How Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible etc etc Bad Day Confirmed I’m Doing OK

Alexander and his shitty day

Alternate title: Alexander the Cranky Brat and his Negligent, Cold-Hearted Mother

Now that we live in suburbia and have access to a delightfully clean, well-stocked and 99% hobo-free library, one of my first orders of business was to get Bubba hooked up with his very own library card so he could start enjoying the excitement of a constant rotation of new reading material. (Also, they have kickin’ air conditioning in there and it’s a fabulous way to kill an hour on a hot afternoon.) After spending a few minutes knocking down every block in the children’s area and likely annoying everyone in the entire building, Bubba turned his attention to the books and made some selections. Based on the cover illustration alone — he was intrigued by that upside-down skateboard on Alexander’s filthy floor — the first book he chose for his foray into library patronage was the 1970’s-era monstrosity Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Have you read this thing? Somehow I missed it in my own childhood (the grumpy scowl on that punk’s face would have precluded me from ever so much as touching this book, I assure you), but after reading it with my son no fewer than six bajillion times in the past five days (conservative estimate), I can safely say I was not missing out on anything. This innocent-looking tale is riddled with terrible behavior from the titular Alexander, and the treatment he receives from his virtually absentee mother raises some alarming red flags.

The plot of the book is simple: Alexander spends the entire book sulking about everyday irritations that should not, under normal circumstances, be cause for more than a passing complaint, much less be cited as ruining your entire freakin’ day: tripping on a skateboard, having to eat lima beans, and being relegated to the middle seat during car pool. I’ll give him a pass on his friend being mean to him and the dentist discovering a cavity; either of those can certainly put a damper on your day — but the rest of his complaints are just plain over the top.

Even Bubba was baffled by Alexander’s attitude. For starters, the dear lad couldn’t quite wrap his head around the concept of a “bad day” in general. “But why he not cheer up, Mama?” He asked, quite reasonably. “He gonna be happy a little bit later!”

And, like me, he found Alexander’s level of upset to be disproportionate to his problems. There’s a scene where Alexander bemoans the lack of treats in his lunchbox whilst his pals devour chocolate and cupcakes (and really, Albert’s mom? TWO cupcakes in your kid’s lunchbox? Good luck with that diabetes diagnosis next year), and while Bubba was somewhat sympathetic to Alexander in this particular instance (who wouldn’t want a little dessert?), he was also quick to point out that Alexander was leaving the rest of his perfectly good lunch un-touched. “It’s OK, Alexander,” he said consolingly, speaking directly to the book. “Don’t forget about your sammich! And you gots some milk over there!!”

Seriously, Alexander: a freakin’ toddler is telling you to take a chill pill. Simmer down, drama queen.

Even worse than Alexander’s bitching and moaning, though, is his mother’s reaction — or shall I say, her non-reaction — to Alexander’s plight. Sure, Alexander is undoubtedly overreacting to 99% of his “bad day,” but he is just a kid, and we all know that kids can be kind of emotionally stupid at times. So where are the hugs? The kind words? The encouragement? NOWHERE TO BE FOUND, that’s where. Never ONCE does this woman so much as cast a kind look in her poor kid’s direction, much less lay a tender hand upon his disheveled little head! The closest we get to seeing some compassion from this monster is on the penultimate page, when Alexander remarks that his mom says “some days are like that.” Gee, thanks, Mom. I totally feel better now.

And I swear I’m not just overanalyzing things — Bubba noticed her absence, too! “Why his mama not help him?” he inquired when Alexander complained about his bath being too hot. “Why his mama be mad at him with da mud?” he demanded after Alexander got into a muddy tussle with his brother. Most touchingly (and saddest of all for Alexander), Bubba took note of the lack of space for Alexander’s mother in Alexander’s bed (we do a lot cuddling around these parts, and Bubba’s bed contains one pillow for him and one for me to use when I’m in there with him). “There’s no space for his mama!” He cried. “Where’s her pillow?! How they gonna do some hugs?”

Yes, Alexander’s mother, explain yourself: HOW YOU GONNA DO SOME HUGS?

While I’m thoroughly annoyed with this book at this point (and we still have two more weeks before we have to return it! HELP), I am glad we borrowed it, as it has done wonders for my confidence as a mother. The fact that even at his young age, Bubba is wise enough to recognize the need to keep things in perspective instead of flipping out over a lack of dessert in your lunch seems like a pretty good accomplishment…and while I’m not sure what I did to make him think like that, I’ll go ahead and take credit for his maturity since I’m his mom and thus it must be related to my awesome parenting. This is not a kid who’s going to let a little muddy puddle ruin his day:

PINECONES!

“MOM I FOUND SOME PINECONES AND GUESS WHAT THESE TWO AIN’T EVEN THE HALF OF IT, THERE ARE LIKE A HUNDRED MORE DOWN THERE COME ON LET ME SHOW YOU LET’S GO LET’S GO!!!!”

But when a bad day does eventually rear its ugly head, Bubba knows he should be able to rely on me for comfort and encouragement — and that feels like an even bigger accomplishment. Keep that space in bed ready for me, Bud.

Movin’ and Groovin’ (and Crying and Screaming Because Moving SUCKS)

I think literally everyone on the planet can agree that moving is, at best, unpleasant. Even if you’re a minimalist with like 12 total belongings and are blessed with a gaggle of weirdo saint-like friends who want to help you pack, it’s still an annoying exercise in patience and logistics-management.

And that’s in ideal circumstances! If the house you’re moving into is significantly smaller than your current one, necessitating a lot of reorganization and Goodwill donations, and if you’ve got a toddler underfoot during all of your preparations, and you can’t take any time off work to pack, the whole experience starts shifting from “annoying” to “panic-inducing nightmare.”

If you’re pregnant and can’t bend over or lift anything over about 3 pounds, get fall-down-exhausted after about ninety seconds of exertion, and are prone to bursting into hormonal tear-fests at even the most innocuous provocation, you might as well just give up and start considering abandoning all of your possessions and living in your car.

I’m moving in 5 days and my car is starting to look pretty good. I could have a nice life in a Prius, I think! The front seats recline quite nicely, and I’d never even have to leave my “house” to drive through Jack in the Box for a soda. Alas, the new baby probably needs a crib or something, so I have to persevere.

All joking aside, moving really, really sucks. I don’t know how or why I have so much stuff, but I do, and now we have to sort through it and pack it up and it’s just NOT. FUN. AT. ALL. I don’t even understand why it’s so hard — it’s just throwing stuff in boxes, right? But everything is heavy and you have to bubble wrap delicate stuff and you run out of tape and you want to clean everything first because moving dusty things seems silly…and then you discover that you can no longer fit in your clothes anymore and so you have to pull out the maternity clothes like a month sooner than you thought you’d have to and you realize that all of your regular clothes can just go straight into storage instead of into your closet at the new house, and you kind of have a nervous breakdown.

clothesThis happened last night. It wasn’t my best moment.

On the bright side, the house we’re moving to is right across the street from one of my sisters — literally right across the street! — and just a few blocks from another sister, and my mom lives in the next town over, so I’m pretty freakin’ excited about all that. Every time I want to throw a box across the room in frustration, I just remind myself that each hideous pair of flared maternity jeans I pack is getting me one step closer to being able to step out my front door and enjoy an enormous glass of wine with my sister and not even have to drive anywhere.

Except…wait a minute…I’m pregnant and can’t drink. SON OF A BITCH.

Maybe I’ll just send Bubba over to have a sleepover with the cousins and I’ll sit home and watch Forensic Files.

sleepover

Yes, that sounds like a good plan. 5 days and counting!

P.S. I have been intending to write this post every evening for the last week, and every night I instead just stare at the various piles of junk I have “organized” around the house and cry.

Where the Hell Have I Been?! A Six Month Recap

My lengthy blogging hiatus was unintentional. I didn’t wake up one day and decide I was done blogging or anything so dramatic; it was just one of those things that kept getting put off for a myriad of reasons until it became bigger in my mind than it really needed to be and then I couldn’t decide how to jump back into it, like when you forget to email a friend back for a couple of days and it spirals out of control until one day you realize you haven’t talked in a year and it’s totally your fault and now you CAN’T contact them because it’s just SO AWKWARD.

(Please tell me I am not the only horrible person that does that.)

The initial reason for my absence was a simple lack of creativity: my damn kid was behaving too well and failing to provide me with easy material, and I was having trouble crafting any of my own tales of insanity (and there are many!) into anything remotely amusing. Since those are really the only two things I write about, I was tapped out. Now, under normal circumstances I probably would have gotten my shit together and written something lame just to avoid the above-described “now it’s been TOO long to blog again!” shame-spiral, but then my life underwent some serious upheaval and all I could think about all day every day was how overwhelmingly stressed out I was, and it just seemed disingenuous to write blog posts about my son dancing with glow sticks (sooo cute, you guys) when I was sending my friend daily texts that said “MY LIFE IS FALLING APART HELLLLLLLLP!!!”

(Too dramatic?)

And then I got pregnant, and in one fell swoop both of those problems were solved! I’m finding that now I have about a million things to say, and everything that I was stressing about no longer seems quite as important because there’s a HUMAN BEING GROWING INSIDE ME and I’m hungry and stuff.

(Of course, in reality the pregnancy actually makes the sources of my stress all the MORE relevant as well as bringing stresses of its own, but it gives me a positive focus and some serious motivation to at least pretend to be an adult who is marginally capable of handling life.)

So here I am! I’m back and committed to regaling you with tales of Bubba’s cuteness, embarrassing memories and photos that will make you pity and/or mock me, and, of course, news from the pregnancy front (today’s headline: I’m too fat for my pants). First, though, allow me to bring you up to speed on what’s been going on these last six months:

Bubba has maintained his interest in all things superhero:batmancapespidermanmaskAnd I made him an AMAZING (if I do say so myself) decoupaged table with Marvel cards:

superherotable(And yes, his nails are painted in the above photo. We were bored. They’re Spider-Man colors! His toes were painted “green like a lizard,” if you were curious.)

Potty training was a success!!!

pottytrainingWhich necessitated a journey to Toys R Us to pick out a new toy (or two), because I believe in positive reinforcement (AKA bribery):

newtoysMy sister and I took Bubba and her three kids to Legoland:

legoland1 legoland2 legoland3Bubba’s been practicing his Big Brother skills with his baby cousin:ryan_babyWe spent the summer in our luxurious resort-style pool:poolAnd cooling off with overpriced (but oh-so-delish) milkshakes:

milkshake

And most importantly, I can assure you that my bond with my dear sweet Bubba has not changed one bit during that six month hiatus:

ferryWhew! All caught up? Ready for more? Stay tuned…I promise not to disappear again.

I am the 1%! (For Whom Birth Control Does Not Work)

One evening earlier this summer, I was driving home from picking up some dinner when I was struck by how absolutely disgusting the tomatoes on the burgers I’d just purchased smelled. They weren’t rancid or anything — in fact, they looked downright farm fresh — they just smelled so distinctively tomato-y. It was so overpowering, I almost pulled over and threw them out the window.

Now, If you’ve ever been pregnant or are even a little bit smart, it’s probably 100% obvious what was going on at this point — there’s pretty much only one reason why a woman would suddenly be so bothered by an odor as innocuous as fresh tomato. Since I am apparently very dense, though, this did not even cross my mind until over a week later when I realized I hadn’t had my period in quite some time, and the memory of those goddamn stinking tomatoes came rushing back into my mind.

It took about three seconds for the home pregnancy test to confirm what the tomatoes had tried to tell me 10 days prior: I’m pregnant.

To say this was a surprise is an understatement. I’ve wanted another baby pretty much ever since dear Bubba had been sleeping through the night long enough for my brain to forget the abject torture that was the sleepless newborn months, but I hadn’t made any progress in convincing my husband and was resigned to waiting another year or two at least. My body and the universe had other plans, though, and laughed in the face of the birth control pills I was faithfully sucking down every night. “Oh no, you don’t,” my ovaries chuckled. “I’ll show you who’s really in charge around here, cuz it ain’t your husband and his ridiculous ‘only children are awesome’ theory.”

This is why the packaging says the pill is only 99% effective, by the way. The manufacturers know that the human body has the capacity to occasionally go rogue and start making family planning decisions all by itself, and when that happens, there’s nothing a few measly hormones can do about it.

pregnant? yup.After an initial period of shock (during which I demanded that my doctor order up a blood test to confirm the veracity of the pee-on-a-stick test, since I truly did not believe that birth control could just, like, not work), I quickly got on board with my fate. After all, I like babies and think I’ve done a bang-up job raising my first one (so far), and while I’m not religious, it sort of feels like if you get pregnant while using birth control, maybe the universe is trying to tell you something and you should just roll with it.

And so the countdown begins! The countdown to sleepless nights, diapers galore, breastfeeding and pumping and formula and bottles, childcare dilemmas, sibling rivalry (!), money woes…and love and joy and sibling bonding and cuteness and milestones and the daily wonder of watching someone develop before your eyes, and I really, truly, cannot wait.

Thank you, Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, for making me the 1%. Who am I to question your infinite wisdom?

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.