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the only christmas card

This is for my former boss, Bill. Remember Bill?

I sent him a Christmas card last week that said “Merry Christmas Grandpa” because, well he’s old. And with the card, I enclosed this letter and photo to him. I want the world to know how awesome he is…

My Dearest Grampa Bill,

Do you like the card? I picked it out myself. You’ll also be happy to know that you are literally the only person I’m sending a Christmas card to mainly because I wanted to tell you a story…

The other day I went to Target. I wandered the aisles in search of stocking stuffers. I found some.

I also found a large bottle of Pinot Grigio, 2 sets of under cabinet lights, 2 throw pillows, 6 pairs of socks, snow boots, one of those lightbulb grabber pole thingies for high ceilings, a blanket, 2 ornaments, curtains for Summer’s bedroom, a sweater, a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and the most glorious pair of pink fuzzy slippers money could buy.

And as I walked to my car after dropping $200 on a whole bunch of shit I never knew I needed, I had a thought that made me realize I needed to write to you.

Five years ago, I handmade all of the Christmas presents I gave to my family, not because I was feeling extra crafty that year. I was married to a man who kept his money to himself while I was broke with every penny I made at my job going toward daycare and my half of the mortgage. Needless to say, a spool of yarn and teaching myself how to knit 5 scarves was much cheaper than anything I could have found at a store. But the other day as I loaded up my trunk full of presents for me and my family, I was not anxious. I was not scared of what else that money should have gone towards like I would have been five years ago. I was actually in awe of the fact that $200 didn’t hurt me, I was able to use my debit card instead of charging everything, and I knew that I still had enough money in the bank to pay for groceries and another large bottle of wine after I polished off the new one that night for dinner.

I mean with dinner.

No, I don’t.

I think back to the last five years – married, house-poor, new baby, new job title, divorce, calling a cozy little apartment home for four years, and now a pretty new house for me and Summer that I bought on my own with no child support, no co-signers, just me. I did that. But you know what?

You did that.

With one phone call you made to me on that fateful morning, one small leap of faith you took on me to join your team, you changed my entire life in ways you may not even realize. You were with me the day I rode the train home by myself from the city after a judge freed me from a bad marriage. You were with me the day I signed my apartment lease to start my new life, knowing I could afford the rent on my own. You were with me every time I was able to write a check for daycare and kindergarten. You were with me the day I realized I’d be just fine without a child support check every month. You were with me helping me save every penny I could for four years to make a new life for me and my baby now. You were with me last spring as I walked through houses for sale hoping to find one I could be proud of, and you were with me the day I found my beautiful house in a safe neighborhood with a school district that would help Summer grow and excel. You were with me when I unexpectedly had to buy four new tires a few months ago. You were with me and my doggy when I paid the vet $400 at what was supposed to be just a checkup. You were with me the day I painted every inch of the walls in my house just because I could, because they were mine. And you were with me at Target the other day, whispering in my ear that it would be ok if I added those pink fuzzy slippers to my cart, to go ahead and spoil myself a little because it had been way too long.

You were with me because you made it all possible.

I don’t think about what life would be like right now had you not called me that day asking if you could tuck me under your wing and add me to your team, because life right now is too good to think dark thoughts of what could have been. Instead, I hold my head high knowing I am strong, I am independent, I am a good mama. I have a happy, healthy little girl who sleeps soundly at night and tells me I’m her most favoritest person in the whole wide world while patting my cheek. And I close my eyes every night knowing I am safe, I am ok, maybe a little drunk, and I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. And it is wonderful.

You did that.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Love Your Amazingly Fierce, Young, Humbled and Grateful Granddaughter,

Jaime

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getting ready for school

Summer: “I like puddles but rats don’t.”

Me: “Rats don’t like puddles?”

S: “No. And mommy you just said RET.”

Me: “No, I said rat.”

S: “Mommy I promise. You said ret.”

Me: “And I promise you, I didn’t say ret, I said rat.”

S: “No, you actually did.”

Me: “Maybe it sounded like ret but I swear, I really truly said rat. Why would I say ret?”

S: “You said it.”

Me: “No. I didn’t”

S: “YES YOU DID I HEARD YOU!”

Me: …

yes dear

Me: “What do you want to wear today?”

S: “A dress.”

<stands in front of closet for 273 minutes, picks out dress>

S: “Can you help me change?”

Me: “Sure.”

She lays on the ground and pretends she’s a baby.

I help take off her pj shirt and accidentally pull her hair with the neck hole

she cries hard

I grab a tissue

wipe tears

untangle shirt from hair

take off pants

undies

socks

take a big toe to the eye

why is it always the eye??

then a heel to the shin

that’s gonna bruise

wrestle flailing limbs to put:

undies

socks

leggings

and a dress

on this…

puppy

wipe beads of sweat from armpits because she’s finally dressed.

Finally.

start walking away to make coffee

Summer: “I changed my mind, I want to wear a skirt.”

oh dear god

Summer, brush your teeth please…

Summer, brush your teeth…

Brush your teeth…

Brush your teeth.

Why are you just standing there with your toothbrush not doing anything?

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Brush your teeth…

Summer, brush your teeth…

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Summer, brush your teeth…

Please brush your teeth…

Brush your teeth…

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Brush your teeth…

Summer: “Remember that one time you said ret?”

BRUSH. YOUR. TEETH…

<brushes teeth, hallelujah!>

Summer, please put your shoes on…

Put your shoes on…

Dear lord put your shoes on…

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Me: “Would you like mini muffins or cheerios?”

Summer:

Me: “Mini muffins or cheerios?”

Summer:

Me: “Summer, I’m talking to you.”

Summer:

Me: “I know you can hear me.”

Summer:

Me: “Ok, you’re having cheerios.”

Summer: “NO I WANT MINI MUFFINS. You should have known that, mommy.”

Now if I could only find my sanity, I know I put it here somewhere… Oh yeah! There it is.

dance

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things and stuff

I made a pact with someone the other day that I would magically create a few extra hours in the universe to write a post and publish it by today because I really do love writing here. And although life gets in the way sometimes, actually having someone hold me accountable worked. So here goes, it’s story-catch up time.

When I was little I used to get strep throat pretty frequently, but not enough to have anyone with an MD behind their name offer to rip my tonsils out of me like they had for my sister. Sidenote – the doctor let my sister keep her tonsils.

In a jar.

She brought them to school.

For “science”.

She became the most popular girl in school.

um no

Love you, Jules.

Anywho, about 3 weeks ago I woke up swallowing razor blades with full body chills and a gland the size of a planet coming out of my neck. Strep. The doctor confirmed it, gave me a z-pack and sent me on my way. And 2 days after I had finished the antibiotics I was still in as much pain as I was on day 1 so I went back. The doc was stumped and honestly considered testing me for…wait for it…the fucking mumps. Dr. Google was about to get a whole lotta questions about that one until my doc reconsidered because the odds were so slim. So she gave me a second script for a stronger antibiotic for 10 days. By day 7 I could almost swallow normal but my tonsil still looked cringeworthy. By day 10 I didn’t have to make Summer’s winky face every time I swallowed anymore…

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…but my damn tonsil looked like swiss cheese. Fast forward to today – I looked at my throat and MY. TONSIL. IS. GONE. Like gone gone. I think it fought so hard to ward off and kill the strep that it fought till the death and then died itself the next day. Dr. Google tells me it happens. So thanks doctors who wouldn’t take my tonsils out as a kid, they’re apparently doing the job for you.

I’ve started the house hunting process, and for anyone here who was with me back in 2010 you know that house hunting with me can be quite the adventure <cough>crazy lady<cough>. I’ve seen a few places that were ok but with my list of must haves, I haven’t found my dream home yet and my amazing real estate agent won’t let me settle which I love. I did find a gorgeous town home a few weeks back but it went under contract the day before I was going to see it and I’ve been summoning my magic voodoo powers to make their financing fall through ever since. I know dream home 2.0 is definitely out there somewhere, I just don’t think it’s on the market yet because the current owners are super busy getting it picture perfect pretty for me. I can be patient.

Summer lost her first tooth recently and I had a feeling it was coming out the weekend that it did, mainly because she kept doing this thing with her tooth below that she knew freaked me the fuck out and made me do that ‘flail your hands up and down while dancing like you have the pee shivers’ move. I’m weird about teeth – I get the heebie jeebies at the thought of anything cotton rubbing against them – gauze, paper towels, ew. And don’t get me started on teeth rubbing together, or making that awful squeak that happens when chewing certain gum, and I can’t even look at this picture as I insert it here.

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Blerg. But now that her dangling mouth nugget is finally in the tooth fairy’s hands, my baby looks like a cute little punkin. She likes to stick things in the gap pretending she has an edible cheetos or french fry tooth which I can stomach WAY better than that picture. 5 years old is punny.

 

What else… what else… OkCupid is what else. I joined a few years ago and had a HORRIBLE first online date where the guy downed 2 bottles of wine to my half of a glass. He proceeded to tell me he was pleasantly surprised I wasn’t overweight. He told me he wanted to buy me a house with his student loans because can you believe it his law school just gives him $30,000 a year to do whatever he wants with (he is clearly in for a rude awakening when he finds out how student loans actually work). He told me that he wanted to make me pregnant. Then he drunkenly slid off his chair under the table and somehow walked himself to the bathroom. He was gone for 20 minutes while I texted my friend, taking guesses at what he was doing which was by far the most fun part of the night. I could go on about the ridiculousness of that evening but let’s just say he set the bar low, my friends. And I actually stayed on OkCupid because honestly, it could ONLY get better from there. Over the last few years I’ve disabled my account, reenabled, disabled, rinse and repeat, and I’ve met a handful of people on there, but none that worked out obviously. And with OkCupid helping me discover the perfect life motto that I now keep securely in my back pocket – “high standards, low expectations” – I’m back on. Reenabled and getting lots of messages from boys who could be my children and guys who never show their teeth but have a fondness for taking selfies in their cars. It’s uh, entertaining 🙂

More to catch up on, but it’s time to get my lovey from school. May your weekend be full of doing stuff you can tell good stories about later.

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the anatomy of a hallmark movie

Since it appears the mailman keeps losing my invitations to all of the swanky galas and holiday soirees that the fancypants people of the world are inviting me to, I’ve been filling my free time with emptying the dishwasher, filling the dishwasher, vacuuming, taking apart the smoking vacuum to cut a small hamster made of mine and Summer’s hair off the brush, and declaring war on the ants trying to find shelter from the winter tundra outside by setting up camp under my kitchen cabinets.

Life is glamorous, my friends.

Lately though, my favorite freetime moments have been spent watching marathons of Hallmark Christmas movies. Despite the fact that the bones behind every single Hallmark movie are exactly the same, kind of like watching Groundhog Day over and over just with different actors each time…

girl meets boy

girl hates boy

major crisis happens

boy helps girl fix it

girl and boy fall in love

The end.

…they are one of my beloved guilty pleasures. I anxiously await the moment I have a free hour or two to curl up under a blanket with the doggies sleeping at my feet and a dark living room, save for the orangey glow radiating from my Christmas tree. And like gravy on bread, I’ll sit and soak up some movie called “A Pig Whisperer’s Christmas Miracle” or “Santa, I Want a Daddy” with Candace Cameron or Lacey WhatsHerName or Winnie Cooper usually playing an advertising executive or a tv reporter or, well… a pig whisperer. Regardless of the fact that I already know exactly how it’ll end before the opening credits even start, I still love starting a new one with the opening scene involving a Christmas melody and a winter wonderland with twinkling lights. I think it’s because, as my sister Julie will so eloquently tell you, I love love.

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And you, DJ Tanner. Call me.

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all my windows still are broken but I’m standing on my feet.

 

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the point of no return

I was pressing my luck.

I should have known better but clearly I was a glutton for punishment.

At exactly 8:17pm last night I recklessly caused a skunk, a bunny and a dog to be simultaneously steamrolled. It all happened so fast. I’ve only ever smushed a bunny before – I was 16 and I still grieve for that poor little floppy-earred puff ball who decided it would be a great idea to commit suicide under the front tire of my moving car causing me 23 years of guilt for what could have been. But last night I did it again when in the blink of an eye, I accidentally caused a horrible, gruesome accident with critical injuries. And with the sound of heaving sobs that came out of my child’s terror-stricken face, one would have thought I had purposely ripped a bunch of animal limbs off one by one while staring her in the eye and maniacally cackling like a psychopath.

But of course that’s not really what happened. What happened is that I unknowingly somehow made my child move. I KNOW. Horrible. And when she moved, Skunky, Bunny and Precious – a small sampling of her beloved stuffed animals she adores and nurtures as if they were birthed from her own womb – were jostled. I’m actually surprised it was only 3 of her 57 children because, whoa. Admission to our zoo is free and open to the public.

stuffies

And that’s just the top bunk ↑ 

I’m a murderer and a monster and I’m terrible. The end.

There’s a moment in our house that I often wonder if everyone with a young kid can relate to. I don’t know if it has a comparable name to ‘the witching hour‘ for babies, so we’re just gonna call this one ‘the point of no return’. The point of no return is relatively predictable, though it is reliant upon a number of factors in the full equation. It goes something like this:

PNR = morning wake up time + daily calories burned – time you get her in bed × grams of carbohydrates from dessert³ / ∏(24 hours – √3), carry the 1, divide by 17 and spin your head in a full circle while trying to guess the exact minute and hoping they’re asleep before then.

So basically sometime between 8:05-8:30 in my house.

The goal is to get her in bed by 7:30, lights out by 7:45, sleeping by 8 at the latest. Wait… goal? Dream. I meant dream. After growing up with 3 sisters, one of whom I always shared a room with, I know on any given night with 2 people in the same room where slumber should be happening, there is a good chance that once the lights are out someone in the room will turn nutty, thereby turning the other loony, leading to fits of laughter and the existing potential for stuffed animals to be launched across the room. Growing up in my house this regularly happened until mom and dad eventually threatened us for the 4th time to gotofreakingsleeporsohelpmegod… and if you pushed it just a liiiiiiiiittle too long, BAM. Someone turned to the dark side and became an overtired angry devil child. And while it wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last, it happened here yesterday.

From the moment I picked Summer up from school, she was full of laughing fits and happiness paired with flailing limbs dancing with lunacy. I love when she gets in those moods. And before I knew it, it was dinner, books, bed. At bedtime I lay with her until she dozes off into dreamland and last night in between my own laughing while trying to get her to settle down as she licked my cheek, told me I was fired and that tomorrow for dinner she wanted picken poodle poop, the moment happened. The mother effing point of no return. In the blink of an eye her laughing turned into crying and it actually took me a moment to realize that her bared teeth were no longer shining through a smile on her face. I didn’t know it could happen so fast. Wait, yes I did. But for whatever reason, when it happens it never fails to take me by surprise. As I asked her over and over what was wrong while I rubbed her back and went over all possible scenarios…

Did I accidentally scratch you?

“No.”

…poke you?

“Nooo.”

…did you hit your head on something?

“Nooooooo!”

Through the sobs into her pillow she managed to inform me that I had somehow made her body move and she in turn had squished her stuffies and Skunky and Bunny and Precious got squished really really bad and how could I DO THAT TO THEM THEY’RE HER STUFFIES AND OH MY GOD THE HUMANITY. She literally cried their suffering for them because, well, they’re stuffies and their mouths don’t move and their eyes don’t leak those drippy drops of pain-water called tears. And after 1 minute of the most sincere frantic momma apologies I could offer to a stuffed bunny while consoling my child’s now-turned-to-me back with soft ‘shhh’s, her little body started doing that twitchy sleep dream thing and I was left there bug-eyed with a bunny in my hand wondering what the fuck just happened.

The point of no return. It’s a magical place.

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I live where the wild things are

When I moved into my place 3 years ago after selling the house (I can’t believe it’s been 3 years), I purposely chose an apartment on the 1st floor of my 4 story building. With a 2-year-old, 2 dogs, weekly groceries that I was on my own to have to carry in, no covered parking and a snowy Chicago winter fast approaching, a 1st floor apartment was a non-negotiable requirement. And I don’t regret that decision.

However…

While first floor living has its perks – no worries about getting couches stuck in stairwells on moving day, no trying to convince my dogs to get into an elevator to go down and outside, having my own little area of greenery, having a cement patio which is great for sidewalk chalking rather than a wooden balcony – it does have some drawbacks. During the warm months I have to worry about skunks sneaking up on me from around the corner (and there are a LOT of skunks here), and I can’t sleep with my bedroom window open without fear of a burglar climbing in and spooning me because that’s what burglars do. In my head. I’ve obviously never actually been robbed. But they need love, too you know, they’re just not getting it from me.

And then there’s the periodic porch creeper. I have a neighbor across the hall who I lovingly refer to as Drunk John. Drunk John is a harmless man, he’s just a little slurry, smells like cat pee and keeps asking me to type his book for him because I know how to type on one of those cutting-edge machine do-hickies with a keyboard thinga-ma-boob. He never hesitates to give me a great big “HELLOOOO!!” every time he manages to see me through his beer haze. And without fail, every time I’m walking my dogs and I run into him he asks, “your dog… what’s his name?”

“Princess.”

“Oh, it’s a girl?”

“Yep, still a girl.”

Once in a while he will come home from fishing in the pond down the street, park his car, walk over to my patio, sit and rest on one of my chairs for a minute, then get up and go home. I don’t mind, chairs are made for sitting and resting your bum. Even, or especially, if you’re drunk, soggy and tired.

One beautiful sunny morning I was taking Summer to school and as we were walking to the car I noticed a brightly colored plastic watch on the grass by my patio. I left it there in case the owner of said watch came looking for it. A few hours later, back at home I went outside to soak up some very unseasonably warm sunshine only to find the watch had been placed on my patio table – I figured someone saw it and thought it was ours. I left it there.

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A bit later I went inside for a moment and when I returned to the patio, the watch was gone and there was a credit card on the foot rest of my patio chair. Uh, question mark?? I left it there.

An hour later, the credit card was gone but there was now a smelly, sticky plastic bag with some dirty cups and a warm, unopened beer on one of my chairs. Drunk John. He must have put it there and forgotten about it, so I left it assuming he’d come back for it eventually. Again I went inside for a bit, checked back a bit later and there was now a baseball hat laying in the dirt.

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Ummmmmm… perhaps someone accidentally dropped it off their balcony above me? I picked up the hat and placed it on top of the bag of disgust.

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But again, because this had quickly become a game of confusing intrigue,  I later checked my patio out of curiosity – the hat was gone, the stinky bag of disappointment was still there, and it now had a friend in the form of another plastic bag.

A plastic bag full of fucking dirty stretchy bras.

I can’t make this stuff up.

So I did what any sane person feeling insanity coming on would have done, I set up my baby camera in the living room and pointed it on the patio while I watched the monitor from the comfort of my bedroom. And just like taking a trip to the doctor only to arrive and feel perfectly fine, absolutely nothing happened. And then I got pissed. Someone was purposely messing with me and leaving their junk on my patio and I had absolutely no idea why. So I went outside, put on my best angry face, grabbed all the junk and marched it straight to the dumpster assuming my mystery horrible gift giver was watching from somewhere.

A few hours later I had to leave. And when I got home, I parked the car and got out and noticed a neighbor of mine who I’ve been told is an alcoholic and had just gotten back from rehab, a neighbor I’ve never spoken to before, walking along the sidewalk saying something to me. He was too far away for me to hear so we approached each other in the middle of the courtyard.

“I’m sorry, what? I couldn’t hear you from back there,” I said.

“I want to give you all my money,” strange neighbor says.

“Um, schwhat?”

“I just wanted to give you all my money,” he says again.

“I don’t want your money,” I replied.

“Please just let me give you all of my money.”

“I don’t want your money, you should keep your money.”

I was utterly confused and it was strange and went on the same way a few more times until I turned and walked away and went inside. And then it hit me.

Credit card. His money.

Cups and a beer. His, erm, most prized possessions perhaps?

The bras? I don’t know… I can’t explain that one. He has a wife but I’m sorry dude, I don’t want your wife’s graying booby holsters, I have my own. I promise.

The next day, my suspicions were confirmed, Drunk John was no longer a suspect as I watched Crazy Bra Man walk from his apartment to the dumpster. He retrieved one of the cups off the ground that had fallen out of the bag that I had missile launched into the dumpster the day before. I’ve seen him twice since then – the first time he asked me if I had seen his phone. Um, nope. The next time we didn’t make eye contact. I’m good with that. I attract the crazies, I accepted that fact a long time ago. But apparently it gets more eyebrow-raisingly interesting when you live in the land of the happy-go-lucky drunks, the lasagna toting loonies, and the kissing maintenance bandits. I swear I live in a nice friendly little community where the majority of my neighbors are 100% sane, but the ones that aren’t? They make for some good times and ridiculous memories I never knew I wanted.

And I’m moving in June  🙂

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