Just when I thought it was safe to relax and enjoy Christmastime, my daughter comes home from school and asks, “Mommy, why don’t we have an Elf on the Shelf?”
I choke on my cocoa and look at her in disbelief. I have done everything to keep her sheltered from that homely creature but it has been all for naught. I dislodge a miniature marshmallow from my nose and poise myself to answer her question.
I decide to try and play dumb. “What’s an Elf on the Shelf, dear?”
“It’s an Elf that sits on your shelf, Mommy.”
I take a minute to appreciate the sheer sarcasm of her statement, then I get right back on the Elf offensive.
“Oh, one of those? Well, we don’t have a lot of shelves, so I don’t think an elf would be comfortable in our house.” Yes, limited shelf space, she’ll buy that.
“It doesn’t have to be on a shelf; it can sit anywhere. My teacher told us all about the Elf on the Shelf,” she says brightly.
So it is the teacher that is smuggling Elf information to my daughter. I was such a fool to think my fortress was secure. I never let my daughter watch the Elf on the Shelf movie, I distracted her so she wouldn’t see the Elf in the store, but all the while the evil had already infiltrated…at the most unlikely source. Well played, Elf.
“So why don’t we have one, Mommy?”
Why don’t we have one? First, he’s creepy. Second, I can’t handle the commitment. That thing is supposed to get moved around everyday. With my luck, I’d forget for a few days and my daughter would start to worry and I would have to make up a story about how the Elf obviously got ahold of Mommy’s Xanax and is just taking an extended, yet well-deserved, holiday nap.
The pressure is getting to me, my thoughts are a jumble. I. Must. Focus. No, I won’t be outsmarted by a semi-plush, non-posable Elf with freakishly long limbs. I rally and come up with a brilliant countermove.
“You know, honey, Santa Claus only sends an Elf on the Shelf to children who are real discipline cases; the kids who are so wild that they are on the verge of being put on the Naughty List. It’s a kind of reprogramming, if you will, to coerce the children into making better choices. This kind of psychological approach has been banned in most European countries because it was deemed inhumane. But of course here it’s still allowed. Elves and red dye 40. When will our country learn?” I shake my head disdainfully for effect.
My daughter just looks at me in utter confusion then asks, “So all the kids who have an Elf on the Shelf are naughty?”
“Yes and Santa sends in the Elf on the Shelf to get a good indication of exactly how much coal he is going to need to fill all the naughty boys’ and girls’ stockings on Christmas Eve.” Take that, Elf on the Shelf.
I can see the wheels turning in my daughter’s head as she tries to process all this. “But Addie has an Elf on the Shelf. Is she naughty?”
Addie is my daughter’s best friend and the sweetest child I have ever met. It’s at exactly this point that I am absolutely riddled with guilt. But I have never been a person that exhibits good judgment especially when in the middle of a battle of wits with an inanimate Elf.
“Probably. But I’m sure she will start being good and get back onto the Nice List,” I say reassuringly and hope this is the end of this discussion.
“What do you think she did?” Of course it’s not over; she is her mother’s daughter and she is not going to let this go.
“Hard to tell. It might be mail fraud or possibly shoplifting. Look, the point is, the Elf can rehabilitate even the rottenest of kids, so Addie will be fine, okay?” I really couldn’t have dug myself any deeper if I had shovel.
Fortunately, my daughter is perfectly satisfied at this point and the holidays can resume being joyful in our house. I walk into the kitchen and say under my breath, “Damn Elf.”
My daughter pops around the corner and says, “You know Mommy, if you don’t stop saying bad words, Santa might send an Elf on the Shelf to you!”
“Are you going to the annual Mulberry Trails Christmas party?” my neighbor asked me casually over the fence.
Mulberry Trails is the quiet little suburb I call home and, apparently, the focus of an upcoming party. My heart beat a little quicker at the prospect of attending an actual party but then reality set in.
“Oh uh, no. I usually don’t get invited to parties. It’s no big deal, just my lot in life. I also wear a size ten shoe and my butt makes it impossible for me to pull off the whole skinny jean thing so I’m pretty much used to life being unfair,” I said while trying to laugh off the awkwardness.
“No, this party is for all the women of Mulberry Trails. Everyone gets an invitation. I’ll see you there,” she said and walked away.
I mumbled some kind of goodbye as I pondered the information that still hovered before me. A party. In my neighborhood. For everyone.
I have always been about 87% sure that I am someone so certainly I would be getting an invitation. I quickly ran into the house to check my email for any inconspicuous evites I might have missed. I scrolled through my mail and found my bank statement and the elementary school lunch menu. My bank account was on the plus side and the school was serving baked potatoes the next day—my daughter’s favorite. The day just kept getting better and better.
I decided to check my spam folder, just in case. I scrolled through 346 emails all advertising some kind of weight loss. It started to give me a complex. Sure, I’ve had my struggles with skinny jeans but I wouldn’t say I have a problem. I never knew spam could be so judgemental. I vowed right then and there to never read anything in my spam folder again. My ego can’t take it.
Maybe my invitation got stuck in the mailbox! I thought as I simultaneously started sprinting down the street. I opened up my mailbox and searched every square inch, of which there are only ten. I felt along the corners for any signs of a lonely party invite just waiting to be found. Nothing.
By that time it was almost three o’clock so I decided to hang out and wait for the mailman. Three o’clock on the nose, he pulled up.
“Hi, Mrs. Haas! How are you doing today?” he said jauntily as he began sorting the mail.
“Got anything…special for me today?” I asked hopefully.
“You mean from that certain store you and your husband are so fond of ordering from?” he said nonchalantly.
“Ok, Ted. First, ew. And second, isn’t there some kind of mail recipient/mail carrier confidentiality clause that I can enact here?” I said.
“Oh, don’t worry. I see nothing, I know nothing,” he said in a tone that told me he knows that I know that he knows.
“Good. You don’t happen to have an invitation in there for me, do you?”
“An invitation for what?” he asked as he finished filling the last mailbox.
“It’s for a Christmas party,” I said cheerfully.
“Oh, you mean the Women of Mulberry Trails Annual Christmas Party?” he said. “No, I delivered those invitations a month ago. You didn’t get an invitation? Everyone is invited to that party.”
It was like a knife to the heart. Even my old pal, Ted, was in the know about this party.
“I’m beginning to think there is another definition of ‘everyone’ that I’m not privy to, Ted,” I said as I walked away.
The next day I got a text from another neighbor that read: “I lost my invitation. What time is the party tonight?”
I texted her back: “I don’t know what time the party is. I wasn’t invited.”
She sent me a text with two emojis: a little sad face and a unicorn.
I texted: “Why the unicorn?”
She texted: “Unicorns always make me happy and if I wasn’t invited to the ‘Everyone is Invited’ Christmas party I would need something to cheer me up!”
I texted her back with a robot emoji, the tap-dancing twins emoji, and a shoe emoji. Because screw her, that’s why.
I spent the day in an existential funk. Flashbacks to college philosophy flooded my mind as I began to ponder my own existence: Am I someone? And if I am, in fact, someone, wouldn’t that garner me a position in the category of everyone? Who am I? Am I? Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. Wait, who said that? Socrates? No, he’s the guy who drank a hemlock mojito. I can’t remember who said it. Hell, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. Wait. Did I eat breakfast? It’s almost lunch time. I better make a sandwich. Or should I just eat cookie dough?
Leave it to my stomach to ruin a perfectly good philosophical rant.
After a quick lunch break, I decided to prove that I am someone through science. Science has never been a strength of mine so I Googled some science stuff and learned that we are made up of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus (whatever that means). I hypothesized that if we are all made of the same things then we are all technically someone and therefore should all be included in the subcategory of everyone. I jotted down some scientific calculations that looked more like a grocery list and realized I’m worse at science than I had previously suspected. In an attempt to sharpen my science skills, I spent the afternoon watching season three of The Big Bang Theory. A lot of laughs, but no real scientific break throughs and I didn’t get laundry done either. Great, now my family will have no clean underwear for tomorrow. Thanks a lot, Mulberry Trails Everyone’s Invited Annual Christmas Party.
As the time of the party drew nearer, I got dressed up and even put on some make up. My husband looked up as I walked down the stairs.
“So you finally got your invitation?” he said brightly.
“No, not exactly.”
“Honey, we both know how it ended the last time you showed up at a party you weren’t invited to. That police officer was quite clear that the next time it happened there would be a psychiatric hold and a lot of mandatory testing for you,” he warned, speaking of the very incident we vowed never to speak of.
“I’m well aware of the perimeters of the law…now. That’s why I intend to stay clear of their bushes and not peek through any windows…like last time,” I said contritely.
“What do you plan on doing then?” my husband asked with obvious concern.
“It’s Christmastime, who can resist a caroler?” I said, thinking of the brilliant idea just as I said it.
I ran out the front door before he could dissuade me.
As I walked down the street, the party house glowed before me. It looked so warm and inviting. I stood there for a moment hoping that someone I knew would walk by, see me all dressed up, singing Christmas carols and invite me in.
I started with “Jingle Bells” because everyone loves “Jingle Bells.” I then switched gears and performed a moving, if not slightly off-key, version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” (okay, if I’m being completely honest, it probably sounded more like tuning hour at the accordion factory, but my heart was in it). My finale was “Baby it’s Cold Outside” which really made me wish someone was listening because I sang the heck out of both parts of that song.
But no one was listening.
I finally admitted defeat and walked home. As I climbed up the stairs, I felt the tears come, hot and stinging my cheeks. I secretly wished I was just emotional about my rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” but I knew better. I sniffed as I walked passed my daughter’s room.
“Mommy? How was the party?” she asked sleepily.
I wiped my sleeve across my eyes and sat on her bed.
“Oh, I didn’t go to that party.”
“They didn’t invite you,” she said matter-of-factly.
“No, but it’s okay. It’s no big deal. They probably just forgot,” I said.
“It happens to you a lot, Mommy,” she said sadly as she looked up at me.
“Yeah, but that just means I’m good at it now. I’m a pro!” I said and tried to laugh.
“Then why are you crying?” she said sounding more like my mother than my daughter.
“Okay, it hurts a bit,” I admitted.
“I know. Remember when I didn’t get invited to that birthday party everyone else was invited to,” she said wisely.
There it was again—everyone, that exclusive group my daughter and I just can’t seem to infiltrate.
“It never feels good to be left out, but you know what? Nothing hones a sharp wit and biting sarcasm quite like good old fashioned exclusion,” I said, this time with a real laugh.
“Oh good! I have something to look forward to!” she said and hugged me.
I hugged her tightly and thought, Yeah, we have a lot to look forward to.
As a famous author, I am recognized by literally tens of people who already knew me. The fame is so relentless I can’t even walk through my own house without hearing the chants of adoring fans like, “Hey Mommy, what’s for breakfast?” and “Honey, I think the dog threw up behind the chair again.” I’m not complaining—it’s simply the price I pay for my celebrity status.
Another question I get asked a lot is, “When is your second book coming out? Last year it was out by Christmas and it was my super hilarious one-stop shopping for the holidays. I bought one for everyone on my list, including the creepy lady across the street who wears a cloak and walks her cat on a leash.”
The good news: my second book will be out this spring! I will keep you all posted as it comes together but rest assured, it is coming and it’s even funnier than the first book (I know, because I wrote it). The bad news: you will need a new gift idea for everyone on your Christmas list. How about the giving the gift of hugs? Just don’t attempt to hug the cloak-wearing lady who walks her cat on a leash—I hear she bites.
Of course, if you haven’t purchased my first book, let’s put that on the top of your holiday to-do list. In fact, head over to Amazon right now and order or download a copy! Tales from Suburbia: You Don’t Have to be Crazy to Live Here, But it Helps by Brandi Haas.
I had a nightmare about one of those little Elf on the Shelf toys last night. It seemed one had gotten into our house and kept trying to attack my daughter so I attempted to drown it in the dog’s water dish–it wouldn’t die. I then wrestled it to the ground and tried to reason with it–it wouldn’t listen. Finally, I had to dismember it’s stuffed body parts and scatter them William Wallace-style across the living room. There was also a penguin riding a tricycle in a Richard Nixon mask. I’m not sure how that last part fits in, but I wanted to be thorough in my retelling of this dream.
I think I am still recovering from all of the Elf on the Shelf antics from last year. One cannot nonchalantly enter the realm of Pinterest with hopes of finding a recipe for figgy pudding and a stiff holiday toddy without being inundated by the images of that Elf compromising himself in all kinds of shenanigans.
I have never seen a picture of that Elf on an actual shelf, but I have seen pictures of him playing in a box of cereal–oh, you cheeky Elf! I’ve seen him spill a box of crayons–what a scamp! And of course there’s the time he drank all the vodka, shaved the dog and blamed the neighbors then threw up all over the stairs. Yeah, this Elf is a rascal!
As I understand it, the Elf is designed to be a mystical presence that keeps kids in line during the holiday season with the looming threat that this Elf reports back to Santa. But how can he accurately report children’s misbehavior if he himself is constantly misbehaving? It certainly calls into question Santa’s standards and training practices. When I was a kid, Santa knew what I was doing every minute of every day simply with his Santa magic, now he has outsourced a good portion of his job to poorly-trained elves whose misdeeds end up plastered all over the internet.
That is why this holiday season I will be marketing: “The Elf on the Shelf That Watches Your Other Elf on the Shelf and Tries to Curb His Poor Decision-Making.” Clearly, the name is a work in progress, but the idea is solid. This Elf will come with a choice of three facial expressions: a motherly smirk, a disapproving frown, or the dreaded mom scowl. He will also come with prerecorded tried and true mommy phrases like, “Do you need a time out?” and “I’m counting to three!” and the mother classic of all time, “That’s it!” This Elf will keep that mischievous little other Elf out of your good china this year and spare that glorious new gravy boat your grandmother gave you.
I’m also working on a prototype for “The Elf on the Shelf’s Older Brother.” This one will ridicule the younger Elf on the Shelf mercilessly while punching him in the face with his own fist. It’s a bit more extreme, for those families with elves (and children) who are seriously close to getting nothing but coal (or jail time) for Christmas. For those families where behavior is a moderate concern, there will be a “Passive-Aggressive Elf on the Shelf.” This Elf will watch the other Elf with a judgmental, superior air and utter phrases like, “Well, if that’s what makes you happy.”
My goal is to make this holiday season a cheerful one, devoid of any Elf misconduct while still properly frightening the children of the world with that little Elf face perched on a shelf near you.
As the days of summer slowly came to a close, I realized the day I had been dreading was upon me—the first day of kindergarten. It’s not that I have anything against school; I love school and I know my daughter will love it too. And while I know that school is the beginning of independence and a new adventure for my daughter, I also know it is an end. It is the end of carefree days with just my daughter and me. She will now have an entire life away from me. How will she get by without me? How will I get by without her? I feel sad and worried and excited all at once. I don’t know who her teacher will be but I do know there are so many things I need to tell her before she meets my daughter. I need to write it all down, everything this teacher will need to know about my sweet little girl.
Dear Kindergarten Teacher,
Hello. My daughter will be one of the many students in your class this year. I thought you might find it helpful if I jot down a few things about her. As you can see, I have laminated it for your convenience.
First thing you must know is that she is a very sensitive child. She cried for a week when we bought our new car because she felt so bad for the old car. She has over fifty stuffed animals, all of which were orphans until she adopted them. She calls them her brothers and sisters. She agonizes over which one to take outside to play because she wants to make sure they all get a turn.
She doesn’t know how to button her pants. She tries so hard but she still hasn’t got it. I blame myself; we should have worked on it this summer, but we just ran out of time. She won’t ask you for help with them, she gets too embarrassed, so maybe you could just give her pants a quick check every now and then, just to make sure she’s buttoned up.
She’s not a good eater, especially at lunch. I’m so worried that she’s going to be hungry. If it looks like her lunch is mostly Goldfish crackers, it’s because it is. She loves those things and I know she will eat them. But now I’m worried she won’t be able to get her lunch open by herself. Oh, why did I insist on helping her so much?
She likes to climb really high on the monkey bars. She thinks I just stand there watching and cheering, but I am actually spotting her, ready to catch her if she falls. It’s hard work, trying to look casual while I’m terrified she’s going to fall and break something important.
She loves books. Her favorite book is Dr. Seuss’ McElligot’s Pool, especially if you read it with a British accent. She actual loves anything read with a British accent.
She is a people-pleaser and a rule-follower. You never need to raise your voice with her, a stern look can reduce her to tears. And please help her to understand that even good kids get in a little trouble now and then.
She loves to laugh and learn and sing and play. She loves to dance and is excited to make new friends. She loves being outside and running, give her an open field, and she will run until she collapses.
She will idolize you from the moment she meets you. Please use this power for good. Please be patient. Please have a kind smile and a big heart. Please be a good storyteller and have a cheerful laugh.
But most of all, please be aware that you now spend more waking hours with my child than I do. You are shaping her and will have a profound effect on her life. Please be the person I can trust with such a monumental task.
Hi Readers! Thanks for stopping by and reading my story! I hope you and your children have a smooth transition as they start school! And remember: You’re going to have some free time on your hands with the kiddos back in school, so be sure to order my book to give yourself a good laugh each day! Tales from Suburbia: You Don’t Have to be Crazy to Live Here, But it Helps by Brandi Haas, available on Amazon (link is in the right column of this page) in print and ebook versions, on Barnes and Noble (link is in the right column of this page) as an ebook, and also available on Kobo Books.
“So, you’re unemployed.”
The words rang in my ears. I recognized each word but somehow the way that woman strung them together just didn’t make sense to me. My world froze in that moment.
A routine, simple mammogram. Not my preferred way to spend a afternoon but I know it’s what is best for me so I made the appointment. It was an imaging office I had never been to before so there was the prerequisite mountain of paperwork to be filled out. The receptionist handed me the clipboard and a pen with a two-foot wide pink daisy duct taped to it.
“Nobody is going to accidentally walk away with this thing in their pocket,” I told the receptionist as I held up the pen with the huge daisy theft control device adhered to it.
“You can go sit over there and fill out your paperwork,” she said curtly without acknowledging my obvious compliment about her pen safety procedures.
I walked over to the waiting area and scanned the room for the best possible seat. There was a woman coughing uncontrollably at one end of the room and I thought, Sounds like pneumonia, probably here for a chest x-ray, and I made my way over to the other side of the room where a mom was sitting with her two-year-old son. I sat down and smiled just as the mom reached into her bag for a toy. No, it wasn’t a toy, it was a baseball. A real baseball. She handed it to the two-year-old and he started throwing it around the room.
The mother smiled at me and said, “It’s the only thing that keeps him quiet.”
“Quiet and dangerous, just like a psychotic mime,” I said under my breath as that kid hurled the ball straight at some poor man’s head. I’m sure it won’t be a problem for them to add in a quick cat scan along with whatever else he was here to get x-rayed in the first place.
I finally finished all the paperwork despite the gravitationally pull on that daisy pen and I walked back to the receptionist’s desk. She looked really busy so I just stood and waited.
“Can I help you?” she said, never once looking up at me.
“I’m all done filling out the medical forms,” I said as I handed her the clipboard.
“Okay, I just have to look over everything and make sure it’s filled out correctly,” she said and leafed through my paperwork.
I gave the area a quick visual sweep to make sure that kid armed with a baseball wasn’t sneaking up behind me. I came here for a boob scan, not a head x-ray.
The receptionist suddenly stopped flipping through the pages of my paperwork and said, “You don’t have anything listed under Employer.”
“I’m a stay-at-home mom,” I said with all the strength I could muster given the sting I still feel from no longer earning a paycheck.
“Are you self-employed?” she asked.
“Well, um, no, kind of, no,” I stammered, my head spinning.
“So, you’re unemployed,” she said and wrote the degrading word on my paperwork.
Unemployed. How can I be unemployed? I haven’t had a day off in seven years. I work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I have been peed on, pooped on, and puked on—in the same day. I shop for groceries, turn those groceries into meals, clean up the meals, then do it all over again. I dust, mop, vacuum, and make the beds, then I go back and dust again. I feed the dog, I feed the fish, and I replace the fish when it goes belly up so my daughter is spared the heartache. I volunteer at school and church and dance class even when I don’t have the time. I pay bills and make doctor’s appointments for everyone in my house. I do laundry every day of my life. I find missing keys and missing shoes and missing homework and missing teddy bears. I pull weeds and sew rogue buttons back onto shirts. I may not get a paycheck but I am not unemployed.
I stared at the receptionist. She was probably in her early twenties, with manicured fingernails, wearing an expensive jacket with a matching pencil skirt. I couldn’t see her shoes, but I imagined they were just as extravagant. I was just about to unleash seven years of pent up mommy wrath when I realized something: I was this woman once, many years ago. Little life experience, working my first “real” job, spending my entire paycheck on clothes.
I didn’t have to justify my life to her. She wouldn’t understand right now anyway. But one day when she’s standing on the opposite of this desk, she’ll understand. But not today.
I looked at her and smiled, “Yes, I’m unemployed and it’s the best damn job I’ve ever had.”
Hi there! I hope you enjoyed this story! Not only are there “unemployed” moms like me out there, but there are also moms who do everything I listed in the story along with their 40+ hours a week outside the home—amazing! And speaking of amazing moms, Mother’s Day will be here soon! The perfect gift for moms? The gift of laughter. And nothing will make moms laugh harder than my book, “Tales from Suburbia: You Don’t Have to be Crazy to Live Here, But it Helps.” It’s a book filled with short mom stories just like this one but the majority of the stories in my book have never been seen on my blog before. You can only get those stories by purchasing the book! So grab a copy for your mom (and one for yourself too!) Ebooks are just $2.99 and the print version is only $9.89. Available on Amazon amzn.to/1vx98xZ and B&N bit.ly/11ICDzR
“There’s nothing good on TV. Wanna go do it?”
“Ah, the four most romantic words I’ve ever heard,” I said and rolled my eyes at my husband.
“So does that mean I have a chance?” he said with a suggestive lift of his eyebrows.
“I can’t believe you said that,” I told him.
“What? I’m a man with needs, you’re a woman with needs…”
“Not that. I don’t believe there’s nothing on TV. Did you check the Food Network? What about HGTV? Isn’t House Hunters on tonight?” I said.
“It’s the one where that lady goes and looks at houses with her dog shoved in her purse,” my husband said. “We’ve already seen it and besides, I know how you feel about purse dogs.”
“I just don’t get it. I mean, I put a lot of stuff in my purse but I draw the line at pets. Purses are for essentials like wallets and lip gloss, not things that bark,” I said. “Aren’t there any shows on about Alaska?”
“No, I would have never suggested we do it if something about Alaska was on,” my husband said without an ounce of sarcasm.
“We could watch that show about the family with nineteen kids,” I suggest.
“What about the show about the guy with four wives?” I ventured.
“Okay, what about the show where twenty women fight to the death over the one guy handing out roses?” I asked.
“Do they really fight to the death?” he asked, his curiosity piqued.
“It’s more of a metaphor, but I think they get really bitchy,” I said.
“Definitely no,” he said. “We could watch that show about how they make things. There’s one about how they make cast iron skillets.”
“No,” I said as I grabbed the remote control and starting clicking through channels.
“There’s got to be some kind of alien, super hero, military, robot, explosion based movie on,” he said.
“Definitely no,” I said. “Remember when I watched that movie with you? What was it—Aliens Attack People: The Sequel? I had nightmares for a month.”
“I don’t think that’s an actual movie title,” he replied.
“That wasn’t the name of the movie, it was the plot,” I countered.
“That was a good movie! Is that one on?” he said, completely missing the point.
“There really is nothing on TV,” I said with a sigh.
“We could go do it,” my husband said again.
“So that’s it? This is your A-game? No flowers, no music? You think it’s just that easy?”
“Yep,” he said confidently.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you love me and I love you,” he said with a big grin.
“I can’t argue with that logic. Let’s go,” I said.
Ten minutes later, we’re back to channeling surfing. We found a new episode of House Hunters. It was the perfect night.
Bedtime is a magical time. It’s when the day comes to a peaceful pause as you snuggle into your warm, cozy bed and drift away to sleep while dreaming of fluffy clouds and white sand beaches all while your brain and body get re-energized for another day of productive bliss.
I read this on the back of a box of tea once and I thought, “What a load of crap.”
For me, sleep is a lot like geometry—it just isn’t easy. My husband and daughter, on the other hand, have both been blessed with the gift of sleep. When I tuck my daughter in, she’s asleep before I can say good night. My husband seems to have some kind of sleep switch that is activated by his head merely touching the pillow. I’ll be mid-sentence with an uproarious account of my day of doing laundry but as soon as his head completes the circuit with the pillow, he’s out.
Then I’m left all alone with my inability to sleep. Of course I’ve tried to imitate my husband and daughter, hoping that their talent for falling asleep might somehow get passed to me, but I never have any luck. I try to relax and rest my head on my pillow but that’s when it all starts…
10:30pm: I sprawl out in bed in an attempt to mimc my daughter but when I look up at the ceiling all I can focus on is a cobweb. I should get up and and clean that. No, I need to sleep. I flop onto my left side and try to get comfortable but I get the strange feeling that I am being watched. That damn cobweb is like two glowing eyes boring through my soul. I should clean it. No, I’m sleeping.
10:33pm: I get out of bed and grab the duster and clean the cobweb. Since I’m at it, I finish dusting the rest of the room. I glance in the hamper and realize I have enough clothes in there to warrant a load of laundry, so I head for the washing machine.
11:02pm: I get back into bed and curl up on my right side. I end up playing a little game I like to call “fighting my husband for knee dominance in the middle of the bed.” It’s basically a battle of strength and skill we have when both of us have turned to the middle of the bed and both of want one knee bent toward the center. It involves a fair amount of kicking and a few subliminal taunts like, “Don’t you love how much the government taxes your paycheck?” meant to give him nightmares and relinquish the center of the bed. The great irony of this game: I don’t even think my husband knows we play because he never wakes up.
11:14pm: After losing yet another battle for the center of the bed, I turn onto my left side and close my eyes. I open them back up and see the book I’m currently reading on the nightstand.
“I’ll just read one chapter,” I think.
3:29am: I’m sitting in bed with my laptop ordering the second book in the series because the first book was so good I couldn’t put it down—literally.
3:37am: I do a quick calculation of how much time I have left to actually get some sleep. I’ll get three hours of sleep if I fall asleep right now. The thought sends a shiver down my spine. A shiver?! Am I cold? When I was in the hospital after having my daughter, a very kind nurse told me, “When you’re cold, your baby is probably cold; when you’re hot, your baby is probably hot.” Since then every time I wake up cold or hot, my first instinct is to go check on my daughter.
3:45am: My daughter was perfectly fine but since I was up and about, I put the laundry into the dryer. I also made a grocery list. Over ninety percent of the list was caffeine-loaded beverages because I know tomorrow is going to be painful and hourly caffeine jolts will have to be administered just to keep me semi-functional. I also make a note to steer clear of operating heavy machinery, like forklifts, just to be on the safe side.
4:03am: My eyes keep closing but the dog has decided that she needs out right this minute. Maybe my husband will wake up and let the dog out. I laugh almost manically at the thought (or maybe I was crying). I decide that if I ignore the dog she will just go away.
4:10am: The dog wouldn’t stop breathing in my face so I had to get up and let her out. On the way back to bed I add minty dog bones to my grocery list because the dog’s breath is something straight out of a horror movie. Wait, that doesn’t make sense because the technology for smellable movies has not yet been invented. Has it? No, if it had I’m sure I would have seen that story comes across my Facebook newsfeed or I would have read about it on Yahoo News. Regardless, if you could smell horror, I’m pretty sure it would smell like my dog’s breath.
4:17am: I’m pretty troubled because I’m almost certain that I just had a conversation with myself about smellable movies.
4:38am: I am finally comfortable and sleep, glorious, life-renewing sleep is just moments away. I can feel it…
4:40am: I have to pee.
4:42am: But I’m so comfortable. I don’t want to get up.
4:43am: I really have to pee.
4:44am: Maybe if I just flip to the other side, I will take the pressure off my bladder long enough to fall asleep.
4:45am: Nope, I have to pee. I stumble to the bathroom then back to bed in record time.
6:09am: My husband’s alarm goes off. I grunt something profane as the dog jumps on the bed and drops her squeaky squirrel toy on my head.
6:35am: My husband kisses me good bye and says, in the overly chipper tone of a man who just got a restful night’s sleep, “How’d you sleep, honey?”
Oh, I’m definitely going to kick him again tonight when he’s sleeping.
“Honey, the basement is flooded…again.”
Fewer phrases can quicken a homeowner’s pulse than the dreaded flooded basement. There’s the mopping, the tearing up of carpet, the obligatory swearing, and worst of all, the call to the plumber.
After administering what can only be described as a colonoscopy of our main sewer line, the plumber’s diagnosis was grim. “There’s a tree root in the pipes. We are going to have to dig up your driveway to get to it and repair it.” I asked the inevitable question, “How much?” The plumber took the next 20 minutes to measure, pace, smoke a cigarette, consult an magic eight ball and then checked his calculations on an abacus.
“It comes to $4975,” he said while avoiding making eye contact with me (which makes sense, since my eye was doing that twitching thing it tends to do under duress). Now, the way I see it, when the plumber tells you the broken pipe is in fact under the driveway, necessitating the digging up of said driveway to the tune of $5000, you have two choices: kill the plumber and bury him in a shallow grave, or, laugh hysterically. I chose the latter (which ironically still seemed to scare him).
Between fits of laughter, a near-piddling, and the start of my Grey Goose and cranberry IV drip, I called my husband to break the news to him. “Well, if it has to be done, it has to be done.” My husband’s coolness under pressure is, surprisingly, one of his most annoying qualities.
“They are going to dig up the driveway!” I bellowed.
“Are you worried about the landscaping? It can all be fixed,” he tried to pacify me.
“Landscaping?! That’s the least of my worries. What if they dig up an old Indian burial ground? Which, of course, will most decidedly end with a poltergeist issue. Or worse, what if they find a pet ‘semetary’?! Do you know how many fish I have flushed in four years? That’s probably what’s causing all the plumbing issues. That’s all I need: a dozen zombie goldfish sloshing up the stairs to seek revenge on my lackluster fishbowl cleanings!”
“Zombie goldfish?” he asked.
“Yes! And remember that shaggy-looking beta that always stared at me with his one good eye?”
“You mean Daisy?” he said.
“Yeah, that’s him! You know he’s going to lead the zombie goldfish attack or become a poltergeist.”
“I don’t even know what a ‘poltergeist’ is,” my husband’s patience was wearing thin.
“Do you know that 18% of marriages fail because one spouse lacks a working knowledge of horror movies of the 1980s?” My husband is a numbers guy so I think my clever use of statistics will sway him.
“I have to go now, honey. Do not annoy the plumbers while they are working.”
Ten minutes later I’m down by the driveway asking the plumbers what I feel to be very valid questions. “Can’t this procedure be done laparoscopically? You know, a small incision, robotic arms, ultrasound? Come on, I have cable and high-speed internet! We are living in a rapidly advancing world!” Needless to say, that guy did not appreciate my vision of the future of plumbing.
Frankendriveway is healing well, no worse for wear other than a giant, concrete scar. And happily, no ancient burial grounds were uncovered.
I love hanging out in our front yard, watching my daughter play. Sometimes she rides her scooter rescuing invisible animals along the way and other times she runs as fast as she can to the mailbox and back. But one thing is always the same: she doesn’t go into our front yard unless my husband or I is there to watch her.
When I was a kid, it was different.
I grew up on Maxon Lane—a suburban neighborhood that I’m sure was just like any other neighborhood at the time. Houses in shades of brown, freshly planted trees, and kids. Lots of kids.
When we first moved to Maxon Lane, I was five and my only objective was to find kids to play with. I was scanning the neighborhood for kids before the moving truck was unpacked. I noticed two kids across the street and the three us aligned and continued on our mission to find more kids. Maxon Lane was a newly developed community so everyone was new to the neighborhood. Without discussion, me and the two kids I just met decided to go door to door asking one, simple question, “Do you have any kids?” It was easy: if they didn’t have kids, we made a note to never go to that house again and if they did have kids, the parents shoved the kids outside to play with us. Our group got larger and larger as we worked our way down the street.
I don’t know what I would do now if I saw a group of roughly fifteen kids, ages four to thirteen meandering around my neighborhood, but back when I was a kid, it was simply normal. And not a single parent in sight.
Our horde made it to the end of the street where the next phase of the neighborhood was still under construction. Us little kids watched as the big kids hurled rocks through the windows of the unfinished houses. I threw a couple of rocks myself, but I only managed to hit the kid standing behind me.
And just like that, friendships were forged. No one had to ask if we were friends, we simply were. From that day on, everyone just played. We never had to go knock on someone’s door because if they were home and not in trouble, then they were outside and playing. All you had to do to find where the kids were was to listen for the hollering and look for the driveway full of bikes.
We played after school until we all got called in for dinner and on the weekends we were outside as soon as we finished our bowls of Lucky Charms. We played baseball and football; we played army and had make believe ‘wars’ until lunchtime. We flew kites, rode skateboards, and we fought. We argued and screamed and yelled about who was up to bat and who got to use the wagon first to careen down the street. No parent came out and mediated. We fought it out. Mostly with words but sometimes punches were thrown and someone cried, but everyone would be playing together again by the end of the day.
We played like that for years, up until some of the kids became ‘cool’ and realized some of the other kids weren’t. Some remained friends and some went on to make different friends. It wasn’t traumatic, simply the way time manipulates youth with something called maturity.
I looked up Maxon Lane the other day on Google Maps. I didn’t even recognize it. But it still made me smile.