Throwback Thursday: 8th Grade Mo Was the Mayor of Munchkin City (and a non-complainer)

In elementary school, I had four hobbies: reading1, drinking Dr Pepper1, playing softball, and participating in school plays. My interest in the latter began with my starring turn as the eponymous rabbit in my second grade class’s production of Bunny Sue (a performance that required a great deal of hopping and not much else) and did not wane until high school when I realized that being in possession of a booming speaking voice and having the ability to easily memorize lines did not necessarily make one a great actress2. Over the years I performed in a number of theatrical masterpieces ranging from Old King Cole (I was the King himself and got to wear a crown!) to The Twelve Dancing Princesses (another crown!!) to some weird fantasy nonsense called The Evil Eye of Gondor that involved a bunch of townspeople standing up to some giant eyeball3 (I got to wear…a really boring tan tunic), and while I certainly preferred to be the star of the show, I always had a great time no matter what my role.

(As a sidenote, considering all the confidence and self-esteem issues I had as a child, my enjoyment of these plays and particularly my desire for leading roles is surprising to me in retrospect! It seems incongruous with everything I know about my former fragile emotional state. I’ll make a note of it for future analysis.)

By the time eighth grade rolled around, I was a seasoned veteran. When the local children’s community theater program announced that they’d be staging a production of The Wizard of Oz, I was beside myself with excitement: the chance to be in a play that was actually a real famous story and not just some inane drivel someone wrote specifically for schoolchildren to perform4! And surely it would provide the opportunity to wear some fantastic costumes! I could not wait for rehearsals to begin.

Now, while I mentioned earlier that my usual goal was to have the biggest part possible, I knew that in this case I’d have to be satisfied with some background work. Unlike all the other plays I’d been in, The Wizard of Oz is, of course, a musical. And musicals, obviously, require singing, and preferably by someone who can carry a tune. I am not that person. I know this. I have always known this. I had no delusions about my lack of talent and certainly had no aspirations of playing Dorothy or Glenda or any of those exciting roles, so when casting was announced and I saw that I’d been tasked with playing the Mayor of Munchkin City, I was perfectly happy. I had some fun lines to say and got to be in a number of major scenes — how could I complain?

And I was right about the costumes. My then-toddler cousin summed up my Mayor ensemble thusly: “Mo funny hat!”

above: greeting my family after one of the performances. My older sisters look like they thoroughly enjoyed the show, but the twins — especially Jamie there on the left — were clearly unimpressed; I can only assume they were jealous of my costume. Unfortunately for all of us, I was not permitted to keep the hat.

The best part about my experience in The Wizard of Oz wasn’t actually the lines or the hat or the performances themselves, although those were all quite exciting (especially that GIANT SILVER HAT5). About a week or so into rehearsals, the director pulled me aside during a break and asked me if I was happy with my part. Confused, I replied that of course I was pleased to play the Mayor (again, THAT HAT!) and was having a great time. He went on to inform me that I was virtually the only castmember who hadn’t come to him to complain about their role after casting — apparently, everyone was angling for better parts or more lines while I was just relieved that my complete lack of singing talent didn’t preclude me from participating altogether. He told me he appreciated my maturity and graciousness (direct quote!) and that I was doing a great job as the Mayor, then sent me on my way. The whole interaction lasted less than ninety seconds, but even 17 years later I remember it more vividly than I remember the play itself. There was something so validating about being complimented for simply being me (it had honestly never crossed my mind to complain or to be anything less than happy with what I was offered) — it’s a rare thing to have your disposition or temperament acknowledged, and I still count it as one of the best compliments I’ve received.

Seriously, though: who would complain about getting to wear that hat?

…………………………………

Footnotes:

1My love of literature and sugary carbonated beverages persists to this day. Put them together and you’ve got my ideal Saturday afternoon! PARTY TIME!

2That said, I would kill to participate in a high school play right now. I’m pretty young-looking, right? I could totally pass.

3I am not exaggerating when I say that I literally have NO IDEA what that play was about. And I was in it! And played a principle role! No clue.

4I’m looking at you, Evil Eye of Gondor.

5It was really heavy.

I NEED SYRUP (and other crack-of-dawn ramblings)

Rain or shine, sick or healthy, weekend or weekday, you can bet that Bubba will be wide awake by 6:30am. Every morning starts the same, with him hollering “MAMA!” and me hopping out of bed to rush into his room. I know my hurry is not really necessary; he’d almost certainly be just fine in there for a few minutes. But I continue with my daily mad dash because he’s still my baby and I don’t want him to feel scared or alone even for one moment, especially first thing in the morning.

see how sweet he is, even when he passes out naked on the floor?

Also, he says hilarious shit that I don’t want to miss. Bubba does not bother with small talk or salutations — he launches right into conversation the moment I walk through his door. I don’t know if it’s because he’s half asleep or if he’s riffing on a dream from which he just awoke, or if perhaps he’s been thinking deep thoughts all night and I’m just not privy to the context behind his musings, but each morning I am greeted with a unique observation or proclamation far more amusing than your typical “good morning.” I’ve started jotting down my favorites so they don’t get lost in the deep recesses of my overworked brain:

I NEED SYRUP!

He’s a man who knows what he likes, folks.

Connie [our dog] is barking SO MUCH!

She wasn’t barking. At all.

Do you have a bagel for Ryan?

Sure, but why is Ryan talking in third person?

It’s not raining! The sun is shining! Yay!

It was still dark outside and he hadn’t so much as glanced out the window to confirm that weather report.

I am NOT closing my eyes.

OK then.

You have a computer?

Yes?

Remember crying?

Yes?

The poop…is far away.

I…don’t know what this means.

No pillow! Only the stripey sheet!

The offending pillow was then cheerfully tossed into my face.

R is for ROBOT!

That’s true.

NO DADDY. Only Mama come here. DADDY STAY SLEEPING.

YES MASTER. Just kidding, I love this.

 

I can only hope that Bubba continues delivering these daily nuggets of wisdom at least until he starts sleeping a little later, because getting up at the crack of dawn would not be nearly as enjoyable without them. Now bring me some SYRUP!!!

This Post is Not Sponsored by Dream Lite

Dream Lite, sleep tight, starry night with Dreeeeeam Lite
Dream Lite, all night, keep dreaming on with DREAM LITE!!!1

If you’re a parent whose child watches even ten seconds of television per year, you know exactly what I’m talking about and I sincerely apologize for reminding you of that godawful commercial and dooming you to hum it to yourself all day or until you smash your head into the wall, whichever comes first. For those of you fortunate to have somehow escaped the reaches of Dream Lite’s impressively pervasive marketing, allow me to fill you in: a Dream Lite is a nightlight/stuffed animal amalgamation that combines busted-looking plush toys with LED lights to beam multicolored moons and stars onto the ceiling, and it is apparently compulsory for all children under six years of age to own one. They bear little resemblance to the animals they purport to represent and the lights are so bright they are more likely to keep your child awake all night than soothe them to sleep. Best of all, the dizzying light show they project is liable to nauseate anyone with a propensity for motion sickness if stared at for more than ten consecutive seconds.

Bubba, of course, loves his Dream Lite, a sad-looking turtle who looks none too pleased to be responsible for his obnoxious behavior. Mr. Dream Lite has been a nightly staple in Bubba’s room since he arrived from Amazon a few months ago; Bubba has even hollered for me to turn the damn thing on at 2am more than once. While I do find the stupid thing annoying (I wasn’t kidding about the nausea), I can see the appeal it holds and I continue to indulge Bubba’s fascination with it night in and night out.

A couple weeks ago, the usually dependable Mr. Dream Lite started showing signs of malfunction or perhaps drug use — his typically uber-bright lights were so dim we could barely see them, and sometimes it took several clicks of the power button along with a good shake to get him going at all. After a few days of this troubling behavior, he refused be roused for his duties altogether and I finally accepted that I’d have to get off my ass and change the damn batteries, a process that involves removing the world’s tiniest and most tightly-secured screw to access the battery compartment. With Bubba watching intently, I swapped out the batteries and re-secured the Fort Knox battery door, then clicked the power button to enjoy a performance from our freshly rejuvenated Dream Lite friend.

To our collective dismay, nothing happened. The batteries had failed to revive poor Mr. Dream Lite! Bubba politely asked me to “fix it pwease,” and when I told him that I wasn’t sure how, he asked me again, less politely this time. He eventually gave up and we forgot all about it until the next night when we had the exact same conversation, a pattern that repeated itself for about 10 days until I finally accepted that I’d have to get off my ass and change the damn LEDs (because what else could it be, now that we know fresh batteries weren’t the cure?). I promised Bubba we could buy some new lightbulbs at Target the very next day, then consulted Google to locate instructions for swapping out the lights.

It was at this point that I discovered that the good folks over at Dream Lite either hate their customers or assume we are all mechanical engineers with a fully-stocked toolshed at our disposal, because the instructions for changing the LEDs require, I kid you not, a SOLDERING IRON. Based on my reaction to having to remove one screw to access the battery compartment, it should not surprise you to learn that I have never even seen a soldering iron, much less own one or know how to operate one. Supremely irritated at this latest development in The Great Dream Lite Saga of 2014, I tossed the stupid turtle aside and resigned myself to buying a new one, all the while cursing the nightlight gods that had so cruelly chosen to smite me.

Luckily, I happened to mention my dismay on Facebook and my wonderful sister kindly offered to give me her daughters’ Dream Lite. I believe the exact words of her generous offer were “please, take this stupid thing out of my house.” Unfortunately for Bubba, this replacement Dream Lite was a pink unicorn instead of a manly green turtle, but Dream Lite beggars can’t be Dream Lite choosers, so we trekked out to my sister’s house to pick up the newest addition to our overflowing collection of ridiculous toys. She warned me that it would need fresh batteries and off we went, eager to put him to work keeping Bubba awake all night with flashing stars and moons.

Obviously, the story doesn’t stop here — that would be way too easy. If you think we got home and fired up that godforsaken pink unicorn with no further issues, you’re adorably naive and optimistic and clearly unfamiliar with the law of children’s toys, which dictates that whichever toy your child most loves will inevitably cause the most trouble for the parent.

No, the unicorn did NOT work, even with brand new batteries. Of course not. WHAT THE HELL, DREAM LITE?! WHY DO YOU HATE ME AND WANT ME TO SUFFER SO TERRIBLY?! WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME????

I was about two seconds from throwing both of these hideous creatures across the room when I remembered that I had another pack of batteries in the house2 and decided to think like a scientist for a moment3 before giving up all hope. Is it possible, I pondered, that the batteries are to blame, even though they are brand new? Perhaps I should try these other batteries just in case I got unlucky with that other batch? Could it be that simple?

Yes, yes it could.

Thanks to my brilliant critical thinking skills, I am now the proud owner of two fully functional Dream Lites (and a bunch of dead Energizer batteries). I was pretty pleased with myself and couldn’t wait to show off the double light show to Bubba…

So of course he chose last night to fall asleep on the floor before I could so much as get a diaper onto his naked booty, much less demonstrate the fruits of my labor.

Keep dreaming on with DREEEAM LIIIITE!

…………………………………

Footnotes:

1I’m actually not 100% confident in my recollection of that second line, but I was not willing to look up the commercial on YouTube to verify.

2Do you ever forget that you already bought something at Target the week prior and re-buy it and then wind up with a giant stash of something weird like AAA batteries? Oh, just me?

3Or even just a smart person in general.

How to Conquer a Marathon Without Dying: A Guide for Terrible Runners

I am a person who likes to have something to look forward to — it makes life a little more exciting and prevents feelings of stagnation. When you’re young, life is full of the anticipation of school breaks, family trips, graduations, and the like, but adulthood is packed with long periods of time completely devoid of such excitement. I found myself in one such rut last year, with no vacations or babies or big moves on the horizon, and I found it highly dissatisfying. I was restless.

I decided to remedy the problem by training for last June’s San Diego marathon, even though I hate running and am not good at it. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that I selected this goal purely because I wanted something to look forward to — that literally was the only reason. I cannot overstate this: I am terrible at running, it is not fun at all, and I am highly skeptical of anyone who claims otherwise. But it was something to do and it was fun to have a goal in mind, so I diligently followed a training plan I found online and soldiered forth towards the big race.

Now, that marathon did not go so well. I had no idea what I was doing, and since I have no natural inclination towards running or athletics in general, I was really winging the whole thing. It was excruciating and I immediately declared that I would never torture myself with another marathon again.

Of course, a few months later I was feeling bored again, so I decided to train for the LA Marathon. Will I ever learn?

I had two distinct advantages this time around, though: I knew what mistakes I’d made last year, and I knew how horrible it was going to be. The former allowed me to train a bit better and to eat a lot more, and the latter at least prevented me from being surprised when I still wanted to die at mile 21 despite the additional nourishment. It was torturous and I may or may not have texted my husband at mile 22 to tell him that I felt like I was dying and that I might not make it, but I persevered and finished in 4 hours and 36 minutes (a whopping FORTY TWO minutes faster than last year’s ill-fated attempt)! And then immediately made some random sweaty dude take a picture of me before I waddled to the food tables to gorge myself:

So now, of course, I consider myself an expert on marathons. I’m sure you agree. As a public service to my fellow non-runners who have deluded themselves into thinking that a marathon might be a good idea, I’ve compiled my best Do’s and Don’t’s for training for, enduring, and recovering from the 26.2 mile torture test. Read them, savor them, live them (and if you’re actually a serious runner…ignore them):

The training and build-up:

  • On days when you have to run, DO give yourself a pass on all other non-essential life tasks. Cooking? Cleaning? Ain’t nobody got time for that after running for hours. Order pizza and make your husband do the dishes while you sit on the couch congratulating yourself for how hard you’re working on your training.
  • DON’T make the mistake of thinking anyone else cares about your running, but DO tell them anyway. YOU RAN A MILLION MILES, PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW.
  • DO eat whatever you want, whenever you want. In N Out is perfectly acceptable post-run fuel, even if it’s only 10:30am.
  • DON’T worry too much about pace or timing. Just try not to die — it’s the only goal you really need.
  • DO take a lot of photos to document your accomplishment. When you inevitably realize that running a marathon was a terrible idea and that you should never do it again, you’ll be glad you kept such a good record of the one time you did it. Look how cute I am picking up my registration stuff before the big day!

The big day:

  • DON’T even think for one second that you’re going to get a good night’s sleep the day before. You’re a terrible runner and you’re going to be stressed all night about how hard it’s going to be. DO accept this and plan accordingly caffeine-wise.
  • DO motivate yourself by telling yourself that you can eat something super awesome after the race. Remember, it’s good to have something to look forward to!
  • DO be prepared for all manner of logistical nightmares. DON’T let it get you down when you have to walk TWO MILES (uphill, no less!) to get to the starting line because traffic is so bad:
  • DO try to joke around and make small talk with your fellow runners while you wait for the race to start, but DON’T be too hurt when no one wants to talk to you because they’re serious runners and they’re busy getting in the zone or smearing vaseline on their thighs or whatever. DO feel great pride if you manage to pass them later.
  • DO drink water and eat at any available opportunity, and not just from officially-sanctioned race “fuel stops.” Kindly spectators often hand out water and oranges, and I take them every time. Sure, they could be filthy or poisoned by some sort of serial killer, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take after three hours of running.
  • DON’T punch spectators when they try to encourage you by shouting “don’t walk! Keep running!” They deserve it, though.
  • DO whatever it takes to finish, even if it means crawling across the damn finish line. If you have to quit, you might be tempted to try again at a future marathon, and no one wants that.

The aftermath:

  • DON’T be ashamed if you cry tears of relief as you cross the godforsaken finish line.
  • DON’T try to do anything else for the rest of the day. DO order pizza and make your husband do the dishes while you sit on the couch congratulating yourself on a job well done.
  • DON’T allow your husband to forget to bring you a fountain Dr Pepper on his way home from picking up the pizza. If he does forget, DON’T ever forgive him1.
  • DO allow your child to poke and marvel at your disgusting blisters. It’s fun for all involved, and prevents you from having to get up and actually play with him.
  • DO bask in the glory of your achievement — it’s the only good part about running, after all!

Good luck! I hope you enjoy having such a ridiculous thing to look forward to, and then never, ever, do it again.

…………………………………

Footnotes:

1Just kidding. Mostly.

The Time I Cried Because My 2-Year-Old Son is a Jerkface

I have always been a highly sensitive individual: I’m easily embarrassed, feel emotions very deeply, and am prone to crying in times of sadness, frustration, and stress. In my thirty years as a Certified Sensitive Sally, I’ve been moved to tears by everything from a loose thread on my precious baby blanket (and no, I wasn’t an actual baby at the time) to a less than perfect employee evaluation, and virtually everything in between. I’ve cried tears of shame over forgotten homework assignments, sobbed while reading Chicken Soup for the Soul, and teared up at the very thought of the Holocaust. I’ve cried after inadvertently hurting someone’s feelings, then cried again years later at the memory of my past transgression. In second grade, I had a meltdown when a classmate described me as a “crybaby” (how smug she must have felt when I immediately proved her right!), and a few years ago I choked up when my new boyfriend tried to convince me to eat a Vietnamese delicacy that struck me as incontrovertibly unpalatable.

Over the years, I’ve learned that while I can’t do much to stop myself from crying at these myriad provocations (it’s truly a curse), I at least have a good grasp on the triggers. I can generally anticipate the types of situations that have the potential to set me off — I knew there was a non-refundable one-way ticket to Cry Town with my name on it within minutes of arriving at that godforsaken Vietnamese restaurant — and I’m rarely surprised by my tears at this point. Every once in a while, though, my tender heart will be blindsided by some fresh variety of emotional terrorism and I find myself in tears over something so ridiculous I never would have thought to file it in my mental Rolodex of potential aggressors. Something, like, say, some sassy backtalk from a cranky toddler.

Yes, I admit it: my two-year-old child brought me to tears last night, and I’m not talking about the “I’m so happy and fulfilled by this wonderful creature that sprung from my loins!” type of crying. Nor am I referring to any other reasonable classification of mommy-tears, like the tears of exhaustion you might find yourself experiencing after spending all night awake with a sick child, or worry-tears you might shed while thinking about their future or something — no, this is far stupider. I literally cried because my son was mean to me and it hurt my feelings.

It was a new low for me, knocking the Vietnamese restaurant debacle out of the top spot for the first time in over nine years.

In my defense (if being moved to tears by a toddler’s bad attitude is at all defensible), I was on day four of what had been a really rough week. I don’t know if Bubba is coming down with something, or if the weather is getting him down (it’s a blistering 62 degrees over here), or if he’s not sleeping well, or if he just woke up on Monday and decided to try something new and act like a little shit, but something has been different this week. He’s cranky, sour, and I can’t seem to do anything right. He whines. He kicks me. He tells me to STOOOOPPPPP when I try to sing. Anything I suggest, be it a snack or a TV show or an activity, is bound to be wrong.

And it hurts.

It feels like a rejection, and it’s leaps and bounds more painful than one of the romantic sort since the chances of me tempering my love for him and not caring what he thinks are precisely zero. I love him with all of my ridiculously delicate heart, and to feel that go unreciprocated after more than two years of mommy-and-me bliss is devastating.

I know logically that this is almost certainly just a phase, one that will probably be in the rear view by the next time I sit down to blog (let us pray), and crying because a toddler didn’t want to play racecars with you is patently absurd. But in the meantime, I am tearfully longing for this:

I can only hope there’s a good tearjerker on Lifetime tonight to redirect my sobs. Cross your fingers.

Me Time

It’s easy to complain about the hardships of having a newborn — you’re fat, you’re exhausted, and there’s only so much crying a person can take before they just start crying themselves1. But now that I’m long past that stage and deep into the toddler years, I can say with authority that the aforementioned newborn-related complaints are mere nuisances when compared to the trials of parenting a toddler.

Now, don’t get me wrong — toddlers are infinitely more interesting, exciting, fun, entertaining, and (dare I say?) fulfilling than infants. They just take up an awful lot of your time. Like, ALL OF IT. They require endless attention, and you can forget about doing anything for yourself, because if it’s not about them, they’re not happy.

Despite the fatness and the exhaustion and the crying, Bubba really didn’t really cramp my style too much when he was a baby. If I wanted to go to the mall, I just strapped him in the Baby Bjorn and off we went. He had no qualms about me watching American Idol while feeding him, I ate whatever I wanted and didn’t have to worry about sharing or setting a bad example2, and I had plenty of time to cook, clean, blog, read, and stalk people on Facebook while he slept. When I really needed a break, I was able to leave him with a babysitter and rest assured that he didn’t really miss me, because he was just a baby and didn’t know what the hell was going on anyway.

Those days, apparently and tragically, are over. My life is all Bubba all the time, and it never stops. He can’t just play with his toys, Mama has to play with him. Same goes for TV-watching — Mama needs to “cuddle da couch” (read: cuddle up on the couch) and enjoy endless episodes of Curious George by his side. I can’t get any reading in because he wants to look at the books with me (and then is sorely disappointed by their lack of pictures), and god forbid I try to watch a television program of my choosing! Blogging is out of the question since he has a strong conviction that computers should only be used to watch YouTube videos of superheroes and construction vehicles. I can still take him to the mall, but nowadays any mall time is spent drooling over Spider-Man toys:

Or scoping out the indoor play area:

Even getting a run in is tricky, since he doesn’t like the jogging stroller anymore and won’t move out of the way to let me hop on the treadmill:

He rarely naps anymore and goes to bed later and later with each passing month, so I can’t even use that precious time to get things done! And as for hiring a babysitter? His pitiful wails of “DON’T LEAVE, MAMA! MAMA STAY HERE!” are enough to convince me to forgo the whole idea and resign myself to more Curious George.

So if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been blogging much lately, you can blame this guy:

The most demanding, attention-craving, Mama-obsessed little creature to ever walk the planet…also known as my best pal and center of my universe, for whom I would do literally anything, including sacrificing any and all “me time” with no regrets whatsoever.

…………………………………

Footnotes:

1Just me?

2So far I’ve got him convinced that soda is yucky and only for grown-ups, but eventually he’s going to taste it, and then what am I going to do?!

Maybe Tomorrow (and other lies I tell my son)

I like to think I’m a good, ethical person. I’m constantly waving people in on the freeway, and when I try clothes on at the mall, I always hang them back up before I leave. As far as I’m concerned, that alone puts me in the top 2% of all humanity in terms of overall decency.

Having said that, I will admit that I am a bit of a liar. In fact, I lie all the time. Multiple times per day, no less! And even still, I maintain that I truly am a good person, because I’m only telling lies to a toddler, and that doesn’t really count…right? It’s like justifiable homicide. Consider the alternatives: actually reasoning with a toddler is obviously no more than a ridiculous pipe dream, and I certainly don’t want to deal with the heartbreak of disappointing him by saying “no” to something like a good parent. So I lie!

It works great, guys.

Below are just a few of the lies I find myself telling Bubba on a regular basis:

“Maybe tomorrow!” This works for virtually any request. Park? Candy? Caillou? MAYBE TOMORROW!

(Spoiler: it probably ain’t happening tomorrow.)

“We’ll do that a little bit later.” Maybe tomorrow’s little brother.

“We don’t have [fill in the blank] right now.” Of course we have cookies — you’re just not getting them.

“Maybe Shaunte has some!” Shaunte is our wonderful daycare provider. When I have no intention of fulfilling his ridiculous candy-related requests but I don’t want to be the one to crush his dreams, I just tell him to ask her for the chocolate or lollipops or whatever.

“You don’t like this; it’s yucky.” HA! Soda is delicious.

“Everybody’s sleeping.” Yes, literally everyone in the world is in bed at 7:30pm. Don’t worry, Bubba, you’re not missing out on any fun.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Whether I’m heading out for a short jog or leaving for a night out with a friend, it’s always “a few minutes.” I wonder when they teach kids how to read clocks and tell time these days?

“We don’t need to buy any Hot Wheels today.” I always cave. Always.

Time will tell how long these deceptive tactics will continue to be effective…he’s starting to look a bit skeptical: