Christmas Tree Farm Massacre

Sometime before Thanksgiving, Jason wondered if we should consider getting an artificial Christmas tree this year. I looked at him like he'd sprouted a second head, and that second head was suggesting that we go vegan, give the dogs away, and consider getting an artificial Christmas tree this year. We were both raised in Artificial Tree Households -- my mom told me I was allergic to real trees; his mom couldn't stand the needles and mess -- and our mutual dislike of the fake trees was something we discussed during our engagement. I would take some Claritin and we would be a Real Tree Household. Our first real grown-up rejection of our upbringing. Then my in-laws generously gifted us with their giant (and super expensive) fake tree and most of their ornaments. And because I didn't want to offend them with my Controversial Tree Views (on top of not going to church! and registering as a Democrat!), we dutifully used it for our first couple Christmases, hauling it from one rental apartment to another. I have no memory of where we even stored the thing in a few of those places, but after we bought our condo in DC I... Read more →

The Ballad of the Runaway Hamsterdog

If you follow me on any of the other InstaTwitBook things, you already know most of this, so forgive me for being obvious and repetitive here but I got exactly two hours of (awful, miserable) sleep last night and am crashing pretty hard. Ceiba ran away yesterday. "Ran away" probably isn't correct. More like a "meandering wander." A "let's go pee on some different grass" expedition gone horribly wrong. I can't even recreate a timeline or explain exactly what happened. Jason and I both have different memories and guesstimates about When She Was Here and then When Suddenly We Realized She Wasn't. I remember seeing her napping on a throw pillow on the floor of our bedroom right before I started making dinner. Jason disputes this, saying that he came home from work early and has zero memories of seeing her at all. I remember letting her outside via the basement doors and then letting her back in upstairs, but not specifically when. Or maybe I didn't actually let her back in, but just spotted her sunning herself out on the back deck, then assumed one of the boys would open the door for her later. All I know is... Read more →

The Move That Almost Wasn't

Welp. It's been a week, all right. As you probably gathered from Instagram/Facebook, our move did not exactly go as planned. In fact, in the span of about an hour on Friday afternoon, things went from moving along with near military-like precision to a complete and total clusterfuck. I've relayed the events and details over text message about 500 times since then, I estimate, and I always include something like "someday this will make a great/funny story, but right now I just caaaaaan't." I'm still not sure we're at "someday" yet, but I guess I can try. On Friday morning, my in-laws arrived at the hotel we'd spent the night at and took the kids and pets so we could head to settlement on the townhouse. The plan was for them to head to Yellow House and hang out in the backyard, have a picnic lunch, and possibly let the movers in if they arrived before we got back from the second settlement. (We'd been graciously given the garage door code by the owners ahead of time.) Settlement #1 went off without the slightest hitch. We were in and out in under 20 minutes, congratulated our lovely buyers and that... Read more →

Me vs. Nature, Part Four Million and Three

This is our garden. We have sage, a batshit amount of parsley, two pots of chives, and a big mishmosh of rosemary, thyme, dill, and marjoram. Beans, bush tomatoes, and peas. Two sacks of potatoes. Delicious little radishes. Tons of not-quite-ripe strawberries that are straight-up torturing my children. Cherry tomatoes, carrots, beets... ...and a fucking squirrel trap. Squirrels became a big problem for us last year. We were super-ambitious and planted about twice what we have this year. They ate every single tomato. We'd go outside and find our big, gorgeous heirlooms lying in the dirt, half gnawed on. If there weren't any tomatoes, they went after strawberries, squash, melons...whatever else they could wring a little liquid out of on dry, sunny days. It was just two squirrels in particular. One had a bald spot on its butt and one had lost the tip of its tail. We named them Asshole and Stumpy. We'd see them on the fence and send Ceiba out to yap at them, but they'd immediately come back when the coast was clear. We tried everything. Those bobble-headed owl statues, special repellent sprays and predator scents, offering water and food on the OTHER side of our... Read more →

Go To The Mattress

I got my hair done last weekend. I'd gotten it into my head that I wanted to go back to blonde, and so I did. I don't want to talk about it. (I don't liiiiiike iiiiiit. It's just not me anymore. I'm no more a natural blonde than I am a natural redhead — at least any shade of blonde anyone would actually want, unless you dig a blonde so ashy and washed out you look like you've gone gray. "Dishwater blonde," I believe it would be called if it came in a box. But of course it doesn't come in a box, because it's a terrible color. So I got blonde highlights over it and tried to give it a few days to grow on me and I think it looks fake and try-hard and wait, I said I don't want to talk about it.) ANYWAY. Moving on. This is not a story about my hair, but rather a super-funny thing I saw on the way back from the salon one time. But not this past time. A time a few months ago, and I don't know why I didn't write about it when it happened. Because it definitely... Read more →

Riding In Cars With (Too Many) Boys

When I was a kid, my family had one car, a Ford station wagon. My family also had seven children. So I remember riding in between my parents on the front bench seat (whatever, it wasn't like there was an airbag or anything, just the comforting safety of the AM/FM radio knobs), while three of my older siblings sat in the back, and three of my even older siblings rode in the trunk, careening around like loose tennis balls and making faces through the glass at the cars behind us. I do remember eventually sitting in a little pleather-covered plastic booster seat with a lap belt; enough of my siblings had survived childhood by that point that a space opened up in the back seat. I of course wanted NOTHING MORE IN LIFE than to ride in the way back, in the trunk, and I think my parents did indulge me a couple times, at least until they traded the station wagon in for a Ford Escort in the late 80s and had watched enough news segments about how your child is probably dying of a car crash RIGHT NOW, AS YOU WATCH THIS, and thus became big sticklers for... Read more →

BlogHer Part Two Kind Of

My best story from the conference, other than hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones and also MOJITOS, occurred about three hours prior to Sparklecorn. And like ALL of my best stories, this one predictably involves me going to pieces over something trivial. Basically, CAPS LOCKing all over the place, but live and in real time. I was trying to figure out how to get five rather large boxes from the package room at the hotel over to the party location next door. These five boxes contained about 4,000 multi-colored glow necklaces and bracelets, which are a Sparklecorn tradition, as everybody uses them for everything from jewelry to belts to tiaras to elaborate full-on glow-in-the-dark costumes. I'd shipped them to myself at the hotel, not realizing that BlogHer had outgrown its quaint days of underground hotel conference rooms and was now taking over gigantic convention centers, because blogging, apparently, is quite a thing with the kids these days. And it turned out that the hundred yards or so of sidewalk between the two locations were guarded by an old gray wizard screaming YOU SHALL NOT PASS to anyone working at the hotel, because of unions and balrogs and... Read more →

Yellow & Black & Read All Over

Hidden among my father's rows and rows of books -- every book that had ever landed on the high school English curriculum list, plus a few from the banned column, for good measure -- was an impressive stash of Cliffs Notes. I remember being surprised by the huge number of yellow-and-black-striped study guides one day while digging around for something to read, something more challenging than the pathetic selection of Christian young adult fiction-with-a-Jesus-message my school's library offered. I think I was on a Thomas Hardy kick, or maybe it was Vonnegut by that point. Either way, I knew I'd find something that would alternately impress and/or horrify my own English teacher, but I wasn't expecting the Cliffs Notes. I knew exactly what they were, and how most of my peers used them: For cheating. You read the guide and not the book, and hopefully gleaned enough information to bullshit your way through class discussions and tests. They were a safer bet than renting a movie version that might have changed everything, but of course they cost a lot more, and you ran the risk of having a teacher or parent catch you with them. And then there was my... Read more →

Two Thousand Sixty-Seven

On Tuesday, last week, I took Ezra for a check-up at a new pediatrician. "Okay, family history," the doctor said cheerfully, turning to her computer. "Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer? Are all the grandparents still living?" "My dad," I said. "Is not. He died yesterday." "I'm so sorry," she said. "It's okay," I said. *** On Wednesday, last week, I took a train back up to Pennsylvania. As I rose to get off, my bag knocked over my seatmate's coffee cup. "Oh!" she gasped. "Oh shit!" I muttered. "I'm so sorry." "It's okay," she said. *** A very nice man asked me if I needed help with my suitcase as we boarded the elevator out on the track. I told him no thanks, my toddler weighed more than this, and HE didn't come with wheels and a handle, so I was good. He laughed. Then he sighed. "And NOW I have to go to work." And now I have to go help plan a funeral, I thought, but did not say. Instead, I smiled. "That sucks. I'm so sorry." *** A couple hours later I was ordering a cake. The baker asked if I wanted anything written on it, or... Read more →

The How

When we got there on Friday, it was March 25th, and he was reading the Kindle I’d gotten him for Christmas. He was in a hospital bed in the living room and looked thin and pale and waxy, but he was reading his Kindle. He told me I looked good, referring to my super-pronounced-looking pregnant belly, and I think I said something dumb, like "you too!" that I immediately regretted. But honestly, compared to how he'd look in just a matter of hours, it was true. Noah walked in and surveyed the room. “PopPop, you sure are sick, aren’t you,” he observed matter-of-factly. Ezra, thankfully, did not parrot my pre-visit explanations, but merely stuck his finger in his mouth and requested PopPop make his trademark popping sound with his finger and cheek. He obliged, laughing. Ezra giggled, as delighted with the trick as I’d been as a kid. We hugged, we talked, we gossiped. He teased me about my hair, which he has not particularly liked since I dyed it red. “It’s looking better!” he said earnestly, referring to the neglected, washed-out, two-inches-of-dingy-blond-roots state it’s currently in. Jason and the boys left to stay at his parents’ house; I stayed... Read more →