My Man and his Cold

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At the end of every year, my husband gets sick. Usually, it’s a cold. Sometimes it’s a stomach virus. But no matter what it is, he is convinced he is dying.

I’m not sure why he acts this way. I mean, no one likes getting sick. And yes, I get stressed worrying how I am going to continue meeting the needs of my family while operating on only one cylinder, but previous experience tells me my ailment will most likely be temporary and I can rest knowing that I’ll be serving drinks and cleaning urine from the toilet seat again in no time.

My husband, however, develops amnesia with each cold or virus he gets and forgets that they usually aren’t fatal. A nervous person by nature, my husband hits such high levels of anxiety when he is sick you would think he and he alone is responsible for the earth’s rotation.

This is what happens, in chronological order, when my husband’s throat gets a little scratchy:

1. “I feel something…”

This is the beginning stage of his illness and usually comes after one of our kids has been sick. It is a warning that soon he will fall like a moose that’s been shot from behind. Also, take a look at the calender. If it’s anywhere between January and November, his sickness probably won’t progress beyond this stage and as his wife, you can relax. If it’s December and you need him to help you get the house ready for Christmas, you better get ready because he’s going down.

2. “I can’t afford to get sick…”

My husband works from home and conducts most of his business over email. But a cold will cause his voice to sound slightly different, so clearly, this will cause him to lose thousands of dollars in deals.

3. “I’m burning up…”

He will claim to have a fever, and when I look at him, he might in fact look a little pale. After giving him a thermometer and confirming a body temperature of 97.4, however, I realize his pallor is being caused by panic and fear not by sickness.

4. “You think I’m faking don’t you?”

He gets angry at the thermometer, and demands that I stop laughing. He is not faking, he really does feel sick, and he can’t understand how it happened. He really, truly, does not know how a germ can invade his body, since he is not human but a Martian cyborg.

5. Elephants and fire ants

He will go to bed at sunset, roll over twice, and wake up 14 hours later complaining about how poorly he slept. He will turn to two analogies I have heard over and over again since we were married 13 years ago: “I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest, and there are fire ants in my throat.” I cannot roll my eyes hard enough when he hits this phase, and suddenly the baseboards are screaming at me to clean them.

6. “Here is where I keep all the important documents.”

This is when I feel a little bad for laughing, because he will finally register a fever of 100.3 and officially be a sick person. He stops in his tracks, falls like the moose I described above, and prepares for death by sleeping all day for four days–on the couch, in the middle of everything. There could be an earthquake, a hurricane, and a newborn infant in the living room all at the same time but he won’t budge. As you might guess, this phase is my least favorite.

7. “What’s a doctor going to do?”

More elephants are sitting on his chest, the fire ants have built a full-fledged colony, and he is looking beyond me to the light glowing in the distance, so now I know I have to call the doctor. Except he argues with me because what he has is probably so rare and so serious there is no doctor in our area equipped to deal with it, so there is no point in going. Better to just die in peace at home on the couch, moaning.

8. “The doctor said I have a virus and need to take an antibiotic.”

Honey, that doesn’t make any sense. An antibiotic only kills bacteria.

9. More sleep

After he gets his antibiotics, I insist he relocate to our bedroom, where he will sleep so hard for so long it’s like he’s not even home. This is when I love his sickness. I will play annoying Top 40 music, order shoes from Zappos, and party like it’s 1999 and he won’t have any idea. A day or two later, he will finally emerge from our bedroom, kind of like a butterfly but much bigger and with a lot more body hair, and vow to embrace life to the fullest, because you never know when it will be over for good.

How to Handle a Tween Meltdown

So I am happy to report that I survived Christmas, but now it’s puberty trying to take me down. I guess it was right before Thanksgiving when my tween had the mother of all meltdowns and I was so glad because nothing is better than having to deal with a tween meltdown at the same time you are cooking dinner and the boys are having a swordfight in the living room. With maximum drama, my tween admitted she wasn’t happy and that she felt like something was missing. I was forced to abandon dinner, hide the swords from the boys and sit down with her on the floor in her bedroom to figure it all out. In between her gigantic sobs, I was able to ascertain that 90 percent of her meltdown was being caused by two things: hormones and the increased workload of middle school. As for the other 10 percent, five things in particular were bothering her, which are listed below along with my responses, in case you might need them someday:

I’m weird

You aren’t weird, you are fun, wonderfully refreshing, and interesting. Do you remember the other day your friend was here, and she was drinking chocolate milk? Do you remember her telling you that the only way she could drink chocolate milk was to lap it from the cup like a dog? So weird, right? Do you remember how you laughed? Our weirdness is what makes us fun to be around and helps us to relate to one another. I had a friend in college who would run up and down the hallways of our dorm singing a song about chicken patties whenever they were on the menu for lunch. If we aren’t weird we are boring and forgettable, and who wants that? Keep being weird, it’s awesome.

I’m too big

First, you aren’t too big, you’re just really really tall. Second, have you not listened to the lyrics of that Meghan Trainor song? Super skinny girls are actually at a disadvantage because they don’t have any junk in any place, right or wrong, and therefore don’t have anything to shake. I have seen plenty of skinny girls be overlooked for a slightly bigger one with a certain je ne sais quoi, or boom boom as Ms. Trainor puts it. Boys do like a little more booty to hold at night, but what she really means is that boys (or at least the good ones) adore girls who are real, eat food, and know the difference between longitude and latitude. There is so much more to you, or any girl, than your size. Having said that though, you really need to stop with the Nutella.

I don’t have a boyfriend

The reason you don’t have a boyfriend is because you are 11, which is like five but with six years added to it. Why are you in such a rush? Dating sucks. What’s the worse pain you’ve ever experienced? Knee surgery? Multiply that by a hundred million, and that’s how painful dating is. Back when I was dating, a guy who told me he would love me forever plunged his fist through my ribcage, ripped out my heart, and ate it like an apple right in front of me. And I wasn’t the only one–most of my girlfriends can share similar horror stories. Why do you want to do that to yourself before it’s time? Besides, no one knows what they are doing in the sixth grade; it’s all just really awkward and embarrassing. Stay out of it until high school. Or college. Or never.

I don’t have a best friend

Yes you do, she’s just flaky, because she is also 11. Honestly, sometimes I think it’s good not to be tied down to one girl. I had a best friend at your age but I was way too wrapped up in her, and as a result my world was a lot smaller than it should have been. It’s so much better for you to have lots of friends. It’s important that you don’t try too hard, either. You can’t force these things. And lots of times, your best friend will change. My best friend in high school was not my best friend in college, and my best friend now is not the same one I had when I had you. It’s all about attracting what you need at the time you need it. Trust in this–it’s actually a law of the universe and it’s usually correct.

I miss being six

Me too!! Do you know what else I miss? Eleven! And 40! This is such an important lesson for you to learn, and I’m glad you are learning it so early. Life goes by too fast, and there’s nothing we can do about it, so we have to treasure every single day. Hold onto 11 as long as you can, really soak it in, because before you know it you will be 12, and then 20, and then you will have your own kids and wonder what the heck happened as you deal with a tween meltdown, dinner, and a swordfight in the living room all at the same time.

I Hate Shopping

by Jane Hart, Blogger for a Day

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I’m not sure when it occurred to me that I hate shopping, but I know it had something to do with having children. From my teens to my twenties, I actually enjoyed clothes shopping. It was an event I could do with my girlfriends. We would try on clothes and give (mostly) honest opinions about the outfits.

I am now responsible for many household purchases, including food, home décor, and electronics. All of this shopping saps my energy, and I’m too exhausted to shop for clothes for myself. Or the kids. I loved shopping for them when they were younger. They would wear anything I picked out. Now that they have minds of their own and I am the parent of a preteen, it’s not so easy. Said preteen does not like anything I choose and must scour the mall before making a decision on even one single article of clothing. Back to school shopping was not without its drama. The three of us (me, older daughter and younger daughter) traipsed around the mall one hot August morning. None of the shirts in her favorite store came even close to meeting the dress code requirement (4-finger-width shoulder straps and must actually conceal what’s under the shirt) so on we went to the next store (my choice). The shirts all had a design on the front or a pithy saying – which is passē once you turn 11.

So when the time comes to buy clothes for myself, I have neither the time nor the patience to get the job done. Is it any wonder, then, that I buy my clothes at Costco? It’s quick, easy and mostly painless since I don’t have to try anything on after sampling the artichoke dip, the power bars and the new salsa they’re selling. Well, it always seems like a great idea until I have to stand in the mile-long return line because the jeans made me feel like a sausage squeezed into its casing.

Uh oh! I mentioned the four letter word – jeans. Okay, so it’s five letters, but I believe every woman out there knows about the dreaded jeans shopping. I feel like a foreigner in the jeans section. Boot cut, slim cut, low rise, flare, skinny jeans, jeggings. What does this all mean and why can’t I find a pair of jeans that fit? After I had children, my body shape changed and buying jeans became a much bigger chore than before children. I am essentially the same weight and I haven’t grown taller, yet I still cannot find jeans that fit and don’t have my underwear hanging out the back. Who came up with low rise anyway? I have owned bikini underwear with a higher rise than some of the jeans I’ve tried on.

Sizing for women after children should follow an algorithm, like Garanimals for adults. Plug in the size you were before children into the computer, your present weight, and height and how you like to feel in your jeans (sexy, somewhat comfortable, glamorous, fun loving) and the computer spits out the perfect choice for you.

So, after Christmas, I’ll be the one cursing in the return line at Costco hoping my one good pair of jeans will survive the 4007th washing. It’s only six months until swimsuit season, I should start looking for one now. Shopping for a bathing suit must be easier than finding the perfect jeans, right?

About Jane Hart: When she’s not shopping for ill-fitting jeans or working at her job as a physical therapist, Jane can be found leading Girl Scout expeditions while eating chocolate and reading the New York Times.

Blogger for a Day

Are you a Mom or a Dad with something to say but not enough time or patience to have your own blog? Do you love to write but never get the chance? Do you have any tips Moms or Dads could use to help make parenting easier and more enjoyable? New for 2015 is a feature I am calling Blogger for a Day. Here are the rules: type something up (around 600 words, give or take) and send it to me with a short bio as well as any accompanying images via email: gmacrandall (at) gmail (dot) com. If I think it fits, I will either edit it or not and feature it on my blog as a regular post. After it goes live, I will provide you with a link to share with your friends and family on social media, and I will do the same. Sound good? I hope so! Can’t wait to see what you all come with.

With love,

Gina

5 things I don’t hate about Christmas

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If you know anything about me, you know that I dread Christmas. I mean, why don’t you take my already overwhelming life with all of its cooking, laundry and children, make it painfully cold and slippery outside, throw in a stomach virus or two and tell me to erect a seven-foot pine tree in my living room? Then, make me leave the warmth and comfort of my house to track down and purchase several dozen items my kids don’t really need (at least not all at once) and have me wrap them individually under a veil of secrecy like I’m in the CIA while planning an elaborate meal that is supposed to impress 13 family members in a house that simply cannot accommodate them all since there is a giant friggin evergreen hogging the living room.

It is no exaggeration to say that Christmas and all of its stress brings me to tears every year and there is no one more happy when it is all over than me.

Still, I have to admit that not all of Christmas is bad. Truth be told, there are five things I don’t hate about it:

The Yule Log: There is nothing more cheesy or delightful than this televised, crackling fire accompanied by a medley of classic Christmas carols. I flick it on via my remote after we open our presents on Christmas morning and feel sorry for people who have real fireplaces and real chimneys with real animals nesting in them and real carcinogens to worry about. The Yule Log is only on for a few hours Christmas morning, but the joy it brings to my heart lasts all year long.

Chevy Chase: You can have your It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. For me, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is as beautiful a piece of storytelling magic there is. I cannot get enough of Eddie’s black dickey turtleneck, Aunt Bethany asking Clark if his house is on fire, and Clark asking Eddie if he can drive him out to the middle of nowhere and leave him for dead. Cannot. Get. Enough.

George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau: I’m pretty sure that serious wine drinkers scoff at this young, light and heavily marketed red that comes only once a year, but I don’t care. It’s good, it’s affordable in bulk, and it takes the edge off. Without it, I might not be able to find even one thing I don’t hate about Christmas.

The Elf: I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t hate the Elf on the Shelf. I actually kind of like him. Every year, when I have to put the stupid thing back in its box, I get all misty that another year has passed. I have big plans for the elf when my kids are older and I can do all sorts of creepy things with him, but for right now I love don’t hate how my innocent little darlings stumble out of bed every morning with their hair going every which way to scour the house for him while still wrapped like hot dogs in their blankets.

The Nostalgia: There is something about Christmas that makes me long for another time. I think it’s the music. Almost every song reminds me of something or someone from the past. Whenever I hear Bing Crosby sing White Christmas for example, if I close my eyes I swear I can smell my grandmother. My grandmother hated Christmas as much as me, and I love her even more for it. I miss the way she would shove her guests out of the way so that she could get the damn dinner served and over with already. I try my best to keep her spirit alive by emulating her disgust at Christmas every year and according to my mother I do a pretty good job. Now my grandfather, swear to God, was named Rudolph so it’s impossible for me not to think of him over and over and over again this time of year. I wonder what will remind my kids of me at Christmas when they are grown? If I’m lucky, they will think of me whenever they hear Happy Holidays by Andy Williams and sing it the only way I know how–with extreme sarcasm.

Lost at the Parent/Teacher Conference

I had my parent/teacher conference recently and I think it went well, but I’m not 100 percent sure. I was a little lost. Mostly, I was lost when it came time to discuss my son’s progress in reading. He is in the third grade, and as his Mom, all I really want to know is a) can he read, and b) does he understand what he is reading. The short answer to both of these questions is “yes,” but as it turns out, the parent/teacher conference is not the time for short answers. Instead, it’s the time for long, complex answers that hurt my brain and make me regret not learning more about the Common Core standards or whatever.

It’s not that I am unhappy with the education my children are getting–I am confused by it. There are all of these methodologies and constructs and performance assessments with weird acronyms and to be honest the communication hasn’t been all that great. As a result, I can sense a growing chasm between them (educators) and us (overwhelmed parents who have NO IDEA what to make for dinner tonight).

During the conference, my son’s teacher assumed I knew a lot about how she assesses my child’s reading ability, but the truth is, I know very little about that particular thing. She and thousands of teachers across the US use this complicated system called the Fountas and Pinnell Text Level Gradient that places a book into one of 26 categories, each corresponding to a letter in the alphabet that increase in complexity from A to Z. Also, letters close to each other in the alphabet have apparently joined together to form bands. For what it’s worth, I predict LMNOP will be the first one with a hit song.

According to my son’s teacher, he is reading “M” level books, which doesn’t give me much insight into how smart or not smart he is. I guess he is in the “Middle”? Or maybe he is “Marvelous”? Actually, that’s not fair. His teacher did give me a printout explaining all 26 categories in excruciating detail, but my eyes glazed over around “J” and I started thinking about what I was going to serve for dinner again.

All I know is that at home, when he is putting off bedtime, my son reads comic books about farts, butts and boogers. I personally feel he could do better and should be reading real yet age appropriate literature–like maybe James and the Giant Peach or Charlotte’s Web–but apparently comic books are not only OK, they are actually encouraged in school, so I pretty much have no hope for James or Charlotte.

My son’s teacher also assumed I knew all about the various ways reading comprehension is measured today. It’s not enough that a child simply understands what he read, now he must retell what he read, refer back to the text when he is retelling it, and/or infer something about what he read. My son’s teacher told me he could be better at inferring, but I’m telling you, unless the text discusses the finer points of farts, butts or boogers, he just doesn’t care.

Another thing that upsets me about education today is how my kids don’t receive letter grades but numbers on their report cards. Their teachers have told me that 1 means “needs improvement,” 2 means “developing,” 3 means “consistent” and 4 means “exceeds grade level expectations,” but I’m not sure how to react to these numbers. Should I freak out over a “1” the same way my Mom freaked out over an “F”? Is a “4” the same as an “A” and if so, how come he didn’t get any? I wish I could understand the rationale for leaving letter grades behind. I mean, they are practically ingrained in our culture. Plus, numbers intimidate me and remind me of math.

Speaking of math, the way it is taught today could not be any more different than it was when I was in school. In fact, two plus two today does not so much equal four as it equals a brain aneurysm. Seriously, how complicated is the new math? My kids’ school figured out pretty early on that they would need the full support of parents if the new math was going to be anywhere near successful, so they held an informational night where all of these CEOs, lawyers, doctors, and investment bankers sat in the cafeteria to learn how to add all over again. It was amazing. I drank actual Kool-Aid that night and left a full-fledged believer in something called Singapore math. Now all I need to do is locate Singapore on a map and I’ll be all set.

At War with Water

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Whenever I had a nightmare as a child, my mother would soothe me and tell me to go back to sleep, but I would be afraid because what if I had the same dream again? My mother, desperate for some sleep, would tell me that it was not possible to have the same dream twice. She was very convincing, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I believed her until the age of 30 when I bought my first home.

That was when my recurring water dream started. I now have it at least once a month. Invariably, my dream takes this progression:

  1. A storm is approaching
  2. There is some excitement
  3. The power goes out
  4. Water gets in
  5. House is gone

A psychologist might explain that this dream is really just a metaphor for all of the anxieties I face in which the home represents my inner sense of peace and the storm represents all of that which is out of my control, and I might believe that nonsense if not for the fact that as a homeowner I fear water like a rabbit fears the fox.

My first clue that water is public homeowner enemy number one came even before we closed on our starter forever house when there was a flurry of correspondence back and forth between lawyers about how exactly the sellers intended to sell a house without a sump pump. Back then, I didn’t even know what a sump pump was, but I could tell it was important just by the passion in my lawyer’s voice. Today, we have one that is made of solid gold and I check on it every night before I go to bed whether or not it is raining. In fact, I might have slept next to it during Hurricane Irene.

My second clue that I was going to be at war with water every single day of my life came when my mother was visiting and took a shower in our master bath. I went into the basement to do some laundry and holy shit, it was raining down there! Apparently, there was a leak where the shower pan met the drain pipe, but only when my mother was in there. My husband, who is significantly heavier, never had any problems.

I have actually lost count of the number of times I have hired someone to fix a leak. I feel like on any given day, I have a leak somewhere in this house it’s just a matter of how observant I am. We recently renovated our main bath–as in, we gutted it down to the studs–and one day soon after it was complete when I was in the basement doing laundry, I looked up, not because I suspected anything but because I was smug. Never in a million years did I expect to see a leak, but I did. And then I saw another. My contractor came back and made everything right again, until his caulk turned moldy and now I cry a little about it every day.

I also cry when it rains in the fall (and the spring, and the summer too), because our gutters are always clogged with leaves and mysterious debris and as a result our gutters are always overflowing, causing hundreds of gallons of rainwater to pool in the exact place it’s not supposed to pool–right at the foundation. Unfortunately, there is no safe way to clean the gutters, and so we pay our landscapers to do it. The problem is that our landscapers don’t live here with us in this house and can’t clear them every 20 minutes like they need so I will occasionally hang out my bedroom window by my ankles in the middle of a thunderstorm with a 14-foot green pole I found in my mother’s garage a few year’s ago. It’s fine, don’t worry.

When you rent you don’t fully understand all of the ways in which water will destroy you. You still see water as a good thing, providing cool refreshment and necessary hydration. I see the young kids today, doing research on Urban Compass to try and find the best NYC neighborhood for their personality and I think they have no idea what they are in for when they move to the burbs and have to give up their “flushable” wipes so as not to have raw sewage backing up into their basements. I envy them and their ignorance, but then I wonder, have they familiarized themselves with the city’s flood zone maps and evacuation routes? Because they really should.

If Moms Had 3D Printers

A shortened version of this originally ran on Scary Mommy. Here is the link.

Supposedly, 3D printing is The Next Big Thing and has the potential to change the world. Without getting too technical, 3D printing is a process by which you design an object in a software program, send the data to what is essentially a robot in a box, and watch in awe as the robot builds your object layer by layer using various materials, such as liquid, paper, powder or metal.

At this point, most of what I have read focuses on how 3D printing promises to revolutionize the shipping industry. For example, a captain piloting a giant ocean cargo liner across the Atlantic today is SOL if an important part in the engine fails, but once he has a 3D printer on board, he can print an exact replica and be back up and running in 12 to 24 hours. In the medical field, researchers are trying to figure out how to print internal organs and body parts using a patient’s own cells, and aerospace engineers are hoping 3D printing can lower some of their manufacturing costs.

That’s great, but has anyone given any thought to how 3D printing could help all the Moms out there? I mean, collectively, we are an enormous group–there are probably more Moms in New Jersey than there are shipping captains, thoracic surgeons and aerospace engineers in the whole world. If I were trying to sell 3D printers, the first group I would target would be Moms for sure.

Seriously, think of the possibilities. Off the top of my head, here are 10 things I could make with a 3D printer:

  1. all the missing Legos
  2. clean soccer uniforms
  3. a gift for the birthday party that starts in 10 minutes
  4. wine (duh)
  5. coffee
  6. AA Batteries
  7. the missing TV remote
  8. the sock monkey we lost on vacation in 2012
  9. Super Nanny
  10. dinner for five

Years ago, when my children were babies, I would have set the 3D printer on fire by using it so much. Here are 10 things I wish I could have printed back then:

  1. a clean binky
  2. diapers (duh)
  3. the rubber thing that attaches to the underside of the sippy cup lid so it won’t leak
  4. socks that stay on chubby infant feet
  5. a nursing bra that fits properly and provides support
  6. ear plugs
  7. scratch-proof DVDs
  8. a reliable birth control method
  9. a refrigerator lock my kids can’t beat
  10. amoxicillin

How great would it be if Moms could have all the above at the touch of a button? I can’t wait until the technology improves even more so that I can print a few other things I desperately need, like:

  1. eight hours of uninterrupted sleep
  2. some patience
  3. a clue
  4. a life
  5. focus
  6. motivation as it pertains particularly to folding laundry
  7. energy
  8. perspective
  9. some fashion sense
  10. a moment of silence

 

 

 

 

Marshawn Lynch as a Turkey

Recently, my last child, who is six, brought this home:

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In case you don’t know what that is, it is a naked turkey that my son I am supposed to dress in a disguise so that he won’t be cooked for Thanksgiving. I cannot even explain it, but the first time I saw this craft on display at a local elementary school I was BLOWN AWAY by how AWESOME it was. The hallways were lined with turkeys hiding out as ballerinas, Santa Claus, Derek Jeter, Buzz Lightyear and Paddington Bear. I didn’t have anyone in elementary school at the time, and I was bummed because I had so many of my own AMAZING ideas.

Fast forward a few years and as luck would have it, my kids I have had the good fortune to disguise three turkeys thus far: one was a black belt we I made using an authentic $38 American Girl doll karate gi, one was Hercules (we named him Tercules, here is a photo:)

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and I totally can’t remember the other one. This year, my son wanted to disguise his turkey as Marshawn Lynch, a super tough Seattle Seahawks running back known for his “Beast Mode” who loves Skittles almost as much as he loves football. In his eyes, my little guy is Marshawn Lynch just without all the arm tats and so naturally that is the only disguise he considered for his turkey.

Normally, I keep my competitive tendencies under control when it comes to crafts made by kids parents, but the turkey project brings out the worst in me. I ignore the laundry and the cooking and devote myself to researching, printing, and purchasing all kinds of things to help my son me win the turkey project which is technically not a contest but it might as well be. My oldest will be huffing and puffing all over the place because her favorite sweatshirt is still in the wash and there is no food in the house, but I won’t care because this is going to be the best turkey that school has ever seen–I can feel it in my bones!

I will start to assemble the turkey, relying a great deal on Google and my football-obsessed husband for the details and talking calmly but firmly whenever my son has the audacity to come up with his own ideas. Inevitably, I will suffer a crisis of confidence when we all start bickering and the reality of what we are assembling does not match our unattainable vision. I will start to get angry and not care at all what the turkey looks like, but then I will hear my son tell his own flag football O-line how they are going to love his turkey, and I will get sucked in all over again.

I am proud to announce that it took us only 6 days and $2.26 to create our Marshawn Lunch turkey this year, and I think you will agree that it simply kicks ass will do just fine. My son told me one of the girls in his class disguised her turkey as Elsa, so we were pretty much screwed from the get-go. Oh well. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, here he is: Marshawn Lynch as a turkey.

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Gobble Gobble! Ready, Set, Hike!

The Switch Over

IMG_3277My ineptitude as a Mom is never so apparent as when the seasons change, especially when fall turns into winter and it becomes too cold and probably illegal for my kids to wear shorts and t-shirts. I feel lost, like someone pulled the rug from the underneath me, and I get panicky. I have trouble remembering what we all wore the year before, and I fear my kids will legitimately freeze before I find the time and courage to begin what I call “The Switch Over.”

The Switch Over is really just me swapping out all the summery clothes for the wintery ones and buying some new clothes to fill in the gaps. I know it doesn’t sound all that bad, but it causes a stress avalanche that consumes me until Christmas. It’s a good thing that the Christmas season is so calming and relaxing because otherwise I would be headed for a mental breakdown.

The Switch Over has six distinct steps:

Step One: Identify the summery clothes that are too ripped, stained, small, or out of style to be accepted by the kids next year, and either throw them out or donate them. Sometimes this step feels cathartic–purging is after all one of my greatest pleasures–but other times it hits a really sensitive nerve, reminding me that my kids are growing out of their childhood right in front of me and that the day is coming when they won’t let me cup their little buns in the palm of my hand.

Step Two: Haul three 25-gallon plastic bins containing the winter clothes up from the basement. Here is where the panic should start to subside, but it doesn’t, because half of these clothes are also too ripped, stained, small, or out of style and again I have to withstand a flood of emotions that make me wish for a time machine so that I can always hear my last and youngest child mispronounce the word “suppose.” Anyway, the half that remains is not enough to get me through the entire winter, which leads to Step Three.

Step Three: Shop for new clothes. This step used to be easy and almost enjoyable. I would throw a kid or two into a stroller, hit Gymboree, GapKids, and The Children’s Place and emerge with a ton of super cute coordinated outfits. Now that they are older, my kids don’t want to look like Winnie-the-Pooh but Lebron James and so I am not allowed to shop at those stores anymore. My kids want me to shop at The Sports Authority and/or Dick’s Sporting Goods, but OMG have you seen those prices? Sweatpants at the Sports Authority are $65 each, and a single football jersey costs more than $100. Also, nothing really fits my kids because these stores are generally geared toward teens and older.

Step Four: Conduct peer interviews. If you have kids and you run into me during the month of October, I will probably grill you with regard to how and where you shop for your kid’s clothes. I need a reality check. “Am I doing this right? Do you really shop at The Sports Authority? What size pants does your son wear?” It’s amazing how clueless I am compared to everyone else. Most other Moms in the northeast expect the weather to turn colder in the winter and know how to handle it, but I am shocked, confused, and frankly, offended. If you are reading this from Florida or southern California, please know how lucky you are.

Step Five: Suffer rejection. So eventually I will enter The Sports Authority with the right coupons and verify with the salespeople that the clothes I have chosen are something Lebron himself would indeed wear, but my children will almost always reject the first round of winter clothes I bring home for them. It’s true that I might avoid this by bringing them with me, but then I would have to bring them with me. I would much rather make several trips alone than drag even one cranky kid with me in that small sliver of time we never have available.

Step Six: Finally restock the drawers and lug 75 gallons’ worth of summer clothes back to the basement. Step Six takes several weeks to conclude as I finish up the returning and exchanging process at The Sports Authority and slowly work through the laundry, continuing to identify and store those items that are meant for summer. One day around Thanksgiving I will realize it’s all over and that I survived another year. Relief will wash over me, until I hear that first Christmas carol on the radio and then I will wish for the easy breezy days of The Switch Over.