I Almost Started a War

I think I have gift PTSD.  As I’ve documented here over and over again, my mother-in-law’s gift-giving leaves a little something to be desired.  I’ve realized over the past few weeks, as my son’s third birthday approaches, that I am starting to dread present-receiving opportunities.  How sad is that?

Lately, the in-laws have developed a habit of sending Amazon gifts for birthdays, without any gift receipt included to identify who the package is from.  No shame in the Amazon game, obviously, but the gifts they choose to send are just weird and inappropriate.  Case in point, my poor sister-in-law (whose Amazon wish list is abundant with cute ideas, by the way) received a stuffed Teddy Bear from her parents via Amazon for her 35th birthday.  Oy.

So for weeks, I’ve been steeling myself for the inevitable Amazon package containing some random present for K-Man’s third birthday.  And yesterday, when I opened the mailbox, there it was.  A big fluffy Amazon envelope addressed to my son.  I groaned as I carried it inside, groping it all over in an attempt to decipher its contents.

After a few deep breaths and a shot of tequila (just kidding), I ripped open the package.  And pulled out … a pair of pruning shears.  And a thirteenth-century theological treatise written in the form of “a dialogue among allegorical figures who represent the nature of the relation between the soul and God.”  No receipt of any kind.

My blood ran cold.  And then very, very hot.  I couldn’t be sure who the package was from, but come on.  Obviously it was some kind of sick joke from the in-laws, because my father-in-law loves to garden, and my mother-in-law is a classicist.  Some kind of sick joke, or they were going senile.

I honestly felt sick to my stomach.  This was a new low for them.  My sweet little son is turning three and actually understands what it means and is excited about presents, and they send something that I literally can’t even give to him? What the fuck? Do they secretly hate him?

I shot off some angry texts to Hubby and my sister-in-law, looking to commiserate.  Hubby groaned along with me, though he was excited about keeping the pruning shears for himself.  We briefly discussed instituting a “no more presents” rule that only applied to his parents.  And we agreed that we would go out and buy K-Man one more present to replace this mess.

My sister-in-law expressed genuine confusion, and couldn’t believe that her parents would actually send this garbage to a child.  She suggested we check with them and confirm that they sent the present, since there was no receipt.  Fair enough, I guess, but who else would possibly stoop so low?

So when Hubby got home from work, we called the in-laws.  My heart was racing as he dialed the number, but of course as soon as we got on the line, my mother-in-law dominated the conversation for 10 minutes straight.  When Hubby finally was able to ask whether they sent K-Man a pair of pruning shears and a philosophical text for his birthday, my MIL burst out laughing.

“I knew it,” I thought to myself.  “She thinks this shit is funny.  It’s not fucking funny.”

More laughter.  “That went to your house?” She asked.  And then more laughter.  And then it slowly dawned on me, just as she was eking out her own explanation.  Yes, the in-laws had purchased these items.  No, they had not intended to send them to my son.  Their Amazon default address was apparently set to K-Man from a long-ago purchase, and they forgot to change the default before ordering themselves some gardening tools and what sounds like the worst book I will never read.

Holy heck.  Was this some crazy conspiracy to give me a heart attack?

So this time, I must admit, I was wrong.  My in-laws did not give the worst imaginable gift.  Not yet, anyway.  And as much as I’m still reeling from that emotional roller coaster, I am relieved to know that their gift-giving awfulness knows some bounds.  Thank the Lord.

Until next time,

Vee

Hate is a Strong Word

Hate is a strong word.  A strong word, but the right word* to accurately describe how I am feeling about winter right now.  Fuck off, winter!

It’s our first cold season here in Upstate NY, and I knew it was going to be bad.  In fact, I expected it to be at least this bad. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still … bad.  We moved to the snowiest city in the U.S., and it’s living up to its name.  I mean, at the beginning of the year, we had a 66-hours-straight snowstorm that accumulated more than 20 inches of snow.  What? And that was just the worst in a month chock full of snow days.  After a December that broke some other snow records.

And all the snow, it’s not just crushing down on our sad little roof.  It’s also crushing down on my sad little soul.  Though I’ve lived in snowy places before (hello, university in eastern Canada), I’m realizing for the first time that the very sight of snow piles gives me significant anxiety.  When is it going to melt?  What if it never melts? What if the snow piles on the side of the driveway get so high that I can’t manually shovel anymore on top of them? What if we can’t leave the house?  After further introspection, I’ve decided that I have an unhealthy fear that we may be entering a new ice age.  You never know, right?

Winter with little kids is kind of the pits, too.  We’re trying to embrace it as best we can, but I really can’t take my little one-year-old munchkin outside much when we have things like 13-day streaks of sub-freezing temperatures (most of which are actually in the single digits – Fahrenheit).  And if you even know where to buy snow boots for size 4 toddler feet, let me know.  Because I have been unsuccessful on that front, and I’m not about to let Ell-Bell run around in the snow with just her cute little sneakers on.  She would totally do it, too.

I guess the real problem is that I’m totally over winter, but it’s nowhere near over.  The internet says it will snow here until at least April, but maybe as late as May.  Gag.  And we keep having these random warm stretches where the mountains of snow all but melt, and I’m like, yaaas, grass, there you are, I missed you! But sure enough, after a day or two, here comes another day with 5-8 inches of snow.  Can I just tell you how sick I am of spending my entire naptime break (what’s left of it, anyway) shoveling the freaking driveway?  My arms are so sore!

And I’m totally sorry for complaining so much about this, but I can’t whine to my husband about how much these winter months are getting me down.  He is the reason we moved here, and every time I so much as hint that I’m not loving all the cold and snow, he feels guilty AF.  So here you go, blog, have all my pent up frustration and disappointment about the fact that we basically live right below the Arctic Circle.

On the literal bright side, we do have a beach trip in our sights, a nice little something to look forward to.  We’re heading to sunny Mexico to see my dad in a few weeks.  Yaaaas.  Since there will still be more winter to come after that, I can’t exactly call the trip a light at the end of the tunnel.  But maybe it’s a little hole in the top of the tunnel, halfway through, letting a few rays in?

Until next time,

Vee

 

*Due credit to Boss Baby for that sentiment

Slow Down, Girlfriend

My daughter Ell-Bell started walking a few weeks before her first birthday.  And she was pretty timid about it at the beginning, as I’m guessing most babies are.  But once she got the hang of it, man did she ever.  A little after she turned one, she became a speed demon.  Awkwardly stumble-sprinting from here to there like some sort of crazed maniac.  Girlfriend needs to slow down.

I used to be able to get things done.  Granted, it was only in 5-minute increments, but it was still something! I’d sit Ell-Bell down in the family room, throw some toys at her, and then sprint around the house, changing the laundry, loading the dishwasher, having a quick pee.  Now, I can’t sit her down for 5 seconds before she’s pushed herself to her feet and is toddling away at an alarming speed.

So these days, if Hubby’s not home, I’m cooking dinner 30-seconds at a time, pausing constantly to retrieve the baby from the bathroom, the stairs, or the kitchen step-ladder.  Because those three places — which are the only non-baby-proofed parts of our house — happen to be Ell-Bell’s three favorite places to be.  Is there anything more relaxing than cooking dinner at the end of a long day, frantically racing back and forth between your burning, oil-spitting stir fry and your babbling, toilet-obsessed toddler who unfortunately knows how to lift the toilet lid?  Little turd.

And much to my tv-loving dismay, Ell-Bell won’t even sit still for the boob tube.  Which I guess is a good thing from a brain-melting perspective, but man, I would love to be able to sweep the floor for a few minutes without my one-year-old trying to help.  She’s actually not very helpful.

The worst part is, as fast as Ell-Bell can go, she’s still pretty terrible at walking.  And she thinks she can run, but she really can’t.  Which means her sweet little forehead and our wooden floors are way too well acquainted.  Girlfriend falls down. A lot.  Her skin is littered with bruises. Poor thing.

On the bright side, Ell-Bell is the cutest thing ever when she walks.  Like, strangers stop and stare, giggling as she moves her little bowling-ball-shaped frame across a room.  She’s definitely got this toddling, wide-eyed, confused, chubby-cheeked vibe going on.  Work it, girlfriend.

Until next time,

Vee

Nap Time, I Hardly Knew Ya

Mr. K-Man, my son.  He’s never been a sleeper.  He’s been hard to put down, always.  Late to bed.  Early to rise.  Waking up in the middle of the night.  Short naps.  And now, I fear, we are at the end of our nap time journey altogether.  You guys, he’s not even 3 yet.  *Insert bawling emoji*

To be fair, I’ve thought K-Man was giving up his nap every few months since he was probably one-and-a-half.  I like to cry wolf.  But sadly, I really think this time it’s for real.  In the past, after a week or two of nap resistance hell, everything would go back to normal. This time it’s been going on for months.  Months.

Things went downhill for us when we started potty training.  When K-Man learned that he could use the potty as an excuse to get out of bed, his ability to fall asleep at nap time or bed time took a nose dive.  We’re talking hours between the official start of sleep time and when he would actually fall asleep.  Every time I would reach the door to leave him alone in his room, he would call out goofily from the bed, “I. Need. to. Peeeeeee.”  Ugghhhhh.

Since it’s been months, though, I don’t think I can chalk this one up to a potty training-induced sleep regression.  I don’t think it’s going to get better, and we’re stuck in a miserable vicious cycle.  I spend an hour getting him down for nap, all so he can take a (late) 1.5 hour nap.  Hardly worth it.  And then I spend 1-2 hours getting him down for bedtime.  He’s not tired because he took that piddly little nap earlier, you see.

So lately we’ve been skipping naps here and there.  And by “skipping naps” I mean he’s been refusing to nap.  Last week, he napped on Monday.  And on Monday night he was a total butthead to put down to sleep at bedtime.  On Tuesday-Friday, no nap, and bedtime was a dream.  On Saturday, daddy insisted on a nap.  And then later, you guys, K-Man refused to go to sleep until 11:30 at night. 11-freaking-30!  That’s 3 hours later than normal.  That’s after I go to sleep!

So I think I’m done trying.  Because it’s exhausting.  But there’s still a little nagging voice in the back of my head wondering if K-Man is really ready.  He’s not exactly a peach in the evening on the days he doesn’t nap.  I mean, some days he’s great.  But other days he’s rage crying because I won’t let him have a donut before dinner.  Or smashing his baby sister’s face into the floor.  No bueno.

Mostly, I just feel sorry for myself.  And unlucky.  According to this highly scientific Baby Center article, more than 50% of kids are still day napping at age 4.  And 3 in 10 kids continue to nap past the age of 5.  What the fuck?  What the hell kind of sleep gods did I piss off that I’m getting cheated out of YEARS of nap time bliss? I’d like to meet the parents of these kids who are still snoozing happily in freaking kindergarten.  I’d like to shake their hands.  Or you know, punch them in the face a little bit.  Whatevs.

Until next time,

Vee

When Grief Overwhelms

This past Monday marked the seven-year anniversary of what was probably the saddest day of my life.  On that day in 2011, my hometown was struck by a horrible tragedy, a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 6 innocent people and injured 14 others.  I watched the story unfold in horror, helplessly 3,000 miles away in NYC.  Horror, in part, because this was happening to my hometown, but also because it struck much closer than that.

These were my former colleagues. This was an event I used to staff.  My former boss, a public official who I idolized, was shot in the head.  She lived, but never fully recovered. Two other former coworkers were also shot and, thankfully, lived.  A third former coworker, a mentor and maybe the nicest person I’ve ever met, was shot and killed.

I learned the news in bits and pieces.  First, it was reported that my former boss had been killed.  Later, a correction revealed she was still alive.  I knew there were fatalities, but no names were released for hours.  I remember walking home from the subway after work, dumbfounded, vigorously searching the news on my Blackberry for more details.  I stumbled across Gabe’s number in my phone, and briefly thought about calling him to see if he was okay.  No, I concluded, he didn’t need to hear from a distant friend/former coworker right now.  I was sure he was busy, overwhelmed, grieving, with his family.

Back at my apartment for the evening, it came out over the TV that a staffer was among those killed.  Nauseated, I repeated to myself: “Please don’t be Gabe. Please don’t be Gabe.”  A few minutes later, they released the name.  It was Gabe.

I don’t know if I’ve ever cried harder in my life.  My husband–boyfriend at the time–hugged me tightly as I sobbed into his chest.  It hurt so bad.  When I came up for air, I started turning my apartment over, searching violently for a special pen Gabe had given me as a going away present when I left the job for law school.  I never found it.  I was devastated.

What I did find was a home made going away card where Gabe and the other office members had written nice messages for me.  I clung to it for dear life.

I tried going to work that Monday, but left halfway through the day after crying at my desk. I felt like such a drama queen. Was I allowed to be this sad? I knew this guy for a year and a half.  He wasn’t family.  I’m not even sure if he considered me his friend.  We just worked together, respected each other, and liked each other enough.

I flew home for his funeral.  It was healing to visit the memorials, to see old coworkers, to hug everyone in sight. To hear the eulogies and to learn things about Gabe that I never knew, things that made me like him even more.

Gabe’s brother got up and spoke at the funeral, and I felt like he was speaking directly to my wounded soul.  He said that maybe some of us were wondering, did we mean as much to Gabe as he meant to us?  And then his brother assured us that yes, we did mean as much to him.  “How do I know?” he asked meaningfully. “Because he told me.”  I needed to hear that more than anything.

I felt so much peace when I headed back to New York.  And I was still sad.  But the days, months, and years tumbled on.  I would be lying if I said that I thought about Gabe and the other victims of the shooting every day.  I don’t.  Not even close.

And Monday was the seven year anniversary, and though I remembered, I felt … irritated.  Irritated because I wanted to cry, to feel sad, to give the memory the respect it deserved.  But the tears just didn’t come.

Instead, I spent Monday evening talking with my father.  He was upset, confessing that he’d cried for the first time in years.  That he was inexplicably sad, suddenly grieving things that he had suppressed since childhood.  Grieving the loss of his mother for the first time, even though she died twenty years ago.

Grief is weird.  Grief is unpredictable.  Grief is frustrating.  Grief is inconvenient.  I can prepare for weeks, get myself all ready to cry on the anniversary of a tragic event, but no dice.  Instead, the tears come during a meeting at work.  Or when I finish a run on the treadmill at the gym.  Or when I see a can of Diet Dr. Pepper.

So maybe my grief isn’t the beautiful, reverent, tragic thing that I want it to be.  But it’s there.  I do care.  And I do remember.

I remember how Gabe used to drink Diet Dr. Pepper by the case.

I remember how he was the office problem solver.  How we directed difficult cases his way.  How he called back a constituent once after he overheard the constituent being rude to me on the phone.

I remember how I lied to him to get out of staffing an event.  How I told him I was going apple picking with my family.  And how he asked me about it the next day, and I continued to lie (badly) about all the apple picking we did.  He knew.  I could see it on his face.  But he let it slide.

I remember making fun of him for being super old, even though he was only five years older than me.

I remember running in to him at a fundraising event.  He was there with his dad, and he introduced him as his best friend.

He was a really special guy.  He deserves to be remembered.  And maybe I don’t always cry on the anniversary of his death, but I do remember.

 

Until next time,

Vee

I’m Just Going to Leave This Here . . .

In case any of you were wondering what was inside the wrapped presents my mother-in-law left behind for Christmas, well, I’m just going to leave this here:

img_6544

Yes, it seems to be some kind of purse creature.

No, it is no longer breathing.

Yes, it has both black and brown carpeting.

No, I will not be wearing it.

Yes, I did throw it directly in the trash immediately after taking this picture.

No, I did not think it was an appropriate item to inflict upon the Good Will or the Salvation Army.

Maybe she knew I would die of laughter when I opened it? Maybe the laughter was the gift? Because the laughter was amazing.  I almost needed a cigarette after.

Until next time,

Vee

 

 

Resolved

New Year, New me!  Or that’s what I would be saying if I was a basic bitch, anyway.  Which I’m totally not.

But seriously, I always go over the top with New Year’s resolutions.  This year, as always, I have a ton.  Lose 15 pounds.  Eat less chocolate.  Eat less cheese.  Drink less alcohol.  Spend less time on my phone around the kids.  Plan more activities for the kids.  Get K-Man to eat at least one bite of one vegetable.  Clean the kitty litter every day.  Call my grandpa more.  Shower more.  Figure out what I’m doing with my life.

But if I achieve nothing else this year, what I really, truly want, is to be nicer to my kids.  You see, before I had kids, I never in a million years thought I would be a “mean mommy.”  Because though I can be a huge, passive-aggressive “B” behind someone’s back, I’ve never been confrontational.  If anything, I thought I would be too meek with my children, let them walk all over me, let them get away with things left and right.

But here I am, almost three years in, mean as fuck.  Let me be clear up front: I love my children hard.  And they know how I feel.  They get snuggled, loved on, praised, adored.  I’ve never been one to hold back affection.  But, boy, do I lose my patience.  I am not a patient person, and my poor kids are the unsuspecting victims of my inability to keep it together in moments of stress.  I yell, growl, glare, and flail my arms around like a stupid idiot.  It’s a disgusting, embarrassing display.

Even worse, sometimes I lose my temper.  Because when K-Man gets violent with his little sister, I run hot instantly.  I’m ashamed to admit I’m not above picking him up, or holding him sternly by the shoulders, and yelling in his face.  Ugh, I don’t even like to anonymously admit that to the blogosphere.  I just get so frustrated, and I really need him to understand that his behavior is not ok, and in that moment, I can’t think of a better way to accomplish that.

When the moment passes, I feel sick, and I hate myself.  I don’t think I’m crossing any hard lines about how to treat children, but I know I’m crossing my own lines about what I am comfortable with in the abstract.  And I know that violence breeds violence.  I know that I am the way I am, in part, because when I was a kid my dad picked me up and held me against the wall to yell in my face about what I’d done wrong. And I know that if I’m not careful, my kids will be doing the same things to their kids.

So this year, I want to be better.  To practice patience.  To practice calm.  To remember to breathe when I recognize the anger rising.  Wish me luck (and give me pointers!).

Until next time,

Vee