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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.

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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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463 days

I took one of those ‘life assessment’ quizzes today on a whim and it unfortunately ended up being one where it gives you a generic score (76 woohoo!) but doesn’t break it down (um I don’t know what 76 means), so it initially seemed rather useless. But it did get me thinking. There was a question about my avocational status and I answered it very honestly. I gave myself a 1 out of 4, 1 being the lowest. The description they gave for a 1 was:

“I don’t have time to pursue interests outside of work and family. I don’t have any hobbies, nor do I have the time if I did. I am not involved in any significant way in civic or church activities. My life consists of work and family – that’s pretty much it.”

Yep.

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I love my work and my family. I ranked myself high in those categories, but hobbies…hobbies…come on, there has to be one or two hobbies…

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I love writing. I love looking back at things that I’ve written here and laugh or cry or think man, I used to be so punny. I may still be, but I work at home with my dogs all day and they REALLY don’t get my humor. I know with 100% certainty that my 5 year old is funnier than I am. I text people and get a lot of lol’s and rofl’s but are these people really laughing out loud? Are they really lying on the floor rolling around laughing? Every time someone types ‘rofl’ I hear the word ‘rolf’ like a bark from an old english sheep dog in my head and picture the person down on the ground curled up in a ball rolling back and forth on his/her back like a weeble, though I’m pretty sure in the moment that’s just not happening.

Anyway, after taking the assessment and getting my horribly standard awesomely ambiguous score of 76, I watched the little follow up video of an old MAN who TALKED with his HANDS and over-ENUNCIATED every few WORDS to really DRIVE the point HOME that I’m IN the land of SUCCESS but can always IMPROVE. So I made a promise to my dogs and to the old man on my screen and to my next door neighbor **who can hear me through the wall… you know, the only people I’ve talked to in person today… that I WOULD write a blog post.

**you know your apartment walls are too thin when you’re home alone, let out a squeaky toot, and hear someone giggle on the other side of the wall. True story.

Life has been decent lately but oh so very mundane. And if typing my thoughts out through my keyboard onto my screen here is going to turn even just a little of that mundanity into magic then I’m in. Hazy is currently destroying my blanket proofreading and she says “hit publish, momma!”.

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It’s been 463 days too long. Oh how I’ve missed you.

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my mom

This is my mom….

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She’s a fabulous little thing, no?

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After having 4 kids and managing to stay sane, she is my hero…

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Though sanity is relative.

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In high school she met this goofball…

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a few years later she married him (nice pants, Uncle Robbie)….

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and they went on to have the 4 most spectacular children in the entire world…

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…of course her second child was the greatest (cough…2 hours of labor…cough…you’re welcome)

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When I was growing up, mom had an unfortunate obsession with Phil Collins…

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taught us how to dress for success…

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logged 23,500 miles power walking all over the northshore…

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made approximately 14,400 bagged lunches for us over a span of 20 years…

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and happily drove the 4 of us around all day everyday in a big brown van with a HUGE smile on her face the whole time….

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Yeah. Smile. We’ll go with that.

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When she retired a few years ago, she got us a hairy little brother named Charlie who sounds like Chewbacca…

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He tried to steal the title of favorite child…

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and with a face like this, the force was strong…

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But the sibling rivalry grew, and those of us who she actually, you know, birthed out of her nether-regions fought our way back up to the top by making baby…

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after baby….

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after baby…

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after baby… IMG_4264

after baby.

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Yeah, she totally caved.

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Sorry, Charlie, babies are Nanna’s kryptonite. Muahahah.

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story time

Every year around this time I get a little weepy. Summer’s birthday is in 2 short days and the last 2 birthdays brought on ugly momma cries and nostalgia for the little peanut she once was. This year I’m happy to say that I don’t have fat ploppy tears dripping off my chin and shorting out the keys one by one on my keyboard as I type.

It’s a start.

Maybe it’s because of the fact that everything about my lovey amazes me everyday. I especially love the little talks we can have now where it’s not just me talking to her, it’s her talking back, actual conversation with someone who looks to me for guidance and approval and support and a hand to hold.

So the paci fairy came to Summer and Daddy’s house last Friday and took all her pacifiers away to give to all the little babies in the world who need them. It was time. And the other night was my first night with her sans pacifier. At bedtime we laid down in my bed and she snuggled in with her other bedtime staples she’s had since birth – her pink and brown blankie and her monkey – and it was clear she was physically uncomfortable as she tossed and turned a little and kept asking me for “something”. But when I asked her what, she didn’t know what to say since she understood that all of her pacifiers had been turned over to the paci fairy. So to try to ease her mental angst of being without her comforting paci that she has fallen asleep with every night since she was born, we had a talk.

“Summer, can I tell you a story?”

“Yeah.”

“When I was a little girl like you are now, I had a pink blankie,” I said.

“Like my pink blankie? Did it have a pink side and a brown side like mine does?” she asked.

“Nope, pink blankie was all pink but it was fuzzy and warm just like yours. And I loved that blankie more than anything in this whole big world, pink blankie and I were inseparable. I brought it with me everywhere. And every time Nanna and Dabadoo wanted to wash it because it was getting stinky like feet, I would cry and cry because to me it smelled like pure love. So anyway, one day Nanna decided that I was too old for pink blankie and I had to give it away. I think she wanted to give it to a little baby who needed it more than me, just like you and your pacis. And it was hard. It was really really hard. And I thought about pink blankie every night when I’d go to sleep because I missed it so so much. But you know what? Eventually as the nights came and went, I thought about pink blankie less and less until one night I didn’t even think about pink blankie, not even once, before I fell asleep. It got easier and easier until it didn’t bother me anymore, and the same will happen to you. I promise.”

Bam. Nailed it. Totally related to her pain. I so got this.

“Momma?” she asked quietly as she stared deep into my eyes.

“Yes, love?”

“ARE YOU GONNA TAKE AWAY MY BLANKIE TOO?????????? YOU JUST SAID THE SAME THING WILL HAPPEN TO ME, DON’T TAKE AWAY MY BLANKIE, I JUST GAVE AWAY ALL MY PAAAAAACIS!”

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“Oh sweets, we’re not taking away your blankie.”

“Momma?”

“Yes, lovey?”

“Is your story over?” she asked.

“Yes, sweets.”

“Momma?” she asked.

“Yes, my lovey?”

“Can I please have my paci now?”

Fuck.

Me.

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