4

The Spender of ALL the Money

I am the spender of all the money.

All the money.

Not “all” as in, “oh there is just SO much of it dahling I’m simply exhausted just thinking about it. Someone fetch me a Perrier…”

No.

“All” as in “….aaaaand there goes this week’s paycheck. Sorry electric bill, you didn’t make the cut. Better luck next week.”

It’s kind of like Brewster’s Millions, but on a much smaller scale. I spend the money and have nothing to show for it. I swear that at least once a month I’m sure that my bank account has been hacked and all the money has been stolen by some criminal in a land far, far away (who for sure is disappointed that, after all his hard work targeting me, and stalking me, and figuring out my tricky username/password combo, has only stumbled upon enough money to buy him a week’s worth of groceries. As long as he uses coupons.) I’m seriously genuinely shocked that all the money has been legally withdrawn by none other than moi. And that all purchases are legit (if you consider daily coffee a legit purchase, which, fortunately, I do.)

It’s completely insane how much everything costs. There is baseball, and soccer to sign up for. Gymnastics and dance. New cleats for growing feet. Baseball gloves for growing hands. Recital costumes. New tights because the old ones have a hole in them. Field trips that I didn’t realize were coming up. Bills that I DID know were coming up. SO much food from the grocery store (because these kids insist on eating 3 squares a day), not to mention the money that I have to put in their school lunch accounts. And all the freaking snacks. And the wine (that’s for me, not them.) The amount of money that pours out of our bank account is ridiculous. But what is my option? Extreme couponing? Somehow I don’t think that having a garage full of laundry detergent and stool softener is going to help us very much.

My husband is as baffled and horrified as I am (and with good reason since the poor man works his tail off!) Sometimes he looks at me suspiciously (while I sip a hefty pour of two-buck chuck) as if he thinks I’m somehow embezzling money from the family fortune. I often point to my eyebrows, (unprofessionally waxed by my own unsteady hand) as “proof” that I’m not spending money foolishly and needlessly (although whether or not my eyebrows “need” a professional waxing is up for debate…) I say loudly, and indignantly, “Look at my eyebrows! Go on, take a gooood long look. Not a pretty sight, is it?! Don’t you think that if I were living a personal lavish lifestyle while the rest of you eat no-name brand cereal for breakfast I would at LEAST get my eyebrows waxed by a licensed and qualified person?! Do you think I like walking around like Bert? Do ya? Do ya? Huh? Huh?!” He doesn’t, by the way. He doesn’t think I like walking around like Bert.

I try to convince us both that we aren’t the only ones who are like, “what the heck?!” as we try to balance our checkbook. That we aren’t the only ones who feel like we are one bad week away from living in a cardboard box on the corner. But, truthfully, everyone else seems to be so totally fine and in total financial control of their lives. I’m afraid that if I asked someone if they are horrified at the cost of living they would look at me all wide-eyed and say something stupid like, “well, we have enough money saved in our high yield bank account to last us about 3 years, should we ever decide to leave our jobs and travel the world for a short time.” And then I would be forced to pull out all the moves that I’ve learned from watching Beverly Hills Ninja and stealthily attack them while yelling random crazy things about how WE have enough money stashed in the cabinet to last us three days, as long as we don’t leave the house.

Luckily (depending on how you look at it) I am unfazed by this crazy, where-the-hell-does-all-the-money-go, absurdly expensive life. I live with one foot in the land of “la-la-la, I can’t hear you…” and the other foot in the land of “everything will work out fine.” Kind of like, eh, whatever, it will all work out the way it’s supposed to. It’ll be fine. This state of mind has worked well for me so far. I’m sort of half way between reality and denial…maybe leaning a little bit closer to denial. Like, I’m not actually IN denial…but I can see it from here. That sort of mind-set. And THAT is something that money CAN’T buy.

 

2

I Hate that I Hate Christmas

I hate Christmas.

Please don’t tell anyone. I mean, what kind of person hates Christmas? A person whose heart is two sizes too small, that’s who. The thing is, my heart ISN’T two sizes too small, but I hate it anyways. And I hate that I hate it.

I don’t hate the actual day though. Not at all! December 25th is an awesome and fun (and kind of tiring and hectic but mostly awesome and fun) day! And the day after is even better because I usually just stay in my pajamas all day and not clean or do anything productive at all.

It’s just the weeks leading up to the big day that I hate. It’s supposed to be a magical time, but it’s not. It’s supposed to be joyous, but it’s not. It’s supposed to be filled with good cheer, but it is NOT. It is a non-magical, non-joyous, no good-cheer shit show. And. I. Hate. It.

I hate it every year. Which makes it weird that my hate takes me by surprise every year. Although, in a way it makes sense because the season DOES starts out quite stellar. Buuuuut, then it goes downhill at a remarkably pace.

October: Life is good in October. There are Halloween costumes to think about, and parties to attend, and free candy to collect from the neighbors, and Fireball Jell-O shots to pass out to everyone. And its smack dab in the middle of football season! October is the best month ever. Ever. What is better than October? Nothing. Except, perhaps, the beginning of November.

Early November: I’m usually on a 24 hr sugar high during the first two weeks of November. Some of the radio stations are playing Christmas music (“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” …squeal!! I LOVE that song!) I spot at least one car per day that is decked out like a reindeer and I LOVE it! Even though I’m eating candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and at least one snack in between) my pants haven’t gotten tight yet. It’s like a Christmas miracle. I LOVE it! During this timeframe, I start spending a lot of time trying to remember all the great gift ideas that I had for my kids during the previous 10 months. There are some real doozies. Some pretty, pretty good ideas. That I can’t remember. Probably should’ve written some of those great ideas down. Not to worry, I’m sure it will come to me. I have a good energy during this phase. A good aura. I’m starting to be optimistic about the magic of the season.

Day before Thanksgiving: Shit. Shit. I can’t find where I hid the elf. Where in the name of all that is holy did I store that freaking stupid freakazoid elf when I put all the damn Christmas stuff away last year? Where. Is. He?!  Things are starting to get hectic as Thanksgiving Day approaches. My pants are tight. The candy is gone. Not even an O’Henry is left. Nothing. NOTHING. I can’t remember one damn present that I knew my kids would love, so I’m starting from scratch. Most of my free time is spent helping my kids spell things to add to their enormous Christmas lists. (How do you spell American Girl Doll? “A” What does an “A” look like? Up, down with a line connecting it. What does an “M” look like? Up down up down. Down up down up? No, that is a “W”. Up down up down is an “M”. Like, for real.)

Thanksgiving Day: There is so much food and so much pie that I’m lulled into thinking that the magic that is in the air might actually last all through the next couple of weeks. At some point during the meal I half-heartedly ask my sister if she wants to meet me at 4:00 in the morning to get a cup of coffee and watch people as they do some Black Friday shopping. She declines. I decide I might go myself. I’m planning to really get into the season this year. Really enjoy it. Really feel the meaning of it in my heart.

December 1: This sucks. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is starting to sound like a threat. At least once per day I’m subjected to BandAid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” And even though I know it is mean, I change the channel every time it comes on. I can’t handle the guilt. That’s it! I refuse to listen to any more Christmas music. I’m feeling very grinch-like. I have to stop Christmas from coming, but how?! Crud, maybe my heart IS two sizes too small… who knew.

December 2-24**: Did I mention that I hate shopping? Well, I do. Which is most unfortunate given the fact that the meat and potatoes of this holiday has become all about shopping. So, I guess this is kind of where the whole thing falls apart for me. I’m buying WAY too much, and yet, somehow, I’ve barely even scratched the surface. The buying is constant. It. Never. Ends. There are gifts to buy for the Christmas grab, and gifts to buy for the Yankee Swap, and gifts to buy for the mailman, and the bus driver, and coaches, and all the kids’ teachers, and every single person in-between. So many gifts. So much money. I am in a constant state of stress. Bordering on panic.

These 22 days of torture pass by at warp speed…which sounds good, but really only serves to create a really condensed, really potent blend of stress hormones that course through my body daily.

This isn’t fun. This is the opposite of fun.

**It is around this time, every year, that I think perhaps I should run away from home, head to Pennsylvania Deutsch country, and hope to be adopted by a nice Amish family. The Amish people don’t shop ‘til they drop. Nope. I’m pretty sure they just whittle a few things for their kids for Christmas Day and that is it. And their kids are all, “Denki, Mamm.” Done. They don’t whittle things for everyone they’ve ever crossed paths with. Everyone else most likely gets a warm hug, a Goedemorgen” and a “have a wunderbar day.” Sooo loving and relaxing and stress-free.

December 25: Aaaaaaand, just like that it is all over in about 10 minutes. I feel mysteriously sad.

December 26: What the heck?! There are no more Christmas songs on ANY of the radio channels? Just like THAT it is all over? *sigh* I should have enjoyed it more. I should have slowed down. Why didn’t I take the time to embrace it? Why?! I already can’t remember what I hated about it. It all seems quite lovely and full of potential joy, when I look at it in hindsight.

December 27: eh, fuck it. I’ll try to do it differently next year. Next year I’ll enjoy it. Next year will be different. Next year. As for this year? I’m just glad that shit show is OVER!

Hallich Nei Yaahr! (That is Happy New Year in my new native Amish tongue)

4

I Used My Wish for Evil…you want to make something of it?

After Thanksgiving dinner this year I played the wishbone game, and I won. The person I was playing against was cheating and put his thumb way up high on the wishbone to try to increase his chances of breaking off the bigger piece. But I still won. I won the wish. A million potential wishes came flooding to mind…win the lottery? World peace? A live-in housekeeper?

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and made my greatest wish of all: I wished for my husband to be the one to have to go to the grocery store to do the week’s grocery shopping.

With the kids.

On a budget.

Yes, I used my wish for evil. I’m not proud. Although, it IS sort of genius…so I guess I am a little proud.

Now, of course, my wish doesn’t include him having to take ALL the kids to the grocery store with him. I mean, really, I don’t wish him harm. But he has to take more than one, preferably three, and I get to choose which ones. The children who will accompany my husband on his maiden voyage to the grocery store will have to meet the following criteria:

  • The child cannot, in ANY WAY, be helpful. He or she can’t actually assist with the shopping by putting appropriate items in the cart. NO. That child (and I think we may only have one, two at best) is NOT invited.
  • To make the cut, the child can’t know or appreciate the value of a dollar. They can’t have any concept of the fact that the random food that they are launching in the cart will have to be paid for with real money. In fact, a quick way to narrow the field will be to ask each child one by one if the food at the grocery store costs money. The first one to say “no,” or to look at me like I’m crazy, is an automatic go.
  • Know who else is an automatic go? The two kids who are most likely to end up in a physical scuffle in aisle 10. A wrestling match right there on the dirty floor. Yep. You’re invited.
  • And the one who will do cartwheels throughout all the aisles.
  • The child who will deny that she has to pee until they are all in the far reaches of the store trying to cram a gallon of milk into the overstuffed cart…oh, hell yes. She’s definitely on the list.
  • As is the child who will throw a massive, hysterical fit in the checkout lane because she lost one of her earrings somewhere between the lobster viewing area and bread aisle. (This child is especially key to making my wish come true because she will NOT let up. Nothing will stop her screaming fit except a thorough search up and down each and every aisle. Bonus points if, after the search, the earring is discovered in the hood of her coat.)
  • Is there a child in the house who will hang on his leg as he tries to walk… Or one who can be talked into performing such a foolish act in public?

Above all else, it is imperative that he bring along the child who will attempt to engage him in meaningful conversation the entire time they are in the store. This is especially important because part of my wish involves my husband forgetting the shopping list at home, therefore requiring him to try to concentrate as he struggles to remember what was on the list, or what MIGHT have been on the list. Or, at the very least, what was positively NOT on the list. I want him to be doing the “listening to the kids” and the “remembering the forgotten list items” while being ever mindful of all the sales, and how they match up with the coupons that he clipped but left on the kitchen counter (next to the shopping list.) I want him to be sure to get all the school snacks. I want him to get stuff to make dinner. I want him to have to remember that we need sandwich size baggies. I want him to have to remember that I asked him to get me an iced tea. Cold from the fridge at the checkout, not warm off the shelf.  I reserve the right to complain that he never thinks about me, should he forget said bottle of cold iced tea. I want him to be ever mindful of the budget, but end up buying so much extra random crap that it is pathetic. I want him to know what it feels like to buy a family sized box of Twinkies just to shut everybody the hell up. I want him to feel it because it is a desperation you just can’t explain with words. You just can’t.

When the shopping trip is over, and he has spent way more than he thought possible, and he has packed the last of the bendy twirly straws, that were obviously NOT on the list, into the bag, I want him to emerge from the grocery store all battered and beaten, and just a shell of the person he was before he went in. But not like in a bad way or anything. Just, like, the way I am when I leave the grocery store. Just questioning all the life choices that were made that lead to this very moment. That’s it.

Oh, and I want it to be raining.

Then, for the piece de resistance, I want him to have to come home, unload the car, put everything away, make dinner, and then watch everybody eat a week’s worth of food in 3 days flat.

A few weeks later, when the shopping trip experience is still fresh enough in his mind that the tic he developed hasn’t gone away yet, but far enough away that he isn’t crying in his sleep any longer, I want to lovingly suggest to him that a good way to cut monthly expenses might be to spend less at the grocery store and to perhaps pay better attention to the sales while he is there. And that buying Twinkies is not a good idea if they are not on the list.

And then I want to watch him explode.

twinkies

0

Homework stations, healthy snacks…and other lies I believed in August.

I figured that it would be at least March before I was giving my kids croutons for their school snack.

I figured that for at least the first half of the school year I would be on my game with backpacks packed the night before.

I figured that the sock basket would be overflowing with matching socks for them to just grab and go each morning.

I figured all this based on August.

The wonderful month of August, with all its fairy dust and unicorns prancing about.

Ah, August.

In August I saw the school year ahead through the lens of tanned skin and late nights on my front porch drinking wine. The craziness of summer was almost behind me and I was ready for the new school year ahead. I was heavily armed with Pinterest, a little hope, and a lot of wine. It was all I needed.

Because with Pinterest, hope and wine, I was going to organize the hell out of the coming school year.

Starting with a homework station, that, based on my Pinterest research, I was pretty sure was going to look something like this:

homework-station

Never mind that we don’t have a space that looks even remotely like that at my house.

I was going to pack school lunches that looked like this:

lunches

And snacks that looked like this:

snacks2

 

Clothes for the week were going to be organized as such:

school-clothes

And I was going to turn all the clocks in the house into this:

afterschool-clock

My after-school snack drawer was going to look something like this:

snack-drawer

Dinner each night would be like this:

dinner

And would be served on a table that looked eerily similar to this:

dinner-table

At which my wonderfully polite children would sit without fidgeting…or throwing food at each other.

I may or may not have been serving dinner wearing a frock similar to this:

frock

And a smile similar to this:

smiling-mom

While exclaiming something like this:

1950s-smiling-mom

Everyone would go to sleep early, and fall asleep fast because:

yoga

THAT is how I envisioned this school year going.

Now it is December 1st. This morning I ran around the house like a mad woman, whipping mis-matched socks at people as I screamed for them to get out of bed. In the kitchen I launched a handful of croutons into a baggie, followed by a high-fructose iced tea into my daughter’s backpack for her healthy school snack.

Our homework “station” looks like this:

homework-station-mine

And our snack drawer looks like this:

snack-drawer-mine

No one does yoga before bed. Because, seriously?

I was full of high hopes in August.

High hopes and wine.

From the looks of things, a LOT of wine.

Now I am filled with no hope that this school year will be organized and calm. None at all. What I DO have hope for, however, is this coming summer. I have gathered so many good ideas via Pinterest and wine. So. Many. Ideas. I can just tell that this summer is going to be epic. Starting with the last day of school when I present all the kids with something along the lines of this:

summer-bucket2

“Welcome to Summer” buckets! How fun is that?! And that is just the start! I’ve already Pinterested a gazillion awesome ideas, including possibly building a treehouse out back. POSSIBLY. It is still in the planning phases. I can’t wait…

6

It’s Almost Elf Time

So here we are again. Roughly T-minus 2 weeks away from the month-long elf relocation program. We have two elves, which does make it weirdly easier to find fun things for them to get caught doing each morning. I’ve been hard at work Pinterest-ing ideas for the nightly resettlement. I’ve seen a few good ideas. But…I’m looking for something more. I’m looking for something to end the madness once and for all.

I decided to come up with a few of my own ideas. Here are my top 5. Feel free to steal any of them to use in your own home.

1. We could get a puppy. (Stay with me here, I swear this will make sense in a minute…) So we could get a puppy, then we could rip the heads off the elves and lay their headless lifeless bodies just so, right next to the new puppy. Good, right? It would appear that the new (super cute) dog had torn the heads off the elves. Sure, there might be therapy involved as they try to come to terms with the violent end that their elf friends met, but, you know, there is a cute puppy to distract them. It would almost be like a therapy dog. That would take care of having to move the elves to a new secret location every night because, well, they’d be dead. But that leaves me a puppy to deal with for the next 10 years… I’m still trying to work out the kinks of this solution.

2. I could stage an elf murder-suicide. I would set the whole scene to be super realistic. There would be fake blood, and exposed innards, and a little tiny weapon. I could pen a fake note like it was from one of the elves explaining that there had been some sort of love triangle with one of Santa’s female reindeer. A jilted lover took matters into his own hands. Tragic. Perhaps I could have some sad music playing in the background so that when the kids woke up in the morning and began their excited search for the elves they would really get the full experience as they stumbled across the bloody scene. Again, therapy would be involved…but they would DEFINITELY be way too freaked out to ever want elves in the house again.

3. I could draw “mean eyebrows” on one of the elves. For the first few days the kids would be like, “Jerry the elf looks angry.” And I would be like, “You’re right. He looks scary almost.” Then, I would determine which one of the kids was the biggest chicken and was the most leery  of the scary, mean-eyebrowed elf. I would amp up the terror by telling the chosen child that Jerry the mean elf appeared to be staring at only her. And then, under the cover of darkness one night, I would ever so stealthily place that scary elf on the pillow of the chicken-child. In the morning that child would wake up face-to-face with the scary elf. Major freak out! All elves would be banished from the home and the whole place would be sprinkled with holy water. Done. (Okay, rereading that it does sound a little mean. So I’m going to use it as a last resort…but I’m still keeping it on the list of options because I think it will do the trick.)

4. Super glue. I could just super glue them to the wall. Or the counter. Or I could buy two tiny little chairs and I could just super glue the crap out of them so that they were stuck to the chairs forever. My kids know the “dangers” of super glue (from past experiences of, “hey mom, what is this?” “Oh my GOD! That is super glue! Don’t touch it! You’ll glue your fingers together and we’ll never get them apart! We’ll have to go to the hospital! Super glue is forever! It is a horrible, yet wonderful substance!”) It would have to look like the elves foolishly got into the super glue and glued themselves to the wall or whatever. Instead of moving the elves for a month we could just have a month of looking at the elves in pity every morning and reminding each other of the extreme adhesion ability of super glue.

5. And last, but not least, I could just write fake notes from the elves to each child explaining that their rooms are too messy, their homework is not done, and they haven’t been listening to their mother enough to warrant a month’s worth of nightly shenanigans. Therefore, until they get their act together and stop acting like animals there will be no further visits from the elves. Or Santa. Or the Easter Bunny. This wouldn’t be a long term solution, of course. But I’m pretty sure that once the crying and outrage ended, for one month I would have the most well-behaved kids with the neatest rooms on the face of the planet.

So these are just my top 5 ideas. I’m feeling pretty good with my options as I reread them. Please let me know if you have any equally fab ideas to share. I am, clearly, open to anything.

 

evil-elf

2

Ah, To Be Young Again…

Kids have it made. Seriously. They don’t know how good they have it. I’m not talking about scrappy 10-year-olds, or moody 13-year-olds. They don’t have it made. I’m not even talking about cute little 7-year-olds. They don’t have it made anymore either. I’m talking about the age group that really has it made…the age group that really really has no idea how good they have it. I’m talking about toddler-age kids. I’m talking about 2 year olds. I’m talking about naps.

Naps!

What is wrong with these kids that they fight naptime? I would kill to be able to take a nap each day after lunch. Imagine?!  Imagine being FORCED to take a daily nap? Even if you had a ton of stuff to do, skipping naptime to get it done wouldn’t even be an option, “I’m sorry young lady, but you need to stop doing those dishes and go lay down for a nap.” Fantastic! The best part is that the longer the nap, the more praise you get, “Wow! You took a great nap!” And then you’d overhear people talking on the phone about your great napping skills, “Debbie took such a good nap today!” And you’d feel like a million bucks because you are clearly SUCH a good napper. Toddlers just don’t get that napping is where it’s at.

Know where else it is at?

Going for a walk getting pushed around in a stroller. Getting to enjoy the fresh air without having to do any of the actual pesky walking. THAT is my idea of a good time. These little toddlers just don’t get it.  Why do they fight to get out of the stroller so that they can walk around and possibly dart into traffic at any moment? It’s madness. I wouldn’t fight it at all. I wouldn’t even care where we walked, it would make no difference to me. Just snuggle me into a gigantic adult-sized stroller, give me a drink (perhaps a nice glass of wine) and a little baggie of goldfish, and away we go. The best part is, if I get bored all I would have to do is take off one of my shoes and whip it out of the stroller. Then I’d get to watch someone retrieve it. Stroller games are fun. Plus, every now and then the person pushing the stroller would probably stop to take a gazillion pictures of me looking so damn cute in my giant adult-sized stroller, wearing one shoe and sipping a sippy cup full of Chardonnay.

The joy of having plump legs is another thing that is lost on toddlers. They take that cute little baby fat for granted. I wouldn’t take it for granted though. I would be fully present in the moment, and completely appreciative of the joy my hefty thighs brought to all those who witnessed them. Somewhere between toddlerhood and adulthood it somehow became “uncool” to grab someone’s hefty thigh, squeal in delight at the chunky monkey-ness of it all, and take fake bites as you pretend to eat the person’s leg. I may try to restart the “fake nibble on someone’s chubby thigh” movement…but only if one of you promises to bail me out of jail if things should go awry.

Temper tantrums in the middle of the store. Those were the days. Do you know how many times I have wanted to just lay down in the middle of the aisles at the grocery store because I’m so tired and I hate shopping so much? More times than I can even count. But little kids do it all the time, and sometimes the person they are with will even buy them a prize or something just to get them to get up. A prize for throwing a fit? I want in on that action. Also, sometimes when I’m trying on jeans or something in the dressing room and I have to actually see myself in the full-length mirror under the most unforgiving light possible…I want to throw a massive tantrum. Massive. I want to start screaming bloody murder as I frantically try to rip the jeans off and quickly get back into my safe, judgement-free, elastic-waist yoga pants. Then I want to start throwing stuff around the dressing room and shrieking about how much I hate everybody. Finally, for my crowning glory, I want to sit down all “criss-cross apple sauce” with my arms folded and a scowl on my face, as I flat out refuse to leave the dressing room.

Why can’t I do all these fun things anymore? Just because I am a grown-up? That’s why I don’t get to have tantrums, and fake-bite people, and take naps?

Whatever.

Little kids don’t realize how damn good they have it.