear.  You know, my brother once broke down on a one-lane bridge. A ONE-LANE BRIDGE.  I don’t think I’d ever get behind the wheel again.

Fainting in public.  Here’s how nuts I am about this one: I will NEVER leave my house on an empty stomach.  EVER.  Today I shoved a peanut butter sandwich down my throat just to go pick up my son from school, and I wasn’t even hungry.   It’s not exactly a figure-friendly habit.  I am PETRIFIED of having some low-blood-sugar incident where throngs of people nearby start freaking out and thinking they just witnessed someone drop dead in front of their faces.  You can imagine what a blast this was to deal with after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes while I was pregnant with my daughter.  Blood sugar levels are such jerks.

Blackouts.  Just now, I asked Big M to help me name some of my bigger fears (yes, there are so many I needed help recalling everything I’m afraid of).  The first thing he said was “not being able to watch TV.” Oh, and then he said “you shouldn’t do this topic, hun, people are definitely going to think you are insane” Oh well!  My point is that I had just jotted down “blackouts- NO TV!!”  Television is just such a big addiction for me.  I know that’s terrible and not healthy and all that crap, but it’s a fact.  I can’t help it that television soothes my anxiety, even when it’s just functioning as background noise.  Plus, TV is awesome (have you SEEN Walking Dead?).  I need television.  It keeps me sane.  Well, it keeps me the kind of sane that allows me to merely imagine I might run out of a bathroom with my pants around my ankles—as opposed to actually doing it.

My children will someday be old enough to supervise themselves.  Although spending every waking moment of my life making sure my kids stay alive from one minute to the next sometimes feels like living inside my very own invisible, padlocked prison hell, there’s something even more disturbing about the fact that someday I won’t get knots in my stomach from not hearing a peep out of them for three whole minutes.  Because that means these kids will finally have the ability to go three minutes without accidentally killing themselves or each other, and then someday they will be old enough to go hours and hours without any supervision at all.  And while that sounds like a little slice of heaven at first, it’s actually a very, very scary thing.  While they might be old enough to understand that crossing the street always requires first looking both ways, I won’t be there all the time to ensure that they don’t wander directly into oncoming traffic– literally and figuratively speaking.  It freaks me out that someday my son might have a drink and then get behind the wheel of a car because I wasn’t there to grab his car keys and drag him home by his ear before he even thought about drinking and driving.  And what if one day my daughter gets pressured into having sex with some dickhead just because I wasn’t there to remind her that she is so much better than that, and then take a baseball bat to the douchbag’s precious little gonads?  Someday my kids will have to make smart decisions all on their own, and I know they aren’t going to get it right every single time.  I can’t stand that thought.  Perhaps, out of everything, that is the one thing that scares me most.

Well, that and getting bit in the ass by a toilet snake.

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Six Things I’m Too Broke To Do For My Kids (But It Doesn’t Make Me A Bad Mom)

I’m not rich.  Far from it.  I’m not like running to the bank to file for bankruptcy or taking up residence in a station wagon or anything like that, but we have to meet up with a lot of ends around here or whatever it is they say about people who are broke.  I’ll put it this way, as my late grandfather would always say: if thieves came and robbed my house, all they’d get is practice.

Unfortunately, there are a few things I see a lot of other parents doing all the time that I have to skimp on for my own kids.  I can’t help but feel kind of shitty about it, but I don’t think I’m a shitty mom because of it. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Have professional photos taken — I love professional pictures.  Look, that baby fits in a basket!  Wow that little girl is holding a flower in a field full of…flowers!  Professional pictures ARE adorable, and people should do it at least once, if they can.  Not for every single holiday (Christmas, Easter, ok.  Halloween, alright.  Fourth of July, pushing it.  Valentines Day, really?).  And certainly please do not send out the pictures on little fridge magnets.  My own kids aren’t even on my fridge, do you really think yours will be?  But this photography stuff is expensive.  I have tons of family photo albums that are jam-packed with pictures of my kids doing everything from opening Christmas gifts, and mashing birthday cake in each others’ faces, to posing in front of the tiger cage at the zoo.  And guess who took the pics? ME.  Guess what else? Didn’t cost me more than the price of getting them printed out at Walgreens.  Kind of a win.

Go on big vacations —  I wish I could take my kids to Disney.  I really do.  My son would probably shit his pants if he ever saw a life-size version of Lightning McQueen.  And now that social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are all the rage, it feels like EVERYONE is taking their kids to the happiest place on earth but me. I can’t lie, my heart breaks a little every time someone posts that pic of their kids with the Magic Kingdom in the background because I’m not sure that will ever be my own kids in that iconic picture.  But I can’t say that we don’t still try to do fun vacations in our price range.  We do road trips and we’ve stayed in hotels and we do what we can.  I try to remind myself that these kids won’t remember more than three seconds of any family vacation once they are older.  Maybe that’s true, maybe that’s not.  Either way, they can still see Mickey Mouse like twenty times a day on the Disney channel if they want.  Good enough for now.

Whatever.

Whatever.

Own a house —  I don’t own a home.  I live in an apartment.  Not in a swanky, retro urbanite, New York City apartment kind of way.  In a my-mother-in-law-is-my-landlord, Staten Island quasi-suburban kind of way.  I’ve never lived anywhere but New York so I don’t know what houses go for in other parts of the country, but the average price of a home around here is like over a half million dollars.  I couldn’t even afford the down payment for a shack… in a neighborhood where I’d have to carry weapons with me to do my food shopping.  I do live in a nice neighborhood, though, which is a plus.  But when my kids do play dates I rarely find myself returning the invite because, well, these people have playrooms the size of my entire apartment and I don’t want my kids to get a complex or anything.  My son recently told me that he would ask a genie for a new house if he had three wishes, and in my head I was like “ditto!”  But in my heart I can’t help but think these slightly humble beginnings will motivate him to work a little harder for what he wants in life, and to show a little more appreciation for what he has.

Purchase organic everything — This one drives me nuts, because it’s such BULLSHIT that we live in a world where you can only give your family the very best if you have the money to do so.  I have a budget to at least attempt to stick to when I go food-shopping, and that fancy gluten-free shit just ain’t fitting in it.  Sure, I’ve seen the thousands of Facebook posts about the GMO’s making our grandchildren infertile, and the pesticides that are causing cancer in lab rats, and the pink slime vomit-inducing grossness in the chop meat, and the cheap, toxic, made-in-china plastic that’s in all the toys, and all the dyes and chemicals and harsh parabens and nitrates and glutens and sulfites and bisphenol A and the goddamn TRAGHEROPASTICVICBNINTITESICIDES that are all slowly killing us and straight up murdering the environment.  I KNOW THIS.  But you know what else I’m PAINFULLY aware of?  The fact that I CAN’T AFFORD TO DO SHIT ABOUT IT.  For me, only buying organic versions of everything is NOT best for my family.  Know why?  Because of these other little things I need to also afford in my daily life.  I call them necessities.  Like clothing, gas, and, um, BILLS.  Look, I still try to always feed everyone healthy meals with lots of fruits and veggies and all that good crap.  I really do.  Someone might grow an extra pair of hands out of their kneecaps or something, but at least no one is getting obese on my watch.  No way.

Pass on the hand-me-downs — Hand me downs are great.  You know why?  Because they are free.  Really, that’s the only reason.  There’s no experience more humbling than jumping for joy when you suddenly locate an article of clothing with a tag still attached after pulling out fifteen spit-up stained onesies in a row.  Even if the tag is attached to a hideous, misshapen, green sweater that’s two sizes too big (that tag was still there for a reason).  It isn’t like I don’t appreciate the stuff, because believe me, I definitely do.  For the record, I give away my kids’ old clothes all the time (sometimes even spit-up stained onesies and all).  But who doesn’t love the new stuff?  The stuff you got to pick out all by yourself?  There are no ugly, misshapen sweaters in those bags.  There is something positively euphoric about holding shopping bags full of brand new clothing.  Even when it’s for the kids.  Hell, especially when it’s for the kids (I’m usually walking around town in Old Navy’s frumpy fall line from several years ago, so clearly I’ve given up on myself).  Thankfully, my son only notices his outfit if it includes dinosaurs or Ninja Turtles of some sort, so I still have some time before clothing is an issue.  Phew.

Throw big birthday parties every year —  I don’t understand how people afford these big birthday parties for their kids. It baffles me.   My daughter’s second birthday is coming up and I’m currently researching ways to entertain fifteen kids in a small apartment without committing suicide in the process.  Why?  Because unlike these so-called party places, I won’t charge myself five hundred bucks to walk around looking miserable and hand out cold pizza to whiny children for two hours at a time.  And then give everyone a stomach virus to take home with their goody bags at the end.  Screw that.

I love my kids, and I’d do anything for them.  In a perfect world, I’d live in a giant mansion adorned with professional photos of my kids wearing brand new, organic clothing, and standing next to Mickey and Minnie outside Cinderella’s castle.  But life isn’t pefect, and all the wealth in the world won’t make it that way.

I spend time with my kids.  We laugh, we play, we cuddle, we learn, we sing, we dance, we’re together. And we do what we can with what we have.  I think, even in a perfect world, that’s really all that matters.